Tag Archive for how-to

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!

Outsourcing from the Voice Talent Perspective 3

I’ve decided this will be my last quote entry. Honestly, I could collect these endlessly, because I know that many of my friends and colleagues could speak to the value of outsourcing, and how much it has helped their careers. I hope that this, and the previous two entries, along with the quotes from organizational coaches can help you see the benefits. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and if you feel that my points are correct! Please feel free to leave me a comment, or to email me at [email protected]

 

There are parts of what you do that only you can do, and there are parts that it is possible for you to get help with. I see so many people who feel like they are “saving money” by doing everything themselves, but what they are really doing is stopping themselves from taking on more of what only they can do. Having outsourcing to help with editing audio and doing other tasks freed me up early on to take on a lot more work and build up a collection of royalty share titles that paid overtime while simultaneously recording per finished hour work. If I have been trying to edit everything myself then I would not have been able to do both. On its face, it seems like paying someone else is taking profit from you but that’s not true. It really allows you to maximize your profit in the long run.

-Marti Dumas

When I decided I needed to find ‘virtual help’ or to outsource, it was based on specific needs. My first realization that I needed help was when I was overwhelmed with audio editing, to the point that I couldn’t accept more jobs, essentially. I also had a really hard time doing the long form audio editing, physically. So in order to increase my business opportunities, I started working with Karen Souer to do my editing. I’ve NEVER looked back. And I’ve worked with a couple other editors over time because Karen wasn’t always available to help me, but she’s been my primary ‘go to’ editor.  It took me getting to a breaking point to realize that I needed to make the shift to working with someone. I did it in my style, with the detail and care I feel continues my brand – integrity, details, clear guidelines and expectations, and a personal touch with a bit of fun.  At this point, unless it’s an emergency, I never edit my long form audio any more. It’s not my strength and I feel liberated professionally and personally having found a partner to support that aspect of my VO work.
 
Additionally, I graduated to working with two more kinds of virtual assistants for similar reasons. I want to be able to generate new business and not feel bogged down by the aspects of my business that I don’t feel particularly fast at, or expert at, or which may deplete my creative energies.  So I have a person who assists me with a lot of marketing and another person with bookkeeping. I’ve found people out there that are high integrity, reasonable rates, and that I enjoy communicating with during the process. I’m not looking back!

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

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!

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.

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