Friday, March 13, 2015

Are You Afraid of Your Own Rates?

From the conversations I have read and have been a part of, it appears to me that a lot of people in the voiceover business are reluctant to quote rates for their service – voiceover, until they find out what the client has in the budget.
There are some that feel that the new client you have been talking to may have more to spend and that you should not be too quick to quote your rate for fear that you might be leaving money on the table. I understand that. But at the same time I ask: Is that being a good business person?

Let's take a quick look a three scenarios:

1. You need to have some carpentry work done on your studio. You call a contractor. He learns about your project, might even come for a visit, and then he gives you an estimate for how much the work will cost you. It's an estimate based on what work he expects to do for you, the time he will have invested and any supplies he will need to complete the job.

2. You call an audio engineer to install that pile of equipment you just bought from BSW. She asks: What equipment do you have and what do you need to have done? She will give you an estimate for the work that she will do for you.

3. You just backed into light pole across the street. You didn't do any damage to the pole but your car has a big dent and a broken tail light. You stop by the auto body shop and the fine folks there consult the flat rate labor guide, with that information and their posted hourly labor rate will come up with a price to fix the bumper and taillight.

In all the above cases, never does the craftsman ask you how much money you have to spend or what's your budget. No one wants to spend more than they need to for any service or item. So why would a client risk having to pay more than necessary to get the job done?

If you look at your voiceover business “as a business” you first of all should feel comfortable with your own rates. After all, if you set up the business properly, you have an idea what it costs to run your business and what income you need to generate in order to pay the bills and come away with a comfortable profit. You set your rates accordingly. That's what the contractor, engineer and bodyshop did. Why should you be any different?

Mock Rates SignSo when someone asks my rate for a project. I first ask: What do you need to have done? How soon do you need it and how will it be used? With that information I can easily quote a price for a project. I believe it's an insult to ask: how much money do you have to spend?

This doesn't mean that you can't accept a project for less than your normal rate if presented to you. But I wouldn't publicize it.

I'm a firm believer in knowing what my value is. So if prospective clients find that my rate is less than they were ready to pay, then they just got a great deal. I'll be happy that I got my quoted rate and the client will be happy he got a good value. Everybody is happy. If you constructed your rate card properly, you also built in a little room for a first time buyer discount or a discounted long term contract or retainer that will help seal the deal. And, you probably have a repeat customer in the works.

That's just good business. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Would you like A or B?

You might be surprised to learn that the correct answer is not a choice between A or B. I'll elaborate in a little bit. Back in the 1970s a man by the name of Jim Graham entered my life. Jim was a former executive with the defunct Dumont Television Network in New York City. In the mid 60s he and some associates in NY purchased AM radio stations WALY in Herkimer, NY and WOTT in Watertown.

WOTT - RCA 77 - Pin
I worked at WOTT, or as we called it “watt,” before I entered the U.S. Air Force and when I returned to the area after my discharge I had the opportunity to work there again, this time with Jim Graham as the owner/general manager. He was a rather rotund man who sat in his office most of the day behind a big round table. His office actually was the conference room. He was a likable character and if he liked you, your life there was much more pleasant. If not, he was “on your case” all the time. I managed to be on his good side most of the time.

I learned a lot from Jim. He was a stickler on diction and was a bit of a legalist when it came to the English language. It wasn't but a couple of weeks into the job, second time around, that I made the mistake of asking him a question similar to the headline above. I think it went something like this. “Would you like me or Mark to record these spots?” To which he answered “yes.” You can imagine the puzzled look I had on my face. But, he was correct in answering yes or no. You see if I had constructed the question a little differently, Jim might have given me a decision. Perhaps I should have said: “Which person would you like to record these spots, Mark or me?” He also was not a fan of pronouns and passive text and tried unsuccessfully to get all his “on air” staff to stop using them improperly. Lost cause. So, today I think I can write a pretty good piece of commercial copy. Since we all had to write commercials for the small station. Jim's goal was to get his staff to write better copy.

Speaking of copy, we weren't allowed to say things like, “Come on over to Joe's. Buy one widget, you'll get one free.” You see, Jim believed that if you had to make a purchase to get something free, then it wasn't free. You could say “Buy one and we'll give you a second at no additional cost.” The only time you could say it was free was when the listener could walk into a merchant and get one for free without having to buy something. Jim's rules, and he had many, made us better copy writers as we had to make sure nothing was misleading or unclear.

Now I'm not someone that you should point to as an example of a good writer. I'm far from it. But I can say that my experiences with Jim Graham made me more aware and a more careful writer. I still can't spell without the help of “spell check.” At this point in my life, I don't think anyone can fix that flaw.
So my answer to the headline above is “yes."