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Client Horror Stories: Beware & Prepare
Because They WILL Happen To You ...

October 14, 2013

Note: The author presents the highly-rated session, Your Signature Personality - Find And Voice It, at the online Voice Over Virtual conference, continuing online now through November 30, 2013. For details, please visit

By Deb Munro
Voice Talent and Coach

You got the job! You’re at the mic, you have the script and you did the audition. You know exactly what you did in the audition and you are ready with your character. 

You open your mouth and go through the first read. The client says, "Great! Now let’s try one just a bit more natural” 

You think, "No problem.” So You take another pass, and yet again the client asks for it to be more natural - "Just like you were speaking to a friend.” 

Again, another passage. And still, no celebrations of happiness. 

The client is not getting what they want, and you are starting to panic! 


What do they mean? What do they want you to do? You think you're reading it like you would speak to a friend.  

This is all too common in our VO world.  And the outcome can be in our favor or tear apart our flesh and everything we stand for. 

Then the "Itty Bitty Shitty Committee” kicks in.  "I would have, I should have, I could have” - but you didn’t. 

Face it, you didn’t give the client the read they had in their head! Why? Well, that is the trick answer, and it’s not always a treat.  


There are so many reasons why you might not have nailed a read, or for the client to be unhappy - or even worse, difficult. For instance,
  • you weren’t ready and fluked out on your audition,
  • the client doesn’t know how to direct (which is usually the case), or
  • the client has something very specific in their head and won’t be happy till it’s perfect. 
Halloween is right around the corner. My favorite time of year - and perfect for sharing ‘Client Horror Stories.' Over time, we accumulate lots of them.

We enter this industry thinking we are suppose to be perfect, and when we don’t meet the perfection required of us, we can crumble and fall. 

This is something YOU MUST prepare for.  It’s not a matter of "IF” but rather, "WHEN” you will experience it. So I hope the stories that follow will prepare you for some of the biggest nightmares of your life. It's important to know how to handle these situations.  


This happened at the start of my career. I was in LA and was cast in a job from an audition through a company called "The Big Fish Voice Company.”

This project was for a major furniture company, was a great campaign to nab, and The Big Fish Agency truly went out of their way to accommodate me while I was in LA. 

It was an ISDN session (which means $300 an hour that the client has to pay to the studio), so there was a ton of money riding on this one. 

They loved my audition –-so that is what I prepared for. It was nice and natural and personable, as I’d studied so hard to master.


When we did the session they kept asking me to add more energy - so I did. By the time they were done, I was doing an over-the-top broadcasting radio read, which was NOT AT ALL like what they requested. 

So because I wasn’t expecting to go there, I kept adding back in my natural qualities (I’d spent enough to learn them, so by God I was certainly going to practice them).

I was hating everything about the session and how the spot sounded. In fact, if my head wasn’t so stuck in NATURAL at the time, I think I would have been fine. 

If they could have said, do what you used to do before you got training, or we want an old JOHNNY RADIO read, I would have nailed it on read one. 


Unfortunately my head was stuck in one direction and the client's aggravation at me for not getting what they want, took me into my nerve mode and my need to impress - pretty much the kiss of death. 

I lost the job. I was devastated, to say the least. Knowing what I know now, it was the client's direction and the confusion of going from natural to broadcasty. 

But one never knows. And all we can do is learn from each experience.

Remember though, it’s not always the client's fault! So we have to find our lessons in each experience. 


Even recently I lost a job - not being able to get the read the client wanted - and I walked away beating myself up and questioning whether I should be voicing or not. 

Then I confided in a friend/colleague, got a bit more training and understanding into the incident, and got back to normal.   

You have to protect yourself. Don’t allow them to walk all over you or treat you like a walking Zombie. Stand up for yourself when you know you’re not being treated humane, but at the same time, prepare for these kinds of situations. 

Realize its not always YOU, and that you can’t please everyone. 


I’ve gotten really good at listening, trying to learn my place in the room and realize that I’m just the talent. 

I’m not a powerhouse that is free of error. I’m human, and I too will make mistakes, just as they do. 

My favorite way to get through this and not live in the "Itty Bitty Shitty Committee” is to say, "I did the best possible job I could, under those particular circumstances”  and "Gosh Darn it, I like me”! (Okay that’s a Stuart reference, but I couldn’t resist. )  

Trust yourself and brace yourself.  If you’re prepared for the inevitable and realize it happens to everyone at some point - it’s easier to accept and move on to the next one!
Deb Munro is a leading voice talent, coach, and owner of Chanti Productions, in the Vancouver, B.C., Canada area. She offers private voice over coaching by phone and Skype, and MIC 'N ME and Double Diva workshops on voice acting, business and demo prep in many Canadian cities.


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Comments (3)
BP Smyth
10/14/2013 at 8:14 AM
Hello Deb,

My demos on my wesite show my delivery style for certain categories of VO. And I tell the client that they chose me for that reason, and if not they should have, because I'm not changing it so that I sound like an idiot, just to get the job. My point in this is, if the client doesn't like my delivery method why did they choose me in the first place? I just tell them they need to get someone else, and I move on telling myself "NEXT." I will not be manipulated into not sounding like my natural self. They can just KMA.

This is how I handle the situation, and I've had a few in my career. And, I keep getting great jobs from decent clients. Life is just to darn short for anything else.

All the best,
BP Smyth

James Lewis
10/14/2013 at 6:39 AM
Seems like doing on-camera commercials is easier. There's less "fiddling" which the client can do. If you're short and chunky, there's no way you can become tall and slim. But in the VO world, its theoretically possible to make a wide variety of changes.
Reuven Miller
10/14/2013 at 3:18 AM
There are so many factors that go into why a session works or doesn't. We just have to make sure that we've done everything we can to ensure that WE are not the cause of one of these Sessions from Hell. I recently had such a go-around with a production company whose client had a very specific idea of how my character (a grandfather) should sound. After several attempts, in near-desperation, I finally told my production liaison, "Have your client send me a recording of HER Grandfather!" It didn't come to that, and we eventually came to an understanding, but as Deb correctly points out, it doesn't always work out to everyone's satisfaction. Good piece!
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