Voice-Over Business 101: Crucial Advice
- How To Save Money And Invest Wisely
October 17, 2018
Note: In a recent article, the author pushes you into TV's Shark Tank with questions about your voice-over business to see if you can survive in today's competitive waters. Still afloat? Congratulations! Today, learn how to curb your costs and invest wisely as a freelance voice actor ...
By Paul StrikwerdaVoice Actor, Coach & Author
The way you manage your money is one of the most important indicators of success.
You may have the most enchanting voice in the world, but if you don't price for profit, and if you spend more than you make without even knowing it, you may end up driving for Uber instead of doing your dream job.
Yes, you've got to spend money to make money, but you have to do it wisely. I call it "strategic splurging."
Today I'm going to talk about saving some cash, but before I get to that, let's go over a few basics.
As a solopreneur, you have to ask yourself: "What is the purpose of my business?"
Financially speaking, there can only be one answer: It's not to make money, but to turn a profit. If I were a bank, and you'd come to me for a loan, I wouldn't care about how well-respected you are in your community, or how much you love your job. I would not look at how many people read your blog, or how many friends you have on Facebook.
I would look at your bottom line. Your profit is the number one indicator of the health and success of your business.
Here's a simple formula:
AMATEUR OR PRO?
We often talk about the difference between doing voice-overs as a hobby, or as a business.
What's the difference between an amateur and a professional? In the end it doesn't matter what you think, or what your coach tells you. You've got to convince the tax man!
Here's what the IRS has to say about the difference between a hobby and a business:
The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year.
HOW TO INVEST WISELY
Healthy companies focus on two main things:
Here's what you should know: Curbing costs starts between your ears.
1. Distinguish between a WANT and a NEED.
Every time you're tempted to make a major purchase, ask yourself:
So, if you really, really want to buy a nice, new, shiny piece of equipment, ask yourself:
If you can answer these three questions with an emphatic YES, move on to the next level: ...
2. Find the product that best meets your needs and your budget
This applies to business expenses, but also to other purchases. You have to be a smart shopper across the board, to allow your business to grow.
If you must make an investment, do your homework before you make an impulse buy.
Determine how much you can afford to spend, and begin your research.
Here's my rule of thumb: Always choose high quality over low price. You may pay a bit more today, but you will save money in the long run.
When you operate your own business, it's so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day running of your shop. However, if you want to have staying power, you must think long-term, and plan accordingly.
And speaking of time, here's your next decision ...
3. Determine the best moment to buy something
Saving money has a lot to do with timing. For instance, the best time to buy a new television is right before the Super Bowl, and before new models hit the showroom. It can save you hundreds of dollars.
One of my favorite sites is lifehacker. Lifehacker has a handy graphic, illustrating The Best Time to Buy Anything During the Year. You'll see that February is great for buying cellphones and home theaters. August is best for office supplies.
Once you've found what you are looking for, and you know when to get it, you must make the following commitment ...
4. Options to paying full price
No one pays sticker price on a new car, right? That would be foolish. So, I want you to bring that same mindset to your next purchase. And just as you'd go from dealership to dealership to get the best price, I want you to use the same method online.
The first thing you need to find out is how much retailers are generally charging for what you want to buy. Otherwise, you don't know if you're overpaying, or you're getting a steal.
A simple way to do that, is to start a Google search for your product. Click on the shopping tab, and sort by price from low to high.
If you're an Amazon fan, I recommend installing the free camelcamelcamel price tracker. It monitors millions of products, and it gives you insightful price history charts. On top of that, this tracker can send you alerts via email and Twitter, notifying you of price drops.
The website Slickdeals also has a price tracker, tracking prices from 52 stores.
You can install a bookmarklet, and add it to your browser's bookmarks bar to check the price history of any item at a supported store as you browse the web.
Once you have a clear price point, the next decision you'll have to make is whether to buy …
5. Refurbished or used
My biggest savings have come from purchasing previously loved equipment.
Not everyone is comfortable with buying second-hand, but once you've had a few positive experiences, I think you'll warm up to the idea.
The safest way to buy used gear, is to get it from someone you know.
The Facebook group VO Gear Exchange has over 1,500 members, and right now there are 123 items for sale.
Online retailer Sweetwater has a Trading Post where you can buy and sell gear.
You can also buy and sell used pro audio equipment online from Guitar Center.
As a buyer and seller, I've had mostly positive experiences with eBay. The trick is to do your homework before you start bidding. Know how much something is worth, and use the website Checkaflip to find out how much a certain product is usually selling for.
But eBay buyer beware! Only buy from sellers with overwhelmingly positive feedback, and look for auctions that end on hours very few people will be bidding (mornings and early afternoons). The fewer people bid on something, the better your deal will be.
eBay has a money-back guarantee if your item hasn't arrived, or isn't as described.
Amazon shoppers can also buy used or reconditioned products. Just click on the Used & New link below the description of the item you're looking for. You might be surprised how much money you can save.
Speaking of reconditioned or refurbished, that's another great option for frugal freelancers. I recently bought an iPad Air 2 with 128 GB, Wireless & Cellular. You can find it at the Apple store for $629. I bought a factory refurbished model from BLINQ for $396.79 with free shipping (using a 20% off coupon for signing up for email alerts). Apple sells the same iPad refurbished for $529. Retailer Best Buy is selling the iPad Air 2 with similar specs as an Open Box item for $464.99.
My tablet didn't arrive in Apple's signature fancy packaging, but otherwise it looked and felt brand new, without any dents or scratches. Right now I'm using it as a second monitor, with the help of an app called Duet. The app is available for Mac and PC.
If you're still not comfortable with getting a used or reconditioned product, you have to consider what to do when you're …
6. Buying new
Of course you'd start by using a shopbot like Pricegrabber, to find the best price.
You can also look for deals on Retailmenot or a site like Overstock.
Rick Broida from website CNET, writes the Cheapskate Blog that's written for bargain shoppers like me. Once I had ordered my iPad, I wanted to set up cellular service. The Cheapskate Blog told me about a free T-Mobile data plan for my tablet. All I had to do was buy a $10 Sim card, install it, and BAM: I now have a 200MB monthly plan at no cost.
Rick also wrote about the Brenthaven Elliot Slim Brief with lifetime guarantee which normally retails for $79.95. I got it for $24.95, and it protects my iPad perfectly during my travels. This deal is no longer available.
Apart from Rick's blog, CNET has another deals and promotions page you might want to check regularly. You'll find deals on anything from electronics, cruises, office equipment, to clothing.
There are at least four other deal aggregators I visit regularly: kinja Deals, Bradsdeals, Woot, and Tanga.
Please do some window shopping to find out what they have to offer. You can thank me later!
Another money-saving concept is that of the Buyer's Club. This is where a number of buyers commit to purchasing something to get a group discount. Groupon is probably one of the best examples. One of my favorites is MassDrop, which has a special Audiophile section.
Whenever I'm shopping online, I make sure to activate my eBates account to earn cash back on my purchases. The Cash Back Button I've installed tells me how much cash back is being offered, and it reminds me to activate the discount. About 2,000 stores give cash back through eBates. The way I see it, it's free money!
"But what about coupons?" you may ask. Well, I use a browser extension called Honey. Honey automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout on thousands of sites. Honey also finds better prices on Amazon, and offers cash bonuses on many stores.
Once you have Honey installed, whenever you're on a shopping site that Honey supports, you will see the Honey icon in the top right corner of your browser turn the color orange. This means that Honey supports that store.
Now, here's my last money-saving tip for you ...
7. Get a good accountant who specializes in small businesses
Let's face it: you didn't become a freelancer so you could bury yourself in boring and time-consuming paperwork. Spare yourself the headaches, save yourself some time, and hire an expert. Your forms will be filled out correctly, and filed on time.
A good accountant helps you maximize your deductions, lower your tax bills, and can be your financial sounding board.
When you're ready to make your next purchase, remember this: it's easy and lazy to pay full price. It's also bad for business. It may take you some time to track down the best bargains, but you'll learn a lot, and finding a bargain can be quite gratifying.
The way you shop for your business will help you cut down your household expenses as well. Small savings add up quickly. At the end of the day, you'll have more money in the bank; money that's going to be your security blanket.
Paul Strikwerda is a 25+-year veteran of the voice over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He is also a voice over coach, author of the book, Making MONEY In Your PJs: Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs, and writes an informative and entertaining blog.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgWeb: www.nethervoice.com
Making MONEY In Your PJs: http://makingmoneyinyourpjs.com
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