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CAREER
How To INVEST Your Time - Not Just
Fill It - To Build Your Voice Over Career

June 28, 2013

Note: At VoiceOverXtra's Voice Over Virtual online conference in September, the author is presenting Create Your Business Action Plan, a key session for voice over career success.

By Ron Minatrea
Voice Actor & Certified Professional Coach

During my corporate career, we launched a new business operation that had all the signs of success, except for one serious challenge. We started our small operation in a very large building.  

The business struggled to make a profit because it was saddled with the full cost of the entire facility. It was like being the sole tenant in an apartment complex and having to pay rent on all the empty apartments. 

The answer was simple – fill up the building – add other businesses that would help foot the bill for our big building. These businesses didn’t have to make a lot of money – even at breakeven, we went after them … to help "pay the rent.”

THE VOICE OVER START-UP


When I started my voice over career, I took the same approach.

I wanted to book jobs – any jobs. They didn’t have to be super high paying, didn’t have to be core to my niche or brand – I just wanted them to help pay the rent. 

If an audition came in, I went for it.

If it took me half a day to produce a $50 job, I figured making ten or twelve bucks an hour beat making nothing at all.

WRONG CALCULATION SURPRISE ...

This appeared to be working for me until I auditioned for a 300,000-word project with a fixed price. I’d done some quick math and it looked like it would pay about $150 per finished hour. 

Unfortunately, after I won the job, I realized I’d missed a zero in my math, and this job was going to consume all my time for weeks – and pay me less than $4 per hour. 

Completing this job would mean I had no time for marketing, training, studio improvements – and no other auditions or projects for weeks. 

And that’s when I realized my voice over "building" was full.

CRITICAL STRATEGIC SHIFT


In my corporate example, once our building was full, we no longer wanted to take just any business we could find, but rather to maximize the profit from each of our operations – looking to get the most from every square foot of our building.

Now in voice over, I had to stop looking to fill my time with just any business – and instead, work to maximize the return on investment (ROI) of my time, energy, and emotion – all finite resources.

Once we make this critical shift in our thinking, there are five additional steps to help maximize our ROI.

FOLLOW RULE OF 7 ±2

Zoom back and make a comprehensive list of everything in your business that needs your time and attention. 

Group these into seven categories – give or take a couple. 

With fewer than five categories, the groupings tend to be too broad and it becomes more difficult to drive goals and actions. With more than nine categories, things tend to get confusing and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with too many buckets. 

Some categories need to be broken into sub-categories – here again, use the Rule of 7 ±2 for subcategories. 

SAMPLE BUSINESS CATEGORIES


For instance, my voice over business categories are:
  • Production (auditions and projects),
  • Marketing,
  • Portfolio Management,
  • Training,
  • Studio, and
  • Administrative functions. 
Both admin and marketing require sub-categories.

STOP WHAT DOESN'T WORK


Review your list by category. What things jump out as:
  • time killers,
  • low profit projects, or
  • simply don’t fit your business model? 
Develop a plan to exit those things – quickly – but gracefully. Don’t let your zeal for improvement hurt a customer relationship or create a hole in your revenue stream without a plan in place to cover it.

INCLUDE HABITS AND ROUTINES


And don’t forget to include habits and routines that consume your time and energy but never make your project list. 

For instance, social networks and email are powerful tools when used as part of a deliberate strategy – but can easily become mindless distractions that consume more time than we realize – or care to admit.

BALANCE THE BUDGET


Just like we look at our take-home pay and decide how much we can spend on housing, utilities, or groceries – we should be assessing how much time we have (whether two hours a day or 10), and allocate it in a thoughtful and balanced way across ALL aspects of our business.

And like buying a new car sometimes has to wait until the kids get braces or are out of college, budgeting our time requires tradeoffs. 

Make the tough choices to invest in growing your business – even if it’s at the expense of something easier or that you really like to do.

DELEGATE WITHOUT A MIRROR

In my corporate role, I was practically a full time delegator. But as I started my voice over business, I quickly realized the only person I could delegate to was the "man in the mirror.” 

I selected areas where I was spending massive amounts of my time and decided to hire someone else to do those for me.

As a result, my website has never looked better – and I used the time that I wasn’t playing web developer to capture and produce enough business to pay for the new site.

I took a similar approach when remodeling my studio. 

BALANCE YOUR LIFE, TOO


Finally, it’s important to recognize that our business is only one aspect of our lives. I’ve actually applied these same steps to ALL of my time and energy – not just my business. 

Starting with the Rule of 7 ±2, I now have goals and a vision for each of the major categories of my life – faith, family, fun, fitness, finances, as well as my work.  

For me, this balanced approach to living is foundational to the long term success of my business – not to mention my own personal fulfillment.
-------------------
ABOUT RON
Ron Minatrea is a Certified Professional Coach with over 30 years as a Fortune 500 business leader. Today he works to teach, lead, and encourage others to define and achieve their goals. Also a working voice over talent, he helps other VO’s apply sound business practices to create successful, sustainable careers.

Email: ron@rmvoices.com
Web: www.rmvoices.com


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Comments (7)
Alita
12/8/2013 at 8:53 PM
Hello Coach Ron…another great read! Thanks…:o)
Ron
7/1/2013 at 5:15 PM
Thanks for all the comments (and kind words) and even the emails that some chose to send to me directly.

Jane - yes, I think one of my biggest challenges since leaving my corporate role was adjusting to being a sole proprietor -- with lots of emphasis on the "sole" part. I'm finding blocking my time helps - but allocating larger blocks than I used to, so I don't lose momentum when I switch hats.

Roxanne - thanks for the book tip. I plan to check it out. I, too, am on a mission to achieve and maintain balance...and find it's easier now that my business objectives are better aligned with my whole life objectives...although it makes it hard to tell when I'm really on vacation.

Rebecca - I'd love to hear the titles for your groups if you care to share...
Jane Ingalls
6/29/2013 at 10:31 PM
Hi Ron, excellent thoughts for everyone managing a business (and a life!). It's difficult to move forward in several areas at once. Your points resonated with me! Thank you for taking the time to write about this.
Alita
6/28/2013 at 3:01 PM
Great article!
Talmadge Ragan
6/28/2013 at 2:20 PM
Really enjoyed your comments today, Ron. Well-said! As business expands, reevaluation is vital. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.
Roxanne Coyne
6/28/2013 at 1:21 PM
THANK YOU, Ron!!! I led a faffcamp round table discussion about balance of life and discovered that this is a huge issue for many people. I am on a mission to find balance! Thanks for the wonderful tips on how to begin to weed through the tangle of tasks that make up our businesses.

May I suggest to others out there that they read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber (I believe the current version is The E-Myth Revisited). This book is quite an eye-opener and invaluable to folks like us.
Rebecca Michaels Haugh aka LoveThatRebecca
6/28/2013 at 1:08 PM
SPOT ON RON!!! (wow that could be your tagline!) Hey - I was very excited to read the article because of the headline. I'm have 10 yrs corporate middle management experience and that's helped me incredibly to just what you write about above. And I did it in the exact same way! I have different "titles" for my groups - I've been doing VO now for 10 yrs. Acting and VO, now VO soley and full time. Anyway, thank you so much - I agree and hope others take this info to heart.

Best,
Rebecca
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