Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Little Extra Goes a Long Way

There is a long debated topic amongst working voice actors: what rates to charge for which services. The debate ranges from the time spent recording, to overall usage, to length of script, etc...and there is no right or wrong answer (OK, there is a WRONG answer...but that's a different topic).

Something that recently caught my eye on one of the message boards was a discussion about rates for editing audio. I wondered if I should feel foolish after reading it, because I have never charged extra to edit my audio before sending it to the client. Whether it's simply editing out the dead space between multiple takes after a phone patch session, or editing out everything except the best possible take...I've always considered editing to be part of the job. Smaller files mean less rendering, less space taken up on my ftp, and they are ultimately easier for the client to deal with during post-production.

After reading the thread on the message board, I started thinking back to my sessions from the past few days...

One was ISDN (so no editing required there), two were fully produced audio pieces (so of course that was edited), one was just voice (edited and uploaded to ftp), and two more were via phone patch.

Of the two phone patch sessions, one was a first-time client and one was a long-time client.

The first-time client was incredibly friendly- we had a good laugh when he admitted he was directing me from the back of his RV while he and his crew were driving across several states to their next video production gig. It made me realize what an incredibly cool and high-tech world we live in where he can work on one job while traveling to the next! We also talked about his last vacation with his family, a bit about my career in voice over, etc. Since I like to charge by the job and not by the hour, it's wonderful to spend a few minutes getting to know a bit about my client when the client's time permits. At the end of the session, I edited together the client's preferred takes, leaving small spaces between each one for post-production, then uploaded them to ftp.

My second phone patch session was with my long-time client. Since he's become a dear friend as well as a client, we spent a few minutes catching up before getting down to business. During recording, I kept track of his favorite takes, and then we decided it would be helpful if he could hear the best takes edited together. It was no problem, as I quickly edited together a final piece for approval. Once we had things the way he wanted, we decided it would be funny to put together a 'fake' take so he could play a prank on his co-workers. Back in the booth, I came up with a crazy character voice and tried to keep a straight face as I once again recorded the commercial. I uploaded both edited versions to my ftp as well as some additional takes in case he needed a different edit down the road. The entire session only took an hour of my time, but reminded me how much fun this job can truly be!

You see, I'm someone who doesn't like sessions in which I enforce time constraints. It's different if my client is in a hurry- but if they prefer a leisurely pace, then so do I. I also find it's the little 'extras' editing a file or being willing to have fun by providing silly outtakes...that make my clients more comfortable with my services. In addition, getting to know my clients a little gives my services a more personal touch. It makes the sessions feel less like work and more like just having a little fun while getting the work done.

Perhaps it's because I'm comfortable producing audio as well as recording it that editing doesn't seem like a big deal to me. I would never fault anyone for feeling differently, our differences are what make us valuable and keep our clients coming back. However, if I were to offer any advice to an up and coming talent it would be this, be willing to give a little extra now and then. Not only will your clients be grateful, you might find it keeps things just a bit lighter and more fun for you too!


Justin Barrett said...

Wonderful observations, Kara. Thanks for sharing them!

Greg Houser said...

Well Kara, it depends on what your definition of editing is. While the recording industry has their definition, often I find that clients have another.

For me, it can mean anything from breath removal, and piecing together clips (which for me is the traditional use of the term), to mixing and mastering (which is oft-referred to as editing by some clients, though it really shouldn't be).

Light editing, no problem. It's a simple process and for a :60 second spot takes about 5-10 minutes. When we get into mixing and mastering, that can take up to 2-3 hours for the same spot due to what's required (multiple passes with EQ and compression to determine which works best for the spot, additional tracks which need to be edited in, and also processed, etc.).

If you're not charging for that level of work (and many people do not), then you can quickly find yourself spending countless hours in front of the console for free. Doesn't make much sense to have a $300 fee for a :60 commercial, if I have to spend the time recording, then an extra 2 hours or so to mix and master the clip.

My opinion is that if you offer as part of your pricing, let it be known and let it be know just what level of service that entails. If you charge extra, then let the client know why it's worth the extra price and what that service entails.

You'll often find that when things are explained properly, that your clients are much more amenable to paying the costs (who knows, it might even turn into another side of your business... I know that mine has).

But that's just my $0.02 worth.

Kara Edwards said...

Hey Justin!

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!


Kara Edwards said...


It's wonderful to hear from you on this topic- thank you!

I am always very upfront with my clients- there is a big difference between editing and producing. Producing for me means adding compression, EQ, SFX, music- whatever is needed. Yes, that brings with it an extra fee. In fact, I always have in writing that if the production takes longer than (agreed upon hours) for a flat rate, there is an additional hourly fee.

Fortunately, I haven't run into a client yet that confused editing with producing :). They are very different animals. Editing should take minutes...I've had projects I've produced take days and weeks depending on the size.

You are right, 'throwing in' production is never a good idea, one must never sell their talens short!

Thanks again for the comment!

Greg Houser said...

Like I said, the devil is in the details.

Because it's a term that been mis-used so often (even by the professionals), I always ask.

Take a look at several of the postings on the P2P sites, you'll find the misuse of the term quite readily (and the requisite kvetching from the talent after they landed the job).


Kara Edwards said...

Hah! Very true Greg! Thanks for double checking- while I might have known what I was talking about in this one time, that isn't usually the case! Heheh!


Greg Houser said...


I'd hardly say that is the case.

VoiceOverForYou said...

Kara, good discussion. About 95% of my business is repeat and I have yet to "just send them the raw audio". What I mean by that is, I first find out what they are going to do with the there going to be any post work. If not, I provide the client with the best possible audio (cleaned up, slight compressed, my standard EQ if necessary, and at a normalized peak level around -4 to -3dB). The reason I do that extra step is that I certainly want to please the client but "that's my voice" and I need it to sound as best as possible, thus the need to find out if they are doing any post is critical.

I have gotten direct referrals whereby someone heard my voice on a promo and when the client was asked "who's voice is that", they quickly gave the guy my contact info which gave me the opportunity to serve him too!

So, YES...I "edit" my audio. One thing to keep in mind. I have actually worked on a project whereby YOU provided a voice for my client. It was great to get your audio because, as a fellow editor, I didn't have to sit there and fix everything. There were a few things I did to suit my taste and made a couple fixes, but that was a welcomed audio file because I get some people who send me audio and it takes a good bit to get it straightened out. I would be horrified to send audio to people that sounded like some I have received. Now, I don't mean the voice quality, I'm talking about all the pops, snaps, odd vocal noises, excessive breathing can take some time. Thus, I think like an editor when I send audio! I believe this has served me well as a result.

I guess I feel sending the very best "product" I can is how I view it. When people get my audio, if they are like me, they will be thrilled beyond measure because I just saved them time and effort...something that can render a dividend in the future.

Brian in Charlotte

Kara Edwards said...


Thank you so much for your comment! Finding out what will happen with the audio before you send it is a wonderful idea. It does determine if any compression etc should be added.

As a side note, I owe so very much to Brian for teaching me most of what I know about editing and producing in Pro Tools (I spent most of my career working with Cool Edit and Adobe Audition prior to go full-time). You are a wonderful producer, and a very talented voice actor my friend! Brian even produced my radio imaging demo- it is fantastic!