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BOSS Mindset – Is it OK to Say No to Work?

Voice, Voice…pass! Sound familiar? It should. Most voiceover actors pass on jobs pretty regularly. The reasons why are plentiful, but the emotional toll of doing so can be even greater. Today’s VOBoss podcast is all about the passing process. Why we do it and why it’s OK to do it. Give it a listen and feel free to ‘pass it on’ to one of your VO friends!


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Passing on work is normal. Most voiceover actors do it.

  2. It can seem or feel wrong – but that’s usually in our heads.

  3. Go with your gut. If a client seems like a pain, they probably will be.

  4. If communications are lacking or you feel that they don’t respect your work, it’s probably wise to pass.

  5. Otherwise they can become really cumbersome clients.

  6. You should not take a job out of guilt of feel guilty about passing on a job.

  7. You are not giving up an opportunity if the ‘opportunity’ was sub-par to being with.

  8. Don’t let a client bribe you with the possibility of more work.

  9. It only takes on time to say no.

  10. Focus your time and efforts on better opportunities or your own lead.

  11. Fear should not be a ruler of your business decisions.

  12. Beginners are afraid to say no because they think they will never get another job or experience.

  13. You have invested in your studio, and your career and you are worth a fair rate of pay.

  14. Put your effort and time into clients that see and respect your worth and value.

  15. There’s respect and pride in what you do and that goes both ways.

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++


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

Gabby: Hey, hey!

Anne: So Gabby, I got an email from a potential client today.

Gabby: Mm, always a good time.

Anne: Yeah. [laughs] Speccing out a pretty low .08 cents per word.

Gabby: Oh, not a good time.

Anne: Yeah, and I – [laughs] And I, yeah. So Gabby, I think we should talk about is it OK for us to pass on work?

Gabby: Yeah, you mean like today?

Anne: [laughs] Yeah.

Gabby: Yeah, because I’ve done that twice already today, today alone, just – yes, of course it is.

Anne: Gabby, what makes you pass on work?

Gabby: Oh God, oh geez, all right. Sure, let’s unfurl the list. So the biggest right off the bat is of course a low-budget.

Anne: Oh yeah, that’s huge.

Gabby: If the budget’s too low, I’m out. I’m just…nope. Sometimes it’s so low, wasting my time to even try to negotiate it up, no. It’s trying to bridge a chasm. What’s the point?

Anne: Well yeah, when it is that low, I don’t even respond actually.

Gabby: Exactly.

Anne: You as well? [laughs]

Gabby: Yeah. This is interesting because for part of this episode, we’re going to have to call it the Lewis Banks episode. [laughs] For those of you don’t know, so Lewis is the voice of our intro and outro, and he’s also a partner with me in my studio. And Lewis, I give him hell for this a lot and poke fun at him; he’s notorious for this. This kid passes on more work than I think anybody I know in the industry. And on the surface, it looks a little extra, a little pretentious maybe, right, but it’s really not. He just has a very clear vision of what he wants to do, the types of things he wants to engage in, and his parameter for a client. If he doesn’t see that early on in the communications, he passes. Nine times out of ten, his gut instinct is right.

Anne: Oh yeah. [laughs]

Gabby: Because they end up being more of a headache than they’re actually worth.

Anne: Yeah, that’s a great point. That’s how a lot of my turn-aways happen because there is a gut instinct. Not only is there usually a low price associated with it, but just in the method of communication to me –

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: – it’s almost as if they don’t hold voiceover in high-value at all. They even talk to you as such.

Gabby: Or it’s very clear that they really don’t know what they’re doing.

Anne: Correct. But I will say if they don’t know what they’re doing, I’m happy to try to educate them if they seem educatable.

Gabby: Yeah, but that’s it. Sometimes you get the distinct impression that they’re not. Language goes a long way.

Anne: Oh goodness, yes.

Gabby: Yeah. If I feel like my client can’t put together a proper sentence, mmm, probably not worth my time to try to engage that and educate them on this industry. It becomes very cumbersome. It also seems to never fail that the ones you kind of have a bad feeling about from the beginning snowball into –

Anne: The worst clients ever.

Gabby: – difficult – yeah, like heinous process of revisions.

Anne: Revisions and nickel and diming you for those revisions or, you know, or assuming, assuming that retakes are free. [laughs]

Gabby: Yeah. And then they don’t, they just don’t go away. And then you go, “God, if I had just passed on this from the beginning, I wouldn’t be in this.”

Anne: So guys, I think you need to really remember, and it’s absolutely, I think, possible for you to say no. In certain cases, you don’t even need to take the time to respond if you’re not given respect in terms of an inquiry about how much would it cost for you to provide this, or if you’re in the beginning stages of dealing with a client who’s not treating you the way that you feel you should be treated, right there, I don’t think there’s any need for you to finish –

Gabby: Mm-mm.

Anne: – or feel like you need to be responsive at that point.

Gabby: Accommodating, sure.

Anne: Accommodating, because again as Gabby mentioned, those are gonna be the ones that if you do accommodate, they will take that and run.

Gabby: Here is what I find that’s… weird. So on one hand there’s a whole bunch of voice actors that are like riddled with guilt, like they feel guilty if they pass on a job.

Anne: Guilty voiceover.

Gabby: Yeah, like what is that? I don’t understand. I personally don’t understand.

Anne: I feel like they feel like they might giving up an opportunity.

Gabby: Mmm.

Anne: So there’s always that what if there could be more work, or what if the next job is better? And I’m here to say [laughs]

Gabby: What if the next job sucks?

Anne: Look, you never know about the next opportunity. You really don’t, unless you’ve got a contract in writing. And even then sometimes you don’t know. There’s no guarantees. I always like to look at every job –

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: – with of course the potential to have more but never dependent upon that.

Gabby: We could play the what-if game in either direction –

Anne: Right.

Gabby: – all day. I mean, sure, what if the next job is worth 10 grand? What if the next quote is for $10?

Anne: Right, exactly.

Gabby: We don’t know, and we can only make an assessment based on the job that’s in front of us right this second, and if that job is low budget, low-quality, what assurance or what pattern of behavior do you have to show you that that next job is going to be so great?

Anne: Well yeah. And I’ll tell you what, it takes really just one time for you guys to say no and to feel that power. [laughs]

Gabby: It is, oh my God!

Anne: The power of no.

Gabby: Soooo empowering! It’s amazing.

Anne: Yeah, and then understand that, look, it’s OK. And the reason why it’s OK is that if I pass on this particular job right now that seems to be becoming very painful to deal with, or to negotiate or taking up a lot of my time, my time can be better spent answering the next inquiry, which could be that job for 10 grand. [laughs]

Gabby: Or going after your own lead, which is –

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: – always going to be more lucrative. You’re right, it’s soo – it becomes so psychological at that point. And then we also see with really new people fear. Fear that if I don’t engage this client or I don’t try to negotiate this job or make it happen, that, you know, I’m never gonna see another one!

Anne: And they won’t get experience, right? Remember that, there’s that whole mentality, I’m new to the industry so therefore I don’t deserve as much money as somebody who’s been in the industry for so long. Therefore I better take this job because I need to gain the experience. Let me just say –

Gabby: Can we just round them all up and give them a hug?

Anne: Yeah, you get a hug.

Gabby: It’s so wrong.

Anne: But you have to understand that yeah, you have invested. You have invested in your career, in your training, in your studio. You are worth that money, and that if you say no, it’s OK. It just gives you more time to go search for that client that does value your time and your talent, right?

Gabby: Yes. And you’re so deserving of it. I hate, hate when I hear people talk about that newbie syndrome or newbie thing where it’s like –

Anne: I don’t even like the words.

Gabby: I don’t either. I hate it. It’s like –

Anne: Maybe new to the industry.

Gabby: Yeah, but either way, I’m new so –

Anne: After a minute, you’re not new anymore, right? [laughs]

Gabby: Exactly. What defines new?

Anne: Now you’ve aged. After a minute you’ve aged. You’re not new to the industry.

[both laugh]

Gabby: You’re not new anymore.

Anne: There you go. That’s it.

Gabby: But people get so wrapped up in that, and this idea that I’m not worth it, or I’m not, I’m not at that level. Who’s to say? Who set that bar in the first place?

Anne: Who needs to know, right?

Gabby: [laughs]

Anne: Right, that you’re new? Right? They initially came to you because they heard something that they liked.

Gabby: Yeah. And that’s all there is to it. But yet we see this kind of like really big hesitancy and reluctancy, and there are some voiceover professionals out there who would argue what Anne and I are even saying right now.

Anne: And think about it. If you turned down a job, and this is in any industry, darn it all, it comes – darn it all – it comes down to respect. It comes down to respect. There’s respect and pride for what you do, and there’s respect in the client who wants to hire you. If they’re not treating you with respect, if they do not value your service, then you do not need to spend the time talking with them, responding to them or any of it, and I think if more voice talent that are new to the industry took on this attitude or had this attitude, we would probably be in a better paying industry –

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: – right now. We wouldn’t be driving prices down. I think if more of us were willing to pass on jobs, we would probably bring the value up of the service.

Gabby: We would be stronger, there is no doubt about that.

Anne: We would be stronger.

Gabby: OK, so just to clarify, you don’t believe that it’s bad business –

Anne: No.

Gabby: To pass on a job –

Anne: I do not.

Gabby: Or to ignore a potential client. That’s important because some people do. They see it that way. It’s bad business. I don’t.

Anne: I typically don’t like to ignore people, but if somebody has presented me with a case upfront [laughs] right away with enough evidence that they’re not respectful, and they don’t value what I’m worth, I don’t necessarily need to respond.

Gabby: Mmm.

Anne: So I figure if it’s important enough, they’ll come back to me. [laughs]

Gabby: Interesting.

Anne: Right.

Gabby: So it’s not that I ignored it, I simply chose not to respond to it.

Anne: I chose not to respond because they were not speaking my language.

Gabby: [laughs]

Anne: Right? They were not speaking my language. And I, I don’t think it’s rude.

Gabby: God, you’re so smart.

Anne: [laughs] Why get involved in the, in –

Gabby: This is why I love you.

Anne: It took my time.

Gabby: Yeah, yeah for sure.

Anne: Right. It took my time.

Gabby: That’s a genius, genius way of viewing it. You’re right, because it’s not. I didn’t ignore it, I read it, I saw it.

Anne: I read it, I saw it, I didn’t acknowledge it to you.

Gabby: No. I acknowledged it to myself. [laughs]

Anne: I made the decision that it was not respectful of my services. It was not respectful of my time. And that goes for anybody that writes to me, not just a potential client. That’s it. [laughs]

Gabby: Yeah. Yeah.

Anne: Now everybody’s going to be like, “oh my God, Anne ignored my email. She thinks I’m being rude or disrespectful to her.”

Gabby: [laughs]

Anne: Trust me, guys, there are times when I don’t respond to email because it gets lost in my 865,000 unread emails.

Gabby: Scary place.

Anne: Gaby, if you think about it, that 869,000 or whatever emails that are unread, potentially –

Gabby: Because your Google account is the Matrix at this point. It’s –

Anne: [laughs] The Matrix!

Gabby: Absolutely a horrifying place. Don’t go there.

Anne: So Gabby, if you were – how do you respond to – or do you not respond?

Gabby: It’s interesting because I find that if it’s a direct inquiry to me through one of my websites, and the offer is either really low, or it’s like what we’ve outlined here, I will just ignore it.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: I will just not respond.

Anne: I will actually investigate for a few seconds – first of all, if there is –

Gabby: Oh yeah.

Anne: –a company name associated with it, I will investigate the company.

Gabby: For sure.

Anne: And then I will start a dialogue if I feel that maybe this person is just a busy casting director, and they were short, right, with me.

Gabby: Yes.

Anne: And so that of course, I’m not going to be stupid about it.

Gabby: No.

Anne: But I will investigate the company name.

Gabby: Well –

Anne: If they don’t have a company name, that, that makes me a little worried sometimes too.

Gabby: You have to be careful as to whether or not you’re dealing with somebody who’s playing hardball is all when it comes to rates and negotiations.

Anne: Yeah, exactly.

Gabby: I had one not long ago, I almost, I almost didn’t engage. And then I thought better of it and I did, and we had oh so many emails go back and forth, and back and forth. In one of their earlier ones, I said, “what’s your budget?” And this was really funny because the client came back to me. I had most of the specs of the project at this point, and they said $20,000. And I took all of that data into account, and I looked at everything I had at that moment, and I responded back, and I said, “ummm I’m going to assume that when you say $20,000, you mean total project budget, not the budget for the voiceover.” And she wrote back one word, “correct.”

Anne: Mm-hmm, of course.

[both laugh]

Gabby: I’m like, OK. You’re shrewd.

Anne: That was the budget we were talking about.

Gabby: I get what’s happening here, yeah. So you have to be cautious. Things like that, that’s how you learn to negotiate. That’s how you get better.

Anne: Exactly, and that’s the thing. That’s why I can’t – a lot of times I am negotiating, right? And if somebody’s gonna be disrespectful, it takes a lot of time to go back and forth with the negotiations.

Gabby: Oh God, does it.

Anne: It really does. If you want to ask Anne what is her day taken up by, it might be emails back and forth negotiating price on a job or the specs of a job.

Gabby: Here’s what is hilarious. That exact same client, we must have gone 20 or 30 emails. This was the funniest thing about it. They used my audition.

Anne: Mmm.

Gabby: We weren’t even negotiating over a session –

Anne: It was the audition, wow.

Gabby: The audition file, and in the end, when we finally got down to what I felt like was my number, they came back to me. And I just – it was so funny I let it go. I don’t often do this, but I did with these guys. They came back to me with a proposal, and they said “OK, so tell you what. We’re willing to pay this for a one-year licensure of the audition.” It was $50 less than the quote that I gave them.

Anne: Oh man. [laughs]

Gabby: And I was like, you know what?

Anne: If you’re going to fight over $50 –

Gabby: That’s it. I literally wrote them back and said, “if $50 is what is going to make you feel that you got a deal –

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: – then I’m not going to argue over that. Let’s get this done.” Because at that point it was exhausting.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: But that’s the art of negotiating.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: That’s not somebody yanking your chain with a crappy job. Now on the other hand, I will, if the job is a direct inquiry through a pay-to-play, and it’s really, really low, I will respond simply to educate the client. I don’t know if it’s doing any good or not, but I try.

Anne: Yeah, yeah.

Gabby: And I’ll just respond to say I’m really sorry, but that’s well below my typical rates and here’s why.

Anne: Let me circle back to something that I kind of started about the email [laughs] a little bit ago.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: When I can’t figure out where the email’s coming from, that’s a big sign. If it’s an email addressed, and there’s no company name associated with it – guys, this could be another episode, but only a few people who have Gmail addresses with, you know,, please just reconsider getting a domain name and making it official, because whenever I get an email with somebody, you know,, and they’re trying to get me to quote them on the job, and I can’t find out anything about who they are, those are the people I stay away from. So I just want you to kind of turn that on yourself. If you’re dealing with a client, and they just see, you know, annejoevo@gmail, what is it really saying for your professional status there?

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: If you’re not willing to put the money into the domain and really commit – just think about that.

Gabby: It’s true. It really is. It sends such a bad message. It’s umm, it’s tacky.

Anne: It is because it’s a free email and most people think, well, you know, if you’re not willing to invest in a domain name, how official can you be? How professional? Just a thought. That’s like one of my first indicators of somebody that I may not want to deal with. They may be somebody that is going to start to lowball me. They’re freelancing, but they’re not quite, you know, established yet, they’re just looking for the lowest price. And when you’re just looking for the lowest price, uhhh doesn’t say to me that it’s a quality client.

Gabby: Mm-hmm.

Anne: If all they’re considering is price.

Gabby: Yeah, we’re not in it for bargain hunters.

Anne: Again, it’s one of the things that I – it’s a warning, it’s a red flag for me.

Gabby: For sure. So yeah, so I mean at the end of the day, guys, you can say no. It’s your right to say no. It doesn’t make you a bad person to say no.

Anne: It’s empowering to say no.

Gabby: Yes, it is.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: And no one’s going to judge you or think less of you. We all do it in some way, shape or form.

Anne: We do.

Gabby: Everyone has turned down a job at some point.

Anne: Is there the no police? I mean, really, who’s like, who’s policing you? That’s what I want to say.

Gabby: If you find them, let me know. I’d love to talk to them.

Anne: The no police. Oh my God, you said no to that job.

[both laugh]

Gabby: How could you?!

Anne: How could you say no? Bad, bad voiceover artist. Oh man. Anyway.

Gabby: Voiceover people. I will tell you about a company we always say yes to.

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Gabby: Aww!

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Anne: Check them out. I do know for a fact they are so responsive. They’re trying to get people on board, so they’ve been very responsive. So if you have any questions, you can reach out to them, and give them a shot, guys. Because our industry is growing, and I think that we all need to keep our eyes open and try different things out in the industry, to make it work for you, to make it successful for yourself.

Gabby: Exactly. It’s changing, we’re changing, things are evolving. This is a company that’s on the cusp of that evolution.

Anne: OK, guys. Have an amazing week, 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.