Hello, hope you enjoy! Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

4 Reasons You Need a “You” Day

It doesn’t matter what you do for living, everyone needs a day off sometime. Even if you have the greatest job in the world like I do, it’s still important to take some time for yourself. Far too many of us - and it seems like especially those of us in the voice over industry - get bogged down in the day-to-day grind of work. Every day it’s get up, go to work, maybe have a little time in the evenings for a personal life, then go to bed. Rinse and repeat. I find myself doing this without even realizing it.

Obviously, if you’re doing this, it’s a good thing because it means that the work is steady and the money is (hopefully) coming in. However, this is an unforgiving cycle that, simply put, is not sustainable. When you treat every day as a work day and don’t take any time for yourself, it won’t be long before the exhaustion sets in and the burn-out begins.

That’s why it’s so important to plan for a “you” day every now and again. This is a day where you focus just on you. You’re not working, and you’re also not tackling your non-work to do list. That means no house cleaning, no running errands, no anything except relaxing and doing the things that you WANT to do.  

Now, why is this so important? Here are 4 reasons besides the exhaustion and burn-out I mentioned above:

  1. You deserve it. You work hard, and you deserve some time to unwind and reward yourself for your efforts.
  2. Other people aren’t off. If you take your “you” day Monday through Friday, most of the rest of the world is still working, meaning you get choice seats at restaurants, better availability with spa services, etc.
  3. You’ll be more productive afterwards. Your mind and body need time to recharge. When you don’t allow this, your productivity actually declines. Taking a “you” day can give you that rest you need, leading to more productive days later on.
  4. You’ll have time to think. Sometimes stepping away from everything is the best way to clear your head and get the clarity you need, whether it’s about your personal or professional life.

So plan a day for you. Not only will it make you feel better, it will make you DO better. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Does Your Appearance Really Matter in VO?

Does it matter what you look like, when what you’re really selling is your voice? Now this is an interesting question, and one without an easy answer. I’m going to say right now, though, that YES, your appearance absolutely matters in voice over. Here’s why:

     You will be seen, even if you work from home.
     People will make snap judgments.
     Even if you’re home-based, you’re still expected to act/look professional.

Okay, so let’s talk about these things. First off is the fact that you will be seen from time to time, even if you primarily work from home. There are all sorts of situations that require public (and even non-public) appearances. Let’s say your client wants a face-to-face, or you’re planning on attending a networking event, or a live audition or even a video chat has been requested. What about that Skype recording session you have later that day? All of these require you to make an appearance, where that very aspect of you will be judged.

This leads to my next point: people, and most importantly clients, will make snap judgments about you based on your looks. It sucks, but it happens. If you’re not dressed professionally, or you look scruffy or unkempt, it could cost you work - even if your voice is amazing and exactly what they asked for.

Now, here’s where the question at hand gets a little convoluted. What about those times when you’re at home, working, and there’s no interaction planned for the day. Is it okay to just let yourself go for that one day? Well, sure, if that’s what you really want to do. For me, I find that looking professional (i.e., getting up, showering, and dressing in decent clothes), helps me stay focused and get more done. If I walk past a mirror and say, "You don't look like Rick Lance today" then I won't feel like myself either. And that may come through in my voice recording. I’m sure there are plenty of others who are just as productive while wearing pajamas, but that just doesn't work for me.

I guess my point with all this is that just because most of your career is spent behind a microphone, it doesn’t mean that your appearance doesn’t matter. Because it does. So please, when “first impression” type moments arise or any other opportunity where you’ll be interacting with clients in face-to-face setting, take a look in the mirror and make sure you look like the professional you are. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How to Stop Losing Voice Over Clients

Losing a client is always a tough pill to swallow. It’s hard not to take it personally sometimes, and then, of course, there’s the lost income to consider. There are lots of reasons why client-actor relationships end, and some of them are through no fault of the actor and just cannot be helped. However, there are plenty of times when the actor is to blame, and this is what I want to focus on today. Here are a few possible reasons why you could be losing clients, and what you need to do to turn it around.

You Stopped Learning
As a voice over artist, it’s critical that you become a “lifelong learner.” Continuing your education and training is an important part of building and maintaining your skillset in an ever-evolving industry. Not only can you learn new skills, but it’s easy to fall into bad habits as an actor. However, if you make a point of continuing your training through workshops and classes, you are much more likely to recognize and break these habits before they can damage your career.

You Don’t Keep Up with Technology
By its very nature, technology is always changing and improving.  In this industry, it pays to keep up with those changes, as many of them can make your life as an actor a whole lot easier. If you’re resistant to change, though, and you cling to the old ways that you’re used to, you’re only going to hurt yourself. Equipment, editing software, online tools and delivery methods are all areas that you should be on the cutting edge (or at least close to it) of.

You Don’t Take Professionalism Seriously
Just because you do 90% of your work from your home studio, it doesn’t give you a pass to behave unprofessionally. Even if you’re recording in your pajamas, every interaction with clients should be professional and business-like. This doesn’t mean you have to be stuffy, but you definitely can’t talk to clients like they’re old school buddies. This means you need to remember the following: professional appearance for any face-to-face, understanding the politics of VO, knowing what to say and when to say it. Practice good email skills. Don't load up your messages with hip new abbreviations and smiley icons. (Hint: write in complete sentences... the way we would LOVE to see our scripts written like... and often don't.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

3 Things You Didn’t Realize Were Hurting Your VO Biz

If you’re anything like me, your voice over business is your baby. It needs your time, attention, devotion, and nurturing - all of which you’re willing to give freely if you’re truly committed to building your brand/business. Even with 100% dedication, though, there are probably a few things you could be doing differently that would help your business grow. By the same token, there are likely some things you’re doing that are actually hurting your voice over business that you weren’t even aware of. Here are 3 of them:

1.    Talking too much. Yes, I know, you’re in the business of talking, right? Wrong. You’re in the business of reading, which is completely different. So many actors make the mistake of talking their clients’ ears off...overselling themselves, giving unsolicited feedback, or just being overly chatty.  Here’s a tip: shhhhhh. Be polite, keep the small talk to a minimum, and do the reading.
2.    Eating right before a reading. That salami and cheese sandwich might look pretty good, but it’s not a good idea to eat it just before recording. When you eat, your body does what it’s supposed to - digest the food. However, bloating, gas, heartburn and other uncomfortable situations commonly occur too, all of which could throw off your reading. Plus, a full stomach can impact your breathing, which can also have a negative effect on the recording. So plan on eating well before a recording session or waiting until after it’s over.
3.    Your website is no good. Your website is one of your greatest marketing tools, but it can also be one the biggest turnoffs for clients. If you overdo it with tons of content or tough-to-navigate pages, people are going to hit that “x” in the corner faster than you say “here’s my demo!”  Keep your site simple and clean, with just the essential info - contact info, about section, demo, etc. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What You Need to Include in Your Voice Over Business Plan

A business plan is a key component for any new company, whether it’s a BBQ start-up or a tech firm that’s destined for fame. The same goes for your voice over business - you need to have a business plan in place from the get-go. But if you’ve never written one, it can seem like a daunting task. Don’t sweat it, though. Developing a business plan is definitely doable. Here’s what you need to include in yours:

This one probably goes without saying. Your business plan must include a description of your business and what it’s all about. Talk about what a voice actor is and the role they play in the larger communications and marketing industries.

VO Market Details
After the description, focus on the VO market itself and the role you plan to serve within it. You can get more specific here, detailing the niche you intend on focusing on.

SWOT Analysis
A SWOT, or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis gives you an opportunity to examine each of these areas. Identify them by developing a comprehensive list of each. For example, one threat might be the subjectivity of VO and how this has the potential to negatively affect  your business. 

What assets do you currently have or intend on acquiring in your business? This includes any and all equipment, such as a computer, microphone, and other audio or recording aids.

Projected Income
You’ll have to spend a little time researching what the going voice over rate is, but including income projections is a necessary component for your business plan. Not only will it help you set financial goals, you’ll also need to provide this information if you plan on forming an LLC or incorporating your business in the future.

On the flip side of income is expenses, and you’ll want to detail these as well. This would include equipment purchases, marketing expenses, training and networking costs - basically any business-related expense you plan on incurring. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Start Cold Calling Like a Pro

In my last blog, I suggested 3 things that can help promote the growth of your voice over business. Today I want to focus on one of those items - the dreaded cold call. I know, I know, cold calling potential clients is not fun. But it’s a necessary evil sometimes, and one that can pay dividends if you handle it right. Here’s how you can start handling cold calls like a pro:

     Invest in some contact management software. You need some way to keep track of who you’ve called, after all.
     Put together a list of contacts. Once you have a system in place for organizing your contacts, you need to compile a list of people to call. The best place to start here is the trusty old internet, which will supply you with more names and numbers than you realistically even need.
     Make your calls in a quiet place without distraction. If the person on the other end of the line can hear your dog barking or your kid crying, they’re far less likely to take you seriously.
     Be prepared to toot your own horn. Some people have no problem with this, but for others, it can be a real challenge. If this is the case with you, you need to get over it. You’re the best actor for the job, right? Now you need to convince the client of that.
     Never make assumptions about the person on the other end of the line. For all you know, they could be the decision-maker that determines your fate. Treat everyone with respect and courtesy, and remember - administrative personnel can be your biggest ally.
     Don’t get discouraged. Not every call is going to yield a gig, and it may even take a few calls to the same client to land the job. Stick with it, and follow up on promising leads.
     Don’t take it personally when something doesn’t pan out. If you get your panties in a bunch every time someone tells you no, you’re going to be pretty uncomfortable. If you get a definitive “no” from someone, thank them for their time, and then move on to the next one. 
 *    Don't be afraid to leave a message when you get their voice mail. Remember, leaving a message is one more opportunity for them to hear your voice. So make it a good one that doesn't sounded scripted. You can always do this after hours too when you know they won't be there but their VM will be.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

3 Things You Can Do Today to Grow Your VO Business

When you’re managing your own voice over business, it’s up to you to get it off the ground and keep it running. Doing this takes a great deal of planning and continued effort to keep things moving along and in a state of growth. While you’re probably aware that developing a business plan, a marketing strategy, and a great network of clients is key to your business’s success, you may not be thinking of the smaller things you can do to promote growth. Here are 3 steps you can take today to help boost your VO business:

1.    Follow up with clients. If you’re not already doing this, you’ve probably already lost some work. When you make a contact with a potential client, take the time to follow up with them via phone or email. Chances are, they are juggling 20 other commitments, and taking that extra step to reach out to them not only cements your name in their mind, but also shows your interest in their project. It only takes a few minutes, and you may be surprised at how much it can pay off. Try sending them a simple Thank You card in the mail.
2.    Freshen up your demo. Your demo is kind of like your wardrobe - a little bit of change does it good every year. Spend some time freshening it up with new content that best promotes your brand and range of skills at least once a year. Some VO work just doesn’t age well, so replacing that with newer, better samples can elevate your demo game. Give your demo a listen today, and listen with the ears of a client. If it sounds weak, change it out.
3.    Make some cold calls. No one likes cold calls, but there’s no denying their effectiveness. Even if just one call out of 20 pays off, that’s still one more client than you had at the start of the day. Make a list of potential clients, pick up the phone, and give them a call. You never know what may come of it.

Growth in your voice over business doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of time, attention, and cultivation to get your business where you want it. Sometimes, though, it’s the little things you do that can make the biggest impact, so try the 3 ideas above and see what happens!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

SEO and You: The Voice Actor

Ever heard of SEO? If you have a website, you probably have, but just because you’ve heard of it, doesn’t mean you’re using it properly. For those who don’t know, SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to tweaking your website to rank higher in search engines through specific wording and phrases, or keywords. Of course, the higher ranked your site, the better your exposure and marketing potential.

For voice over actors, maintaining a proper SEO-oriented website is a critical part of a marketing strategy. Many actors think that having a website alone is good enough, but I’ve got news for you - it’s not. If you’re not paying attention to the keywords that will push your page to the top of search rank, then your site isn’t reaching its traffic potential.

Here’s how you should be using SEO to boost your web traffic (and hopefully your workload!):

1.    Use descriptive words to name your photos, instead of auto-generated numbers, like IMG_1305.jpg.
2.    Don’t leave IMG ALT tags empty - use 5 to 10 descriptive words to make your images and site more searchable.
3.    Add a blog to your website as a place to post new, fresh content. Be sure to assign tags and categories to each post, too.
4.    Keywords, keywords, keywords. Make sure you have great keywords throughout your site. Think about what you would type into a search engine if you were searching for yourself or your services, and tailor your keywords accordingly.
5.    Write a great meta description. This is the short block of text that appears under your listing in a search engine. Descriptive, convincing text will make people more likely to click your link.

These are just a few of the steps you can take to make your site more SEO-friendly. Try these, and then spend some time researching other things you can do. There are lots of ways to boost your web traffic, and doing so will only help your career. And by all means, make sure your website is fast, easy to use and graphically beautiful.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Recording on the Go: 3 Tips to Help You Keep Your Sanity

Whether it’s for business or pleasure, traveling can be an especially stressful time for voice over actor-entrepreneurs. What if you get a script you can’t pass up that needs to be recorded ASAP? What if a client needs a quick edit to a project? What if? What if?!

Simple answer: you take a laptop or tablet and a USB mic with you so you can handle any requests that come through. Now hang on, before you start moaning about sound quality and all that, hear me out. YOU CAN DO THIS. THIS CAN BE DONE. But you need to keep these tips in mind when  you have to record on the go…

Tip #1 Test your equipment and make sure there’s wifi where you’re going. Obviously, for any recording to happen, your equipment has to be functioning and you need to have reliable internet access. So run a quick test of your mic and any other equipment you’re taking, and call ahead to be sure there is wifi available. And make sure you have all your reliable recording/editing software loaded on your device.

Tip #2 Pack everything VERY, and I mean VERY well - especially your mic. Use foam to wrap it, and make sure that your recording items are packed in your carry-on bag if you’re flying. The last thing you need is to have it tossed around in a suitcase by baggage handlers, or worse, get left behind or lost.

Tip #3 Request a quiet room, if possible. Ask the front desk of the place you’re staying at if you can be assigned a room that’s away from the elevator, highway, swimming pool, gym, etc. Ambient noise is going to be your worst enemy with on-the-go recording, so reduce it by finding the quietest spot to record in. Often times, the quietest place may be in your car. Once you find a safe, quiet place to park.

Bonus tip: If you can, consider investing in a Porta-Booth to reduce any noise issues. If you can’t, make like a kid and build a cool pillow fort in your hotel room and record in there! This has been done many times over the years. 

See? You can do this - so enjoy that vacation or business trip and deal with any client requests or new projects as needed! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Diversifying Your Income as a VO Actor

Way back when, people used to have a job, like banker, or construction worker, or lawyer. And that job was all they did. Every day, 9 to 5, that job was their identity. More and more, however, people are adding professions to their daily identity, taking on multiple jobs or doing things to add passive cash flow to their total income.

So now you’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with voice over. Well, for some people, it has quite a lot to do with it - namely because, for many folks, being just a voice over actor rarely pays the bills. And this is where income diversification comes in. When your VO earnings alone aren’t enough to finance your lifestyle, there’s no other option than to tack on a few more jobs, aka diversify your income.

Now, I’m not suggesting you moonlight as a pizza delivery driver (although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that). But what I am suggesting is that you start thinking of ways you can expand your VO career to add more income-producing jobs to it. For instance, you could consider teaching an acting course (provided you have the experience to do so), trying your hand at copywriting, or offering your services as a VO consultant. Perhaps you’re a whiz at setting up a home studio...well, there’s definitely a demand for that among the technologically-challenged people in the VO community. Do you have copywriting skills? Or maybe you have language translation skills. Or maybe you enjoyed creating your website so much that you’ve decided to dabble in web design. Why not get paid for it?

There are lots of ways you can supplement your VO earnings, and this is often necessary for many actors (I’m talking to you, newbies). Think about some of the strategies I suggested above and how they might be applied to your life, or perhaps there’s something completely different out there that can make you a few extra dollars. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to tap into it and boost your income!
And if you're working at VO on a part time basis be sure NOT to give up your day job until you're truly ready.