My 5 Magic Words

August 22, 2010  |  Articles

A few days ago I gave my Voiceover / Blogger Peep Paul Strikwerda a call. Paul as some of you might know runs the hugely successful Double Dutch Blog . Paul started out blogging the same time as myself and on the same server. We’ve corresponded via email several times but this was the first time that we spoke on the phone.

As with most conversations with men … the first thing we started discussing is the business and how each of us was fairing on the VOs tranquil but occasionally rough seas. Somewhere in the middle Paul mentioned that he was finally getting enough of a work load that he has no time for his other work related endeavors like his writing and Marrying people together (he’s a multi denominational minister).

Which brings me to the core of what this article is about. My 5 magic words.

Reaching The Plateau

So when Paul said he was happy with the amount of voiceover work that he is finally getting. In fact that it was starting to overwhelm him and keep him away from other similar passions. I told him about an email I recently got from a potential client that literally blew me away.

This new client was looking to form a long lasting work relationship because (and I’m guessing) she had had a rough time trying to find a reliable Arabic Voiceover Artist which I guess I am, and right smack dab in the middle of the email she said something that I had never considered.

The 5 Magic Words

“Are you accepting New Clients?” Whoa! say what lady?! you mean there is a limit where I can actually be satisfied with the amount of clients I have?

I had never actually considered this. I mean also very recently I had a conversation with Bob Souer (yes on the phone … I have a way to call the states cheaply … I’m going to use it) and unlike Paul and myself he is a honest-to-God full time voiceover artist. It’s his main bread and butter.

He mentioned during the conversation that often he starts the week with nothing on his work schedule but that very quickly his week is filled with job requests.

But see that isn’t what I’m talking about. See Bob has built a list of clients over a period of 26 years. That’s how long it took him to leave the corporate world and go full-time VO.

Sustainability

I have a few regular clients. A few are voice agencies that contact me to do work for their clients while others are themselves the client. But I can’t say that I have enough clients to sustain a full time voiceover job. That might take me a few more years. Hopefully not 26.

It had always occurred to me that as a voiceover professional… I will always be scrambling. Constantly trying to bring in the money. It had never in a million years occurred to me that someone might approach me one day with a Job that I deem appropriate to work on and that does not conflict with my list of restrictions and I would turn them down.

Has Anyone Reached That Plateau?

I’m quite curious to find out if anyone in our community has turned down work (I’m not talking about massive projects) because they were not accepting new clients.

I’d like to be jealous of you… I would like to look up to you… and one day hopefully I’d like emulate you.


7 Comments


  1. How could I not reply? First off, it was fantastic to hear Taji’s voice on the other end of the line: crystal clear, courtesy of Magic Jack.

    Secondly, I love being a busy bee and because of that, I have to make sure that my work doesn’t overtake my life. I am happy to work as a full-time voice-over talent and yet there’s more to life than talking into a mic.

    As much as I love my voice-over community, it’s so easy to limit my on-line social life to people I know through voice work.

    As much as I love my on-line social life, there’s a whole world of friends and family I can hang out with in person, and not talk about the business. That can be very refreshing!

    My challenge as described by Taji is a luxury problem for which I am very grateful. The solution has everything to do with prioritizing and organization.

    Being self-employed, my main focus has to be on making money. In terms of my business, clients come first. They pay the bills and satisfied customers are my best credentials.

    My second focus is on feeding the pipeline. I might be swamped today, but there’s always tomorrow! So, acquisition-related activities are high on my list: doing auditions, finding new clients, staying in touch with my agents etcetera.

    Number three: promotional activities. To me that means anything to get the word out about my business Nethervoice, and about the person running it.

    My whole business has been built on zero advertising dollars. Instead, I have my own blend of ways to spread the word through my Double Dutch blog, my facebook pages, tweets and through my involvement with Internet Voice Coach (IVC) for which I write two contributions per month.

    On paper it doesn’t look like much, but believe me, in reality I could spend all day doing this. That’s why I made some critical choices.

    1. I am highly selective about what I audition for. I throw away most pay-to-play auditions, based on rates alone.
    2. I no longer write a weekly Double Dutch blog post, but every other week. Quality is more important than quantity. My two other pieces are for IVC.
    3. I will only take on, what I can realistically handle.
    4. I am very comfortable with my rates and I stick to them like glue.

    Does this mean that every day is perfectly organized and planned? Of course not. The most flexible people know how to bend over backwards and bounce back even stronger.

    One of the reasons I like being a freelancer is because of the variety, unpredictability and uncertainty. My boss can be pretty tough on me, but at the end of the day, we seem to get along just fine!

  2. Hi Taji,
    I made a decision several years ago to phase out the clients who required me to edit their audio, and at the same time I fired clients who didn’t pay what I decided was an adequate minimum session fee. The next year was a nail-biter, but it’s turned out OK.
    I’m another one who has been in the VO business for over 20 years, it takes a long time to build a group of happy returning clients. And yes, I’ve turned down work, for lots of reasons. And at some point, you will too.
    Kitzie Stern

  3. I did my first voice-over gig – a corporate narration – in 1977 as a freelancer. My VO work remained strictly freelance until September 2004, when I bought my studio equipment and took things full-time. I’d never had any reason to turn any work down until three years later. A 20-minute narration job was presented to me. The production agency said I was to replace the original narrator with the same script. The reason? The client name contained the word ‘Associates’ and, after the entire job had been completed, the client didn’t like the way the narrator pronounced ‘Associates.’ That’s all.

    I wondered to myself why they either didn’t tell the narrator – before he recorded anything – that their preferred pronunciation was the ‘see’ sound rather than the ‘she’ sound, or why they didn’t ask for a short sample. Or, why they didn’t simply ask the narrator to edit in those changes. This was beginning to seem like potential trouble.

    I was all set to record when my final instruction came down: I was to make sure I sounded like the original narrator. Not just in tone and pacing, mind you. I was to sound like the original narrator.

    I wasn’t exactly swimming in work at that point. As a matter of fact, I had just come through a serious health issue and was rebounding nicely. But I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t going to be a rewarding project. I politely apologized to the agency, stating that I don’t do impressions of other narrators and that I don’t know any narrator who does. I suggested, that if the client’s only complaint with the original narrator was over a (trivial) pronunciation issue, it would really be in their best interest to have him make the necessary changes. Everyone would be happy.

    Wanna hear my Don Pardo?

  4. Mike, good one on you turning that job down, love “I don’t do impressions of other narrators.”
    After all the time in the business I can now smell a bad client. It’s true, even over email 😉

    • Thanks, Kitzie. Kudos to you, too, for doing some necessary ‘house cleaning;’ saying tah-tah to those clients who are slow payers, etc. I’ve had a few of those, too.

      But with regard to my story above, I tried to be as respectful as possible because I could tell by the words the agency used that they were new to hiring voice talent. Nonetheless, I think I heard his jaw hit the desk when I told him I decided to pass on the job. It would’ve required far too much maintenance.

      I’m occasionally asked to audition using a foreign accent. If it’s not something I do well, I’ll be right up-front and say so: “I don’t do a convincing French accent.” It surprises me that sometimes – after saying that – I’ll hear, “well, maybe you can come close.” That doesn’t work. I was once asked to do an authentic Chicago accent for a spot that was going to run in Chicago. Chicagoans would’ve known in an instant that I was a phony (you can’t fool a native). I said, “There are plenty of excellent voice talent from Chicago. I’m sure one of them would love to audition for this spot.”

      I bang my head on the wall sometimes, wondering why these things need to be explained.

Trackbacks

  1. Tweets that mention My 5 Magic Words | TVE -- Topsy.com