Paul’s Pervasive Pet Peeves

young girl with mustacheI guess I only have myself to blame.

The new year has barely begun, and I already have a list of things I get worked up about.

Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not going to slam clients or berate online cattle call centers. This time I’m going to point my arrows at you, dear colleagues!

Well… at least some of you will have to suffer my undying intolerance for BS. As for the rest, I’m sure you’ll recognize my shortlist of major and minor annoyances.

Here’s pet peeve number one:

Automated requests to connect.

Let me get one thing straight. Although I can sound like one if you push me, I am not a robot. I am a human being with thoughts, feelings, and certain expectations. I am honored that you wish to add me to your network, but chances are that I don’t know you.

You don’t walk up to a stranger in the street and ask to be part of his circle of friends and colleagues, do you? So, why would it be okay to target me online with an impersonal message, without even introducing yourself? Are you that rude, or is it that you just don’t care?

Please tell me who you are, and give me at least one good reason why we should connect, and I’ll consider it.

Manners matter!

People wanting to pick my brain.

It often starts with an innocent question:

“Can I call you some time to talk about the business?” A few years ago, I would have said yes immediately, only to discover that I was about to do someone’s homework. A more honest question would have been:

“Paul, can I get a free coaching session? I have no money, no equipment, no training, and no brain.”

Mind you, I’m not opposed to helping those who are truly committed, but I’m not going to waste my time on lazy airheads who are simply “considering options.” How do I separate the two? It’s easy! The committed person has respect for my time, and is willing to pay for my expertise. End of story. I’m doing my very best to run a business. Not a charity.

And just so you know: I’m not going to evaluate your demo either. Unless you pay me, and only if you promise not to blame the messenger for destroying your dreams. 

Here’s the next pet peeve:

People asking for the number of my agent.

Seriously? Beginners I barely know want me to open my virtual Rolodex, and give them a chance to pester my professional contacts. That is wrong on so many levels! First of all, a quick Google search using the term “voiceover agent” will bring up 450 thousand results in 0.55 seconds. If you really need a number, don’t ask me to spoon feed it to you. Unless you’re a toddler. 

More importantly, the real question behind the question “Can you give me the number of your agent,” is: “Could you introduce me to your agent and say a few nice things about me?” Here’s my take on that.

I’m not going to recommend people I hardly know because it could end up biting me in the behind. Secondly, being part of an agent’s roster is something that has to be earned. It cannot be phoned in. Here’s my advice: make a name for yourself first. If you’re any good, chances are that an agent will contact you.

The next request goes even further:

Peeps asking for work.

The other day it happened again. A mysterious self-proclaimed voice-over colleague who is active on a different continent approached me and asked: “I would appreciate if you can send me some jobs and we can work over the internet.” 

Here’s what I could have said:

“Well, if you give me a moment I’ll open the Nethervoice vault and grab you a few voice-over projects. Is five enough? I’m sure you’re up to the task, and my clients are gonna love you. By the way, these gigs come with a nice paycheck! Are you okay with that?”

Without the sarcasm, here’s what I really wanted to say:

“For starters, I’m a colleague. Not a contractor. People hire me. I don’t hire people. Secondly, this industry is based on talent, trust, and connections. If you’re hoping to work with someone, make sure you get to know that person first, and allow them to get to know you. In other words: make a real connection. Don’t lead with what’s in it for you.

This is a service industry, so, focus on how you can help the person you’re approaching. Demonstrate your talent, and earn their trust. If you follow those steps with me, and you’re good at what you do, I might recommend you to some of my clients. Eventually.”

Now, before I go, there’s one last thing I’d like to point out.

All these requests have one thing common. They are based on a sense of entitlement; on the expectation that valuable information, experience, and assistance can be had for free.

If that’s your philosophy, you shouldn’t even be thinking of starting your own business. Think of it this way:

If you don’t respect and value other people’s time, skills, and insights, why should they value yours?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet!

photo credit: FE2014 (156) via photopin (license)

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs." goo.gl/ihVpMc

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Social Media

24 Responses to Paul’s Pervasive Pet Peeves

  1. Philip Banks

    On Wednesday I had a brief Skype message from Paul. “Don’t click on the link as I didn’t send it”. I “added” Paul to my contacts and replied “nothing received here ..” and wished him a good day, he reciprocated. THE END. Paul s not responsible for the mischief makers on an internet so his note was a real matey thing to do. Is he now on my mail list, my CRM, twitter feed, facebook friends, my youtube groupies, are we planning our first date, does he get my BankseyVO Newsletter (like all vo newsletters contains nothing newsworthy), does he subscribe to my blog or did he attend my most recent VOWebcast “How to make money from people with severe medication issues”? No. Why? Because Paul believes I am the spawn of Satan? Because I worship the ground to which he’s going? Nope. I’ve met him and he’s a delightful man but he ain’t a user and being a “user” is a lot different from promoting and marketing your business.

    Click HERE to connect with Philip Banks.

    Nothing happen? ZACKLY!

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  2. J S Gilbert

    I hate when twitter shows a list of people that are “similar to me” and all I think is “Similar in the way that we are Mammalian bipeds that breathe air”. Most voice talent are gaining very little if anything from the time they spend in social media. Quite a few are probably shooting theselves in the foot. But then again, I guess social media is just one more thing that voice talent figure they don’t need to know anything about.

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  3. Marlene Bertrand

    I hear you, Paul, and I’m right there with you. I did, however, finally get wise about Facebook “friends.” After a massive purge, my Facebook friends list is now mainly comprised of people I have met face-to-face. It’s more fun and personal. I use other social media sites to expand my connections beyond real friends. Your peeves might seem harsh to some people, but true professionals get where you are coming from.

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  4. Paul Payton

    I wish I had the time to reply at length as I’d like, but work keeps getting in the way! (Yes, a good problem to have.)

    Add one more peeve, more like an irritation: I am bombarded on Facebook with invitations to become “friends” with friends (or friends of friends) of actual real life friends, mostly in the VO industry. (Sound confusing? It certain becomes that.) I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but where does one draw the line? I’m now a little shy of 800 “friends,” of whom perhaps one third are people I would recognize in person and about whom I know at least one thing more than just their name.

    Yes, I know that “I turned the faucet on”; I just don’t know at what point I can or should turn it off. Anyone else have this problem? How about a solution, short of a major purge? Comments, insights, suggestions and screw-yous are all welcome. (Just be nice about the last one!)

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    Mike Klassen Reply:

    Paul, this isn’t the solution you’re looking for, but I did do a purge on FB, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

    I know you’re not supposed to do that. After all, people tell you, any one of them might be your next big client. I just don’t want to look at people that way. I want to be connecting, not collecting.

    I had been connecting with people since 2003 and as I looked at the list, I had no clue who most of those people were or the reason we connected. Certainly our paths weren’t crossing in any meaningful way. I had gotten caught up in collecting people, not connecting with them.

    So I did a massive purge last year and now try to implement a better policy of connecting, save for the experiment I wrote about earlier. Most people I’m now connected with are people I can e-mail directly and have a chat with. I know them, they know me.

    Others, mainly those in VO (of which I’m relatively new), are people I actually follow online either through their blog of YouTube. I wanted to connect with them because of the value they were providing and told them that when I asked to connect.

    Otherwise, I was the grim reaper, slicing down connections left and right. So my connections are now far fewer and rebuilding much slower. But I know who they are and exactly why I’m connected to them.

    For me, it just felt better. After so many years, it was good to have somewhat of a fresh start. But I understand it’s a radical move and not for everyone. And I accept that it may not make sense from a business point of view.

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    Paul Payton Reply:

    Mike,

    Thanks for the reply. Last April, when I went on vacation, I sort of “turned Facebook off” (and found I had a lot more time to do other “real life” things). I’ve crept back on for the purpose of maintaining contact with the people I want to be in easy touch with and also to generate some “motion” so that, quite honestly, my posts automatically gain a further reach. I’m also doing it as much for my band – we have a new album and are trying to generate some gigs as well – as for my voice biz.

    Re: the voice biz, two major changes have had a significant effect on my life. First is the shift from going to studios for a session (and frequently being referred from there) to now doing more than half my work from a home studio. Many of my friends in the business do almost all their work from home. This has made many fellow VO talents into occasional potential clients as well as “parallels” soing what I do (but with a different timbre, of course!).

    The second is Faffcon, where I discovered a deep pool of friends and “family” I didn’t know I had. I’m not at the center of activity there – and especially all the other conventions, convocations, etc., that interconnect with it – but I feel accepted into this special group of people and want to stay here.

    My immediate problem is that many of the people who want to “friend” me are friends of Faffers or friends of their friends. I recognize a few of their names – people I’d like to know but haven’t met yet – but not others, some of whom have over a hundred “friends” in common. That’s the line I don’t know where to draw.

    I do think that at some time in the not too distant future I’ll be sitting down and purging those I really don’t know and didn’t know of until they approached me. Also, my main concern is around Facebook; I don’t know how others feel, but I figure anyone who wants to connect on LinkedIn, since it’s B-to-B, gets a “yes” unless it’s obvious they only want the link to see me something I don’t need.

    I haven’t yet come to any conclusions, and I welcome more input. How are others handling this? Anyone else want to share your experience(s)?

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I have the same problem, Paul, and that’s why I instituted a new Facebook friend “policy.” Most pep[le form my professional network will receive the following message:

    Hi so-and-so:

    Thank you for your friend request. I’m honored!

    A while ago I decided to limit access to my personal Facebook profile to close friends, close colleagues, family members, and to people in and around my home town. This allows me to separate my personal from my professional life.

    If you’re interested in my work as a voice-over, and in developments in that field in general, please like my professional page: https://www.facebook.com/nethervoice. That’s the best way to stay in touch with me.

    Thanks for understanding!

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  5. Rick Lance

    Geeeeez…. what grumpy old b_____ds we’ve become!
    But, of course, I agree!

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Just wait until I’m in my sixties!

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  6. Lee Pinney

    Next time, just give them this link.

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Voiceover+agents

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It’s magical!

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    Paul Payton Reply:

    Excellent! I’m keeping that one handy – I know it will be getting frequent use!!!

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  7. Mike Klassen

    Like you, I don’t care for the automated requests. At least put some effort into an introduction. I used to include that in my profile… “Please tell me about yourself when you reach out to connect.” No one ever did it. Which means they either couldn’t be bothered to look at my profile to see if there was a good fit, or did and ignored it. Either way, not good.

    But, I wanted to try to experiment a bit. I went ahead and accepted some of these requests if I could, on my own, sense a reason for the connection.

    Here’s what’s happened in recent weeks: I accept the generic request. Being a nice guy, I send them a quick note saying, “Nice to meet you. Thanks for the invite.”

    Can you guess what response I get? Nothing! Not even an automated You’re Welcome. 🙂

    By the way, thanks for accepting my LI request last year. Yes, I did send a personalized request, and you were kind enough to send a personalized response back.

    It’s really not that hard, folks.

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    That’s the thing: it doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to be thoughtful. If as a professional you’re not going to be responsive, what does that tell me about your work ethic? The clients I work with want me to be responsive. They like to receive quick answers to quick questions, and they want to be kept in the loop. And, by the way: first impressions still matter!

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  8. Bill Johnston Voice Actor

    Paul,as usual you have nailed it. I couldn’t help but think that, in the aggregate, and taken to the extreme, the people you describe would be very happy if you would just do all of their work and send them the check. I guess it’s a prime example of “phoning it in.”

    One of the things that make your posts so enjoyable to me is your liberal use of the metaphoric in addressing your points. It works so well, and I can’t help but think the reason is congruent with what George Lakoff and Mark Johnson said about language, thought, and culture in their seminal book, Metaphors We Live By, “. . . The concepts that govern our thought are not just matters of the intellect. They also govern our everyday functioning, down to the most mundane details. Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities. If we are right in suggesting that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, then the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor.”

    I guess I could summarize by saying, “Oh. Paul Strikwerda? I know him. He’s a Dutch Master.”

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    What are words but metaphors and symbols? They can describe subjective reality, but they are removed from it. Words can depict an experience, but they are not the experience itself. Hence the expression: One cannot get wet from the word water.

    Thank you for your most gracious compliment. Your addition to my story was masterful!

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  9. Mike Harrison

    re: connect requests: for some, it may not be a question of not caring but one of not thinking for themselves. When the goal of services like LinkedIn is to “help us” widen our circles (let’s not forget that these services exist primarily for THEIR benefit; they absolutely gain something by providing the service), we focus on what we’re “supposed to” do and don’t think beyond that. LinkedIn’s constant suggestions of potential connections enforces that. Many people succumb (too) easily to the power of suggestion.

    Another example of “not a lot of thinking going on” is that many people – rather than taking the initiative and consulting trusted, reliable sources – will post an often important question on social media, not considering that they’re trusting complete strangers of unknown background and experience for information that could have very serious implications.

    Others foolishly consider Google a source of truth or fact whereas, like a library, Google merely makes information available; it is not instant intelligence.

    There needs to be more thinking.

    Thanks again, Paul!

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I agree: part of today’s technology makes people lazy and uncritical. Even though we have a vast knowledge database at our fingertips, people do very little research because it takes time and it involves using the brain. As a result, scammers are having a field day!

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  10. Ted Mcaleer

    I always am stirred to action on Thursday and, being me, I always have a lot to say… 🙂
    I remember being new or “aspiring” and how desperate I was to keep my head down so as not to let people know I was new. I didn’t comment, but read everything I could. I got to know people I could identify with, then read everything they wrote and watched videos.
    I networked with people I COULD HELP and soon I started getting jobs. But, in this particular case, I felt I was in way over my head. I remember I reached out to the only professional VO I trusted. I explained what was going on in an email not with what should I do but WHAT AM I GOING TO DO???!!! They responded, and here’s “…the rest of the story”
    I learned a very valuable lesson that day. I still have that email… It offered encouragement and reassured me that I had the tools and the skills to do the job well. In an instant, the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders, no, it was SUCKED off my shoulders in a huge sucking vortex. I was filled with confidence, it’s so hard to explain how I felt. I slayed the job, that company is still my customer and they now ask me to cast their talent. (DON’T CALL ME, I’ll call you!)

    My point is that your points are not only true but when followed they work. Additionally I can attest that you not only “Talk the Talk…” you also “Walk the Walk”. That 5 sentence email reply to a panicked semi-novice helped me be who and where I am, was written by none other than you sir. Mr Paul Strikwerda.

    For my part, I’ll always try and follow your example and pay it forward to those who, are seeking ideas, not direction.

    I love Thursdays!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’ll take all the credit for my words, but I cannot take credit for your actions, Ted. The success you are enjoying is yours, and you deserve to own it one hundred percent. I’m so glad I could play a small part in your evolution as an amazingly talented voice-over. This world is a better place thanks to people like you, who are paying it forward all the time!

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  11. Dana Detrick-Clark from Serious Vanity

    :::Applause:::

    Where does this attitude come from? I would never in a million years think I had the right to impede on someone’s time and experience like this, but yet it’s happening all the time.

    As a sometimes-hirer, I have gotten my share of solicitations that are perfect examples of what not to do to attract clients and build relationships.

    Thinking of putting together a book that compiles all of these bad pitches. You’ll pass on a good word to your publisher about me, right? 😉

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    Mike Harrison Reply:

    Attitudes – on so many levels (including those of a political nature) – are taught. It’s when children are brought up to believe their poop doesn’t stink, that they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and that the world owes them nearly everything.

    I agree: it’s disgusting.

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    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    No matter how much you try to shine sh*t, you can’t get rid of the stink! I for one am not going to enable an attitude of entitlement in my personal or professional life. In my opinion, we owe this world. It doesn’t owe us anything.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    The “what’s in it for me” and “can I get it for free” attitude is indicative of a gradual but radical shift in our culture. People aren’t grateful for what they take for granted. They want a short and cheap road to success. Unfortunately, easy never does it. You could indeed write a big book of bad pitches. I could help you, but the question is: “What’s in it for me?” 😉

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