Tag Archive for communication

Audiobook Narrators need Narratic!

I try not to write posts that are too restricted in content, but when I saw the neat tool that Craig had developed for narrators, I knew I had to sit down with him and capture the details and story behind what Narratic was and how he came up with it. I love to connect with innovators and see how they do what they do. If you’re a narrator and interested in your reviews, this is a great aggregate service! Hope you enjoy!

1. Narratic! What does it do? 

Narratic tracks your audiobook ratings and reviews automatically. New reviews are sent in a daily (or weekly) email digest, or you can view all your recent ratings and reviews on one page on the site. No more sorting through all your titles individually on Audible! Narratic can also notify you of new releases, and report detailed statistics on your titles (e.g., how many five star reviews you have total). Besides checking in on listener feedback, it’s a great tool to compile review quotes for marketing.

2. How did you come up with the idea?

As a narrator myself, I’m a compulsive review-checker. As my list of titles grew, it became really time-consuming to look through all my titles and search for new ratings and reviews. I have a tech background so I decided to make my computer do the hard work. I’ve been using a simpler version of Narratic just for myself for a couple years. When I mentioned my system to other narrators, they expressed interest in using it. So I worked on and off for a year to fully develop it into a website and make it public.

3. Do you run the back end yourself?

Yes! I’m a one man band. I’ve always been a bit of a hobby software engineer.

4. You’ve got quite a good array of features already, do you have any plans for expansion?

Yes, absolutely! The next big feature is adding Audiofile review notifications to the site. More features are also in the works.
5. A lot of your fellow narrators have mentioned marketing to authors, is that in the works?
Narratic is definitely aimed toward narrators and other audiobook industry folks, since it only tracks audiobooks, but authors who have a strong audiobook presence would absolutely find it useful.

No One Size Fits All Solution

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is that most voice talent love the idea of outsourcing some of their work, but many people aren’t sure how to get from their idea to their goal. When they reach out to me, they are very enthusiastic, and also often rather uncertain. They’re looking for answers, but not sure exactly what the task is. I always feel bad when I get these calls, because I wish I had a one-size-fits all easy solution or system on how to create a project from people’s ideas. 

But here’s the thing–even if I did have a system, chances are, it probably wouldn’t work for you. Why? Because every life is different. Every business is different. I wouldn’t offer the same kind of organizational advice to a single mom with young kids as I would to a mom who has older children and a spouse, even though they have some obvious common points. The shape of Single Mom’s life is going to be different, the needs of her children will be different than Married Mom’s would. Also, Married Mom has the potential of asking for spousal help. Though both have to deal with kid interruptions, Single Mom has likely more, and probably a different level of need than Married Mom.  People learn differently, process information in their own way, so it’s pretty difficult to come up with a single plan for everyone.

I’ve done many research or organizational projects for folks, and I’m always happy to do more. But there is one absolutely vital task you ought to complete BEFORE you seek outside help.

What is it?

Know what you want, as completely as possible.

Sounds simple? It isn’t. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you want to get in touch with ad agencies, to open up a new area of business for yourself. You come to me, and you say that, and I ask exactly how much you want to spend, because I could do that full time for a month, and not be done. Then I start asking questions, do you want to look nationally, or regionally? Do you want smaller or larger agencies? I’m happy to ask all these questions to help you define what you’re looking for, but hopefully you can see my point that what you want requires some refining and digging down to actually find it.

Perhaps a more specific example. You want to, say, be more organized. Organized in what? Your daily routine? Your invoicing? How you record? If it’s your daily routine, the only real way to do it is to tailor it to the facts of your life. If you’re like one of the moms in the examples above, it might be helpful to think of your work in terms of 15 or 30 minute periods. What can you get done in that amount of time? If you’re a single person, obviously you have a different dynamic. It’s more likely that you can work for longer periods of time, yet it’s important that you have time for your non-work life also.

The idea is that in order to know what you want and need, you have to break the problem down, to ask a lot of questions in order to specifically identify where the next steps are, and what the best steps are for you in your particular career.
So if you want to take those further steps in life and career, do some hard thinking first, and you’ll find yourself farther down the path than you might realize! It’s so much easier to take the steps you need to when you know exactly what those steps are!

The Memes are Lying to You

There is a common cultural trend nowadays, to ignore the ‘haters’ in life. I’ve seen a thousand colorful pictures with trite sayings explaining how only your dreams matter, how everyone who tells you no is trying to drag you down, and to not allow those people ‘power over you.’. Of course it’s very true that there are always people who are negative for no reason, who do harm and intend to do nothing less. But the ‘ignore the haters’ trend can very easily be taken too far.

In the voiceover industry, there have been tectonic shifts over the past 20 years or so. What was once an industry exclusively conducted in professional studios has now morphed into an army of at home talent who buy some equipment, hang some blankets, and record some stuff. There are those who regard this trend with somewhat of a jaundiced eye, seeing raving packs of lowballers and people who are diluting the market. Others may view things more charitably, seeing it as an opportunity to expand the market, and allow more flexibility in terms of how the work is done.

Where these two trends intersect is in the way that some voice talent ferociously defend how they do things. Whether it’s low rates, or artistic choices in audiobook prep, these people will fight to the death that their choices are just as valid as the anyone else’s and no one can deny them the right to do whatever they like.

But there’s a few points I think those folks are missing:

  1. It isn’t personal.

    No one is attacking you. Seriously. It may seem like people are lining up to take potshots at you, but I promise you, I have met hundreds of voice talent in my 5 years doing this, and the vast majority of them are really nice people. In most industries, the kind of advice and real world experience that you can draw upon FOR FREE would cost you a great deal of money. People want to help. What they are sharing are things that already work, because most of the folks who are sharing often in those groups are working professionals. No, you don’t have to robotically follow their advice, but it can really pay off to carefully consider their thoughts and experience, because this is about more than your choices, this is about your business in a whole. Do you really want to dismiss this, and lose out on the chance to reach your goals faster?

  1.   This is real world advice.

When you ignore or dismiss advice from working pros, you’re not ignoring words from people who are rich and famous and have no connection to the regular working stiff. Each and every one of those people have worked their way from beginner to pro by tenaciously pursuing excellence and craft, and learning every step of the journey. Yes, there is bad advice out there–vet your advice! If someone is well regarded, knowledgeable, and experienced, you can find out pretty quickly with a few questions and some quick searches. If someone is promising you the world when you do this or that thing, or if you pay them lots of money? Yeah, that you can ignore. But when someone who is living and working where you want to be with your career gives you advice? Step outside of yourself, quiet your ego, and listen.

  1. Ignore your ego.

As I’ve said above, there are plenty of people online and in the real world who are negative just for the sake of being so. But, the majority of opinion and action isn’t something to shrug off for ‘your way’. What experience and background do you have to substantiate your opinion? Where is your expertise? I’m not saying these things to dismiss you-again, as above, this isn’t personal. However, if you can look at the bigger picture, if you can step outside of yourself, and truly become humble and learn, you can find success much more quickly and thoroughly than you will driving yourself very quickly in the wrong direction.

  1. What ARE your goals?

Fundamentally, the higher end voice hirers DO have standards. There are specific things that you will need to approach those people, and it isn’t negotiable. Do you want to do voiceover as a sideline? A few extra dollars here and there? Then keep doing what you’re doing. Keep ignoring those ‘haters’. But if you want more, if you want success, then ignoring those who came before is going to get you nowhere. It’s not that you have to do the same thing, creativity and innovation are certainly both valid and valuable, but defending your views against all comers, accusing and finger pointing, and not accepting the validity of someone else’s ideas at any cost? You’re going to have a hard time creating that career.

  1. Beware of ripples.

We are a connected community. Although you may not see the voiceover hirers in the Facebook groups, there are some there. And more importantly, if you are known as a jerk in the community, people aren’t going to forget, and your reputation will suffer. Perhaps you don’t worry about what other voice talent might think of you. Well, that’s valid, except for one magic word. Referrals. I know quite a few talent who refer work to others, and who seek out people of particular voice niches. (Accents, bilingual talents, etc) who are reliable to use as names for their clients. And you never know who will hear or see something. Things on the internet don’t go away, and something you said weeks, months, or years ago, can easily come back to haunt you.
In conclusion, there is more. There is more than you, there is more than your opinion, more than the current state of your business, more than the obvious and immediate consequences for your actions. Thought, consideration, and reason can lead you away from some serious roadblocks you can create for yourself.

APAC Write Up

Hey guys! So I didn’t get to make it to APAC this year unfortunately, but I thought I’d take a moment and publish the write-up I created last year when the conference was in Chicago that unfortunately never made it to the blog. Hope you enjoy!

So for those who know me, I’m sometimes called the Herald of Faffcon. But 2016 was the first year I ventured outside of my usual bailiwick and attended APAC. I do a lot of work editing audiobooks, and I knew that it would be a great opportunity to meet and connect with more people in the upper echelons of that industry. It didn’t hurt, of course that this year’s convention was in my native city, Chicago. I have plenty of friends and family there, so I was able to bundle a family visit in with my trip. My friend and narrator, Jen Reilly was kind enough to let me stay with her.

Now, for those who know Faffcon, it’s a small, and fairly intimate conference. We’re pretty casual-professional, but casual-and enjoy ourselves as well as learning and growing with one another. There is plenty to learn at APAC, but it is a far more formal and serious conference. The convention was held at the McCormick Place, an utterly enormous convention center in the city. There were a few hundred attendees, everything from publishers to narrators and audiobook bloggers. I’ll freely admit to feeling rather overwhelmed, but I’m glad that the people I do know were kind enough to introduce me around. It was very nice to meet quite a few people I only knew online face to face.

Most of the class content didn’t apply to me, but there were some interesting tidbits. Hearing from “famous people” was a very different experience. I respect the history and experience of the big name narrators and it was interesting to hear their input and more about where they all came from. Where the value really was for me though, was the hallways. Even during most sessions, there were a good number of people walking around and talking, and I was able to shake hands and have conversations with quite a few people. (I know I keep saying the very generic ‘people’, but there were so many that it’s difficult to mention specific names without leaving a lot of folks out!) When I go again, I know I’ll spend more time roaming the halls and looking for good conversation.

Visiting some of Chicago’s many fine places to eat was enjoyable, and although they were deafeningly loud, the tasty food and drinks were a great part of the visit. (Although I’m a vegetarian, I really wanted to try a Chicago style hot dog-and I’ve heard they have vegan ones! Next time for sure!) It was nice to go from the conference center environment to a more relaxed one, where people could circulate and chat.

APAC was my first ‘normal’ conference, and I’m really glad that I went. It was a whirlwind of handshakes, booze, and plenty of content, and I’m looking forward to next year, now that I know what to expect! I learned a great deal about another segment of our industry and a lot about how regular conferences operate. Major kudos to the organizers and creators of the conference, your hard work and dedication created a great experience. 

Outsourcing Survey Responses 2

In my last post, I covered the first couple responses to my outsourcing survey of last year. I decided that I wanted to get to know my customer base better, and to understand the thought process between hiring out vs not hiring out. I made a point to offer as many responses as I could think of, and was completely fascinated by what I learned.

Question 3. What kind of outsourcing would you be interested in? 

The big winner for this question was, unsurprisingly, editing. 74% of respondents picked that choice. (I did allow multiple responses, though.) Proofing was next with 53%, and mastering right behind with 45%. That trifecta makes up a lot of outsourcing work, since it is time consuming and many people like to spend that time behind the microphone! Research came in at 35%, which didn’t surprise me. I’ve done a number of those projects, and people love having some of the leg work taken out of finding new clients or more information.

23% were interested in social media content writing, and 17% in content posting, which is a task I enjoy but don’t get to do all that often. The hardest thing about posting online is finding something to say consistently, and I enjoy the challenge of coming up with language that ‘fits’ the personality of the client. 14% weren’t sure what they were looking for, but wanted to talk through ideas, and 4% wanted something not on my list.

Question 4. If you do outsource currently, where do/did you find your help?

Last but not least (other than my request for contact information for follow up) was my curiosity about where people found their help. I was raised as VO help, thanks to having a dad in the business, but I know that there are quite a lot of other ways to connect with someone to help you. 3% of respondents found their person on Upwork, or their local college respectively. 20% trained a friend or family member. (Represent!) 49% of people found their help through word of mouth, which makes a lot of sense. The community is certainly communicative! 29% connected with help on line, and 25% picked ‘other’ as far as their method of communication went.

 

I’m glad I finally got a chance to touch on this interesting survey for my blog, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit about the answers I got from our colleagues. I know I certainly did!

The Deets on Faff 9

Have you ever wished you could learn things that are directly applicable to your life as a pro-VO? Are you tired of the famous talking heads that although they’re awesome, don’t always have the down and dirty for the daily grind?

You need to go to Faffcon.

What is Faffcon? From the website: “FaffCon: the voiceover unconference, is a participant-driven professional development event for working voiceover industry pros. Its highly-interactive, peer-to-peer learning environment is consistently credited with helping establish VO-industry pros take their careers to the next level. Prospective participants must meet certain criteria and apply to attend. FaffCon sells out very fast, every time. To be sure to get the registration alert, please join our low-volume email list! We’ve committed to producing a total of 10 FaffCon unconferences.”

Personally, I’ve been to every Faffcon since 2, and every experience has been both valuable in a career and a personal sense. I’ve made incredible business connections and amazing friendships over the last 5 years, and I’ve written about it in my blog a lot. I strongly believe it can and will be valuable to any talent that approaches it with an open mind. There is diverse content, ranging from performance based classes, to business classes, and ‘techie’ content as well. Plus, you’re welcome to ask questions, and even lead a session yourself!

The atmosphere is as singular as any event I’ve been to in my lifetime, and one of the best benefits to the conference. People are open, eager to learn, and it’s a cardinal rule to leave egos at the door. You can come and go from sessions as you need to, so that you can maximize your learning time amongst everything there is on offer. Plus there is always time with other VO’s after hours, and plenty of meal and break opportunities to get to know people-and trust me, they are a very welcoming bunch!

Faffcon 9 is a great opportunity to jump in and join our Faff-family. There will only be 10 events total, and this event will allow first or second time Faffers to register early. The event has sold out in literal seconds, so this registration has some new rules to make life easier for everyone. You can find all the info, and join the mailing list here on the website.

Outsourcing Survey Responses

Quite a while ago, I took a survey of voice talent to ask them about outsourcing. It occurred to me that I had a lot of theories about why people did or didn’t hire out, and that it would do me a lot of good to ask, instead of just wonder! So I went to SurveyMonkey and created a free survey. (It’s a great site if you ever want to ask a whole bunch of people something.)

It’s taken me quite a while to get to my write up, but I wanted to share my experiences with you! In this post, I’m going to discuss my first couple questions and their answers.

Question 1- Are you interested in Outsourcing?

The first thing that surprised me was the sheer number of people-78% of respondents-that wanted to use outsourcing. Over the years, I’d run into enough people that told me they wanted to handle everything themselves that I expected that number to be much lower. To be sure, there were those folks, but only 8%. Another 8% said that they were not interested in outsourcing at all, and 16% said they’d have to know more about it first. (Understandable.)

Question 2-If you don’t outsource currently, what is holding you back?

A third of respondents already outsourced. 41% said money was their biggest worry-which I do understand, although I think it’s important to evaluate that question based on your future business goals. 7% said time held them back-it is hard to find the time sometimes. 19.5% told me they had a hard time letting go. Believe it or not, I do understand. When I’ve used outsourcing myself, it’s a struggle to allow someone else to handle parts of your business. Very much a trust act. 15% loved the idea of outsourcing, but they didn’t know what they needed, and the last 11% of folks said that their jobs didn’t really require it. I’ve talked to a lot of people who do mostly short form work who’ve told me that.


I loved getting in touch with my client base, and digging into how they saw me and people like me. It was an awesome eye opener to learn that there were a lot more people out there who were interested in outsourcing in the first place than I thought there were. I tried hard to give people a lot of answers to each question, so that I could pick up as many nuances as possible. I want to connect with and understand voice talent and the voice industry to the fullest extent I can, and to hopefully learn how I can better serve them along the way!

 

Outsourcing from the Voice Talent Perspective 2

I’ve enjoyed collecting these quotes from my talent friends. It’s awesome to see how much good outsourcing has done for people’s lives and careers. And it’s fascinating to see how people’s answers are similar, and different. Each person approaches the topic from a unique angle and has an interesting answer.
My hope for this series is to give people a different perspective on this topic, if they haven’t chosen to make the jump to outsourcing yet. It’s easy to limit yourself and your career by thinking you can’t do something, and I want to show people that more is possible! 🙂
Outsourcing has:
-made audiobooks fun again
-allowed me to have a life away from the computer screen
-improved my focus on performance
-become well worth the money
I think the single most important thing to understand about outsourcing is that you don’t want to wait until you are busy enough to starting outsourcing. Start outsourcing now and you will be amazed at how busy you get with work that fills up that available time.
When I began my transition to pursuing voice-over work full-time I practiced daily at not only becoming a better talent but also learning to be an engineer, studio designer, producer, director, etc. The industry was moving to home-studios and I felt I need to be an expert in everything! I learned a lot from trying to wear all those hats but the last, and more important, lesson I learned is that I’m better when I surround myself with people who are better at those things than I am. 
 
Outsourcing also taught me to be a better service provider to my clients. I want to hire the best people to work with me but if a subcontractor doesn’t communicate well or I can’t trust them to get the work done when I need it, then I look bad for my client and they don’t get hired again. So now I’m always thinking about what are my client’s real needs? How can I make them look good to their client/boss/customers?

Outsourcing from the Voice Talent Perspective

In the past several entries, I’ve talked about the benefits of outsourcing. But my perspective is useful, but incomplete. I wanted to bring in some of your fellow voice talent to talk about where outsourcing has already taken them. Check out the people below and the benefits that outsourcing has already brought to their careers.

 

“Outsourcing is a staple of my business.  I can’t do everything – and I certainly can’t do everything *well*.  So if I can hire people who do specific jobs better than I can, and free myself up to do more of what I’m really *good* at – why wouldn’t I?  It doesn’t cost nearly as much as you think.  And really – what is your time worth?  What is it worth to not have to edit a four hour audio project so that you can move on to the next project more quickly?  If you’re not a graphic designer or web designer – or perhaps not *great* at such things, hiring someone to use their brilliance on your behalf – isn’t just time saving.  It’s *money making*.  And kind of like the idea that you shouldn’t do your own demos, at a certain point, you’re *too close to what you’re editing/creating*.  That second pair (or more) of eyeballs can be really helpful to catch errors you missed, or provide a different way of thinking that can help you realize your vision even more spectacularly.  I outsource regularly and am not afraid to admit that my expertise lies elsewhere.  It makes me more productive.  And it make me look really good to my clients (and potential clients!) too.”

-Jodi Krangle

 

“It’s all about the cost of lost opportunities. I am a narrator, my talent lies in translating and author’s thoughts into the spoken word. On the other hand, I suck at editing/mastering. Every minute I spend on something I don’t do well is a minute I can’t spend on something where I shine. One hour of editing equals at least one audition. When I outsource, I can do more more of what will get me closer to my goal.”

-Jim Seybert

 

“When you’re first starting out, or even if you’re a seasoned pro who has gotten out of the habit…curating new leads is CRITICAL to continue to grow and be successful as a business.

The key is to find someone who can realistically work with the budget you have and the goals you want to achieve.
While I knew I was effective at finding leads on my own, it wasn’t exactly how I WANTED to spend all my time, and also wasn’t something I needed to do MYSELF. So even though I didn’t have the budget to hire someone for a constant stream of new leads, I did know that I could hire someone to find me a specific amount of good, quality leads that would lead to more work which would lead to being able to hire someone to do more work for me, and so forth.  And it WORKED! I’m now in the position that I can hire a part-time employee to do that work for me year round, along with other research that I don’t have time (or the desire to do myself).
The same goes for outsourcing your post-production audiobook or even eLearning work. If you are voice talent, YOUR job is to VOICE…not to EDIT, PROOF, and MASTER your audio. There are professionals that are way more skilled and efficient at that work. The added stress is not worth the money you “save.” In reality, you would have more time to look for more work, audition for and record actual projects if you weren’t bogged down in the post-production side. It’s WORTH the additional cost, and honestly you should be quoting with your post-production costs in mind. If someone isn’t willing to pay you enough to cover your narration AND post-production then perhaps it’s not a project worth your time. Plus, those are all costs you can write off for taxes. “

 

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.

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