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Sunday, August 27, 2017

What to Do When a Voice-Over Client Won't Pay You


You have recorded the voice-over work as requested, done a decent job and now you want paying. 

Except payment never arrives.

What can we do to make sure we get our just desserts? After all we are voice-over artists, not debt collectors. Here are some suggestions.

Clarity is Key

Be clear about payment terms. Too many voice talents fail to have terms and conditions. One of my students called me in a panic "I haven't been paid for my voice-over job" he protested. When I asked when he did the work, he said it was about a week ago.

"And your terms are?" I enquired.

Needless to say he had not made it clear when he wanted to be paid. However at least he had sent out an invoice, even if it was lacking information.

Be transparent about fees and when you expect them to be paid.

If you expect to be paid within a month, write  'payment terms; 30 days'. If you require payment on completion of the job, say so. You can't blame the customer for not knowing when remittance is due.

Create an Invoice

At least my student had been professional enough to raise an invoice, which puts him way ahead of many voice actors who don't even get that far. Some people just expect the payment to magically appear in their bank account without issuing a bill for their services. 

Here is a video guide that should help you look a lot less like an amateur:

Too Premature?

Frustrating though it is, paying you is often the last thing on a client's mind. This is one of the reasons remuneration can be painfully slow. In my experience bigger companies are often the worst offenders - I once had to wait 6 months to get my money from one (well known) customer and I had a colleague who waited a cool two years for the dosh to land in her account. 

Dragging their financial feet seems to be a trademark of multinationals, but small businesses and sole traders tend to be faster off the blocks, probably because they know what it feels like to be cash-starved. 

It is important not to jump the gun; give the client time to process your request. Some organisations require you to add a purchase order to your invoice, or be folded into their approved supplier system before payment can be made. Bear these facts in mind before firing off that email demand. 

Due Diligence

Sadly there are dishonest characters out there, so be careful who you do business with. Do your research. Ask these questions:

  • Has your prospective client got a website?
  • Can you phone them?
  • Do they have a physical address?

Make sure you go through the checklist before you start recording their voice-overs for them. If they pass the test, chances are they are more likely to pay you.

Big Jobs = Small Deposit

If you still have that uneasy feeling and it is a substantial project, request a deposit before proceeding. A 25% payment is reasonable with the rest due on completion. You could say this is to cover your basic session or studio fee. 

This is not suitable for every type of voice-over job and some clients may baulk at the suggestion, but I feel it is a fair ask and one that should be explored if there is a large undertaking on your part.

When All Else Fails

Before you reach the last resort of legal proceedings, make sure you have done everything possible to recover the debt: lots of polite reminders and mediation, for example offering the option to the client of paying the outstanding amount in instalments. 

Whatever you do, do not make threats or do anything illegal.

When you have exhausted every route, then the courts may be the only solution. Sometimes just the knowledge that you are prepared to take legal action is enough to make the debtor reimburse you. 

Different countries have differing legal routes, but the County Court Money Claims Centre is a low cost option in England and Wales if the amount is less than £3,000. Different rules apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the UK government has a helpful website guiding you through the various procedures.

Sadly this route is not suitable if your errant client is overseas. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and put the non-paying customer down to a bad experience.

How have you dealt with a reluctant payer? Please let me know in the comments section.

Gary Terzza is a British voice-over coach who specialises in training beginners.

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