5 Tips To Build Solid VO Client Relationships

Forgetting is more of an excuse than a reason for failing to be remembered. As a voice actor, or any freelancer for that matter, what is one of the leading things that make your business grow? Clients who come back for more. But, if you’re not at the top of your client’s mind, you’ll be left wondering what happened when they don’t come back.

Here are 5 tips from business professionals that will increase the odds in your favor.

1. Can They Hear You Now

From MBO Partners, a company providing Business Management Solutions for independent workers suggests to “Focus on Exceptional Communication” as one way to keep connected with clients. From their article, 6 Tips For Building And Maintaining Long Lasting Client Relationships:

Make timely, efficient communication a priority. Of course, communication with a single client should not consistently and unreasonably encroach on your personal time or negatively affect your productivity. However, being available demonstrates that your client’s project and satisfaction are important to you.

This could include following up a few days after delivering your audio files to find out if your client has everything they need. Ah, but you may be thinking that if they need something more, they’ll let you know. Maybe. Give your client an opportunity to ask. Who knows, it may turn in to more work. At the very least, your client feels cared for.

2. Being One with the SME

When I worked in the corporate world, I heard the three letter acronym SME for the first time. It made me giggle. It sounds made up. However, being a SME is nothing to laugh at. It stands for Subject Matter Expert, which means the person with this quality commands knowledge worth knowing. Clients respect SMEs and count on them for guidance.

Alyssa Gregory, Contributing Editor to The Balance, a company with a focus on understanding money and earning more, had this to say about SMEs in How to Strengthen Relationships with Your Clients:

Many times, your clients will welcome and appreciate suggestions on how to do things better or more effectively. Use your past experience and in-depth knowledge of the work you do in your business to help your clients develop solutions that surpass their initial expectations. This can be accomplished by comprehensive consulting, or even more informally, such as by sharing tips, advice and resources that will help your clients in their own businesses.

So when a client contacts you with a voiceover project and is not sure how it should sound, take the opportunity to give input. Or if a script seems a little wonky, take the initiative to ask questions and offer solutions. You’ll be a hero to those clients who’ve never worked with a voice actor. You’ll be their SME.

3. This is Pure Gold

Now, just because you’re s SME, doesn’t give you the license to be all snooty and hoity-toity. Give your clients the respect they deserve. You like to be treated nicely. They want to be treated the same way. In Entrepreneur Guest Writer Allen Duet’s article, 5 Tips for Building Strong Relationships With Clients, his first tip is to treat others the way you want to be treated:

This classic lesson seems like the simplest of tasks: Yet it is often the one forgotten. When engaging in business with a customer, put yourselves in the person’s shoes and provide the same level of service and respect that you would want.

Keep positive and make your clients feel working with you is hassle-free. It’s a pleasure! I always go back to the businesses that treat me well, and I’m sure you do too.

4. The Perfect Stranger

Be the best you that you can be. Coming off as something you aren’t will make you appear robotic. That doesn’t mean being sloppy and careless with work and clients; it means being genuinely human. In the Small Business Trends article, 7 Strategies for Better Managing Client Relationships, Larry Alton writes:

Stop trying to be such a polished version of yourself in front of customers. In an effort to clean yourself up, you’re actually cheapening your image and transforming yourself into someone you aren’t. They don’t want some ideal image of you. They want the real deal.

Mistakes are going to happen and it’s much better to be open about them. This proves that you’re human and, while they may be frustrated at the moment, it ultimately puts them at ease.

Whew, what a relief! That should take a massive weight off your shoulders. You want to be professional but real. There’s no such thing as perfect.

5. Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Working in solitude has a significant drawback. Opportunities to connect on other levels besides professional are almost non-existent. Developing ways to connect socially and getting to know your clients better will help create a stronger business bond.

Product Designer Fabio Muniz wrote in his HOW article, A Freelancer’s Guide to Building Great Client Relationships, being friends with clients is a good thing:

Get to know your clients. Get to know who they really are—what is their story, what they are building for the world, what kind of food they like. Do they have children? Do they like to travel? Put in the hours to learn about them. Show that you care, that you are not just in it for the money, that you want to truly help them.

Now, when you Friend you clients on Facebook or invite them to join your Linkedin network, you’ve got more in common than work.

To recap 5 Tips to Build Solid Client Relationships:

  1. Keep the communication flowing
  2. Be the expert your clients can depend on
  3. Treat clients like you want to be treated
  4. It’s OK to be human and have flaws
  5. Becoming friends with clients is a good thing

What are your suggestions for developing client relationships that last? 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

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