Tag Archive for personal growth

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. 

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 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!

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.

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.

Archive Thursday: What an Assumption Made out of Me

assume1My Dad, Bob Souer is a voice talent. Somewhere along the way he home grew us (myself and my three brothers) into various kinds of help for his business. My father has (as all talent do) his share of mouth noise, and working in such a narrow environment led me to believe that his noise was the exception to the rule. Somehow, I grew to believe that there was such a thing as a perfect, noise free voice.

I was of course, way off base. Noise is normal, noise is part of voicing, and although there are measures one can take to reduce the problem before you get in front of the mic, nothing is perfect, and you simply (like many other things) have to develop measures to deal with it. I spent a lot of time being frustrated with voices, when I was really just running in circles. Eventually it dawned on me that what I was hearing was in fact, normal. (It was audiobook narrators that cured me of this.) The problem was squarely in my lap, and I was the one who needed to change.

Where am I going with this? Question your assumptions. Something that you’ve always believed to be true can easily be inhibiting you from…well, just about anything. In my case, it was inhibiting me from finding proactive ways to handle problems instead of just reacting to issues by being frustrated. No one needs more stress in their lives, and I can say that changing my perspective and getting rid of my assumption has helped me feel worlds better about what I do.

So think about it! What do you believe is true because it’s ‘always been that way’? Or because ‘everyone says so’? We all have those things, and it can be truly eye opening, and very freeing to realize that something that was inhibiting you truly no longer has to hold you back. At all.

Being Left-Handed Gives The Right Advantages

17d86d9218bf061f80808beba1575286Being left handed has taught me a lot over the course of my life. Things like: I will always have a smudge on my hand when I write with a pen. Scissors are a challenge. In high school and college, there was a certain kind of desk that was the bane of my existence.

But the most important thing it has taught me is how to be adaptable in my daily life. For me, many of the things (like paper notebooks and computer mice) that most people take for granted as easy to use are backwards. I’ve had to develop my own ways to use these things, my own way to move through the world.

I believe this adaptability is an important strength for anyone in the digital age, and especially for the freelancer. There is a constant flood of new things that bombard us every day, and sometimes it’s hard to keep your head above water when trying to stay abreast of everything. Should you try this new scheduling planner? Buy a new bit of gear that everyone seems to like? Go for a course with this coach that has great reviews?

Learning how to mesh new things with your established pattern is a powerful tool to take your business to another level. I see it every day with people in our community who don’t know or don’t understand something that could be a bountiful benefit to them in their career. Integration and adaptation are a challenge, but as the digital age continues to advance, anyone who doesn’t learn how will be left further and further behind.

(Even though the quote is about not being left handed, I had to figure out a way to reference the Princess Bride in this post.)

Why are you here?

whyareyouhereWell, 2015 is here! We’ve all had our holidays, and are now gearing up for a new year of work and progress in our businesses. At this point in the year, I think everyone feels the openness of possibilities, the clean slate ahead. It feels great, doesn’t it?

For me, one of my favorite things to do is to evaluate myself around this time of year. To really think through what I’m doing and why, because as I’m sure we all know, it’s really easy to get into a rut and just keep doing the same old thing. Times change, the nature of the business changes, and it’s a good idea to take your head out of the booth and look around from time to time. Think about these things:

Is there something you just ‘keep meaning to do’?

Do you have a routine or a system that works for you, but could be better or more efficient?

What’s one thing you could do to improve your business this year?

Where do you want your Voice Over career to go in 2015?

Is there a part of your business you could let go of (hire an accountant, a personal assistant, an editor) to free up your time for the things that only you can do?

There are a million questions like this to consider. But hopefully these can help you clarify your goals for the year ahead, or at least give you a place to start. I wish each and every one of you a wonderful and productive year, where ever the mic takes you!

Oh, the Humanity!

humanityThe internet, and as automatically follows, text based communication is a vast wonderland of information, kitten pictures, and arguments. It’s changed the way we think, communicate, remember, research, and probably a dozen other thesis making words that I can’t think of right now. A great percentage of voice talent use it as a singular vehicle for their livelihood.

But I see many people in our community forget something very important when communicating online. They forget the humanity of the person they’ve read the words of. This can be on various topics, career related or otherwise, but the effect is the same. They assume, they forget, and they lash out and someone or something with words. Why is this so bad? Let me outline some thoughts for you:

1. What are others seeing reading your words?

Think about how you look when you post an angry rant about something. Whatever the topic or reason might be, think about what people might see and assume when they read that anger and make their own decisions based on it. Although it’s not as prevalent in voice over, hirers do look at social media, and this is only going to increase over time. People want to know who they are working with, and what kind of person they are. And even if it’s not a specific voice talent hirer, your colleagues are going to get a very specific kind of impression of you based on what and how you post.

2. Do unto others.

Regardless if they ‘deserve’ it or not, is ranting necessary? Is it kind? Could you regret it in the future? Whatever you believe, the golden rule is a wise one to follow. Whatever you disagree with someone about, they are a human being deserving of respect and kindness.

3. Beware assumptions!

Recently, I noticed a particular talent write a rant about another. They assigned a lot of feelings to that person, they called them some names and made a lot of suppositions about what they were intending, feeling, and doing. You don’t know what someone else is thinking or feeling? Do you truly know everything this person means with their words? Do you have the entire picture, for sure, with no doubt whatsoever? Could you be misinterpreting something?

If you really, truly need to say something, why not ask them what they mean? Why not ask about it? Find out for sure, avoid making a mistake, and behave with respect and reserve rather than rush in and end up looking like…well, something negative to be sure. 🙂 It’s easy to make a judgement and react on the basis of feelings, but take a pause, a deep breath, and avoid rushing to a potentially wrong conclusion.

Although there’s no guarantee that giving someone the benefit of the doubt, respect, and kindness will garner you any favors, or that it’s even deserved, it’s a good thing to practice. You’ll feel better about yourself, look better to others, and it’s just the right thing to do.

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