Do you remember when you were a kid and you heard adults talk about ‘the way it used to be’ or even ‘how things are done now?’ That’s because the world is constantly shifting and evolving and it’s the same for how we do business.
After this year is FINALLY over, we’ll be left with the residue that comes out of such a time, and some of what’s leftover may feel odd or strange while some of it may feel motivating or energizing.
When we talk about ‘the way things are done now’ that takes on a whole new meaning during a pandemic. Our personal and professional lives - everything about ‘how it used to be’ has changed. Do we fear it? Do we welcome it? These are the questions we’re forced to ask ourselves - the leftovers of a world forever having to change ‘business as usual.’
As a full-time Voice Actor who has worked from home for two years now, this year hasn’t really changed the way I do business per se, but it sure has changed how I show up for my clients and colleagues whose worlds have changed dramatically. As Voice Actors, learning how to run a voiceover business in modern-day is crucial to current and future success. Without the kind of flexibility and resourcefulness needed to work in the voiceover space, it’ll be that much harder to grow a business.
So what can we do to ensure we’re on the right track to growing our businesses and showing up for our professional peers and our clients in the modern age?
With a year like we’ve had, it’s becoming more clear to those folks involved in the hiring process (directors, creative producers, project managers) that good voice talent is literally everywhere. And now the opportunity for Voice Actors to work with certain companies and studios that typically only hire talent from New York and LA is that much greater.
However, ‘with great power comes great responsibility, Peter Parker’ and with the open gates of opportunity broadening the horizons of possibility, it’s up to us to step up to the plate and knock it out of the park. Mainly because we want to always showcase our very best to clients, but also to show that clients can hire remote voice talent and get professional results as they would with talent in a studio.
So, what does that look like?
For starters, you need to get comfortable taking on different roles in your business.
Knowing how to use your DAW to produce high quality audio is no longer a nice addition to your voiceover business - it’s essential. And since your entire career is based on your audio and what you can deliver, it’s in your best interest to get really good at this by practicing constantly and becoming a better audio professional.
There are also times where you might need to act as an assisting casting manager when needed. Be ready to help out your clients if they need other voice talent options by keeping a roster of other Voice Actors that you’d recommend. This is where networking comes into play, which of course is probably why you're on Stage 32, right?
One of the best decisions I’ve made in my career so far is getting to know other Voice Actors. Some on a basic level and others a little more personally, but I’ve recommended those actors for jobs and learned a lot about the industry from each of their individual experiences.
Acting in any or all of these additional roles when needed will put you above a lot of the competition out there. The extra roles we bring to the table offer our clients a huge service they may not have expected before working with us. Your clients will be grateful for it and you’ll look like an even savvier business owner, which leads us into the next point.
At the end of the day, you’re a business owner running a business, and as RB of Stage 32 always reminds us, “You’re the CEO of you.” So with that in mind, you’ve got to know the basics of being a business owner and running your voiceover business.
When we start anything, details like setting up a professional email or a website can hold us back from making gains in our business, but when we pass the beginner stage, we need to make an effort to do more than the bare minimum. And as remote Voice Actors, that means learning to show up as a business owner each and every day.
So, what does that look like?
In my day to day, for example, 80% of my time is spent on direct marketing to clients on social media or via email and auditioning for jobs I seek out or that come into my inbox. And I set aside half of each Friday to go over the previous week. I make sure I’ve accounted for all my bookkeeping, since I do this myself, and make sure all files or emails from the week are organized appropriately.
Your process may look different but being a business owner means that you are, at the very least, measuring your efforts in some way, managing your time well, and maintaining an organized system that works for you.
We don’t have a ton of control over whether a client hires us for a particular project, we do have control over our front-facing persona, as RB calls it, which includes having a website or a designated online portfolio to display your demos and past work, being present and engaging in online social spaces like Stage 32, and being available when we’re needed for clients and even fellow voiceover colleagues.
Over time, these skills become a talent in and of themselves. Clients will always remember how easy you were to work with, how communicative and accessible you were, and how your professionalism streamlined their ability to get the job done. And how do you do it? By being a badass business owner.
Consistency is key and we hear it all the time because it’s true for everything we do - self-care, physical health, our diets - and it’s also true when you’re running a voiceover business.
As we briefly talked about in the last point, keeping track of what we do in the present helps to inform us of what we should do in the future. How will we know what is working if we don’t measure and track our work? We won’t. It’s pretty much impossible. Running a business is not about doing everything all the time, it’s about doing a few small things over a longer period of time.
So, what does that look like?
We first need a place to log what we’re doing. I personally use Google Sheets for keeping track of all my client leads and other relevant company info like their websites, social channels, emails, etc. CRMs also do this and are super helpful.
Consistency is also key when it comes to the content you produce for your business. For example, if you have a podcast, it’s a good idea to publish episodes on a regular schedule so you are continuously putting out new and relevant content to build your brand. If you send out a newsletter, touching base with your list weekly, monthly, etc. is important for keeping your list ‘warm’ and ready when you go to sell or promote a product.
Remember the kids’ story, The Tortoise and the Hare? You know who wins the race every time? The tortoise. The slowest opponent. Have you ever thought about why that is? It’s because he is consistent. He doesn’t let the perceived speed of the hare slow him down or deter him from finishing well. The tortoise, having paced himself the whole way through, wins the race.
When we take the time needed to set our individual business goals, put a plan in place, and execute that plan, over time we begin to see results, we start to see the finish line with no hare in sight because we’re not trying to compare ourselves to the hare - we just want to create and build something that works and is sustainable.
Once we have that momentum, we start building on other characteristics that help us in our businesses as well like confidence, motivation, and enthusiasm. But we have to start, be consistent, and end well. Slow and steady pays off every time.
Get more VO tips & tricks in my podcast Hello VO!
Though it can feel chaotic and confusing in the online space, this one is a biggie. Why? Because humans want to be treated like and talked to like humans.
I’m a part of a mastermind group and last week our coach said, “honesty is a strategy,” and that stuck with me. People just want to know that you know that they are people and you’re a person, too. It seems odd, but think about this in your own life. We spend energy and time blocking bots and email spam and robo calls, because why? Because they’re unnatural and we crave natural interactions no matter where we are.
So, what does that look like?
We are all looking and reading and listening to learn more of what we want to know about ourselves, the world, and our businesses, and when we take the time or energy to interact with each other, we want to know the person on the other end has a beating heart and is trying to figure all of this out just like we are. That is how we learn from each other and get better at what we do.
We live in interesting times, as our parents and grandparents have said before us, but thinking about the way we do business and how it’s changing matters when we think about the way we want to grow our businesses and show up for our clients and communities.
There are so many tips I could add to this article, but the points listed provide a great place to start and can hopefully act as an anchor point for decision making as you move forward in your business.
If you’re looking to become a Voice Actor or feel stuck in your current voiceover business endeavors, check out my podcast Hello VO, where I dive into the nitty gritty work that goes into being a successful Voice Actor as well as common obstacles we face in this industry and tips for overcoming them. You can listen to the show on my website or your favorite podcast app.
Melanie Scroggins is a Voice Actor and audio producer hailing from Texas. She began her audio production career producing podcasts for small businesses and later added voiceover to her list of professional specialties. Melanie’s voice has been featured in work for some of the most well known brands like Google, Subaru, Hyatt Hotels, Delta Airlines, Ford, and more. She is also the host of the Hello VO Podcast.
On the home front, Melanie is a married cat mom of two. She loves spending time outdoors, listening to podcasts, and watching a good crime show or anything about the British monarchy.
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