Today we have a special guest with us. All the way from Munich, Germany Mr. Armin Hierstetter CEO and Founder of Europe’s First Voice Over Marketplace Bodalgo.com
Mr. Hierstetter has been quite busy since the launch of Bodalgo.com back in January of 2008… This intro was written after I conducted the interview and I have to say Armin reveals quite a few surprises. Stick around this is going to be interesting!
Also Please note that there is a podcast of this interview (that you can listen to) at the end of the article… so if you would rather listen to the whole interview instead of read it scroll down to the bottom of the interview and click play.
Hello Armin, First I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I know you’re a busy man so I’ll get straight to the interview
What is your professional background? On your linkedin profile it mentions you were a junior writer, production manager, Publishing director… thats quite a big jump to voice over marketplace entrepreneur.
After I finished school in 1990, I started as a junior writer for a computer magazine called “TOS” (a mag for Atari ST computers). Two years later I went to PENTHOUSE magazine (yes THAT Penthouse magazine), followed by some youth magazines. After ten years in publishing I thought that maybe I am not the best editorial person in the world, so I began studying marketing (working at the same time). After I graduated they got me into the management team of the publishing house where I was Publisher of the youth titles, later Publishing Director of FHM – that was a few months after I did some FHM ad voiceovers.
So, to be honest: I am not traditionally trained as you would expect from a voiceover pro. Later I had many lessons, of course, but in the beginning of my voiceover “career” I just did what I though was right to do.
How did you come about the idea of establishing Bodalgo.com
It all started when a colleague of mine needed a voice over for an ad for FHM magazine which we published in the company I worked for. There was a very short deadline and not much budget for a voiceover, so I said – more as a joke: “I have a nice voice!” I ended up in studio, the guys likes it, so I did more voiceovers for FHM. Then I though: Hey, if it’s good enough for them, it might be good enough for others as well. But most vo agencies did not even respond to my applications.
Then I found those pay to play sites and though: Great! Definitely there must be some of those sites in Germany as well. I soon found out – nope, there hadn’t been any. That was back in 2005. Two years I had the idea of getting a voiceover platform online, but it was not before September 2007 when I said to myself: “Okay, nobody is doing it until you do it yourself.” Fours months (and a lot of headaches) later, bodalgo went public beta.
Bodalgo is an unusual sounding word…What does it mean?
That’s a funny one: When I began coding the site, at some point I needed something to be where a site logo usually appears. So I was thinking about names. To make sure that I don’t infringe other companies rights, I googled every name I came up with. The very first word where Google showed no results was “bodalgo”. It looked nice in the design, so I kept it.
how many employees do you have?
Until now, bodalgo is a one-man-show. Still – and I am very happy to be able to say that – bodalgo is rated better than other sites regarding the customer service. It’s really great to hear from talents how much they like bodalgo.
What is your history with the voice over industry?
Actually, there is hardly any. See, When I joined the big V’s in 2005, I got a few gig from them (US companies looking for German voices) and for some of those companies I am still working on a regular basis. Over here in Germany, nobody knows me as a voiceover talent, I hardly do jobs here. And – of course – I do not audition for any jobs that are posted at bodalgo as this would look really, really odd.
What kind of growth have you seen in the German voice over market since you started?
Well, I can not give you exact figures on the market development overall – if you meant that. But I can tell you how bodalgo developed over the last 18 months. There are noe more than 1,500 talents on board from all over the world. More than 1,400 jobs have been posted during that time paying the voiceover talents more than a quarter of a million Euro (around 450.000 USD). Still, bodalgo needs to do better than that. I am trying very hard to bring more and more voice seekers to bodalgo.
So far who is your biggest source of work (which country)?
Surely enough, German jobs are posted most often, followed by US/UK jobs. It is pretty challenging to get your foot into a market you are not actually living in. But there are lots of great advertising opportunities the web offers, so there ways to make you get heard outside your home base.
You come frame Bavaria. Is that a point of pride that your heritage is tied up with one of the world’s most luxurious cars? Do you drive a BMW?
People say that Bavarians are a grumpy bunch of people and – to a certain point – they are not wrong. But on the other side: Bavaria also stands for “Gemütlichkeit” which kind of translates to snugness/cosiness. Whenever you have the chance, come to the beer fest and you will see pretty fast, what “Gemütlichkeit” means. But: Bavaria has so much more to offer than people in Lederhosen gulping down masses of beer: Bavaria has a fantastic landscape, great lakes and mountains, a healthy industry (if you can name it like this these days) and last but not least: the BMW, sure. And – sure enough – I drive one myself. It’s a 1996 Series 5 BMW which my brother gave to me a few years ago. Nice car, no question, just a bit too big to be the ideal city car.
What are the challenges you have faced as a bilingual voice over site? Do you plan on further localizing bodalgo.com to languages like Chinese? Arabic? Russian?
When bodalgo started January 2008, it was only available in German. Three months later the localization for English went online. It helped a lot that I’ve worked for a publishing house that was based in England, so I had to report in English all the time . When you do that over ten years, you get to know the language pretty well. So – at least that’s what I am hoping for – I feel that the translation is up to scratch in most cases – anyone spotting a mistake? Let me know! Regarding other languages: that’s bot decided yet. If there are new languages to add, Spanish and French would be on top of the list.
Would you like to offer my readers some kind of limited discount to join Bodalgo?
Sure! Fans of Mahmoud, listen up: Register free with bodalgo by September, 30th, and get one month premium membership for free!
Are there any other projects you are working on?
I just have launched to more sites in the bodalgo universe: bodalgo/copy – a market place for writers and bodalgo/art – a marketplace for designers. Both of them are only available in German for the time being but you can bet that there will be an English version soon.
I understand you have a pretty strict standard for those even getting a free account on Bodalgo.com is this true?
Not even half of the people signing up with bodalgo make it to the database. Over 50 per cent are rejected due to quality issues. This might sound a bit harsh but it is absolutely necessary. You wouldn’t like to be listed next to amateurs with untrained voices and lots of noises in their recordings. Talking about it: Some poeple don’t take rejection very well (althoug I really try to be as nice as possible with those). There was one guy threatening me he would visit me and beat me up if I don’t activate his account. I didn’t.
Are you also strict with regards to Client related issues as well?
An alltime classic is the discussion about price dumping. We do not simply forward the jobs that are posted with bodalgo. If the budget is not sufficient ie. To far away of market prices, we contact the voice seeker asking for more money on behalf of the voiceover talents. If they refuse to increase to a suitable level, the job stays unposted. I am a firm believer that it’s better to educate voice seekers to proper rates than to record for every budget no matter how small it is.
As a Voice Over Casting site owner what advice do you give us regular Voice Over Talent?
What I tell voice talents all the time: Be self confident about your prices. Quote what you need to charge and nothing else. Also take into account that – if you have your own studio – you need to charge for editing as well. Not as much as a studio would do, but keep it in mind! It’s important to remember that if voiceover talents want stable prices.
~ End of Interview ~
If you would like to listen to this Interview you can do so here:
Interview with Bodalgo.com Founder
There you have it folks, an inside look into Europe’s only Voice Over Marketplace. I don’t know about you but it came as quite a shock to me when I realized that Armin was doing everything himself. I true entrepreneurial success story!
Also if you go and register with Armin today… and mention that you were referred to him by Taji’s Voice Emporium (or Mahmoud Taji) then you get a PREMIUM Account for 1 MONTH FREE. That means you can apply to jobs for free for 1 month … even get some jobs without paying bodalgo a cent! That means you can test the site out… even make some money (if you get chosen) and try out his service to decide if you want to join annually or not! I don’t think ANY of the other VOICE OVER sites have offered that. Don’t say Uncle Taji doesnt get you presents!!
Many thanks go to Armin for taking the time to give me this interview. And I hope you enjoyed our latest interview @ Taji’s Voice Emporium.
What a fabulous interview Taji! It was great to get a feel for Armin & what he has going on over there at Bodalgo. Sounds like good stuff indeed. I love that he qualifies not only the talent but the client as well. I feel this is so important & it was refreshing to see that he does this. I guess my only question is – how much American English work does he get being in Germany? I often times have talent asking what other sites they should be listed on. Especially when talent are newer to the industry. I feel a well rounded approach is best & being listed with all of the bigger casting sites will not only help them to craft their skills but help them get experience faster then they might be able to on their own. And for more experienced talent – sounds like Bodalgo may give them the international exposure that so many of the pros seek. I will definitely be in touch with Armin & add Bodalgo to my list of recommendations. THX for your always amazing input!
I have renewed for my second year with Armin and Bodalgo and the site is fabulous. I recommend it to everyone. But Armin I must say that you are much more handsome and accomplished than I ever knew. Let me say that from the start of my association on his site, Armin has shown promptness, attention to detail, extreme care for his site customers, and all around professionalism. He answers emails promptly. On several occasions, he has helped me when a transmission of an MP3 file has, for some reason, gone wrong or when I need a question answered. He is very personal and totally a trustworthy businessman. Thank you, Armin. When next I’m in Europe (one son lives in Luzern and we visit Germany, Switzerland, Bavaria, Italy quite regularly…spent last Christmas in Vienna…I will indeed try to meet you in Munich. Probably next Spring. All best wishes my friend. I am German also…my parents were…In 2008, we took a cruise down the Rhine and when we sailed into Bavaria…it was breathtaking…so gorgeous. While Germany and Switzerland also are gorgeous, the landscape in Bavaria was even more so! I love the German people. It is vaterland.
And I do, indeed, like gemutlichkeit auch!
Hello Michelle & Bettye,
thanks so much for your kind feedback. It is just amazing to see when what you do is appreciated by others – really a great experience.
Michelle – we are already in touch – thanks for your great marketing ideas. Will keep you posted on things.
Bettye, whenever you make it to German-Land make sure to reserve the time for a dinner in Munich – Armin pays! … 😉
And – MT – thanks for this great interview. I will – as you supposed – promote it from my site as soon as I hit the office later that evening (just coming back from Austria).
Thank so much, everybody!
I just emailed Armin for my 1 month free subscription. He got back to me very quickly and I am now a premium member for one whole month for FREE!
Thanks for the article and the free month on Bodalgo!
Jamee T. Perkins
It’s great to see someone behind a pay-to-play VO site stand firm on quality and fair compensation. Bravo!
Great interview, Mahmoud. And Armin, it’s nice to learn all this about you – especially the high standards that will continue your success. Best wishes!
As a relative newcomer to the world of voiceover, on the verge of launching into my post-Navy career, I found this interview extremely helpful. In spite of all that I have read and heard about doing business half-way around the world, only now does it sound simple. Finding quality companies to associate with is often a challenge. Thank you for introducing us to Bodalgo. And good luck in your future expansion Armin.
No employees, but the best poster boy of the vo marketplace Mr. Taji. 🙂
I found Armin Hierstetter to be an extremely arrogant, and had no respect for potential users of his voice talent webpage. I would encourage others to use http://www.voice123.com or http://www.voices.com. His plain disrespectful replies to emails, calling first time users \ignorant\ will surely mean this company will not grow.
Thanks for giving a good example of a client that storms away pissed off because I told them that I will not post a job for less than $100.
Matthew wanted to post a vo job for $30 and I refused… after which a name slinging match started.
I suggest that if you find postings by this client on other voice over websites that you do not waste your time auditioning for it. Maybe that will help him realize that his unprofessional method of communication is not welcome in the Voice Over industry.
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