Tag Archive for learning

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.

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 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!

[email protected]


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

Archive Thursdays: Relax and Let Go

f45c2045-ab12-48cd-839c-c518a056e7c6-Relaxation-for-Mind-and-BodyThis week’s Archive Thursday was originally published January 28th, 2013

A bit more than a month ago, I stayed with Melissa Exelberth and Liz de Nesnera while attending the NY VO Mixer. Those two amazing ladies reminded me of an important life lesson while I stayed with them.  When I was with Melissa and Liz I was so excited to go see everyone that I was bouncing all around the house, and both ladies had to calm me down by reminding me that we’d get there when we got there, and I needed to just go with the flow-thus getting me thinking and inspiring this post. It’s important to not worry and fuss about the unimportant things in life. It’s so easy to cause yourself lots of unnecessary stress by focusing on all the little things.

There are many ways that you can control your life and the things that happen to you. But there are things that happen to us which you have no control over. In those situations there is only one thing you can control, which is your reaction to the things that happen. It’s a balance, like anything else in life. Worries and obsessions are something to allow yourself to feel, (Pushing them away can easily make things worse when they come back to bite you later!) and then make the effort to let go of.

Letting go is hard. It’s just as hard as taking control and putting forth the effort to change your life. (Which I’ve written about here) There have been many many studies done on the profound and long term effects that stress has on your body and mind. It can and will damage your health and make it harder for you to accomplish the things that you want to. The two polarites of making an effort to take control and change direction and letting things go sound like they should be mutually exclusive, but they aren’t. Mastering both is the task of a lifetime, but one truly worth striving for. No one can do both perfectly, making mistakes and falling off the wagon is not only expected but understandable.

So the next time you feel yourself knot up with tension, your stomach sour with worry, stop. Just stop. Take a deep breath, and close your eyes. Remember that in the long run, whatever you’re worrying about will probably not seem as important as it does in this moment. Relax your muscles. Take a break from whatever you’re doing, maybe walk around for a few minutes, and let your mind drift. When you step back to work, you’re a lot more likely to come up with a solution or an idea that you were too tense to think of a few minutes ago. Focus on the elements of the situation that you are able to control, not what other people are doing or saying. Do this–or whatever relaxes you–when the worries threaten to take over, and I bet before you know it you’ll find yourself with less worries than before.

Morgan Barnhart starts my interview series next week, talking on Social Media!

Stand up and be counted!

2015-03-21 21.42.47I’ve been using computers since I was a teenager. (My parents wondered why I stopped going outside, but computer games were the answer! Ah, Windows 95…) For all that time, I’ve spent many hours sitting on my behind, and never thought a thing of it. When I started work as a Virtual Assistant, I continued in the same way, creating my work area on the presumption that I would be sitting all the time.

After a while, I noticed that I was sore and uncomfortable, and I certainly wasn’t feeling very good physically. Sitting down all day made me feel lethargic and groggy. I browse a lot of articles linked through Facebook, and one caught my idea about the idea of a standing desk, specifically for something called a geek desk. I absolutely loved this idea, although the price was a little too high for me, so I put it on the back burner of my mind.

A while later, I had gotten frustrated with my sitting situation, and I decided to take measures into my own hands. I had long had a sturdy kitchen table from Ikea, and it struck me that it would make a good base for a possible desk. With some hunting, I found a smallish TV stand that would hold monitor and speakers. Further exploration resulted in the small, two shelf stand that would work with my keyboard whether I was standing or sitting. I got a computer chair mat-I do sit sometimes, when I’m not feeling well, or am sore from some other activity-and a chef mat to stand on.

And that’s how I work! I find that this position is much better for my health-I feel more energetic, and it’s much easier to keep my mind sharp than it was before. One unanticipated side effect was the fact that it’s also too easy to walk away from things, since I don’t have to undergo the extra effort of getting up first! 🙂 It’s not for everyone-although some people take it even farther and put a treadmill underneath and walk while they work-but for many people I think it can have some excellent health benefits, and greater long term affects for the body.


4 Things I’ve learned since 2011

calendarI started my business officially in September of 2011, after returning from Faffcon 2 in Atlanta, Georgia. To say that I’ve learned a lot since then would be a vast understatement. More than my business, my life, health, and outlook have changed in cataclysmic fashion. I can say without exaggeration that I’m not the same person I was before.

I find this time of year leads me to a lot of contemplation about where I’ve been, where I’m going and what the year has taught me. So I decided to share my lessons with you!

1. The importance of communication cannot be overstated.

Little secret for you guys-I’m not a phone person. I am not very fond of calling people that I don’t know well. But this is something that I’ve had to overcome to increase the clarity of my communication-sometimes email just doesn’t cut it. I’ve also had to learn in those emails to think very carefully about what I’m saying, how I’m saying it, and if I’m not sure what someone means I ASK! You cannot get sloppy here–I’ve lost clients because I didn’t double check that someone knew something, and they were VERY unhappy with the result.

2. Try, try, try again!

Self motivation is really hard. Yes, you can call me Captain Obvious. But it is, and I’ve had it brought home to me again and again that it’s not something I can take for granted. I have to work on this every single day, and look for every possible trick to keep myself on track and doing everything I need to do. I have to be able to forgive myself for making mistakes, but I have to get back on the darn horse every single time I fall off. And most importantly-action wins out on waiting 100% of the time. I don’t mean not taking thought before you do something, I mean taking whatever steps you can now is always better than waiting and not getting it done.

3. First impressions are the first thing!

When I went to Faffcon for the first time, everyone I spoke to loved the idea of what I do. They were enthusiastic, and I thought that I could just go home, sit back, and the work would roll in. Boy, was I wrong. I did get some calls, but nowhere near as many as I had expected. What did happen was a sort of ripple effect. Because I had made that good impression, those people who met me talked well about me to other people, who were the ones who ended up calling me. Every time I’ve gone to a public VO event, posted online in a group, or anything that puts me in front of people I don’t talk about hiring me. I don’t talk about what I can do for someone (unless they ask directly), I just concentrate on being professional, fun, and learning the person I’m talking to.

4. Excuses are easy. Success is hard.

It’s so easy NOT to do something. So very easy to not market today, to not make that call today, or send that email. Maybe you have enough clients, but will you always? I’ve had that problem. 2013 was a really great year for me for various reasons, but 2014 has been a far harder one. I will admit that I got complacent, and I’ve really paid the price.

I hope that wherever you are, and however you celebrate the season you take some time to think of lessons learned. Reflection is important, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my little trip down memory lane. 🙂

Pulling The Trigger

trigger“Karen! I have got a project in mind for us. I’ll be in touch with you soon…”

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard someone say this, I’d have a few buckets of nickels. 🙂 Voice talent always have an idea for something they need to do-any entry on their list of ‘should do’s’. Actually, I think it’s just a people thing, not only voice talent. But at any rate, they see me at a convention, they read a post of mine, and they say, Hey, I need to do this. Karen can help me with something. Sometimes they do call me, and the funny part is they need help figuring out exactly what they want to do. They know they can be better, more efficient, but they aren’t exactly sure of how to get there. Or they just don’t call at all.

In the next couple of posts I want to talk you through how to pull that trigger. How to figure those things out, take that next step, and move onward and upward with your career. Look for the trigger posts to get my ideas on how to define your needs, take action, and get something done that you can be proud of. I have distilled my experience with dozens of voice talent over the years I’ve been working and come up with some good thoughts for you. I’m excited for you to read the posts ahead! Come back on Monday!

Next post here!


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