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

Your Voice Could Be the Next Great Thing in Computing

her_loading_helixA headline to a post written by Backchannel Editor, Jessi Hempel, reads, “Voice is the Next Big Platform, and Alexa Will Own It.”

Hempel writes about the maturing of Amazon’s Echo in the coming years. How we’ll access information using our voice and not the keyboard, touch screen or other input devices we rely on now. Speak it, and it will come. Think Star Trek’s Computer on the Next Generation Enterprise, Theodore Twombly’s assistant Samantha in the motion picture Her, or the HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It’s Not What You Say, it’s What You Hear

Part of the excitement of using voice input are the voice responses from the device. Retrieving requested information and executing tasks on demand is a natural extension of how we live with computers. The voice feedback should sound natural and genuinely human.

What We Have Now

If you own an iPhone, Siri responds when you utter a request. Asking Siri to do the same thing multiple times might give you a variety of verbal responses, but the intonation of the same response sounds the same from the first instance to the next. Changes in vocal texture are missing, and they’re what’s needed to make the experience more comfortable and life-like.

Could This Be the Next Big Thing for Voice Actors?

Imagine being booked to record thousands of phrases multiple times. Each time you repeated a phrase, it would contain unique vocal qualities. Then, intelligent AI programming, using natural language processing, would use your words to build responses on the fly. Voice stress, breathiness, pace, and volume would be part of the reply computation.

Maybe you would audition your voice from one company to another. Companies, like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, and others, could catalog voices and make choosing a specific one an option when buying a device like an iPhone or Echo.

You wouldn’t pay to have your voice hosted, but would receive a royalty payment whenever a client selects it as the voice for their new device. Perhaps in the future, there will be a need for a new type of agent who focuses only on voices for vocal response.

It’s Happening

Last year I was invited to record thousands of phrases for a cutting edge company working on delivering a unique voice to vocally challenged people. VocalID is transforming digital speech replacement with human vocal characteristics. Their charter is to bring speaking machines to life. They’re doing that by matching vocal efforts of people who don’t have the ability of speech with those who do and using special software to meld the two. The result is surprising.

What’s next?

Vocal banks may become a new opportunity for voice actors. More devices and situations for vocal feedback are coming. The companies working on AI and voice interfaces, like those mentioned above, will create more needs for vocal feedback and your voice may be part of their roster.

© 2017 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

Freelance VO Survival: Pt 1 – Find Work

File Dec 07, 11 41 34 AM
“I love doing it!”

“It’s easy to do.”

“It lets me be creative.”

“It’s a perfect work-at-home job.”

“It gives me a chance to do my own thing”

“It” is freelance work and there are many reasons why people decide to move from corporate comforts to a career in (insert any freelance title here). They all sound so positive, filled with dreams of rainbows and unicorns. Why work the 9 to 5 grind when it’s 1-million times easier to work from home? Duh, who would pass that up?

For the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you the efforts it takes to work a freelance gig. These are insights discovered by me during my transition from the corporate high-tech cubes to freelance voice actor, plus tips I picked up from other freelancers. They’ll help get your head wrapped around what it takes to freelance.

Day 1 Excitement 

Good bye, full time job. Hello, ‘I get to work whenever I want to’ passion! Calling it a passion makes it sound so… Passiony. Warm, fuzzy and oh so comfortable.  First day excitement will have you full of good intentions. Now it’s time to find, dare I say, WORK.

Before, when you were working a full-time corporate job, work found you and you never felt like you had enough time to get it all done. Now, finding work is a necessity and quite possibly, to begin, you’ll have more time on your hands than work. Finding work takes much effort. Your hunter and gather instincts, which have been dormant for several millennia, need to be shocked back to consciousness.

“Much effort, much prosperity.” –Euripides

Make Some Noise

There is one sure way to find work that outweighs all others and you should use it from day one. Tell everybody you know and meet that you are available for hire. If nobody has a clue what you’re up to, you’ll never work or you’ll work very little. It‘s a numbers game, and the more people who are aware of what you have to offer, the better.

Contacting family, friends, past business connections, peers and acquaintances should be included in your list of people to notify about your new freelance business. Get the word out to as many people as possible.

Don’t be bashful and hide behind the feeling people on your list won’t be interested in hiring you. You may be surprised by those who you thought were long shots when they become your first clients. At the very least, people you contact might be able to introduce you to somebody who is looking for the type of professional freelance services you’re offering. Anyone is a potential client.

Let the Socializing Begin 

The best contact methods to consider are social media, e-mail, phone and in-person.

Establish yourself on LinkedIn and say you’re looking for clients in your profile. Join groups specific to your freelance business. Follow businesses you’d like to work with and start building your professional connections and developing relationships.

Reference the list you created of people you want to let know about your freelance offerings. They are probably on LinkedIn so don’t miss the opportunity to connect.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others should be considered along with LinkedIn. Use those that make the most sense for your business.

Little Black Book

Your address book is full of names and e-mail addresses. Start from A and work your way down through Z. All are potential clients.

Start by creating a boiler plate message about your new freelance business that you can paste into an e-mail and send to everybody.

When creating individual messages, write something personal in the first few sentences. Paste-in your boilerplate message. End with a single sentence personal closing. Keep the entire message brief.

One Phone – Many Numbers

The phone can be your friend. You have many people you talk with on the phone that should know about your decision to go freelance. These might be the people in your inner circle of friends, the ones you feel closest to. Take the opportunity during your conversation to tell them about your freelance business. They’ll have questions and this is the perfect time to practice your answers.

It’s Been a While

Running into old friends, business connections, and people you went to school with are opportunities for catching up face to face and finding out what’s new in each other’s lives. Make sure to have business cards available to hand out wherever you go. You never know whose path you’ll cross.

Listen Up!

The primary point is to let people know your freelance offerings are available. But, remember, it’s not all about you.

Relationships are easier to build when two people are involved. Word of mouth is important because referrals work both ways. Make an effort in your approaches to network and take notes about your connections. Find out what’s going in on in the businesses and lives of the people you contact.

Somebody you connect with may be looking for a web designer and within your contacts you can easily refer the person to someone you know. And likewise, a contact you’ve developed a networking relationship with knows you offer mad skills in the type of freelance work you do and feels comfortable referring people to you.

Once you’re plugged in the good vibes keep on flowing. You want your freelance business to survive so making the effort to continually network is key in building your client list.

More clients = more work = more $$$ = survival = SUCCESS!

What to Remember

  1. You are now a hunter! Work used to come to you unavoidably. Now you need to find work so your freelance business thrives.
  2. Tell everybody you’re a freelancer. One of the best methods of finding work is to tell people you’re available and looking for work.
  3. Use multiple types of networking methods. Social media, e-mail, phone and in person meetings are all business development tools.

For more suggestions on how to build your network and tell people about your freelance business, this post from Freelance Digital Consultant, Ben Matthews is worth a read.

11 Effective Ways to Grow Your Freelancer Contacts

Next time (Pt 2) Motivation

What drives you to keep traveling the freelance path? Next time I’ll focus on motivation. Self motivation is an important trait to develop to grow your business and become a successful freelancer.

© 2015 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

Secure Your VO Floatation Device: Are You Sponge Worthy?

Yellow-SpongeThe big VO talent sponge, in which we cling is saturated to the point of being unable to absorb any more. Capacity has hit a limit and any moment now we’ll hear a great big soggy SQUISH!!!

Just thought I’d toss that out there. It’s my opinion.

Welcoming All Comers

Folks out of work are hoping a swing at a voice-over career will get them by. Parents home with kids are looking for some easy-grab money. Even retirees are giving it a go. And why shouldn’t they? They’ve read it’s easy, there’s work for everybody and working in pajamas is super cool!

Polly Anna Would Love Us!

As a group of clear-speaking, well-intending professionals, we put a positive face on and pretend everything is fine and there is room for all. Heck, I welcome any talented individual who has it together enough to jump in the sponge. I wish them well and will provide any advice when asked.

The Low-Ballers

There is this ever-present thing with low-ballers. These folks will do anything on the cheap. That’s outrageous you scream, but they simply don’t care, I reply.

The sad truth is that the low-baller mentality is this bread’s suicide pill. They are in business for a few magical months, and after a time, will most likely decide it’s not so magical and the money amounts to just enough to buy a thimbleful of used breakfast cereal.

So they leave. Only to be replaced by the next wave of Kitchen-Table-Studio-VO-Newbies from the Low-Baller Academy. It never stops!

To use a phrase coined by Elaine from the TV show Seinfeld, they are not “sponge-worthy.”

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

I’ve read a number of blog posts from established talent who are feeling the impact of the impending squish. They are finding gigs elusive and are auditioning more and landing fewer jobs.

The letters and messages I’ve received personally and read in a variety of online forums, indicate that instant gratification is at an unattainable level. “How do I get jobs today?” “I wan’t to make good money.” “How come I haven’t landed one job in over a year?” “How come nobody is contacting me?” I don’t have the exact answers for any of them. Do I utter encouragement to keep going? <heavy sigh> …yeah.

I wonder, are we doing our biz a disservice by being so openly optimistic? Shouldn’t we instead be writing and talking about the direction voice-over has taken in precise, laser focused words that everybody can understand?

But WAIT, There’s More!

Voice-over support seems to be in the business for it’s own sake. An increasing number of options for education are popping up. Personal coaching, Online group classes, virtual meet-ups, studio workshops, and a growing number of conferences. Go. Buy. Enjoy. All are tax deductible!

Yeah, they’re all write-offs. When tax time comes around they end up being line item deductions. However, there has to be income to make the expense a tax deduction.

Pain-to-Play

Pay-to-Play sites continue to pop up, offering the chance to audition with 100s of hopeful, (and UN-vetted) new talent. The competition is fierce for these lower paying jobs. It appears to be a race to the bottom for the new voice-over talent coming online to participate. Are they forcing the rates of all gigs down? Could they be creating a VO bubble?

A Possible Direction

On the (not-so) far-fetched side, since the ‘natural’ or ‘conversational’ delivery is the direction more producers ask talent to go, how soon will it be before voice-over is handled in-house by the clients. They sound natural and oh so conversationally convincing, right?

Almost Done…

When a sponge releases water, it’s indiscriminate about which molecules get pushed out.

Are you ready for the squish? What will it take to survive? Will you remain in the talent sponge or be wrung out and looking for someone to buy your gear? Is there anybody safe from the squish?

Your comments are always welcome.

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

Increase Your Voice-over Income Potential: One Simple Action

“Whatever good things we build end up building us.”
― Jim Rohn,  Entrepreneur, Author and Motivational Speaker

How can you continue to build client relationships and increase your chances of more positive outcomes?

One word: Followup.

A followup e-mail or phone call will tell people you want to work with that you’re still interested and available. Your message or conversation should be short and to the point. They’re busy and so are you.

Following are e-mail and postal mail suggestions about when to follow up and what to write.

Post Quote Request

A potential client has contacted you requesting a quote for a job. You reply with your typical response and rate numbers. After a few days, take a moment to send them a followup e-mail, asking if there are any questions that need to be answered.

“Hello, I’m following up with you to make sure you received the proposal you requested for [voiceover / narration] and to invite you to contact me to answer any questions you might have.”

After Delivering Audio

Your client has the amazing audio you created for them and now you’re waiting for their fat check to arrive. Let them know you’re still interested in their project and send them a quick e-mail asking if they have everything they need.

“I’m checking in to see if you have everything from me for [name of project(s)]. I know sometimes additional audio or changes to what’s been delivered are needed.”

Project Completion

Once you’re satisfied the client has what they need for their project, remind them about getting a copy of the final video or audio for your demo reel and a testimonial.

“Thanks again for booking me to create the [project name] voiceover.

As a reminder, I would still love to receive a copy of the finished project and a testimonial from you. Both validate success for potential clients and feature my collaborative ability and talent. 

Thank you for taking a moment out of your busy day for me. I appreciate it.”

The Missed Payment

Not many people enjoy nagging clients to pay. I’d say the number is higher for folks who enjoy dental exams. When a client is past the due date for paying, be polite and accommodating. An article by Sheldon Nesdale, has what I think is a brilliant approach to the missed payment. The entire article is worth reading.

“I just noticed invoice [invoice number] is a few days overdue. Would you like an extension?”

When Asking for a Referral

It’s been a month or so since you last connected with your client. Followup by thanking them again for the work and to ask for a referral. Type your message on letterhead for an added professional touch and send it through the US mail.

“It was a pleasure working with you on the [insert project name here]. Thank you for using my voice!

When you come across other [producers / directors / professionals] that are looking to hire a voice actor, please feel free to share my name and contact information with them. For convenience, I’ve included two of my business cards with e-mail and phone number.”

Maxine Dunn has created a valuable package of 12 Voice-Over Business Templates and a referral request is included.

You care. You’re available to help. You like to be remembered. All are good additional reasons to Followup!

Do you followup with clients and prospects in other ways? Which one works best for you? Enter it in the comments section below.

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

photo credit: The Socialist (2/12) via photopin (license)