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

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

How to Track Voiceover Projects That’s Quick and Easy

Have you ever searched your computer for a script, sound file, note, invoice or anything else specific to a project and frustratedly came up empty handed?

I found an easy way to keep track of the pieces. Here’s how.

Tried and Tested

Before accepting gigs and working with clients, I knew I wanted an easy way to track everything for a given project. My first thought was using system folders on my computer and filling them with all the parts associated with a project.

After a few test runs with pseudo clients and projects, I quickly concluded the system folders method was not the way to go. It was cumbersome and found myself drilling through folder after folder looking for what I wanted. It was a huge time suck.

Eureka, a Winner!

Other methods I tried were just as worthless. A huge spreadsheet, document files, an expansive database. Nothing was working and it all was so meh.

And then I discovered what I was looking for. I found using a project number as the base helped to keep everything in order. Simple.

How it Works

Once I’ve received the nod a client wants me to work with them, I assign a number to all the project pieces going forward. Which, by no coincidence, the project number is also the next sequential invoice number in my accounting software.

Email, contracts, scripts, notes, sessions and anything else associated with a particular project receives this number from this point on.

As an example, typically the first thing I send after the client has agreed to book me, is my Project Confirmation for them to review and approve. The title of the Project Confirmation and email subject line looks like this:

[PR1600] QuickStop Messenger — Project Confirmation – CONFIDENTIAL

To break it down:

  • [PR1600] – This is the invoice number used on everything associated with the QuickStop Messenger project.
  • QuickStop Messenger – The name or title of the project, typically taken from the script title.
  • Project Confirmation – This refers to the item I’m sending or in other cases, the primary purpose of the e-mail.
  • CONFIDENTIAL – (optional) A one-word callout detail about the item.

More Examples

Now that I have a project number, I apply it to everything to keep the work organized. Here are a few ways I put it to good use.

[PR1600] QuickStop Messenger — Voiceover script – approved
Once I receive a client’s script, I rename it to something that makes sense to me, using my numbering system.

[PR1600] QuickStop Messenger — Script Questions
There are times when clients are available only by e-mail. When I have script questions, this is the subject I’ll use for the email.

[PR1600] QuickStop Messenger — Ready for download
When I’ve finished the session and uploaded it to the server, I send my client a quick e-mail with the download link and password.

Some Other Uses

  • [PR1600] QuickStop Messenger — Invoice
  • [PR1600] QuickStop Messenger — Payment received
  • [PR1600] QuickStop Messenger — Anything else?

What I’ve Found

Since the number is consistent across the project, it gives me a failsafe way to locate related parts and reduces search time. Using Spotlight, a system-wide search on my Mac, I can instantly find what I’m looking for just by searching for the project number. An equally useful system-wide seek method is also available on Windows machines.

As an added benefit, this also helps clients in the same way. All of our correspondence will most likely be in their inbox. So all they’ll have to do is search for the project number.

It takes some time getting in the habit of using a project number, but the ease of finding what I’m looking for is a sweet return.

What is your ‘can’t live without’ method of tracking projects? I’d like to hear about it and maybe work it into my process. Leave your comments in the section below and happy tracking!

© 2016 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

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