It’s Booth Gear, Baby!

When you stand or sit in your recording area (whatever your booth may be), are the tools you need at arm’s-length away? I’m almost positive your copy or music stand has at least one item you use every time you record. Maybe a pencil? A stopwatch? A good luck Beanie Baby? Almost everybody has something. At the very least a script.

The accumulation of booth gear doesn’t necessarily reveal the type of person you’ve become. It’s not a reflection of what makes you, you. Instead, it’s what makes you comfortable so you can do an excellent job recording and impress the heck out of your clients who will shower you with repeat work. It’s all important stuff.

This picture is a snapshot I took of what’s on the music stand in my booth. (click to enlarge)


Big Office Clip
– It’s a simple and efficient headphone hanger. However, since it’s two wires doing the job, the clip has destroyed the padded head cushion covering. There are better choices, like this from Sweetwater- K&M 16080 Headphone and Cable Hook.. (Also check out the K&M 16020 Drink Holder.)

Headphones – I’m using my Sennheiser HD 280 Pros less for self-directed projects but find them necessary for remote booth direction. They spend most of the time on my editing desk.

iPad – Going green is a good choice to reduce printer/paper usage. Printed scripts in the booth are becoming more rare with each passing year. Apple’s iPad (or similar tablet) is the way to go. Mine is an iPad 2, which I bought new in 2011, and with its 9.7-inch display, it’s a good size for reading scripts.

However, while visiting the Apple Store recently, I saw the bigger display of the iPad Pro (12.9-inches), and I think it’d be a sweet upgrade. I would see more of the script on a brighter, crisper display. That’s a win for my eyeballs.

Mighty Bright Light – On those few occasions where I print a script or need to read from an actual book, this light is fantastic for its brightness and adjustability. Since I purchased mine, Mighty Bright has created new, brighter versions that appear to take up less space.

In Your Face iPhone Holder – Phone-patched sessions have become more common and the In Your Face iPhone Holder is a handy place to mount my phone.

Carpet Sample – A music stand is nothing but a flat piece of sheet metal on a pipe. The flat surface can produce unwanted sound artifacts, which are muted with a carpet sample.

Make a trip to your local carpet retailer and ask if they have any samples they’d let you take off their hands. Just make sure it’s clean and a color you can live with. And while you’re there, introduce yourself as the person to call for everything VO.

Pencil – This is a carry over from when I was working with paper scripts. I got in the habit of having it in my hand and feel naked when I don’t. It’s handy for gesticulation. Not so good for marking up copy on an iPad.

Dog Clicker – Marking the waveform with a clearly defined click is indispensable during audio editing. I use it to mark mistakes (1 click), takes (2 clicks), and self-guided booth tantrums (countless).

Cork – For the times when I can’t convince my mouth to cooperate, and articulation seems more like fantasy than reality, I rely on my cork. Pop it in. Read the script. Pop it out. Magically, my mouth takes notice and articulation improves.

Bath Towel – When I slapped my carpet sample on my music stand, I quickly saw it was on the small side. Sooo…  a bath towel covers the entire stand. It’ provides a bit of contrast and color plus keeps the carpet in place. I know it’s a stretch, but it sounds good, doesn’t’ it?

Do I use all the items every time I’m in session? Nope. One or two items come in handy. The rest are on standby waiting for their chance to be helpful.

Do you have things on your stand (or in your booth) that help you get through a session? What’s the one or two items that make what you do easier? I’d like to hear about them, so leave your comments below.

© 2017 J. Christopher Dunn

Your Voice Could Be the Next Great Thing in Computing

her_loading_helixA headline to a post written by Backchannel Editor, Jessi Hempel, reads, “Voice is the Next Big Platform, and Alexa Will Own It.”

Hempel writes about the maturing of Amazon’s Echo in the coming years. How we’ll access information using our voice and not the keyboard, touch screen or other input devices we rely on now. Speak it, and it will come. Think Star Trek’s Computer on the Next Generation Enterprise, Theodore Twombly’s assistant Samantha in the motion picture Her, or the HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It’s Not What You Say, it’s What You Hear

Part of the excitement of using voice input are the voice responses from the device. Retrieving requested information and executing tasks on demand is a natural extension of how we live with computers. The voice feedback should sound natural and genuinely human.

What We Have Now

If you own an iPhone, Siri responds when you utter a request. Asking Siri to do the same thing multiple times might give you a variety of verbal responses, but the intonation of the same response sounds the same from the first instance to the next. Changes in vocal texture are missing, and they’re what’s needed to make the experience more comfortable and life-like.

Could This Be the Next Big Thing for Voice Actors?

Imagine being booked to record thousands of phrases multiple times. Each time you repeated a phrase, it would contain unique vocal qualities. Then, intelligent AI programming, using natural language processing, would use your words to build responses on the fly. Voice stress, breathiness, pace, and volume would be part of the reply computation.

Maybe you would audition your voice from one company to another. Companies, like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, and others, could catalog voices and make choosing a specific one an option when buying a device like an iPhone or Echo.

You wouldn’t pay to have your voice hosted, but would receive a royalty payment whenever a client selects it as the voice for their new device. Perhaps in the future, there will be a need for a new type of agent who focuses only on voices for vocal response.

It’s Happening

Last year I was invited to record thousands of phrases for a cutting edge company working on delivering a unique voice to vocally challenged people. VocalID is transforming digital speech replacement with human vocal characteristics. Their charter is to bring speaking machines to life. They’re doing that by matching vocal efforts of people who don’t have the ability of speech with those who do and using special software to meld the two. The result is surprising.

What’s next?

Vocal banks may become a new opportunity for voice actors. More devices and situations for vocal feedback are coming. The companies working on AI and voice interfaces, like those mentioned above, will create more needs for vocal feedback and your voice may be part of their roster.

© 2017 J. Christopher Dunn

EZ YouTube Setup Guide for Voice Actors

youtube-blog-img

Early 2016, I began developing a business specific to videos for voice actors. I noticed many fellow actors used video to showcase their work. Most were links to full TV commercials, explainer videos, and corporate videos. I imagined a better way to visually demonstrate talent would be to use multiple short clips in a single demo video and make it available on a voice actor’s YouTube channel and website.

Ready for the video Internet?

Guardian Editor, Chris Trimble, wrote that by 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic.  Internet portals YouTube and Vimeo will deliver videos to everything from mobile devices to your desktop computer and your living room television.

Trimble continued by writing that small businesses which don’t embrace video in their marketing approach, “…will do so at their peril.”

That caught my attention. So, the first part of the process was creating a setup guide to help get a person up and running on YouTube. My initial thinking was to charge a token amount that could later be applied to the cost of creating compilation videos for voice talent.

The guide is in three parts and instead of selling it I’d like for you to download it for free. No strings attached.

About the videos

Here are two different approaches. One using a business card form factor mixed with details about me. The second is a compilation from a number of projects that use my voice.  It works well for audio demos, why not video as well?

Voice-over Demo

Corporate Narration Demo

The final development stage of this business is in progress and I’m getting close to releasing it to the wild. Stay tuned!

Free Download

Merry Christmas! Here’s the link to a zip file that contains the YouTube setup guides I mentioned.

YouTube Channel Setup Guides for Voice Actors

And, here are the individual guides.

Youtube Channel Setup Guide for Voice Actors
Youtube Channel Customization Guide for Voice Actors
Youtube Channel Video Upload Guide for Voice Actors

It’s yours to peruse and keep forever. Look through the guide and let me know what you think. Is it helpful? Missing crucial details? What would make it better?

Leave your feedback below and happy videoing.

© 2016 J. Christopher Dunn

Movember – Remembering Granddad

granddad-enders

The handsome teenager pictured above is Ed Enders, born October 31, 1911, in the Gallatin Valley, close to Bozeman, Montana. Ed was raised on the ranch his grandparents owned. He married Ruby McCampbell and they raised two children on the same ranch, affectionately called Sis and Butch.

To his wife, Ruby, he was called Edward. His kids called him Daddy. Friends called him Ed. I called him Granddad and he was my living Superman.

On the ranch, Ed raised cattle, pigs, chickens, a few sheep and a goat named Nanny. Over the years, his companions out in the fields and pastures were four dogs: Tex, Little Dog, Charlie, and Bowser. His favorite cats were a Siamese named Big Boy and a long-haired Tabby called Mouse. Deer and other critters could roam freely on Ed’s land. He took pleasure in seeing them run across his fields.

Ed diversified in the 1940s and bought a truck for long-haul cargo transport across the United States, and drove for BonTon Bakery in Montana.

His super power was endurance. During harvest, Ed would combine for hours after sunset and be back out in the field early the next morning. When winter hit, he worked in sub-zero cold, taking care of cattle and pigs, and making sure pipes didn’t freeze. He warmed up with visits to his rickety old shop which had a space heater that sounded like a jet.

One cold winter morning when I was sledding down through the barnyard, Granddad flagged me to his shop. I walked in with my American Flyer sled, the space heater roaring. He took my sled to his work bench  and rubbed the runners with a chunk of paraffin. When Granddad finished, he smiled, kind of mischievously, and took me back outside to the top of the barnyard. He told me to get on and HANG ON. With a push, I was off and traveling through the barnyard faster than I’d ever gone before. Granddad knew how to make a rocket out of a sled.

Granddad had a sweet tooth and judging by the number of candy bar wrappers I found behind the seat of his Ford pickup, I’d say it was a happy addiction. Grandma never knew. It was our secret. He also had a taste for french fries. He bought Grandma a tiny fryer so he’d have them available whenever the craving hit. In his 60s, he discovered pizza and brought home one from Little Caesar’s. It was delicious and was fun watching him enjoy something he’d clearly never had before.

When Ed was 65, he was diagnosed with emphysema. The doctor told him quitting smoking would extend his life. After his visit to the doctor, he came home and handed his Lucky Strike cigarettes and Zippo lighter to Grandma and told her to put them away. He stopped smoking, cold turkey. Willpower was another of Granddad’s super powers.

I saw my granddad cry exactly twice. The first time, after he decided to retire from ranch life, was when he and I took the last of his pigs to the Bozeman Stockyard to sell. He watched intently as they left the back of the truck. A huge part of his life was ending and I could see sadness take over his entire body. I felt his pain. I had never seen a man cry before.

With the livestock gone, the Enders ranch was silent. Gone were the sounds of content pigs in the barn, the mooing of grazing cows in the pasture, the random clucking of chickens in the coop.

The second time I saw Granddad cry was the March evening in 1985 before I left for Seattle to go to school. It was during dinner with my grandparents, a simple meal of soup and sandwiches. I remember it was quiet, nobody said a word. We were afraid to speak. I looked up to see my granddad with tears streaming down his face. He said, “You’ve always been here.” It was true. I spent a lot of time on his farm growing up. Seeing my granddad like this made me reconsider that trip. I was very close to canceling my move and still wished I had.

While I was away at school, in 1986, Edward, Daddy, Ed, Granddad was diagnosed with testicular cancer and it was metastasizing throughout his body. The news seemed surreal. I could not believe it. On July 7, 1987, my Superman died of cancer that ravaged his entire body. From youngster to young adult, I grew up working with him on his ranch in Bozeman. He significantly influenced my life and inspired me to be the man I am today. I miss him.

If you have or have had somebody in your life, like my granddad, who was or is a victim of cancer, I urge you to support men’s health awareness during the month of November (Movember).

This Movember I’m getting active for men’s health. I’ve taken the Move challenge to raise funds for the Movember Foundation and I need your support:

http://mobro.co/jchristopher

Too many men are dying unnecessarily from testicular cancer- the most common cancer in young men. The Movember Foundation is working to halve the number of deaths from testicular cancer by 2030. I want to help them get there.

There are two ways you can contribute to my Move fundraising:

  • Or, write a check to ‘Movember’ referencing my registration ID (1453032) and mail it to: Movember, P.O. Box 1595, Culver City, CA 90232

Learn about the important work Movember is funding and the impact your donation will have: http://us.movember.com/programs/cause

Together we can create a world where no man dies of testicular cancer.

3 Tricks to Turn No into Yes

Not Say NoHave you ever been asked to do something but you either couldn’t or wouldn’t but didn’t have the courage to say, “No”?

Most people don’t like to be turned down or hear ‘no’ as the response to their request. And I’m going to guess that most people like to come across as positive and flexible.

Research shows saying no is hard and builds up all kinds of emotional bleakness. Forbes Contributor, Travis Bradberry, writes it’s stressful. From his article, The Art of Saying No:

Research from the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression (three things that hinder your emotional intelligence).

So, saying no is therapeutic and taking ownership when it’s used is a good thing. Nobody needs a stressed out voice talent.

What about the times where ‘no’ seems too absolute? When ‘no, but’ would work better than a definitive no.

I’ve found a few ways to handle saying no that don’t come across negative. At the core of my approach is letting people know what I can do, not what I can’t do. Letting them know what they can do, not what they can’t do. Letting them know what I need, not what I don’t need. Get the idea?

Here are some examples to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Need it Now

A client called with a project that needed immediate attention. I was booked solid but wanted to help them.

Did I respond by saying there was no way to get them into my already packed schedule? Or, did I let them know my next availability and would be happy to work with them then?

The second option told the client I was busy and could work with them when availability opened up in my schedule. I didn’t tell them no or that I couldn’t. I told them I could and was interested. It came across as positive and willing.

“I’d like to help you out with your project. I have availability Tuesday afternoon and can get audio to you by 4:00 PM. Would it be OK to go ahead and schedule session time.”

The client was happy and booked me for the project.

It’s a Date

A new client called with a project and wanted to discuss some specifics before handing over the script. They wanted to set up a meeting through Skype for Monday at 9:00 AM.

Unfortunately, Monday didn’t work for me because of the three day weekend I was taking away from my studio.

So, did I tell the client Monday was out of the question and give them the reason why? Do clients really care why I’m not available?

Or, did I let them know Tuesday was a better day and let them know their business is important?

Telling a client what you want to do is preferable to letting them know what you don’t what to do.

“I know your project is important and I want to make sure I understand it before recording begins. Tuesday is open, does 9:00 AM still work for you?”

No problem. The client was flexible and Tuesday worked great. This gave them more time to finalize details on their end. So, it worked out.

Parts are Missing

I was booked for a new project that required recording a narration for a 3-minute internal corporate video. The client sent me a script that was not finished and needed copyediting attention. I typically ask for a final approved script before getting in the booth.

Since the script was incomplete, I could push back and refuse to take the project until a final script is approved.

Or, I could offer to do the needed copyediting and add an additional line item to their invoice.

“Thanks for letting me know about the script. I know it’s important for you to have a script that makes sense and I can do the copyediting for you. My rate is $50 per script.”

In this case, the client decided it was in their best interest to get the script in order. Hearing that I was willing to take the script ‘as is’ was a positive, and offering a service to help them out (for a price) was also a positive.

Game of Noes

It turns into a personal game for me. The challenge of saying no without uttering the word. Yes, there are times when you really need to say no and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. Remember, it’s therapeutic.

Need more support for saying no? Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.

Stress relief: When and how to say no

Do you have ways of putting a positive spin on a response so it comes across without negativity? I’d love to hear about your tricks. Leave your comments below.

© 2016 J. Christopher Dunn

Freelance VO Survival: Pt 5 – Push Yourself

Making yourself more marketable and improving your chances for success was covered in my previous post, Freelance VO Survival: Pt 4 – Continuing Education.

Review

  1. You are your best investment. To be ahead of everybody else, learn what that means.
  2. Learn as much as you want. The opportunities for learning more can be as long as a structured class or as short as a YouTube video.
  3. To Group or not to group, it’s your choice. Participation with other freelancers has the benefit of socializing; whereas training on your own grants you a peaceful learning experience.

And So, it Begins

Pushing4You wake up each morning with a feeling of dread. It’s been several weeks since your last booking and you’re starting to question your decision to be a voice actor.

A part of you loves the idea of working with clients who value your talent and trust that you’ll bring their script alive with believable feeling and emotion. The other part of you is nagging about bills, groceries, gas for your car and family responsibilities.

Sitting in your studio, you ask yourself “What am I doing wrong? I don’t know what to do. What should I do?” But, you do nothing. You are stuck.

Comfortably Comfortable

For the past two years, you’ve had a steady income from clients who give you repeat business and referrals. Your day is predictable with scheduled times when you walk into your studio and when you leave for the evening.

You are comfortable, since any job that comes your way is easily handled. The type of work you do is normally the same every day. You’ve found a niche and are performing well within its boundaries.

You often think about what would happen if your repeat clients took their business elsewhere. Marketing or doing anything besides walking into a booth and recording, then handing off finished audio is considered by you unnecessary.

You’d like to reach out to new prospects. But, you do nothing. You are stuck.

No Work Left Undone

At night, you find yourself exhausted from working a 12-hour day that included 4 sessions, one almost 2-hours long. Following that were 5-auditions, 4-hours of editing and preparing invoices for completed bookings. Finally, you sent quote request responses and marketed to prospective clients.

This is a typical day and you work hard to maintain this performance level. You are a success. It means working nonstop with very little of yourself left to give to anything else.

Friends and family invite you to take a break and have some fun. Your son reminds you about his basketball game. Your daughter personally invites you to her choir concert.

You’d like to attend all that you’ve been invited to. But you do nothing. You are stuck.

The Art of Being Stuck

The feeling can be intense or barely noticeable. The need to push forward takes on many faces and each one may be perfectly obvious to an outsider and totally obscure or ignored by you.

As a business owner, pushing forward to ‘what’s next’ is important to the growth and success of your business.

The three instances of being stuck I called out above are probably the most common and the scenarios for each one are on the extreme side, I admit. Each of them requires us to push forward in a different way. Getting past the sticking point is the beginning of the push.

What follows is a look at ways to get unstuck and the positive benefits of moving forward. It’s time to push yourself.

Send an S.O.S

Starting your day bewildered and not knowing how to improve your business is stressful. Don’t spend time processing your feelings of failure. Doing so will not get you where you want to be- a busy, productive, well-paid professional.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. There are many professionals who have been at the same exact place you are right now. But, what do you do to get past the morning dreads?

Be ready to work. When asking for help, you are looking for somebody to provide assistance, suggestions, and guidance. Don’t expect somebody to do the work for you.  Nobody can. You need to take the responsibility and ownership of this process so you can benefit from the positive outcomes.

A mentor is a good start. Somebody you can talk with about what you’re currently doing. They may be able to identify problem areas that you’re too close to, to sort out yourself. Your skills as a talent, business acumen, marketing approaches and more are all worth examining.

Neutral, the UN-Gear

Becoming complacent in your career as a voice talent is more dangerous than it seems on the surface. You have consistency with clients you’ve worked with for several years. Bills are being paid. Your income is at a level you can easily maintain.

Work is effortless and the process is automatic. Script in. Audio out. It’s been this way for several years. Congratulations.

Are you challenged? Are you doing new, interesting work? Are you talking with new prospects? Do higher paying clients interest you? Have you attended a workshop or sought out a coach? These are the things that will push your career out of neutral and help grow your business.

Limitless. Regardless of what others say about professional limitations, your opportunities to push your comfort envelope are limitless.

Continuing to listen to what others are calling fixed boundaries keeps you from discovering the stuff you’re made of and prevents you from taking risks. Playing it safe is easy and preferable to many.

Risk is less about being an adrenalin junkie and more about discovering yourself.

For instance, focusing on a single genre for voice-over. If commercials are your specialty and you’re doing well, why consider doing anything else?

What if you push yourself to audition for documentaries or character voices and find that you like them as well? There’s even the possibility your performance is more human, closer to who you are.

Sticking with one genre or style of work could create that stuck feeling. Always thinking about the other possibilities but never taking them on leaves many opportunities untried.

If trying something new requires you to learn, all the better. Continuing education is one sure way to make you more marketable. The increase in what you’re able to handle makes you more valuable. Push yourself out of your cushy performance comfort zone.

Looking Out for Number 1

Taking care of your primary asset has to be at the top of your needs list. Without you, there is no business. Without the business, there is no income. Without income, there is no survival.

Working 10+ hours a day and most of your weekends to meet client needs satisfies exactly one side of the talent and client relationship. Spending vacation time working is great for your clients but probably not exciting for the people you’re with.

Ideally, you want to work with better-paying clients and clock fewer hours. Being stuck in a mode that’s counter to this will shorten your career as a voice talent or at the very least, make it less enjoyable.

Managing clients so you get time to rest your voice and mind is so important. Vocal health should be a primary consideration. Take care of yourself.

Set hours during the day that you’re available to clients. Let them know what your availability is. Push yourself to stick to a healthy schedule. There are people in your life who genuinely want to spend time with you. Restful nights of sleep and eating a healthy diet are important for keeping the talent machine that you are, running in A-1 form.

Earn What You’re Worth

The rate card you’re currently using may be keeping you from making the kind of money you set out to make.

The push begins by evaluating your client load. Are you at full capacity and turning work away? Or, does your schedule have room to fill with work?

The goal is to work less while earning more. It’s not a bad thing and if most people had the choice, they’d work less for more money and not more for less money.

If your skills are top-notch and your business practices are sound, but you’re not attracting clients, try adjusting your rates down incrementally or find ways to add value.

You’re looking for a noticeable improvement. Perhaps a new marketing approach is what’s needed. If you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to get the same results. Change it up!

On the other end of the spectrum is working a full schedule and turning work away from existing clients or refusing to take on new clients. What a great ‘problem’ you have.  You are set for a rate increase.

This is scary territory for some who fear losing clients. That’s OK because you are looking for clients who’ll pay what you’re worth.

Those who don’t see your value will find someone else. New prospects who understand what you have to offer and like your talent will pay your rate.

Confidence Booster

After you’ve made a change that moves you outside your bubble of comfort, a couple of positive things happen.

First, you realize that taking a leap into the murky unknown, was not as bad as you thought. You learned something along the way, maybe picked up a new skill. Most importantly, you discovered something about yourself.

Second, you’ll be better prepared to deal with feeling apprehensive. Remind yourself that you made it through the change and are better for it.

Even results that didn’t turn out the way you wanted or expected can have value. The key is not to give up on yourself when things get crazy.

There will be bumps along the way. You’re making a change or trying something new and it feels awkward and unfamiliar. If you ditch your efforts early, you’ll never learn to navigate.

Understanding the navigation of change is what brings about success.

Naysayer Respect

Why follow the pack when you can set your own standards? You’ve seen and heard many times things like, “It’s always been done this way.” Or “That doesn’t apply to what we do.” Or “The clients will never go for that!”

These statements are limiters and allow people to stay comfortable and unchallenged.  It only takes one person to pierce through the protective coating of complacency.  A different idea or method proves change can happen and is appropriate.

When you hear, “That’s the way it’s done.”, you’ve received a signal, loud and clear, for you to challenge what others are accepting as the norm. Do not be afraid to push forward with your radical ideas. The success or failure of those ideas will never be known if you don’t push forward with them.

Pushing forward is constant. Like the hands on a clock, each is always in motion but at different speeds. The rate of push is less important than the act of moving forward. Sometimes it takes baby steps to get to ‘what’s next.’  Other times, you’ll find a smooth paved superhighway with clear signs to follow. Keep moving forward.

What to Remember

The moment you are comfortable is the precise time to find ways to push yourself.

  1. Moving out of your comfort zone can take many shapes. A small change can have huge results.
  2. Boost confidence with every push. That feeling you get when change has a positive outcome can be repeated and become easier to repeat with every new push.
  3. The negative results of pushing boundaries are valuable. Learn along the way. Discard what didn’t work. Keep what did. Persevere.

There are many examples of professionals who pushed forward with their careers and never looked back. An article written by Renee Jacques, Associate Viral Content Editor for The Huffington Post, calls out 16 individuals who hit obstacles along their journey and found ways of dealing with them. They never settled.

16 Wildly Successful People Who Overcame Huge Obstacles To Get There

How have the moments you pushed resulted in amazing outcomes? What did you learn along the way for those instances of push that didn’t work out? Leave your comments below.

© 2016 J. Christopher Dunn

Freelance VO Survival: Pt 4 – Continuing Education

Freelance HappinessRejection and what to do about it when it happens to voice talent and freelancers was covered in my previous post, Freelance VO Survival: Pt 3 – Rejection.

Review:

  1. Rejection is not about you. Many things will influence a person’s decision not to book you for the job. These are out of your control.
  2. You don’t have an exclusive membership to Club Rejection. Almost everyone who freelances has heard ‘no’.
  3. Make an effort to prevent rejection by existing clients. After being booked for a job, deliver on customer service and do what it takes to create a repeat client.

 

Grow What You Know

You know as much as you did yesterday and the same as you will tomorrow. Huh? That’s what happens when you push education to the far back burner or entirely off the stove. Johnny 5, from the 80s movie Short Circuit, needed constant input and so do you.

Staying up to date with current trends in the market, approaches to your craft, and new methods or technologies will help keep you marketable and traveling knowledgeably down the road to freelance happiness.

“You are your greatest asset. Put your time, effort and money into training, grooming, and encouraging your greatest asset.”
-Tom Hopkins

Increase your chances of becoming or remaining a successful voice professional (or other freelancer). I’ve come up with 5 ways to include continuing education in your professional life. One or two (or maybe all!) will resonate with you.

WorkShops

There are ongoing opportunities to participate in workshops, either in person or virtually. They cover a wide range of genres and offer techniques to improve your game.

Nothing beats a second pair of ears that are finely tuned to the intricacies of voice-over or narration. The feedback is valuable and yours to keep. You are given the opportunity to play with other talents and discover new ways of doing what you love.

I’ve participated in a number of workshops lead in person by the hugely talented Pat Fraley. He makes the learning process memorable and is never afraid to push students to give their best performance.

David Goldberg from Edge Studio, whose booth direction knowledge is quite impressive, is particularly good at identifying issues with script reads and providing tools to improve interpretation and delivery. I’ve spent hours with David in virtual groups and never leave disappointed.

Classes of 8 to 10 students are best. This gives you plenty of focused mic time and the opportunity to get to know your peers better. The group environment allows for safe critiques that are never meant to tear you down, but to build your confidence and expand your skill set.

School Days

Your voice-over business survives because you’ve got the skills needed behind a mic and you’re good at business. Right? Are you lacking in the business part of the success equation? A class or two at your local college or university may be what’s needed.

Interested in marketing and finding ways to leverage social media? A class on new media marketing might be the ticket.

Want to build a website on your own so you can have total control without the need of a webmaster? An HTML class will come in very handy.

Sharpening writing skills is another area to consider. Sure, you can sound convincing reading other people’s words, but writing coherently in a way that screams professional is just not in your bag of tricks. Yeah, some focused classroom time in a business or creative writing course is just the thing you need.

Other training to consider: public speaking, computer software, business, and audio editing.

Virtually Study

Would you rather study independently at your own pace? Is there something you’d like to learn that doesn’t necessarily require a structured class with an instructor? You’re in luck. The interweb is full of choices.

At no cost to you other than time, YouTube is indispensable when it comes to learning how to do something, complete with video. Granted, there are some YouTube experiences that are better than others. A good way to gauge the value of a video is to read the comments left by other viewers.

To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of six YouTube series that have a focus on voice-over in my post Watch and Learn – 6 Video Series for Voice Talents.

Podcasts are another method for learning. There are many specific to voice-overs and the list continues to grow. Podcasts have the convenience of being passive content. You can listen to a podcast while baking cookies for instance or something less fun like laundry.

For some ideas, check out my recommended podcasts and those suggested by readers.

Ménage à Group

Spending all day in a studio by one’s self can make for a complacent, “I know everything!” attitude. If that’s the case, take what you know to a professional group and share your knowledge.

Professional groups are looking for participants just like you. And who knows, you might find something you didn’t know. Huh.

Start small with the local ones. Maybe there’s a meetup group that’s all about improv or acting in general. With some luck there maybe even one with a focus on voice acting. If not, here’s your chance to find some like-minded folks and start the group yourself.

Want to improve your public speaking chops? Toastmasters International seems to be in every community, large and small. It’s a great way to meet folks (maybe even clients!) and learn the tricks of public speaking.

On a grander scale are the annual mass get-togethers. These voice-over specific events take place several times a year and feature a number of opportunities to mingle with your peers, talk about the biz in breakout sessions, and share ideas over a coffee or dinner.

A few came to mind while writing this and Voice Talent, Rhonda Phillips’ blog post lists more.

Finally, the internet is a tap or click away from many online gatherings of like-minded people. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and other social portals allow easy connection to professionals who share what they know, mostly for FREE! What a screamin’ deal.

To single out one would indicate I favor it over the others. No, not so. They each have something to offer and like other areas of your profession, it’ll take a bit of trying them out for yourself. Some will work for the level you’re at currently. Others may not make sense until you’ve been in the biz awhile.

Rhonda also came up with the group participation opportunities on Facebook. Her post includes an extensive list of groups, way more than I thought there were. I belong to 4 or 5, Rhonda lists close to 50!

Facebook Voiceover Groups Galore

Continuing Education – No Longer Just for Brainiacs

Quality, price and delivery are parts of the freelance business you’ll be dealing with daily. Learn how to handle them better, more efficiently, and more competitively. You are in competition with every other freelancer who does your thing. Make the effort to distinguish yourself. With global access, competition has never been more fierce.

What to Remember

Make a positive effort to schedule time for research, taking a class, attending a webinar, or get involved with a peer group.

  1. You are your best investment. To be ahead of everybody else, learn what that means.
  2. Learn as much as you want. The opportunities for learning can be as long as a semester class or as short as a YouTube video.
  3. To Group or not to group, it’s your choice. Participation with other freelancers has the benefit of socializing: training on your own has the benefit of a more quite learning experience at a time you control.

Need More?

Looking for information that supports the importance of continuing education for freelancers? An article written by Angel Kwiatkowski of Cohere Coworking Community in Fort Collins, Colorado is one you should check out.

Why continuing education is essential for freelancers

What methods of continuing education work well for you? Leave your comments below.

Next time: (Pt 5) Push Yourself

Feeling comfortable and cozy in your current phase of building your voice-over or other freelance career? It’s time to shake things up.

© 2016 J. Christopher Dunn