Negotiating rates is the hardest part of my job. I much prefer to have an agent involved in this process, but more and more of my work comes directly to me from my website from places outside the range of my various agents. So more and more, I find that I am providing quotes. Add in the auditions from the P2P sites and a LOT of time is spent figuring out rates.

I have a set rate card for most projects now that I use as a starting point, but there is always something that makes the rate card difficult to apply. The nature of the material may require additional dollars (or not). Or the turn around time is short necessitating a rush charge (or not). The project may be for a really good cause that warrents a discounted rate (or not). The project may actually be more than one project, but will be done at the same time which could indicate a reduced rate for the extra projects (or not). There are so many variables.

Additionally, there are other factors affecting the negotiating process.

  1. The economy is making it hard to know which of my clients are able to maintain the established rates and which will want to negotiate something lower.
  2. Many clients refuse to work through agents – thinking (perhaps rightly so) that they will get a better deal going directly to me.
  3. Clients who are working as the intermediary between me and the end client. This can cause a communication breakdown

I had a communication breakdown over the weekend with a returning client (well, a new person working for a company I have worked for before). The script was pretty straightforward corporate communications and we agreed upon my standard rate for that kind of work. From the beginning though, the arrangement was slightly more than the usual routine. They expected two completely different styles of reads.

Normally, at the beginning of the job, a style is determined and you may end up doing two “takes” of that style to give them something to edit, but two completely different styles of delivery is unusual. But, given that the project was for a returning client with potential for more work, this was a high profile end client, only a few pages long, and for a good cause – I agreed to provide the two different reads.

We agreed on the rate late in the week and then at the end of the week, I received additional scripts for two separate intros and outros for podcasts related to the project. Because they were separate projects, I sent an email back with a discounted rate (because I could record everything during one session) for the additional work.

The end client was very upset with the additional charge – and instructed my client to cancel the project. As long as I have been in the business, this is the first time I have had this happen. I called my client and asked that he pass along my willingness to include the podcast intro/outros in the original quote and would have the tracks to him today – so there was no need to go looking for a new talent or arrange for someone in-house to record. He told me he would speak with them – so far no news.

Was there a lesson to be learned here? Well, perhaps to try to glean whether there was a budget issue to begin with? If the client was only interested in spending half of my fee in the first place, but was convinced that my professionalism was worth the extra dollars, that would probably have been good information to know. Perhaps encourage a phone call or an email before sending something off to and end client if the middle client expects blow back?

I’d hate to lose a client over a misunderstanding that could have been avoided. We are all learning how to communicate again.