Tag Archive for education

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.

The Faffcon Community

I wrote this a while ago. By the time this posts, registration for Faff 9 will have already happened, but I wanted to share the love of my ‘tribe’ here on my blog. 

Every time Faffcon approaches, I can’t help but find myself thinking about my history with this unconference, and everything it has meant to me. Faffcon was the spark that started my business, the reason that I’m sitting here writing to you, and one of the catalysts that changed my life.

Six years ago, I was working in a grocery store chain in NC, living with my brother Eric Souer. To make a long story short, this was a store that put profits over people, and although I made okay money, I was never happy there. I’m not their ideal type of worker-physically fast and efficient-so it was not the best situation all around. Our Dad, Bob Souer came to visit, and he said, “Eric and Karen, you’re coming with me to Faffcon.”

I had no idea what this Faffcon thing was. And I remember feeling very uncertain about the whole situation, I was going to a place where I didn’t know anyone, had no idea what was going to happen, and Dad had just said that maybe people would hire me to do the sorts of things that I had always helped him with. (A little writing, a little editing, that kind of thing.)

My biggest memory from that first Faffcon (Faffcon 2 in Atlanta) was the kindness that people showed me. None of them knew who I was. (Some people had met Eric, but I’d never met any of them.) But all greeted me enthusiastically, and were interested in who I was and what I had to say. I remember going home from the event, on fire and excited to see where I could take this brainful of ideas that I had. Fast forward to the present day, and I am a different, much happier person, enjoying a reasonable amount of success.

But over the years, the thing that truly astonished me was the community that developed from the conference. Friendships were created, businesses grew one another, many people lifted one another up through challenges in both work and personal life. There are strong divisive, dividing elements in our society today, and it has been truly astonishing to see the kind of strong, communal vibe that has developed.

In 2012, after Faffcon 5, Lori Taylor created a Facebook group, Faffcon friends. This group has had a strong element in keeping the community together, and bringing folks together to tap group knowledge, share, or to ask questions. It gives people a place to talk to one another between events, and it’s been a pleasure to watch all the positive interaction. Lori eventually turned the administrator role in the group over to me, and it’s been an interesting job, to say the least!

I decided early on to limit the group to people that have already attended a Faffcon. The reason for that is the intensely personal stuff that is often shared in the group-health struggles, life issues, and the like. I wanted anyone in the group to understand the nature of a Faffcon, the lowering of barriers, to keep it unlike other groups, to folks that “get it”.

One of the phrases often used at Faffcon is ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. The community is proof of that, and it has been a valuable experience to get to watch it grow over the last five years, and change with the addition of new members with new ideas. My hope for the future is that it can continue to be a place where the good of the group is a big part of what goes on. Through Amy and Lauren, Connie and Pam and everyone who’s ever attended, we have created something unique, in terms of the community, and that it should be nurtured and taken care of, even 2 years from now when the event is no longer happening. Our industry doesn’t have water coolers or company picnics, so what we have is something to hold on to. May it always endure, and continue to spread and bring in new people.

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!

Pronounceology Interview

Hey guys! Adam Verner, a very fine audiobook narrator and a fellow Faffer has come up with a great tool for narrators called Pronounceology. As soon as I saw him post about it, I knew I had to get the lowdown on such a great idea and how he came up with it! Here’s all the details about this site, which will make your future research way easier!
1. Pronounceology! What is it? (And where did you come up with the name?)
In a nutshell, Pronounceology is a tool that hooks into the backend of major online dictionaries and pronunciation resources like Merriam Webster, Oxford, and ForVO to provide bulk pronunciations and definitions.  It also acts as a kind of “home base” for research on the web, allowing you to save reports or words you’re looking into, the source URL for pronunciation, phonetic spellings, and any research notes.  I’m hoping it will be kind of like a Swiss Army Knife for research, with as many import and export options as possible.  Right now you can import a spreadsheet or CSV with page numbers, simply paste in a list of words, or import notes from iAnnotate (it’ll pull out just your highlighted terms).  Other PDF sources can be supported in the future if they’re popular enough or in demand.  Other dictionaries can be added down the line, as long as they have an API (Application Program Interface), which is a way for programs to access databases.  Those will form the core functionality of the tool, since that’s the way to search for a whole list of terms at one time.  There are also prebuilt search links for you to go find an obscure pronunciation.  For example, a lot of proper names and places aren’t in standard dictionary databases, so I’ve included links to a search in YouGlish.com or YouTube interviews.  If you’re looking for how to pronounce Richard Cytowic’s last name, for example, clicking a link will take you to a YouTube search for “Richard Cytowic interview.”
The other cool component will be exporting just the phonetics you need back to you source PDF or manuscript.  I know all narrators work differently, and my hope is that the tool is flexible enough to cover many different types of workflows. I’ve always kept my research in a spreadsheet as it’s easy for a proof listener to follow along, but that’s meant I’ve had to cut and paste by hand every set of phonetics back into the appropriate page of the PDF for seamless narrating. Pronounceology will do that for me, though I may want or need to go back through the script to adjust the placing of the text.
As far as the name goes, “ology” means “the study of,” and I often find narrating challenging titles is almost like a study of pronunciation.  Other times, it’s like a Sherlock Holmesian tracking down of elusive vocabulary!
2. Where did you get the idea to create Pronounceology
Basically, I’m a total dork.  But really, I love words, automation, and optimization.  If there’s any way for me to save keystrokes and time and get back to what my true passion is – narrating books – I go for it.  I’m always writing macros on my computer to automate invoicing or perform repetitive tasks.  I’ve longed for something like this to exist for years, and finally decided I should just build it!  There are plenty of great resources out there for pronunciation, but as far as I could tell, no tool that allows you to import in bulk, or multiple terms at a time.  For some titles I would be spending hours and hours tracking down pronunciations, and not every publisher pays you for that time or helps you with it.
3. Are you running the back end yourself? 
No, I’m working with a great developer, formerly with HP.  After interviewing many, many different freelance programmers and full development firms I finally found a great fit, someone who “gets it,” and brings his own ideas to the table.  As of now we’re running in Node.js and totally boosting the runtime environment with a flux capacitor.
4. From what you’ve posted, I see that it’s primarily intended for audiobook narrators, but have you ever thought about elearning pronunciation?
Oh yes indeed!  I’m starting with the audio book industry since that’s my full time job and the community I know the best, but this tool could be useful for literally anyone that needs pronunciations.  eLearning, other voice over, and most importantly, the ESL and language learners market are next on the list.  I’m even hoping to partner with schools or universities to provide “enterprise” accounts for any students learning English.
5. Do you have a place where people can check back or sign up for updates about the site? 
I’m so glad you asked!  Check out the teaser video on Pronounceology.com and sign up for the email list to be notified of updates.  I’ll be releasing more videos with more details in the months to come, and I hope to launch later this year.  You can also contact me at [email protected] with questions or feature requests!  In addition, I’ll be at APAC (audio book conference) in New York City this week and can do live demonstrations if anyone is interested (assuming the pesky WiFi cooperates!).

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?

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

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