I recently attended an amazing voiceover workshop in Seattle taught by Pat Fraley. During a conversation with the other voice talents, I was asked, “What would be your ultimate gig?” It took me a slice of a second to reply, “Narrate a documentary on one of ‘The’ TV channels.” What do I mean by a ‘The’ channel? Well, that’s any one of the cable channels that starts with ‘The.’ The Discovery Channel. The Science Channel. The History Channel. The Food Channel. There are several more but these are the ones that come to mind for most folks. I’ve set this goal as one that I’m working toward and it drives me to improve my skills, business and creativity, as a voice talent.
I Think it’s important in any line of work that professionals continue to learn and keep perspectives fresh. While maintaining your clients satisfaction by fulfilling their expectations is probably on the top of your list, the same clients may be amazed by your services or deliverables if you exceeded their expectations. Do the unexpected to add value, either directly or indirectly. Because you are learning or coming up with new ideas about your business, those bits of extra value will be easy to apply.
10 Ideas to get you started (but there are many more!)
- Complete the project early
- Followup to find out if there is anything else they need
- Invoice Promptly
- Make Social Networking Connections
- Don’t be afraid to use the phone to communicate with your clients
- Go beyond your borders
- Read a book or take a class about freelance or small business marketing
- Write a monthly client newsletter and highlight (with permission) a few of your clients
- Take acting classes or get involved with community theater
- Take time for yourself. You’ll be surprised what a little away time can do for you.
Much of the work we do does not happen behind the microphone. As independent voice talent, we market our skills; make connections with prospective clients; negotiate terms, conditions and rates with new clients and maintain professional relationships with existing partners. And, we give life to words; engineer our own sessions; edit files so what we record can be used immediately; and stay on top of all that technology, which lets us work from the comfort of our home studio. There is so much to our business.
Working toward your big goal or ultimate client and keeping your business fresh can be done simultaneously. Each supports the other as you travel your voice talent path. The new business skills you learn and develop today will help you engage with your clients at a higher, more valuable level. Your desire to attain your goal, will feed your passion to be better than you were yesterday. Larger opportunities will make themselves available and build your confidence upon successful completion. By the time you connect with the thing for which you’re striving, you’ll be ready to take it on with ease.
I encourage you to identify ways to make your business more than what it is today. Move forward so that tomorrow you’ll be prepared to fulfill your expectations.
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I like to be organized. It’s part of my being. Sometimes, I find myself getting caught up in the details of organizing and lose focus of the actual goal. It’s like a football team where the quarterback does an excellent job calling the play and getting the line set but never passes the ball to the receiver. Make sense? Or, how about this one. Imagine getting all the ingredients together to bake a delicious German Chocolate cake. You spent time preparing the pans, preheating the oven and precisely measuring all the ingredients. But, sadly you don’t mix and bake the cake.
Since I know I have this problem getting caught up in the minutiae of things, I look for ways to keep myself focused and moving forward. One of the tools that keeps me on track is a Customer (or Client) Relationship Manager (CRM) application I use. If you’re not familiar with this type of software, it’s used to keep all the most meaningful information about clients in one easy to access location.
When CRM works, it makes dealing with my clients a dream. The beauty of it is that I can retrieve the details of projects, phone conversations, and e-mail and know when I was last in contact with a particular client. I can create tasks and connect them to specific clients. I create categories for clients I need to follow up with and prospects I need to create introductions to. I also use it for sending my monthly e-mail campaign. It makes the task of working with clients so much easier.
Recently, the developers of my CRM application apparently stopped supporting it. There hasn’t been an update since last October. The developer’s support wiki and customer centric forum have been shut down “for maintenance” since April 2012. With recent Mac operating system upgrades, the CRM is starting to fail. It sporadically forgets updates I’ve made to client contact information. Contacts wonder from category to category and eventually end up stopping outside of all categories. I can no longer export contacts to a mailing list, the ability to send perfectly formed e-mails from the CRM works only when the moon is full, or so it seems. My CRM is now what I consider dog-doo.
So, I’m in the market for a replacement. I’m sure there are a number of options and I’m going to test drive them until I find the one CRM that will make my life tracking clients and their information a breeze. I need it soon. By tomorrow. Well, maybe not that soon. But soon!
I’ve started a list of contenders for the one that will replace my CRM. It’s the beginning of organizing my quest for a new and better client herder. I’m a Mac guy so my choices seem to be significantly less than for PCs. Maybe PC folks need more organizing than Mac boys and girls? I digress. I’m bitter. I just want my CRM to work! I’ll let you know what I find. And if you’ve got a Mac CRM (or a better way to manage clients) you couldn’t possibly function without, tell me.
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If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I use my iPad to read scripts. The printer sits quietly while I type. I’m sure it wonders (yes, I gave my printer human qualities, thank you very much!) if I’ll ever touch it again. I’m sure it’s jealous of my iPad.
To get scripts to my iPad, I was using one of the popular cloud-based file share services. A few weeks ago, my computer would not connect to the service and I had a stack of scripts I needed to get to my iPad NOW! My printer saw this as the perfect opportunity to remind me that printing was a push of the print button away. Not to be persuaded, I switched to another file share service and finally got the scripts to my iPad. Work proceeded.
This little scenario got me wondering if there was something I could use that wasn’t Internet dependent. A piece of software that I could install on my Mac and iPad, to quickly copy files using my WiFi connection. I thought about it a lot and within a few days, BLAM!, the piece of software I was thinking about became available. If I didn’t know it takes months for applications to be developed, I would have thought the programers wrote the software after a Vulcan Mind Meld with me. And, they’re probably not Vulcan anyway.
Lukas and Martin have made installation and configuration amazingly easy and quick. First take a trip to the App Store and download the Instashare App to your iPad. Next, point your browser to InstashareApp.com and download the Mac version to you computer. While the Mac version is BETA, I’ve found it to be trouble free and plays well with the other applications on my Mac.
After installation, launch Instashare on your iPad then the app on your Mac. Using your WiFi network, both machines will look for each other. On your Mac, you’ll see in the drop window that your iPad is displayed as a destination for any files you want to copy. Your iPad shows your Mac as a destination. Copying files goes both ways. On your Mac, drag and drop a file to the drop window. Your iPad displays an alert requesting that you approve the transfer. Tap approve and the file is copied. Simple, right?
You can open copied files directly in Instashare or tap the ‘Open in’ button and you’re presented with installed apps that can open the file. When you’re done with the file, delete by tapping “Edit”, tap the red circle with a line in its center, then tap delete. Since you were working with a copy on your iPad, the original is safe on you Mac.
If you’re not a user of Apple hardware, the Instashare website indicates that Windows and Android versions are coming soon.
I’m sure I’ll still have some use for the file share service. But since I started using Instashare, I haven’t had the need. The icon for the service sits in my menubar waiting to be clicked, promising me that it’ll behave. It’s in good company though, my printer anticipates my return as well.
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You may or may not be a professional voice person but you are somebody who enjoys learning about the biz, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading a blog about voiceovers. Now that I have that out of the way, I would like to direct your attention the information below. You’ll find details about VoiceWorld Toronto Conference.
This will be a key opportunity for you to meet like minded people, hear from experts that have been doing the voiceover craft for decades and enjoy the beautiful city of Toronto.
Date: Saturday May 4th, 2013
Time: 8:00 am – 5:30pm
Location: Toronto Hilton Hotel
Prepare to be educated, equipped and empowered
- Audition like a pro — understand the do’s and don’ts of auditioning in person and online.
- Learn the ins and outs of the voice acting business, and what it takes to be a successful voice-over talent.
- Get into business — explore ways to turn your voice acting talent into a business.
About VoiceWorld Toronto
VoiceWorld, the industry’s premier conference, being held in Toronto in 2013, is an immersive experience focused on engaging voice actors from across Canada and the United States. Connect with amazing, influential people who can change your life through courses in artistic development, business and technology preparing you for success in the exciting world of voice acting. A breath of fresh air, VoiceWorld sets out to invigorate and intensify your love for the art of voice acting as never before with an action plan for you to take your business to the next level.
VoiceWorld Toronto Speakers
- Pat Fraley – Man of Four Thousand Voices, CESD Talent Los Angeles
- Elley-Ray Hennessy – Award-winning actress, Director and Producer
- Deb Munro – International Voice-over Talent and Coach
- David Ciccarelli – Co-Founder and CEO of Voices.com
- David Goldberg – Owner of Edge Studio
- Dan Lenard – The Home Studio Master
- Sunday Muse – Voice-over Artist, Author and Coach
- Dave McRae – The Voice Mann
- Stephanie Ciccarelli – Author of Voice Acting for Dummies
- Wayne Young – Audio Producer and Mixing Engineer
Early Bird Special ends February 28th!
*Tickets are limited. Purchase your full conference pass by visiting, http://voiceworldtoronto2013.eventbrite.com/
There was a time when I thought the only software tool worth having was one that I installed to my computer’s hard drive. Using a tool through my browser seemed lame and I always believed that they would be slow and useless. Really, how many online calculators do I need to bookmark?
At some point, I made the decision that internet centric tools were not a bad thing. I have 67 bookmarks for various tools and services that I use monthly if not weekly. I don’t know when I made the transition; I didn’t feel a thing when it happened. In celebration of interweb tools, I’m sharing 5 that might be worthy enough for you to bookmark.
Write Once, Connect with Many
One of the easiest ways to stay in touch with your clients and prospective clients is with an e-mail blast. Write one newsletter and send it to many. There are several web-based tools and services that will help you out with this, many offer free delivery to a set number of recipients. I use MailChimp because of it’s hand-holding ease of use, reporting capabilities and clean mail list maintenance. Others to consider:
One to One Connection
When yon need to send a one-off e-mail to a client it’s possible that you’ll be stumped as to what to write. You know what you want to say, but don’t know how to say it. Taking a look at letter examples is one way to crush the writing block. For example, sending a thank you note to a client is a personal way to show your appreciation for being hired for the gig. Thank You Note Examples and Tips is a great site that lists many ways to say thank you. Check out these other sites for more types of business letters.
It’s Not Who You Know, But How Much Money They Owe
Keeping track of invoices and accounting is not fun. Compared to doing voice-overs its like shoving ear-buds up my nose. So, I turn to what I think is the best online accounting software, QuickBooks Online. Intuit has done a great job of creating a user interface that’s friendly and the setup process is a snap. Enter business details, add client information, configure your accounts and you’re ready to start billing. Other choices to consider:
How to Say It
When I receive a script or audiobook, the first thing I do is review it for unfamiliar words. If I find any, I have the option to follow up with the client (which is preferable), or investigate it on my own by using one or two online pronunciation guides. The first one I check is Forvo, a site with voiceover talent in mind. Type in a word, click go and most times the correct pronunciation is available to hear. You can even add to the Forvo database with your own spoken word nightmares. Other word sites to check include:
Be Social with Pictures
If you’re not social, you might as well be doing one-handed claps in the forest. Social networking is big and you should be part of it. You’re probably familiar with blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. However, it is Pinterest that’s currently getting major attention. With pictures, you pin or comment on your interests or the focus of your business. This makes a picture worth a thousand words more true than ever. Accounts are free and easy to setup.
- Pinterest – If you’ve got an account you can easily convert it to one for your business.
- Pingraphy – This tool allows you to upload “Pins”, schedule them to display when you want, check the traffic of your pins and who is following you.
- Quozio – Paste your favorite quote into this tool and it transforms it into a graphic, suitable for posting to Pinterest.
- Take your business Pinterest account to the next level with Pinfluencer, a tool for marketing and analytics.
New web-tools hit the net daily and I’m always surprised by the latest additions. What web based tools have you discovered that are indispensable in your voiceover or freelance business? Leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite finds.
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I take my car to a locally owned garage here in Coupeville. I get along well with the mechanics and I’ve always driven away feeling like my needs were met. When I first moved to the area, I considered a few auto repair shops. One of the things I took into account was whether a shop had Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification. I understand what the certification stands for and know that it’s not easy to acquire. To be ASE Certified, mechanics take a number of exams, which typically only 66% pass on the first try. After passing, the mechanic provides proof of two years work experience and is then given certification. To maintain certification, the mechanic retests in five-years.
Can that model work for voice-over talent? There seems to be a divided certification camp.
On one side, the talent believes that being certified will provide them with peace of mind for having strived to meet the criteria for certification. Instead of listening to countless professionals with varying levels of experience and skill level for guidance as they grow their business, talents could refer to one organization whose goal is to improve the quality of voice-overs. I know that’s general in description but ultimately, that’s what certification is in any profession. Creating a standard by which to be measured. This helps talent seekers to weed out the crud and deal specifically with professionals who are qualified. No more wasted time with auditions that were recorded with a laptop microphone in the kitchen while dogs bark and kids scream in the background.
The argument against certification for voice-over talent is that it is simply not needed. There is nothing wrong with the state of the voice-over trade. People seeking artistic talent are not looking for anything other than somebody who can deliver the spoken word recording they need. Producers try out, through the audition process, any number of talent until they find the voice that fits their project. It’s not necessary to identify through certification that the talent can read as directed; has recording equipment and a decent, noise-free environment to record in. It will be obvious in the audition. It would not matter to voice-seekers that a talent’s web page or marketing includes a callout to their voice-over certification. It would not be clear what the certification represents or how it would benefit the results.
I’m aware of two players in the certification of voice-over talent. SaVoa.org is the first and is now going through somewhat of a reboot or reinvention of itself and appears to be close to taking applications again. The new kid in town is World-Voices.org, which has branded itself as “Voice Over’s new certifying Guild!” and is taking applications.
I’m an advocate for choice but I wonder if having two organizations that provide certification is worthwhile. Remember Blu-ray and HD or Betamax and VHF? While the competing standards had followers and each provided similar capabilities, there was only room for one ruler on each hill.
In my opinion, the best way for either to succeed is through aggressive marketing to voice-seekers paired with manageable ongoing educational guidance for certificate recipients. The first might make it apparent that considering a certified talent is more beneficial and cost-effective since the talent met an established standard. The second would encourage certified talents to continue building their skills with recognized educational paths. I’m sure there are others, but the certification should be couched as a “win/win” for seekers and talent.
I have mixed feelings about becoming certified and would like to hear your comments and opinions. What do you think? As a talent, what would be the advantage or disadvantage of being certified? As a talent seeker, could you be swayed to only work with certified talent?
To be, or not to be a CVT, that is the question.
When I was preparing to open the door of my voice-over business, I made a list of all the office goodies I needed. One of the items was a printer, and I had my mind set on a multifunction unit. I thought having print/fax/scan capabilities in one easy to use box would be the most efficient way to go. I made the purchase and printed off into the sunset.
Well, not really. You see, I bought an inkjet version and quickly found that I was going through cartridges faster than a Hummer guzzles a tank of gas. I found myself making my way though reams of paper as well. I had a huge box of printed scripts to recycle every month. It took little time for me to figure out that I needed something more efficient, more green.
I’d read that a number of my voice-over peers had made the migration to iPad for scripts. This appealed to me on several levels. With an iPad, my paper and ink cartridge consumption would be significantly reduced. My office would be more green. Plus, the iPad would be a super-cool buy, satisfying my inner gadget geekness.
I made the purchase, an iPad II/16-Gig. Next, was to load it with software that would make the purchase pay for itself. I needed something to read scripts. I used iOS Pages at first but found that it was missing the ability to handle PDF formatted files.
I tried several PDF readers (too many to list!) before finally arriving on what I believe to be the ultimate PDF tool, Foxit Mobile PDF by Foxit Corporation. It allows me to view and easily navigate PDFs, plus it has a number of ways to annotate or markup the text. I can bookmark, highlight text in multiple colors, type notes for phonetics, write direction notes, strike text and more.
Foxit Mobile PDF is perfect for the audiobooks I produce. Figure 1 shows my markups for a recently produced audiobook. I wrote in chapter numbers, typed in audiobook specific replacement text, and highlighted sections for pickups. The screenshot also shows the app’s toolbar, document navigation slider on the right, and page view and page number in the lower right.
The slide panel in figure 2 reveals 4 useful tools that allow me to navigate to a specific bookmark, review the chapters or outline of a document, see my annotations and search for text.
The one drawback to using an iPad for scripts is that markups during a directed session are a bit cumbersome, but it’s still doable. It’s not as easy for me to write in a quick note or strike words on the tablet’s surface as it is to do it with pencil and paper. I’ve caught myself a few times going for my pencil. Perhaps the natural thing to do would be to migrate to a stylus.
Foxit Mobile PDF is available for a limited time at no charge from the App Store.
I’m sure there are other PDF readers/annotators that you have used and I’d like to hear about them. Since I’m interested in trying out a stylus, I’m open to suggestions. Also, what are the things you’ve done to make your studio more green?
Figure 1 shows the markups made during the production of Marc Allen’s Amazon.com best seller, “How to Quiet Your Mind: Relax and Silence The Voice of Your Mind, Today!“, published by Empowerment Nation. Audiobook availability pending Audible.com review and approval.
What is the number one best possible approach to getting new clients? Your answer will probably be different from everybody else who’s reading this, and it might be influenced by what point you are in your voice-over or freelance career.
I’ve talked with other professionals about attracting new clients and there are a handful of suggestions that are common. These five things, in no particular order, apply to voice-over professionals (and other freelancers) just starting out, to people who have been in their profession a number of years. Since everybody has a website these days, I’ve intentionally left out mentioning that you need one.
- Show your work – What have you done (or can you do) that features your talents to the best of your abilities? For voice-over a well produced demo is what your prospective clients will want to hear. If you do a variety of voice-over types, produce a demo for each one. If you are an audiobook narrator, your commercial demo is not going to be enough. Make sure they are easy to find on your website.
- Client Testimonials – After you’ve handed off the audio to your client, ask them to write a few positive words about their experience working with you. Do this sooner rather than later while they still have you fresh in their mind. Add the testimonials to your website and maybe even add one to your e-mail signature.
- Social Media Interaction – It not enough to watch the social parade trek by. You need to be involved. Leave comments on posts other people have made. Retweet when you find something of interest Take the social plunge and initiate a post or a tweet of your own. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others are there for you to freely interact in. Make sure that whatever you write or comment on is positive. Keep in mind that your prospective client will have access to almost everything that is associated to your name on the web.
- Plan of action – How do you want to start adding to your client list? Do you have a goal in mind? Are there a number of businesses or types of companies that you want to contact or be noticed by? What method will you use to get noticed? Write your marketing plan of how things will get done. This might even be a great time to write your business plan since generating customers is a huge part of it.
- Cultivate Relationships – After you’ve introduced yourself and have the ear of a prospective client, don’t forget to reach out to them. You might not initially get work from them but over time, as they get to know you better and their needs change, they might just hand you your next big gig. You can keep in touch with them monthly in e-mail or follow them in any of the social avenues and comment when appropriate. You’ll get to know them better over time and they’ll be reminded about you. Please, no stalking!
What is the number one best way you’ve found for growing your client list? Freelance professionals want to know!
Have you ever read a book, magazine or newspaper and wondered why the type is so small? It’s because the publishers are trying to maximize space and cram as many words onto a page as they can. There are websites that do the same. The tiny text makes it difficult to read. Thankfully, most browsers have the capability to easily magnify the size of the text.
Scripts can have issues with type size as well, along with other unhelpful formatting, that make for difficult reading. You’ll want to encourage your client to provide you with their best script possible. When you receive a script that is formatted to be easily read, your client is doing you a huge favor and will make your session run more smoothly.
Here are 5 suggestions you can share with your client that will make their scrips more approachable.
Use a readable font. Every once in a while I’ll receive a script with an unusual font. Comic Sans comes to mind along with any font that emulates handwriting or calligraphy. Suggest a font that was meant to be printed, such as Garamond, Georgia, New York, Times and Times New Roman. The reason serif fonts are preferable is because people can differentiate each letter more clearly.
Increase the size. Typically when I’m reading a script, it’s on a copy stand or held a good distance up and away from my microphone. That’s why the point size should be between 14 and 16. You will find this easier to read than most text application’s default size of 12 point.
Double space text. When I get a script I’ll usually take a pencil and start marking it up for my benefit in the booth. To give me room for added notes and marks, double space lines are a necessity. Single spaced text is next to impossible to read after it’s been treated to markups.
Ask for phonetic helpers. You might not know how to say every word in the script you receive. Error on the side of caution and ask for phonetic (fəˈnetik or fe ne tick) guides for uncommon names of people, places and things. If you come across an acronym, ask whether it should be spelled or pronounced. Reading the script with your client over the phone is a great way to identify words that need a helper.
Confirm that you have an approved final script. Noting sets a session back quicker and can add additional costs than receiving a script that has not been approved. Take a moment to verify with all stakeholders that what you’re about to record is in final form. Sure, there’ll be occasions when a line needs to be changed but that can be handled easily with a pick-up of just that line.
- *Bonus tip: Request that the script be formatted using Microsoft Word. Ask your client to provide Word formatted scripts. If you receive a script with none of the tips from above applied, at least you’ll receive a file format that can be easily manipulated if needed. PDF files are the least desirable because of their inability to be easily reformatted. Copy and past from a PDF can end in disastrous, sometimes unreadable results.
What makes a script more readable or less desirable for you? Feel free to share both the good and bad examples.
As work from home voice-artists, we are a segregated lot. Our time recording is spent in the lonely convenience of closets, spare bedrooms, under moving blanket tents and for the truly fortunate, a sound booth. Regardless of where we record, we are usually solo, self-directing to the point of our best performance. Sure, there are patched or ISDN sessions with directors talking to us from some remote location. Still, we are standing by ourselves, behind a mic and putting our best VO effort forward. We are alone.
Since there is usually nobody but me, myself, and JC controlling how my sessions go in my home studio, there are a few things that I do for each session to make sure when I’m done recording my time editing is used efficiently.
The following might seem obvious for some and super simple to others. For me, these tips give me an extended level of comfort and confidence when I’m by myself. These are things I’ve learned over time. Most often, corrections of bad habits.
Pre-read the script before you get behind the microphone. Read the words to yourself first. Read them out loud then read them out loud again. This gives your eyes, brain, and mouth an opportunity to get acquainted with the script. If you stumble on a word or a line trips you up, this is a great opportunity for you to find it before you get behind your mic.
Markup or woodshed your script with reminders. You’ve pre-read the script and have found the land mines and areas that need more or less emphasis. Don’t try to remember how to deal with the problem bits. Instead, grab a pencil and mark the script in a way that will be most helpful. Place underlines under words that you need to hit. Place dashes for breaks in the phrasing to remind you to take a breath. Highlight a line that needs more “Hollywood” and write in phonetic helpers.
Remember to read for time. If the script is for a :30 commercial, your read should not be longer than :30. It’s better to read for time instead of trying to edit for time. Grab a stopwatch and time your read before you enter your booth.
Develop a method to mark your takes. The best way to find a take out of multiple attempts is to look at the waveform of the audio file in your recording software. Using a clap between each take and a triple clap for a take that you think was “THE one” will help you quickly identify just what you’re looking for. Audiobook narrator Jeffrey Kafer uses a dog clicker instead of clapping.
- Keep everything you record. When I first started doing voice-overs, I would record a few takes then stop to give them a listen. If I didn’t like what I heard, I ditched the entire track and started over. This was a huge waste of time and removed any option of picking up a word or line that might be useful in the final audio.
What have you found to be your most useful tip as a solo voice-over talent?