What's Under There? - A Commentary from the Frontlines of Freelancing

By Joshua Mackey

There are many clients out there that resemble dirty, ugly rocks that appear to have no real purpose but to demand more than they deserve. There are freelancers and employees that are the same, but for the sake of this commentary I'm focusing on clients.

I've always been the curious type. My curiosity has definitely followed me into my freelance career. When I have an opportunity to "feel a client out" and see what they're all about, I usually take that chance. There are some red flags that appear from time to time that cause me to overlook a client but, for the most part, I at least engage them.

I ran across a client in the Middle East a few months ago. His company produces videos for companies. I provide voiceover for some of these videos. The pay is terrible. The client can be pushy and, due to the language barrier, difficult to collaborate with. But, he usually sends his scripts in the middle of my night, so I wake up to them. I typically use his, and another low-paying client's, scripts as my morning warm-up. Why not get paid for it? Low pay. But pay. And he sends quite a bit of work - hundreds of dollars per month.

Today, for the second time in as many months, I was contacted by a new client. The client said I previously voiced a video for them and they would like me to voice more, but are no longer working with their previous video producer. Both times, when they asked for price and turnaround time, they were more than happy to pay what I call "website pricing" (the prices I list on my website) and are nearly stunned at the turnaround time.

So, this ugly-rock-of-a-client, once turned over, has revealed two good-paying, regular clients - on top of sending regular work. I realize there's plenty of controversy out there about voice artists taking low-paying gigs and perpetuating a vicious cycle of reducing the "worth" of such artists. But, I can attest, the high-paying gigs aren't going anywhere. And the low-paying gigs are being eaten up by individuals that, in my opinion, often don't deserve to sit in front of a microphone. I send out a lot of audio that I never get paid for (auditions, favors, revisions, samples), so why shouldn't I also send out a lot of audio that pays minimal  amounts? My bank account certainly doesn't mind. My schedule isn't pressured (mostly because low-paying clients typically get lowest priority). And I haven't heard one of my $25 voiceovers on a regional or national television campaign. Seems like a win-win.

All because I wasn't afraid to turn that ugly rock over and see what's under there.

Joshua Mackey is a professional voice talent and audio producer.  He welcomes comments and questions at voice@mackeyvoicetalent.com.  Visit www.MackeyVoiceTalent.com for more info.

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