Voice Over Education Blog

June 2015

7 Ways better billing practices lead to better billings.


Work in any field long enough, and you’ll encounter a client who’s slow, or even fails to pay. Wondering if the new client you’ve just accepted will be one of those jobs, can be nerve-wracking ... and in a business where maintaining a calm, relaxed manner is a large component of your livelihood, that’s not a good mental state to be in.

Most often by far, payments are not a problem. You’ll be paid on time, or sometimes a bit late but at least eventually. Here are some suggestions for making your collections situation as calm as you are at the mic.

First, let us reiterate. Most clients are as professional as you are. They pay their electric bill, they pay their taxes, and they’ll pay you. But it’s often hard to tell before taking on a new client whether or not they’ll be an exception. Even an existing client might become slow to pay you if their financial or cash-flow circumstances change. The less time you spend hassling over such situations, the more time you’ll have for landing new clients and doing more work.

So, the 7 tips:

1. Try to be paid in advance, or at least, on delivery. Many clients, especially small or entrepreneurial ones, are willing. (And at Voices.com, it’s even required – clients pay Voices.com upon engagement, and the amount is held in escrow until you deliver.) This is no time to have stage fright. Simply state that it is your policy, or at least it’s your policy with any new client. The worst that can happen is, either they will tell you what their payment policy is (and you can decide if that’s acceptable), or they will not hire you (in which case they may not have been a serious or reliable client anyway).

Do you listen to Radiolab? Or, How to get out of a rut.


The Voice Over industry involves virtually every aspect of modern society, from poetic expression to scientific analysis, from sheer commercialism, to pure education. So it’s no wonder that the voice over community abounds with curious people who like to explore – explore themselves, or the world around them, or both. (Did we hear someone mutter “actors”?)

If that’s you, you may already be a regular follower of Radiolab, the Peabody Award-winning program on NPR. It can expand your awareness, and thus your genre capabilities, in a variety of ways.

Hosted by its creators, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, Radiolab describes itself thusly:
“Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”

Each week for an hour, there’s a different theme, with various segments exploring that theme from sometimes very different (even seemingly unrelated angles). For example, here’s their synopsis of just one episode. (Some episodes have fewer, longer segments.) The theme is ”Translation”.

Marking up the copy: Good to do, or bad?


We hardly need to explain the process of marking copy. It’s one of the first thing everybody in VO learns, and although not everyone does it, it’s generally thought of as something everyone should do ... or know how to do ... to some one extent or another.

No matter how long the text, a few visual reminders are helpful. But can you take them too far? Can marking copy actually hurt your read? Yup.

At this point, you might expect us to show an example of a marked-up script. But truth be told, our website’s current content management system doesn’t support the inclusion of visuals. We’re working on that.

But you know what we mean, and our point isn’t to demonstrate copy markup symbols. Besides, everybody has their own collection of underlines, squiggles, letters, arrows, etc. to suit their needs. Unlike proofreading marks, which must be standardized so that other people can understand them, the only person who needs to understand your markup is you.

Furthermore, if your script isn’t on actual paper, your markup practices are likely to be different. If you’re able to reformat the text yourself (e.g., in Word or a PDF), you might use text symbols, punctuation, color and other available screen techniques to convey the hints. (Even the free Adobe Acrobat includes text formatting and basic drawing capabilities.) Standard punctuation symbols are also how a blind person would mark up copy in Braille text.

Focus on the sound, not on the tool: Gate terminology and how to use it.


We recently encountered someone who’s been using gating terminology exactly backwards. Yet, from their perspective they were using it “correctly,” and have been for a number of years. (Luckily, they are an user of audio processing, not a tech coach!) Once we sorted it out, it was interesting to see the logic behind their misunderstanding. It turned out to be a lesson that goes far beyond the mechanics of noise reduction. It reflects a principle of good production overall.

To get everyone up to speed, let’s define what an audio-processing “gate” is:

A gate is an audio-processing tool that eliminates noise between words. It does this by allowing louder sounds (such as your voice) to be heard, and softer sounds to be silenced. Using the gate’s one main adjustment, called a "threshold," you set the level between your softest wanted sound (such as the very end of a word) and the loudest unwanted sound (such as room noise, computer fan, soft breaths, or low-level mouth clicks).

In the case of room tone, your first thought should be to eliminate or reduce any noise from a computer’s fan, ventilation hum, minor hiss, etc. But no room is 100% silent, except for hugely expensive test chambers. Ordinarily, that little bit of remaining background noise is hidden or masked by your voice, or music, etc. ... or at least, the casual listener is distracted from hearing whatever small level of noise exists. But when you are not speaking, such as between sentences, the noise can become apparent, along with those mouth clicks, breaths, etc.

That’s where the gate comes in. If set correctly, it works very nicely.

Focus on the sound, not on the tool: Gate terminology and how to use it.


We recently encountered someone who’s been using gating terminology exactly backwards. Yet, from their perspective they were using it “correctly,” and have been for a number of years. (Luckily, they are an user of audio processing, not a tech coach!) Once we sorted it out, it was interesting to see the logic behind their misunderstanding. It turned out to be a lesson that goes far beyond the mechanics of noise reduction. It reflects a principle of good production overall.

To get everyone up to speed, let’s define what an audio-processing “gate” is:

A gate is an audio-processing tool that eliminates noise between words. It does this by allowing louder sounds (such as your voice) to be heard, and softer sounds to be silenced. Using the gate’s one main adjustment, called a "threshold," you set the level between your softest wanted sound (such as the very end of a word) and the loudest unwanted sound (such as room noise, computer fan, soft breaths, or low-level mouth clicks).

In the case of room tone, your first thought should be to eliminate or reduce any noise from a computer’s fan, ventilation hum, minor hiss, etc. But no room is 100% silent, except for hugely expensive test chambers. Ordinarily, that little bit of remaining background noise is hidden or masked by your voice, or music, etc. ... or at least, the casual listener is distracted from hearing whatever small level of noise exists. But when you are not speaking, such as between sentences, the noise can become apparent, along with those mouth clicks, breaths, etc.

That’s where the gate comes in. If set correctly, it works very nicely.

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