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 3 – Rejection

 

Rejection_WEB

In Freelance VO Survival: Pt 2 – Motivation, I offered some great tips on how to stay motivated on your way to a successful voice-over career.

Review:

  1. Know your motivator.  It’s that one thing that drives you to do the thing you do.
  2. Being self-motivated is liberating. You decide how to become motivated and develop disciplined to stay on track.
  3. Motivation helpers make it easy. Find activities and develop habits that help keep you motivated. Stick with the ones that work. Be open to new ideas that might work better.

Flashback

If you’ve ever worked a job other than freelancing, you know getting called into the boss’s office to discuss anything negative is deflating. Rejection sucks and being told ambiguously that something needs to be different or better without the benefit of being told what needs improvement can cause a spontaneous head explosion. POP!!!

The Here and Now

When you make the choice to become a voice actor or other freelancer, it’s easy to get blinded by the sheen of unicorns and the brilliance of rainbows when you hear that work is abundant, more than enough for everybody.

It sounds positive and rejection-free. All you do is open up a personal studio and start auditioning or sending out proposals.

Rejection is ongoing for freelancers and it happens in a batch of all new ways.

  • Your quote is over budget.
  • Your style is not what they were looking for.
  • Too old. Too young.
  • Too American.  Not American enough.
  • Decided to use a male instead of a female.  Decided to use a female instead of a male.
  • Prospect decided to go in a different direction (they’ve hired somebody else) and gave no reason.
  • No response to your audition, simple quote or proposal.

Get the point?

Don’t focus on the rejection. It’s not about you personally. Instead learn how to make lemonade out of the lemons that come your way.

You Are in Good Company

There is no one in the business of voice-over, or other freelance work for that matter, who has not been rejected. Let that sink in a moment.

Risk is involved with your choice to freelance. You’ll be meeting knew clients and taking on projects you never thought you would. The way to get what you want is to remember not to be afraid of the word no.

“I really wish I was less of a thinking man and more of a fool not afraid of rejection.”
-Billy Joel

Countless voice talents have gone before you, and had they given up, would not be where they wanted to be, where they saw themselves. The word ‘no’ is part of the freelance equation. If yes was easy to get, everybody would be a freelancer.

It’s About Them

After submitting an audition to a client for consideration, you hear back from them that they’ve found the talent they were looking for–elsewhere. They’ll keep you in mind for future work.

There are a number of things that could have had an effect on that talent seeker’s decision. Their mood because of the speeding ticket earned on the way to work. Their mental state affected by a venti latte they dumped on themselves. They think you sound like their ex-wife or estranged father. The list of potentially pointless craziness is limited only by imagination and there is nothing about you they are attacking.

“If I went by all the rejection I’ve had in my career, I should have given up a long time ago.”
-Mike Myers

Since you’re a pro at what you do, the audition you submitted was amazing. Just because they felt it wasn’t a good fit for what they were looking for, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have worked for somebody else.

Another way to look at it: just because a red car isn’t right for you, doesn’t mean it’s not right for somebody else looking for a car. Make sense?

Keep Going

“I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”
-Sylvester Stallone

Why are some voice actors booking while others only hear about amazing projects?

Talent aside, are those people being hired better at marketing themselves? Is it because their website and business cards were designed by an award winning studio? Do they take risks and continue to stretch their talents?

Hmmm… Maybe it’s the way they handle rejection.

It takes several ‘no’ prospects to get to a ‘yes’ client. If you give up on yourself before hearing yes, you’ll never understand your potential. It is a good idea to evaluate as you go and make adjustments as needed. Truthfully ask yourself why a high rate of no responses are coming your way. Be willing to make changes. Perseverance is a trait of successful freelancers of any type.

The Delightfulness of Yes

There’s more to yes than landing a gig. What you do after receiving a job is to grow your client’s happiness. That’s what keeps them returning for more.

“Sometimes I feel my whole life has been one big rejection.”
-Marilyn Monroe

Keep on top of communication with your new client. Respond to their e-mail and phone calls in a timely manner. Ask questions when in doubt about something in their script. Be interested in their project. Meet their deadlines. Or better yet, deliver early. Be willing to do what it takes to keep them, within reason of course.

And, follow up with them after delivery of your audio files to make sure they have everything they need.

Avoid reasons for their rejection.

It’s Not Easy

Put yourself in the seat of the producer who listens to dozens of auditions, trying to find the sound that’ll match their project. It’s hard.

“You get used to the rejection and you don’t take it personally.”
-Daniel Craig

Making a choice is difficult when considering several equally talented people. And, nobody enjoys the process of telling everybody else they’ve made a decision that’s favoring another person.

When you’ve been told another talent has been selected for the project, be gracious and thank the producer for their time. Remember, this isn’t about you.

Most often you’ll not hear back when you’re not the one selected. And if you’re told they’ll keep you in mind for other projects, don’t consider it as lip service. I’ve had clients reach out to me for subsequent projects when I was the best fit.

Rejection Happens

Have a thin skin? Make an effort to build one thicker and resilient. And, keep in mind, you can do everything right and still not get booked. Detach and move forward.

What to Remember

  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. Most 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.

Looking for additional ways of dealing with rejection? Check the article written by Creative Business Coach and Author of “Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success”, Mark McGuinness.

How to Handle Rejection and Criticism as a Freelancer

What are your thoughts about rejection?
How do you handle it when rejection comes your way?
Are there ideas in this post that you’ll consider?

Leave your comments below.

Next time: (Pt 4) Continuing Education

You should know more today about your chosen freelance path than you did yesterday but not as much as you will tomorrow. It’s important for your business to grow and one of the best ways to help with that is education.

© 2016 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

Session Improvement Tips for Producers from Voice Talents

Tips-and-ToolsFill in the blank: “During my last session, I wished the producer would have ________________________.”

Or, if you’re a producer, “During my last session with a voice talent, I wished I would have ________________________.”

The job of a producer is not an easy one. They are part psychologist, part friend and part conductor. One minute, hand-holding a talent through a tricky script read.  The next minute, driving to keep the session from going off the rails.

Good producers want you to perform well and will do what it takes to bring out your best.

At the end of one of my sessions, I was asked by the producer if I had time to chat about working with voice talent. I was the first he’d directed and he felt unsure of his working method.

He was asking about what to do and know before the session begins and how to direct during the session.  I came up with a handful of suggestions, which I shared with the producer.

It Got Me Thinking

Afterwards, I wondered if I may have missed something so I asked the Voice-Over Pros group on Facebook for their thoughts and suggestions.

Their responses were brilliant and clearly came from the perspective of having worked with many producers over several years.

Another producer recently asked me for similar feedback so maybe there are others who would like the same. I think it’s good idea to make the info available to a wider audience.  So, I’ve compiled the best responses from Facebook and removed contributor names since the group is closed.

From The Mouths Of VO Pros

If you’re a producer, consider the things you may be missing. If you’re a voice talent, here’s some useful insight to remember during your next session.

Imagine being at the local pub or coffee joint and overhearing this conversation…

“Keep the sessions light, relaxed and fun where possible. Nobody’s life is on the line.”

“The thing about voice talent, as apposed to actors doing VO, is that we are generally affable and have a desire to fulfill the vision of the producer rather than have the producer conform to our artistic vision…”

“Always compliment them first.”

“Clear communication… From my time in the producer’s chair I found that open clear communication and friendliness got what I needed every time…it’s recording, not rocket science…”

“Keep their confidence high.”

“One safety is appropriate. When a producer asks for SEVERAL safeties then I’ve either not hit the magic spot or I’m totally clueless to what I’m being directed to do. In either situation, those extra takes are really not for safety, it’s more like the director saying, “what else ya got?” Yeah, there are times what a director says and what a talent hears is a mismatch.”

“…cant tell you how many sessions have been saved because of safety takes. Some times there are micro issues in your “good” take that you don’t hear until final processing of the vocals….and many times, the safety take can be even better than the “good” one….because the “pressure” is off the talent. I used that as a technique to get the delivery I wanted on numerous occasions…”

“In a commercial session, time your script before the session starts, and if it’s in danger of being long, have some edits in mind beforehand.”

“Always have the check cut so you can pay the talent when they leave!”

“Be positive, encouraging, and be mindful of the fact you both want the same thing and by working together you’ll accomplish it.”

“Trust the talent to tell the story. Don’t microdirect!”

“I’d never say this to a producer but: Know what you’re looking for before you hear it.”

“Sometimes the talent is not seeing the story the way the producer is hearing the story in their minds. I remember working with a talent once a long time ago in a galaxy far away where I was directing something that I had written. I could not get the talent to inflect the words I wanted inflected. I do this to myself in self-directed sessions. I record, and then during the edit I hear that I inflected the second word in a two-word grouping and send myself back into the booth to redo it. Sometimes by the time I get into the booth and find the script and record it again, I end up doing the same thing.”

“My advice to producers is, don’t settle. If you haven’t gotten exactly what you wanted, explain what you want done differently and go again. And once you do get what you want, say so.

“The moment a Producer makes the vo perp feel welcome, and at home, he/she can lead you a million miles in any direction.”

“It’s challenging working with anyone who isn’t sure what they’re looking for and it seems a bit time consuming coaching a client or producer on how to coach us. In the friendliest way possible, I would tell them to call me when they have a good idea on how they want the script read. Or, if the rate is good and the script is short, I don’t mind doing multiple takes for them and avoiding the live directed session altogether.”

“Know what you want! Be open to possibilities…but know what you want before the talent steps in front of the mic.”

“… remember why you hired this particular talent in the first place. They are trying to essentially interpret what is in your head and give their own spin on it.”

“…be clear in your communication on what you are listening for…. and if you don’t know, let the talent know that you would like to try a few different approaches to the project and even ask for suggestions. Creating a comfortable atmosphere is also a big help…”

“I agree with everyone else and would add: have another person look over your script and make sure it’s at least assumed to be the ‘final’ before you bring in the talent.”

This virtual conversion was priceless and full of suggestions that would help make most sessions a breeze to get through.

My Advice

Adding to what was said by other VO Pros, this is what I shared with my producer:

  1. Make sure the script is final and has been approved by the client.
  2. Keep the session relaxed and offer input when necessary.
  3. Allow the talent some creative freedom.
  4. Keep the momentum of the session moving forward.
  5. Take breaks during long-from narration sessions.
  6. When hearing mouth noises, suggest a water break.
  7. For short sessions with commercial scripts, allow the talent to make it through the script once before taking them in a different direction.

I’m sure there are more that haven’t been mentioned. So, I ask you, what would be the single best thing you would share with a producer or director that would improve their workflow during sessions?

Please leave your comments below.

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

Other posts you might find interesting:
Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow
Unplugged and Loved It!
The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

Choice: The Evolution in Voiceover Rates

confused 3d character standing under direction boardHaving choices is a good thing. When I get my car washed I have a choice of three different levels. Silver, Gold, or Platinum and each level provides a bit more than its lower-priced sibling. I see the value of Platinum when compared to Silver and typically settle for Gold. I determine the value of my purchase and decide which suits my needs.

The idea of choice is something I’ve been considering for my studio. Offering three price points for professional services, each building on the services of the previous, just like the car wash. Would this give clients the perception of better control of their purchase or just confuse the process?

Currently, my rate per project includes a full range of services for one base price. This example is for non-broadcast and the size of the script and intended audience would impact the final rate.

SampleServices

Breaking things down into price point levels would look something like this:

The rate for the Green Package would be what I’d typically charge for a job. For example let’s say my current rate is $200 for up to 2-minutes of explainer video narration. With the tiered levels Green would be $200, White would be only 10% less than Green or $180. Purple would be 25% more than Green or $250.

I’m guessing I’d want the step-up between White and Green insignificant enough that clients would feel it was a good value for the small increase in price. The value proposition should still be in place between Green and Purple but maybe one that the client has to really consider before selecting it.

Another option is to create perceived value by pricing the Green and Purple identically. Numbers could be $200 for White, $250 for Green, $250 for Purple. According to a study by Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics, when a group of MIT students were presented with price points like those outlined above, Green was totally ignored and Purple was identified as the best deal.

However, when Green was removed, the students selected White because there was too much contrast between White and Purple. The students became bargain hunters and convinced themselves they didn’t need the upgrade. Hmmm…

Is there another rate method that might work better? I’d like to know your thoughts and ideas. Please share your suggestions in the comments box below.

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

Other posts you might find interesting:
6 Questions to Ask Mr. Google!
Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away
Are You Available?

A Fish Story and Your Studio

Lake Quinalt Lodge
Lake Quinalt Lodge

A few weeks ago, Cameron and I traveled to the Olympic Peninsula to spend a few days at the beautiful, historic Lake Quinault Lodge. The weather was unseasonably perfect with sunshine and comfortable temperatures. It was a perfect getaway.

Before we made it to the lodge, we took a detour to Neah Bay to enjoy the Makah Museum and grab some smoked salmon Cam read about in Yelp. The museum was spectacular with many Native Makah artifacts and loads of historical references and information about the Makahs. It was well worth the drive.

TakeHomeFish
Take Home Fish Co.

Our other destination, Take Home Fish Company, was quite a surprise. When Cameron told me about it, I imagined a well-lit store with a refrigerator case packed with smoked salmon and other delicious Pacific Northwest treats. To my shock, my imagined fish shop was nothing more than a garage, slightly modified to be used as a fish shack.

Diesel flavored smoked salmon swam through my thoughts.

We walked in feeling skeptical about the offerings. Diesel flavored smoked salmon swam through my thoughts. The guy behind the small counter presented us with a number of options, which were neatly vacuum packed and ready for immediate sale.

This was it? I admit, I hadn’t taken the time to check out Yelp to see what this place was about. I was close to walking out without spending a dime. Cameron was a more willing customer and decided on two vac-packs of smoked fish, one salmon the other deep sea black cod.

Makah Bay
Makah Bay

As we drove away from Neah Bay with our purchase, I started thinking about the many voice talents starting out who create their magic from a closet, spare bedroom and other home areas that don’t resemble a studio, even remotely. If an area can be treated and used to record and the result is flawless fidelity, what does it matter?

I’ve read studio descriptions from established talent who don’t record in a closet or bedroom but have an acoustically designed booth of some sort. I congratulate them for making the financial decision to invest in their recording area. But, it’s uncool to trash talk those who work out of something less and still deliver amazing audio.

Evidently the clients don’t care as long as it sounds good.

The deliverable is what the client is most interested about. I’m pretty sure they care 1% or less how or where their ready-to-use sound was created. They know what sounds good for their project. I’ve read about jobs being done in hotel rooms with comforters, blankets and pillows used to create a satisfactory recording environment. Evidently the clients don’t care as long as it sounds good. It they did care where it was recorded few people, if any, would record on the road.

Lake Quinault
Lake Quinault

And, as for the smoked fish? Best. Smoked. Fish. EVAR! It was tasty and the perfect first meal at the Quinault Lodge. We gobbled down the fish along with some cheddar cheese, sourdough bread and a few glasses of port. Kimm, the owner of Take Home Fish Co. didn’t need a fancy store or state of the art tools to create what will be tough to beat by anybody else smoking fish. He had talent and an understanding of how to best use his workspace.

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

Other posts you might find interesting:
6 Questions to Ask Mr. Google!
Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away
Are You Available?

6 Questions to Ask Mr. Google!

MrGoogle2The Google search box begs me to type in a question whenever I pop open a browser. The code-smiths of Google have spent years creating and refining their cornerstone service. Of the search engines available, Google is by far the most robust and powerful answer retriever available.

Google made search non-geeky by allowing the use of simple phrases. That’s helpful to me when I’m working in my studio; I’d rather reserve my brain power for creativeness behind the mic. Here are a few tools I use regularly that you should try.

Say WHAT?!

Whenever I get a script that has a word I don’t know how to pronounce, my go to helper is Google. The results include entries from several sources including Forvo.com, howjsay.com and others. This comes in handy for audition scripts when the client isn’t available. And, it’s particularly helpful for audiobook production. In the search bar type in…

How do you pronounce [word I’d like pronounced]
(How do you pronounce discombobulated)

At the Tone, the Time is…

I’ve got clients all over the planet and the multiple time zones are difficult to keep straight. A quick way to check current time info is to ask Google. The current time, date, and time zone displays taking the guess work out of calling a client at an appropriate time. Type in…

What time is it in [City] [State] or [Zip Code]
(What time is it in Pie Town NM) 

City and State, Please.

When I’m crafting one-off marketing e-mail to clients, I like to check out what’s going on in their town so I can personalize my message. Google makes getting quick details a snap! I get the basics, including time and current weather, plus points of interest, upcoming events and more. Type in…

[City] [State]
(Poughkeepsie NY)

It’s How Far?

Got a gig at a studio in another town? When your travel expenses include mileage and you need a quick way to calculate the distance, Google is the undisputed source for speed. Type in…

[Starting point] to [Ending point]
(Left Hand WV to West Thumb WY)

Convert this!

With clients all over the globe, I occasionally have one that want’s to pay me in their local currency. Google has a mind for conversion and has no problem returning a value based on the current exchange rate. Type in…

[Amount] [Currency 1] to [Currency 2]
(1500 USD to GBP)

Let Me Google That for You

Could an answer be just a Google search away? You probably know somebody who asks questions that trigger you to think, “Why don’t you just Google it?” To help them see the laziness of their ways, use LMGTFY to create a search and send it for them to use.

This is my fav… http://lmgtfy.com/?q=How+do+I+become+a+voice+talent%3F

 

Those are the ones I use the most, and of course there are many more Google tips and tricks to discover. What is your favorite Google shortcut or tool—one you couldn’t get along without in your studio?

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

5 Reader Recommended VO Podcasts Not to Miss

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

10 Tips for a Healthy Studio

LittleSneezeI sat in a restaurant the other day and watched a grade-school sized child endure a massive coughing and sneezing fit. By massive, I mean a series of sneezes followed by a volley of gurgle filled coughs and then more sneezing. While I felt sorry for the tyke, all filled with snotty goo, I was happy to leave her behind as I walked out the door into fresh air.

According to Weather.com Cold and Flu Facts, cases increase during the fall and winter months, then taper off in March and April. Homes with children are more susceptible to these seasonal visitors and women have more colds than men. If you’re a 60-something, your chance of having a cold drops considerably, less than once a year on average.

If you work from home in your personal studio, your chances of coming into contact with a cold or flu carrier is lower, significantly lower if you live by yourself. And, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t get ill if you live in a cave. Some caves have good ‘coustics!

However, if you are a parental unit with a spouse and kids, your chances are pretty good that you’re going to get exposed to somebody who is beta testing the latest strain of cold or flu. You’ll have what they’re having and you’ll pass it on to your studio.

Your studio is the money maker. Sure, you’ve got the pipes and sound super cool when you’re recording whatever it is that gets producers to write you a check. But, without your studio you’d be reduced to using string and cans or traveling to somebody else’s hood to record.

Think of your studio as a living being, one that you have a symbiotic relationship with. You both rely on each other for survival and just a bit of common sense will help keep your studio free from nasty cold and flu bugs.

With that in mind, here are some tips to keep your studio in healthy, usable shape through the season.

Maintain a Perimeter – Your studio is sacred and should only be accessible by the truly healthy. Reduce the potential of ill-inducing germs getting in your way by limiting or eliminating access to anybody who has symptoms. That includes you. If you’re sick and only working because you “feel” you should, don’t. Take time to repair, stay away from the sickos.

“…give your pop filter a rise with warm soapy water.”

Clean Equipment – Once a week, give your studio a cleaning. Clean you monitor, wipe down your keyboard and mouse. Use an electronics-friendly cleaner and a soft cloth on your other pieces of gear such as speakers, audio interface and control surfaces. Finally, give your pop filter a rise with warm soapy water.

“…when I get congested I sound like poo.”

Work Station – Dust makes me sneeze and when I sneeze I get congested and when I get congested I sound like poo. Use a clean cloth and surface cleaner to pick up the week’s accumulation of micro-particles. Your studio will appreciate your hands-on approach to keeping its surfaces clean.

“…stress will take a hike and your efficiency will improve.”

Studio Area – Stress is more than happy to give cold and flu a hand when it comes to plying their ickiness. Keep stress to a minimum whenever possible. Keeping your area organized and clutter free will reduce stress and even make you feel more on top of your game. With you studio in order, stress will take a hike and your efficiency will improve.

“…wash your hands first before heading into your studio.”

Wash Your Paws – During my early years in school at Belgrade Elementary, the teachers were constantly reminding me to wash my hands. Not just reminding me actually, but everybody. At the time I thought it was a dumb idea and a big time-waster. There were more interesting things to do.

OK, so, now I get it. Washing hands reduces germs. When you come in from the outside world (that’s any place that’s not your studio) wash your hands first before heading into your studio. If you find yourself hand washing a lot, use cooler water. Hot water strips away oils that keep your hands from getting chapped. Regardless of water temperature, make sure to use a hand soap you like. Maybe a nice vanilla almond or lavender.

“…their potential for carrying seasonal germs IN while carrying the garbage OUT is quite high.”

Garbage Patrol – It’s like washing your hands. Nobody enjoys emptying the garbage can. It’s just one of those things that you have to do. Remember to keep your perimeter up and empty it yourself. While one of your child slaves might have the weekly duty, their potential for carrying seasonal germs IN while carrying the garbage OUT is quite high. Don’t allow them to pollute your space.

“Your Sneezes and coughs increases air-born gunk that other people can breathe in.”

Be polite, Cover Your Pie-hole – You’ve done everything I’ve suggested in this list of paranoia and still managed to get sick. Now you’re taking it easy to recover so you can get back into your pristine studio. Your Sneezes and coughs increases air-born gunk that other people can breathe in. Do what you can to reduce that from happening. When spontaneous histamine triggered expelling occurs, do it into a fresh tissue and then toss the entire mess away. No tissue in  sight? Sneeze or cough into your shirt sleeve, at the crook of your elbow.

“…they wont stop until you are feet up in bed and ankle deep in bunny slippers.”

Don’t Stick Your Fingers in Your Eyes, Mouth and Nose – This should be obvious. In case it’s not, your hands collect a lot of garbage, hence the hand washing. If you stick a finger or your small one sticks a finger in any of the above mention places, you’ve just released the hounds on your immune system and they wont stop until you are feet up in bed and ankle deep in bunny slippers.

“When you’ve captured a cold or flu virus, staying hydrated is doubly important.”

Stay hydrated – Drinking several ounces of water a day is just part of what we do. It keeps our pipes in working fashion, reduces mouth clicks and keeps our thirst at bay. When you’ve captured a cold or flu virus, staying hydrated is doubly important. Your body uses the water for everything and when you’re sick, it uses more of it.

“Stress will raise its ugly head when you’re feeling cold and uncomfortable.”

Feel Better – While you’re recovering, there are a few things you can do to feel better. Hot drinks with honey and lemon are a start. There are some home remedies that suggest adding a shot of your favorite spirits to a cuppa something. While it sounds good on the surface, alcohol is a dehydrator, which will work against your hydration process. I’m a fan of the herbal tea ThroatCoat or something a bit wilder like Bengal Spice or Orange Spice. And, your body will benefit nicely from extra rest and sleep. It’s working hard to get you back in the studio so give it a chance with some time. Also, keep warm and comfortable during recovery. Stress will raise its ugly head when you’re feeling cold and uncomfortable.

Start counting down the days until warmer, more humid weather. Mark the first day of spring as the un-congested light at the end of the cold and flu tunnel. Then you and your studio can relax. Until then, can I offer you a vitamin C or zinc tablet?

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

5 Reader Recommended VO Podcasts Not to Miss

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance