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

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

Freelance VO Survival: Pt 1 – Find Work

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“I love doing it!”

“It’s easy to do.”

“It lets me be creative.”

“It’s a perfect work-at-home job.”

“It gives me a chance to do my own thing”

“It” is freelance work and there are many reasons why people decide to move from corporate comforts to a career in (insert any freelance title here). They all sound so positive, filled with dreams of rainbows and unicorns. Why work the 9 to 5 grind when it’s 1-million times easier to work from home? Duh, who would pass that up?

For the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you the efforts it takes to work a freelance gig. These are insights discovered by me during my transition from the corporate high-tech cubes to freelance voice actor, plus tips I picked up from other freelancers. They’ll help get your head wrapped around what it takes to freelance.

Day 1 Excitement 

Good bye, full time job. Hello, ‘I get to work whenever I want to’ passion! Calling it a passion makes it sound so… Passiony. Warm, fuzzy and oh so comfortable.  First day excitement will have you full of good intentions. Now it’s time to find, dare I say, WORK.

Before, when you were working a full-time corporate job, work found you and you never felt like you had enough time to get it all done. Now, finding work is a necessity and quite possibly, to begin, you’ll have more time on your hands than work. Finding work takes much effort. Your hunter and gather instincts, which have been dormant for several millennia, need to be shocked back to consciousness.

“Much effort, much prosperity.” –Euripides

Make Some Noise

There is one sure way to find work that outweighs all others and you should use it from day one. Tell everybody you know and meet that you are available for hire. If nobody has a clue what you’re up to, you’ll never work or you’ll work very little. It‘s a numbers game, and the more people who are aware of what you have to offer, the better.

Contacting family, friends, past business connections, peers and acquaintances should be included in your list of people to notify about your new freelance business. Get the word out to as many people as possible.

Don’t be bashful and hide behind the feeling people on your list won’t be interested in hiring you. You may be surprised by those who you thought were long shots when they become your first clients. At the very least, people you contact might be able to introduce you to somebody who is looking for the type of professional freelance services you’re offering. Anyone is a potential client.

Let the Socializing Begin 

The best contact methods to consider are social media, e-mail, phone and in-person.

Establish yourself on LinkedIn and say you’re looking for clients in your profile. Join groups specific to your freelance business. Follow businesses you’d like to work with and start building your professional connections and developing relationships.

Reference the list you created of people you want to let know about your freelance offerings. They are probably on LinkedIn so don’t miss the opportunity to connect.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others should be considered along with LinkedIn. Use those that make the most sense for your business.

Little Black Book

Your address book is full of names and e-mail addresses. Start from A and work your way down through Z. All are potential clients.

Start by creating a boiler plate message about your new freelance business that you can paste into an e-mail and send to everybody.

When creating individual messages, write something personal in the first few sentences. Paste-in your boilerplate message. End with a single sentence personal closing. Keep the entire message brief.

One Phone – Many Numbers

The phone can be your friend. You have many people you talk with on the phone that should know about your decision to go freelance. These might be the people in your inner circle of friends, the ones you feel closest to. Take the opportunity during your conversation to tell them about your freelance business. They’ll have questions and this is the perfect time to practice your answers.

It’s Been a While

Running into old friends, business connections, and people you went to school with are opportunities for catching up face to face and finding out what’s new in each other’s lives. Make sure to have business cards available to hand out wherever you go. You never know whose path you’ll cross.

Listen Up!

The primary point is to let people know your freelance offerings are available. But, remember, it’s not all about you.

Relationships are easier to build when two people are involved. Word of mouth is important because referrals work both ways. Make an effort in your approaches to network and take notes about your connections. Find out what’s going in on in the businesses and lives of the people you contact.

Somebody you connect with may be looking for a web designer and within your contacts you can easily refer the person to someone you know. And likewise, a contact you’ve developed a networking relationship with knows you offer mad skills in the type of freelance work you do and feels comfortable referring people to you.

Once you’re plugged in the good vibes keep on flowing. You want your freelance business to survive so making the effort to continually network is key in building your client list.

More clients = more work = more $$$ = survival = SUCCESS!

What to Remember

  1. You are now a hunter! Work used to come to you unavoidably. Now you need to find work so your freelance business thrives.
  2. Tell everybody you’re a freelancer. One of the best methods of finding work is to tell people you’re available and looking for work.
  3. Use multiple types of networking methods. Social media, e-mail, phone and in person meetings are all business development tools.

For more suggestions on how to build your network and tell people about your freelance business, this post from Freelance Digital Consultant, Ben Matthews is worth a read.

11 Effective Ways to Grow Your Freelancer Contacts

Next time (Pt 2) Motivation

What drives you to keep traveling the freelance path? Next time I’ll focus on motivation. Self motivation is an important trait to develop to grow your business and become a successful freelancer.

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

Don’t Blame the Bird

ThanksgivingHowever you celebrate, surround yourself with the people you love to be with.

Be thankful. Have fun. Stay safe.

And, don’t blame the bird. Scientists say that extra glass of wine, the high-calorie meal or relaxing after a busy work schedule is what makes you drowsy. Turkey isn’t responsible for “food coma.”  So eat until it’s gone. You have no excuse other than not wearing stretchy pants.

Enjoy an amazing Thanksgiving!
Chris

The Kill Switch: Instant Social Networking Maintenance

The Kill SwitchIs social networking “social”?

Is it really “networking”?

The push behind “social networking” is building a list of relationships and not focus on revenue generating. The goal is to develop a list that includes “influencers” who advocate for you, your brand, your promotion, your method …whatever you are marketing, to their followers who will share the influencers opinion with their followers, hopefully creating a cascade of interest, i.e. “going viral”

It is “social” in the limited sense of sharing information with as many people as are interested. I wonder, are people really that interested in everything an author has to say?

Write It and They Will Come

For example, Jack writes a blog post that brilliantly describes the type of people who will be successful in his line of work. He includes persuasive infographics that clearly show traits of those who’ll be top tier. Jack continues with bullet points to outline the growth prospects of the industry and ends with a five step action-item list for wannabes to complete with little effort.

He tweets on Twitter the link to his genius post, and shares it on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. Jack’s post attracts the attention of influencers and it goes viral. Everybody is reading it and becoming aware of Jack.

#OMG #ThisRocks

So, people subscribe to Jack’s blog, Follow him on Twitter, and ask to connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. Before he wrote this fabulous industry breaking post, he had 500 social connections. Now he has over 50,000 connections and the number climbs everyday.

Now, Jack is a rock star and his accumulated list of influencers and followers are waiting for his next hit.

One Hit Wonder

Jack writes again. His connections can’t wait to enjoy another cerebral feast from the keyboard of Jack. This time his post is controversial and leaves a bad after taste with readers. A number of people unsubscribe or stop following him.

The next week, Jack attempts to dig out of the mess he released the previous week. Fewer people are reading his blog. However, his connection number is quite high, now over 75,000 since the post that brought him social media fame.

Bring on the Switch!

What if the measure of social media or networking success was tweaked somewhat? So every time a follower or influencer read a blog or text, they had to click the “Awesome” button if they liked what they read. If they read it and don’t click “Awesome” or don’t read it at all, it’s a lost connection. Similar to the kill switch on a train, where the engineer has to tap a button at a timed interval to keep the train going. No tap, the train stops.

Clicking the “Awesome” button would encourage followers to be more responsible and interactive. Following or liking somebody just because an influencer or advocate does, seems like to much power has been exchanged for laziness.

The Rocket Ride Down

Jack is a busy guy, and finds his time for writing has diminished. So, he reposts his older material, or mindlessly re-blogs other writer’s content. He sets up tweets that fire automatically throughout the day. The tweets point to his blog or have humorous memes and videos of cats doing evil things to dogs.

Very little of Jack is in any of it. Still, since a connection only needs to be made once for free and then nothing required to maintain it, Jack still has an impressive number of “connections.” I think they’re mostly zombies.

What about Jack?

A bit about Jack. He doesn’t know anything about many of his social connections. He’s aware that his connections total over 75,000. How does Jack maintain his relationships with this many people? He doesn’t. How many of these connections are relevant? Who knows?

The “networking” stream is flowing out with very little return. It is definitely one-way. How many of Jack’s million connections reach back to Jack? Why are you following Jack? Did you even read his first post? Did you really like it, or did you think you should because somebody you followed liked it?

So…

Just how “social” is social media? What do you get out of it? Leave your comments below.

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

Increase Your Voice-over Income Potential: One Simple Action

“Whatever good things we build end up building us.”
― Jim Rohn,  Entrepreneur, Author and Motivational Speaker

How can you continue to build client relationships and increase your chances of more positive outcomes?

One word: Followup.

A followup e-mail or phone call will tell people you want to work with that you’re still interested and available. Your message or conversation should be short and to the point. They’re busy and so are you.

Following are e-mail and postal mail suggestions about when to follow up and what to write.

Post Quote Request

A potential client has contacted you requesting a quote for a job. You reply with your typical response and rate numbers. After a few days, take a moment to send them a followup e-mail, asking if there are any questions that need to be answered.

“Hello, I’m following up with you to make sure you received the proposal you requested for [voiceover / narration] and to invite you to contact me to answer any questions you might have.”

After Delivering Audio

Your client has the amazing audio you created for them and now you’re waiting for their fat check to arrive. Let them know you’re still interested in their project and send them a quick e-mail asking if they have everything they need.

“I’m checking in to see if you have everything from me for [name of project(s)]. I know sometimes additional audio or changes to what’s been delivered are needed.”

Project Completion

Once you’re satisfied the client has what they need for their project, remind them about getting a copy of the final video or audio for your demo reel and a testimonial.

“Thanks again for booking me to create the [project name] voiceover.

As a reminder, I would still love to receive a copy of the finished project and a testimonial from you. Both validate success for potential clients and feature my collaborative ability and talent. 

Thank you for taking a moment out of your busy day for me. I appreciate it.”

The Missed Payment

Not many people enjoy nagging clients to pay. I’d say the number is higher for folks who enjoy dental exams. When a client is past the due date for paying, be polite and accommodating. An article by Sheldon Nesdale, has what I think is a brilliant approach to the missed payment. The entire article is worth reading.

“I just noticed invoice [invoice number] is a few days overdue. Would you like an extension?”

When Asking for a Referral

It’s been a month or so since you last connected with your client. Followup by thanking them again for the work and to ask for a referral. Type your message on letterhead for an added professional touch and send it through the US mail.

“It was a pleasure working with you on the [insert project name here]. Thank you for using my voice!

When you come across other [producers / directors / professionals] that are looking to hire a voice actor, please feel free to share my name and contact information with them. For convenience, I’ve included two of my business cards with e-mail and phone number.”

Maxine Dunn has created a valuable package of 12 Voice-Over Business Templates and a referral request is included.

You care. You’re available to help. You like to be remembered. All are good additional reasons to Followup!

Do you followup with clients and prospects in other ways? Which one works best for you? Enter it in the comments section below.

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

photo credit: The Socialist (2/12) via photopin (license)