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!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Show Me The Clients!

Do you remember how you treated your very first client?

You probably spent hours each day trying to stay in contact with them – through phone, e-mail, text or whatever other form of technology you had available at that time. You were interested in getting to know everything about them, personally and professionally, and made yourself available to them whenever they needed you, right?  Why

Because you knew that they were all you had. If they left, you would have been left with nothing.  It is imperative that we do not lose that line of reasoning. View every single client the same way that you did the very first one. Get to know them like the back of your hand; find out their needs and do whatever you can to make sure that they are met. 

The last thing that you want is for your clients to feel the need to go anywhere else for something that you can provide. Become a one-stop convenience shop for all of their vocal needs and services. Think about every other successful business today. When they realized that they did not have something that their customers needed, what did they do? They found a way to get it!

Why did McDonald's start selling chicken sandwiches and salads? Why did Wal-Mart expand into "Super Centers" with garden, grocery and even automobile departments?  Have you noticed that the local convenience store up the street is starting to carry more and more products every time that you shop there? 

These companies understand that, as professionals, we have to struggle in order to stay relevant in our industry. This is true even if it means that we have to branch off into other industries just to enhance the quality and efficiency of our own services. If you cannot do something for a client but know someone that can, introduce your client to the "other" services that are offered by your company? 

If you are a male but your client needs a female for a new voiceover project, introduce them to the other voices that you have available on your roster. You might be scratching your head, saying "But I don't have any female voices on my roster!"  If not, then you better find one! There are plenty of websites available today that can connect you directly to freelance voiceover artists looking for work.  Facebook is a great tool for this as well. Put these sources to work for you. The goal is to make sure that your clients only have one name in mind whenever they need the services that you offer – yours!

Building this type of rapport with your customers and clients will make it much easier to ask for referrals and even ask for more business from them. They will be able to clearly see that they are more than just a number to you.  They will strongly believe that you do not view them as expendable assets or mere pawns on a chess board that can be given away to the other side without causing any significant damage. They will be able to see that you truly care about them and their needs and will be willing to do whatever it takes to show you just how valuable you are to them as well. 

Remember the Academy Award-winning film, Jerry Maguire, with Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding, Jr.? I've only seen it like 89 times! In this movie, Tom Cruise plays a successful sports agent that has an epiphany inspiring him to focus more on truly appreciating each individual client by focusing on their individual needs instead of focusing too much on having an abundance of clients because the only thing that you care about is the commission. Even though his character was chastised and criticized for this and literally had to start his business over again from scratch, he was able to build a more solid foundation based on quality instead of quantity that created a path for him to be achieve an astronomical level of success in the near future!

Have the Jerry Maguire mentality. Be willing to do what your competitor's don't so that you can live the life that your competitors won't! If you view all of your customers as expendable assets, what happens when they are all gone? You are completely out of assets!  If your customers are nothing but mere chess pawns that you allow to be taken easily, then your game is going to end much sooner than you think. 

Keep in mind the words of Kenneth B. Elliott, Vice President of sales for the The Studebaker Corporation who said that "a customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on usWe are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work.  He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so."

Remember that your customers are the reason why you exist as a professional. They are your family. Their projects are your children. Your clients are your keys to personal and professional success. Take care of them now or someone else will be more than happy to take care of them later!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How to Free Your Voiceover Business from the Pitfalls of Daily Time Traps

William Penn was once quoted as saying that “time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” That is truly nothing but the truth and is something that is realized day in and day out by every single person around the world today. When discussing the future, C.S. Lewis called it “something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour – whatever he does, whoever he is.” 

Within any type of business (not just voice talents), time plays a significant role along the journey towards achieving long-term success and longevity in that respective industry. You have to be able to manage your time wisely every single day without letup, maintaining a defined structure and sticking to a defined schedule that is specifically designed to lead you towards fulfilling your professional goals. 

One of the biggest problems with that journey, though, is that there are so many different time traps and pitfalls that can cripple your professional growth and cause you to just get left behind while all of your competitors run right past you. You need to be able to identify these time traps now so that you are fully aware of them and the dangers involved, because that is the only way that you are going to know what to look for on the road to success. 

We could spend hours talking about all of the different time traps that exist today within our homes, offices and lives in general. However, that would be  a time trap in itself because you would spend all of that time reading about time traps and still not know how to avoid them.

Therefore, let’s use this time wisely and spend the next several minutes that it will take you to finish reading this blog to talk about the key steps that you need to take to avoid getting trapped. 

Do Not Just Make Schedules, Stick to Them

It takes a few minutes to make a schedule, but it only takes one minute to break it. Maybe you should take a moment to reread that last sentence and truly let it sink in because it seems to be something that a lot of people do not seem to fully understand. 

Making a schedule for a person’s workday seems to be one of the easiest parts of the day overall. Saying that “making a schedule is half the battle” is a major exaggeration, because (if that was a true statement) then it would mean that sticking to that schedule is just as simple (or as difficult) as making it.

In order to avoid time traps, you need to be able to work hard at sticking to the schedules that we make. Otherwise, we will still be wasting time and also wasting the paper that we used to write the schedule out in the first place.

Do Not Take the “Golden Hour” for Granted

What is the “golden hour”? Unless you have a background in photography, you probably have not heard of that term before. The “golden hour” happens only twice a day – it is the first and the last hour of sunlight throughout the day. During this time, a photographer is able to do some of his best work because of the natural lighting and glowing effect that his outdoor pictures will have. Many outdoor photographers do the majority of their work for the day during these peak times because they know that they are going to be able to generate some amazing results by doing so. What if an outdoor photographer misses those times or spends them doing something else that is non-productive? They still may be able to get some work done that day, but they are not going to be able to have the same quality results. 

Within the voice talent business, you have to be able to take full advantage of your own “golden hours” or peak times when you are able to get the best quality work done every day. If you are becoming sidetracked by personal issues or even non-productive concerns that are related to your work, then you are going to let these “golden” opportunities pass you right by. 

During the peak time of the day, do not get caught up in the administrative side of the business (i.e. nonproductive phone calls, checking e-mails every few minutes, social networking websites, etc.). These things can be done just as well during the off-peak times of the day or even the week without causing any detrimental damage to your business. By letting those “golden hours” pass without taking full advantage of them, though, you will be setting yourself up for failure and then you will have all of the time in the world to waste when no one hires you for any work. 

Self-Employment Does Not Justify Cutting Corners

Just because you have your own business and do not have to punch the clock for someone else does not give you the right to excessively cut corners while you are on the job. What too many people fail to realize is that making the decision to become self-employed does not make anything easier – it only makes everything much more difficult! Sure, there is an overabundance of benefits and incentives that can be enjoyed through successful self-employment but you still have to put in the work. The term is “self-employment” – not “self-vacation” or “self-procrastination.” You should hold yourself accountable the same way that a boss would hold you accountable in the corporate world of 9-5ers. 

Try to avoid extended lunches and breaks throughout the day! Keep in mind that you are working as a company of one. In the corporate world, there is always going to be someone else working on the clock to keep productivity up for the company when you are going on break or lunch. If you are working for yourself, then you are essentially shutting your business down each time you take a break. How long would it take before those extended lunches and excessive breaks force you to close down your business for good? That is definitely something that you should always have in the forefront of your mind each time that you step away from your office or studio to take a break.

Stop Wasting Your Time, Maintain Your Focus

It is so easy to waste time throughout the day. Even if you do have a schedule that you are sticking to day in and day out, how much work is getting done during the time that you had scheduled to work? The digital age and advancements in technology have made it both much easier and more difficult to get work done. How so? Well, it is easier to get work done throughout the day because of the efficiency of your studio equipment, computers, high speed internet connection, smartphones, etc. However, it is also easy to get caught up on everything else that these devices provide you that have nothing to do with your work. How many times have you been working on something productive on your computer and then decide to play Minesweeper, Words for Friends or some other computer game that seems to be calling your name? How many times have you been lured away by iTunes, Spotify or some other cool program that you seem addicted to using on a daily basis? 

Facebook is an amazing tool that you can truly use to effectively grow and expand your business. However, you can also use Facebook to have personal conversations with all of your friends that happen to be online at the same time. There are literally hundreds of different games and applications that you can play and don’t even get me started on the time traps of viral videos that your friends and colleagues recommend you to see that you can’t seem to stop clicking “Repeat” on for hours at a time. 

“Get In and Get Out”

You need to be able to pull yourself away from these things. Keep a “get in and get out” mentality when you are scheduled to work. If you need to use Facebook, for example, get in there and do what you need to do for your business. As soon as you are done, get out! Easier said than done, I know! You need to apply this principle to everything that you do throughout the day.

If you are able to follow these key steps and implement them on a daily basis into your business, you are going to realize that you are able to get a lot more work done each day. You are going to feel much more productive on a regular basis because you actually will be productive, diligently pushing yourself and your business higher and higher towards reaching the peak of the mountain of success. Keep climbing, stay focused and avoid all time traps because the destination is closer than you think. You just need to stop wasting time in order to get there faster.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How to Cure the Disease of Negativity in Your Voiceover Business

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that companies collectively lose close to $3 billion on a yearly basis because of the negativity within the workplace that is manifested through the attitudes and behavior reflected within the work environment. Can you imagine how much you would be able to do for your business and for your family with even just a small chunk of that loss each year?

Your income and lifestyle may drastically change, would it not? Well, the next time that you are feeling negative yourself or are becoming surrounded and overwhelmed by negativity, the best thing that you could do for yourself and your business at that moment would be to imagine you throwing hundreds and thousands of dollar bills into that $3 billion annual pit. If people that have to punch the clock every single day have to deal with negativity in their workplace, what makes you think that you will not have to deal with even more of it on a daily basis since you are working for yourself?

Even though the voiceover business can be very profitable at times, there are instances where you can go weeks and even months without regular work. Does that give you the right to sulk, sob and whine about your lack of work?  No!  However, is that something that is very easy to do? Of course it is! There are days where I feel like a punching a hole in my lava lamp! Yes, I have one! Why is that? The simple answer to that question is because it is extremely easy to be negative – especially when you have nothing but negativity around you. Just as it is much easier to reflect on everything that went wrong for you in your business last year than it is to remember exactly when and how you went right, it is easy to become fully clothed by negativity on almost any topic – personally or professionally. What happens when you indulge yourself in the dark world of negativity? Think about that for a moment and the answer will become evidently clear.

You wake up tomorrow morning only to find that you do not have any e-mail messages or responses from the jobs that you submitted auditions for recently. The only people that have left messages for you in your voicemail are bill collectors demanding money from you that you just do not have free to give them yet – especially since there are no clients that are calling you about upcoming projects that they want to hire you to complete. Now here you are – sitting in front of your computer with nothing to do. What do you do at that very moment?

Let’s say that you decide to feed into the negativity. You start whining and complaining to your colleagues, friends and family members through face-to-face chats or even chats on Facebook. You may even just talk to yourself as you pace back and forth in your studio, whining about how all you need is one big break and how you are so upset that you have not been given that big opportunity yet. Hours and hours have now passed. Nothing has been done and you decide to close up shop for the day and do something completely unrelated to your career before going to sleep only to wake up to the same cycle of negativity the next morning.

So, let’s focus on the original question again. What happens when you indulge yourself in the dark world of negativity, though? Nothing! By feeding into that negativity, you are spending your entire day and night complaining about everything that is preventing you from getting ahead but you are not taking the time to truly find out what it takes for you to take one step forward in the right direction. You need to reverse that in order to truly see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you truly do want to feed into the negativity, that is fine but you have to be smart about what you are being negative about. What does that mean?

Think about the simple math. When you add a negative to a negative, you are just getting a sum of the two negatives together so that is all that you end up with – a bigger negative. However, if you take a negative and use it to create a product out of a negative (hint: multiplication), then you will be able to generate a positive result.

You have to be able to have a negative outlook about the negativity that surrounds you. Don’t feed into it, adding to the negativity that is already existing because you will get nowhere by doing so. The key is to transform that negative into a positive product by any means necessary! Instead of complaining to your colleagues and friends, spend that time trying to brainstorm ideas with them about what you can do to get more leads and open more doors. Instead of using Facebook to ventilate about all of the things that are going wrong with your day, use this social networking tool to reach out to prospective clients and customers in order to focus on doing at least one thing right!

By not spending your entire day complaining and whining about nothing being built onto the foundation of your business, focus all of your efforts on how you can add just one brick at a time each day. Negativity is contagious, but (just like any other virus) it can be treated and prevented. You just have to keep your eyes open to the signs and the symptoms of this disease and shut them down quickly through early detection and prompt treatment before it spreads any further.

Otherwise, you might as well just start calculating how much money you will be contributing to that $3 billion pit in 2013.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Are Facebook Business Pages the key to Survival?

Stay with me for a moment, boys and girls, as we take a quick trip down memory lane. Are you ready?  Here we go.

A Blast from the Past

Two decades ago, the vast majority of businesses were still trying to adjust to using computers and other forms of technology within their daily operations as the popularity of the internet was beginning to spread like a plague throughout the world. However, you could still run a business successfully without even having a dial-up internet connection in your office. The internet was an optional luxury.

One decade ago, you would hardly find a single business (regardless of the size or number of years that they were in business) that did not have at least one computer and an internet connection. The digital age then required these two core elements as primary factors that played a significant role in the growth and overall success of most businesses.

That was when social media and social networking websites were introduced to the world and Facebook was created by a then-unknown Harvard student from his dorm room. However, you could still run a business successfully without setting up an online profile on one of these websites. Just as the internet was ten years prior, social networking websites were also considered as an optional luxury.

It is Just a Sign of the Times

Things have drastically changed over the course of the last twenty years. If you were still in the industry of vocal arts back then, you may still vaguely remember a time when our voice was the only tool that we needed in order to succeed. Advancements in technology have completely revolutionized the way that we live and the way that we do business today to the point where our voices are no longer enough to get us in the door and keep us there. Why not?

Facebook has been able to evolve over the past ten years from a hobby and personal project of a then-unknown Harvard student into a multi-billion dollar empire that is used by hundreds of millions of people on a global scale. Even though it started out as a personal tool to connect with old and new friends and long-lost relatives, it later embarked on a journey towards revolutionizing the worlds of business and digital marketing forever.

More business owners and upper-level executive seem to be investing more time, money and other resources into building and maintaining an online branding page for their business through Facebook than they do through any other means of traditional advertising. Why is that?

Embrace the Transition, Expand Your Business

The simple and short answer is because that is obviously where the world is headed these days. More and more people seem to be exposed to more advertisements and commercials within a few hours of surfing the internet than they will over a period of a few days of watching television or listening to the radio.

Everything that your customers and clients need is available to them with just a few clicks of the mouse and strokes on the keyboard – including an accessible listing of all of the vocal professionals that you are currently competing against. If you want any chance at making it in this business and continuing to be successful, then you truly do not have a choice but to make the transition and embrace the social media revolution.

Sink or Swim – Which Will You Choose?

Making the choice to not set up your own Facebook branding page for your business and regularly updating it to use it to your advantage is the equivalent of making the decision to put a “Going out of Business Sale” sign on your company today. Just as the tale of time has clearly explained over the past twenty years, we know that there is no going back now.

In the year 2013, all businesses have multiple computers within their offices that they depend on greatly in order to function properly on a daily basis.  Not only do they have an internet connection but the vast majority of businesses even offer a wireless internet connection that can be accessed by their customers and clients free of charge.  Facebook pages seem to be popping up more than traditional websites, because it is clear that they are viewed more as required necessities than optional luxuries.  

The bottom line is that you can either go with the current and continue to enjoy smooth sailing in your business by investing in a Facebook branding page for your business or you can fight against the current by trying to stay afloat without making that transition and it is only a matter of time before you drown your business in the rippling waves of your competition.