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CAREER
38 Ways To Advance Your Career,
Make More Money, Save Time ...
 
By Doug Turkel
Voice Actor
 
As freelance voice over talent, and without a boss expecting reports on his desk by the end of the day, it can sometimes be difficult to hold ourselves accountable and ensure that we're handling our myriad responsibilities.
 
Okay, maybe I'm projecting a bit here, but it's a common complaint I hear from fellow voice over talent:

With so many tasks that need attention, it can be difficult just to wrangle them all onto one list, let alone begin to chip away at that mountain of action items.
 
Well, now you've got one less excuse, because the wrangling's been done.
 
Most of the items below won't take you much time, but you'll get loads of benefits: more time, more money, better control of your career and happier, more loyal clients.
 
1. CONSIDER THE ROI

We've all heard that if we're looking for new business, we must be active on social media. Or that the pay-to-play (P2P) websites are where it's at. Or that cold calling is the way to go.
 
I've gotten a bit of work through social media, none at all through the P2Ps, and while some people swear by it, I detest cold calling.
 
Regardless of my experiences or anyone else's, determine which marketing efforts work well for you, and make the most of them.
 
2. CHECK THE TIME

Determine exactly how much of your workday is spent:
  1. doing the work,
  2. getting the work, and
  3. neither one.
Increase the amount of time you spend on the second one, and the other two will adjust themselves accordingly.
 
3. ADJUST YOUR RATES

Freelance voice over talent determine and negotiate their own rates.
 
If you fall into this category, and if you know that you're providing great audio and real value to your clients, then charge real money for it.
 
Talent who work for insubstantial rates are often seen as insubstantial talents.
 
4. FINE-TUNE YOUR BRANDING

What might have been the perfect tagline or marketing campaign a few years ago may not be as accurate as it once was.
 
As we learn, grow and age, our voices and our perspectives change.
 
Ensure that the image you're projecting still reflects your sound and your approach.
 
5. NAIL DOWN YOUR NICHE

The more specifically (and memorably) you can define your sound for your clients, the easier it will be for them to imagine your voice on their project, making it easier for them to hire you.
 
6. FULFILL YOUR PROMISES

And fulfill your clients' expectations. 
 
There's no faster way to lose clients than to be difficult to work with or hard to get in touch with.
 
And there's no better way to earn a client's long-lasting loyalty than to be a responsive, professional problem-solver.
 
7. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Take some time to look at yourself - and your website, your reputation, and your work - from your clients' perspective.
 
Do they see you as "someone who does voice overs" or as a serious, solid, creative professional?
 
The difference between the two can be the difference between:
  • having a hobby or
  • building and maintaining a career.
8. BE PROACTIVE

Hoping to be signed by an agent, or land a big new client?
 
Make the first move and get in touch with them.
 
With so many avenues of communication available to you, there are no excuses for not reaching out.
 
9. FIRE A CLIENT

If you have a client who saps your energy and requires more time, effort and aggravation than they're worth, fire them. You'll be doing yourself - and them - a favor.
 
You'll also be freeing up time and attention that you can devote to other clients, to yourself, and to growing your business.
 
10. CREATE YOUR OWN SUPPORT GROUP

Meeting with fellow voice talent once a month to share, support and brainstorm can have a profound effect on your career.
 
Meeting in person is probably best, but with options like Skype and Google+ Hangouts, there's no reason not to form your own Mastermind Group.
 
11. JOIN THE COMMUNITY

This is not a paid endorsement for FaffCon4 - in fact, I don't even think that they exist - but there is no more potent and efficient way to dial up your passion for the work that we do, and the wonderful people who do it, than by attending this "un-conference."
 
I could write another few pages about the innumerable benefits of FaffCon, but I already have.
 
12. WORK SMARTER

As solopreneurs, a lot of what we do, like marketing, website maintenance, graphic design, invoicing, and customer relationship management, has nothing to do with voice overs.
 
Spend some time finding ways to handle those things more efficiently, or outsource those tasks to someone more well-suited for them.
 
13. EXPAND YOUR WORLD

Your clients don't just hire you for your voice, they hire you for you.
 
For everything that you bring to the table (or the studio) as an individual, is someone whose experiences have helped craft your personality and make you who you are.
 
So read. Live. Be. If you aren't interesting, your reads won't be interesting either.
 
14. BECOME A MENTOR

Teach a class. Write that book or e-book you've been meaning to write.
 
You'll learn at least as much as you teach, and likely lots more.
 
15. STUDY MORE

On the flip side of becoming a mentor, remember that refining your skills at the mic makes you even more valuable to your clients.
 
And with years of experience behind you now, you'll be better able to apply the information you get from a great coach to your performances.
 
16. IMPROVE YOUR SURROUNDINGS

Acoustically, that is.
 
Since everyone with a Mac and mic can now record and send audio from home, it has become vitally important to ensure that your audio meets - and hopefully exceeds - industry standards.
 
It's likely that your clients get lots of poor quality audio sent to them. Make sure it's not from you.
 
17. SET THE TABLE

You'll save yourself a lot of time by putting together some simple document templates in advance.
 
Create templates for your proposals, contracts or terms of agreement, and invoices now.
 
If you've already created them, then double-check them for accuracy.
 
18. RECOMMEND OTHER VOICE TALENTS

We're not always the right choice for a client's project.
 
Don't try to force your buttoned-up, corporate voice, for example, onto a laid-back surfer script.
 
Instead, suggest to your client that they hire your fellow professional voice over talent who does sound like a surfer.
 
They'll both see you as their hero. Win-win-win.
 
ADVICE FROM OTHERS ...

When I asked for input on this topic from my friends on Facebook and Twitter, I got some very insightful responses and want to share them here. Some have been edited for length.
 
I also received far more responses than I expected, which says a lot about the strength and generosity of the voice over community. Thanks to all who contributed ...
 
19. NANCY WOLFSON

A talented actor without an entrepreneurial mindset is a hungry athlete stumbling through fields of food without pockets. Or hands.
 
20. PAUL STRIKWERDA

Use the power of pricing. Pricing is one of the most important tools for managing your client's expectations, as well as your bottom line.
 
Your price point sends a clear signal to your market: This is what I am worth. 
 
Your fee structure will help you attract the kind of customers you want to be working for and the type of jobs you are shooting for. At the same time, it will weed out the folks who cannot or will not afford you; the ones who are most likely to give you a hard time anyway. 
 
Here's the deal, though: Your fee must be backed up by experience and expertise on one hand and by a realistic sense of your value in the market place on the other.
 
21. AMY SNIVELY

Every now and then, take a break from chasing after clients, contacts and the next big thing, and focus on getting/keeping your skills solid.
 
Be honest with yourself about yourself and don't be too proud to dust off the basics now and then.
 
22. LIZ DE NESNERA

Find a system that works for you.
 
A lot of people say that there's only one way to stay organized, one way to file scripts or to invoice. Not so.
 
But you DO need some sort of system. For me it's:
    • record a job,
    • send out the invoice,
    • enter the info in my database, and
    • file the scripts in my organizer that I have set up by month, not by client.
Staying organized will help you keep moving forward.
 
23. RICK LANCE

I believe we should all have a written "revisions policy" that your new clients receive from you when you agree to work on a project.
 
I will spell out everything agreed to - project details, payment, etc. - in a short email and get them to send it back to me showing their approval.
 
24. MELISSA EXELBERTH

Be true to yourself and believe in yourself.
 
You may not notice it, but it WILL show in your reads. Move out of your comfort zone, scary though it is. You might surprise yourself.
 
Outsource when you can. Translating. Editing. And when you do, pay people fairly, not just the rates they're willing to accept because they're also fighting lowballers, but fair rates for the value you're getting.
 
25. RICH OWEN

Make friends in this business. Go to conventions, socials, meetings, etc. Use social networking.
 
Absorb as much as you can from those who are successful and those who are struggling to become successful.
 
Be gracious to all you meet and be helpful to others who ask for some assistance or feedback.
 
If we can pay it forward to someone else, we all benefit!
 
26. PETER O'CONNELL

Two words: database. No wait, that's one word. Or did I spell it wrong?

Oh crap, nobody told me there was going to a test this morning!
 
27. DAVE COURVOISIER

Discipline. Doing the things you have to do, even though you don't want to do them.
 
28. JODI KRANGLE

Remember that as much as what we do is a performance, it's also a business. Treat it as such. Give it the respect it deserves.
 
If you treat it like a hobby, that's all it will ever be.

And make sure to keep up with your invoicing. If you don't remember, don't expect your client to.
 
29. ANTHONY GETTIG

Take your work seriously. Strive to become a reliable member of your client's team that they wouldn't want to work without.
 
I'll also echo Dave Courvoisier's call for discipline. Whether it's vocal warm-ups before recording or working a little later to meet a deadline, the successful business owners are the ones who are disciplined.
 
30. RALPH HASS

My daughter challenged me with an American Eagle shirt for Christmas to "soar like an eagle."
 
I encourage you to do the same. Eliminate the other E word in your vocabulary: excuses.
 
31. TERRY DANIEL

Sending out post cards to our clients is still very effective - especially when you remember an anniversary or birthday.
 
Upselling! If they ask for a dry read, ask them if they would like background music for an additional fee.
 
Tell your clients that you also know other voice talents that can help out.

Kick the lowball inquiries to the curb.
 
Better customer service. Check in with your client long after the project has been completed.
 
32. ROSI AMADOR

Look for opportunities for mentorship in all aspects of our VO biz - including both mentorship you receive and give or offer.
 
Join or create a Mastermind group or other type of similar group (or even one other person) that meets online or in person to share resources, learn from one another. And be completely honest about what's going right or wrong for you.
 
Don't be afraid of sharing your vulnerabilities with these buddies, and watch yourself gather more courage, strength, and inspiration. The wonderful side effect: camaraderie and feeling that support.
 
33. DAN FRIEDMAN

Do not settle for "good enough" in sound quality or performance.
 
Always deliver on what you promise. Make friends and be so good that they can recommend you with confidence.
 
34. JANET AULT

Don't stop training; don't believe your own press.
 
And always be grateful. We are so blessed to do this for a living.
 
35. MORGAN BAILEY KEATON

Don't be afraid to give without receiving financial gain, especially when you're a beginner, but I don't believe anyone should forget this.
 
Our entire business isn't about money. If you donate your VO services for a great project, those you worked with will remember your dedication and passion for your work, and will think of you when they have a budget.
 
36. FRANK BAUM

Bring talent to the table, follow with:
    • study/learn the business,
    • do what you do really well and learn more,
    • expect everything to keep changing, but
    • don't kill your talent doing what you don't want to do.
37. TALMADGE RAGAN

Be accountable - to your clients, yourself, your profession and community.
 
38. PAUL J. WARWICK

Play to your uniqueness.

ABOUT DOUG ...  

Doug Turkel has more than 20 years of experience as a professional voice talent. Branding himself as the "UNnouncer” - as opposed to the brash "Monster Truck” guy - he has "quietly" become the voice behind more than 10,000 spots and several TV networks. His strong roster of clients includes MasterCard, NBC/Telemundo, McDonald’s, The Travel Channel and The Discovery Channel. He is currently the promo voice of the Home Shopping Network. Working from a home studio, he notes that "voice talent who learn to use the tools that the Internet offers can find work anywhere and everywhere."  
 
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Comments (8)
Lance DeBock
1/25/2012 at 4:59 PM
Doug,

I'm taking Bobbin Beam's advice and reading this...and reading this again. In fact, maybe I'll tape it to my forehead just so I don't forget to read it...again. Thank you for sharing these insights and advice!
Judy Fossum
1/22/2012 at 6:46 PM
Doug,

Thank you, thank you. This is honest invaluable advice, tips, nuggets of information and action steps. Just getting into the business, I am so thankful for all of this information. The VO community is so generous.

-Judy Fossum
Bobbin Beam
1/20/2012 at 2:39 PM
Doug,
Anyone in VO should read this. Then read it again. Excellent input from all.
The only thing I might add would be, "Don't play small, and embrace yourself, all of yourself, for who you are, knowing you can always become more. "
Elizabeth Holmes
1/20/2012 at 11:07 AM
Doug -- After 30 years in the business of business (accounting), I've made the switch to voice over (3 years). Thank you for compiling this list of rock-solid advice for running a one-person business. These are recipes for success -- tried and true. You've done a great service to your colleagues by sharing these. Best wishes, Elizabeth Holmes
Doug Turkel
1/20/2012 at 10:27 AM
John, thanks so much for posting this article here, I really appreciate it! And thanks to everyone for their input.

There was one additional comment added to the Facebook thread that came in too late to be included here. It was from veteran voice actor Bob Bergen, and it was powerful enough that I thought it deserved its own entry, so here's the link to that post:

http://bit.ly/zto1AK

(You may have to copy and paste that link into your browser, but it's worth a visit.)
Randye Kaye
1/20/2012 at 9:54 AM
Doug, this is an amazing compilation of excellent advice - including yours! Thanks - and great demo advice in the comments, Bettye. This is a business under constant change, and change can bring either perceived obstacles or opportunity. Embrace the opps! Five years ago I had no idea how to edit a track, or create a VO newsletter. Now it's kinda fun!
Randye
Roy Wells
1/20/2012 at 7:58 AM
Really good, all encompassing article Doug. I'm with you a hundred percent on the P2P's (at least the one of which I am a member) being mostly worthless.
Bettye Zoller
1/20/2012 at 1:10 AM
Right on with this piece, Doug. "I've gotten a bit of work through social media, none at all through the P2Ps, and while some people swear by it, I detest cold calling. " I agree totally. Except I've gotten good work through Voice 123 and VOPLANET has the biggest money jobs to audition for. No contest.

Here's a quote for you from me since you quoted others: "Your demo is good only as long as you're not better." So make a new one or more than one when it needs update. It's like old headshots...boring. After 40 years in the biz I reinvent myself yearly. Watch what happens now folks!! Fireworks!!!! Think new.
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