Tag Archive for outsourcing

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.

Intake Form Question

Hey guys! I’m working on an intake form for new clients, and I was looking for some opinions. What do you think of what I have below? Is it easy to understand and sensible? I’d love to hear any comments or suggestions on what I’ve written, or if you think I could add anything more to help clarify things for both parties involved. Please feel free to leave comments, or to email me at [email protected]

 

Hello! Thank you for your interest in scheduling a project with me. Below are a few questions I need you to answer for us to begin. Please deliver to me raw mono .wav files if possible.

 

  1. Project Length? Hours/minutes if possible, or word count if not.
  2. Your project is
    1. Editing
    2. Proofing
    3. Editing/Proofing
    4. Editing/Proofing/Mastering to ACX Specs
    5. Clerical Work
    6. Other
  1.  You need it by ________Date. Time Zone?
  2.  File delivery format?
  3. For clerical work or any other type of non editing/proofing work, please explain in detail everything you’re looking for for the project, the date you would like it turned around by, and if the project you have in mind is ongoing work.   

 

For audiobook editing/mastering/proofing:

 

I will edit through your book, noting pickups in either a) highlighted notes in the script or b) an excel spreadsheet with columns denoting the specific elements of the error. When removing breaths and mouth noise, I will remove the loudest and most bothersome, prioritizing noises in the silence. I won’t remove all mouth noise, or all breaths. Breaths will be removed for a) flow b) noise c) gasping. Mastering consists of manipulating the file until it reaches ACX specs. Please send me raw mono wav files.

 

For short form editing/proofing:

Please let me know clearly any file specs, file naming conventions, and breath/mouth noise removal needed for the particular project. Please also let me know what format to return the completed files in, and if it needs to be separated into smaller slides.

 

For proofing:

I will deliver notes either in a highlighted script, or in an excel spreadsheet with columns denoting the specific elements of the error. I will listen for script deviation, noises, or general mispronunciations and character voice mistakes. For character names or unusual genre names, I will listen for pronunciation consistency, and let you know of any changes. Please let me know if there are any other specific elements you would like me to keep an ear out for.

 

For Clerical Work:
If you don’t know exactly what you need, please call me and we can line up your specific needs and requirements for your project.

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 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?

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.

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.
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