Go onto any voice over site and you’ll come across advice - advice on how to get started in the industry, tips on how to set up a home studio, suggestions for voice care. You name it, there’s someone offering advice on it. Hell, I do it on my own blog all the time - and I’m about to do it again here, but this time with one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated pieces of advice I’ve ever received. I’m talking about the word “no.” Specifically, learning when to say no and overcoming your natural inclination to avoid the word when dealing with clients.
Let me give you a personal example that happened to a colleague of mine. One of my actor friends, who I’ll refer to as Bill, was still kind of a VO rookie when this happened. He’d been working on projects for about a year, and was getting to the point where the work was good and steady, and he was enjoying regular projects from repeat clients. But of course, like most of us, Bill wanted more. So he removed the word “no” from his vocabulary. Anytime a client asked for something, Bill said yes. Script changes, edits, second and third recordings - whatever the client wanted, Bill did it...until he just couldn’t anymore. There came that day when Bill was burned out, tired, and mentally and physically depleted. And you know who suffered from all of this? Everyone! Bill, his family, his friends, and even his clients, who he thought he was helping. Bill was taking on way too much, and the quality of his work was slipping. He was hurrying through projects, but still not meeting deadlines, and he was losing precious time and money doing so. It had to stop, and when Bill finally realized this and started saying no, his situation turned around completely.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t as dramatic as some of you hoped it might be, but I think I made my point. As a voice over actor, you HAVE to say no sometimes. If you become a “yes” person, always trying to please, you’ll wind up in a situation like Bill’s, where nobody is happy.
If a project is out of your range, say no. If the client wants to pay you less than what you think it’s worth, say no. If they demand a hundred edits and don’t want to pay you for them, say no. It may be hard to do this at first, because that desire to please is intrinsic for most of us, but in the end, saying no is often the very thing that will keep everyone happy.