Whidbey Island is a beautiful place to live, and I can’t image a better location for my studio. The sunrises are typically inspiring and the sunsets are nothing short of visually spectacular.
Between those two times of day (and sometimes outside of those times) I’m reading mail, marketing my services, practicing, auditioning and working on projects. The day is full, and seems to zip by in a blink.
I find that following a schedule is a necessity to keep me on track so I cover all the elements of running my own business. My schedule is the perfect guide, yet flexible enough to allow me extra time when I need to focus on specific areas. My success and business growth depend on me paying attention to more than just what I do behind my mic.
In the upcoming months, I’ll write about each area mentioned above from the perspective of a voice artist. The information can be used by most freelancers, “solopreneurs” and collaborators.
This month’s post focuses on e-mail and some best practices for dealing with it.
Make your inbox work for you.
My day starts with a trip to my mail application’s inbox. From the last time I checked it the day before, until the moment I peek inside its bottomless depths again, I’ll have received between 75 to 100 pieces of e-mail.
I spend less than an hour “in the box” first thing every morning. I’ve set up my mail application to take care of sorting and filtering so I won’t have to. I want to open my e-mail and quickly work through chunks of messages at a time.
Most e-mail software allows you to configure inbox folders or rules with criteria to match incoming mail. Items which match folder criteria or rules are moved to that folder automatically.
Want to look at all of your social media alerts? Create a Social Media folder. Subscribe to professional services or lead alerts? Create a Prospects folder. Get the idea?
I use Mac Mail and have set up several Smart Folders that capture mail items which meet my specific criteria. I also have folders for each of my clients. This sorting method lets the computer work in the background to do the first step of my process.
Not all e-mail I receive requires my immediate attention. It ranges from pings from peers, quote and proposal requests from clients and prospects, new work from existing clients, social media alerts, newsletters and online magazines and junk.
With the help of my e-mail app, I run each of them through a triage process that helps me focus on what’s important to my studio’s financial progress first, informational second, and fun third.
Important to Survival
Mail that comes from my clients is the first thing I deal with. They are either contacting me with more work, following up about a project I recently finished or introducing me to somebody they’re referring. These are marked with the Respond flag for immediate attention.
After I make it through all my e-mail, these will be the items I act on first.
I don’t open inbox items in the order received, nor do I deal with them in real time. I work through my Smart Folders first, flagging when necessary.
Mac Mail gives me the ability to flag items into categories that I created.
- Respond - Items that need a reply and can be responded to without additional work.
- Action – These require me to do something before I respond or things that I need to do that don’t require a direct response to the sender.
- Work - Confirmed jobs waiting to be completed.
- Auditions | Proposals – My pool for potential new gigs.
- Add to Contacts - New prospects that I will add to my address book.
- Read | Listen – Interesting news letters or social media posts. Look for subject lines that grab your attention. Whatever you do, don’t open these items until you’ve made it through the others. They will derail your e-mail process.
- Keep – Items that I’ll refer to often and NEVER delete!
Each flag category gets its own folder where items of a particular flag are waiting for further action.
Next, I give the flagged items my full attention. The e-mails flagged with Respond, are first. Usually, these are handled with a one or two line reply.
Items marked with the Action flag are dealt with next. These items require me to do something else before I respond. Research…writing a document…locating audio from a prior job…are typical tasks.
Items with the Work flag set the schedule for the day or book blocks of studio time for later in the week. These have scripts attached or voice direction from the person who hired me.
When I’m not in a session or editing, I’m in the Auditions | Proposals folder working through those items. This is my pool of potential future work.
Items flagged as Add to Contacts and Read | Listen are self-explanatory and compared to the other flags, low priority.
It’s a Date
You’ll come across items that are date dependent. Take a moment now to add these items to your calendar.
While you’re in your schedule, take a look at what you’ve got scheduled for the day and the next seven days. It’s good to be aware of events that need special attention and preparation. Nobody likes a bad surprise.
Your Inbox Needs a Timeout
Your e-mail application works hard to make your inbox triage easier. Sometimes however, it gets in the way of your productivity.
If you are the type of person who needs to have e-mail opened all day, consider setting the duration your application rechecks for new mail to occur no more than once an hour.
However, a better option is shut it down completely and limit inbox checks to three times a day: morning, after lunch, and one of the last things you do when you’re winding up your work day.
The busier you are with your career, the more important it is to tame your e-mail demons. Don’t be afraid to give your inbox a timeout!
Other posts you might find interesting:
There are a number of voiceover successes I’m very proud about from this past year. I don’t want to gush about anything specific, lest I trigger your sensitivity to bragging.
No, instead, I’m going to share a handful of things that made me smack my head in disbelief. These are my “Oh, yeah… I probably shouldn’t do that” moments, those little slices of time that remind me that I’m human, and not above making bonehead mistakes that make my peers say, “You did what!?”
- Using an iPad for script reading in place of paper is a smart, efficient move. Attempting to markup text with a pencil on an iPad is neither smart nor efficient.
- Listening to the always entertaining “NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour” while reviewing scripts will distract me from catching even the most obvious mistakes.
- Rehearsing an audition script while participating in a webinar is a fabulous way to multitask. Note to self: Make sure to mute the microphone when not interacting with the host or other participants. Nobody is interested to hear my practice runs broadcast across the web over the top of a live webinar.
- Listening to classical music empowers me to have uber-focus and smooths occasional pre-session jitters. Rocking out to AC/DC or Nazareth before a recording session is great for getting my pulse pounding; nerves rattling; and ends up being the opening act for multiple takes.
- Tis a bummer to record an award worthy session only to find out no sound was captured. Headphones are useful to verify that my audio gear is in record mode and not playback.
- High winds on Whidbey Island create a bellows effect in my house while recording and treats the diaphragm of my trusty Bluebird like a brown paper bag used for hyperventilation.
- Deep cleaning the house gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Vacuuming, de-cluttering and dusting. I like a clean house. The dusting part is great for setting histamines in motion, giving my voice a nasally, plugged up tone, suitable only for decongestant commercials.
- A thick, all cotton sweatshirt is not only necessary to keep me warm but also acts as an extra sound absorber in my booth, a former wine cellar. The same cannot be said for shirts made of corduroy.
- Contrary to the wishes of one overseas client, no matter how hard I try, I cannot sound “un-American”. My auditions sound like me, and I sound like my auditions.
- Comfortable shoes are important for long periods of standing behind the mic. Wearing shoes of various sole or heel heights from one day to the next causes my voice to take on inconsistent characteristics because mic proximity and sweet spot target became victims of my shoe fetish.
- Corks from wine bottles are useful in improving articulation for a lazy mouth. Wine that is aged in the bottle can be delicious. Wine aged on the cork is disgusting. A washed cork is a more agreeable experience.
- Staying hydrated is super important for me. It ensures that dry mouth is significantly reduced and all the parts inside my mouth are well lubed. My keyboard and mouse are not in need of the same attention. A water bottle left in their proximity is a setup for desktop disaster.
- Eating a yummy ham sandwich an hour before a patched session will make me drink 48 ounces of water during the session and cause SEVERE mouth noises. (Sorry Matt!)
- Chewing gum assists in getting rid of cotton mouth. However, while building well defined jaw muscles, it has an adverse affect on fluid mouth movement, making most speaking less articulate.
- Altoids are a great substitute for gum chewing. Chewing one before entering the booth creates minty fresh breath. It also provides my tongue an opportunity for calisthenics as I attempt to remove the crushed Altoid bits from my teeth. Suck, don’t chew!
You know you have them. Don’t be afraid to share them. What were your “Oh, yeah… I probably shouldn’t do that” moments in 2013?
Other posts you might find interesting:
Why voicemail should not be ignored.
People contacting me to work with them on their project sometimes make the initial connection by giving me a call. When I’m in a studio session with a client or away from my desk, my voicemail takes a message.
When a client (or prospect) calls you, how soon after do you return their call?
- Within a few hours
- The end of the day
- Sometime the following day
- When you get around to it
There are many talented people available for hire, so why provide an opportunity for a talent seeker to look elsewhere?
My response time and the effort I make to get back with potential clients is key in getting their business. If I wait too long, I can predict that my chances have been reduced. I don’t like that.
In my blog post, Eight Ideas to Help You Wade Through Inbox Muck, I explained steps to be less of a slave to your inbox. I mentioned that your clients should have multiple ways of contacting you, the most immediate being the phone.
I’ve come up with a method of working with phone calls that’s successful. It has been a learning process and I’m sure there is room for tweaking.
I’m surprised at the number of times when the person I called back was not expecting my call so soon. I know I’ve done the right thing when the person I’m calling back is surprised (and pleased) by the timeliness of my call.
Phone tag is not a legitimate sport.
- Leave a message indicating who you are, why you are calling, your call back number and e-mail address.
- Make sure to leave an exact time when you can be reached—a time when you know you will be available to take the call.
What Your Caller Receives
Set expectations with your voicemail. “I’m not available now, but will return your call by the end of today. If you prefer, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Pay Attention to Caller Details
When listening to a caller’s voicemail, take note of their name, business name, any details about their project and their call back instructions. Do not automatically grab their phone number from the caller ID history. Often they are calling from a trunk or office that supports multiple phones but displays only the main number for call ID purposes.
The Return Call – Attempt 1
I make it a point to call whoever has left a message soon. This doesn’t mean that I push other client responsibilities aside. It means that I’m aware of the call, I’ve made a note to return the call and decided the best time to do it. Don’t leave the person waiting.
The return call can be short. When you’re pressed for time, explain that you’d like to talk when they’ll have your full attention. Maybe later in the day, or during a time that you’ve set aside to do call backs. I schedule time for return and followup calls everyday. When I don’t have calls to make, the time is absorbed into another task.
If you return the call and you end up leaving voicemail, make sure to include a message with your callback number. Include a good time for them to contact you. Show them that you’re interested.
Let them know that you’ll call again, if you don’t hear from them, at a time that makes sense to call back. “If I don’t hear back from you, I’ll go ahead and give you another call at 10:00 AM tomorrow morning.”
The Return Call – Attempt 2
You’ve made your first try to contact the person who wants to work with you only to have left a message on their voicemail. They haven’t called you back either.
Make sure to call back at the time you mentioned in your message. If you didn’t leave a call back time, try to call them at approximately the same time they called you. Chances are they’re available.
When you get their voicemail again, leave a message indicating your interest in working with them and if you haven’t heard from them, you’ll call back the next day, in the morning. A good suggested time is 9:00 AM their time.
The Return Call – Attempt 3
This will be the third time you’ve tried to complete the connection with the person who’s interested in hiring you.
It’s been two days since their initial call and you’re starting to feel a bit frustrated. Don’t. During this call back, if you are left with another opportunity to leave voice mail, do what you’ve done in the previous attempts.
After the third try, wait until the following week, 5 business days, to try again. A number of things could be going on with the prospect and now you need to provide some breathing room.
Realistically, you know that the business moves so fast these days, that job is long gone. Probably so. But, maybe not. At least let the client know you are interested and follow up.
After all, there may be reasons why the gig got delayed. Also, focus on the positive. The caller did consider you for new work and you want to make sure they continue to do so.
The End Game
So, the following week, place two calls. One in the afternoon on one day. One in the morning on the second day.
Mondays are frantic for most people, so unless the caller requested that you return their call on Monday, I recommend waiting until Tuesday.
Then follow the second call on Thursday. Skip Wednesday and Friday. Some people typically work an abbreviated day on Friday.
A week later, if you haven’t heard from them (I know what you’re saying, “They don’t want to talk!!”) give it one last try on Wednesday. Middle of the week, in the morning. Leave one final message indicating that you’d like to discuss their voiceover needs and that you would like to help them out any way you can. “If the project is still open, please let me know how I can help. Don’t hesitate to call and let me know either way.”
Every call is a potential gig. Will they call back after the initial call? Probably not. And even when they say they will, it’s up to you to followup when they don’t.
Other posts you might find interesting:
Goldilocks was a criminal. She busted into the Bear’s home and ransacked it. She ate their food, sat her keister in all their chairs, and sleep-tested all their beds to find one that was just right for her power nap. Goldie needed the rest so that she would have enough strength to take on the three little pigs. A wolf you say? Pfft! It was Goldie.
If Goldie had problems with staying on task, she would have spent most of her time stuffing her face and never moved on to the chairs, toothbrushes (more on those in a moment) and beds. There wouldn’t have been much of a story. We would have never found out what was “just right!” Or, was she the task master we think her to be? Perhaps she had an app on her iPhone that alerted her to move to the next evil dead while at the Bear’s house. I believe this to be the case.
Goldilocks was probably using 30/30 by Binary Hammer; a beautifully designed, easy to use time management app for iDevices. If I’m right, she created a list of what she needed to accomplish during her visit. Her list probably looked something like this…
- Verify the Bears have left home
- Break into Bear’s home
- Sample all porridge
- Brush teeth (she tried all three brushes and found the one that was, you got it, “just right.” This is not in the story but I’m sure it happened. Who doesn’t brush their teeth after eating pasty, gloppy porridge?)
- Sit in chairs
- Take power nap
- Steal as much as I can carry (Another task not mentioned in the story as we know it.)
- Leave for Three Little Pigs
She gave each list item a unique color and icon for fast visual recognition and a timer. When the duration hit its end point, an alert sounded for her to go to the next task. 30/30 also provided the total amount of time needed to complete all items on her list. Unfortunately, she underestimated the amount of time needed to nap before the Bears arrived back home and failed to wake in time. Tough break.
Since I like to feel organized and occasionally get stuck on one task for way too long, I was inspired by Goldie to get my tasks together and organized so I could breeze through my day with newfound efficiency. 30/30 easily helps me out with time management needs. I wanted something simple to use that even a fairy tale character could figure out. I tried out more than I can count, from simple timers to multi-field schedule alerts. Some offered too little while others were too much. Then I found one that was just right. If Goldilocks had this little app, and I’m almost positive she did, she could have set it to be awakened to leave at just the right time instead of getting busted for greedy nap time.
According to the 30/30 website, the original idea behind the app was based on the method of working on a single task, without distractions, for 30-minutes. At the end of 30-minutes, you move to another next task -maybe take a break.
The 30/30 developers understood that it wasn’t realistic to work only 30-minutes on a single task and then take a break for a balanced work day. The app is designed with easy adjustments in mind and each task can be considerably longer than 30-minutes.
My Voiceover Day is the name of my 30/30 list and it’s divided like this:
- Check e-mail
- Business Tasks
- Warmup and Practice
Each item on my list is given a duration. I have defaults for each one and can easily change the order and values. It’s flexible and that’s a good thing.
In the top, left corner of the screen, 30/30 displays the total amount of time for all items in the list. Once the timer for the list item begins, it displays the time when all list items are due to complete.
When I have a heavy day of projects, I can increase the duration for the project item. Do I need more time at lunch for an extra helping of goodness? Yes, so I’ll increase my allotted time for a 2-hour feast. Should I want to move my marketing and business time to after lunch, it’s a simple drag and drop to rearrange my list.
Goldie used 30/30 for evildoing and was prompted to move from her porridge binge on to destroying Baby Bear’s chair, and then to the bedroom to rumple everyone’s sheets and steal some shut eye. Good for her! I use it for moving my business day along to make sure the important stuff gets my attention. How will you use 30/30?
Other posts you might find interesting:
Since you’re reading this blog you probably have, at the very least, heard about audiobooks. If you’ve been in the voiceover business for any time, you may have had the opportunity to produce a multi-hour audio masterpiece or may have timidly considered doing so.
Many of the same things to keep in mind while recording voiceovers for commercials, web explainer narration, and other short projects will also apply to long form narration. Because you are going to be in the booth awhile, you need endurance, a comfortable chair (if you site while recording) and as always, stay hydrated. Narrators that have done several books could probably add additional items. These are the basics, the commonalities for all voice recording.
Here are a few more suggestions. What I’m about to share with you should not replace practice, perspiration and patience to learn audiobook narration and production. Instead, the following should be used besides what you are already doing. To get the most out of the what follows, It will be necessary for you to set aside some time and use your ears. All you have to do is listen.
Listen to News
Every morning while I’m brewing French Roast and making my oatmeal, I listen to a PodCast of the Global News from BBC World Service. I have my ear on accents and emotions.
The show is typically hosted by somebody from the UK. I like a good Brit accent and I’m rarely disappointed.
Beyond the host, I take note of speech patterns, voice types, and the urgency of people being interviewed or providing actualities. I’m fascinated by accents, so I find it interesting to hear how different nationalities speak English.
The report is peppered with events of all types. Thankfully, I don’t have the life experience of intensely tragic events and can only imagine how I might feel after witnessing a car bomb explosion or other catastrophic happening. I can, however, hear somebody who’s experienced that in person talk about what they saw and express their emotions. I listen for the pauses, the way a person formulates what they say before they say it. Emotions are high.
To counter the doom and gloom, there are stories of happiness. I’m listening for emotions again, cadence and impact. I know how I react when I’m happy, excited or elated. Recognizing how other people react to the same, could allow me to add an element of that in my next audiobook project.
After 30-minutes, you’ll probably come away with something vocally interesting plus a little more knowledgeable about what’s going on in the rest of the world.
Another source of the same type, is the NBC Nightly News Podcast featuring anchor Brian Williams. Again, listen to how people tell a story, specifically folks being interviewed. What is it about the way they speak, or their delivery, that makes what they’er saying authentic?
Where Audiobooks Live
The Top Story Tellers
The Best Sellers list has two options available: Audible – Past 7 Days and The New York Times. I recommend taking a look at both but focus more on the Audible list because it features the top sellers of the Audible.com catalog.
In any given week, the Audible best sellers list represents a variety of genres and narrators. This audiobook buffet allows you to sample a number of successful titles. I recommend starting with the top 10, working your way through from number ten to number one. Listen to each of them.
Pay attention to the delivery of each particular genre. Narrating nonfiction is different from fiction. The tone of a thriller might have a distinct edge. Romantic reads may have a delivery that’s more warm and heartfelt.
How character voices are handled is another area to take notice. Particularly, how women and men deliver the opposite sex’s dialog.
Try to imagine what it is about the book that landed it in the top 10. It might be because the author is recognizable and the print version has had a long life in many literary lists. Maybe the narrator has brought the story to life, lifted with words with emotion, intention, and clarity. In your mind, come up with your own reason for the title’s success. While you could argue that a valid assessment of an audiobook can’t be made in five minutes or less, I counter that you can tell that you like the taste of something with just a sip or a bite, and in most cases you know why.
Typically, top selling books are narrated by established names. Four that come to mind are Maya Angelou (16+ audiobooks), Scott Brick (555+ audiobooks), Jim Dale (33+ audiobooks) and Barbara Rosenblat (246+ audiobooks). While you’re listening to the samples, take note of what you like about the narrator. Does the narrator have a way of keeping you interested with the pace of the read? Do they sound sexy or sleazy when speaking the details of a torrid night with chocolate? Is the delivery over the top, or just right? What can you learn or emulate from those at the top of their game?
The production values are high as well. Most of the top talent are recored with the assistance of an engineer who monitors fidelity, delivery and continuity. You won’t hear noisy rooms, outside elements, or distorted audio. These books are pristine. If you decide to produce audiobooks, this is the quality to strive for.
Schedule some time every week to review the top sellers. Most audio samples are five-minutes or less. Think of it as research and education.
Give an Ear to Newbies
The second list on Audible.com to focus on is New Releases. Here you’ll find samples from multiple genres narrated by talent of varying skill. A number of the narrators on New Releases are folks who are just starting out. It took courage to jump into the audiobook pond, and if being successful is important, they will improve with each book they produce.
When listening, ask yourself if you are good or better than most of the narrators you’re sampling from this list. By your comparison, can you identify how you might improve a particular read? Listen to the production quality. Can you hear room echo or reflections? Do the noises from the surrounding environment seep into the performance? Are the edits clean and does the pace reflect the current mood? Does the narrator suffer from a bout of dry mouth and could stand to be hydrated more? I’m not asking you to be hypercritical, just identify what works and what doesn’t work for you. Take time to listen for ways to improve your own delivery; or, if you haven’t taken the dive off the high board, take some mental notes on how you would narrate and produce your first audiobook.
The Rest of the Story
You will probably find during your listening sessions that one of the audiobooks you previewed caught your attention. It had your interest right up to the abrupt ending of the audio sample. What to do? Buy the complete audiobook. Here you’ll get to enjoy the entire production on your own time. You’ll find it immersive as your mind builds upon what your ears hear. It’s a great form of edutainment. Possible tax deduction? Maybe. Consult your tax adviser for the correct answer.
A final suggestion – if you’ve been considering audiobooks as your voice path, watch Professional Narrator, Sean Pratt’s (188+ audiobooks) YouTube video, “So… You Want to Be an Audiobook Narrator?“
Now that you have a few tips to help you with audiobook narration and production, I hope you’re feeling somewhat empowered. Understand that your first book will be tough, but those that follow will become easier. Your next audiobook will be potentially better than the one before.
Other posts you might find interesting:
Is there a bookshelf in your studio? Does it hold dogeared or sticky-noted books you find useful from day-to-day? Do you have room for more? Is your iPad or other tablet device loaded with your goto business references? With gigabytes of space, imagine the almost endless possibilities.
During time in the studio, I find myself reaching for one or another from my collection. I use them for both inspiration and to run my business. While I understand the convenience of the Internet and it’s connection to all things informational (If it’s on the Interweb it must be true, right?) I depend on the access I have to my physical and digital bookshelves.
Even if your is answer no, read on because you might find something that interests you in the following recommendations. You’ll also find a selection of books that other voiceover talents and freelancers have shared with me, that according to them, are excellent resources.
For creative types just starting out or people who have been in business on their own for a while and need some practical tax guidance, June Walker, Tax Adviser to the Self-Employed, has your needs covered with her two books.
The “Confident Indie” is easy to understand, fun to read, and very accessible for the non-financial freelancer. Chapter coverage includes initial stages of setting up your business, expenses, record keeping and taxes.
The companion title, “The Confident Indie Keeps Good Records” is a deep dive into understanding the methods for keeping financial records and why detailed records are important come tax time.
Both books are available in either hard copy or digital form. Currently, June is offering a great deal when the books are purchased together.
When looking for legal advice for your voiceover business, I recommend starting with Attorney, Actor, and Voice Actor Robert Sciglimpaglia’s “Voice Over LEGAL.” You’ll learn about insurance, unions, copyrights and more. The included sample talent/client contract that Robert wrote is worth the price of the book alone. Since Robert is a Voice Actor, his writing is geared specifically toward the voiceover business.
“Voice Over Legal” is available in multiple digital formats plus paperback.
If you are looking for a goto book on just about everything in the voiceover business, “Voice Acting for Dummies” is a solid contender. In this book, authors David and Stephanie Ciccarelli, founders of Voices.com, combined their years of experience and observations about voiceover. With over 300 pages, it’s loaded with detail and coverage includes creating characters, building a home recording studio, auditioning for voiceover jobs and several other areas in its compendium of 23 chapters.
Digital and hard copy formats are available.
by Harlan Hogan
Have you ever been curious about what the voiceover business was like before it got all fancy with the Internet and home studios? If you are a voice actor or have an interest in how the business has evolved, this is one book that you must read.
Harlan Hogan takes you on a journey from the early days of being a voice actor, where auditions were done in person with other talent, to his predictions of where voice acting may be heading in the future. Each chapter in “VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-over Actor” features a narrative from Harlan’s rich voiceover background and useful information and techniques about the voiceover biz.
You’ll be saying, “Wow!” to yourself the entire time you’re reading it and you won’t want to put it down until you’ve hit the last page. It’s a very cool read!
“VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-over Actor” is available in digital and hard copy formats.
“Power Talking – 50 Ways to say What You Mean and get What You Want” (out of print)
Any book with the word “talking” in its title is certain to be an eye catcher for voice talent. I picked this title up when it was first published in 1991 and I continue to refer to it today. George R. Walther does an amazing job of writing about positive talking. There are several ways something can be said. The way which has positive impact typically provides the most power and will be better received. The book contains many examples and solutions that can be used in real life.
While “Power Talking” is out of print, its replacement was released in 2010. “What You Say Is What You Get : How to Master Power Talking, the Language of Success” is available in digital and hard copy formats.
by Dr. Seuss
You may be saying, “JC, your melon has spit its last seed. What is this book doing in your list of recommended reads?” This is a great book to practice diction, breath control, rhythm and timing. Are you interested in character voices? Create a voice for each character in the book. If you have kids, they’ll love it! Dr. Seuss wrote to capture the imagination with Sam I Am encouraging readers that green eggs and ham are best eaten anytime, anywhere with anything.
As with the other books listed, “Green Eggs and Ham” is available in both digital and hard copy.
These are seven from my library and I’m always looking for more. What books have you found useful in your career as a voice actor?
Recommendations from other voice talents and freelancers
“The Voiceover Handbook: Practical Advice for Aspiring and Established Voiceover Artists” (out of print)
by Gary Churcher and Paul Bridge
Other posts you might find interesting:
Do you dislike asking for stuff? Do you get all wigged out and feel it’s self-serving to ask for something you need or to a lesser extent, want? Would you rather receive that thing you want without asking? You are not alone.
Working with clients every day provides several opportunities to ask for something. With a new client it might be billing, contact and delivery preferences. It could also be a request for a mailing address, a copy of the finished piece; and a testimonial.
Getting a mailing address is simple and should be one of the primary pieces of information you request from your new client.
The request for a copy of the completed production should be made in the agreement you have between yourself and the client. (You do have a written agreement, right?)
Asking for a testimonial is probably the most uncomfortable request to make at first. Perhaps typical thinking is that when a client likes what they receive, a testimonial will follow, unsolicited, right? That seldom happens. It’s similar to when I read a blog that I like. If I have time and feel UN-rushed, I’ll leave a comment. When time is not a luxury, I tell myself that I’ll go back later and leave a comment. As with automatic, unsolicited testimonials, that seldom happens.
Here are three examples that will help you get the information you need, the copy of the finished product you want and the praise you’d love to receive.
When I’m in the client setup phase, I send an e-mail that details what I need for the project confirmation I’ll be sending for review and approval. I write the info request in such a way that one thing needs to be satisfied before another step can be completed. (Give me the information I need and I’ll write a project confirmation that will lock in the session time.) The words I use are along these lines:
I’ll write a project confirmation that outlines the process, billing, delivery and associated followup processes. All I need are a few pieces of information from you. Once I receive the info, I’ll send the Project Confirmation for your review and approval and lock in your session time.
Then I add what information I need.
Final Production Copy
Asking for a copy of the produced video, spot, narration or whatever, should be straight forward. Most producers understand the importance of receiving a copy of the finished production. A collection of these will probably be great building blocks for your next demo. I call this out in my Project Confirmation and then remind them one-week after delivery of my voiceover.
Thanks again, for hiring me to do the <name of project> voice-over. I would like to consider using the work I’ve done for you on an upcoming demo reel. Would it be possible to get a digital copy of the finished video? A link to a file that I can download might be the easiest. If you prefer, feel free to send me a CD or DVD copy.
If you choose to send a copy, my mailing address is:
<Your physical mailing address here>
I really appreciate you taking time for me and I look forward to receiving a copy.
If you don’t hear back from them after a week, you may have to reach out to them again. Be persistent and if it’s a piece of work that you know is amazing and clearly needs to be part of your next demo, call your client with your request. There is a fine line between being persistent and annoying and that is something you’ll need to be sensitive about.
Words of Praise
Asking for a testimonial from a client may feel a bit weird. Don’t let it bug you. When you get along well with a client and the project came together nicely, you owe it to yourself to get validation. I know it sounds very self-serving and that’s because it is. Testimonials are useful to share with prospective clients, post on your website, and even use in your signature. They are valuable.
Could you help me out with a small favor? I’m in the process of collecting material for my next website update and I wanted to ask if you would consider writing a testimonial for me.
It can be as short as a sentence or a whole paragraph about your opinion of working with me or what I’ve created for your client. What would be especially helpful is to mention the benefits of working with me. But really, anything at all you’d like to say. I would love to be able to put a quote from you on my website.
If you’d like to see some great examples of what other clients have written, check out the testimonial section on my website at <your website>.
To keep the process simple, you can type your testimonial into the body of an e-mail and send it my way. Then, I’ll copy and paste it into a document and send to my web designer when the time comes.
Thanks so much, and please let me know if there’s any way I can return a similar favor.
Send this one as soon after delivery of your voiceover as possible. Clients will be the happiest about your work right after delivery, that’s why I suggest not waiting any longer than a few days. When you’re met with silence, contact them again.
These tips should come in handy the next time you’re anxious about asking for something. I hope they work for you.
Are there questions you feel uncomfortable asking your clients? Do have any situations where you asked and the response was negative?
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Is there anything but work? Sometimes I ask myself that question and answer with a resounding “yes.” I spend the day auditioning, working with clients, and marketing. I know it sounds oversimplified, but the truth of the matter is that’s spot on.
Well, the above is almost spot on. I’d like to add another item. Getaway. According to the dictionary on my iMac, getaway is an escape, or a quick departure, especially after committing a crime. I’d like to rewrite that last part to read, especially after committing to and completing an amount of work. In other words, I take a break.
You need to give your mind a mental vacation from what you do everyday. Focusing on one thing, being a successful voice-talent, can be a source of fatigue and even stress. Here’s a list of breaks I suggest. All are meant to get you away from your workspace.
Instead of shaking out your muscles at your desk, find another place in your home. A momentary change of scenery will cause your brain to wake up to evaluate your new surroundings.
Give your iPhone the ability to help you stay flexible and comfortable while you work with Ergonomics. From the App Store: Ergonomics is a complete mobile workplace health solution that offers ergonomic equipment setup advice, a variety of workplace specific stretching exercises, and programmable reminders to help you time your breaks.
Enjoy the stretch.
Do you fill a huge jug of water and lug it to your desk every morning? Adding a few variations to your daily intake and reducing the quantities will give you reason to get away for a few moments. Take a midmorning break for non-caffeine tea, and lemon water in the afternoon. Both are a refreshing change from water.
Eat a Snack
It’s easy to get over-focused on a project and not eat. I’ve missed lunch several times because of my desire to get to a stopping point. When this happens, I eat a snack. A piece of fruit will help you get to dinner time.
Listen to Music
The days when my mind is going in a bazillion different directions at once, I allow myself to indulge in a music break. I don’t want to relax, necessarily I just want a slight distraction to get my mind off everything. I’m a big fan of old rock-n-roll, The Eagles, Lead Zeppelin and Nazareth are waiting on my iPhone for immediate relief.
Take a Walk
A few of the breaks mentioned above involve walking as part of the effort. Go further with this idea and take yourself outside for some fresh air. This could be around the block, down the road, up the street, or any other destination cliche you can think of. Disrupt your day with motion.
Get the mail
This sounds ridiculously obvious, but I know it’s easy to forget. Owning this little task is an excuse to get yourself away from whatever you are focused on so intently.
We work in solitude all day and other than talking with clients (you do talk to your clients, right?) it can be a bit lonely. Give yourself 10-minutes to call somebody for a short chat break. Do it away from your workspace and computer so the only distraction you enjoy is the one that’s on the other end of the line.
Read or Listen to a Book
My iPad is used for script reading and other freelance related tasks. Recently, I gave it another responsibility, to be the keeper of the books I read for leisure. I’ve found many sources for digital books, my local library being one of them. I’ll take my iPad and find a comfy chair away from my work area and read for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s the perfect duration for a chapter.
This has nothing to do with laundry, which I’m sure is a huge relief to you. However, it does require that you take a trip to the gym. If you can, try taking a much needed midday break to exercise. Don’t limit yourself to working out. Look for classes that interest you and will help give your mind and body from your routine.
Need a few groceries? Does your car need gas? Kids need a ride to after school sports? Jump on the opportunity to push away from the desk and take care of a few items on your personal or family to-do list. One or two short duration items will be the perfect distractions.
Sitting at your desk all day might increase your productivity but it will also increase the size of your sit-upon-it-thingy and help fill your daily stress bucket. A few breaks is all it takes to help decrease the size of either one.
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While I have a computer and mobile devices full of apps of every type, my browser provides access to countless web-based applications. Every once in a while I need a tool to help me with a specific task and I don’t necessarily want to install software that will sit practically unused on my hard drive. I already have more software than I use on my computer hard drive and mobile devices, that’s probably fodder for a different post.
A tool can be anything from a blog post with how-to-steps for getting a task done to an actual application that was created to run in a browser. There are eight tools I have bookmarked for easy access when the need arises. These have potential of being helpful to any type of freelancer and are listed here in no particular order.
What are voice talent and other freelancers if not entrepreneurs? We take on the challenge and risk associated with making our businesses unique, profitable and successful. Entrepreneur.com is a solid source of information about new business, the direction existing business is taking and articles on marketing, money and growing a business. Look to this site for inspiration.
Sure, YouTube has a bizillion cat videos but it also has a wealth of videos on just about anything for your voiceover business. When I first set up QuickBooks and started taking payments through PayPal, I didn’t have a clue on how to process them. A quick search on YouTube revealed Setting Up PayPal in QB. I decided it was a keeper and have shared this how-to vid with other freelancers.
This is an amazing portal to state-based information. I use 50States.com for quick access to economic details to help me focus my marketing approach. Finding what industries are dominant in a given state provides access to key, potential clients. WARNING: If you are a fact junky, 50 States.com will derail your typical day of business if not used in moderation.
While I use QuickBooks for my business, I rely on Mint.com for my overall picture of business and personal accounts. After configuring it with my banking information it gives me a running total of where my money goes for an instant budget check. Have I exceeded my budget for Kapaws Iskreme? Well, yes I have and Mint alerts me with a notification. No more ice cream for the rest of the month.
This file sharing tool was called YouSendIt until the first part of July 2013. It still functions the same. With Hightail.com you upload files to a folder and send an invitation to a collaborator (your client) so they can download your creation. There’s a free version available and a few options to pay. If you don’t have your own server for delivery of your files, Hightail.com is an alternative to consider
Several of my clients are based in other countries and it’s important for me to know when those clients are awake. TimeAndDate.com is my goto source for finding time zone information. The site also has access to time calculators and timers, calendars and environmental details. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of everything time.
There is a community vibe attached to being a freelancer. I often have questions that aren’t voiceover specific, but more freelance general. My website of choice for such information is FreelanceFolder.com. Its team of writers do an amazing job of covering topical and relevant subjects. This site is perfect for anybody working on their own.
A producer contacted me to narrate an e-learning module for one of his clients. There were over a hundred slides and each slide had a significant amount of text. How much text? Hard to say. To solve the word counting issues, Microsoft’s Office website has posted a solution, Counting the Number of Words in a PowerPoint Presentation. I have only needed this once so far but will be ready the next time a project like this comes along.
What are the best web-based tools that you’ve come across? Do you like using these types of tools?
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During the first part of June, I traveled with family and friends to celebrate a 50th Wedding Anniversary. We took an Alaska cruise for seven-days and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, ports of call; amazing food and entertainment; and each other’s company. It was a relaxing and restful experience.
While preparing for the trip, I though seriously about what gadgets I should take and how I would maintain my business connections while away from my studio. Should I pack my laptop or could I get by with my iPad or maybe even my iPhone and my trusty travel mic? Where would I record on a huge cruise ship that had a constant rumble from the engines? What was the price of satellite wifi to remain connected while on board? Should I accept calls at sea? How much gear should I take?
The cruise was supposed to be a relaxing, fun time with the focus on my friend’s wedding anniversary. After giving this considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that I would unplug. Yup. Totally disconnect. The stress of where to record, how to maintain contact, and run my business onboard seemed, well, silly. Risky? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
The first thing I did was contact my clients with an e-mail letting them know well in advance that I was unplugging for seven-days and to contact me with any recording needs before then. I received many responses telling me to enjoy myself. Clients with voiceover needs contacted me immediately to set up session time. They were open to work with my schedule. I love my clients!
Time off was spectacular. I got to know my travel companions better. Spent time engaged with people face to face instead of gadget to gadget. Slept better than I had in a very long time. And felt like I had gobs of extra time on my hands.
Being unplugged is not overrated but does have some drawbacks. Since auditioning is the primary way I get hired, I missed out on a few of opportunities. Yes, it was a risk I considered and a price I paid.
One thing I’ll remember next time I unplug is to set up an e-mail auto response to let people know that I’m OOF (out of facility) and when I’ll be back. This will let prospective clients know that I’m not slow or ignoring them and existing clients who missed my unplugged e-mail that I’ll take care of their questions and needs soon after I arrive back home.
You know, everybody is SOOOO connected to everything. We spend a number of hours each day touching those connections to make sure we’re remembered. During the process we filter a significant amount of noise, content that just doesn’t fit a current agenda. It’s mentally exhausting. Unplugging and leaving the gadgets behind is a type of therapy. It was a little scary at first for me and by the end of the voyage, I was recharged and ready to plug back in.
Your experience may vary.