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

Your Inbox Needs a Timeout!

Whidbey Island is a beautiful place to live, and I can’t image a better location for my studio. The sunrises are typically inspiring and the sunsets are nothing short of visually spectacular.

Whidbey Sunset
Whidbey Island Sunset

Between those two times of day (and sometimes outside of those times) I’m reading mail, marketing my services, practicing, auditioning and working on projects. The day is full, and seems to zip by in a blink.

I find that following a schedule is a necessity to keep me on track so I cover all the elements of running my own business. My schedule is the perfect guide, yet flexible enough to allow me extra time when I need to focus on specific areas. My success and business growth depend on me paying attention to more than just what I do behind my mic.

In the upcoming months, I’ll write about each area mentioned above from the perspective of a voice artist. The information can be used by most freelancers, “solopreneurs” and collaborators. 

This month’s post focuses on e-mail and some best practices for dealing with it.

Make your inbox work for you.

mail box with lettersMy day starts with a trip to my mail application’s inbox. From the last time I checked it the day before, until the moment I peek inside its bottomless depths again, I’ll have received between 75 to 100 pieces of e-mail.

Triage
I spend less than an hour “in the box” first thing every morning. I’ve set up my mail application to take care of sorting and filtering so I won’t have to. I want to open my e-mail and quickly work through chunks of messages at a time.

Most e-mail software allows you to configure inbox folders or rules with criteria to match incoming mail. Items which match folder criteria or rules are moved to that folder automatically.

Want to look at all of your social media alerts? Create a Social Media folder. Subscribe to professional services or lead alerts? Create a Prospects folder. Get the idea?

I use Mac Mail and have set up several Smart Folders that capture mail items which meet my specific criteria. I also have folders for each of my clients. This sorting method lets the computer work in the background to do the first step of my process.

Not all e-mail I receive requires my immediate attention. It ranges from pings from peers, quote and proposal requests from clients and prospects, new work from existing clients, social media alerts, newsletters and online magazines and junk.

With the help of my e-mail app, I run each of them through a triage process that helps me focus on what’s important to my studio’s financial progress first, informational second, and fun third.

Important to Survival
Mail that comes from my clients is the first thing I deal with. They are either contacting me with more work, following up about a project I recently finished or introducing me to somebody they’re referring. These are marked with the Respond flag for immediate attention.

After I make it through all my e-mail, these will be the items I act on first.

I don’t open inbox items in the order received, nor do I deal with them in real time. I work through my Smart Folders first, flagging when necessary.

Mac Mail gives me the ability to flag items into categories that I created.

  • Respond – Items that need a reply and can be responded to without additional work.
  • Action – These require me to do something before I respond or things that I need to do that don’t require a direct response to the sender.
  • Work – Confirmed jobs waiting to be completed.
  • Auditions | Proposals – My pool for potential new gigs.
  • Add to Contacts – New prospects that I will add to my address book.
  • Read | Listen – Interesting news letters or social media posts. Look for subject lines that grab your attention. Whatever you do, don’t open these items until you’ve made it through the others. They will derail your e-mail process.
  • Keep – Items that I’ll refer to often and NEVER delete!

Each flag category gets its own folder where items of a particular flag are waiting for further action.

Next, I give the flagged items my full attention. The e-mails flagged with Respond, are first. Usually, these are handled with a one or two line reply.

Items marked with the Action flag are dealt with next. These items require me to do something else before I respond. Research…writing a document…locating audio from a prior job…are typical tasks.

Items with the Work flag set the schedule for the day or book blocks of studio time for later in the week. These have scripts attached or voice direction from the person who hired me.

When I’m not in a session or editing, I’m in the Auditions | Proposals folder working through those items. This is my pool of potential future work.

Items flagged as Add to Contacts and Read | Listen are self-explanatory and compared to the other flags, low priority.

It’s a Date
You’ll come across items that are date dependent. Take a moment now to add these items to your calendar.

While you’re in your schedule, take a look at what you’ve got scheduled for the day and the next seven days. It’s good to be aware of events that need special attention and preparation. Nobody likes a bad surprise.

Your Inbox Needs a Timeout
Your e-mail application works hard to make your inbox triage easier. Sometimes however, it gets in the way of your productivity.

If you are the type of person who needs to have e-mail opened all day, consider setting the duration your application rechecks for new mail to occur no more than once an hour.

However, a better option is shut it down completely and limit inbox checks to three times a day: morning, after lunch, and one of the last things you do when you’re winding up your work day.

The busier you are with your career, the more important it is to tame your e-mail demons. Don’t be afraid to give your inbox a timeout!

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away
Are You Available?
Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

Why voicemail should not be ignored.

CallMePeople contacting me to work with them on their project sometimes make the initial connection by giving me a call. When I’m in a studio session with a client or away from my desk, my voicemail takes a message.

When a client (or prospect) calls you, how soon after do you return their call?

  • Immediately
  • Within a few hours
  • The end of the day
  • Sometime the following day
  • When you get around to it
  • Never

There are many talented people available for hire, so why provide an opportunity for a talent seeker to look elsewhere?

My response time and the effort I make to get back with potential clients is key in getting their business. If I wait too long, I can predict that my chances have been reduced. I don’t like that.

In my blog post, Eight Ideas to Help You Wade Through Inbox Muck, I explained steps to be less of a slave to your inbox. I mentioned that your clients should have multiple ways of contacting you, the most immediate being the phone.

I’ve come up with a method of working with phone calls that’s successful. It has been a learning process and I’m sure there is room for tweaking.

I’m surprised at the number of times when the person I called back was not expecting my call so soon. I know I’ve done the right thing when the person I’m calling back is surprised (and pleased) by the timeliness of my call.

Phone tag is not a legitimate sport.

  • Leave a message indicating who you are, why you are calling, your call back number and e-mail address.
  • Make sure to leave an exact time when you can be reached—a time when you know you will be available to take the call.

What Your Caller Receives

Set expectations with your voicemail. “I’m not available now, but will return your call by the end of today. If you prefer, please send me an e-mail at myemail@address.com.”

Pay Attention to Caller Details

When listening to a caller’s voicemail, take note of their name, business name, any details about their project and their call back instructions. Do not automatically grab their phone number from the caller ID history. Often they are calling from a trunk or office that supports multiple phones but displays only the main number for call ID purposes.

The Return Call – Attempt 1

I make it a point to call whoever has left a message soon. This doesn’t mean that I push other client responsibilities aside. It means that I’m aware of the call, I’ve made a note to return the call and decided the best time to do it. Don’t leave the person waiting.

The return call can be short. When you’re pressed for time, explain that you’d like to talk when they’ll have your full attention. Maybe later in the day, or during a time that you’ve set aside to do call backs. I schedule time for return and followup calls everyday. When I don’t have calls to make, the time is absorbed into another task.

If you return the call and you end up leaving voicemail, make sure to include a message with your callback number. Include a good time for them to contact you. Show them that you’re interested.

Let them know that you’ll call again, if you don’t hear from them, at a time that makes sense to call back. “If I don’t hear back from you, I’ll go ahead and give you another call at 10:00 AM tomorrow morning.”

The Return Call – Attempt 2

You’ve made your first try to contact the person who wants to work with you only to have left a message on their voicemail. They haven’t called you back either.

Make sure to call back at the time you mentioned in your message. If you didn’t leave a call back time, try to call them at approximately the same time they called you. Chances are they’re available.

When you get their voicemail again, leave a message indicating your interest in working with them and if you haven’t heard from them, you’ll call back the next day, in the morning. A good suggested time is 9:00 AM their time.

The Return Call – Attempt 3

This will be the third time you’ve tried to complete the connection with the person who’s interested in hiring you.

It’s been two days since their initial call and you’re starting to feel a bit frustrated. Don’t. During this call back, if you are left with another opportunity to leave voice mail, do what you’ve done in the previous attempts.

After the third try, wait until the following week, 5 business days, to try again. A number of things could be going on with the prospect and now you need to provide some breathing room.

Realistically, you know that the business moves so fast these days, that job is long gone.  Probably so.  But, maybe not.  At least let the client know you are interested and follow up.

After all, there may be reasons why the gig got delayed.  Also, focus on the positive. The caller did consider you for new work and you want to make sure they continue to do so.

The End Game

So, the following week, place two calls. One in the afternoon on one day. One in the morning on the second day.

Mondays are frantic for most people, so unless the caller requested that you return their call on Monday, I recommend waiting until Tuesday.

Then follow the second call on Thursday. Skip Wednesday and Friday. Some people typically work an abbreviated day on Friday.

A week later, if you haven’t heard from them (I know what you’re saying, “They don’t want to talk!!”) give it one last try on Wednesday. Middle of the week, in the morning. Leave one final message indicating that you’d like to discuss their voiceover needs and that you would like to help them out any way you can. “If the project is still open, please let me know how I can help. Don’t hesitate to call and let me know either way.”

Every call is a potential gig. Will they call back after the initial call? Probably not. And even when they say they will, it’s up to you to followup when they don’t.

Other posts you might find interesting:

Task Manage the Goldilocks Way
Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow
About Me!

Task Manage the Goldilocks Way

3030Goldilocks was a criminal. She busted into the Bear’s home and ransacked it. She ate their food, sat her keister in all their chairs, and sleep-tested all their beds to find one that was just right for her power nap. Goldie needed the rest so that she would have enough strength to take on the three little pigs. A wolf you say? Pfft! It was Goldie.

If Goldie had problems with staying on task, she would have spent most of her time stuffing her face and never moved on to the chairs, toothbrushes (more on those in a moment) and beds. There wouldn’t have been much of a story. We would have never found out what was “just right!” Or, was she the task master we think her to be? Perhaps she had an app on her iPhone that alerted her to move to the next evil dead while at the Bear’s house. I believe this to be the case.

Goldilocks was probably using 30/30 by Binary Hammer; a beautifully designed, easy to use time management app for iDevices. If I’m right, she created a list of what she needed to MyEvilDayaccomplish during her visit. Her list probably looked something like this…

  • Verify the Bears have left home
  • Break into Bear’s home
  • Sample all porridge
  • Brush teeth (she tried all three brushes and found the one that was, you got it, “just right.” This is not in the story but I’m sure it happened. Who doesn’t brush their teeth after eating pasty, gloppy porridge?)
  • Sit in chairs
  • Take power nap
  • Steal as much as I can carry (Another task not mentioned in the story as we know it.)
  • Leave for Three Little Pigs

She gave each list item a unique color and icon for fast visual recognition and a timer. When the duration hit its end point, an alert sounded for her to go to the next task. 30/30 also provided the total amount of time needed to complete all items on her list. Unfortunately, she underestimated the amount of time needed to nap before the Bears arrived back home and failed to wake in time. Tough break.

Since I like to feel organized and occasionally get stuck on one task for way too long, I was inspired by Goldie to get my tasks together and organized so I could breeze through my day with newfound efficiency. 30/30 easily helps me out with time management needs. I wanted something simple to use that even a fairy tale character could figure out. I tried out more than I can count, from simple timers to multi-field schedule alerts. Some offered too little while others were too much. Then I found one that was just right. If Goldilocks had this little app, and I’m almost positive she did, she could have set it to be awakened to leave at just the right time instead of getting busted for greedy nap time.

According to the 30/30 website, the original idea behind the app was based on the  method of working on a single task, without distractions, for 30-minutes. At the end of 30-minutes, you move to another next task -maybe take a break.

The 30/30 developers understood that it wasn’t realistic to work only 30-minutes on a single task and then take a break for a balanced work day. The app is designed with easy adjustments in mind and each task can be considerably longer than 30-minutes.

30/30 is currently free from the Appstore. It looks great on iPhone and iPad. With its beautiful display and easy customizations, setting up duration alerts is a breeze and time well spent.

My Voiceover Day is the name of my 30/30 list and it’s divided like this:

  • Check e-mail
  • Business Tasks
  • Marketing
  • Lunch
  • Warmup and Practice
  • Projects
  • Auditions
  • Decompress

Each item on my list is given a duration. I have defaults for each one and can easily change the order and values. It’s flexible and that’s a good thing.

In the top, left corner of the screen, 30/30 displays the total amount of time for all items in the list. Once the timer for the list item begins, it displays the time when all list items are due to complete.

When I have a heavy day of projects, I can increase the duration for the project item. Do I need more time at lunch for an extra helping of goodness? Yes, so I’ll increase my allotted time for a 2-hour feast. Should I want to move my marketing and business time to after lunch, it’s a simple drag and drop to rearrange my list.

Goldie used 30/30 for evildoing and was prompted to move from her porridge binge on to destroying Baby Bear’s chair, and then to the bedroom to rumple everyone’s sheets and steal some shut eye. Good for her! I use it for moving my business day along to make sure the important stuff gets my attention. How will you use 30/30?

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow
About Me!
Are You Available?

Eight Handpicked Tools for Voice Talents

approved sealWhile I have a computer and mobile devices full of apps of every type, my browser provides access to countless web-based applications. Every once in a while I need a tool to help me with a specific task and I don’t necessarily want to install software that will sit practically unused on my hard drive. I already have more software than I use on my computer hard drive and mobile devices, that’s probably fodder for a different post.

A tool can be anything from a blog post with how-to-steps for getting a task done to an actual application that was created to run in a browser. There are eight tools I have bookmarked for easy access when the need arises. These have potential of being helpful to any type of freelancer and are listed here in no particular order.

Entrepreneur

entrepreneurWhat are voice talent and other freelancers if not entrepreneurs? We take on the challenge and risk associated with making our businesses unique, profitable and successful. Entrepreneur.com is a solid source of information about new business, the direction existing business is taking and articles on marketing, money and growing a business. Look to this site for inspiration.

YouTube

youtube-pngSure, YouTube has a bizillion cat videos but it also has a wealth of videos on just about anything for your voiceover business. When I first set up QuickBooks and started taking payments through PayPal, I didn’t have a clue on how to process them. A quick search on YouTube revealed Setting Up PayPal in QB. I decided it was a keeper and have shared this how-to vid with other freelancers.

50 States

50_StatesThis is an amazing portal to state-based information. I use 50States.com for quick access to economic details to help me focus my marketing approach. Finding what industries are dominant in a given state provides access to key, potential clients. WARNING: If you are a fact junky, 50 States.com will derail your typical day of business if not used in moderation.

Mint

250px-MintcomWhile I use QuickBooks for my business, I rely on Mint.com for my overall picture of business and personal accounts. After configuring it with my banking information it gives me a running total of where my money goes for an instant budget check. Have I exceeded my budget for Kapaws Iskreme? Well, yes I have and Mint alerts me with a notification. No more ice cream for the rest of the month.

Hightail

HightailThis file sharing tool was called YouSendIt until the first part of July 2013. It still functions the same. With Hightail.com you upload files to a folder and send an invitation to a collaborator (your client) so they can download your creation. There’s a free version available and a few options to pay. If you don’t have your own server for delivery of your files, Hightail.com is an alternative to consider

Time and Date

tad-logo-comSeveral of my clients are based in other countries and it’s important for me to know when those clients are awake. TimeAndDate.com is my goto source for finding time zone information. The site also has access to time calculators and timers, calendars and environmental details. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of everything time.

Freelance Folder

FreelanceFolderThere is a community vibe attached to being a freelancer. I often have questions that aren’t voiceover specific, but more freelance general. My website of choice for such information is FreelanceFolder.com. Its team of writers do an amazing job of covering topical and relevant subjects. This site is perfect for anybody working on their own.

Words in a PowerPoint Presentation

MS-Office-2013-logoA producer contacted me to narrate an e-learning module for one of his clients. There were over a hundred slides and each slide had a significant amount of text. How much text? Hard to say. To solve the word counting issues, Microsoft’s Office website has posted a solution, Counting the Number of Words in a PowerPoint Presentation. I have only needed this once so far but will be ready the next time a project like this comes along.

What are the best web-based tools that you’ve come across? Do you like using these types of tools?

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Unplugged and Loved It!
Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow
10 Things to Keep in Mind when Building a Home Studio

Get it to Your iPad with Instashare

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

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

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

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

Instashare from TwoManShow on Vimeo.

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

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

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

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

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

Other posts that you might find interesting:

VoiceWorld Toronto, It’s a Voice Conference

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

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

VoiceWorld Toronto Conference

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

Prepare to be educated, equipped and empowered

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

About VoiceWorld Toronto

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

VoiceWorld Toronto Speakers

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

10 Reasons To Attend VoiceWorld Toronto

Early Bird Special ends February 28th!

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

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