Never work for a jerk twice.

by | Business, Career Advice, General, Personal Development

I  attended a seminar about handling difficult clients and what drew the biggest laugh was when the presenter said, ” Never work for a jerk twice.”

Remember that Kenny Rogers tune about “The Gambler”, about knowing when to “hold ‘em , know when to fold ‘em”?  It came to mind as I read a recent post on Facebook about a project at one of the voice over casting sites that described the proverbial voiceover job from hell.  It involved 20 individual tags of 10 offer codes  and 2 different offers to be edited into the final :30 and :60 spots.  There would also be 10-15 :15 spots.

The talent was required to revise until client is satisfied with the final product. And because of a very tight time frame, the spots were to be completed next morning by 10 AM. For a price of $600.

I’ve always pretty much tried to do everything possible to please a customer. But  at what point should you refuse difficult demands?

I recently had my own little job issue which is now former client who will remain unnamed.

It was mid-July. I accepted what was a fairly easy job: a 90 second VO, very similar to one  that I’d done before for this producer and for the same end user. I was sent the script and was told, to give it the same treatment as the previous script. The script was very similar, so after a quick listen to the last recording, I delivered the goods.

A month later I was contacted and told the client was out of town for a month and requested that I read the entire script twice through and then each line three times. No other direction other than “add a bit more feeling in the words”.

I replied that I was dumbfounded that a whole month had gone by and if the client wanted to direct me there was every opportunity to do that during the original session, and requested another session fee with director and/or client . I felt it was unfair and would no longer work in a vacuum.

I didn’t hear back, and assumed everything was smoothed over when I called and spoke to the producer and requested payment. He said, “No problem”.  Then all went quiet for a number of weeks. The problem was, no payment was forthcoming. My repeated invoices, Statements, and paypal requests went ignored.

So, I wrote a demand that I get paid or I might advise my VO colleagues to be wary about doing business with them until they get paid in advance.  I’ll admit I was coming down with a serious illness at the time, and I regret that threat.  It was out of character, but I felt I was being lied to.  I’d never actually follow through on that type of thing. Yet, I was fully confident that I performed as requested.  An email shot back to me almost instantly, saying I was petty and uncooperative and judged my work to be good enough, when the end user wanted something different.

And I was once again told that I would be paid.

What’s difficult here is to suss out the true motivation behind unreasonable remarks and demands by difficult clients. But confidence is what has kept me from backing down and doing the recording again. After visiting to the end client’s website, and listening to a number of their previous productions, my production quality, vocal delivery and standards stand tall in comparison.

Usually the peace-maker, this time I paused and didn’t cave in to the fear that someone may bad-mouth me online. I’ve since figured out that this person wanted a freebie and knew all along what he was up to.

He said he would pay.  Several months have elapsed and I haven’t been paid . But I have the truth on my side.  So I’ll write off a bad debt this year. One of the few I’ve experienced in my many years in this business.  People cannot take advantage of you unless you allow them to.

Lesson learned: Be brave! Know that you never have to work for a jerk…twice.



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