Tag Archive for success

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.

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.

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. 

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 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 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?
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