Archive for March 2019

The Importance of Down Time

It’s a strange word to some of us. Down time. The life we live and the businesses we run can eat every spare moment that we give it. I know people who have looked at me very strangely when I’ve told them I try to take weekends off. There’s always more to be doing, business wise, if you don’t have recording (or in my case, editing) to do, there’s always some clerical or marketing task left undone. I know that I’ve often felt guilty when I take time for myself, but my recent illness helped remind me that I need to make that space.

Without it, the stresses and strains of the work day build up like fatigue poisons in your muscles during hard labor. If you don’t make an effort to let those go, it’s easy to make a poor judgement, or get angry when you don’t need to, or any one of a number of mistakes because your resources are short when you need them to be. Maybe you feel like you don’t need that time, and perhaps you eat work for breakfast and thrive on daily tussle with whatever comes your way. But I bet even you, fire-eater, could use a break once in a while. An hour in a coffee shop. A relaxing hot bath. Even if the break is brief, I still bet it would renew and rejuvenate you more than you might realize.

There’s a common thread in entrepreneurial thought these days that you have to work yourself to the bone to make it. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing? I know that there’s the old fashioned ‘Protestant work ethic’ but I don’t want to assume that it’s only an American idea. I really fight against the idea, nonetheless. I believe that it makes for staler work, and a far less healthy you. Better to proceed a touch slower on the ladder to success and enjoy my journey a bit more. What do you want to remember, at the end of your life?

Personally, I take refuge in a couple of hobbies to help spend my down time. I like to paint and write, (the image for this blog is a painting I did a while back.) and also to play video games and read books. I’ve never been one much for TV. But honestly it doesn’t matter so much what you do as long as you have something that allows you to relax and forget for a little while all the things you have to do and the pressure of business.

Hope you can find something to enjoy today!

You Gotta Spend Green

Last post, I discussed the importance of charging a fair rate for your voiceover work. This post is a companion to that, because I want to also mention how you’ve got to spend to make.

I often see newbies coming into the Facebook and other groups asking for mentors and recommendations. That’s not in and of itself bad, but when you buckle down and start building something that is going to take you places–your business–you want to build it right, and not have to come back later to fix mistakes or try and rebuild client relationships. It might seem hard or make you wince to imagine how much you’ve got to pay for a good coach or a demo, but trust me, in the long term it’s worth it.

Let me give you an example from my work in audiobooks. In more than one case, I have gotten a job from a frantic client email that says ‘this took way longer than I thought it would! Help! I need to make my deadline!’ (Or sometimes they’re way past their deadline!) What does spending money have to do with this? You need to spend time with an audiobook coach to understand the process and the marathon involved in audiobook recording. If you’re going to self edit, you need to understand exactly how long that will take you, and factor that in to your time. And honestly, in order to create a well functioning assembly line of audiobooks, you should outsource at least the proofing part of your work. Yes it involves spending money, but you can cover production costs in your rate.

Or other cases, where someone who didn’t know their equipment or software wasn’t able to make ACX specs and had their book bounce back. Or they edited something in a way that made them sound bad. Or their mic was backwards, or they had ferocious static. They didn’t check with an engineer, or they didn’t get their space looked at, or they didn’t do one of many costing things before they got started.

The ultimate result of things like this is your client relationship and your reputation as a voice talent. Your ability to make your way in the industry in general rests on your product–your voice–and you want to make what you hand out as good as possible, as soon as possible, because if you damage one of those relationships early on, you don’t generally get a second chance to impress the client.

You’re Worth Green

My friends, rates are a common and sometimes contentious battle in our industry. I’ve seen a very common thread of thought that when you begin in voiceover (and particularly in the audiobook part of the industry) you have to accept lower rates as you ‘build your portfolio.’ It’s probably wise not to charge top tier dollars, but no matter what you should always make sure you’re making enough to cover your expenses and turn a profit. Not doing so is not smart business. Voiceover is an expensive industry to start out in, that’s for sure, but it’s important to build habits and reputation that will keep you going there for the long term. Cheap is not a word that you want to have associated with you, in my opinion. It’s doesn’t denote craftsmanship and hard work, which is what good voiceover is made of!

Most voiceover talent I know have worked their butts off over the course of years to improve themselves and their craft. They’ve spent thousands on equipment, training, courses and more, and their rates should reflect that! Even if you’re so new that the shiny hasn’t worn off your mic, you’re worth more than bottom dollar.

There’s a segment of talent that I have seen around social media who seek out the lower paying jobs, and are quite content to work a great many low paying gigs, rather than seek out the higher paying jobs. They can (I have read some quite lengthy arguments!) get quite angry when you question this strategy, not only for their own work, but for the health of the industry in general. I know it’s pretty impossible to change anyone’s mind on the internet, but the ‘oh ignore them they’re just haters’ mindset doesn’t really help this. I think it’s important, no matter what you’re doing with your life, or what industry you’re a part of to not dismiss expertise in your field. Don’t get so stuck in your own perspective that you leave behind advice that could save you a headache and fill your wallet better!

But as I said, my friends, don’t be afraid to seek advice on rates, to look for guides–I have heard good things about the GVAA rate guide–and to believe in your own worth as a voice talent. You are part of a creative, growing, evolving industry, and you should be proud of that fact. Plus, your rates are about more than you, you are affecting the course of the industry as a whole. In general, rates are trending downwards, and it seems more common for companies to ask for exclusive rights buyouts when they’re paying you.

One last side note–I know that we all have struggles, and I would never advocate someone pricing themselves out of a job they need to survive. My goal with this post is to encourage those that are able to think of their own worth and the bigger picture when it comes to what they are charging.

Believe in your craft and remember you’re worth a good rate!

The Devil and the Danger in Comparing

These days, most folks are on Facebook and other social media platforms. It’s wonderful in a lot of ways, allowing you to keep up with friends and family you might not stay in touch with otherwise. There’s plenty of uplifting posts, puppy pictures, and food porn to amuse. (Not to mention games to while away the time)

And it’s also a cesspool of argument, vitriol, and poor spelling. People defend their opinions from the towers of half-educated ignorance and personal attacks. It can really get you down, reading the same kind of negativity day after day. Even voiceover can fall victim to these type of arguments, as we have our well known bastions of polarization. (p2p, anyone?) Arguments over the ‘right’ way to engineer something, or who has the most (best) resume and many other issues light up every group I’ve ever been a part of.

But in my opinion, the greatest danger to us is in the land of comparison. When you look at social media, the picture that you see of someone’s life is very one dimensional. There aren’t usually the smudges, the busted corners, or the effort it took to set up the perfect photo of 4 family members and 3 dogs. Whether it’s just that it feels like every other mom (or parent) has it together when you don’t, or that every other vo has booked so much more work than you, those comparisons are everywhere and a slippery slope of bad feelings and worse consequences.

VO (and freelance in general) is a very isolating way to work. For those of us who work full time, you’re home, often alone all day with a work environment of a small padded room. It’s natural to look to the internet to provide the ‘water cooler’ that we lack. And those comparisons seem to follow along right after. This person is always posting their great gigs, and gosh, it seems like they hardly have any down time. What are they doing that you aren’t? The next person not only has time to record audiobooks, they also go to the gym and look fantastic in the bargain. Yet another person has an attentive spouse, a great looking home, and beautiful children.

It may sound silly, but I really believe mental state is an important component of work for freelance professionals. We sometimes have very little work day structure, and a ‘bad brain day’ can make it much harder to get things done. Where I’m trying to go with this is to say that you don’t have to compare. Remember how much you don’t know about other’s lives. You don’t know how much down time is between the photos that are posted. (They may have been saving pictures for 6 months.) The second person has no kids so they’re able to get up early and make it there. Not a fair comparison since that’s not your life. The perfect home? You missed the fact that out of 3 hours of tornado kids, this was the 15 seconds they were still and smiling.

Don’t let appearances lead you into false comparison. You’re on your own journey, and that probably looks different than everyone else’s. The important thing is how far you’ve come and where you’re going, not what someone else is doing.

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