Voice actors in business provide a service. The Internet and social media are key places for hanging one’s shingle and open for business signs. In turn, offers for voice jobs can come from many sources. But what happens when you must turn down a gig? We all want to be liked (and get paid), so saying “no” may seem like a business killer. Sometimes, giving bad news is a part of life, but knowing why, when, and how to turn down business can make all the difference in your future. Here’re my why, when, and how for saying “No” to a voiceover job.
Why Do It
Since the whole point of a for-profit business is to make a profit, turning down business seems like the last thing a working voice actor wants to do. Still, circumstances will arise in life when turning down a voice job works best. In “When to Say No to Work” (posted in Backstage, April 7, 2011), Michael Kostroff notes, “It’s often said there are only three reasons to accept an acting job: 1) for artistic satisfaction, 2) for money, or 3) for career benefits—contacts, experience, education, film for your reel, a valuable credit, etc. It’s a philosophy well worth adopting. You may want to consider passing up jobs that don’t meet any of these criteria, leaving that work to someone for whom it might have greater value.”
When It’s Best
There is always a cost in running a business. Voice acting is a creative pursuit, but that does not remove the need to run an efficient business. When a project is very costly in time, a low return on investment, or needs more than you can provide for a final quality project, you may want to pass. Passing on a job should be a stepping stone not a bolder in the road. Look for ways to keep it moving.
How to Say It
In “The 8 do’s and don’ts of delivering bad news” (CNBC Make It) Wed, 5 April 2017,
Rhett Power’s advises, “Don’t burn your bridge – say it nice: Even though you won’t be working for the organization, it’s in your interests to be polite and professional. You never know when you might want to work for the employer in future, so it pays not to burn bridges.”
If you know you are not able to fulfill the offer, let the client know as soon as possible. Write or speak your message in a respectful tone and manner. Give one or two reasons for your decision. Shy away from giving reasons like such as there is not enough money in the project, you’re taking your kids on vacation, or you want to watch a movie. While these may be your legitimate reasons, the client may not agree. If your goal is money, then you may want to negotiate with the client beforehand to try to reach a better payment for the project. However, if you have another engagement, conflict or many obligations, a personal emergency, etc., express the truth in your information to your client. It’s better to be professional and upfront with your situation to help keep good working relationships. There may be a time when you are available and can perform other voice work.
End with salutations and a request to keep in touch. Business relationships start with people relationships. It’s your job as a professional voice talent to be savvy and helpful even if you have to say “No.”