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CAREER
Cash Flow Uneven? How To Diversify
To Ride Cycles & Grow Your Client Base
August 19, 2014

By Dan Hurst
Voice Actor

Specialized Diversification. Itís a term that is normally used in financial circles, but itís a key to pretty much any business growth that I can think of.  

To define it simply, SD is, for business purposes, becoming a specialist in a select number of areas for the purpose of increased and balanced revenue production.  

Generally, all sources of revenue have cycles. There are certainly numerous exceptions to the rule. However, a good example of revenue cycles is the housing construction industry. There just isnít a whole lot of construction work available in the winter months. Seasonal farming is another example.  

INCOME CHASES CYCLES

In the voice over business, if one depends on commercials for their income, the brunt of oneís work depends on the retail cycles.

Retail cycles certainly vary. For example, automotive sales have their cycle, while the clothing industry has a very different cycle. Even healthcare advertising runs in cycles.  

The significant problem that so many voice talents run into is that their income fluctuates with their clientís work cycles.  

PICK YOUR SPECIALTIES

Enter Specialized Diversification. What if the cycles of your revenue sources worked in some sort of harmony so that your income flow would remain fairly consistent?  

Yes, it can be done! However, every voice talent is different, therefore everyoneís Specialized Diversification will be different. 
  • Some voice dogs are good at only commercials, but they can do a variety of different kinds of commercials.
  • Some have a vocal delivery style that can slip easily from commercial work to explainer videos, but couldnít hard-sell if their life depended on it.
  • Some can do corporate eLearning, or even educational eLearning, but havenít the foggiest idea about how to create a game character.
  • Some can do tons of character voices, but could never pull off an audiobook.
  • Some voices have found their niche in network programming, but couldnít sell mustard to a hotdog.  
But what if you had two or three specialty areas? Niches that you were known for. Fields in which you were considered an expert.

And I donít mean considered an expert by you yourself, but by clients. Several clients. Itís not reasonable to consider yourself an expert in a particular genre if you only have three or four ongoing clients in that field, is it?  

CYCLING YOUR CAREER


Iím talking about building a career. If voice overs are a part-time business for you, great. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

But be honest with yourself: if you are doing this part-time, you only have part-time to develop it and yourself. That means itís going to take a little longer before you are ready to diversify.  

This whole process is going to take some time. Actually, it may take lots of time. Nobody swam the English Channel after just a few swimming lessons.  

SET UP A PLAN

How do you set up an SD plan that will work for you? 

It begins with a brutally honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. That means getting those gut-wrenching insights from people you trust both within the VO business (talent, coaches, producers, agents, etc.) and clients. 
  • What are you good at?
  • What are you not so good at?
  • What do you suck at that you think youíre good at?
  • Why hasnít your business grown more?  

THE SECRET TO MARKETING

And by the way, a little sidebar here. We LOVE to talk about marketing in voic eover circles, donít we? We think marketing is what grows our business. Weíre all looking for the Holy Grail of strategies.

Whatís the secret? Whatís the best? 

Frankly, most marketing schemes are just "paintiní a pig.Ē The pig looks good, but what got accomplished?  

Hereís the secret to marketing: Find out who needs what youíve got and tell them, and quit wasting your time telling people what youíve got that they donít want.  

NOW BECOME 'GREAT'

OK, back to SD. Secondly, based on what you are good at doing, what do you need to do to be great in that field?

See, experts are people who are great at what they do. Better than others. Maybe not better than everyone else, but better than the majority. 

Good is based on the market standard. One isnít even competitive until one is good.

Better is stepping beyond good to get noticed. But great is what the client chooses.   Unless, of course, youíve got a client that doesnít care.  

Become great at what you do and youíll be busy doing what youíre great at.  

CHOOSE COMPLIMENTARY GENRES

Thirdly, and this is critical, choose a complementary genre or niche that you can excel in. One that will produce a revenue stream that flows differently from your #1 field.  

Let me explain. 

I got into the voice over business much the same way most of us did Ė doing commercials. I had been in radio, and it was a simple, natural step. However, it took me years to realize that I sounded like a guy in radio doing commercials.

Once I got that fixed, I realized that there are some types of commercials I just wasnít good at. So, I began focusing on a handful of categories.

As that business grew, I realized that the revenue cycles could be tough on the checkbook. About that time, a local producer was needing a Spanish voice for some corporate training stuff. And the more I got into Spanish voice overs, the more I realized that it was something I was pretty good at.

And that launched my eLearning genre.  

So now I have three genres that I focus on: commercials, eLearning and network programing. And the revenue flow from those three sources produce a fairly balanced and consistent income, along with great potential for growth.  

SPREAD YOUR WORD

Fourthly, get the word out. Nobody bought something they didnít know about.  

Well, there was that time back when I was in radio that my boss drunk-dialed one of my infomercials and couldnít figure out why an exercise bike was delivered to his house. 

But normally, people know what theyíre buying. So, you have to get the word out. But hereís the secret: people buy what they trust.  

CREATE RELATIONSHIPS WITH CLIENTS

One of the best things you can do to get the word out is to focus on client relationships. 

Why? Because clients have other potential clients in their circles of influence. And if people buy what they trust, they are more apt to buy a voice talent on the recommendation of someone they trust.

Remember, clients hire great. They also recommend great. If youíre their expert, they are going to recommend you to their friends.  

I donít have any scientific research on this, but I can tell you that about 75% of my new clients come from referrals. I spend very little money anymore on cold marketing. Iíd rather spend the money on clients that are already using me and believe in me, because I know they are my best option for new business.  

There you have it. Specialized Diversification. It works. I wish I could tell you there is a quicker, smarter way to develop your diversification, but I donít know of one. 

Weíre in business. Good businesses diversify slowly and steadily as they build strong foundations and discover their real potential.  Think it through! 

------------------
ABOUT DAN
Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business now extends internationally, with clients including Maserati, Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, McDonalds, Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada, Walmart and many more. When heís not working, he spends his time cheering for losing sports teams and getting kicked off of golf courses.


Email: danhurst@danhurst.com
Web: www.DanHurst.com

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Comments (4)
Marie Hoffman
8/20/2014 at 4:33 PM
Dan:
Excellent article! What I liked most was the business sense it made.
Thanks so much.
Marie Hoffman
Debbie Grattan
8/20/2014 at 11:48 AM
Wow, Dan, you really hit it out of the park with this one. Such smart and strategic ideas, put together in one article. I agree with everything here, and definitely knowing one's strengths as a voiceover artist is key. Anybody working as a professional voice talent can certainly surmise fairly quickly what they are being hired for, and how they can cultivate that niche. Your tips here are golden! Thanks!
Dan Hurst
8/19/2014 at 12:30 PM
That's a good point, Jim! Unfortunately, some clients aren't looking for great. But, boy, when you find one of those small clients that ARE looking for great, hang with them!!! They're most likely going places!

When I first started out, that was one of my strategies. I connected with the small guys that were trying to grow their biz. I stayed with them. Worked hard for them. And as they grew...they took me with them! I still have a soft spot for those one-man shops that are just getting started.
Jim Conlan
8/19/2014 at 10:56 AM
Lots of useful information here, Dan. Especially cultivating your clients and their referrals. Lots more productive than trolling for random jobs on the internet (but you have to start somewhere). One thing I have found to be not as true, though: most clients (let's call them "not-big-time-clients") are not looking for great talent; they're looking for passable talent they can get cheaper. In their case - and there are many, many of them - they probably wouldn't know "great" if it bought them dinner.
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