Tag Archive for thinking

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.

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!

All Good Things…

ncc1701d_allgoodthings_GWCI hope my readers will forgive me borrowing a Star Trek title. 🙂

But, like that particular episode, I’ve got an announcement. This will be the last regular blog post here for some time.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching about my writing here. I do enjoy the challenge of coming up with content twice a week, but as the weeks have passed, it’s become more and more of a struggle. I’ve always wanted to have interesting, educational content, from my ‘next to voiceover’ perspective. I wanted to point out the things I see or would suggest from all my reading, my experience, and things I think people would find useful.

This has recently become harder and harder, for a lot of reasons. There’s been a lot of personal things that have happened in my life, and a professional re-evaluation that has happened as well. Coming up with this business, I really had no idea what I was doing and learned on the fly. The last few years have taught me a great deal about far more than just running a business, and I feel that it’s time for me to take a step back, and concentrate on some different things. I need to work on taking my skills to the next level, and not just resting on my laurels. It’s easy enough for me to stay relatively busy doing certain kinds of work, but if I ever want to truly expand what I do-to take my own advice and take it to the next level-then I need to better myself, and take stock of my efforts, return, and polish my skills.

If I have something to say, be sure I’ll be back. I know that I’m not doing writing for and about voiceover. I just want to be sure to end this on a good note, rather than when I’m buzzing my lips talking about nonsense, or have to take further hiatuses because I can’t think of anything productive to say.

As always, please feel free to contact me via phone or email-I’m always happy to hear from friends, clients, readers, and voice talent in general. Be well all of you, and thanks for reading.

Archive Thursday: 5 Benefits to having Proofed Audio

No-Mistakes.gifThis week’s Archive Thursday originally appeared on June 24th, 2013.

We all have to edit audio, but do you proof your own work as well? It is easy to have your eyes skip over things when you’re tired or you’re too close to the material. In my English background, they always told us to get someone else to edit our papers or stories for many of these same reasons. So here are some benefits to having an outside audio proofer:

1. It lets you step back from the material and take a breather.
Particularly for those long projects, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in things that you almost get tired of your own recordings. Sending the audio off to someone else allows you to take a break from your material and come back to it fresh when it returns.

2. You look better to your client.
Who wouldn’t like this? Clients notice when they have less pickups to send you. People always notice when someone gives them less work, and less back and forth before getting a finished project

3. Allows you to concentrate on your performance.
This is more directly a benefit for live proofing (aka Content Direction), but both during and post proofing can benefit here. Not having to worry as much about slipups means that you can pay more attention to how you sound, which is of course an important part of what you do.

4. Makes the editing process faster
Not having to double check yourself against the script allows you to concentrate on all those things that need removal in the editing process, and not have to flip back and forth between the script and the audio. This will reduce your overall editing time and make your workflow more efficient.

5. Gives you the chance to move on to the next thing.
An entrepreneur has to wear a thousand different hats, and whether it’s your next recording, making dinner, or catching up on marketing efforts, there’s always something else waiting for you. Taking this task off your plate allows you to move on without a worry.

5 Things to Do When You Have No Work

No WorkEveryone has those days once in a while. Maybe you’ve got things coming, but they haven’t arrived yet. Perhaps a client is tied up in legal. Or possibly something ended sooner than you anticipated.

And you wake up one morning with nothing to do!

The first thing that comes to mind may not be more work on a day like this. Maybe the kids need watering, the house needs leaf blowing, and your spouse needs…ahem. Attention.

But I’d encourage you to work. There’s plenty you can do! Even if you take a half day, there’s a lot you can accomplish. Here’s a few things to look at:

1. Social Media

This is such a broad topic that it’s hard to give you specifics, but one thing in particular I like to do is look for conversations. The best way to connect with people online is to create and join conversations. Don’t talk about yourself, but if you have something meaningful and worthwhile, do more than just hit the like button! Been thinking of an area you want to expand your business in? Take the opportunity to connect with companies in that area. Update your profiles with new links, freshen the language-there are a lot of ways you can improve your standing here.

2. Plan

Where do you want to go with your business? How are you going to get there? Don’t just make goals, make specific, step by step-small steps!-plans on how to get there. Think about what’s one small thing you can do today to move towards your goal. It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutia of every day life, and never take the time to point yourself in an ultimate direction.

3. Filing/Paperwork/Invoicing

I’m sure you have something in this category that’s been languishing. I sure know I do! (Stop looking at me, receipt pile!) Again, this is something that’s easy to let go until you have stacks of paper higher than your head, or a bank account that’s crying. Work on this, and consider what you can do to make it easier to keep up in the future!

4. “That Thing”

Most voice actors I talk to tell me they’ve got one (or more) things that they keep meaning to do. Maybe it’s an invoicing system, a new CRM, reaching out to a particular agent, making plans for a conference, or just about anything, really! What can you do about your thing? What small step can you take today to get you there?

5. Looking Upward

It’s easy in business to get caught up in a routine, especially once you hit your groove and have things set up so they work easily for you. But take some time and think about what you could do to improve your voiceover business. Maybe it’s a new mic, preamp, or interface? Perhaps you want to take some coaching to brush up on commercial reads, improv, or automotive reads? Take some time to research these and see what you can go for.

Can you think of anything I missed? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Archive Thursday: The Importance of Holidays

Happy-HolidaysThis week’s Archive Thursday was originally posted on February 3rd, 2015.

In past years, I never took a break from my work. I worked seven days a week, whenever there was something to do, and to whatever hour it took me to finish my work. And frankly, I never had time for myself and wasn’t particularly happy.

More recently I decided to regulate my working hours. I get up at the same time every day, work until 5pm, and have the evening hours to myself. This doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t work outside of that time, but I make an effort to get everything done within my typical working day. The ability to have a few hours free every day is great incentive to get more work done. I also take weekends off and use the time to catch up on chores and pursue my personal and artistic projects. (I paint, for example.)

The fact that I do these things causes astonishment, and in some cases derision from people that I talk to. I fully recognize that my schedule would not work for many people who have full time jobs, families and children to care for. I would never intimate that what works for me is required for someone else–however, the importance of taking a break, of having some time away from the microphone and the DAW is absolutely vital. Giving your mind, fingers, and vocal cords a break (even if it’s a ten minute walk around the block) will give you a chance to refresh on all levels and make your next piece or section of work better, and you’ll feel better about it, which is worth those few moments, don’t you think?

Grocery Store No More

groceriesA while back I wrote how I had to get out of my comfort zone and get a second job. Since that time, I’ve quit.

Why?

Because I had to look at the ROI for this job, just like I look at it as an entrepreneur. The amount of time I was putting in for shifts, and the inherent stresses of this particular grocery store did not equal the amount of frustration and unhappiness that resulted. Those things affected my virtual assistant work, which I couldn’t let happen for the obvious reasons.

I’m glad I did work there, even if it was only briefly because it widened my perspective and gave me a chance to be in a very different environment than the one I was and am used to. It showed me that if I’m going to get a second job, I need to aim higher. I’m worth more than what I was being paid, and I have more skills than I used there. I know that the next steps I take will be in a far more productive direction, since I have a clearer picture of what I’m looking for now.

The older I get, the more I see success in life as being a matter of perspective. Obviously, it’s not a universal cure, and not for the most severe problems. But it’s endlessly amazing to me how looking at things differently can change how you think, and often make you more content with the way things are.

Archive Thursday: 5 Ways to Fail at Voiceover

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-fail-stamp-image288982431. Talk and never listen.

So much of the business involves learning. This is true for everyone, from the most raw beginner to the most seasoned veteran. Just the sheer scope of change in the past 30 years means that there’s always room to grow, to learn, and innovate in what we do.

2. Listen to the wrong voices.

Due to several factors–some of it the aforementioned change in the past couple of decades, some of the endless desire of people to profit from others in a negative way, there are definitely people in the voice over world who are not worth your time. There are people who are stuck in the past-the techniques, tips, and ideas that they offer are-due to the pace of technology-dinosaur era. Others will promise you the world, or all the booking you can handle, and in the end the only thing you’re left with is an empty wallet.

3. Don’t deliver.

We all have busy lives, busy careers, and it’s a tough thing to keep up with it all. But whether it’s to a prospective client about a deadline, the type of audio you are able to deliver, to a fellow voice talent about something you’re able to do for them, don’t overstate. Yes, you can make a mistake or just not be able to do something, but don’t make up things out of whole cloth. We live in the age of easy and instant fact checking. People will find out, and you won’t be known for being great at what you do!

4. Ignore playground rules.

For the most part, the voice over community is awesome, welcoming, and very supportive to people at all levels of the business. But there are trolls and people who do nothing but bullhorn (LISTEN TO ME HERE’S WHAT I DO!!) as opposed to converse. There are businesses and companies that take advantage of the community that they claim to support, by putting their desire to wring every dime from people rather than to help people reach a new stage in their careers.

5. Turn on the complaining broadcast.

Everyone’s had bad experiences. No matter who or how you work, things can go bad sometimes. But keep it to a private few. If it’s on social media, keep it in a message to trusted friends. Or pick up the phone and call someone, it’ll do you a world of good. But keep it OFF public broadcasts. It may make you feel better in the moment, but in the long run it does nothing but make you look negative, and may turn people off who want to refer to you or hire you outright.

(This also applies in a different direction to people who do nothing but broadcast their good fortune all the time. We’re happy you’re doing well, but is it okay with your client to talk about their project? Be careful what you put out for the public view, always!)

Who do I Endorse?

endorsementSince I’ve gotten involved in the voiceover business 4 years ago, I’ve been asked to promote or help promote a good number of things. Conferences, products, individual voice talent…the list goes on. But I’m very cautious about who and what I throw my hat in the ring for.

We all know the predatory types in the business-and I’m not even so much talking about those. There are a lot of approaches to the business, and not only do I want to avoid those who are just in it for the money, I also want to avoid those who espouse ideals and methods that I disagree with and who I believe don’t always make sense. For me, I think it’s important to remain neutral and avoid ‘taking sides’ in a lot of things. There are always repercussions when you come out in favor of something, and it’s important to keep in mind just how far those ripples may reach.

If I endorse one thing, will I alienate those who believe in or use another? What am I fostering when I agree with something?

So I came up with rules for myself. I will promote or agree with things that are not just for the money. For example, the #Listen2aBook promotion on twitter a while back I latched onto because of the fact that it was created to promote hidden gems. Yes, sales too-but it was also intended to bring value to potential readers. I support Faffcon for a similar reason. The major intent is to create value and community for working pros-to talk about what is working right now “in the trenches”, rather than what was true 30 years ago. Not to line the pockets of those in charge.

The reason I find this so important is that our online community is profoundly affected by everyone in it, the trends and support that various persons receive. When I look back at whatever small ripples I create, I want to be sure that they are positive, uplifting, and for the good of the whole. Life, and voiceover, are about more than money.

Business vs. Personal

bvpI had a recent reminder of how sharp the divide between the business and the personal can be. A new client reached out to me, and we were speaking on the phone about an upcoming project. In the process of our discussion, I mentioned that I had done a few different types of work, and a few personal belief-related details. I thought nothing of it, and there were no hiccups in the conversation.

But after we hung up, I decided to friend her on Facebook. As I often do, I scanned down her page and read a little about her. To my surprise, I read several things that made me realize how close I had come to offending her. I don’t think she had a problem with what I said, nor do I think this particular incident is an issue, but it was a sharp reminder of how careful you need to be in a professional context.

For me, I have to be extra careful, because every voice actor that is my friend is also a potential client. For you, other voice actors are sources of referrals or perhaps professional recommendations. When we’re in person or on the phone, our community is so relaxed in many ways that it’s easy to slip and say more than you mean to. Online, it’s easy to react before you think and say something that can taint your reputation far wider than you can imagine. Clients, friends, colleagues all will see things you post, and it’s important to be aware of the divide, and what inattention can cost you.

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