Tag Archive for thinking

Looking in the Mirror

In my recent series, I discussed many of the lessons I learned after having been in the hospital with heart failure at 36. One of the major ones was the need to stop and asses where you are from time to time. In these next few posts, I’ll be looking into that concept more in depth.

Like many people in our line of work, I’m often very busy between career and real life concerns. There’s the work itself, which takes up a fair bit of time. There’s marketing, client management, and looking for new leads. You’ve got to make sure you have enough work, pay the bills, and try and tuck some away for a rainy day. (Not to mention taxes.)

Then there’s plain old life needs. I don’t have kids, but I have a number of personal concerns I have to deal with regularly. I try to get out once in a while and have fun, as well as work on outside projects, and try and diversify my income. I have some down-the-road plans, as I’ve always wanted to grow what I do and be able to not have to rely heavily on audiobooks for my income. (I do love them! Don’t get me wrong, I just don’t want all my eggs to be in one financial/business basket.)

But what I’ve found I have to take time for, and is sometimes pretty difficult, are those moments of looking in the mirror. Evaluating where I am and what I’m dealing with, not just with my business, but with how business and life balance and interconnect. It can be easy to just work and work and work, and worry only about what’s right in front of me. Then I find myself weeks or even months down the road with no notion of how I got there, and behind on numerous ‘office’ aspects of my business. There’s always more that I ‘mean’ to do, things I ‘should’ do to get more organized, or other vague ideas like that.

For me, making the effort to do these things is about staying mindful, staying present, and not just letting life sweep me along. It’s also about having people to keep me accountable, and making the effort to do the needed things even when I don’t want to. I’ve taken a little time off this week to sit down and consider where my business and life are going. I’ve been working with voice talent since 2011, and I’ve been very lucky to have had as much success as I have. I’m very grateful to everyone I’ve developed a relationship with, and how much goodwill I’ve found throughout the community. I hope sharing some of my journey to business accountability can help you consider your own mirror, to see where you are, how far you’ve come, and where you want to be.

The Year (I was as sick as a) Dog Part 5

So as I was writing my series here, I got another indicator that my brains are still recovering a bit. See, I forgot to mention the fundraiser when I was telling my story! This was such an important thing to leave out, and something that was so important to this journey.

So, like many people, I’ve had trouble paying the costs of health insurance premiums. As a single woman with a freelance job, it doesn’t always work out for me to be able to hit them every month for a year and sure enough, this year my coverage had lapsed.

At the end of October, when my friends Laura Bealko, Jen Reilly, and Lauren McCullough realized I was doing very poorly, the three of them came to me with the idea of doing a fundraiser for enough money to cover my thyroid surgery. (Remember, this was before I found out it was my heart, not my thyroid.) I was a little reluctant. I was raised in a good old ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ type of household, and I hated the idea of asking for money from people I didn’t know. But I had to face facts. I was declining and just living was getting harder and harder every day. So I said yes, and these three angels put things together for me.

And then the proverbial heavenly choir descended. So, so many people donated, and so quickly! I was funded, and more, in less than a single day. I still don’t have words for how amazing everyone who contributed or passed on info is. I’ve spent the past 7 years serving the community to the best of my ability, trying to be a good smile and creative people connector, but this was the first time I had really seen (other than people who hire me, of course.) just how much people cared for me as a person, and the kind of impact I was able to create.

My friends, when I was a little girl, my mom died at the age of 37. When I turned 30 a few years ago, I took stock of my life and considered than in 8 years, I’d be older than my mother ever would be. That was quite sobering. Then I thought about the fact that despite how long she’s been gone (More than 30 years, she died in 1988) people still remember her, still speak well of her, talk about how much of a delight and a light she was as a person. I decided that was my life goal. Regardless of what you believe, the only real immortality we have in this world is in the memories of others. I wanted to leave memories behind like my mother did. That fundraiser was the first (and quite stunning) indication that I’d proceeded a bit of the way to my goal!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who participated in the fundraiser, and thank you to everyone who sent me a check, a paypal payment, or by whatever means. You are all angels in my eyes and although I needed it for a different reason, every penny has been more needed than I realized at the time it would be!

Thank you to my parents and brothers, for your love, hospital visits, much gas and parking and gummy bears spent upon. You were more of a comfort than you know.

And last but not least, thank you to my three archangels. You are beautiful people, and I quite literally owe you my life. Thank you for everything.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 4

Life lessons learned on the cardiology floor, continued!

Don’t take your life or health for granted. Period: This one hit me two ways. I heard so many codes called on that floor at all hours, and saw some seriously shaken nurses when someone didn’t make it. Life and death were all around me, and it’s times like that when you realize how fragile it is. The second way this one hit me was far more personal. Once I had started on my Pee Marathon, I had my eyes opened to just how sick I had been. My head was so much clearer once all the water started to come off that I realized just how much my mental function had suffered along the way and how much that had probably influenced my decision making and everything else. The truth was, I’d been slipping up on project deadlines and many other things for a long time, and it was only the kindness of others that saved me from disaster more than once. I’m going to make next year my year to work on my leg and numerous other issues!

Take Time Off: Some of us in this business are better than others and regularly schedule vacations and weekends. I’ve always tried to give myself nights and weekends off, but as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve found more than once that if I have only one task during a day, if I’m not careful I can make that task last the whoooooooole day! I (and you, yes, you) need time off to reflect, consider your business and your life, and appreciate where you are. If I could rewind, I’d’ve made myself take more than one pause, and hopefully I would have had time to realize how I was feeling, and how different it was from how I should be!

Gratitude: It’s in every silly meme on Facebook, and is touted all over the place, I know. You’re probably sick of seeing the very word. I know I am sometimes. But it’s also very true if you ignore the gnat cloud of sugary meme nonsense and think about what it really means. People will stand by you in a crisis in ways that you didn’t think were possible, and I think it’s vital to take the time to feel that presence, and what it means for your life. This can be your blood family, or the family that you make for yourself. Yes you could have more, or different, but there’s always something to be grateful for, even the tiniest of things. And when it’s a solid presence when you’re scared and alone, that’s no small thing.

Next post will be my last entry in this series, telling one more story, and shelling out some serious thank yous.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 3

So what did I learn from being in the hospital at 36 for heart failure? Plenty!

Periodically assess yourself: Many of the changes in my body and health were small things that accumulated over time. In the business and rush of my daily life it was really easy to ignore just how much I had changed, how low my energy had gotten, and how much I was suffering needlessly. I needed to stop, take a long step back, and really consider just where I was and what I was doing, instead of dismissing my own instincts and the words of others. (which leads to-)

Don’t dismiss the things you don’t want to hear: More times than I would like to admit along the way friends and loved ones told me that I was in danger, that my health was starting to spiral, and I needed to take stronger action. I pushed this aside for a lot of reasons, most of them things that didn’t matter in the long run, and certainly didn’t stack up when measured against how close I was to having a far less happy ending to this health saga of mine. Listen to the people who love and know you. You don’t have to do what they say, but if they’re good people, really stop and consider their point of view whether you like it or not. If it twinges, it’s often something that’s uncomfortably true.

Fix it now, not later: This is one I struggle with and have most of my life, as much as I try to fight it. If I’d paid attention and dealt with the problem sooner, it would not have taken me quite so long to beat it, and probably would have been easier to do in the bargain. Don’t let the needed things go, if you can fix it now, do it and get it over with. I can’t tell you the number of things in my life this has applied to, work or otherwise, and I bet many of you can think of the same kind of examples.

Take risks, even at the worst times: It’s a long, complicated personal story, but during this time, I gave my trust to someone close to me who had lost it a long time ago, and was astounded to find out how much that person had matured. They were willing to put aside some things that had kept us apart, and to see and help me as a person who needed it badly. (and not just the physical help of driving places but the emotional support of holy crap hospitals are scary!)

I’ll be delving into some more lessons learned in my next post!

 

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 2

I was 36! Congestive heart failure was something that happened to old people! What on earth could be causing this?

Bewildered, but still very sick, over the next couple days I endured. The local hospital did their best to run some tests and figure out what was going on.

The real cause of my swelling, my exhaustion, and my trouble breathing, and this reality of heart trouble had nothing to do with my thyroid. It was an old, complicated medical condition I’ve had for a very long time called an Arteriovenous Malformation. (I’ve linked an article if you want to find out what it is in more detail.) My AVM is a sizeable growth on my left thigh that has been there for about 25+ years. After some searching and attempts at treatment in my mid 20’s, I had kind of given up doing anything about it, other than enduring the regular pain. My treatments hadn’t been covered, and were expensive and difficult to manage on a grocery store job insurance/paycheck.

But as the local hospital was bundling me up and sending me to the big city hospital, I was discovering that all this time, the bad connections in my growth had been putting strain on my heart, and this was what was sending me into heart failure.

I settled into my new room, with the cascade of doctors and residents that comes from being in a teaching hospital, and began the long road back to some semblance of health. The first thing I had to do was pee.

A lot.

Seriously. Apparently all this swelling on my body was not fat as I had thought, but as often goes along with heart failure, it was water. With lots of medicine, I ended up 64 pounds lighter! And at this slimmer, svelter size I was finally able to undergo the definitive testing that would allow the doctors to take measurements and do scans that would pinpoint what they needed to do and where to go next. The scans and relevant indignities undergone, they sent me home just in time for thanksgiving. (And oh was I thankful.)

But those 13 days in 2 hospitals gave me a lot of time to think, and I wanted to share some of these thoughts with my friends, colleagues, clients, and dear readers in general–you’ll find some of those in the next post!

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog

It began like any other year. 2018 was going to be another great year for my life and my business, and I had so many plans to bring forth of things I wanted to do, words I wanted to write, and conventions to sponsor and go to. I was excited to begin another year and see where it took me and my little business.

My illness didn’t start out in any big ways. Around February I noticed that I felt more tired than normal, and that my throat was kind of swollen. I went to my regular doc, and she told me that I was having thyroid troubles, that there was a growth on my throat. It was kind of an ironic diagnosis, as I have a scar along the base of my throat from a nodule removal 25 years earlier! It seemed that my thyroid had decided enough was enough, and it was time to kick it in.

Over the next few months, I struggled through a mish mash of misdiagnosis, poor choice in doctors, long waits to get in to see the right doctors, and many other errors. What I didn’t notice so much while all this was going on was my continually lowering energy level, and my continually swelling size. When I did become conscious of these things, I dismissed the tired from the thyroid, and my swelling size as being part of an unfortunate natural tendency to gain weight, since I didn’t have the energy for exercise any more either. Once I had finally seen the right doctor, I set up thyroid surgery for the source of all my problems.

Or so I thought. As the weeks went by, my body swelled further, and I began to have a continual cough and significant trouble breathing. I continued to believe it was all my thyroid, but at the urging of my friends and family, I finally went back to my regular doc to get checked out. My hope was that she would clear me for surgery. She took one look at me and sent me to the ER.

At that point, I was too tired to care. My mom drove me to the hospital where my thyroid doc had an office, and I quietly waited through the considerable waiting for anyone who doesn’t have a life threatening injury in the ER.

My initial diagnosis stunned me. Congestive heart failure.

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.

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