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

10 Ways to Keep Your Clients from Falling Through the Cracks

under construction siteDo your business skills keep your clients form shopping elsewhere for their next voiceover need? Have you done the due diligence to develop your client relationships? Do you occasionally correspond with your clients to remind them about your services?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you might be guilty of client neglect. Or worse yet, your voiceover business could become a casualty of unhealthy professional relationships, with many of your clients falling through the cracks.

Feel Good Clients

Feel good about your clients and the relationship you develop with them. Clients are what feed your business growth and without them there would be very little kibble in the cat’s dish. Not only are they cutting a check for your resonate tones and script interpretation, they are buying your voiceover brand.

  1. They’re Only Human

Working with clients can be unsettling because professional boundaries are important to maintain. Should I try to be more amusing than (I think) I am? Should I be stiff, overly stuffy and business like? Maybe I ought to distance myself from my clients and just do the work?

For me, it’s easiest if I’m just myself and treat the people I work with as fellow humans. Clients seem to like that.

  1. Ask, Don’t Assume

While you’re building client relationships, keep in mind that it’s a give and take process. You are learning about your client’s business and their voiceover needs. Be an active listener.

Ask questions that will help you become more knowledgeable and better prepared once work begins. Don’t assume because it can make an ass out of u and me.

  1. No Butt Kissing

I know when I’m being unnecessarily flattered or too extensively complimented by somebody trying to gain my trust or approval… and I don’t like it. Your clients won’t like it either.

  1. Quality vs. Quantity

Would you rather be known as the talent who does amazing work and is well worth the asking price; or would you settle for being known as the talent who is super inexpensive?

Do not take every job that comes your way, even just starting out. Focus on how well you can complete a project, not how low you are willing to drop your price to get the job.

Harvard Business professor Michael Porter states you can hold a competitive advantage in only one of two areas: price or quality. Play to your strengths, develop impressive voice acting skills, run your studio like the business you’ve always imagined, and you’ll never be forced to compete on price again!

  1. Know when to Say No

Just because a client wants your voice, does not mean your talents and skills are a good fit for their project.

A few years back, I was asked to do an opener for a music show that was in development. The producer was hooked on the “sound” of my voice and after our initial conversation I felt the job was WAY out of my wheelhouse. They were looking for something I was not. However, I was too full of myself to pass on the gig so I moved forward with the session.

After my first attempt I received this reply, “…like YOUR voice but need Hiphop grit.” While adding grit in my second take (which was similar to adding cotton balls to chocolate cake) I knew I wasn’t right for the gig and should have been brave enough to say so up front. After a week of attempts and back-and-forth communication, the producer finally arrived at the same conclusion I knew seven days prior.

Fortunately, I’ve worked with the same producer on other projects since. I cannot be everything to all my clients. I know my strengths.

  1. Open to Direction

When you receive comments from a client, do you ever feel like you’ve failed? Creating spoken audio is a process. We hope that we have all the details up front and will utter the words as described. A client might come back with a list of things to change that are clearly non-script issues.

Your client wants to work with you and is listening for the best performance possible. When receiving feedback, take it with an open mind. Ask questions when necessary. Offer solutions not roadblocks. Above all, be professional.

Your client will appreciate working with a voice talent that is not wildly sensitive to criticism.

  1. Exceptional Delivery

You’ve probably heard or read the phrase, “Under-promise and over-deliver”. This is about making sure client expectations are clearly set and then exceeding them. It could be as simple as delivering audio files ahead of schedule, or providing two different takes of a script instead of one.

This will enhance your value in the eyes of your client and that’s a good thing.

  1. What’s Next?

Clients appreciate being kept in the loop and updated appropriately. Let them know the steps of your workflow and what will happen next in the creation process. Hold their hand and get them from one step to the next.

Do you send project confirmations for clients to approve? Include a “What’s Next” section that explains what happens after their approval.

Something along, “Once I get your approval, session time will be locked in for your project.” This does a couple of things. It clearly puts the process in their possession and it lets the client know what is dependent upon their approval.

  1. Not as it Appears

Since we primarily work remotely from our clients, it’s easy to misunderstand actions and intentions or what could be perceived as misbehavior. In most cases, it’s wise to give them some space to be human.

Are they slow to respond to your e-mail or calls? Is their invoice still unpaid? An unavoidable event could be the roadblock. Life happens, so give them an opportunity to respond and take care of whatever it is that’s bugging you.

  1. Worth Every Penny

Do you know what you are worth? How much does your time and skill cost? Do you have established rates? It’s wise to know what type of work you’ll be doing and how long it takes to complete it, and it’s even more crucial to know what to charge for your services and feel good about it.

Don’t short yourself thinking a prospect might look elsewhere. Know your worth and stick to it! Once the numbers are agreed upon, it will be difficult to negotiate for more later.

As a Reminder

You are in business for yourself. You are a freelance voiceover artist who makes money by reading other people’s words. It’s fun and you enjoy doing it. Be professional and treat your clients with a healthy dose of support, appreciation and gratitude.

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow

Are You Available?

The Power of Asking

3d characters welcoming at doorDo you dislike asking for stuff? Do you get all wigged out and feel it’s self-serving to ask for something you need or to a lesser extent, want? Would you rather receive that thing you want without asking? You are not alone.

Working with clients every day provides several opportunities to ask for something. With a new client it might be billing, contact and delivery preferences. It could also be a request for a mailing address, a copy of the finished piece; and a testimonial.

Getting a mailing address is simple and should be one of the primary pieces of information you request from your new client.

The request for a copy of the completed production should be made in the agreement you have between yourself and the client. (You do have a written agreement, right?)

Asking for a testimonial is probably the most uncomfortable request to make at first. Perhaps typical thinking is that when a client likes what they receive, a testimonial will follow, unsolicited, right? That seldom happens. It’s similar to when I read a blog that I like. If I have time and feel UN-rushed, I’ll leave a comment. When time is not a luxury, I tell myself that I’ll go back later and leave a comment. As with automatic, unsolicited testimonials, that seldom happens.

Here are three examples that will help you get the information you need, the copy of the finished product you want and the praise you’d love to receive.

Client Information

When I’m in the client setup phase, I send an e-mail that details what I need for the project confirmation I’ll be sending for review and approval. I write the info request in such a way that one thing needs to be satisfied before another step can be completed. (Give me the information I need and I’ll write a project confirmation that will lock in the session time.) The words I use are along these lines:

I’ll write a project confirmation that outlines the process, billing, delivery and associated followup processes. All I need are a few pieces of information from you. Once I receive the info, I’ll send the Project Confirmation for your review and approval and lock in your session time.

Then I add what information I need.

Final Production Copy

Asking for a copy of the produced video, spot, narration or whatever, should be straight forward. Most producers understand the importance of receiving a copy of the finished production. A collection of these will probably be great building blocks for your next demo. I call this out in my Project Confirmation and then remind them one-week after delivery of my voiceover.

Thanks again, for hiring me to do the <name of project> voice-over. I would like to consider using the work I’ve done for you on an upcoming demo reel. Would it be possible to get a digital copy of the finished video? A link to a file that I can download might be the easiest. If you prefer, feel free to send me a CD or DVD copy.

If you choose to send a copy, my mailing address is:

<Your physical mailing address here>

I really appreciate you taking time for me and I look forward to receiving a copy.

If you don’t hear back from them after a week, you may have to reach out to them again. Be persistent and if it’s a piece of work that you know is amazing and clearly needs to be part of your next demo, call your client with your request. There is a fine line between being persistent and annoying and that is something you’ll need to be sensitive about.

Words of Praise

Asking for a testimonial from a client may feel a bit weird. Don’t let it bug you. When you get along well with a client and the project came together nicely, you owe it to yourself to get validation. I know it sounds very self-serving and that’s because it is. Testimonials are useful to share with prospective clients, post on your website, and even use in your signature. They are valuable.

Could you help me out with a small favor? I’m in the process of collecting material for my next website update and I wanted to ask if you would consider writing a testimonial for me.

It can be as short as a sentence or a whole paragraph about your opinion of working with me or what I’ve created for your client. What would be especially helpful is to mention the benefits of working with me. But really, anything at all you’d like to say. I would love to be able to put a quote from you on my website.

If you’d like to see some great examples of what other clients have written, check out the testimonial section on my website at <your website>.

To keep the process simple, you can type your testimonial into the body of an e-mail and send it my way. Then, I’ll copy and paste it into a document and send to my web designer when the time comes.

Thanks so much, and please let me know if there’s any way I can return a similar favor.

Send this one as soon after delivery of your voiceover as possible. Clients will be the happiest about your work right after delivery, that’s why I suggest not waiting any longer than a few days. When you’re met with silence, contact them again.

These tips should come in handy the next time you’re anxious about asking for something. I hope they work for you.

Are there questions you feel uncomfortable asking your clients? Do have any situations where you asked and the response was negative?

Other posts you might find interesting:

Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow
JewelBeat: A New Royalty Free Music Source
Five Ways to be Remembered by Your Clients

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

It’s All in the Script – 5 Tips for Better Reading

Have you ever read a book, magazine or newspaper and wondered why the type is so small? It’s because the publishers are trying to maximize space and cram as many words onto a page as they can. There are websites that do the same. The tiny text makes it difficult to read. Thankfully, most browsers have the capability to easily magnify the size of the text.

Scripts can have issues with type size as well, along with other unhelpful formatting, that make for difficult reading. You’ll want to encourage your client to provide you with their best script possible. When you receive a script that is formatted to be easily read, your client is doing you a huge favor and will make your session run more smoothly.

Here are 5 suggestions you can share with your client that will make their scrips more approachable.

  1. Use a readable font. Every once in a while I’ll receive a script with an unusual font. Comic Sans comes to mind along with any font that emulates handwriting or calligraphy. Suggest a font that was meant to be printed, such as Garamond, Georgia, New York, Times and Times New Roman. The reason serif fonts are preferable is because people can differentiate each letter more clearly.

  2. Increase the size. Typically when I’m reading a script, it’s on a copy stand or held a good distance up and away from my microphone. That’s why the point size should be between 14 and 16. You will find this easier to read than most text application’s default size of 12 point.

  3. Double space text. When I get a script I’ll usually take a pencil and start marking it up for my benefit in the booth. To give me room for added notes and marks, double space lines are a necessity. Single spaced text is next to impossible to read after it’s been treated to markups.

  4. Ask for phonetic helpers. You might not know how to say every word in the script you receive. Error on the side of caution and ask for phonetic (fəˈnetik or fe ne tick) guides for uncommon names of people, places and things. If you come across an acronym, ask whether it should be spelled or pronounced. Reading the script with your client over the phone is a great way to identify words that need a helper.

  5. Confirm that you have an approved final script. Noting sets a session back quicker and can add additional costs than receiving a script that has not been approved. Take a moment to verify with all stakeholders that what you’re about to record is in final form. Sure, there’ll be occasions when a line needs to be changed but that can be handled easily with a pick-up of just that line.

  6. *Bonus tip: Request that the script be formatted using Microsoft Word. Ask your client to provide Word formatted scripts. If you receive a script with none of the tips from above applied, at least you’ll receive a file format that can be easily manipulated if needed. PDF files are the least desirable because of their inability to be easily reformatted. Copy and past from a PDF can end in disastrous, sometimes unreadable results.

What makes a script more readable or less desirable for you? Feel free to share both the good and bad examples.

Find Your Voice-Over Answers in These Five Amazing Books

First, let met point out that books are not dead! While mobile devices like the iPad and Kindle have reshaped the publishing landscape, books are still useful. They offer a wealth of information that’s just a page turn away, whether it be digital or physical. While I can dive into the Internet and search for answers, I also like having a book written by a knowledgable expert that’s within easy reach.

The reference library for my voice-over business ranges from setting up a home studio to marketing my services. The books I’m sharing with you are what I think are some of the best available for people investigating, starting up on, or successfully working in the voice acting or voice-over business.

“The Art of Voice Acting” Fourth Edition “The Art of Voice Acting” Fourth Edition

James R. Alburger

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

James Alburger has earned eleven Emmy Awards, Omni Intermedia Awards, and Silver Microphone Awards for his work as a director and audio producer. He has over 35-years of experience as a performer and in the recording studio. James has condensed his success into a book that every person interested in a voice acting career should read. “The Art of Voice Acting” features chapters that include a business overview, working with copy, auditioning and studio stories. The book includes a CD of demos from top voice-over artists along with exercises to help prepare your body, mind and mouth for optimal performance.

“Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home ... and on the Road”“Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home …and on the Road”

Harlan HoganJeffrey P. Fisher

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

This was the first book I bought for my voice-over reference library. The duo of Hogan and Fisher do an amazing job of explaining what’s needed to set up a home studio that’s suitable for recording. They cover hardware, software, production techniques and more. Both authors have had fascinating careers and you get a glimpse of that along with all their helpful information. This book will help get your brain wrapped around the basics of working from a home studio.

“Voice-Over Voice Actor”“Voice-Over Voice Actor”

Yuri LowenthalTara Platt

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

There is something for everyone in this book. Yuri and Tara explain the art of voice-over in a casual but very knowledgeable approach. They draw from a number of years of combined experience with clients that include Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Dell, McDonald’s and Budweiser. The book includes a great chapter on warming up your body and vocal path before you audition or perform. I’ve adopted this into my daily routine.

“Voiceovers: Techniques and Tactics for Success”“Voiceovers: Techniques and Tactics for Success”

Janet Wilcox

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

The approach of this book is to train like an athlete. Long time veteran Janet Wilcox breaks down the process into understanding the rules of the game, training, preparing to compete, and discovering your game or what you’re good at. Janet has done a great job of making what can be ambiguous in the career path of voice actor more understandable. The included CD features exercises and interviews with top voice-over talent.

“Secrets of Voice-over Success”“Secrets of Voice-over Success”

Joan Baker

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

This book is a must read to get insight from the top voice-over pros. Each chapter is written by a professional who candidly shares their life as a voice actor. You’ll discover how Jim Dale, the voice of all the Harry Potter books, was in the right place at the right time. Each chapter ends with an industry secret, based on the experiences of the chapter writer. A CD is included, which features the demos used by the book’s contributors to get voice-over work. The tragedy of Alzheimer’s struck home when Joan’s Father was silenced by the disease. Proceeds from the book go to The Alzheimer’s Association.

These are five from my library and I’m always looking for more. What books have you found useful in your career as a voice actor?

Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow

One of the most fascinating aspects of voice acting for me is the chance to meet new clients who want to use my voice for their projects.  I’m curious to find out the details about the project and their vision for the end result. I also like to get an understanding of how and where my voice will be used. More times than not, clients are excited about what they’re producing and appreciate that I take an interest in their needs beyond the cost and turn around of my services.

There are five important communication necessities that I believe should take place between my prospective client and myself during the initial stages of the booking process. These easily apply to a any number of freelance jobs and for me, make the process of working remotely smooth and easy.

1. The Handshake

The initial e-mail contact from a client usually comes in the form of a request for an audition and proposal. I consider this similar to an old-fashioned handshake, an introduction that’s friendly and informative. The e-mail usually includes specifics about the project that help  me audition properly and prepare a fair proposal. These details typically include project type, length of approved script, target audience plus how the script should be read (tone, pace, cadence).

2. Audition and Proposal

In most cases, I respond with an MP3 file that contains my audition read of the script and a proposal that details estimated cost, services included and payment terms. At this point I make sure that I clearly understand the timezone differences between myself and the client. This will help establish expectations to e-mail replies and immediate availability should the zones be significantly different.

3. Come to Terms

After my client listens to the audition and reviews the proposal, they might reply with questions or want to negotiate a different rate. When I’ve answered their questions and we’ve come to an agreement on the rate for the project and payment details, I ask for their acknowledgment that we’ve successfully come to terms.

4. Project Confirmation

Following the talent seeker’s agreement to terms, I send a project confirmation that outlines the job as understood by the client and me. This is to make sure that we are on the same page and clearly understand the project. I make sure that the confirmation contains all the necessary contact information for myself and request that they provide theirs when they reply.

5. Schedule Studio Time

After all the documentation and terms are agreed to and understood, I feel confident that we have the basis for a good working relationship. At this point I’ll schedule time to complete my new client’s voice over project.

The Bottom Line

Nobody likes unexpected surprises, so get it in writing!!! Doing so will reduce the chance of misunderstanding and will make the process of completing the job more efficient.

This process works well in my voice over business and I hope that you find something in what I’ve written to be helpful. I’d like to hear about what you’ve done that has made working with remote clients easier?