What Should You Outsource?

This is the third installment in my series on outsourcing. Previously I’ve covered why and who you should outsource to.

When it comes to things like editing and proofing, when you reach that very individual quantity of ‘enough’, most people want to take the work off their plate. Some people prefer to do it themselves, and others are a bit too self conscious to share their flubs with others. (I’m sure I’m not the only editor who can tell you, we’ve heard it all before. It’s okay, I promise.) And of course there’s those who do mostly or all shorter work, and so therefore choose to keep it to themselves. I’m of the opinion that if you can afford the rate, there’s very little you shouldn’t send out. In freelance, there’s always something else you can be doing to improve your business!

But there’s the clerical things, the harder-to-define things that most people would love to send out, but aren’t sure where to begin. I’ve often talked people through defining their project enough that I’m able to help them. For example, I’ve had more than one person want me to help them find ‘new clients.’ I have to ask them questions like what kind of clients? Where do you want me to look? How much are you prepared to spend? The more parameters you’re able to come up with, the quicker and better I’ll be able to help. And, the more you’ll be able to know what things will cost!

Sitting down and having a brainstorming session will help you define the kind of work that you’re looking for, and give you some ideas of what you need. If you’d like to expand your social media presence, what types of accounts do you want to focus on? Or do you need help to figure out where your posts could have the most impact? Do you want someone to write posts for you? What exactly do you want to say? (Inspirational pictures? Links to projects? Blog post ideas? A consistent message will help you achieve your goals more than a scattershot effort.)

Overall, unless there are elements you’d prefer to handle on your own, in my opinion much of the work that goes into maintaining a business like ours can be outsourced. Yes, money is always a concern, but the benefits can make up the initial ROI, and over time, the financial ROI will follow as you have more ability to record and reach out to new clients. The more you automate, the more time you have for not only the recording that makes you money, but the at-home things that can give you energy and renewal for the next session behind the mic.

 

Who to Outsource to?

Welcome to my second installment about outsourcing! Last week, I covered why you should outsource in the first place. Now, I’d like to talk about how to find someone, who you should outsource to, as well as what to look for.

When looking for someone specific, many people consider family members. They’re right there, they already have at least some basic familiarity, as they’re aware of your career, and you may not have to pay them professional rates. The major downside is that they are family. It can be difficult to separate work needs from a personal relationship, and it can cause stress and upset if you’re not very careful. Insisting that your child or spouse finish work on the same type of schedule that we freelancers sometimes take is not always easy or wise. I’m not saying it’s impossible–some of you may know my Dad, Bob Souer has and does work with family members–it’s just best to be aware of the challenges involved.

Once you’re ready to get out there and find someone to work with, there’s a very important consideration to start with. Do you want someone local, or virtual? Some people are far more comfortable with an assistant they can meet with regularly, face to face, and can oversee on a personal level. Others don’t mind distance and time zones in between, but it’s a good idea to be aware of which you’d prefer before you begin. If you’re looking local, there are many ways to find someone, and I plan on covering that in a future post. Looking online, word of mouth is a great way to find connections that are already known to others in our industry, and to hear exactly how and what someone did for another voice talent.

Lastly, here are some things you should look for when you first begin work. The first and most important thing to remember when looking for someone to outsource to is the need for trust. Regardless of the project type, you have to at least have that basic bond of trust with your outsource person, whatever level of which you need to feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s important to ask yourself where it’s coming from. Is this a temporary thing, because you’re new to outsourcing and you’re not used to the feeling of letting go yet? Or is it a deeper reaction, arising from your gut that is possibly responding to some kind of warning signal? One of the easiest methods to use when evaluating someone is to match their words and actions. If they say something, do they follow through? If they don’t, how do they communicate about it, and is something then taken care of in a reasonable amount of time? Considering this can help you make a clear eyed decision, should you need to do so. Firing someone is never pleasant, but if you’re not getting what you’ve paid for, it can be needed to do so.

Another vital thing to decide on is exactly what you need. I know this sounds obvious, but I’ve had more than one person approach me with very amorphous projects in mind. Sometimes I can help them, but the more details they have, the easier we can get moving.

Why Outsource?

The first topic I thought I’d cover in this new series of mine is pretty basic. Why hire out in the first place? Many people I’ve talked to enjoy doing editing or proofing work on their own, or don’t feel comfortable sharing their audio mistakes with someone else. (Believe me, you all do the same kind of things, and it’s okay. You’re not alone in swearing when you make a mistake, or whatever you’re worried about!) When it comes to clerical work, they may be unsure of exactly what they need, or once again be not entirely comfortable sharing personal information with someone else. (Very understandable.)

My question to you is, why not outsource? Why should you do everything yourself? Maybe it’s ‘easier’ or more comfortable, but our businesses don’t grow by staying within our comfort zones. It’s a truism of business that you have to spend money in order to make money, and freeing up your time will have dividends, and sooner rather than later. Whether it’s some time to relax and recharge your batteries, time to get behind the mic and onto the next project, or marketing and netting yourself new clients, there will be benefits and dividends to help you grow and improve your business. It’s my hope in the coming weeks to feature some words from folks who have reaped these benefits and can share voice talent perspectives as to why and how it’s benefited them.

Perhaps you feel as though your business has to cross a certain threshold in order to make hiring out truly worth it. I think that’s partially true, but not completely. Even if you only hired someone for an hour’s worth of work a week, you could benefit by having that hour free for something else. Yes, it’s important to find the right person, someone who will take your business as seriously as you do, but I’ll cover that in a later post. Outsourcing is something that you can ramp up over time, but that can benefit you on a personal level and your business as a whole immediately.

New Beginnings

Happy New Year!

Although I checked in once recently here, I’ve not written regularly on this blog for a long time. Part of the reason for that was that I felt burned out, that I had run out of topics and purpose both. I knew that if I continued, I would begin to write the sort of fluff that permeates way too much of online voiceover writing.

So what could my purpose here be? I have thought a lot about what I could share that would be unique and interesting to my readers. I considered discussing organization, since that’s something we all could do better, but there is more than one fine teacher of that topic already. I thought about my experiences, since that seemed to be the most likely place to find something that was not well trod already in our community. I also refused to be the kind of person who writes half-informed on a topic and ends up sounding silly. There is more than one topic where I know some, but not enough to truly be an expert.

Then it occurred to me the number of people over the years I’ve been doing this that have asked me about outsourcing. They’ve either been confused about what I do, unsure of what to ask, and not sure what I needed to know to begin our projects together. Many people in the voiceover industry use outsourcing in one form or another, but there’s very little cohesive information or ideas on how to use someone, when you should, what you should pay and many other questions.

With the New Year, I thought it would be a great time to begin some new posts on that topic, and although I’m not giving myself a schedule to post on, I plan on writing regularly, and bringing in new related topics as ideas occur to me. I hope that you’ll enjoy reading what I have to say, and that it may answer some questions for you about how to expand your business in a new direction with this new year.

It’s Been a Year

Polar Bear Poking Credit Dailmail UKA few days ago, I was given the Facebook notification that my last blog post has been posted a year ago. That caught me by surprise, to say the least. I feel like both I’ve been stopped a lot longer, and a lot shorter periods of time. So I thought I’d poke my head in here and tell you all what I’ve been up to! I’ve been writing–I want to start a newsletter, so that I can still regularly write to people, but there’s not the pressure of a weekly blog. I know that I often have things to say, but my creative well tends to run dry if I feel like I’ve exhausted a topic.

I’m also wanting to do more with the idea of organization, time management, and goal setting. I’ve often had VO’s come to me and look for plans or tactics to help get themselves more together, and I figure-if people keep asking for it, why not right? I know as well as all of your how hard it can be to maintain and set a schedule and stay organized in our world. Not to mention, people’s circumstances differ so much, there really isn’t a ‘one size fits all plan’. Plus, I know that it’s something that can do a lot of genuine good in people’s lives. That has always been one of the huge benefits to my work, and one of the reason I keep doing what I’m doing–I get to make people’s lives better and easier! Anyways, I’ll be around with more news on that soon.

And lastly, I of course have been editing, proofing, and virtual assisting all over the place. This year I was able to  go to the annual audiobook conference, APAC in May in Chicago, and I had a great time, as well as learning a lot about the upper echelons of that very interesting and individual segment of our industry. I met lots of famous folks, and was greeted as ‘the famous Karen Souer’ which was not only very flattering, but also completely hilarious. Next month (ack! so soon?) I’ll be heading to Minnesota for the 8th edition of the voiceover unconference, Faffcon, and I am working on a session idea for that fine space.

So I’m still here, learning, growing, and working my tail off like usual. As always, I’d love to hear from anyone–feel free to email me at [email protected] If you’ve read this far, thanks so much for staying with me, and I am proud and grateful to continue to serve the voiceover industry, for the past 5 years!

All Good Things…

ncc1701d_allgoodthings_GWCI hope my readers will forgive me borrowing a Star Trek title. 🙂

But, like that particular episode, I’ve got an announcement. This will be the last regular blog post here for some time.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching about my writing here. I do enjoy the challenge of coming up with content twice a week, but as the weeks have passed, it’s become more and more of a struggle. I’ve always wanted to have interesting, educational content, from my ‘next to voiceover’ perspective. I wanted to point out the things I see or would suggest from all my reading, my experience, and things I think people would find useful.

This has recently become harder and harder, for a lot of reasons. There’s been a lot of personal things that have happened in my life, and a professional re-evaluation that has happened as well. Coming up with this business, I really had no idea what I was doing and learned on the fly. The last few years have taught me a great deal about far more than just running a business, and I feel that it’s time for me to take a step back, and concentrate on some different things. I need to work on taking my skills to the next level, and not just resting on my laurels. It’s easy enough for me to stay relatively busy doing certain kinds of work, but if I ever want to truly expand what I do-to take my own advice and take it to the next level-then I need to better myself, and take stock of my efforts, return, and polish my skills.

If I have something to say, be sure I’ll be back. I know that I’m not doing writing for and about voiceover. I just want to be sure to end this on a good note, rather than when I’m buzzing my lips talking about nonsense, or have to take further hiatuses because I can’t think of anything productive to say.

As always, please feel free to contact me via phone or email-I’m always happy to hear from friends, clients, readers, and voice talent in general. Be well all of you, and thanks for reading.

Archive Thursday: 5 Benefits to having Proofed Audio

No-Mistakes.gifThis week’s Archive Thursday originally appeared on June 24th, 2013.

We all have to edit audio, but do you proof your own work as well? It is easy to have your eyes skip over things when you’re tired or you’re too close to the material. In my English background, they always told us to get someone else to edit our papers or stories for many of these same reasons. So here are some benefits to having an outside audio proofer:

1. It lets you step back from the material and take a breather.
Particularly for those long projects, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in things that you almost get tired of your own recordings. Sending the audio off to someone else allows you to take a break from your material and come back to it fresh when it returns.

2. You look better to your client.
Who wouldn’t like this? Clients notice when they have less pickups to send you. People always notice when someone gives them less work, and less back and forth before getting a finished project

3. Allows you to concentrate on your performance.
This is more directly a benefit for live proofing (aka Content Direction), but both during and post proofing can benefit here. Not having to worry as much about slipups means that you can pay more attention to how you sound, which is of course an important part of what you do.

4. Makes the editing process faster
Not having to double check yourself against the script allows you to concentrate on all those things that need removal in the editing process, and not have to flip back and forth between the script and the audio. This will reduce your overall editing time and make your workflow more efficient.

5. Gives you the chance to move on to the next thing.
An entrepreneur has to wear a thousand different hats, and whether it’s your next recording, making dinner, or catching up on marketing efforts, there’s always something else waiting for you. Taking this task off your plate allows you to move on without a worry.

5 Things to Do When You Have No Work

No WorkEveryone has those days once in a while. Maybe you’ve got things coming, but they haven’t arrived yet. Perhaps a client is tied up in legal. Or possibly something ended sooner than you anticipated.

And you wake up one morning with nothing to do!

The first thing that comes to mind may not be more work on a day like this. Maybe the kids need watering, the house needs leaf blowing, and your spouse needs…ahem. Attention.

But I’d encourage you to work. There’s plenty you can do! Even if you take a half day, there’s a lot you can accomplish. Here’s a few things to look at:

1. Social Media

This is such a broad topic that it’s hard to give you specifics, but one thing in particular I like to do is look for conversations. The best way to connect with people online is to create and join conversations. Don’t talk about yourself, but if you have something meaningful and worthwhile, do more than just hit the like button! Been thinking of an area you want to expand your business in? Take the opportunity to connect with companies in that area. Update your profiles with new links, freshen the language-there are a lot of ways you can improve your standing here.

2. Plan

Where do you want to go with your business? How are you going to get there? Don’t just make goals, make specific, step by step-small steps!-plans on how to get there. Think about what’s one small thing you can do today to move towards your goal. It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutia of every day life, and never take the time to point yourself in an ultimate direction.

3. Filing/Paperwork/Invoicing

I’m sure you have something in this category that’s been languishing. I sure know I do! (Stop looking at me, receipt pile!) Again, this is something that’s easy to let go until you have stacks of paper higher than your head, or a bank account that’s crying. Work on this, and consider what you can do to make it easier to keep up in the future!

4. “That Thing”

Most voice actors I talk to tell me they’ve got one (or more) things that they keep meaning to do. Maybe it’s an invoicing system, a new CRM, reaching out to a particular agent, making plans for a conference, or just about anything, really! What can you do about your thing? What small step can you take today to get you there?

5. Looking Upward

It’s easy in business to get caught up in a routine, especially once you hit your groove and have things set up so they work easily for you. But take some time and think about what you could do to improve your voiceover business. Maybe it’s a new mic, preamp, or interface? Perhaps you want to take some coaching to brush up on commercial reads, improv, or automotive reads? Take some time to research these and see what you can go for.

Can you think of anything I missed? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Archive Thursday: The Importance of Holidays

Happy-HolidaysThis week’s Archive Thursday was originally posted on February 3rd, 2015.

In past years, I never took a break from my work. I worked seven days a week, whenever there was something to do, and to whatever hour it took me to finish my work. And frankly, I never had time for myself and wasn’t particularly happy.

More recently I decided to regulate my working hours. I get up at the same time every day, work until 5pm, and have the evening hours to myself. This doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t work outside of that time, but I make an effort to get everything done within my typical working day. The ability to have a few hours free every day is great incentive to get more work done. I also take weekends off and use the time to catch up on chores and pursue my personal and artistic projects. (I paint, for example.)

The fact that I do these things causes astonishment, and in some cases derision from people that I talk to. I fully recognize that my schedule would not work for many people who have full time jobs, families and children to care for. I would never intimate that what works for me is required for someone else–however, the importance of taking a break, of having some time away from the microphone and the DAW is absolutely vital. Giving your mind, fingers, and vocal cords a break (even if it’s a ten minute walk around the block) will give you a chance to refresh on all levels and make your next piece or section of work better, and you’ll feel better about it, which is worth those few moments, don’t you think?

Grocery Store No More

groceriesA while back I wrote how I had to get out of my comfort zone and get a second job. Since that time, I’ve quit.

Why?

Because I had to look at the ROI for this job, just like I look at it as an entrepreneur. The amount of time I was putting in for shifts, and the inherent stresses of this particular grocery store did not equal the amount of frustration and unhappiness that resulted. Those things affected my virtual assistant work, which I couldn’t let happen for the obvious reasons.

I’m glad I did work there, even if it was only briefly because it widened my perspective and gave me a chance to be in a very different environment than the one I was and am used to. It showed me that if I’m going to get a second job, I need to aim higher. I’m worth more than what I was being paid, and I have more skills than I used there. I know that the next steps I take will be in a far more productive direction, since I have a clearer picture of what I’m looking for now.

The older I get, the more I see success in life as being a matter of perspective. Obviously, it’s not a universal cure, and not for the most severe problems. But it’s endlessly amazing to me how looking at things differently can change how you think, and often make you more content with the way things are.

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