Tag Archive for thinking

Outsourcing Checklist – Rerun

Hello again! So when people come to me with a project, I’ve developed a list of questions I ask to help make sure that I can fulfill their expectations I thought it might be useful to know what can help an outsourcer serve you better.

For audio related outsourcing.

  1. When do you need this project done? (Date, time, timezone.)
  2. How long is the project? (For me at least, I’d rather know the length of the audio than the word count. I can convert, but it’s easier for me to think in terms of hours recorded than number of words.)
  3. Project specs: What kind of files do you need back? (file type, kbps, khz.) If it’s e-learning, do you need the files split and named? Do the breaths need to be taken out? Are there retakes to be removed?
  4. Don’t Assume: Everyone has different terms for audio/recording related things based on their background. Someone from radio and someone who was an ad executive may not call things the same words, be sure you understand what you’re asking for and hearing.
  5. Don’t Assume 2: Just because you always do something with your audio-that it’s automatic-don’t assume other people do the same thing. If you want your outsourcer to know what you need, tell them everything. Better to go over too much information than not enough and have everyone involved be unhappy.
  6. Don’t Assume 3: If you’d really like the files 4 days before the due date, don’t assume you’ll get them by then. Be as specific as possible about things that you’re looking for so that you can be sure you get what you want as well as delivering the way you’d prefer to.
  7. For proofing projects, it’s a good idea to share as much as you know about the client’s preferred audio state. Some publishers want everything word perfect, some aren’t quite as strict. It’s important to know exactly how fine toothed your comb needs to be. Plus things like-does the person need to worry about every little click? Or is the smaller stuff okay and just the big noises need to be notated?

For clerical projects:

  1. Start with the $: It’s a good idea to have a budget for this kind of work before you get started. A lot of research type projects could go on for very many hours indeed, and you don’t want to get a nasty bill surprise you’re nor prepared for.
  2. Find your limits: When it comes to research, it’s important to know as much information about what you’re looking for as possible. It makes the job far simpler for the person. If you want to find creative director’s emails, that’s a great place to start, but try to think of some other limits. If you don’t have a geographic preference (your local area, for example), try a simple numeric limit. You want 50 names. Or you want as many as can be found within your budget’s number of hours.
  3. Be specific: I know this sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve come to me with a really vague idea for a project that I end up not being able to help in their current state. The more information you can give me to work with, the easier it will be for me (or anyone else) to fulfill your expectations.
  4. Know what you want: This dovetails with the previous point, but if you want to grow your business, or find more clients, or post more on social media, know as much as you can about how you want to go about it. Social media, for example, strongly benefits from a cohesive message, and it’s a good idea to know what you want yours to be before you sign on to create a campaign with someone like me. I can help you be more organized, but It’s far easier if you’re at a certain level of cohesive thoughts
  5. Turn around: The turn around for non audio projects generally is a little more flexible, but it’s a good idea to have a timeline in mind for something like this.

The Memes are Lying to You – Rerun

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.

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.

No One Size Fits All Solution – Rerun

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!

Looking in the Mirror-And you!

So as the last part in my series here, I have to touch on one more little bit of self examination. It goes along with my last post, talking about negative self talk. It’s negative self opinion about your own talents.

In my time serving the voiceover community, I have heard so very many talent talk about flaws in their voice or delivery, their mouth noise, their read, or any one of a number of things. I honestly make a point with every one I talk to to reassure them that whatever it is they are worried about, that they believe is ‘their’ thing, lots and lots of other people do too.

Working from home is such an isolating profession, and the voiceover industry in particular since we spend so much of the day in our offices or booths. You hear your voice, or maybe one or two others on a regular basis. Me? I hear dozens, and have heard dozens. I can promise you that you’re not flawed or unique in your amount of mouth noise. Or whatever you’re worried about! Don’t let your anxiety or negative self-opinion drag you down and lead you to be hard on yourself for no reason. You’re not alone!

We all have so many details to worry about as self motivated entrepreneurs, so don’t let something this minor trip you up.

Now let me say as an addendum here, there is one way that positive self talk can harm you, and it’s not about mouth noises. In extreme cases I’ve seen people so convinced that they knew what they were doing, they ignored pro advice from experts in the VO genre because they believed that they knew best. There’s a good self examination, and good self opinion, and there’s evaluating advice that we don’t want to hear from people who know what they’re saying. And it’s pretty easy to figure out who is worth listening to–the internet is all around us as a fantastic research tool to figure out who’s done what, worked with whom, studied with whom and so forth, plus reams of past advice in many cases. (Thank you FB search-in-groups function.)

Many talent have seen a flood of people enter the industry, lured by unscrupulous coaches after their dollars, or idiotic articles that paint voiceover as nothing but ‘talking’. These newbies will often make transparent grabs for advice, having done little to no research or learning on their own, and in some cases have even asked for people’s client lists! That being said, sometimes you might get a grouchy response when you ask questions or look for information, but don’t let the snark dissuade you. We’re good people. We work hard, and the best friends I’ve ever had have come through industry relationships.

Next week I’ll be discussing another major thief of joy from my voice talent friends-comparison.

Looking in the Mirror-What Now?

So you’re here. You’ve got some guides looked at, you’ve made your notes, and you’re full of ideas. Now what?

The place you’re at is a tough one. It’s easy to get paralyzed at this point, or to have an awesome start, but then fall off the wagon with your plan a few weeks or months later. (It bears an uncanny resemblance to those New Year’s Resolutions!)

I have two pieces of advice for you to help you get going on your self improvement train. Number one, keep it small. Whatever your first task, your first step on what you want to do is, keep it as small as possible. At this point, getting the ball rolling is a whole lot more important than how far it moves. You want to keep it small to help make it (whatever your steps are to your goal) doable, and something that can turn into a habit. If you make grand and vast plans, life will probably get in your way in a hurry, or you’ll fall off the wagon before you can lock in your habit forming, so that you’ll have the regular turning to your tasks as part of your daily routine.

Second piece of advice–watch your self talk! Maybe this sounds a little too ‘self-help-book’ to you but listen to me for a second. The way we talk, to others and ourselves influences our thinking. The more you state or think something, the more you’ll believe it. If you call yourself stupid or some other negative word it’s easy enough to believe it on some level over time. You don’t have to talk to yourself in sunshine flowers and hippies, but if you call yourself stupid, counter it. Say, ‘no, I made a mistake, that doesn’t make me stupid.’ The reason why I emphasize this is because many of the voice talent I’ve met are extremely self critical, particularly when they make a mistake, and feeling like you’ve failed will only make you do so. You’re going to screw up on your goals. Maybe you’ve fallen off the wagon for a while. Accept it, learn, and get the heck back on! The race is only over when you’re dead.

Next time will be my last post in this series, covering one of the most common things I’ve seen voice talent do in the 7 years I’ve been in this business.

Looking in the Mirror-How To

So when you decide it’s time to slow down, to do that self-examination, how do you go about it? For me, it starts with picking up a pen, and writing. Personally, writing on paper has always helped untangle my mind. I love making lists and writing out my thoughts to help me get myself in order. I often discover numerous things about whatever I’m working on while I’m writing. Other methods may include sitting down on the computer and doing research, or typing as opposed to writing out your thoughts. Whatever works for you, as long as you’re taking time and taking a good look at where you’re at, that’s the important thing. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have a hard time with recording their thoughts, or even just stopping long enough to do so. I believe this is important though–even if it’s a pad and pen on your counter you scribble on as you move through your day. Or an app on your phone, whatever works!

While you’re here, ask yourself some questions. Where do you want to go with your business? What is your ‘big’ goal? How are you going to get there? Do you have an infrastructure in place to handle a greater amount of work? Do you have a business plan, and if you don’t, when will you make one? And don’t get overwhelmed because something seems big or far away, when it comes to your goals. Make the goal, but then look at what the first step is. The goal is important, but after that, it’s only the step in front of you that matters. For right now, just get down as much as you can. You can fine tune later.

When you’re looking at guides and how-to’s, make sure you’re considering how they can work with your specific life circumstances. Kids, outside jobs, and many other factors influence how we make organizational plans fit our lives. It’s easy to give up on getting more organized or evaluating things if we feel like we’re failing whatever plan or guru we’ve found. Don’t let someone else’s idea of how you should be running your business make you feel like you’re not good enough.

The important thing is to take a solid look at where you are, where you’re going, and how far you’ve come. To make plans, and consider new things. To admit things you could have done better, but also to celebrate your successes. The mirror may be uncomfortable sometimes, but we all need to take a good long look to be sure we’re going where we want to, and we know how to get there!

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