How to Outsource?

When I started my outsourcing series, I knew I wanted to touch on the mechanics of how and why things could work. The classic ‘5 W’ questions appealed to me, because of both the structure, and also the fact that it was a simple way to cover everything I wanted to say.

Karen Commins and I met several years ago at Faffcon 2 in Atlanta Georgia. I remember being impressed with her interesting and very positive take on things, and since then have been continually impressed by the amount of useful, clever information that she collates and creates for the audiobook world. (Go read her blog, you’ll see what I mean.) Karen sent me a message when she saw one of my series entries and suggested, as she learned in Journalism school, to add a 6th question, ‘How’. How to Outsource? You can read her side of the equation in a blog post here. 

So, how do you outsource? As I’ve covered in other entries, it’s important to know what you’re looking for when you approach an outsourcing person. For me, the more information and solid ideas someone has about what they need, the simpler my job becomes. File names, formats, timelines, what do I need to look for in my proofing?

I also want to stress that I’d rather receive an email, and have to say no I can’t work on that than have someone assume I’m too busy and not send the email at all. I can often recommend another editor, or someone else who can possibly help you. (And I rarely say no anyway!) You can also see what projects I’m currently working on at my public google work calendar here.

There’s also rarely a project too strange or unusual for me. There are some things I can’t do (like graphic design) but I’m always willing to try anything within my skillset, or that can be explained to me. Unusual projects always teach me something new, or provide a welcome break in routine. And as above, if I don’t do it, I probably know someone who does. You can see a list of the services I offer here, or if there’s something you don’t see, shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’d love to talk about it with you.

Overall, I think the most important thing to remember is there are very few limits on what you can and can’t do with outsourcing. Yes, it does cost money, but with proper preparation and forethought, you can leverage the (tax deductible) expense as another tool to shape your business, and your future success.

Outsourcing Benefits from 2 Coaches

So as all of you know, there are plenty of coaches for the performance aspect of voiceover. For this series, I wanted to find coaches who work on the business and organization aspects of VO, and both of these gentlemen seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Marc caught my eye quite a while ago on Twitter with his blog posts. I was struck by the amount of actionable content he offered, and his common sense approach. When he moved into coaching, he kept his info along just the same lines. So he was a natural here! Tom I’ve known for ages through the awesomeness of Faffcon. He’s always been a lover of planning and organizing, and I was not surprised to see him take on the mantle of The VO Strategist! He’s given lots of webinars for Edge Studios, and was another perfect voice for this post. So take it away guys!

 

It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are, you simply can’t do everything that needs to be done. To keep your business running efficiently and effectively, you have to be willing to outsource certain tasks to your team. Team, to be clear, doesn’t have to mean regular paid employees.

Agents, accountants, lawyers, editors, producers, web developers, coaches… all of the people in these roles can become valuable and trusted members of your team. A common quote in entrepreneurship circles states, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” When it comes to choosing your team, choose carefully and wisely!

Marc
[email protected]
http://marcscottcoaching.com

 

All successful businesses think long-term. Outsourcing is a perfect example. It is a powerful tool that will save you time, money, and energy. Delegating time-consuming tasks like editing or data mining lets you focus on your marketing, your training, contributing to the community, and more. Spending money now on outsourcing will save you money later. If you can’t or won’t invest in outsourcing, you may want to re-examine your business model.” Tom Dheere, The VO Strategist www.VOStrategist.com

Preach it, Sister!

So I wanted to take a short break and talk about why I’m preaching to you about outsourcing. Obviously if you’re here, you know that voice talent outsourcing to me is how I make my living. Am I trying to sell to you? No. I make a strong point of avoiding direct sales in my business life. I don’t want to be yet another person angling for the money of a voice talent. (Plus it doesn’t really fit my personality. I’d rather give people positive experiences in working with me, and have that speak for me more than direct selling.)

The reason that I’m writing here is that I believe outsourcing is the key to long term business success to any freelancer. All of us have a great deal of pressure on us to create and maintain all of the elements of a business. There’s marketing, product improvement (seeking out training), equipment, invoicing, accounting, plus the recording and editing time. If you’re going to have enough time to do the things that only you can do and still have a life, I truly believe that taking things off your plate is the best decision. Although it may be easier to keep everything under your personal control, thinking of the long term health and success of both your business and yourself leads naturally to moving outside of your own efforts alone.

I’ve used an assistant a couple times in my business, and I know on a personal level how hard it can be to find the right person. The first person I hired was a disastrous mistake, and the second person was far better because I made a point to find someone who’s business ideals aligned with mine instead of just a friend.

Plus there’s another reason, and one that I consider a personal job perk. It’s the peace of mind. The relief that comes with being able to let go and move on to the next thing. Working alone, it can be tough to keep your mental and physical health on an even keel. For me, it’s important to seek out those ways to reduce stress, otherwise my work isn’t as good as it could be.

I’ve talked about my work, and my beliefs about outsourcing in quite a few places, you can find me doing so on EWABS here, and on EWABS again for the Audibook Roundtable here, writing for the Voice Over Xtra in an article here, in the Just Because Podcast here (with Al Kessel), the Voices in My Head Podcast here (with Basil Sands), interviewed by the inestimable Voxy Ladies here, and on the Narration Fixation Podcasthere.

Outsourcing Checklist

Hello again! So when people come to me with a project, I’ve developed a list of questions I ask to help make sure that I can fulfill their expectations I thought it might be useful to know what can help an outsourcer serve you better.

For audio related outsourcing.

  1. When do you need this project done? (Date, time, timezone.)
  2. How long is the project? (For me at least, I’d rather know the length of the audio than the word count. I can convert, but it’s easier for me to think in terms of hours recorded than number of words.)
  3. Project specs: What kind of files do you need back? (file type, kbps, khz.) If it’s e-learning, do you need the files split and named? Do the breaths need to be taken out? Are there retakes to be removed?
  4. Don’t Assume: Everyone has different terms for audio/recording related things based on their background. Someone from radio and someone who was an ad executive may not call things the same words, be sure you understand what you’re asking for and hearing.
  5. Don’t Assume 2: Just because you always do something with your audio-that it’s automatic-don’t assume other people do the same thing. If you want your outsourcer to know what you need, tell them everything. Better to go over too much information than not enough and have everyone involved be unhappy.
  6. Don’t Assume 3: If you’d really like the files 4 days before the due date, don’t assume you’ll get them by then. Be as specific as possible about things that you’re looking for so that you can be sure you get what you want as well as delivering the way you’d prefer to.
  7. For proofing projects, it’s a good idea to share as much as you know about the client’s preferred audio state. Some publishers want everything word perfect, some aren’t quite as strict. It’s important to know exactly how fine toothed your comb needs to be. Plus things like-does the person need to worry about every little click? Or is the smaller stuff okay and just the big noises need to be notated?

For clerical projects:

  1. Start with the $: It’s a good idea to have a budget for this kind of work before you get started. A lot of research type projects could go on for very many hours indeed, and you don’t want to get a nasty bill surprise you’re nor prepared for.
  2. Find your limits: When it comes to research, it’s important to know as much information about what you’re looking for as possible. It makes the job far simpler for the person. If you want to find creative director’s emails, that’s a great place to start, but try to think of some other limits. If you don’t have a geographic preference (your local area, for example), try a simple numeric limit. You want 50 names. Or you want as many as can be found within your budget’s number of hours.
  3. Be specific: I know this sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve come to me with a really vague idea for a project that I end up not being able to help in their current state. The more information you can give me to work with, the easier it will be for me (or anyone else) to fulfill your expectations.
  4. Know what you want: This dovetails with the previous point, but if you want to grow your business, or find more clients, or post more on social media, know as much as you can about how you want to go about it. Social media, for example, strongly benefits from a cohesive message, and it’s a good idea to know what you want yours to be before you sign on to create a campaign with someone like me. I can help you be more organized, but It’s far easier if you’re at a certain level of cohesive thoughts
  5. Turn around: The turn around for non audio projects generally is a little more flexible, but it’s a good idea to have a timeline in mind for something like this.

Where to Outsource?

Hello again! Here’s my last installment in my ‘5 W’ questions series on outsourcing, and it ties in to some of the earlier questions. Where in this case, I’m using to refer to whether you want to work with someone virtual or on site. Many talent I know prefer to work with someone they can meet with face to face, and check in with on a regular basis. It suits their business practices, and I think probably allows them a greater sense of security to be able to see the folks they work with. It also seems as though the people who prefer face to face work are the ones who need an assistant full time or on a daily basis.

I started out working face to face with one voice talent, my Dad, but since work pretty much always with people in a virtual fashion. With technology, I can talk as much as a client wants, and as face to face as a video connection will allow. I live in Southwest Pennsylvania, so there’s not too many talent nearby who might need me.

Which one should you pick? Ask yourself what you’re the most comfortable with, and what kind of help you’re looking for. There are advantages to meeting with someone you can see in person, but it may be harder to find someone who is good at whatever you’re looking for close by. There is a great deal of marketing and social media stuff that doesn’t apply to voiceover, or applies with a few caveats or skews. And although you can train people how to edit, good editing is something that takes time to master. You have to train your senses to pick up sounds that most people don’t or can’t hear. (Anyone else hate hearing mouth noise in commercials?) Clerical work needs would be easier to find in person, but again it depends on what you’re looking for.

Thankfully the more time passes, the more options there are to connect with voiceover specialty outsource providers. I can say I’ve seen quite a few more folks of my persuasion on social media in the going on 6 years I’ve been doing this!

When to Outsource?

Hey guys! I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve been able to touch base here on my blog. A whole bunch of life and work things made it hard for me to write. But I’m back to write more about this important topic.

So if you’ve been reading along with me, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m using the classic ‘5 W’ questions as a theme. I’ve taken them a little out of order, but I think they really fit the motif of the questions people often ask about the topic. The next question I’ve decided to tackle is when?

Many people that I’ve talked to, or read the opinions of, say that they’ll outsource when they’re ‘making enough money’, or they ‘have as much work as Bob Souer‘. (Seriously, people have said that to me, and I find it hilarious that my dad is being used as a metric.) But I think this idea, although understandable, is not always the best choice. Although I would never tell anyone to deprive themselves of needed funds, in this business as in any, you have to spend money to make money. The reality is that work like editing, proofing, or clerical work takes a great deal of time, and takes you away from the mic. Many people could edit your audio or proof it, but to paraphrase my Dad, ‘you’re the only source of your voice.’

If you don’t have to wait, don’t. As I said above, if it’s bread, don’t take it out of your mouth, but if it means making a smaller margin for a while, or a minor loss, it can be worth it in the long run. In business, it’s important to think about not just where you are, but also where you want to be. Specificity is important in this, more than just a generic ‘someday’. Outsourcing something you don’t have to be doing can give you time for research, marketing, calling contacts, doing household things you need to, or literally anything else that can help your business or personal life.

I’m a big believer in the principle that we’re only bound by the rules and walls we make for ourselves. Obviously there are some circumstances that are not negotiable, but in many cases we limit ourselves by saying ‘I can’t.’ If you say that, you won’t, and you may very well miss opportunities you could take by risking a little, pushing a little harder, or going beyond what you thought you could do.

In closing, when should you outsource? As soon as you possibly can, your future business self will thank you.

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.

The previous post in this series, Who to Outsource to?, is here.

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.

The previous post in this series, Why Outsource?, is here, and the next, What to Outsource?, is here.

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.

The previous post in this series, New Beginnings is here, and the next Who to Outsource to, is here.

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.

You can read the next post in this series Why Outsource?, here.

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