Tag Archive for questions

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 Survey Responses 2

In my last post, I covered the first couple responses to my outsourcing survey of last year. I decided that I wanted to get to know my customer base better, and to understand the thought process between hiring out vs not hiring out. I made a point to offer as many responses as I could think of, and was completely fascinated by what I learned.

Question 3. What kind of outsourcing would you be interested in? 

The big winner for this question was, unsurprisingly, editing. 74% of respondents picked that choice. (I did allow multiple responses, though.) Proofing was next with 53%, and mastering right behind with 45%. That trifecta makes up a lot of outsourcing work, since it is time consuming and many people like to spend that time behind the microphone! Research came in at 35%, which didn’t surprise me. I’ve done a number of those projects, and people love having some of the leg work taken out of finding new clients or more information.

23% were interested in social media content writing, and 17% in content posting, which is a task I enjoy but don’t get to do all that often. The hardest thing about posting online is finding something to say consistently, and I enjoy the challenge of coming up with language that ‘fits’ the personality of the client. 14% weren’t sure what they were looking for, but wanted to talk through ideas, and 4% wanted something not on my list.

Question 4. If you do outsource currently, where do/did you find your help?

Last but not least (other than my request for contact information for follow up) was my curiosity about where people found their help. I was raised as VO help, thanks to having a dad in the business, but I know that there are quite a lot of other ways to connect with someone to help you. 3% of respondents found their person on Upwork, or their local college respectively. 20% trained a friend or family member. (Represent!) 49% of people found their help through word of mouth, which makes a lot of sense. The community is certainly communicative! 29% connected with help on line, and 25% picked ‘other’ as far as their method of communication went.

 

I’m glad I finally got a chance to touch on this interesting survey for my blog, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit about the answers I got from our colleagues. I know I certainly did!

The Right Rate

moneyI’ve been a full time editor/proofer/virtual assistant for 4 years now, and in that time, I’ve changed my rate three times. Once from $15 to $25 an hour, from $25 to $35 an hour, and last a split up rate for audiobook editing and proofing work.

During that time I’ve gotten a lot of advice and opinions from people about what I should charge. Many have said to raise my rate, and others have said to lower it. People have shared stories about how when they raised their rate, they got more work, and different folks have said how I should lower my rate to stay more competitive.

What I do is not unique, there’s a lot of folks who help out in post production, and their rates are also all over the map, so there’s not much help there either. The most common thing that people have told me is to charge based on what I think I’m worth.

(So I should ask to be paid in gold, diamonds, and champagne? Just kidding. ;-))

But what has come home to me is that I’ve had to face certain realities. The echelon of talent that I work with and that has a need for my services requires flexibility. Everyone who does voice over makes different amounts of money, and if I rigidly hold to a particular dollar amount, I’m going to lose out on a lot of opportunities to make connections and positive impressions and to get work.

I’m not advocating bottom feeding, nor am I commenting on the rates of voice talent, I’m just trying to point out the realities that I deal with-people who do voice over make a whole lot of different levels of income. That’s not going to change in the foreseeable future.

When you say something ‘should’ be a certain way, keep in mind that everyone views life through their own set of perspectives. There are rights and wrongs that are immutable, but not everything is black and white. Yes my business is a business, yes I charge what I believe is a fair rate, but I also have to move within the community and realities that I find myself in, and I choose to be inclusive, rather than exclusive.

Voiceover FAQ

faqThe constant inundation of new persons to the voice over industry means that there are certain questions that are asked many times on many platforms. I’m going to touch on three of the most common questions that I see, and link to some useful resources for the newbie. I should add though, that my answers are with hearty thanks to all the pros I have met and learned from in the last several years.

1. What mic/gear should I use?

Although there are a number of things that are common or standard, the answer to this question is pretty individual. Different mics have different sounds with individual voices. Doing some research, knowing the sound you produce, and having above all–a well treated room!–will get you in the right place here. I see a lot of people worry a great deal about specific gear sets, but speaking as an editor, I’d rather have a lower end mic in a great sounding room than a high end in an echo chamber!

2. What coach should I study with?

There are many, many coaches, and some of them are people who will promise you everything and just take your money. Some well known and regarded names are Pat Fraley, Nancy Wolfson, Marice Tobias, Terry Daniel, and Marc Cashman. Everyone you ask will have a different answer as to whom you should study with, but a useful metric is to look at a particular coaches’ students. How well are they doing? What kind of work do they engage in? If it’s obvious that they are getting and maintaining work, it’s a good point in the particular coaches’ favor.

3. P2P’s/How do I get work?

Now this is another tough one, and a highly individual answer. A lot of people I know start on the Pay to Play, or P2P sites. They are a viable way to get work, although they suffer from consistent low-balling, and the inevitable fact that the site itself is intended for someone else to make money. The single greatest thing I think a professional can do to help their career? Networking. Learn how to talk to people, whether potential clients or other folks in the business. I see too many people on a daily basis throwing negative slush in all directions, and never considering who might be reading it.

Useful Links:

Voice over entrance exam, Bill Dewees Youtube Videos, EWABS Show, Edge Studio both website and Youtube, Marc Scott’s Blog, Dave Courvo, Bob Souer, Voices of experience, Making Money in your PJ’s, More than Just a Voice, Nethervoice, Derek Chapell, Sound Advice, and many, many more!

Voiceover Moral Dilemmas

Moral DilemmaHave you ever had one? I had my first one this past week and it was a strange feeling for me. I’ve done a good variety of material in my editing and proofing career, and although some of it has been very strange indeed (dragon romance) or kind of boring (every medical e-learning, ever) none of it has really offended me. I’m a pretty hard person to offend in general, I’m of the opinion that life is so short, most of the things people get worked up about aren’t worth the time or heart palpitations. It would be nice if the world was black and white, and we never ran into things that bothered us in whatever way, but as businesspeople, and particularly freelancers, I find we-at least I, and those I’ve read stories of-have to become familiar with the grey areas.

But this, dear reader, pushed some buttons. It held several ‘-ist’s’ that I find  objectionable, and I was so thrown off when I received it that I very nearly returned the audio with the statement that I couldn’t be a part of something like this. However, I try very hard in my business to maintain positive or cordial relations with everyone I come in contact with, and this felt like flying in the face of a fresh relationship with a new client.

So I was torn, and highly unsure about what to do. I called a friend, and she gave me some fantastic advice that I thought could apply to more than just little old me. 🙂

1. Is this going to bother you later?

This sounds a little silly when you first hear it. But think of it like this, how many things in life have you gotten worried/upset/flustered about, and then later looked back and asked yourself why? If the answer is yes, then that is totally legitimate, and I’d not advise anyone to do anything they didn’t feel uncomfortable with. But if it’s a minor, momentary twinge, can you get past it for the sake of the other positive factors?

2. Can you afford to turn down work?

No, morals are not and should not be for sale. Again, please don’t hear me suggesting compromise in that arena. But, if this is a twinge, and your financial situation could use a positive $ outlook, then maybe this is the time to proverbially eat (voice) your brussel sprouts. A nutritious outcome, with a slightly yucky journey getting there.

3. Is it worth it to alienate a client?

It’s a good idea to consider the big picture here. Is this someone who will be sending you more work? Someone who has sent you lots of work in the past? If the relationship is worth it, and this isn’t a black and white, “I am not comfortable/this violates my morals” issue, then perhaps it’s time to take the long view.

4. Effort vs. Return?

If this is a troublesome client, one who doesn’t pay well, on time, or any one of the multitude of issues that we freelancers run into, then that’s another important angle to consider. When you’re totaling up the pluses and minuses of the situation, this can fall either way depending on who it is and how they treat you.

5. Your name is not on this!

Most voice talent (and certainly not their editors) don’t show up on the credits for a project. If what bothers you about something is the fact that you will be associated with it, just remember that this is one gig that doesn’t have to go on your resume!


In closing, I hope that you never run into this issue. It’s an uncomfortable place to be, regardless of the grey area in question, and the person you’re working with. Take a stand if you need to, but if not, I hope that my advice may help you weigh the positives and negatives and decide what’s best for you and the situation.

 

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!

The Great Debate

p2pTo P2P or not to P2P, that is the question that I see all the darn time. 🙂 There have been many, many, many discussions over whether or not the platforms are available, whether the “big two” are worth it, is one better than the other, do we like their TOS service changes, and on and on and on. Believe me, I understand the debate. For people new to the industry, this is an established ‘easy’ way to get business, to connect with clients, and to be visible (or so it might seem) in an increasingly overcrowded marketplace.

But I think that the answer to the debate is a lot simpler than people might think. It requires asking some clarifying questions about your goals with voice over, the way you spend your time, and what you are getting out of your membership on either or both of the “big two” or one of the smaller sites. So try asking yourself the questions below:

1. Where do you want to go with your voice over career?

This is an important question to ask, because the P2P sites are not really career makers. Most of the successful talent I’ve talked to have been or are on one site or the other or have been, but the vast majority of their business has come from their own hard work. P2P sites don’t stop this, of course, but they do require a time investment, and no matter how talented you really are, are essentially Russian roulette. I was discussing this issue with a voice talent recently, and he said: “If the voice seeker has to listen to 10 crappy auditions, and I’m number 15, they’re going to take the first voice that sounds good, and not necessarily get to mine, no matter how qualified I am for the job.” I think his words ring true. And this leads me to my next question-

2. How do you want to spend your time?

The P2P sites-yes, I know they’re different in how they present auditions and opportunities to you-but they require a specific time investment. You have to check rates, check if you’re suitable, and if you want to be one of the first auditions, you better submit lickety split fast. Looking back to my first question, if you want to be independent, and do the majority of your work outside of the P2P’s as a goal, this time investment takes away from that. Obviously, you can spend more or less time as you please, but if you choose to spend less, then you have to get into the cost of membership versus the financial ROI you’re getting. ‘

3. What are you getting out of your membership?

Let me say first that I don’t denigrate the businesses, persons, or practices of any P2P proprietor. I don’t know any of those folks personally, and don’t debate in the slightest their total right to make a dollar (whether American or Canadian, as the case may be. :)).

But the fact remains that those sites are in business to make money for themselves. You making money is an incidental benefit, but not their goal. By finding clients on a P2P site, you’re making money, true, but the goal of the site owner is to keep you there, and keep you funneling money through their system. You do benefit from their SEO, but so do thousands upon thousands of other people. How easy will it be for you to stand out?


 

To conclude, the P2P’s are and remain a possible tool for any voice talent to find work and start relationships with clients. But are they a long term investment? That’s for you to decide, but I hope my questions can help you clarify the direction of your business, and perhaps make it easier to move forward.

 

Walk the Line

Cat-on-Balance-BeamIt’s a narrow line, and a truly difficult answer to have one hundred percent of the time. It’s the line between good client service and being taken advantage of. A client asks for retakes of a couple lines. Being a friendly talent with great customer service, you say yes. Then a couple retakes turns into 5 pages! I think everybody has had something of this nature happen to them. It’s a stomach-dropping feeling and an awful place to discover yourself in.

Our world is mostly done without guarantees and binding agreements. Some talent require deposits or contracts before doing work, but many that I have talked to feel that that’s a way to alienate a potential client right at the start of your relationship. Whether or not that’s true probably depends on the person, since their perception would color how the idea would be received in various cases, I think.

So what’s the answer to this issue? For me, it’s going with my gut. Most of the time I am willing to extent my clients trust on faith. The vast majority of them are kind, understanding people who are willing to be upfront and straightforward about the work we do together. If something about them felt off, if I had that twinge of uncertainty, I would listen and perhaps then it would be my turn to ask for a written agreement. Like most things in life, it’s a balance. Be flexible, but don’t allow the client to bend you till you break.

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