Thursday, May 8, 2014

Get Off The Wheel!



“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” – William James

When you look at a hamster running on a wheel in their cage, what do you see? Some people might think it is cute and captivating to see how fast the hamster is moving – especially when you consider its overall size and body structure. Most people, though, will basically shake their heads and sigh as if to say to this little pet, “All of that hard work – and you don’t even realize you’re not going anywhere!”

Before you start feeling sad about Ernie the hamster, you need to first take a look at yourself and make sure that you are not following the same routine when it comes to educating yourself about the voiceover business. Yes, you could actually become a hamster trapped on that wheel. How so?

Thanks to the Internet and mobile technology, there is an overabundance of different ways that you can stay informed, updated and educated about the voiceover industry. For those of us who have been doing this for several years, I’m sure that we can all agree that the resources available 5 or 10 years ago fail in comparison to what is available right now. Regardless of how long you have been in this business, you can actively use these resources to polish your craft and become a better voiceover talent and a better business owner. However, the key word in that previous sentence that we need to pay close attention to is “actively.”

You can have all of the resources in the world. You can join every single online forum, Facebook group and mailing list that pops up when you Google the word “voiceover.” You might even be able to add a substantial list of academic credentials and accolades to your resume that you have acquired and obtained over the years since you first started your journey in this industry. However, if you are not taking action, none of those things are going to matter. All of it will just be an absolute waste – a waste of time from your day, money from your pocket and space in your brain.

From the outside looking in, it may seem like you are doing a lot. You might look at all of the blog posts that you have “liked” and commented on when visiting online groups, forums, chat discussions and Facebook pages. The list of relevant bookmarks that you have accumulated within your favorite browser might appear to be very impressive, especially if you are actually visiting each of those saved websites daily. However, that is not taking action.

You are not putting that information to work for you actively. You might have commented on that great article filled with tips about mastering vocal variety, for example, but still have yet to actually use any of them. You could have shared that amazing blog on effective marketing strategies to maximize exposure to your voiceover business on all of your social media platforms, but seem to draw a mental blank all of a sudden when someone asks you if those strategies actually worked for you.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Never confuse movement with action.”

Remember, you are not receiving any type of commission or payment for each online forum or Facebook group that you join. If you are, let me know ASAP! J If you are not, then you more than likely have realized that spending countless hours basically stalking these industry leaders and experts instead of actively following them can rob you of valuable time and energy – eventually killing your business.

Don’t get me wrong! As mentioned earlier, I strongly believe that there is a lot of value in the abundance of resources that are currently available. I personally and professionally have signed up and registered for quite a few of them recently that have done wonders for my business because I put what I learn into action.

Some people might have the mentality that they have to know everything before they can do anything. This line of thinking is one of the most effective ways to guide yourself straight to that hamster wheel.

There are some things about this business that you will be able to learn simply by reading it, but you are not going to benefit from that knowledge until you use it! Even if you actively try one of those points that you learned in that blog that you commented on several times last week and fall flat on your face, you can at least learn from the experience and move forward. You will even be able to return to the same blog and see it with a brand new perspective.

Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted as saying that “action expresses priorities.” Is your business a priority? Is polishing your craft and harnessing more talent one of your list of priorities? Do your actions prove your answer? Or, are you just a hamster…stuck on a wheel?



Thursday, February 6, 2014

Voice Over Thinking with Doug Turkel and Terry Daniel





Have you ever wanted to eavesdrop on a conversation between two voiceover pros?

Terry: Hey man! So, instead of another typical interview with a pro, I thought you and I could just shoot the shit about our daily lives as voiceover artists. Is that cool with you? Wait, are we truly artists or do we just tell people that because we're starved for attention?

Doug: Yeah, that’s cool with me. But “artist” always sounds so pretentious. And since I’m not nearly as arrogant as you are, I usually go with voiceover “talent.” ; ) Plus, since I own VoiceoverTalent.com, I figure it can’t hurt the old SEO, right?

But anyway, my day usually starts with a quick look at my to-do list to see if there’s anything that needs to be recorded right away. After that I’ll scan my emails to see if there are any new requests from clients or auditions from my agents. How ‘bout you?

Terry: Thanks for whoring out your website in the first part of the interview. That was awfully kind of you. Don’t expect a hyperlink to it, either. Ha! I wish I could say I didn't start my day with a giant mug of java because I know how awful that is for the voice but that's what happens! Twice a week, my fiancĂ© and I head to the gym early in the morning to get a good workout in. It helps reduce the stress of the work week.

Like you, I have a task list that sits on my Google Calendar that works very well for this sort of thing. Do you use any fancy software for your task list or calendar?

Doug: Hey, you know me...it's all about the marketing, right? so any time I have the chance to mention VoiceoverTalent.com, I'm gonna mention VoiceoverTalent.com. With hyperlinks. Get over it.

As for to-do lists and task lists, I've tried a bunch...Remember The MilkAstridToodledoWunderlist, and others, including Google Tasks, which is built into GMail. And that's the one that I'd go with if I had to pick some software solution to the to-do problem. Mostly because I live in GMail all day anyway. But for me, any of those solutions is just another layer of hassle between me and what needs to get done. And another layer of remembering to check my list.

So I go old school: I've got a dry erase board in the studio. That way, it's always staring at me, and at a glance I can always see everything that's on my plate. What’s your favorite way of managing what you've gotta get done?

Terry: Doug, I’m such a superstar in this business that I have 10 employees that keep me organized. Actually, I'm a Google freak myself. I live, sleep and breathe Google! In Google we trust. Okay, I’ll stop. Between the Google task tool and calendar, it keeps me pretty organized. Google Drive is another good wrench for the tool box! You can create documents and they automatically save in seconds. This works well for contacts, billing records and tasks. I also use that cute little reminder app on the iPhone.

The dry erase board is a great idea. It’s the old school ideas that still work best for some folks. Speaking of old school, I've decided to revert back to my pre-school days and just write on the wall with a permanent magic marker. That works great! What are we doing? Is this getting too nerdy? By the way, I just tweeted that we were working on this gem of a blog and noticed you weren't following me. What a jerk!

Doug: Yeah, of course I don’t follow you on Twitter. Do you have any idea how often you tweet? Back when I did follow you, all I saw was your freakin’ headshot popping up every 45 seconds or so. I’m just not strong enough to handle that.

But that brings up an interesting question. You've tweeted (@voiceoversbytd) more than 30,000 times. I’ve tweeted (@Voiceover) about 1,700 times and I’ll admit that my ROI on Twitter hasn’t been great. I know that we probably disagree on this, but I’ve never felt that focusing on Twitter for marketing made a whole lot of sense. You've obviously been using it a lot more actively than I have...has it generated much work for you?

Terry: First off, thanks for stalking my account. Second, perhaps if you weren't just following me, you wouldn't have seen my ugly mug pop up every three seconds! Twitter has been a great tool for me. I can honestly say that I get at a handful of new clients every year based on relationships I've made via Twitter. It takes more than just tweeting pictures of your cat or tattoo. I like posting links to cool VO projects I’m working on and occasionally will post helpful YouTube videos as well. I follow as many agencies and production companies as I can.

Sometimes it's as simple as just sharing ideas back and forth with these companies. If you’re not careful, it can be a total time suck. This is the case with any social media sites. I do pretty well with twitter. It sure beats picking up the phone and making a cold call, although I understand the importance of it. Are you a fan of cold calling? Sometimes I would rather drive my knuckles into the pavement than make a cold call.

Doug: Believe it or not, the thing that’s been most effective for me on Twitter has been recommending other voice talent. When clients or connections of mine on Twitter are looking for voice talent who don’t sound like me, I’ll refer them to someone who meets their specs. It’s a win-win...I help someone find just the voice they’re looking for, and a VO buddy of mine gets some work and a new client. Those clients are always very grateful, and often come directly to me the next time they need an “UNnouncer” sound.

Cold calls? I hate ‘em. I know that some people love them (or at least don’t mind them) and if they work for you, start dialing. They don’t seem to work for me, mostly ‘cause I don’t enjoy them, so I’d rather focus on marketing efforts with a better ROI. For me, that’s laser-focused marketing aimed at individuals who I can build relationships with. Less scattershot “advertising,” more one-on-one “interacting.” Do you have a favorite type of marketing?

Terry: I really enjoy just going door-to-door in random neighborhoods. “Hi, Mr. Thomas! Do you and your family need a voiceover for anything? If not, do you have any beer?" Like you, I enjoy the relationship building process. Sometimes it’s not even about voiceovers. It’s more about what I can do to help their business grow and bouncing ideas off each other. Even if they don’t need an actual voiceover right away, if you can come up with a cool marketing idea for a prospective client, good things happen!

For example, I recently developed a good relationship with prospective client and he hired me to do their voicemail when at the time, he really wasn't looking for a voiceover. All I did was give him a couple of key ideas for their website. This is a great example of building trust. Doug, this may seem random but what kind of wine do you like?

Doug: Yup...totally random. I’d expect nothing less from you, Terry. And I wish I had an answer for you, but the truth is, I've never really liked wine. And I've tried to like it. Back in my radio days, we used to host regular wine tastings and intimate concerts at the station for some lucky listeners. Every time, I’d sit there and listen to the wine expert discuss the finer points of the wines’ cherry or plum nose, its complexity, and its oak-y finish, or how it, “hints at green tomato and mineral notes as the finish dances.” Whatever. To me, it all just tasted like, well...like wine, I guess...nothing special. So I could totally live without wine, and I pretty much do.

Can't live without VO, though...I love everything about it. (I know this might sound cheesy, but it’s true.) The work, the clients, the challenge of finding effective ways to track down new clients, and especially the incredibly cool, supportive and generous people I'm lucky enough to call my colleagues. What helps you keep making that long commute downstairs and into your studio every morning? Other than the wine. : )

Terry: Lol! The cold winter weather in Minneapolis motivates me to keep coming down to “The Cave!” Yes, I have a nickname for my studio! There is truly nothing like coming down to the studio in your flannel pajamas pants and being able to record at 2am, 2pm or whenever you need to. Like any sales oriented job, you’ll have your slow and stressful months but the busy ones more than make up for those.

One of the greatest feelings in the world is when a client calls to thank you for the job you did and gives you credit for helping their business grow. I love that. I am extremely passionate about voiceover and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Well, except singing in a Johnny Cash Tribute Band!

Mr. Turkel, this has been a blast and if you’re not sick of me by now, we should do this again soon. Doug? Doug? Doug!!!!!!

To be continued...


Friday, January 24, 2014

The Lost Art Of Listening




When was the last time that you really listened to someone? Do you remember the last time that you had an extended conversation with someone over the phone? Whether personally or professionally, it seems as if technology has impaired our ability to communicate with each other.

Many people have adopted the mentality that whatever I need to hear from you, I can receive in a short text message, tweet or Facebook post. It seems as if our brains have grown accustomed to paying attention to short and sweet messages only, tuning out anything that is long and drawn out – even when it comes to the detailed instructions that are provided to us by our clients.

I personally know of quite a few voice talents that have lost jobs simply because of not paying attention to the instructions that were provided. One talent lost out because he was expecting to receive a phone call from the client instead of following the simple instruction to make the call himself.

Fortunately, this lost art of listening doesn't have to stay lost – you can find it again! You just need to make some slight adjustments to your attitude, approach and overall way of thinking when it comes to your work.

In the voiceover business, your ears are just as important as your voice. You have to pay attention to what a talent agent or a client is telling you. Especially when it comes to reading copy, delivering files or submitting a demo for representation.

Do Not Rush to Be “Artistic”

Jeffrey Umberger, of the Umberger Agency, believes that voice talents seem to get hung up on the “artistic” side of their work a little too soon and end up inadvertently shutting the door of opportunity by doing so. Remember, just because you can be considered a vocal artist doesn't mean that you have the right to use your client’s projects to express your “creative liberties.” You may feel that the script should be delivered differently when compared to the instructions provided by your client, which is why you might decide to take creative control when it comes to the actual recording. By doing so, though, you are forgetting that you are not the one that is calling the shots – that job belongs to your client.

Think about any other actor – such as the A-list actors and actresses in your favorite movies. What happens when they decide to take creative control and not follow the director’s instructions? They are replaced with another actor that can! Your target objective should be to professionally use your art to satisfy the needs and expectation of the Director (the client) and not the actor. You are not striving to achieve an Academy Award nomination for your performance – your job is to simply focus on providing the client with what they need.

The Long-Term Advantage of Building Rapport

Your clients hire you because they feel as if you are the best candidate that is qualified and capable of following their directions and meeting (or even exceeding) their expectations. That is why you got the job in the first place! By making the decision to change the play on the field against the coach’s instruction, you are basically begging to end up warming the bench.

The key is to work with the client. Prove that you can follow the instructions and meet their requirements so that you can build rapport along with a long-lasting relationship with that client. Once you have earned the trust and respect of your client, then you might be able to eventually have a little more breathing room when it comes to your creative input. However, you need to always make sure that your first priority is to actively listen to and follow their clear and concise instructions – no exceptions!

You Got a Golden Ticket

Focus on the details that are provided within the instructions provided to you, especially when it comes to the desired tone, delivery and overall client expectations for the project. If you are searching for an edge over the competition, focusing on even the smallest details that others may view as insignificant is an essential step towards achieving that goal. It will allow you to have a clear understanding of the client, the product and how you can quickly get your name added to their very short list of favorites to call for future projects and other opportunities.

The specific directions and instructions provided by your client should be viewed as the golden ticket of opportunity. Keep in mind that competition within this industry is very steep – the same instructions may have also been provided to many other potential candidates in the past or even the present. Your goal should be to provide them with exactly what they need so that they will not have to search for any new candidates in the future.

Does Selective Listening Make You a Rebel?

If you are not actively listening to your client, does this mean that you are simply trying to “rebel against the man” by resisting their instruction? Not necessarily! I mean, if that is the case, then you are clearly just in the wrong line of work and should seriously reconsider your decision. However, in most cases, it is simply due to the fact that your selective hearing is getting in the way.

Erik Sheppard of Voice Talent Productions believes that either you are very reluctant about freeing yourself from your comfort zone due to a lack of confidence in your abilities or you are overconfident and think that you know what is best for the project. Regardless of which side of this fence you stand, you will still come across as either ignoring the direction all together or not being capable of taking direction – two great ways to get yourself blacklisted by those clients!

Don’t Become Too Distracted by the “Business”

At the end of the day, you are running a business. We enjoy what we do and have fun doing it, but it is also how we financially support ourselves and our families. However, it is important to not become too distracted by the needs of our business that we forget about our customers. Yes – you are a business owner, but that means very little if you don’t have any customers.

You need to treat your position more like the customer service representatives working on the sales floor and less like the upper management tucked away in their corner offices – completely isolated from the customers.

Focus on finding effective ways to please your customers. Make sure that they are able to come directly to you to get exactly what they need without any headaches, complications or exceptions!

Special thanks to good friends and agents, Jeffrey Umberger and Erik Sheppard for contributing some helpful nuggets!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is Your Voice Worth More Than $15?




If your voice was a product on a shelf at the local department store, what amount would appear on the price tag? Think about the time, effort and hard work that you have put into developing that product from scratch just to get it to the point of where it is today. How much would you charge customers and clients interested in buying your product?

When you think about it from that perspective, it’s easy to feel offended by the mere thought of placing a $5 or $10 price tag on your talent, right? There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling that way either, even though there are many different lowball directories that will make you feel otherwise.

Now that we are two weeks into the New Year, you may not be very happy about the amount of new business you have been able to generate since the first. You could very well find yourself on the short end of the stick when it comes to bidding for different projects simply because lowball contractors and freelancers decided to submit bids that were a fraction of what was on your proposal.

What should you do now? The old saying that, “If you can’t beat ‘em…join ‘em” may quickly cross your mind, but should you pay attention to it?  NO!!

If you take your craft and career seriously, then you always have to remember you are worth so much more than the $10 and $15 jobs that seem to be popping up out of nowhere. You might be saying to yourself, “But, those are the only jobs that are available right now!” By thinking this way, you are clearly not able to see the forest for the trees. Believe me, I know what’s like to struggle to get as many jobs as you can when you are sitting on a big goose egg for the week or even the month – bills piling up, prospective clients bailing out and you're left wondering whether or not you should have gotten into this business in the first place. I went through this when I first got started in voiceovers. Take a deep breath and erase this level of thinking from your mind.

The key is to make sure that you focus on what is really important – the quality of the client instead of the quantity of the payment. When you’re not making very much money or closing very many jobs, you may start to think about joining such sites as Voice Garden and Internet Jock just to scrounge up as much work as possible. As is the case with any business, you need to focus on working smarter and not harder by focusing on high-quality clients.

There are always going to be clients that are simply looking to save a few bucks by getting whatever they need done as cheap as possible. As long as their basic needs are met and they don’t have to spend a lot of money to do so, they are happy. Even if they are not familiar with the average rates that professionals within our industry charge for our services, they will find themselves simply searching for the lowest bid amounts and hoping for the best. Those are low-quality clients that accept low-quality work as long as they get it done for low quality prices.

You need to be focusing on the type of client that is the exact opposite. The type of client that clearly understands the simple fact that quality work requires quality prices. Even if they have limited experience when it comes to this industry, they know that if they want it done right the first time around with no exceptions – they will have to pay for it. In comparison to the lowballing clients looking to save a few bucks, high-quality clients ARE OUT THERE and could be just around the corner. Keep in mind that one high-quality client can do a heck of a lot more for you in the long run than twenty low-quality clients.

When you're a new voice talent, it may come easy settling for these types of jobs for the long haul just because they seem easy to close. Professional anglers don’t use their best tools, equipment and boats to find goldfish just because they are available. Not only would they be wasting their time, money and resources, but they would look absolutely foolish doing so, wouldn't they? How do you think you look with all of your time, money and available resources chasing after the “goldfish” clients and jobs of this industry?

I look at some of these lowball VO directories like a kiosk in a shopping mall. Full of junk that true professional voice talents don't need. So, do yourself a favor and avoid them! Focus on revamping your marketing strategy in order to effectively target the “big fish!" This can be done much easier than you might think.

The key is to simply remember that your work is worth more than $10 – regardless of any rejection notices and emails from prospective clients that would rather keep their money and sacrifice quality than the other way around.

Think of your voice as a showroom-quality product that just hit the shelves today for the first time. Don’t place your brand new product on the clearance rack just so it can sell quicker for pennies. You could easily miss out on the high-quality sales opportunities that will slip right past you along the way.

Keep in mind that my entire sermon here is based on working with clients direct. If you’re represented by a talent agent, the agent will negotiate the rates with the client and more often than not, they are really good rates!  Thank you, talent agents!  More about the agency game in a future blog.

So, I ask you again….what amount appears on your price tag?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Let's Rock the Mic in 2014!





The clock has been reset. The slate has been wiped clean. You are back at day one. Now what? Do you put the pedal to the medal and go for broke, hoping for the best? Sure…if you want to crash and burn before February.

Look at January 1st the same that you would the first of any month. Just because the holidays are over doesn't mean that the fun, vivacious and jolly spirit you had for the last three months needs to end right along with them. However, it can definitely be tough to get the ball rolling after the holidays. You have to go back to reality – away from the close friends, new friends and family members that you became so close to throughout the holiday season. Whether your holiday season didn't pan out the way that you planned or you weren't quite ready for it to come to an end, it is very easy to shut down emotionally and mentally at this time of the year. For those of us who live in the Midwest, the cold and snowy January weather really doesn’t help us to put any pep in our step either. What are you supposed to do? What is the best way to break through this awkward period and get us back on track?

For voice talents, keep yourself pumped up with water and Vitamin D, make sure that your studio AND your face are both well-lit and get back to work! Even if you don’t have any solid sales or meetings coming up, fill up your calendar anyway! Schedule time to catch up with a client that you already have or a prospect that you've had in your funnel since last year. This will help you to keep your mind busy, blood pumping and energy flowing.

Take a look back at your business plan and make sure that it POPS! No, I don't mean to make it colorful, bright and filled with pictures. I mean – make sure that it P.O.P.S – Predict, Organize, Present and Stay up-to-date. Let’s break this down a little further.

PREDICT
Think about where you were able to take your business back in 2013, but focus on where you want it to go in 2014. Get back to basics when it comes to studying the market, searching for potential opportunities for growth as well as improvement. Network with other voice talents in the industry today to pick their brains and use the Internet wisely as a resource for further research and reference. Keep in mind that everything is not going to go as planned, so you have to be fully prepared for the bumps and roadblocks ahead while remaining optimistic.

ORGANIZE
Before you become too focused on how big you want your business to grow in 2014, make sure that you can afford to get it there. Consider all of your expenses for the year and make sure that you will have enough capital and generated revenue to stay afloat. Keep in mind that clients may come and go but remaining under budget will keep your business open forever. Maintain balance by considering a 10 percent cushion hypothetically – reducing projected revenues by 10% and increasing them by 10%. Develop a detailed marketing plan that covers your complete strategy when it comes to maximizing exposure, reaching new customers and getting more work from your old ones. Make sure that your marketing plan covers the online and offline worlds. Having a Facebook brand page has been extremely effective for me. Make sure to get one going this year!  They show up not only in facebook searches but Google searches as well. Complement that brand page with an official website and traditional advertising methods (i.e. post-cards, business cards, etc.)

PRESENT
Whether you're marketing via snail mail or email, have some effective templates ready.  Keep them brief. Prospective clients do NOT want to hear your life story or how incredibly awesome you think your voice is. Your demos should speak for themselves. Have a game plan in place. When I first started doing voiceovers from home, I built a spread sheet of potential clients that I discovered from directories on the Internet and Linkedin!  Spend ample time putting something like that together before you make initial contact.  

STAY UP-TO-DATE
A perfect plan today is not necessarily going to be a perfect plan tomorrow. Think about the different loops, twists and turns that your business had to endure throughout the roller-coaster of 2013. Do you honestly expect anything different just because the year changed? Take the time to study and update your business plan periodically throughout the year, measuring your progress and searching for new opportunities for growth. Never be afraid to make changes, especially if those changes can potentially lead to you taking your business to the next level.

Go back in time to 11:59 PM – December 31, 2013. You are filled with hope, ambition and drive. You are pumped, motivated and excited. You are clearly ready to take on the world, making your professional and personal life so much better in the year to come. You can’t wait for the final second of the night to pass so you can get to work. Keep that passionate drive! Do not allow the change of date to change your pace and focus.

HAPPY 2014!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude in 2013



It's that time of the year again! Since 2013 is coming to an end very soon, I thought I would list my top ten things I am thankful for. This is not a ranking system. I am just listing them as I go.  I would love to read YOUR list as well. Feel free to share it at the end of my blog. I'd love to see what you come up with.

1. Parents: I am very grateful to my parents for the all of the support they have given me over the years. As a teacher, my father has been an inspiration. My writing and speaking skills are a reflection of what I learned from him.  He is also the reason I am such a Minnesota Gopher fanatic.  It's a sickness that runs deep within the Johnston family. They've both put up with a lot of shenanigans, especially during my high school years. Or, high school year depending on who kept track of the days where I actually showed up! More about that in another blog.  Well, that would take 2-3 blogs!

2. Tracy: The love of my life. She has helped me so much. In personal growth as well as my business. She has a way of lifting a person up when they get down or are having a bad day. Waking up next to her every morning is like waking up and finding a gift at your bedside. Her smile is like a beam of light coming down from the skies. She does an awesome job with her photography and social media customers as well. They love working with her and I love being with her. Last year around this time, we got engaged by the Rockefeller tree in NYC. It was a beautiful moment and one we'll never forget.

3. The Neumann TLM 103: Would I sound insane if I told you that my microphone was one of my best friends? I think he would make a heck of a best man!  I just need to find a tux that fits him! We're a match made in heaven and without it, I wouldn't be in business and doing what I love.

4. Family: I am grateful for my family and Tracy's family. They make living life such a joy on a daily basis. My family even has a private facebook group page that we all stay in touch on. Some of the conversations are downright off the wall but that's what makes us unique. It's also brought a few of us closer together and with my youngest sister and brother-in-law living in NYC, it's been a great tool.  A good support system can be taken for granted but I have been lucky to have such wonderful support from my family throughout my life and career.

5. Facebook: Rumor has it there is a cool social media site out there called facebook? I'll have to check it out. Seriously, facebook has not only been a ton of fun but it's proven to be a powerful business tool. Just this year, I was hired by at least a dozen clients who found me on facebook! Not to mention that Tracy and I would not be together if it wasn't for this addictive little gem. Tracy and I went to the same high school in the early to mid 80's but we weren't exactly close friends. We got to know each other via facebook a few years back and the rest is history. Just like many others, I also reunited with several cousins, high school friends and even my sixth grade teacher!

6. Friends: I am honored to have so many friends not only in the voice-over industry but close friends who I have known for quite a few years now. They were there for me when I went through my divorce, when my mother had a stroke and on days where I am feeling a little down. As a die hard Minnesota sports fan, you need good friends to help you cope with the disappointment! Lol!  The closeness of some friendships have the tendency to fade over time.  It happens with everyone but it doesn't dilute the importance of them.

7. Pets: My dog Kaytee has been a staple in this house since 2003 and with the addition of Tracy's cat, Huckleberry, they are as entertaining as a good sitcom! A couple of true characters that amuse us on a daily basis. They should shave their own comic strip! Kaytee is aging now and she's a had a few minor health issues but is still a beautiful dog and is enjoying life to the fullest.

8. Clients/Students:   It's true!  Without them, we would be living at YOUR house! What good is a microphone if you don't have any clients? I am grateful for all of my clients and students. They are fun to work with and we learn from each other. The learning factor is something that gets taken for granted on occasion. Think about it. Every time I do a medical narration or an audio book, not only am I getting paid to do it but I am also getting an education! Many of my students move on to becoming successful voice talents and it's such a joy for me to watch their careers blossom. I'm honored to be their Obi-Wan!

9. Eggs: Sometimes it's the little things, right?  Scrambled, boiled, over-easy.  It doesn't matter.  Eggs are the answer to most of life's problems.  I love them and they love me.

10. Working from home: There is nothing like heading downstairs to the studio in your flannel pajama pants and your hair standing straight up. Sometimes I take this for granted until I have to run to the store and see Highway 394 backed up to Jupiter! I didn't handle rush hour very well back when I was working in Corporate. It's even worse now because I'm no longer used to it. One morning, I came close to pulling a "Bill Murray in Stripes" and considered leaving my car on the side of the highway and walking away!

It's always tough to come up with just ten but this is a start. Again, feel free to comment with your own lists. I would love to read what you have been grateful for in 2013.  Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's Just Reading!




"It’s just reading! Anyone can do it! Grab a mic, plug it into your computer, press record and ta-dah….you’re a voice actor!” We could spend hours listing off all of the different myths and misconceptions that we hear and read about our line of work on the Internet every single day. Just like the person who thinks the entire pool is completely shallow, you realize just how deep the water of this industry can be the farther you go into it.

From the surface, sure! It may seem like one of the easiest jobs that you can have. The truth seems to get overlooked within these myths and misconceptions, because it is much harder to make a living doing voiceovers than many people think. Think about all of the planning, training and execution that is involved – all of that takes not only time but money as well.

The person that says, “It’s just reading!” has clearly never had to handle a grueling medical narration or even be the sole reader for an audio book that is over 350 pages. Too many people just think that all that we do is pick up a script, step in front of a microphone, read the script and then collect a check. Don’t get me wrong; I would absolutely love it if that were the case but it’s not. It takes a lot of work to train your voice to be able to have the endurance, versatility and quality delivery that is required in order to complete the average project. Once the recording phase of each project is complete, many people seem to forget about the review and revision stages as well, which take even longer than the recording itself.

One advantage and common saying that is true about this business, though, is that it is not very intense on the physical side because you are really not required to put forth any physical labor in this line of work. However, the mental exhaustion alone can completely drain you much quicker than you might think. I absolutely love my job primarily because you can have a lot of fun doing it. You just need to make sure that you are realistic about what to expect from this career, especially if you are in it for the long haul.

Even the A-list celebrities that are hired to do voiceover work for multi-million dollar movie and video game franchises admit that it was much harder than they thought it would be. Having to basically stay in character as you record sometimes for hours at a time can be strenuous for anyone – especially if they make their living doing this on a daily basis. Many voiceover professionals have studied this art for countless hours, polishing their craft daily so that they can continue to be successful in a competitive market Acting, improvisation and voiceover coaching are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the quality instruction that we receive behind the scenes both in and outside of the studio.

As is the case with any business, we also are responsible for the marketing, advertising, accounting and administration side of our jobs on top of everything else. Becoming a voiceover professional is truly rewarding, enjoyable and can allow you to eventually fulfill your dreams of never having to punch someone else’s time clock ever again. However, it is imperative that you always remember that it is much more than just reading.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

...It's the Principle of the Thing!





When it comes to growing their businesses, there are too many people that seem to focus on following the Law of Large Numbers. They feel as if the more customers and clients they are able to have, the more successful their business will become due to all of the work that they will be receiving. It is all a numbers game to them, which is why they want to focus solely on getting as many clients as possible. In theory, it seems as if this is the very best approach to take – especially if you are interested in making a lot of money. The more clients you have, the more money you make. That is so simple that a 3rd grader running a lemonade stand during the hottest day of the summer could figure it out. And by the way, when I was a kid, I had the worst lemonade stand ever. The table was wobbly and there was way too much sugar in the lemonade! I hope you never stopped by! Lol! Anyway, that’s another blog altogether.

It is imperative for you to realize that this is not the proper principle that you should be following if you want to experience maximum growth within your business. In order to make a maximum amount of money, you need to focus on a minimum amount of clients. Does that mean that you need to shut everything down when you have acquired a specific number of clients, placing a "Closed" sign on the door of your recording studio? Of course not! However, it does mean that you need to change your perspective when it comes to how much value you place into growing your client base.

You need to realize that the Law of Large Numbers is not necessarily the principle that you need to be following in order to effectively grow your voiceover business. Regardless of the type of business that you have, the best course of action to take would be to follow the Pareto Principle instead. What in the world is the Pareto Principle? That is technical name for what many people today commonly refer to as the "80/20 Rule."

The Pareto Principle was originally developed based on a mere observation of wealth throughout Italy. It was determined that 80 percent of the country's wealth belonged to just 20 percent of its population. This observation was then applied and proven to exist within many different aspects of life as well. 20% of the features found within the average product generate 80% of the usage. 20% of the complete list of computer viruses is what lead to 80% of the computer crashes experienced each year. However, what we want to focus on today is how the Pareto Principle applies to our clients – 20% of your clients will generate 80% of your revenue.

I know that's a lot of numbers and if you’re like me, math was more than likely one of your least favorite subjects in school, so let me break this down for you even further.

Let's say that you have been able to follow the Law of Large Numbers to grow your client base to the point where it has recently reached an amount of 100 clients. You might be ecstatic over this milestone, since (theoretically) it should spell long-term success and peak potential for your business. However, based on the Pareto Principle, 80 percent of the revenue that you are going to receive is going to be generated from 20 percent of those clients. If you generate $50,000 in sales this year from your business, $40,000 of it was generated by 20 of your 100 clients.

Regardless of the numbers that you place within this hypothetical scenario, the result is always going to be the same. You will clearly see just how powerful that 20% truly is to your overall success. What does this mean for us? How can we use this principle to take our business to the next level?

Identify the Core Group of Clients

You need to first be able to identify which clients are included within that core group of 20%. Pay close attention to the specific clients that have given you substantial amounts of work within the past year and then list them in order. Focus on the value of the jobs and projects that you have received, not necessarily the quantity. For example, one client that has given you five jobs totaling $1,000 is more valuable than one client that had to give you ten jobs just to reach the same amount. Creating this list will make it rather easy to identify your core group of clients.

Shift Your Focus to the Core

Once you have identified your core group of clients, then you need to make sure that they have your undivided attention. Now, this does not mean that you should immediately burn bridges with all of the clients that did not "make the cut" when you were identifying your core group. That would actually defeat the purpose, right? However, you need to make sure that your core clients are treated as your most valuable assets. Do you find yourself putting their projects on the back-burner just to address the needs of some clients that were featured at the bottom of your list? While this might be acceptable occasionally, what will happen if your core clients are always being placed on your back-burner? They will eventually find their way to the front burners of someone else's stove.

Manage Your Business Based on the Core

If you truly want to take your business to the next level and increase your revenue, then you need to manage it based on your core group of clients. Focus on getting as much quality work from them instead of quantity work from everybody else.

Get the Law of Large Numbers out of your head when it comes to growing your client base and managing your business overall. The Pareto Principle (excuse me…the "80/20 Rule") is the approach that you need to have from here on out. Stop stretching yourself so thin trying to please and satisfy the needs of the masses when not even one-fourth of your clients are truly keeping your business afloat in the first place. Doing so will also lighten your overall load because you will be able to identify the dead weight that is weighing you down in the first place.

Do not allow the clients that are not listed within your Core group to sink the ship of your business, causing you to drown in the sea of competition. Use that 20% to not only keep your boat afloat but to also assure that you will experience the joy of smooth sailing from this point forward.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Mosquito and the Mentor





I love almost everything about Minnesota summers – the weather, vacations, and beautiful days at Lake Calhoun and so on. However, towards the top of the list of things that I absolutely hate about this season are mosquitoes!

Tiny little bugs who can very easily make your life miserable just by forcing their way into it!  But, do you know what the most irritating part is about being the victim of a mosquito? You more than likely will never see them coming. It seems as if you would not even know that they have chosen you as their prey until they have already gotten exactly what they need from you and all you're left with is an itchy bump that can easily leave an ugly scar over time. 

So now comes the point where you're asking yourself, "Why is he talking about mosquitoes? What do these bugs have to do with voiceovers?" The sad truth is that mosquitoes have everything to do with the world of business as a whole, including the voice talent industry. There are mosquitoes flying around within this industry on a daily basis, searching for their very next targets. Who are they? Where are they? 

The parasitic bugs of this industry are the voiceover training companies that feed off of the ambitions and desires of talented individuals by offering them empty promises, pipe dreams and wishful thinking. All that they have been able to actually deliver, though, is a substantial charge on their victim's credit card statements and massive disappointments. You have more than likely seen their advertisements, online social media pages and even viral videos. You may have even moved towards the delicious bait that they have placed in the water and stopped just shortly before you realized that it was a trap. Some of you may not have even stopped. 

How can you identify which opportunities are legitimate and which are not? It is actually much easier than you think. It all starts with a basic question that you have to ask yourself, "How seriously do I take my career?" If you do not take it seriously at all, then you should not have a problem with finding the best "deal" or the quickest route to learn "everything that you need to know" within a single website that may use those specific quotes as catchy taglines and slogans. That is how some of these predatory companies are able to succeed at hunting down their targets in the first place.

They are fully aware that most humans desire things that they can have right now without delay. We are naturally drawn towards instant gratification and following our instinctive impulses, which is another reason these companies are just like mosquitoes. What draws mosquitoes to us in the first place? Is it the cologne or perfume that we may choose to wear on any given day? Is it the skin that we expose by wearing summer clothing?  No! Mosquitoes are naturally drawn to us because of our carbon dioxide emissions – something that naturally happens and is beyond our control. 

They really don't care about you personally. To them, you are just another good meal that will keep their bodies nourished. After they have gotten what they need from you, they do not plan on sticking around just to follow through or stay attached to you. On the contrary, their goal is actually to get away from you as fast as possible so that they can move on to their next victim.  Some voiceover training companies behave in the same way. They truly do not care about the individuals that sign up for their programs and online courses.  They are primarily just focused on getting exactly what they need from you (i.e. your money) so they will tell you anything they need to in order to achieve their goal. 

However, after you have given in and allowed them to bite you, they are going to suck you dry and move on to their next target as soon as possible. They are not going to stay by your side to make sure that you get the personal training and one-on-one mentoring that you need in order to truly be successful. You will just get access to an abundance of generic videos and training materials along with a bunch of generic, mass e-mails that are "personalized" simply because they have your name at the top.

So, you have to go back to the original question – "How seriously do you take your career?" Becoming a success story within this industry is not something that you can do by paying a substantial fee for a bunch of vague information that you could have gotten for free simply by doing a Google search. You need to have someone who is truly willing to invest their time into you to make sure that you get the quality training that you deserve. 

Why do you think a cubic zirconium gem costs a fraction of the price of a genuine diamond that is the same size? Why is the original painting of the Mona Lisa worth much more than the thousands of duplications that are being sold around the world today? Because time is not money – time is actually worth so much more than a dollar sign!

You need to invest in a mentor who is going to take the time to mold your skills of coal within the voiceover industry into a high-carat diamond of success. Someone who is going to spend the countless hours necessary to develop you into an artistic masterpiece of voiceover talent instead of selling you a cheap duplication that they have sold to everyone else for the same price. Not a parasitic mosquito that is just going to suck your money out of your wallet, precious time from your day and ambition from your heart before they force you to suffer with itchy bumps of disappointment that they leave behind.

A true mentor is going to be the one that stays by your side from start to finish. This is going to be the person who doesn't just take your money and run with it, but understands that you are only paying them as a mutual investment. You will be investing your time, money and trust in them and they will be investing their time, knowledge and experience into you. Instead of giving you a bunch of generic information, a mentor will truly personalize their training to meet your specific needs and give you the one-on-one coaching and development that you expect and deserve.

Benjamin Franklin was once quoted as saying, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."  If you want to polish your craft and receive quality training that will allow you to do so, invest in the services of someone that is going to truly involve you in the training from start to finish. They will view you as a person that needs their attention, commitment and time instead of just another sales figure to add along with all of the others. Spray yourself down with repellent to keep the mosquitoes of this industry as far away from you as possible and focus on making wise choices when it comes to choosing the person that will guide you towards achieving your goals throughout your career.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

If I See One More Fu*#ing Blog About Lowballing!




Yeah, I know exactly what you're thinking right now. After you read the title of this blog, you probably thought, "Oh man! It's yet ANOTHER blog about lowballing in the voiceover industry!" I know you might find it ironic and even a little funny that I have already made a post advising people to stop blogging about this topic and here I am – jumping on the bandwagon right along with the rest of them. Before you decide to click away or curse me out in an email or private facebook message, bear with me for a moment because I’ve developed a perspective that is much different from many others and just might lead this bandwagon in a completely different direction.

Within this industry (and in the world of professional services in general), it is important to have a "Field of Dreams" perspective when it comes to quality. What do I mean by that? Well, if you are familiar with the movie, then you probably already know where this is going, but (for those that do not), "Field of Dreams" was a hit 1989 Kevin Costner movie about a farmer that follows the guidance of a mysterious voice to plow under his corner in to build a baseball field. The voice uttered one of the most famous movie quotes of all time, "If you build it, he will come."

His wife allows him to go through with it, but they both later regret the decision when they realize that no one came, they were broke and were about to lose everything. However, that is when Kevin's character (Ray) started receiving visitors who were actually dead baseball players from the early 1900s. The voice provides him with guidance to help these players fulfill their long lost dreams and goals. Other people believed that Ray was crazy, because he was the only person that could hear the voice and see the players so they kept urging him to change his mind, replant his crops and get back to making money as a farmer. However, Ray ignored them and kept moving forward, helping these players fulfill their dreams. Towards the end of the movie, Ray's dream was fulfilled as he was reunited with his late father followed by thousands of people driving to the field to watch the game, making it a huge success. 

Now, you might be asking yourself, "What in the world does this movie have to do with lowballing in the voiceover industry?" Before you start thinking that I have lost my mind, that I am hearing voices or that I just really love watching Kevin Costner movies, hear me out. 

Regardless of the type of work we do or the specific industry that we might be working in when we do it, we always need to focus on providing quality work for quality pay. It is very easy to get so caught up in the playing the game of numbers that you forget about what is truly important. There are so many lowballing parasites that are feeding off of the voiceover industry right now that it can be extremely difficult to survive in this industry. Many people have decided to drastically drop all of their prices and become one of those parasites just to be able to make a little money. Even though that may seem like the key to success, many voiceover talents and artists find out the hard way every year that it is not. 

If you focus on building a quality business, then you should not settle for anything less than quality pay for the hard work and consistent effort that you bring to the table day in and day out. There are many more customers out there right now that are looking to spend as little as they can to get what they need than there are customers that are willing to pay quality prices for quality work. However, that latter group is the only group that we should be targeting! We need to be willing to stand our ground and be fully prepared to defend our work, refusing to compromise or jeopardize our quality standards just to be able to work for a client that clearly has no respect for them. You can't expect to find a diamond in a shop that only offers cubic zirconia and you definitely should not expect to purchase a brand new vehicle that runs great from a salvage yard. Therefore, why would a customer expect to receive anything other than cheap imitations and junk from a lowballing voice talent? 

This is the picture that we have to be willing to paint for our prospective clients that are "shopping around" and "weighing their options" but always seem to be leaning more towards the lowballing talent instead.  Whenever a client even thinks about using the line, "Well, Mr. Lowballer is willing to do this work for half of what you charge," I simply will reply with something like, "You would not even be able to receive half of the quality that I can offer you, Mr. Customer, for half of the price!" 

We have to be confident in ourselves as professionals. Instead of whining about the different lowballing workers that are hunting down as many clients as they can, focus on taking a stand and reminding your clients why they should stay with you in the first place. Remind them that quality is not something that comes cheap. Even though they may pay a little more upfront, they will get exactly what they need the first time around instead of being forced to pay even more on the back-end to have a lowballing contractor's work fixed or replaced all together. 

Think about it just like you would a poker game. A lowballing contractor wants to make people think that they have the perfect hand, but is really just a great bluffer. Instead of identifying their bluffs and staying in the game, there are so many quality players that willingly giving up their quality hands as a sign of surrender.  Don't give up! Keep fighting by continuously raising the stakes until they are forced to reveal their cards to their clients. That is the moment that we should be fighting for because that is the moment when those customers and clients that insisted on "shopping around" and "weighing their options" will start to realize that they were wrong all along. 

Instead of being so quick to match lowballing offers, take a different approach. Do not focus too much on defense, but, rather, focus on a counterattack.  Use the work of lowballing talent against them in order to show your prospective clients a sneak preview of what they might be getting by deciding to reject your offer because of a pricing difference. One of the most effective tools that I use is found at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMtmeQRuU6k. Whenever someone tries to get me engaged in a bidding war with lowballing workers that charge $50, I simply send them that YouTube link to show them exactly what they can get for $50. 

I am not using this YouTube link as a way of bashing this person, so please do not take it that way. I use this as a tool as a two-edged sword to remind myself why I will never compromise the quality standards that I have set for my work just to close a few more clients and it reminds my potential and existing clients about why they should never expect me to do so. 

If a client expects quality work, they should be focused on investing the right sound for their project more than the right price. If you build a quality business, quality clients will come!  Other people and professionals will try to discourage you, distort your vision and distract you from achieving your goals. That is just because they do not see what you see when they look at your business. They cannot see the successful baseball diamond, because they are too focused on the cornfield. They cannot see the needles, because they are too distracted by the haystacks.

Just as they need to go to a diamond jeweler for diamonds and a dealership for a brand new car, lowballing clients are never going to find the true gems and showroom quality that they expect without coming to you first. That is the mentality that you need to have and fight to maintain, regardless of how many clients seem to be turning you down because of it.  I would rather struggle for 10 quality clients that each lead to thousands of dollars of work this year instead of for thousands of clients that only wants to pay me 10 dollars. 

Believe in your work. Believe that what you can offer to your client is worth every dollar that they spend for it, even if it is a little more than they expected to pay upfront. This is how you will be able to achieve the success and longevity that you have been dreaming about since you first began this journey. And do not let any lowballing client ever make you think otherwise. 

For the record, yes – I do like Kevin Costner movies, but that's not the point! (Lol) Use that perspective to clear the field of corny lowballing clients and plant the seeds that will allow you to eventually cultivate a field of dream client that will offer you high-quality pay for high-quality work for many years to come!