Great Feedback

by | May 10, 2008 | Op/Ed

In case you missed J. S. Gilbert’s timely and authentic response to my previous post on a request for rates, I’m re-posting it below. 

He raises a number of issues many a voice-actor should be aware of in working with a broad spectrum of clients…exposing an equally broad spectrum of abuses of your good will and good faith.

Thanks J.S.

Oh, the good old days – when you would just go to a studio, not worry about having to be cheap cook and bottle washer, and when you could just charge by the hour.

My expereince is that much of the e-learning work out there carries the lowest rates going and there are tons of traps and pitfalls. I have produced dialog and been voice talent for many, many educational projects. Currently among other credits, I am the narrator for all of Disney/ Pixar Ratatouille educational products produced for Leapfrog.

Some e-learning, like that I do for Leapfrog pays quite well and follows the format of most often using talent in person, in studio. Much of the other work doesn’t.

Often the "lure" of the e-learning work is that it can represent a massive amount of work. In the Summer of 2006, I was responsible for producing 40,000 prompts, which involved myself and 11 other actors as talent. Each prompt was approximately a sentence long. All files had to be recorded on specific equipment at very specific levels and had to all be batch processed and then each prompt saved as a specific file with a unique and long file name. All files also had to have heads and tails removed to within 1/10th of a second.

The work required a very flexible, yet controlled work-flow scenario to ensure that delivery dates were met and that recording, editing and delivery were all handled properly. If, for example, the files would have had to have been named by hand, as opposed to using  a batch processing program, it might have doubled the number of man hours on the project.

Here are where problems can and often will occur.

The client pays late. I have worked for over 20 e-learning companies and only 2 have paid in anything that would be considered close to on time. There were a few clients who did pay some upfront (an extreme rarity) but managed to slip into arrears as projects dragged on.

Potential for large amounts of work to be rejected.

Extraordinary amounts of time involved to work out issues and problems. Often dealing with amazing time-zone issues, whereby talent is expected to call at 2am.

Numerous script typos, grammatical errors, logistical problems and other script errors that effect timing, etc.

Scripts that often require reformatting or have other issues in terms of usefullness by actor.

Consistently dangling the sword of Damacles over your head in the form of them getting someone else to do the work cheaper.

Using some small issue as reason to withhold final payment or more than just final payment

Failure of the company to provide proper scope-of-work documents, which make you work 3 times as long as you had originally thought you would.

Inordinate amounts of calls, emails and other commmunications that add to the time and aggravation spent on the project.

Unfortunately, clients often expect to use fee structures of large projects as a base for even small projects.

There are far too many factors that go into pricing a project. For example, the mere difference that a K-6 project may have with a high school or college learning project in terms of the difficulty of the pedagogy can be very significant. (Reading lines like "I love to plant vegetables in my garden vs. The regionally nonspecific blockade was suggested to be due to serotonergic modulation of dopamine synthesis.)

There are reasons why there are agents and lawyers and dentists. I know that there are a bunch of talent out there who do this work and claim to have never had issue. My hat is off to them. I haven’t had many problems and I’d like to think that the reason is because of experience in both audio production (voice-over) and also broad based business experience.

I would also ask for an RFP (request for proposal) or some SOW (Statement of work) from the client before quoting. This would need to include any assumptions they have, audio conformities, and actual copy. The more information, the better.




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