A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.
I think that is a very fitting analogy for a voiceoverist’s career.
One has to have a starting point and one must consciously strive to move forward. As is the case with many journeys you might reach a hill or a mountain and have to exert extra energy to elevate yourself. So moving up requires more effort and more work. Moving down on the other hand … well you get a little help from gravity… and if you are a little too careless you end up tumbling down and can find yourself at the lowest point in your career faster than you can say… ooops!
The new year to some always marks the time for self evaluation. A time to revise what you did wrong or right in the past year and think of what you can do better.
What I wanted to do is share with you guys how I evaluate my year and maybe that can give you a guideline for how you can come up with your own review process.
So lets start with a list… as many of you guys know, I love lists… they help me organize my thoughts and can be quite helpful in figuring out where to start. So here it goes:
- Total earnings for the previous year
- Total expenses for the previous year
- Total new clients gained
- Total clients lost
- Services added
- Services removed
- Marketing Rewards
- Marketing Prospects
- Achievement level sought
That is pretty much how I want to breakdown my annual evaluation and build my marketing plan for the coming year.
This can be tricky if you are a messy accountant. In my case some clients request invoices and some don’t. I noticed that during the last year that I cannot correctly judge my annual earning from voiceover work through paypal alone.
Paypal has a great tool that allows you to download an Excel readable document that tracks how much you have credited and debited to your paypal account between any date you specify. So if you decide to review your income biannually or every quarter then you can do so easily.
But in some case some of your clients may pay via Western Union and some might send money transfers to your bank directly. This means that the only way to properly keep track of all your payments is to invoice the jobs that you worked on even if your client never asked for an invoice. Also to get yourself a good invoicing application that can keep track of your jobs.
Lets go back to my analogy of your career being like a Journey. If you eat all your rations (yes I was a D&D buff in my day) all in one sitting then you won’t have enough to sustain you for the journey.
You cannot avoid expenses if you have a business. There will be wear and tear when it comes to your equipment and there will be things that you might purchase to make your life easier and maybe reduce future expenses. An example of this is Dave Courvoisier’s purchase of an iPad. Its an investment that can help him reduce his printing costs (so printer toner, printer paper, electricity to run the printer etc.) The fact that its marginally environmentally friendly might be a perk.
You don’t need the best Neumann mic out there to sell your voiceover work. You don’t need the latest studio equipment unless you are losing clients left and right because of your lack of an ISDN line or whatever.
here is a list of things I believe you should invest in:
- Subscriptions to voiceover marketplaces
- Advertising (google or on voiceover related sites)
There are probably other elements that people can invest in but I will not include running costs of a studio because that is a given.
If you’ve invested your money wisely and written some good advertising copy you can get some new clients through your google ads. I am assuming of course that you have your own website… if you don’t then this is the first thing you should go out and get yourself after reading this article. I cannot stress the importance of having your own site. This is an investment that pays for itself over and over (if you market yourself correctly).
Now keeping a new client is a whole different ball game. This has to do with the quality of work you deliver and your communication skills. Client satisfaction is paramount but not at the expense of you losing money or you being uncomfortable. So you need to strike a balance. Not all the clients that you work with the first time might come for a second time. But those who do … you’ll need to treat them like family.
We live in a financially tumultuous world. The price of everything goes up but everyone requires that you keep your prices low. This might mean that some of your old clients might not be able to pay you the same rate they used to, this could be a genuine issue and could be someone trying to take advantage of a situation and make it work to their benefit.
This was the case with one of my clients who changed their payment policy and then decided to force the voice talent on their roster to conform to their rates. In that case that was a client that I decided to drop. You might decide to drop clients for other reasons. difficulty in payment, Continually asking for quotes and never actually getting you work etc. etc. (in which case they really arent a client since you never did work for them).
There are other times when you might lose clients for reasons out of your control like a rush job when you are on vacation or a revision that comes at a time when you are schedule is full. You will need to figure out your priorities and many times the decision to part ways will not be up to you. It happens, suck it up and live with it… but don’t make this your standard Modus Operandi (Em Oh if you watch many police shows).
I have been approached by several clients to help organize and produce jobs that require several actors. Some of these clients trust me enough to think I can do a good job and I appreciate that, but since I work as a full time Creative Director at an Advertising company in addition to my voiceover work, it is neigh impossible for me to handle projects like that. Several voiceover talent have the time and the contacts needed to accomplish endeavors like the shows I mentioned above. Not me.
Rather my only addition in the past year or so to the services section is Syncing my voiceover with that of another language so that they have the same start and end points. This is not lip syncing but rather something closer to shoe horning / fitting dialogue from one language with another.
Adding more services to my repertoire is something I am currently working on and might write an article about in the future.
But the point here is that more services means a better chance of making money. If someone wants to hire you as a language consultant… that means you don’t even have to perform, instead you get paid to correct, improve and assess someone’s performance. More services equals more money.
I no longer record audiobooks. I don’t enjoy it. It takes too long… the editing drives me nuts and I don’t think it pays enough for the effort put into it. This is my personal opinion. This probably stems from the fact that, again, I am not a full time voiceoverist. If I had more time on my hands I might be able to get into audiobooks and make good money from it. But at this stage in my career, it doesnt work for me.
Getting your name out there is the core of what your marketing strategy revolves around. Whether you achieve this by using Twitter, facebook, Linkedin, or Digg the whole point of it is that you want to market yourself in a manner that yields the best return on investment. You’ll stumble allot. There is no doubt about that. The technologies won’t stop and wait for you to catch up and neither will your competitors.
Invest some time learning how to market yourself or hire someone to do it for you… but don’t ignore this section of your evaluation or your journey will be cut short far from its goal.
Here is a list of things you can get into to market yourself:
- Twitter (regular twitter feed)
- Facebook (advertise your services)
- Blog – write informative articles and advertise your services.
- Google Ads
- Freebies – Be a part of reading for the blind or childhood disease entertainment programs
Achievement Level Sought
This really depends on when you want your Journey to end. Do you want to be the next Don LaFontaine or do you wish to pursue a voiceover career as a second job that brings in some extra cash.
There is no right or wrong here it really is up to you. I know it might seem like there is a hierarchy here where the full time voice talent feel they are superior to those who have two jobs, many voice talent are quite vocal about their disdain. But as the internet meme goes… haters be hatin. One has to start somewhere. Personally I don’t know what the future holds. I hope that I can someday become a full time voice talent. But my ambitions don’t just lie there… I might one day decide to start a voice agency. My journey’s destination is up to me.
I probably missed a few things while writing this article so if you’d like to add anything to it please leave a comment down below in the comments section.