It took some time but pretty much all the P2P websites (that I know of) on the market have reacted to Taji’s Frankenstein Monster suggestions we made. I have listed their reactions Chronologically (and apparently alphabetically… which is a nice coincidence).
All of them replied publicly except for Voice123 who sent me an email with their reactions. Since I don’t have permission to reprint that email I’ll just republish the reactions of the other 3 major website with the hopes that Alex, Juan or Steven from Voice123 will grace us with their reply publicly.
No Michelle Summers mentions that there are other P2P websites out there… Personally I am not aware of any others so if you guys do know of them… please leave a link of the P2P website that was not mentioned in the list of sites.
I would like to clarify to those reading that when I mentioned Social Media Integration in the profile pages of these websites I mean the possibility of integrating a place on the profile page where the profile owner’s latest tweets can be displayed or if they have a blog … that their blog’s RSS would display snippets of the latest article that person wrote. There are more social media variants but those are the two that stood out.
I would like to thank everyone who participated on both ends of the discussion from the VO actors to the VO Casting site owners and operators. And if anyone has any ideas not mentioned in the other two articles then please add them in the comment section:
Some of the replies are long and detailed so make yourself comfortable:
first of all: I’d like to thank you that you take so much time to get to the ground of improvements in the voice over p2p market. Surely enough this effort is highly appreciated by all of us.
Here are some add ons/feedback of what bodalgo will take from all of this:
“We have opened your audition”
Probably voice talents don’t know about this: At bodalgo a voice seeker sees ALL offers for a voice job on ONE SINGLE PAGE with the *last* offers sent on TOP of the list. This might look not logical at first sight, but: Voice seekers are informed by bodalgo about every single offer coming through (if this option has not been unchecked). So if a seeker visits the page with the offers more than one time, he does not need to scroll DOWN to find offers he has not seen already. This procedure nicely balances the exposure of early and late offers. We do not want to punish talents that send offers later than others because we believe that the timing of an offer is not a quality benchmark.
Definitely something to improve. We will look into that.
“Minimum payment fee (budget)”
bodalgo actually changed the budget scheme for voice jobs a few weeks ago. A job needs a minimum of 100 USD to get posted. “Open” budgets are not allowed since then. Also, as you mentioned (thanks for that one), we review every job posting before it get’s sent out.
Personally, we think that the escrow service makes the whole thing far too complicated. To make sure talents get paid, we have a different and very simple approach: We check the integrity of the voice seekers information before sending out jobs to talents. Also, we recommend to watermark any work sent to FIRST TIME customers. In two years we had only ONE occasion of fraud (and the b***ard really was very clever – but we learned the lesson).
“Who got the gig”
Difficult one. Not all clients (and not all talents as well) want their names being made official. But: There is a forum with bodalgo where we could integrate a section: “I got the gig!” Then again: It could well be that only very view talents will take the time to write about jobs they got with us. This could fall back on us with other talents getting the impressions that kinda nobody gets jobs. This would not be great as well … tricky one.
As bodalgo is not after numbers, ie. not trying to get as many talents as possible, we review each and every new member profile and will not activate amateur profiles, profiles with low quality audio files (ie. recorded with computer mic, in a living room) etc. To this day, more than 4.100 talents signed up with bodalgo, but only about 1.800 profiles got activated. The rest has been deleted (sending a nice, explaining mail before, of course). It has to be said, though, that we are native Germans and might not always spot amateurs in others languages (especially when the recording is technically well done). But so far: no complaints, so we think we are doing okay.
If we find a pro talent with a suboptimal demo (technically), we simply write to her/him and ask him for another one. We do not communicate this, we simply do this as a service.
As we have far less talents than other sites, a talent cap is not necessary at this time. Also, that one is not easy. Who determines which talent is “allowed” to send an offer and which not. Speed, again, is not suitable for choosing, we believe.
“Social Media Integration”
bodalgo is on twitter and Facebook although the activity could improve. Also, twitter and skype are integrated on bodalo’s talent profiles if the talent wishes to do so.
A great idea, but: If bodalgo integrated this it would be only for voice seekers with no jobs history ie. first time seekers. We will look into this.
So: Thanks again for putting the finger where it hurts. bodalgo is about to finish a complete restructure of it’s backend to be able to launch some more language versions of bodalgo. Once this job has been completed we will look into new features.
Thanks again, Taji, for your efforts.
Thanks for posting the topic of the perfect voice-over website as it’s one the team at Voices.com discusses on a frequent basis. In reality, this is our core mission — to create a place where industry people can conduct business.
To that end, I found Bob’s remarks particularly useful. But before I comment on those, one must consider the following:
* Voices.com generates more gross revenue from clients (who hire voice talent) than we do from memberships. Accomplishing this balance keeps us equally aware of the needs of the client and voice talent.
* There are extremely high costs to operate a world-class business, most notably an investment in qualified staff members to service and support the millions of visitors and tens of thousands of customers. Scaling a business to this size is no easy feat and one that requires a secure technological infrastructure (web servers for hosting terabytes of data, high bandwidth capacity, merchant accounts, telecommunication systems) as well as a culture of innovation where our staff and supporting personnel strive to improve all aspects of the business.
Now, regarding the characteristics suggested by Bob, I’d like to highlight what it takes to build and operate a dream site. Many of the recommendations made are already in place at Voices.com.
1. Outstanding customer service. While we’re available for 10 business hours per day, we also offer a wide variety of resources and tutorials online where many common questions can be answered. Our toll-free number is a popular means to connect with Voices.com staff.
2. Escrow Payment Service. SurePay has been one of the best investments in technology and financial resources we’ve made to date. The legal requirements by financial institutions in order to operate an escrow service guarantee that all transactions are accounted for, payments are distributed promptly and that significant minimum balances are held in the bank accounts. We have several patents pending with respect to SurePay.
3. Highly optimized website using SEO. Search engine optimization is an art and a science. We’ve been engaging in this strategy for over five years, which means, that we have a 5-year “first mover advantage.” Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing have ever-changing algorithms, meaning that the rules constantly change and you need to be razor sharp to keep top placements.
4. An online audition process. Not only do useful and relevant job details need to be captured by the system, those same details need to be presented in a meaningful way so that voice talent can quickly evaluate if a specific job is an opportunity they are interested in.
After recently completing the 2010 Report on the Voice Over Industry, which we will be publishing and sending to Premium members shortly, I’m more confident than ever about the opportunities available for voice talent and the promise of Voices.com in the years to come.
Thanks for your consideration.
Thanks so much to Taji & all of the talent who participated in this thread!
Your time and thoughts are very valuable to us. It was interesting to find that many of the things suggested are tools we at VOplanet and VoiceCasting already utilize. We are looking at all of the suggestions in depth and will consider implementing the ones we feel will benefit our talent and our clients as a whole. As you might imagine, every suggestion has to be looked at intricately regarding what we feel in our best estimation is going to bring about the highest good for all concerned. Below are some musings from us at VOplanet and VoiceCasting; Donna, Robert, and Michelle. Feel free to input or give us suggestions or feedback.
Generally speaking, it is noted that many talent feel that client feedback would be great. We completely agree and it helps us as agents too! It is unfortunate that we cannot force clients to comment on auditions. Think of it from their perspective. They listen for what they need and once they find it, they are on a deadline to get the job done. It would be a great luxury of time to go back and listen to each audition to give feedback. Of course we as agents would love it, too, because then we would have a better sense of how our talent are doing in the field. Regarding paying a producer to listen to and critique talent demos, we could do something like that. Of course there would be a fee, as the producer would want to be paid for his or her time. And each producer would have a different opinion. Are you going to run out and change your demo because of one producer’s opinion? Or would you want to pay for a committee of your peers to listen? Isn’t this what SaVoa does? We are affiliates of SaVoa and each of their members has a SaVoa seal on our site. Let producers know what SaVoa criteria is and that should give some credibility to your work. We let them know on our end as well. Also, being a member of VoiceCasting is a very credible “seal of approval”, as it is by invitation only and there are strict criteria to be invited to the agency side. If anyone out there has a suggestion how to further solve this, we are open to hearing it.
Let us state this thought that talent rarely have. Clients WANT you as a talent to do well. They WANT you to get the job! They WANT you to be the best so that they can stop listening to the nameless rabble of VO demos and auditions they get bombarded with every day and go do something more fun! They WANT you to be the hero so that they can be the hero to their clients. If you agree, then WHY would a client NOT listen to auditions? It just doesn’t make any sense! What if they failed to listen to your demo or audition and you were the perfect talent for his or her job? We listen to auditions every day and I’ll tell you now, I don’t take the risk of not listening to everyone! That might mean the other agent’s talent gets the job and we are not going to take that risk! Many times a client will listen and just save the audition to his desktop instead of “Favoriting” a talent. We do that all the time. Talent assume that the client didn’t listen if this happens and it’s just not so. Talent should assume that ALL their auditions get heard unless they have a reputation for really bad auditions and in that case, their agent should tell them. If you as a talent feel that you are never getting heard, ask your agent. Nine times out of ten you will be told that yes, you are. Or you will be told there is an issue that needs fixing. Be prepared to hear the feedback and act accordingly. This is a business. When we work as agents on a project, we listen to every audition & make recommendations to our client. We also leave feedback for our talent & make calls when a talent does a fabulous job. We also take the time to call or leave a comment when the auditions is lacking in some way – whether that be their read, audio quality or whatever. We find that by offering our feedback – our bookings thereby increase and have seen proof of the pudding. We have actually had talent provide not so great auditions but had the perfect voice to meet the client’s needs. With a little guidance – they resubmitted their audition and YES! booked the job! It’s rewarding all around when we work as a team.
Regarding item #2, all VOplanet members can login to their Control Panel, where they will see buttons to add/edit their profile, add demos, post blogs, look at their posted blogs, create ads for our marketplace and see how many and what auditions they have done. They can see if they have been saved to favorites or if comments were left. If a talent’s page is static, it is because talent are not taking the time to add blogs and share them, they are not updating their demos and alerting their prospects, and they are not adding updated info on their profiles and sharing it with potential clients. Also, did you know that Kryptonite members can get a FREE WEBSITE with FREE WEBHOSTING as a part of their membership with us? No – not http://www.FirstLastname/VOplanet – their very own unique URL that uses YOUR NAME or whatever you choose. All of these are tools that talent can use to help market themselves. Be honest with yourselves, talent. How many of you are using them? We make calls daily when we see missing information or a demo won’t play or we see typos or changes that can be made to better present themselves to talent. Talent profiles aside from your demos and auditions are an opportunity to sell yourself to the client. Create your profile to the best of your ability. Thingk – as a client, what would make me want to hire this talent and create your profile accordingly. We are always here to help you figure out ways to use the tools that are part of the packages at VOplanet so utilize our experience as well.
Regarding capping fees, Donna stated in your blog and we will state again that the entire reason for opening VOplanet was to fulfill the needs of talent who said they wanted to bypass us as agents and book themselves. We happily worked first as Donna Summers Talent in Atlanta (A full service talent agency) and then as VoiceCasting online for decades as agencies whom clients used to book VO talent and others and we still do. But VOplanet is a P2P talent clearinghouse, as is Voice 123, Voices.com, Bodalgo and many others. There is a BIG difference in the way an agency and a P2P operates. As agents, we feel that we gave talent what they said they wanted by opening VOplanet and now they are unhappy with the outcome. The nice thing about VOplanet that sets us apart from other agencies is that 99% of the time, our rates have already been negotiated before-hand. This is a great advantage to you the talent that other sites do not offer. You never have to bid for a project – let alone under-bid each other. This is just not the way to do business and we will not support that method. Mind you, if a client contacts you directly for rates etc. and you call us to help you negotiate those rates, we expect an agency fee. It has taken many years and much experience to gain knowledge about talent rate negotiation. We gave talent what they asked for and we feel that under the circumstances it is up to each individual talent to set his or her own rates. We as agents get paid for our experience in negotiation rates. Our setting rates for you for free is kind of like asking you to do your VO’s for free.
Regarding SurePay. Every site, agency etc will have their own methods utilized to ensure talent payment. We use PayPal and we have other very surefire systems in place to assure prompt payment. First, let us state that if you can find the client who will pay up front for jobs not yet performed, we will give you a nice finder’s fee for that referral! Do you pay for your groceries or your car repair or your haircuts up front? Neither do clients. Here is what we use as a surefire method to get payments; BEFORE each VoiceCasting job is done, the fees and usage are negotiated by agent and client with the talent being fully informed and his input considered. Then a Deal Memo is drawn up by our accounting department and sent to the client and the talent for a signature. It is then faxed back to our accounting department. NO JOB is done before this happens. That way there is never any question about what a talent is getting paid or what a client is paying for. These are legal documents and we have NEVER had an issue being paid in the almost three years we have implemented this system. ALSO, at the end of the year, 1099’s are issued to each talent who has earned enough to get one so you have a complete record for tax purposes. This is all just part of the services we offer when you book a VoiceCasting job. At VOplanet, as stated earlier, talent and clients go directly and are responsible for all paperwork and contracts. We are discussing adding a deal memo template to the site for talent and clients to use for themselves. But again, be reminded that talent were the ones who asked to leave out the agent. In that instance the burden of collection and weeding out scammers SHOULD be put squarely on the talent’s shoulders. Don’t you agree? After all, that is what agent’s are paid for!
Regarding a client e-mail follow-up system; We have chosen not to have site mail therefore we cannot monitor the messages between VOplanet talent and their direct clients. Nor do we choose to monitor it. That is why in the blog Donna stated that we have no way of knowing exactly what gets booked at VOplanet. It is strictly a P2P clearinghouse that is simply another TOOL for talent to use to do auditions, have their own page, build their own website, blog on our site and share their blog, and store their demos for their direct clients. Do you think it would be helpful for us to do a tutorial on how to use the tools at VOplanet? We could set that up if it would help. Also, we really want talent to start to take responsibility for their own success and use us as just one of the tools they have in their toolbox for marketing and advertising their craft. With all due respect, we are not babysitters nor at VOplanet do we act as agents and we and feel that if talent needs to be reminded to talk to their clients, they must not want the work very much. Of course as mentioned earlier, VoiceCasting talent who use us as agents get more hands-on treatment because we get a commission on each job we get them. VOplanet talent have chosen to go directly with clients and do not pay a commission. That is why we expect them to do the legwork for themselves. It is what they asked for, isn’t it?
Let’s address quality control once more. As stated above, VoiceCasting is an affiliate of SaVoa. We take a hands-on approach with each VoiceCasting talent, offering demo critique, course recommendation, studio upgrade suggestions, moral support, audition direction, website design tutorial, and marketing input, among other things. On our site, all talent who are SaVoa have the SaVoa shield next to their name, and along with all VoiceCasting talent they are heard and considered first. This is because we feel that they have been through not one, but two rigorous processes (VoiceCasting and SaVoa) to prove themselves as professional VO talent. We could certainly add a third layer of credibility as suggested in your blog, which would be to have a producer or a group of producers critique each talent demo. However, we feel that just by virtue of being accepted as a talent at VoiceCasting, clients are familiar with us enough to know that we rep only the best at our agency. That, along with a SaVoa accreditation should be enough for most clients. As a side note, we did a LinkedIn Poll recently regarding what clients sought first in VO talent. It wasn’t experience or price, as one might guess in the responses we received. It was hands down a certain sound that the client was listening for coupled with ease of direct ability and ease of interaction and cooperation with the talent. You can see this poll at http://www.linkedin.com and search for VOplanet. And not to be disparaging here, but what kind of seal is worth anything when given by folks that have been in the VO business for very few years as compared to those of us who have decades of experience with clients, coaches, and talent?
Re: Talent Cap; 300 in each category sounds fair to us. But we represent far less than that at VoiceCasting so talent’s chances are a lot better.
Who got the gig? This was addressed before in your blog. You stated that it would give a talent “peace of mind” to know who got the gig? Not our experience at all! It’s like being the bridesmaid watching the bride walk down the aisle and having “peace of mind”. That’s not going to happen. And it is so true that there are just so many variables as to why a client chooses one talent over another. Not being chosen does NOT mean you are bad or wrong. It just means that someone else fit the client’s picture and filter of what they thought they wanted. It is all very subjective and we know this is a hard pill to swallow. Our suggestion is just do your best always. And know that you are loved and appreciated at least by us for trying! Again, we do let our talent know who got the gig when a talent was chosen through VoiceCasting. It on our talent’s control panel, we
Re: Internal Invoicing; We addressed our VoiceCasting system. We are going to explore the possibility of setting up something more comprehensive for VOplanet talent.
Re: Two-Way Feedback System; We can’t figure out a way to force clients to comment. Talent can comment via e-mail to us always. If you have a solution to have client comment, let us know. We do get feedback via e-mail from clients regularly who use a specific talent to do a gig and of course, we share the e-mail with the talent who got the job. We put it in our blogs, social networking, newsletters and other marketing material.
Re: Member pricing; this is where Donna got in big trouble by stating what VOplanet and VoiceCasting offers! You thought she was being “aggressive” when she just told the truth and was completely transparent about the two entities. It truly does take a lot to run a site and more to run an agency. We appreciate if talent want to do it all on their own and we offer a venue for that, http://www.voplanet.com. But do not expect us or any other Talent Agency to offer services for free. We feel that we are actually far below fees for what we offer, with an opportunity to be repped by VoiceCasting for FREE as a result of your VOplanet membership. PS…What in the WORLD does Voice.com offer for $2,000?
Re: Social Media Integration: Aside from what we have already mentioned in your blog, Donna is now studying with a group at Social Media Magic University to get certified as a Social Media Advertising Expert. http://www.socialmediamagic.com. Heather Jane suggested it was a piece of cake to do this. Quite the contrary. It is a full time job. And we at VOplanet/VoiceCasting are immersing ourselves in this new media technology. Also, we have the VOplanet site set up so talent can add their blogs and Share it elsewhere. This is GREAT FREE Publicity for them IF they will use it!
Re: Watermarking. We have polled our clients who say that watermarking is a distraction and many times clients will not listen to watermarked auditions. I have to agree as do many talent even. We at VoiceCasting work with the best and most reputable in the industry with whom we have established a solid relationship and have never had an issue that would require us to use watermarking. “IF” we have to use watermarking, we would like to find a standardized one that is not evasive or obnoxious. But right now, that is not our choice or need.
Thankfully, we have never had to worry about getting ripped off. We have done our due diligence and we believe that most folks are out for the best. Therefore we attract and work with the best. We have been very lucky and blessed to create a very positive experience for ourselves and those clients and talent who share our vision.
We wish you the best. Please let us know how we can best serve the VO community.
Donna, Michelle, and Robert