Category Archives: Business

10 Questions Voice Talent And Clients Should Be Asking Each Other 

From the novice small business owner putting together his first radio or TV commercial to the most seasoned multimedia producer, frequent communication is key to heading off many potential issues before they arise.  Coming from any other background outside the audio/video/media world, it helps both the business owner and voiceover talent to get a grip on expectations, deadlines, and technical specs.  Most importantly, it can also firm up financial terms so no one is caught off guard when revisions and/or pickups are requested.  It can turn a one-shot project into a long term relationship.

As a voice talent, what should you be asking your client?  

1) What style of read are you looking for?  Do you have an example (YouTube clip, commercial, etc.)?

2) When do you need the finished audio?

3) What is the budget for voice talent for this project?

4) What are the technical specs (sample rate, stereo/mono, Kbps rate, etc.)?

5) Do you want me to edit and QC the finished audio or will that be done by an outside party?

6) If it is a long form project (which I define as > 10 minutes of finished audio), how do you want the files divided?  Or would you prefer one long file?

7) What are your general terms for payment upon completion of the project and the submission of a final invoice?
8) How frequently do you need to hear from me throughout the length of the project?

Number 4 & 5 are especially crucial due to the time consuming nature of both editing and number of files you’ll be creating.  Failure for both sides to understand the time involved can lead to you getting shortchanged on your rates!

As a client, here are the questions you need to ask the voice you’ve chosen……..

9) What is your policy on re-takes, revisions, and pickups?

10) What forms of payment do you accept?

Have I left out any important questions you always ask your client or voiceover talent?  Add them here and we’ll make this a work in progress!  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Wilson is an award winning broadcaster and voice talent.  His voice has been heard worldwide across commercials, audiobooks, corporate and industrial videos, e-learning modules, and explainer videos.  Among the companies and brands who have trusted him to tell their story…..Wal Mart, Papa John’s, John Deere, Mass Mutual Life Insurance, and Cracker Barrel.  Reach him at ihearvoicesonline.com or at (205) 201-1454

3 Ways You Can Spend Part(s) of a Holiday Growing Your Business

With Christmas soon to be celebrated around the world, the temptation to neglect efforts to grow and enhance your entrepreneurial efforts reaches its apex.  The stress of all your extracurricular activities is at its peak, the demands on your already limited time grow exponentially, and you are already thinking about how slow the first quarter of the following year can be and how it will affect your pocketbook.  The good news is there’s good news!

With the exception of a few occasions, the world’s mileage varies when it comes to holidays.  Canada has already celebrated Thanksgiving, and every country has a different day, or multiple days, for celebrating other events, like their independence.  In the global marketplace, your holiday is just another day around the world.  Use a part of it to keep working your plan for growth and prosperity for your business!

Here are 3 things you could be doing before the holiday festivities begin in your back yard that will pay dividends……..

1) Shift your marketing efforts to foreign companies

Folks in your own country will have the day off, but folks in other countries may not.  Take an hour and send emails, postcards, etc. to introduce yourself to as many overseas prospects as possible.  They’re open for business and could need your services TODAY!

2) Send “thank you” notes to any existing foreign clients

It doesn’t have to be a hand written “thank you” note, although that is certainly going the extra mile and will be much more appreciated assuming there’s no language barrier.  Email is perfectly OK.  It keeps you at the top of the mind and is an extra mile that your competitor might not travel.

3) Check the calendar

As we’ve established, your holidays aren’t always their holidays.  Use your holiday to take some time and find out when their holidays are.  Find out how they’re celebrated, then use the knowledge to take a moment to wish them a great holiday when they occur.  It’s a nice marketing touch that will separate you from your competitor!

Down time is certainly precious, and I am certainly not suggesting that you not enjoy it on the rare occasions when you get it.  But a little time invested on a day off now could provide the seed to exponential growth down the road, and all because you took an hour to show your foreign clients a little extra love.

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In Defense of Cold Calling

A few weeks back, one of the Facebook groups on which I occasionally engage in professional discussion had someone mention that he was taking some time off from his “day job” to work on marketing and growing his voiceover business. One thing he had on his “to do” list seemed to inspire a backlash from seemingly out of nowhere, including some rather pointed words from a very well-known voiceover artist. Of all the ways we as freelancers put ourselves in front of prospective clients, none seem to generate such simultaneous endorsement and condemnation with no in between as cold calling to build a business. Count me as someone who appreciates the value of cold calling as a tool in your marketing arsenal. Done right, it might be the best way to build long lasting, and most importantly, profitable relationships.

If you’re still either on the fence or still vehemently anti-cold calling for any reason, i.e. nerves, the perception it doesn’t work, you think it’s intrusive and turns off potential clients, here are a few reasons why cold calling could be effective for you, along with a few humble suggestions on howto go about pulling it off successfully.

First, the “why”……

It costs you nothing!

In the current economy, you can’t beat free, especially when it applies to your marketing efforts. As long as you have a phone and an unlimited long distance plan, and most of us do these days, you can put it to good use to help establish yourself as you engage in a career for which you have a passion.

Personal connections still matter

In an age where email, social media, and texting rules, there is still nothing more powerful than being old fashioned. The spoken conversation still trumps the written one any day of the week when it comes to establishing relationships, both personal and professional. Cold calling proves that you’re a real live human being who can communicate.

The results are long lasting

The ultimate success barometer with cold calling isn’t gaining new clients. It’s gaining repeat, long term clients who sometimes become much more than partners in the growth of a business, both yours and theirs. They sometimes become friends as well.

So how should it be done? I certainly don’t even pretend to have all the answers, but here are a few pointers based on personal experience…….

Don’t sell them anything!

The initial goal of a cold call is not getting a “buy”. You only want a potential client to sample your product or service. As a voice talent, I’m interested in getting to someone who will agree to hear my demo, not hire me on the spot for their next project. Offering to customize the product or service and gear it to them is also very effective. No one likes pushy, and we all loathe the stereotype of the pushy salesperson. Be polite, keep it low key, and sell nothing.

Keep it brief

Time is money, and the companies you’re calling come in all shapes and sizes. This is a great way to perfect your “elevator pitch” while getting to the person who works directly with the service or product you have to offer. Assume that they’re busy and get to the point.

Treat it as an “audition”!

As a voice talent, cold calling can literally be my initial opportunity to prove I can do a great job as a company spokesperson. Regardless of what facet of media you represent, the world is your stage on a cold call. The value of a good first impression goes without saying, so make the world your stage when you make that call!

As a born introvert, cold calling was not something I looked forward to and took a while to get used to. There are far more introverts in the field of media and communications than those on the outside might ever imagine. Once you get a few under your belt, however, and realize that the worst case scenario you have pictured in your mind neverhappens, it can become quite the cash cow for you. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!

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What does “Talladega Nights” have to do with your ACX success?

Anyone making his or her living in a creative field including VO, especially those who might be lacking in business or marketing skills, would be wise to read Al Ries and Jack Trout’s groundbreaking books The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (Violate Them at Your Own Risk!) and Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.  I would make a strong argument that they would also be well-served by viewing the cinematic masterpiece Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.  Since I’m pretty sure they’re being mentioned in the same breath for the very first time, you’re probably wondering what they have in common.

Both of Ries and Trout’s books revolve around a common theme, one familiar with folks who have populated the P2P sites over the years.  As it applies to voice talent, you could have golden tones and deliver the perfect read every time, but if you’re the 100th audition out of 114, chances are that audition will never be heard.  That has changed somewhat with several of the major sites recently, but the fact remains being first, or among the first, greatly enhances your chances of landing the gig.  Ricky Bobby’s father, Reese, reinforces the importance of being first in a poignant scene early in Talladega Nights…………..

ACX has been a hot topic in the VO world recently.  There seems to be more work available than folks available to narrate, but promptness in getting auditions to the ears of the rights holders still appears to be a huge advantage in landing the gig.  This is where being first has benefitted me tremendously over the past few weeks.  I’ve signed on to do 4 audiobooks over the course of about 2 weeks.  In at least 3 of those cases, the offer came within 24 hours of the title being posted and, subsequently, my audition being received.  I also had at least 2 rights holders/authors tell me my audition was the first one they received.  They had others behind me and they listened to several, but clearly there is sufficient non-scientific evidence that tells you being first, or among the first, on ACX auditions can provide a nice income stream.

Your mileage may vary, and on the flip side, there are many titles for which I’ve sent auditions months ago that never followed up on actually choosing a narrator.  You’ll get a definite advantage there, however, if you check it about once or twice a day and send auditions promptly, there’s a steady stream of work in it for you.

If you’re not first on ACX, you could be last.

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Craigslist…….Don’t Rule It Out

From my time hanging out in social media circles, there are many lead sources for gigs that are understandably frowned upon due to the “race to the bottom” cheapness for which some have become known.  The many pros and cons of Craigslist as a source for anything is a different debate for a different day, but I think it’s worth taking a second look at as a source for VO leads thanks to the world of Web and mobile apps.  As with many forums, message boards, and other Web-based sites, you have to sift through a load of junk to get to something legit, but now you don’t have to spend more than a few minutes getting to the good (and financially lucrative) gigs.

There are dozens of apps, both Web-based and mobile, to make Craigslist more easily searchable and customized to your tastes, but one stands out in the pack to me.  Adhunt’r does all the heavy lifting that can be involved in searching for leads on Craigslist to the point where just a few small steps can give a snapshot of all current VO opportunities both domestic and international.  It’s incredibly simple to use………….

On the main page, type in your search term.  On a daily basis, I usually search under several…….”voice over”, “voice over talent”, “voice over actor”, “voice over artist”, “voice over wanted”, and “voice over needed”……

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In the Advanced Search box on the left hand side of the search return page, go to Most Recent on the pulldown bar…….

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The default Filter By Location setting is All Craigslist, so your search will cover both US and worldwide listings.  Click on Advanced Search and you’ve got the up-to-date listings.

Granted, there will be a little frustration with the low paying gigs and the ones that expect you to work pro bono for the career-defining moment known as IMDB credit (or, if they’re really living in high cotton, a meal and gas money), but for me Craigslist has become a good source of steady work paying some pretty good bucks with several repeat clients.  Most importantly, you can search multiple times per day this way in about 2 to 3 minutes tops.  Every tool in your toolbox helps as you build your business.

If you bailed on Craigslist as a lead source several years ago pre-mobile and Web-based apps when it was a lot more cumbersome to navigate, now might be the time to revisit it as another tool in your kit to grow your income.  There are numerous other Craigslist apps out there, but for me this one is the easiest to use and quickest to scour.

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