Tag Archive for what not to do

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.

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.

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!)

Archive Thursday: What an Assumption Made out of Me

assume1My Dad, Bob Souer is a voice talent. Somewhere along the way he home grew us (myself and my three brothers) into various kinds of help for his business. My father has (as all talent do) his share of mouth noise, and working in such a narrow environment led me to believe that his noise was the exception to the rule. Somehow, I grew to believe that there was such a thing as a perfect, noise free voice.

I was of course, way off base. Noise is normal, noise is part of voicing, and although there are measures one can take to reduce the problem before you get in front of the mic, nothing is perfect, and you simply (like many other things) have to develop measures to deal with it. I spent a lot of time being frustrated with voices, when I was really just running in circles. Eventually it dawned on me that what I was hearing was in fact, normal. (It was audiobook narrators that cured me of this.) The problem was squarely in my lap, and I was the one who needed to change.

Where am I going with this? Question your assumptions. Something that you’ve always believed to be true can easily be inhibiting you from…well, just about anything. In my case, it was inhibiting me from finding proactive ways to handle problems instead of just reacting to issues by being frustrated. No one needs more stress in their lives, and I can say that changing my perspective and getting rid of my assumption has helped me feel worlds better about what I do.

So think about it! What do you believe is true because it’s ‘always been that way’? Or because ‘everyone says so’? We all have those things, and it can be truly eye opening, and very freeing to realize that something that was inhibiting you truly no longer has to hold you back. At all.

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.

What ever happened to Experts?

expertiseI’ve written many times about the changing nature of our industry, and how it’s important for each voice talent to find their own way, and create a life and work situation that fits them individually-that what works for someone else might not work for you.

But several things have come together recently to make me pause and take the time to draw a parallel point. I read an article a while back called The Death of Expertise, and it’s stuck in my head. Recently, this article has some together with my endless reading of social media and forums to trouble me.

There are lions in our industry that have been working for decades. Some of them are not with the modern era-refusing the acknowledge the changes in the industry-but many of them have risen to the challenge and are still making money and voicing lots of big ticket things that we all see or hear. But despite their wealth of knowledge, sometimes these people are seen as little more than carnival barkers with an opinion.

Obviously, it’s hard to know from words on a screen what’s going on behind the lines. It’s hard to know just how real or true what someone says is. But rather than quickly judging or condemning people, perhaps the wisdom is in trying to find out more about the person. People who seem arrogant or brash online can be kind and unassuming on the phone or in person. Someone who seems to be tooting their own horn from a post that you read might have something really valuable to offer. Other than time, what will it cost you to delay judgement and harsh words? What could it gain?

Archive Thursday: The Avalanche Killer

This week’s Archive Thursday was originally posted on December 17th, 2012.

Many folks who have been to Faffcon have heard my Dad speak on the topic of Inviting the Avalanche. For those who haven’t, the basic idea is to invite as much work as you can handle, then a little bit (or a lot!) more, and then figure out how you’re going to get it all done. Dad does this by outsourcing to myself and others.

What I want to talk about today however, is the single most deadly thing to finishing your avalanche, and indeed getting further ones. In order to explain, I’m going to use an illustration from my own work–and the reason I didn’t post last week. Recently, I invited the avalanche and took on 3 audiobooks and some other minor work at the same time. The narrators I was working with were new to me, but I’ve done a ton of audiobooks! I would be okay! Right?

Wrong. Every narrator is different, and it was a huge mistake for me to assume that I would be able to go through things at the same pace and in the same way as I have on other projects. Every book is different, and I made another mistake in not reviewing the book before I really got into the project. I discovered to my horror that the book was actually 45 chapters long!

I got the work done on that project and the two subsequent ones. However, this meant that I got something like 21 hours of sleep over the course of five days, and suffered some minor health problems at the same time. (Too many hours spent hunched over the computer!)

So what is the avalanche killer? Lack of planning! When you are sitting there in front of your mic as the snow begins to rumble down the work-mountain, look up a moment and assess what’s coming at you! Don’t get caught up in outside concerns and end up buried and miserable like I did. It’s vital to be sure that you are using your time in the most efficient and effective way possible when you are digging your way out of the snow pile. Too many mistakes in this arena can damage the quality of the work you turn out, and can of course hurt your chances of getting another one!

To finish this post I want to give a shout out to my new client Mark Nelson. He was very understanding of my crazy circumstances and was very willing to work with me in that I was trying to finish editing his book and proof another at the same time, with the same due date.

I was truly lucky in my circumstances to be working with understanding clients and to be able to push myself as hard as I needed to to get the work done, but I am very aware of how much worse the situation could have been, and how much damage I could have done to my own name and client relationships. Don’t make the mistake I did, and avoid the avalanche killer!

Next week I will be coming back to my Faffcon Session, Online Presence Part 2.

Deep in a Rut

rutsThe voice over industry has changed in recent years.


I read a lot of posts in voice over groups online, and there are some major themes that run throughout pretty much all of the discussions. I’ve written about that here.

But I’ve noticed that one of the major topics of discussion is how things have changed, and how there are some who want to move with the change, and others who want to arrest, define, or reshape the changes. I’m not going to get into what I think is good or bad about the industry, because that’s not the point of this article, and moreover, the a lot of the topics, (i.e: rates) are hugely divisive and can cause a lot of controversy. And moreover, my place in the industry doesn’t really give me the same kind of voice and stance that actual talent have.

The point of my article, however is the rut that I’ve seen some people in. There are people who can’t seem to understand that the methods and modes of working 20 years ago aren’t necessarily true today. Regardless of what you think of those changes, the reality is that they’ve happened, and it’s more productive to learn to adapt yourself to the truth of now, rather than to refuse to learn, or to complain about the state of things.

If things aren’t working for you, if you’re not getting as much work as you want, or your workflow isn’t, then change it. Don’t let the way things have always been for you trap you in a mindset that will make you unhappy. Things can change, even if all that changes is your perspective.

Archive Thursdays: The Commonalities in Your Logo


This week’s Archive Thursday originally appeared October 8th, 2012

Over the past couple of years I’ve met a couple hundred voice over professionals, and connected online with hundreds more. One very common thing I see from professionals old and new is the presence of a microphone somewhere in their logo or branding. Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. It’s a logical step to think about what you do and the fact that a microphone is intimately involved with this. However, something to consider is how common this is. A microphone can be used in an innovative way to work well with a logo, but it is also very easy to be just another VO talent with their name and a picture of a microphone. The other fact here is the microphone says nothing about YOU personally. Is your turn around time fast? Do you truly care about you clients? Do you have a personal commitment to going 110% in your work? Do you have 10 years experience? You get the idea. The microphone says none of these things. It just says that you have one, and many people also use very similar images for their logo.

There are a million billion conversations coming at us every day, and it’s very hard to get yourself heard in the ceaseless babble. It’s important to highlight what’s unique about you personally, what makes you different? Why should people want to work with you?

The second major commonality that I run across is the word ‘voice’ in people’s taglines. I haven’t done searches on this to get accurate numbers, but just from all the sites I have visited, and logos I have seen, this word is vastly overused. Again, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to use that word in an innovative and interesting way, but it’s useful to consider exactly how many people are using it online every day. Every VO professional has a voice, and again, it doesn’t really illustrate anything about you personally or professionally.

If you have one or both of these items in your logo, I’m not telling you to change it, but I do want to point out the realities of their use. If you do want to change it, what should you do? Start talking to people who know you well, and get words that describe you, as many as you can, and see what images that brings to mind. Basics are good here–in jokes are not a good idea. That’s where my lightbulb came from. I hope that this article can help, or at least get you thinking in a new and potentially useful direction.

Archive Thursday: 10 Ways to Use Social Media Wrong

social-media-logosWelcome to another Archive Thursday! This week’s post originally appeared January 7th, 2013.

1. Tell people how you’re annoyed with another person in the community.
It’s so easy to broadcast what you feel. Facebook and Twitter feel like you’re talking to your friends, and it’s human nature to want to tell others how you feel. However, it’s vital to remember that the internet is your permanent record. Your post might not have an immediate affect, however it could easily be the proverbial pebbles that start an avalanche of opinion against you.

2. Discuss intimate life details.
This sort of ties in with #1. This is so easy to do. But honestly, nothing is private. So when you want to post a Facebook status about your personal life, think of it as broadcasting to everyone on the internet, and think about whether or not you would want everyone to know what you’re going to say. Also consider if you would want potential employers or someone who might give you a job referral to know what you were going to say.

3. Be hateful
Being angry is part of life. But the short term gain of blowing off steam online is not really worth the long term detriment of getting a reputation as an angry or unhappy person. Again, think of the reactions of potential employers or those who might refer you to them. Pick up the phone and call someone–it’ll be more personal, and you’ll have that voice on the other end of the line telling you how right you are.

4. Be political
Most people have opinions in this arena. Broadcasting yours will not change anyone’s mind, and will likely just give you that angry person reputation.

This is often because people are thinking in the mindset of ‘old advertising’. Things like ‘market saturation’ don’t work online. Your post doesn’t go away, and overdoing it will just make people associate you with irritation. No one likes spam, just because it’s you doesn’t mean you’re not spamming.

6. Spell reel good all the thyme. Grammer is, awesome too?
Everyone makes the occasional mistype. However, it’s always good to reread what you’re saying before you post it to cut down on mistakes, and make sure you’re not phrasing something awkwardly.

I really don’t understand why people still do this. Online caps = SCREAMING. If you’re writing like that, people are picturing you screaming in their face. Great impression, huh?

8. Post about yourself, all the time, everywhere. The spotlight’s on you, right?
Remember the 80%/20% rule. 80% of your posts should be about others, only 20% of your posts should be about yourself. People are less likely to find you interesting and worth hiring if you only promote yourself all the time. Plus you gain the goodwill of others by promoting them and what they’re doing, which can lead to job referrals.

9. Push your voice to fellow voice talents. Everyone should know how good you are!
This is one particular to our community that I find mystifying. Seeking comments on the state of your demo is understandable, when it’s not overdone, but when you post ‘hire me please’ in voiceover forums? That doesn’t make any sense, and is a waste of time. You could be using the time to find something else to do marketing wise that could gain you money.

10. Say nothing. Better to keep quiet than make a mistake!
Although this is also a very easy course to take, it too is a potential problem. Creating an online presence is vital, not only for your current state of work, but for work in the future. Companies are moving their presence online more and more as time goes on, and you need to have a voice where their attention is. Even if you’re getting as much work as you want right now, can you guarantee the future?

Twitter is the topic in next week’s post, as I update my original thoughts on the subject with something I forgot!


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