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Business of VO – Nitpickers, Complainers & Cheapskates

Some days your voiceover clients are awesome and other days you just wonder what the heck is wrong with them!?! Yes, we love what we do but sometimes, even the most saintly voice actors (Anne) are pushed too far. The Bosses tackle a little talked about problem – knit picking, complaining, & cheapskate clients, and how to deal with them. This episode is packed with practical advice, thoughtful anecdotes and Gabby’s ‘colorful’ view of these types of clients.


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Annoying clients are a common problem – all voice actors deal with them.

  2. More money can equal more problems.

  3. Owning your own business means less interpersonal stress, but doesn’t eliminate stress brought on by clients.

  4. Knit picky clients over-explain and have expectations that are too demanding.

  5. You must set boundaries and share your needs with the client.

  6. Don’t allow a client to abuse your time.

  7. Communicate your needs by being clear with your intentions.

  8. Repeat back directions to ensure that you and your client are communicating well, this reduces complaints.

  9. It’s normal for performances slip and suffer when a client is being too particular and or too demanding.

  10. As a voice actor you are not just ‘the talent’ and you are not there for their amusement.

  11. Clients who pay the least, want the most from a session.

  12. We start to over think our performance choices when a client asks for too many takes.

  13. Sometimes the stress isn’t worth it and you have to cut your losses.

  14. The client is only trying to get a product out – there complaining and knit picking is not personal.

  15. Your time is valuable and you should not be manipulated by a cheapskate.

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Full Episode Transcript

>> Today’s voiceover talent is more than just a pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Today’s voiceover talent has to be a BOSS.

>> BOSS.

>> A BOSS.

>> A BOSS.

>> Join us each week for business owner strategies and success with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabrielle Nistico, along with some of the strongest voices in our industry.

>> Rock your business.

>> Rock your business.

>> Rock your business.

>> Like a BOSS.

>> Like a BOSS.

>> Rock your business like a BOSS.

>> Rock your business like a BOSS.




Anne: Welcome, everybody, to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my amazing VO BOSS bestie, Gabby Nistico. Hey, Gab.

Gabby: What up, girl?

Anne: Oh Gabby, I am so, ugh. [laughs] So frustrated.

Gabby: I’m feeling froggy. Who we gonna fight? What’s going on? Whose ass do I need to kick?

Anne: I’m dealing with this annoying client right now. Like I didn’t expect them to be annoying, but they have become annoying.

Gabby: [laughs]

Anne: Because apparently in… my contract, because I do, I do a lot of work for them, second and third takes are included.

Gabby: Oh.

Anne: And you know, [laughs] yeah. Second and third takes are OK when it’s up to so many words, but it’s not an entire, like an entire series.

Gabby: Oh God, no.

Anne: Yeah. You know, these people give me some work for some really good clients, and I am just, I ugh, they pick apart everything. I mean, complainers, nitpickers and cheapskates.

Gabby: Yeah, so, so in other words its of the – it’s the [beep], [beep], and [beep]s episode.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: That’s, that’s what we’re doing.

Anne: Yeah, like we need to talk about them.

Gabby: Sure.

Anne: Like what do you do, Gabby, because my blood boils. And that’s not a good thing, you know, in a, in my own business, right? This is what I wanted to be in my own business for so I could get away from that, you know, when I was working for the man.

Gabby: Aww so cute.

Anne: Gabby, I used to get in these situations where I would just be like so, “ohh, I can’t believe I’m doing this, or have to do this.” And I would get so upset, and I finally said, “you know, I shouldn’t be at a job where my blood pressure raises.” I need to go someplace where I have joy, Gabby. You know, it’s all about the joy.

Gabby: Yes, I know that, but at the same time, mo’ money, mo’ problems. I mean, that’s a very real thing. And I don’t know why, but yes, sometimes entrepreneurs think “I’m going be working for myself. It’s all going to be great. I’m never going to have stress.” No, that’s not true. There’s always going to be something or someone that gets you riled up.

Anne: I guess you’re right. You know, I, well, because there’s so much less of it on my own, except for my own, you know, my own imposed stress.

Gabby: It’s definitely less, and I think the difference is our tolerance level, you know, when it’s, when it’s coming from somebody else, and you’re working for a boss that you don’t like or don’t get along with, you know, all the inner-office BS, like sure, it – that kind of stuff, no, we don’t have that.

Anne: What’s made me think of this is I recently, it was a recent client that I acquired, and I thought, “oh, this is great. This is a wonderful, long-term, you know, lots of work. This is going to be great.” But now I have a long-term client who, you know, every time I turn around, I’ve got to sign another contract with them. [laughs] I’m thinking to myself, “what, what is going on here?” Oh, because I didn’t scan the contract right, I centered the one page that needed to be changed instead of the 25 pages of the contract. And basically I was written back with a stern kind of, you know, wrist slap or whatever you want to call it. “Yeah, next time I won’t be able to add that into the PDF.” And I’m like, “oh my God, like really? “

Gabby: Oh man. I mean, here’s the thing. I think the worst-case scenario is when you have one client that’s all three of those things. They’re a complainer, a nitpicker, and they’re a cheapskate, but I also see them as three separate things. I don’t know, I had one this morning. I had a nitpicker.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: I had a session –

Anne: Damn, a nitpicker.

Gabby: – that was – oh God, they’re so annoying. The nitpickers to me are some of the worst because they just don’t shut up. They over-explain. They over-direct. They give you so much information that you are just sitting in the booth like, “God, would you just let me do what I do? Would you just stop so I can –

Anne: I had that, ugh.

Gabby: – give you a take?”

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: And then when you give them the take, they will overload you with corrections.

Anne: Mmm.

Gabby: And somehow expect that you can not only instantaneously retain the 10 things they want you to do differently but flawlessly execute it in the very next take.

Anne: Yeah that’s –

Gabby: It’s not realistic.

Anne: You made me think of a session that I had that should have been an hour but turned into three hours. It was an engineer that was overstepping his bounds in front of the client.

Gabby: Oh, now that’s interesting.

Anne: Saying, you know, “now, I think now, here’s what I think. Um let’s, why don’t – why not, let’s try to emphasize this word as opposed to” – and every slide was like, OK. I had to do each slide like three times. Three times. What should have taken an hour like took three hours. I was like exhausted by the end of it and completely annoyed by the end of it. So what do you do, right, when you’re with a nitpicker and you’re annoyed and you’ve got to perform? When do you say this is enough and walk away, or how do you deal?

Gabby: Well, I got to say first that you had a session where the engineer was being that individual, that’s really rare.

Anne: It is.

Gabby: Because usually the engineers are in the same boat we are. They are like, “let’s do this, let’s move it along, let’s get this done, I have other things to do.”

Anne: Because it was a first-time client for them, but they were a big client. And so I think they were trying to impress them with their –

Gabby: Trying to show their worth. Yeah.

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: Well, so the management of these things I think is critical because if you don’t manage them, if you don’t speak up, you’re going to get walked on. That’s –

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: That’s really the thing that I think is the most important. And if you allow yourself to be walked on, you’re gonna be extremely frustrated, and you’re really not gonna want to work with that person again.

Anne: Yeah, good call.

Gabby: Clear boundary setting to me is, if the session is looking like it’s going to run long, or you know, we have that situation like, like yours where it suddenly, you know, one hour turns into three, “you know, guys, um I’d love to keep doing more with you, but I have a hard out –

Anne: Yeah, I have another session.

Gabby: “At the end of this hour, I have another session.” That’s, that’s one way. I have actually texted people –

Anne: [laughs] During.

Gabby: And said “hey, call me right now. Call me. I need you to call me.” And I will turn the ringer on on my phone, and I will take a fake phone call. And I – all they hear is me through the patch going, “yeah, no, I know, we’re just going to be like another five minutes, I promise. Like I’m, as soon as they’re done, I’m going to get on the line with you,” and literally so that I can go, “you know, my other clients are waiting.”

Anne: Yeah, actually that’s a good idea. You know, I, when I had that session with the engineer, it was really difficult for me to say I had a hard out because I was told that the client was going to be there that day only. But what I did end up doing, Gabby, after that, I believe word got back the session ran for three hours to the boss, the owner of the studio.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: And the next time when he contacted me, and he said “ohh yeah, no, that shouldn’t have happened. We don’t want to waste your time” – which was, it was like the most amazing thing anybody ever said to me. “I don’t want to waste your time, so this won’t happen again.” Thankfully.

Gabby: It’s important.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: I mean, I think that’s great. Inside of a session, we just have to communicate our needs. I think sometimes talent are too quick to, in the session, just yes everyone to death and agree to anything, and they want to be amicable, right. We want to be easy to work with.

Anne: Yep, Yep. But there is a line.

Gabby: But there is a difference – yeah. There’s a big difference between easy to work with and needing clarification. I’ve had those. I’ve had the sessions with the really difficult, you know, the client who complains, has something to say about everything, and many times those clients, right, it’s not just one person, it’s the collective. You’ve got like two, three, four –

Anne: Yes. Absolutely. They all confer

Gabby: – ten people, right? [laughs] They, they’re throwing so many ideas at us, so quickly, and it’s from so many sources that I find myself often having to say, “OK, let me make sure I understand –

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: “What you want on this next take,” and I will –

Anne: Yes.

Gabby: – repeat back to them what I believe they’re saying. And often that’s how I get clarification, so that we’re not doing 10 additional takes.

Anne: Exactly, 10 additional takes.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: “OK, so let me make sure I understand what you are, what you are thinking here,” and repeating it back, I think that’s excellent advice. And as a matter of fact, I saw you – was there not a Facebook post the other day where you were sitting in your booth, on your phone, texting, waiting –

Gabby: On the floor.

Anne: On the floor, waiting for them to make a decision? [laughs]

Gabby: Mm-hmm, literally. Literally on the floor, and Lewis was across from me, and I, I open the door because my staff is on the other side of the wall being super quiet because there’s a session going on. So I open the door to kind of signal to them, “hey, we’ve got a lull, like no big. You know, make noise, you know, do whatever you need to do.”And so I’m just sitting there, and Lewis snapped that picture of me, just you know, on the floor, just kind of like, you know, sitting Indian style, just texting away because “I’m like, what am I doing here?”

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: The session was an hour long. The actual voiceover portion of the session was 15 minutes.

Anne: Yeah, yeah I –

Gabby: 45.

Anne: Yeah, I get that.

Gabby: – was them discussing.

Anne: Yeah, that was my one hour that turned into three hours. And really by the end of it, I was exhausted. I think what Gabby said in regards to “let’s get things clarified and get things straight,” the quicker you can resolve any sort of issues with nitpickers or complainers, I think the better, because your performance is going to suffer. I know at the end of the three hours, I was –

Gabby: Mm-hmm.

Anne: – number one, mentally I was not in a state where I was serving my copy as nicely as I could, because –

Gabby: [laughs]

Anne: – I was burning up inside, and I, I was like, I didn’t know what to do at that point. You know what I mean? Except just like pray that it would be over. At that point, your third take on the slide is gonna be almost anger driven. [laughs]

Gabby: I certainly don’t recommend that anybody do this, but sometimes it happens, right? We’re human. I’ve had that. I have been to the point where my blood is boiling –

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: – I’m reading the same line for no reason to placate these people. The engineer is frustrated, I’m frustrated, and so finally you can hear it in my read, just goes dead, and I know longer care. I have checked out.

Anne: Right. Right.

Gabby: And when that happens, it’s really funny, because then the client will just go, “OK, well, let’s move on.”

Anne: Yes.

[both laugh]

Gabby: Because that’s what it takes for them to realize –

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: – maybe we’ve gone too far.

Anne: Yeah, your performance is going to be affected, and, and I think also, it got to the point where I didn’t want to work with that client again. The problem wasn’t even the client. It was the engineer. And so I was like, gosh, this is a production studio that gives me work, and I don’t know if I ever want to work with them again because of this engineer. I mean, it got to that point.

Gabby: Well, I think we forget pain. You know, the more time goes by, we sort of, we forget, and we go “oh yeah, sure, no, I’ll do another job for you.” And then of course midsession is when we remember, oh, right. This is why I didn’t want to work with you guys again. There’s, there’s something to be said for communicating actively with the client in the session and not just seeing yourself as this puppet behind a microphone that is there for their amusement or their pleasure.

Anne: Well, exactly.

Gabby: It’s not your job.

Anne: Right, and I’m so glad that you said that. There are some clients who will treat you like “the talent,” kind of that nameless, faceless. For me, there’s nothing more discouraging than working with somebody like that because I’m no feeling the reciprocation of respect or love, and therefore it really, it made it very difficult for me to perform. You know, like I mentioned this new client that I thought was so great, now all of a sudden I’m finding out in my contract the second and third take are included, but it is a full take. I mean it is the entire piece again that I must do, and, and I just, when I figured that out I was like, gosh, Anne. I beat myself number one for not reading the fine print. But now I’m considering, do I want to work with this client, or do I not want to? Because every time they come back with the second, I’m like, “man, I just give you my best.” And then I’m like, “oh my God, for the money you’re paying me, that is an entirely different job.”

Gabby: It never fails, right, that the clients who pay the least want the most.

Anne: Oh absolutely.

Gabby: I always find that incredible. And I have had clients say to me, “well, you know, we really love take number five, and we’re pretty sure that’s the one we’re going to use, but since we have you for the full hour –

Anne: “Since we have you.” Yup.

Gabby: “– let’s go ahead and try blank.” And I’m like, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” And I’ve had sessions where 45 minutes is, is in essence a waste. It’s me jumping through hoops to try to entertain them because they feel like well, we paid for the session hour, we should use the whole thing.

Anne: Right, right.

Gabby: When ironically the better clients with the better bud – they don’t care. They’re like, “we’re done. We got it, let’s go, let’s move on.”

Anne: Exactly. The type of client that wants to get the additional takes just because, then clearly they’re not necessarily knowing what they want in the first place.

Gabby: Exactly.

Anne: And by the 45th take, I, I don’t care who you are, I don’t, honestly, I mean, I’ve been in the studio – like remember when, remember when we all began in voiceover?

Gabby: Oh yeah.

Anne: I think it’s pretty much the same with everybody. We all go in and we do like 20 takes of the same thing because we don’t know – “oh, maybe I could have been happier, or I could have been more smile, or whatever it is, I could have been more serious.” And then we do it, and we sit there and listen to ourselves over and over and over again, and you don’t know what’s what by the time you’re done. I don’t even know what take I pick. I think that’s got to be true for people who are listening to us for 45 minutes. [laughs]

Gabby: Years ago, Dean Panaro, who was, is a talent agent in L.A., he was part of DPN, he said in interview that I did with him, he goes, “you know, I’m really just interested in the first take because truly everything after the first take starts to decay because you’re overthinking it.”

Anne: Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense.

Gabby: You know, we should always be in a position where we feel comfortable to say to a client, “may I make a suggestion?”

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: And in doing so, maybe steering the ship a little bit, because often, when this kind of stuff is going on, that’s the problem.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: There’s too many Indians. There’s no chief.

Anne: Well, exactly. There’s five people behind the, the, you know, the glass, and each one of them has their own subjective opinion on what they’re thinking it sounds like.

Gabby: And they’re not, they’re not clearly defined on what they’re looking to accomplish, basically.

Anne: Well right, and in the end, they may not be the one that approves it anyway.

Gabby: No, they’re usually not.

Anne: Right?

Gabby: Isn’t that funny?

Anne: Yeah, that’s, that’s really what it is. They’re just in there to kind of be there. A lot of times I’ll be on the other side of the glass with someone who definitely is not making the final decision.

Gabby: Oh please.

Anne: They’re there to direct.

Gabby: This is my absolute favorite. I get in, I do the first take, they go, “OK. That was great.” But the collective then tells us, “OK, we’re going to change this. Do this.” They steer me in a totally different direction than what my gut instinct was to do with the copy, only to then 45 minutes later call the client for approval, and the client goes “I don’t like any of that,” and wants to go back to what I originally did.

Anne: [simultaneously] Originally did.


Gabby: It happens constantly.

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: And guys, please don’t mistake this as like – I don’t want people to think that we are bitching. Right?

Anne: No. Not at all.

Gabby: I don’t want people to think this is us complaining. It’s more about how do we manage this, what do we do when these things are going on, because it does happen to all of us.

Anne: It absolutely does happen. You want to think everything is rosy and happy now that you’re an entrepreneur and you own your own business, but there are times you will be dealing with clients who like turn the other way or, you know, have a particular job where you have got somebody new that comes on board. You know you could have been sailing smooth for years, and then all of a sudden there’s a new project manager. There’s a new director, whatever it is, that will happen. And you don’t necessarily want to give up that job because it serves you well. However, you do have to deal with the complainer, nitpicker and/or cheapskate.

Gabby: But sometimes the stress isn’t worth it.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: Sometimes it’s not. I had a client that I had a 10-year relationship with, beautiful, easy to work with, everything was wonderful, exactly what you said just happened. The project manager changed. The new guy, I was like, “you’re a [beep].” He was so mean. He was lacking social skills.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: He wasn’t personable, and so he made it so difficult that I stopped pursuing the relationship.

Anne: Oh and I, yeah. I totally am in agreement with you. I have gotten to that point with a couple of my clients where I’m like, this is not – the blood boiling right now, my blood pressure, the risk of a heart attack right now is not worth this client.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: I think it’s something that is very personal to all of us, and we really just have to make that decision. Are you having more good days than bad days or bad days than good days? Try to level with your client when you think they’re being unreasonable. It’s not easy all the way around –

Gabby: No.

Anne: – when somebody’s complaining or nitpicking because then everybody is stressed.

Gabby: Please always keep in the back of your head, from their perspective, it’s just business.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: They’re trying to get a product out. They’re trying to get a project completed. From where we sit, it becomes personal.

Anne: Oh yeah. It’s our artistic license.

Gabby: And so sometimes – yeah.

Anne: It’s our creative soul that they are challenging and insulting.

Gabby: And sometimes ripping apart.

Anne: Oh absolutely. Absolutely.

Gabby: And they don’t mean anything by it. We have to keep our personal emotions out of it, but we do have to be mindful of our business etiquette and what we believe is fair. And so this I think is where we get really into the topic of the cheapskates, because I don’t know about you, Anne, but I’ve seen it plenty of times where it’s always that client who’s, “can we just get, you know, this one re-cut? Can we just get this one line? They made a little change to the script,” and you’re like, “this is the fourth time.”

Anne: Yeah, exactly. And then it’s, and then it’s like, “yeah, no, there’s no more in our budget. This is what we paid other talent.”

Gabby: Mm-hmm.

Anne: Or they’ll, you know, they’ll start to say that when they don’t want to pay you for that. And at that point, you know what, I can walk away.

Gabby: What do you do in the case where you don’t necessarily want to walk away but you do want the client to really understand that you are doing them a favor now?

Anne: Well at some point, I will bring it up, and I’ll say, “well typically I would, I would charge according to my rate schedule” – and you explain, because sometimes they don’t really get it. They think it’s just “oh, we’re talking.” And you know, it’s not just that, obviously. We all know that. You do have to give them a little bit of an idea of what it entails and why.

Gabby: Sometimes we have to educate our clients.

Anne: Absolutely.

Gabby: Have you ever sent a zero dollar invoice, because I have?

Anne: Oh interesting.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: [laughs] There’s a tactic.

Gabby: Yeah, if I’m being asked to do something that I believe has really gotten to the point where we are going above and beyond, I will not only explain the worth of that extra step, I will send the client an invoice that outlines the item, puts a dollar amount attached to it, and the very next line item will be gratis, discounted by –

Anne: Absolutely.

Gabby: – and then 100%. So yes, it’s a zero dollar amount, but it’s clearly showing them –

Anne: What the worth is.

Gabby: “Oh, this is what this would have been if she didn’t agree.”

Anne: Exactly. Well, we can all go home now because that, Gabby, was hands-down just the best piece of advice. That is such a, that is such a bold statement of the value of what you are giving the client.

Gabby: Well, and sometimes I just do that truthfully to be nice.

Anne: Yeah, yeah.

Gabby: If I have a client who supplies me with a ton of work, and –

Anne: Right.

Gabby: – and they’re, I know that they’re having a budget constraint with something, I may just randomly elect to not charge them for something.

Anne: Right.

Gabby: But again, it will be denoted in the invoice.

Anne: Well exactly, for your records. And I, and you can always like say, “I’m going to be sending you an invoice for my accounting records.” Boom. And I have long-standing clients that I do that for as well. They will be like, “ok, let me know what you’ll charge.” And I’ll be like, “oh, this one will be on me. I will be sending, you know, I will send you the invoice, and then I will just document that.” But that’s, I didn’t think about it as a tactic for dealing with the cheapskates. [laughs]

Gabby: Mm-hmm.

Anne: That’s a great one. I love it.

Gabby: Mm-hmm.

Anne: Wow.

Gabby: And it, it’s effective because either, it kind of forces them to go away because they sort of understand that you’re not going to continually –

Anne: Oops.

Gabby: – be the doormat, yeah. Or it forces them to say to their end client, “you know, we’re really going to have to come up with a budget because man, they’ve already been super accommodating.”

Anne: Look, guys, we, God, we sacrifice so much if you are in voiceover full-time. Right? This life, which is not easy, right? Marathon, not a sprint, and if your blood is gonna boil, more often than not, ehh.

Gabby: Uh-uh.

Anne: Take a look and walk away if you have to.

Gabby: Yeah, we fabricate this. We are in control of this.

Anne: Yeah, yeah.

Gabby: There’s nothing that should make you feel like you have to put up with that.

Anne: So yeah.

Gabby: There’s such a thing as a toxic client.

Anne: Yeah, absolutely.

Gabby: That’s, that’s real. I mean there they are, [long beep] to hell with them.

Anne: Complainers, nitpickers and cheapskates. I can’t even make that sound as nasty as yours. Nitpickers!

Gabby: Nitpickers!

Anne: And cheapskates.

[both laugh]

Anne: In a more positive light, for the people that we love, I would like to give a big shoutout to ipDTL.

Gabby: Yes, they are a fantastic way for you to connect with the clients who are complainers, nitpickers and cheapskates. They make that possible.

Anne: There you go.

[both laugh]

Gabby: Guys, for all things BOSS, make sure to check out our website. We have loads of features there for you, plenty of freebies, lots of fun things, and of course all of our social outlets, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, uhh iTunes, Stitcher, we’re everywhere. Just, yeah.

Anne: We are.

Gabby: Come hang out with the BOSSes.

Anne: Hang out with the BOSSes. Guys, have an amazing rest of your day, and we’ll see you next week.

Gabby: Bye!

Anne: Bye!

Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.