How to Win the Game of VO Aggravation

Aggravation was one of my all-time favorite board games when I was a kid. If you’ve never played, the object is to move your four marbles from “Base” to “Home” before anybody else does the same. And you don’t want to get aggravated in the process, which means another player landed on one of your four marbles during their turn and sent the marble back to your Base to start again.

Voice acting has aggravating moments. And like the game Aggravation, starting over from Base is part of the business. For me, there are four stages of a booking. Let’s call these my four marbles, which are waiting to move from Base to Home.

Marble 1 – Quote
Marble 2 – Audition
Marble 3 – Session
Marble 4 – Payment

Marble 1 – Quote
 This is the first one to hit the board. Along with rate information, a quote should answer all the client’s questions in detail plus anything else you feel they should know. I use a boilerplate and fill in with the type of project I’m quoting for and the dollar amount. It takes me about five minutes to write. Make it a practice to send it the same day as requested. Potential clients appreciate a quick response.

I usually give the prospect a day to respond. If I don’t hear from them, I follow up and ask if I’ve missed anything or if they have questions about the quote. When I’ve addressed their issues, and we agree to terms on the rate, it’s time to move to the next stage.

One marble down, three to go.

However, if after three follow-ups I haven’t heard a peep, I move my marble back to Base. Aggravation.

Of course, there is always the possibility they’ll contact you again several weeks or even months later. If that’s the case, move your marble from Base to Home and proceed to the next stage.

Marble 2 – Audition
The client wants an audition to consider with other talent they’ve contacted. Read the script and pay attention to the directions.

If there are unfamiliar, profession-specific words or acronyms in the script, there may be a phonetic guide included. Read it. Even if you think you know how to say every word in the script. If a phonetic guide isn’t part of the audition, you’ll need to investigate pronunciations on your own. The web has some tools (How-j-say and Forvo) plus YouTube is a great source too.

Along with what to read, there may be specifics about filename, slating, file type delivery, and deadline. If you have questions after reading the script, and you couldn’t find answers on your own, ask. ALWAYS ASK!!! Don’t guess.

“We love it!” or similar client response followed with a booking is what will advance your marble Home. Sometimes, after you’ve moved your audition marble back to Base, the client notifies you they’re ready to book.

Yay! Advance marble 2 to Home. Two down. Two to go.

However, when there’s no immediate response, this marble may sit on the board longer than you like. My advice is to submit your audition and forget it. Most times, if you didn’t get the booking, you’ll never hear back. Aggravation. (Don’t let it get to you. It happens a lot.)

Marble 3 – Session
It’s a busy time. The script gets recorded. The audio edited. The final files delivered. The project approved by the client. This marble should be the easiest to get Home. At most, the client may want some pickups or a reread. Convince them it’s a good thing for them to direct your recording session. Also, if you have it to offer, talk about connecting to your studio by SourceConnect or ipDTL.

Directed sessions have the added pressure of an audience, and the recording is in real time. Be prepared with enough sleep, water, a fresh mouth, and being familiar with the script. Make sure you have the correct connection info, whether it’s patch, Skype, or any of the voice over Internet services.

Self-directed sessions are all about you. Include everything from the previous paragraph, sans the bit about connection info. If the script is short, be flexible by delivering a few reads. When the script is lengthy, a sample read of the first few sentences sent to the client for review is a good thing. It’s better to make changes in speed, tempo, and overall sound before you read several pages of narration.

Three marbles down. One to go.

On rare occasion, you might find yourself in the session from hell. You and the client may not be able to dial in the sound they’re listening for. You’ve been stopped and spoon-fed lines, and it’s feeling a little humiliating.

Or, you’ve sent what you thought was your best work ever. You delivered many reads to the client for review, and nothing worked. You’ve read the script a dozen different ways, and you sense that maybe you’ll never get it.

How thick is your skin?

Time to take a deep breath and tell the client, “Thank you, but this just is not working out.” 

Aggravation. Move the Session marble back to base. I know, ouch, right?

Marble 4 – Payment
 At this point, you’re just waiting for the check to arrive to get that last marble Home. Make it easy for clients to pay and discuss options ahead of time. Once you agree to payment terms, make sure to include the details in your contract with the client. Advancing your last marble Home means that you’ve won. Good for you!

When the due date arrives, and payment didn’t happen, reach out gently to your client and remind them.

“I noticed your invoice is a few days past due. Would you like an extension?” 

Most times this is enough to trigger action. However, there may be times when a kind nudge isn’t enough. I recommend waiting a few days then reach out to them again. Sometimes life derails the best intentions, and your client may just be off track.

To recap, there are things you can do to improve the chances of a complete booking or moving all marbles to Home and winning the VO aggravation game.

Marble 1 – Quote
Respond same day as requested
Provide your rate
Include detailed information about services
Followup when you don’t hear back

Marble 2 – Audition
Review the script before recording
Follow all instructions/directions
When something is not clear, ask questions
Deliver promptly

Marble 3 – Session
Prepare mentally and physically
Have patch number or other connection details
Give multiple, different reads
Know when to quit

Marble 4 – Payment
Establish payment method and due date
Include payment details in your contract
Offer easy methods of payment
Nudge gently when payment is missed

Not having a clue about what you’re doing in the studio can make you sorry. Managing risk when dealing with clients creates a smooth operation. There were other careers you could have chosen, but you settled on the one that allowed you to have a life.

What gets your marbles around the board?

© 2017 J. Christopher Dunn

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

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

12 Voiceover Podcasts You Should Not Miss (Pt 2)

Previously in part one of 12 Voiceover Podcasts You Should Not Miss, I introduced you to six podcasts to educate and inspire you about voiceover. I’m amazed at the amount of FREE information available through podcasts and I always feel listening to them is time well spent. I can’t think of another way to get educated passively.

This post continues with the second half of my recommended list.

 

Voice Coaches

mza_6385187628270560378.170x170-75Sometimes this podcast is too short. Warren Garling and Chris Scharling find topics that could use more time. They’re that interesting. They entertain well together and discuss methods to improve your VO business. From insightful interviews with industry professionals to marketing tips, and professional suggestions, each episode is delivered with humor and openness. Make sure to listen to the entire podcast for hilarious outtakes.

 

The Producers Podcast – Voiceover and Radio / Audio Production

mza_8350867020232262915.170x170-75While Ryan Drean’s professional focus is Country Imaging services at TM Studios, 360 Country, he is one guy that has many audio interests. His podcast is a blast to listen to and his easy going approach with the professionals he interviews gets answers and stories seldom heard elsewhere. Ryan talks with producers, voice talent and other audio industry professionals.

 

VO Minute

ps.jqrxbgqm.170x170-75New to the voiceover biz? Been in it for a while? This podcast is just right for you. Host and Voice Actress Allison Moffett provides useful VO tips; suggestions for improving your studio business; tech info and personal experiences in bite sized episodes. Allison’s bubbly, upbeat delivery is fun to listen to and sure to be one of the most positive parts of your day.

 

Voice Acting Mastery: Become a Master Voice Actor in the World of Voice Over

Known for numerous video game credits, Voice Actor, Crispin Freeman is the go to guy when your interest is voice acting in animation and video games. He’s been in the business for close to three decades and has the expertise to answer your most pressing voice acting questions. Interviews with agents, voice actors, and producers are typical of what you’ll find in his biweekly podcast.

 

Voice Over Experts

One of the first podcasts I subscribed to is provided by the folks at Voices.com. I was looking for a repository of stories from industry professionals, people who were successful in what they do. I wasn’t disappointed and found each episode enlightening and educational. What happens when you have too much radio in your sound? Check out this podcast for the answer.

 

Voice Over Marketing Podcast

When your VO business could stand an injection of marketing know-how, John Melley delivers what you’ll be looking for. You love what you do otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it, right? Learn to make more money and REALLY love what you do. John has useful information specific to your business that’s easy to access and a pleasure to hear.

 

I’ve received a number of suggestions since I published part 1 of this two part post and will share them with you next time. If you have a favorite podcast that helps you with your voiceover business respond in the comments section with your suggestion.

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

Five Ways to be Remembered by Your Clients

 

 

15 Unfortunate VO Mistakes to Avoid

oops

There are a number of voiceover successes I’m very proud about from this past year. I don’t want to gush about anything specific, lest I trigger your sensitivity to bragging.

No, instead, I’m going to share a handful of things that made me smack my head in disbelief. These are my “Oh, yeah… I probably shouldn’t do that” moments, those little slices of time that remind me that I’m human, and not above making bonehead mistakes that make my peers say, “You did what!?”

  1. Using an iPad for script reading in place of paper is a smart, efficient move. Attempting to markup text with a pencil on an iPad is neither smart nor efficient.
  2. Listening to the always entertaining “NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour” while reviewing scripts will distract me from catching even the most obvious mistakes.
  3. Rehearsing an audition script while participating in a webinar is a fabulous way to multitask. Note to self: Make sure to mute the microphone when not interacting with the host or other participants. Nobody is interested to hear my practice runs broadcast across the web over the top of a live webinar.
  4. Listening to classical music empowers me to have uber-focus and smooths occasional pre-session jitters. Rocking out to AC/DC or Nazareth before a recording session is great for getting my pulse pounding; nerves rattling; and ends up being the opening act for multiple takes.
  5. Tis a bummer to record an award worthy session only to find out no sound was captured. Headphones are useful to verify that my audio gear is in record mode and not playback.
  6. High winds on Whidbey Island create a bellows effect in my house while recording and treats the diaphragm of my trusty Bluebird like a brown paper bag used for hyperventilation.
  7. Deep cleaning the house gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Vacuuming, de-cluttering and dusting. I like a clean house. The dusting part is great for setting histamines in motion, giving my voice a nasally, plugged up tone, suitable only for decongestant commercials.
  8. A thick, all cotton sweatshirt is not only necessary to keep me warm but also acts as an extra sound absorber in my booth, a former wine cellar. The same cannot be said for shirts made of corduroy.
  9. Contrary to the wishes of one overseas client, no matter how hard I try, I cannot sound “un-American”. My auditions sound like me, and I sound like my auditions.
  10. Comfortable shoes are important for long periods of standing behind the mic. Wearing shoes of various sole or heel heights from one day to the next causes my voice to take on inconsistent characteristics because mic proximity and sweet spot target became victims of my shoe fetish.
  11. Corks from wine bottles are useful in improving articulation for a lazy mouth. Wine that is aged in the bottle can be delicious. Wine aged on the cork is disgusting. A washed cork is a more agreeable experience.
  12. Staying hydrated is super important for me. It ensures that dry mouth is significantly reduced and all the parts inside my mouth are well lubed. My keyboard and mouse are not in need of the same attention. A water bottle left in their proximity is a setup for desktop disaster.
  13. Eating a yummy ham sandwich an hour before a patched session will make me drink 48 ounces of water during the session and cause SEVERE mouth noises. (Sorry Matt!)
  14. Chewing gum assists in getting rid of cotton mouth. However, while building well defined jaw muscles, it has an adverse affect on fluid mouth movement, making most speaking less articulate.
  15. Altoids are a great substitute for gum chewing. Chewing one before entering the booth creates minty fresh breath. It also provides my tongue an opportunity for calisthenics as I attempt to remove the crushed Altoid bits from my teeth. Suck, don’t chew!

You know you have them. Don’t be afraid to share them. What were your “Oh, yeah… I probably shouldn’t do that” moments in 2013?

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away
Task Manage the Goldilocks Way
Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow

Get it to Your iPad with Instashare

InstashareIf you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I use my iPad to read scripts. The printer sits quietly while I type. I’m sure it wonders (yes, I gave my printer human qualities, thank you very much!) if I’ll ever touch it again. I’m sure it’s jealous of my iPad.

To get scripts to my iPad, I was using one of the popular cloud-based file share services. A few weeks ago, my computer would not connect to the service and I had a stack of scripts I needed to get to my iPad NOW! My printer saw this as the perfect opportunity to remind me that printing was a push of the print button away. Not to be persuaded, I switched to another file share service and finally got the scripts to my iPad. Work proceeded.

This little scenario got me wondering if there was something I could use that wasn’t Internet dependent. A piece of software that I could install on my Mac and iPad, to quickly copy files using my WiFi connection. I thought about it a lot and within a few days, BLAM!, the piece of software I was thinking about became available. If I didn’t know it takes months for applications to be developed, I would have thought the programers wrote the software after a Vulcan Mind Meld with me. And, they’re probably not Vulcan anyway.

The software is Instashare, developed by Lukas Foldyna and Martin Karasek, the team of developers who make up TwoManShow.

Instashare from TwoManShow on Vimeo.

Lukas and Martin have made installation and configuration amazingly easy and quick. First take a trip to the App Store and download the Instashare App to your iPad. Next, point your browser to InstashareApp.com and download the Mac version to you computer. While the Mac version is BETA, I’ve found it to be trouble free and plays well with the other applications on my Mac.

After installation, launch Instashare on your iPad then the app on your Mac. Using your WiFi network, both machines will look for each other. On your Mac, you’ll see in the drop window that your iPad is displayed as a destination for any files you want to copy. Your iPad shows your Mac as a destination. Copying files goes both ways. On your Mac, drag and drop a file to the drop window. Your iPad displays an alert requesting that you approve the transfer. Tap approve and the file is copied. Simple, right?

You can open copied files directly in Instashare or tap the ‘Open in’ button and you’re presented with installed apps that can open the file. When you’re done with the file, delete by tapping “Edit”, tap the red circle with a line in its center, then tap delete. Since you were working with a copy on your iPad, the original is safe on you Mac.

If you’re not a user of Apple hardware, the Instashare website indicates that Windows and Android versions are coming soon.

I’m sure I’ll still have some use for the file share service. But since I started using Instashare, I haven’t had the need. The icon for the service sits in my menubar waiting to be clicked, promising me that it’ll behave. It’s in good company though, my printer anticipates my return as well.

Other posts that you might find interesting:

VoiceWorld Toronto, It’s a Voice Conference

You may or may not be a professional voice person but you are somebody who enjoys learning about the biz, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading a blog about voiceovers. Now that I have that out of the way, I would like to direct your attention the information below. You’ll find details about VoiceWorld Toronto Conference.

This will be a key opportunity for you to meet like minded people, hear from experts that have been doing the voiceover craft for decades and enjoy the beautiful city of Toronto.

VoiceWorld Toronto Conference

Date: Saturday May 4th, 2013
Time: 8:00 am – 5:30pm
Location: Toronto Hilton Hotel

Prepare to be educated, equipped and empowered

  • Audition like a pro — understand the do’s and don’ts of auditioning in person and online.
  • Learn the ins and outs of the voice acting business, and what it takes to be a successful voice-over talent.
  • Get into business — explore ways to turn your voice acting talent into a business.

About VoiceWorld Toronto

VoiceWorld, the industry’s premier conference, being held in Toronto in 2013, is an immersive experience focused on engaging voice actors from across Canada and the United States. Connect with amazing, influential people who can change your life through courses in artistic development, business and technology preparing you for success in the exciting world of voice acting. A breath of fresh air, VoiceWorld sets out to invigorate and intensify your love for the art of voice acting as never before with an action plan for you to take your business to the next level.

VoiceWorld Toronto Speakers

  • Pat Fraley – Man of Four Thousand Voices, CESD Talent Los Angeles
  • Elley-Ray Hennessy – Award-winning actress, Director and Producer
  • Deb Munro – International Voice-over Talent and Coach
  • David Ciccarelli – Co-Founder and CEO of Voices.com
  • David Goldberg – Owner of Edge Studio
  • Dan Lenard – The Home Studio Master
  • Sunday Muse – Voice-over Artist, Author and Coach
  • Dave McRae – The Voice Mann
  • Stephanie Ciccarelli – Author of Voice Acting for Dummies
  • Wayne Young – Audio Producer and Mixing Engineer

10 Reasons To Attend VoiceWorld Toronto

Early Bird Special ends February 28th!

*Tickets are limited. Purchase your full conference pass by visiting, http://voiceworldtoronto2013.eventbrite.com/

Voice World Toronto
Join us in Toronto for the voice acting conference of the year on Saturday May 4th, 2013.
VoiceWorld