Do You Track Where Your Spots Play? Add
Clients, Calendar, Billing & More To Complexity
December 5, 2013
By Brent Walker
Voice Talent, Producer & Software Developer
Back in the pre-ISDN days of the Local Voice Talent Pool, life was easy.
My small audio production business could hire local voices, handle their billing, and know where everybodyís voice was running across the nation. With the database I had designed, we could tell at a momentís notice, for instance, who was available to voice a bank in Lincoln Nebraska, and who was currently voicing for a competing bank.
Then ISDN happened. Suddenly, a whole nation of voice actors became available to us.
There was just one problem: we couldnít follow the work they did for other studios. Imagine our surprise when we found out that they couldnít either! There were simply no good systems available for voice talent.
VO LOST HIS CLIENTS
This became dreadfully clear when a good friend ended up voicing commercials for two different hospitals in one market.
Did he lose a client over this? No he didnít. He lost two clients. All because he didnít have a work-tracking system in place.
When you canít track your work, you risk voicing for competing clients (aka: career suicide), and you leave a lot of money on the table by not knowing when a cycle is up so you can inquire about renewals.
WHAT TO TRACK
Working with talent in this industry for over 30 years, Iíve learned that professional voice actors must keep data on five things in order to run an efficient business:
The calendar is an easy solve - iCal or Outlook do just fine (as does a paper Daytimer for that matter.)
But we live in a mobile society. Sessions get moved around the calendar constantly. You need to be able to access and modify that calendar, even when youíre in the supermarket check-out line.
Relationship management is a little trickier. There are great Customer Relationship Management programs available on the web, but the price is often prohibitive. Besides, these CRM programs are built for the corporate world. As a voice actor you need a place to keep track of your contact information, the conversations you have with a client, and a way to see all the work youíve done with a particular client.
The non-software solution would be alphabetized 5 x 8 cards in a box.
TRACKING SESSION DATA
Session information is by far the most difficult data problem.
For every session you book, you should know the medium on which your work will run, the markets in which it will run (if for broadcast), and the cycle (how long the client licenses your work).
Many VO talent I know simply scribble this information on the script, and keep the scripts in folders by month. One person I know has re-purposed an accounting ledger book to record this information.
The key is to keep good data thatís easy to access.
WHO OWES YOU MONEY?
Billing is not so difficult, especially if you use a good accounting program.
But many accounting programs are packed with features youíll never need, as well as having a steep learning curve.
In a perfect world, you would be able to search and sort all of your invoices, and be able to tell quickly if an invoice is paid or overdue.
PINS & POST-ITS
For seeing your avails geographically, a map on the wall with a pin in each market where you have work currently running would do the trick (in a quaint, analog kind of way). It would be especially nice if that pin could show you the client, category of business, and cycle expiration date.
Pins and/or tiny post-its could hold that information for you. Until, of course, your kid needs some thumbtacks for a science fair project. Whoops! There went San Diego.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
In talking to scores of voice talent about their record-keeping, Iíve learned that everyone has a different process - usually involving twisting and bending currently available software to their unique needs.
Thereís a lot of frustration.
The most important part is to have a system - a suite of record-keeping tools that holds only the information you need to follow - and nothing more.
Simplicity, mobility, and ease of use are paramount to creating a system youíll actually benefit from.
Brent Walker has spent over 40 years behind a microphone, and for 30 of those years, he has run a successful production business. Walker recently launched Voxtools.com - a web-based suite of business software designed specifically for voice over professionals.
Your Daily Resource For Voice-Over Success