Career

MAD AS HELL

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 10 Comments

Warning: this post contains some strong language that may not be appropriate for sensitive souls.

* An overly demanding client has nickeled-and-dimed you down to your lowest rate and is never satisfied

* You’re angry at yourself for ever taking on this job making you work for a jerk

* You’re going out of your way to serve a customer and she treats you like a servant

* You spend hours perfecting a proposal and you never hear back from your prospect

* You’ve given a colleague free advice, and now he’s offering your service at half-price

* Colleagues and job sites are bringing your rates down and you can’t do anything about it

* You’ve just lost a dream project; you have no idea why and you feel like giving up

* Your Mom says: “I told you this would happen. Why don’t you get a real job?”

Sounds familiar? If that’s the case, how do you usually respond? Can you let it go, or are you getting sick and tired of having to depend on people who don’t seem to care? How long are you going to put up with that? Isn’t it time to draw a line in the sand and say to yourself:

“I’ve had it. Enough’s enough!”

If that’s the case, why don’t you get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell:

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”

Of course you’re not going to do that. That only happens in movies. You’ve been conditioned to respond in a rational way and to behave like a proper professional.

Shit happens. You just have to make sure it doesn’t hit your fans. Besides, we live in the age of positive psychology where people don’t have problems anymore. People have “challenges”. We don’t run into difficulties. We call them “learning opportunities.” We never fail. We just get a “less than desirable result.” We’ve learned to turn lemons into lemonade and above all… we never, ever argue. We have “spirited debates” instead.

Welcome to the bitter-sweet world of reframing, sugar coating and turd-polishing! Are you feeling any better yet? Should you internalize your anger and put on your happy Facebook face? After all, you don’t want the world to know you’re having a hard day, do you? Everything is always A-ok and the show must go on, right? So, get a grip and pull yourself together!

If only it were that easy.

How healthy can it be, to keep it all inside and pretend everything’s alright all the time? You’re not a saint. Sometimes, you’re a volcano waiting to erupt and you’re ready to slap those people telling you that “everything happens for a reason.” Is that supposed to help? Give me a break!

So, what do you do when your frustration reaches a boiling point and you’ve absolutely had it? Hit the bottle? Hit the wall? Use your partner as a punching bag? That’ll make it all go away, won’t it?

COMMUNICATION STYLES

Even if you’re not a disciple of Sigmund Freud or a follower of Carl Jung, it’s easy to recognize four classic ways of dealing with rage, disappointment and despair. I’ve broken them down into different personalities and I’d like you to meet them.

1. THE PESSIMISTIC DOORMAT: the passive response

– Easily overwhelmed, defeated and depressed
– Blames him or herself
– Excuses the behavior of others
– Avoids confrontation at all cost
– A people pleaser, always ready to take on the victim role
– Gives in; gives up and disengages
– Acts out of fear and fatalism
– Tells you: “I feel like shit.”

2. THE BULLY: the aggressive response

– Acts impulsively
– Takes everything personally
– Goes on the attack and thrives on confrontation
– Blames and criticizes others
– Feels superior because others are always wrong
– Overbearing and controlling: it’s my way or the highway
– Acts out of anger
– Tells the world: “These guys are shit.”

3. THE INDIRECT ADVERSARY: the passive aggressive response

– Acts in a disingenuous way
– Responds with sarcasm and cynicism
– Refuses to openly acknowledge that there’s a problem
– Feels misunderstood and underappreciated,
– Hides true feelings: smiles when angry
– Cooperates but does so begrudgingly, even sabotaging the effort
– Acts out of denial, resentment and evasion
– Won’t tell you: “I pretend I don’t give a shit but I really do.”

GENERALIZATIONS

I’ll be the first one to admit that these profiles are based on broad generalizations. Secondly, I am only describing a type of behavior. Behavior always takes place on a continuum and not every individual will display all characteristics at once. But sometimes it’s easier to make a point by highlighting the extremes.

Third, although some of us have become better at one communication style, we might show tendencies of another style, depending on the situation. In many cases, we have learned these adaptive responses at an early age, often from a role model such as a parent.

Fourth: because people are so accustomed to their own behavior, they are often unaware of their communication style and it kicks in automatically.

If you’re a blogger or a regular participant in discussions on various social networks, you’ve probably dealt with a few of these individuals. The nature and tone of some of the comments people throw at you, can give you an insight into who’s leaving them.

A few examples…

The pessimistic doormat will say things like: “I should have known better. It’s all my fault. There’s nothing we can do about it. It is what it is. Who are we to think that we can change things? It’s been like this for years and it’s no use going against the grain. We’re just a small piece in a big puzzle. Stop wasting your time. I’m sorry but that’s just how I feel.”

The bully will tell you: “You’re dead wrong. I can’t believe you just said that. It makes no sense. When’s the last time you had your brain checked? Stop being so ridiculous. Who do you think you are? Did you even read what you just wrote? These guys owe me big time. I did nothing wrong. They’re the ones that screwed things up. I’ll make them pay!”

The indirect adversary’s favorite phrase is “Whatever,” while moaning and muttering to himself. You should hear the sarcasm when she says: “Sure, we’ll do whatever you want. Let’s see how well that works out.” He’ll tell you: “I’m not upset at all. You seem to be the only one having a problem here. Everything’s fine on my end,” even though things are not at all fine on his end.

But enough about other people. Let’s talk about you. How do you respond when someone’s made you mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore? Will you let them have it because they deserve it? What is your weapon of choice: public humiliation, strong language, ridicule? Or will you withdraw from the world and curl up in a ball crying “poor me, this is so unfair!”?

UNDER THE CARPET

I’m not a big fan of sticking strong emotions in a jar and putting a lid on it. That jar is called your body. It’s the house you live in and if you start piling up junk, it will start to rot, stinking up the entire place. Sooner or later, you’ll be poisoning the whole neighborhood. Here’s the thing: all that garbage has to come out at some point, or else the house will burst at the seams. You might as well let it out now.

It’s okay to be mad. It’s unhealthy to stay stuck in it, even if anger motivates you.

Begin by realizing that you’re feeling all these strong emotions because someone or something crossed the line between what’s acceptable and unacceptable to you.

Before you ask yourself what that might be, you have to let off some steam, preferably in a way that does not hurt you or any (significant) others.

The worst thing you could do, is to write an angry response or to let whoever has hurt you “have it,” even though it might be totally justified. Any negative knee-jerk response will almost certainly backfire. On the internet -as in real life- you can’t ever take something back.

What you need to do first, is to get rid of that explosive energy. Break a couple of plates if you must; play some hard rock on Guitar Hero; beat the crap out of your drum kit, leave your house and run a couple of miles… as long as you get out of that mad mood of yours. Here’s a hint: it helps to get physical!

Once you’re out of that angry state, you might realize that you were not really responding to what happened, but to something deeper that was ignited by the event. When we finally give ourselves permission to take the lid off that jar, it’s quite common that a lot of that piled up garbage comes out, that has absolutely nothing to do with the trigger. As a result we overreact.

RESOURCEFUL RESPONSE

Now, as soon as you are in a more resourceful mood, it’s much easier to dissociate from that spark that caused the flame, and figure out how to respond in a more calm and collected way. You might find it helpful to ask yourself a couple of questions. However, steer away from disempowering questions like:

– How could he/she do this to me?
– Why does this always happen to me?
– What’s wrong with me?

Believe me, your brain will always come up with an answer, and you’re not going to like it. Ask these types of questions instead:

  • How can I resolve this situation in a good way?
  • What’s the first thing I can do to turn this around?
  • What help do I need and who can best help me?
  • What have I learned from this that is positive and useful?
  • What changes can I make to prevent this from happening again?

 

Sometimes the answers will come easily. Sometimes they won’t. If you feel that it’s not so hard to get back into that old, negative mood, you’re not going to get very far. It’s better to take some time and change your state of mind before doing something you will later regret. The heat of the moment often magnifies things that -when you look back at them- are no big deal. And if they are, the more reason to respond with care and consideration.

Remember: you own the house you live in. It’s your choice to open your house up to things that don’t support you and to folks that respect neither you nor your property. If they show up at your doorstep with a “present” you don’t want, do not accept it.

By this time, you’re hopefully in a more resourceful mode. The mode of what I like to call:

4. THE RESPECTFUL ADVOCATE: the assertive response

– Being collected and connected
– Owning one’s feelings
– Opening a dialogue: seeking resolution
– Looking at the issue from different sides
– Competently standing up for oneself
– Acting out of confidence and optimism
– Tells you: “I’ll turn this shit into manure.”

You’ll know that you’re in this mindset because you’ll feel much more relaxed and in charge of the situation. You’re doing your best to understand where the other person is coming from, and you realize that just because people do stupid things sometimes, it doesn’t mean that they are stupid.

In this frame of mind, you respond to the present and not to the past. You deal with the event and leave it at that.

You stand up for yourself from a place of confidence, not arrogance or anger. You make your point knowing that not everyone will or has to agree with you.

You are aware that you can’t control others. You can only control yourself. People can only push your buttons if you let them. You choose your battles and you walk away when people disrespect you. You choose to surround yourself with friends that support and respect you. You deserve no less.

This is your house. This is your garden.

You sow the seeds and weed the weeds.

May it bloom as you blossom,

and may your home be filled with

laughter, peace and prosperity!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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The Awedition

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 12 Comments

“Not everything is what it seems to be,” said the King as he looked into the Court Jester’s mirror.”

Have you ever wondered what’s going on behind the closed doors of a casting agency?

What’s it like to be part of a nerve-wracking cattle call?

Would the casting director be one of those failed actors who has turned his bitterness for the business into a lifelong mission to humiliate terrified talent?

Would the waiting area be filled with intimidating, cutthroat competitors, exchanging stories of horror and faded glory? Or is all of that just a caricature, perpetuated in Hollywood movies about the trials and tribulations of aspiring actors?

Well, you’re about to find out!

Being the famous blogger I am, I was recently granted unprecedented permission to record one of my auditions for the enjoyment and continued enlightenment of my readers. Nothing’s more fun than learning from other people’s most embarrassing moments, right?

So, for once you get to be a fly on the wall, as I enter a casting agency at an undisclosed location near New York.

For those of you who’d like to read along, you’ll see that I provided a copy of the script.

Anything to please my faithful fans!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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The Troublesome Truth about Voice-Overs

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Money Matters 58 Comments

The Holidays are a great time to meet new people and catch up with folks you only see once or twice a year.

This season I noticed a new trend. I’d be quietly munching on a Christmas cookie, and a relative of a friend of a friend would come up to me with a glass of eggnog in his hand.

“I hear you do voices, right?”

“Well,” I said, “I’m a voice-over, if that’s what you mean.”

“You do books for the blind?” he wanted to know.

“No, not really. I….”

And before I could finish he continued:

“Because everyone’s been telling me that I have a great voice and I should be doing what you’re doing if you know what I mean. No offense, but it can’t be that hard. I bet you make some pretty good money. I said to the wife: “I talk all day long. I might as well get paid for it.”

“I wish someone would pay him to shut up for a moment,” said the wife, who had been listening to the conversation.

No matter where I went in these past few weeks, I’d always run into guys with eggnog, ready to show off their Sean Connery impersonation or some version of a “movie trailer man voice.”

All of them had three things in common:

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

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Is Your Freelance Career Fueled by Fear?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing 24 Comments

 

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” – Benjamin Franklin

WARNING: do not read the following sentence.

Yes, this one!

Why did you read it when I asked you not to?

Don’t even think of reading the next line either.

Are you blind? You just did it again. What’s up with you?

Why is it so hard to follow simple instructions?

You’re a grown-up, aren’t you?

Kids are different. You go to the store and make them swear upon their teddy bear’s life not to touch anything. And what do they do? As soon as they get a chance, they start picking up stuff left and right. You tell them not to cross the road and before you know it, they run to the other side of the street. But that’s youthful spontaneity, isn’t it?

What about you? When you tell yourself not to do something, do you do it? Or rather: not do it?

Then why is it so hard not to hear that stupid tune that has totally taken over your brain?

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

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It’s the stupid economy!

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 19 Comments

If we blame the economy for all of our freelance failures, perhaps it’s only fair that we should credit the economy for all of our successes. After all: we’re hopelessly helpless.

It’s the economy, stupid!

In 2000, Cleanthi Peters sued Universal Studios for $15,000. Cleanthi claimed to have suffered “extreme fear, mental anguish, and emotional distress” after visiting Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights haunted house. She said it was too scary.

My European friend Philippe is eager to bring these type of examples up whenever he tells me that Americans live in a country of finger-pointers. I agree.

If we get lung cancer from smoking, we blame the tobacco industry. If we slip on a wet surface, it is the cleaning lady’s fault. If we burn our lips on a cup of fresh WaWa-Java, we sue the company that forgot to print a warning.

Heaven forbid we should take some credit for our own actions. Why should we? Blaming someone else could bring in big bucks!

So, what’s next?

Read the rest of this story in my new eBook. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

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Landing jobs without auditioning: the Claire Dodin interview

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, International, Journalism & Media 7 Comments

 

When Claire Dodin was about seven years old, her mother built a theater in the attic of their apartment. Claire and her sister started putting on plays for her friends. Claire:

“It was such a happy time, and I decided I’d just have to play for the rest of my life!”

Fast-forward a few years, and you’ll find that Claire is as much at home in front of a camera as she is behind a mic. Born and raised in France, this actress, model, singer and voice-over talent moved to the UK before she made Los Angeles her home.

Bi-lingual, multi-talented and exceptionally professional, Claire has done well for herself. Her story is one of dedication, discipline and of following your dreams.

PS Let’s pretend that I’m a client and your agent had 30 seconds to describe Claire Dodin to me. How would your agent “sell” you?

CD I guess he would say that I’m versatile; I can handle pretty much anything, and can do several character voices including children’s voices. He’d probably tell you that I’ve voiced several jobs for Disney and the X-Box 360, and that I usually don’t need a lot of takes to please the clients. That’s why everyone wants to work with me again.

PS Percentagewise, how much of your career is taken up by voice-over work?

CD In the acting business things are always changing and moving. There can be months when all I do is voice-overs, and months when I’m shooting film after film and I don’t have much time for voice-overs. This always makes me sad because I have to pass on really fun jobs. There simply isn’t enough time to do everything. I have to turn down so much work, mainly due to lack of availability.

I would say that on average, voice-overs represent about 70% of my income and maybe 30% of my time. It always makes me laugh that it costs more to get only my voice, than to have me on camera!

Having said that, it can happen that a week goes by and there’s nothing, not one job offer. Then I start thinking that it’s all over and that I will never work again! It’s the nature of being self-employed. Nothing is ever set in stone. No one is ever entirely safe. You’re fashionable one week; the week after you’re not.

That’s why it’s so important that we value ourselves and feel an inner sense of security, and not let our job define who we are. Otherwise it becomes impossible to handle the stress. Luckily, a job always seems to come along when I need it.

PS Speaking of voice-over projects, what are you most proud of and why?

CD There are quite a few jobs I’m very proud of like the French-speaking FisherPrice cuddly bear who says things like “I love you, hug me…” Just thinking about it makes me smile. It’s the cutest thing ever! Or being on the Statue of Liberty tour in New York and being in the gardens of Versailles in Paris. I just love that my voice is over there! Next I want to be at the Taj Mahal! 😉

But the job I’m the most proud of right now is my Zombiepodcast in which I’m a series regular. It’s called “We’re Alive” and I play Riley. The scripts are fabulous and the production quality is amazing. It’s an honor to be part of it.

We have reached over 600,000 downloads with the first season! We’ve won the Gold Ogle Award 2010, the Communicator Award 2010 and we were a finalist for the Parsec Award 2010. The episode submitted for these, is one that is centered around my character, which makes me even happier! The second season has begun, and it’s free to listen to, so catch up with the episodes now!

PS Let’s talk about accent. Some people believe that -in order to make it as a foreign actor in another country- you need to get rid of your accent. Others believe your accent is what sets you apart. Where do you stand?

CD Well, I am not able to put on a convincing British or American accent, so I don’t even try. I believe clients would go for native speakers anyway, so it really doesn’t matter. When I get hired for an English job, they want my accent, because it sets me apart from everyone else. Sometimes they want a stronger French accent, which I can tone up or down. Sometimes, they just want a very clear English accent with a hint of French.

Accents are great, as long as the diction is excellent and people can understand it. That’s where many foreign voices fail: they are not clear enough. I only started booking work in English regularly, after years of working at speaking more clearly. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

PS Does another accent come naturally to you, or do you have to work with a coach to get it right?

CD I do work with a coach for accent reduction when a part requires it, but it is never for voice acting, always for on-camera. In the voice-over world, if they want a British voice, they’ll hire a British voice. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get a native speaker.

Accents do not come naturally to me. It’s very difficult if you were not immersed in foreign sounds as a child. In France, all TV programs and most films are dubbed. I pretty much never heard English sounds before moving to England. It’s different in other countries like Sweden or The Netherlands. That’s why the Swedes and the Dutch are usually much better at accents than French people.


PS
Do Europeans have an advantage over Americans when it comes to foreign languages and accents?

CD Being European in America is certainly an advantage because there are fewer of us, and Americans love European accents. If you are an American in America, there are hundreds of other people who sound exactly like you, so it’s harder.

This is where personality is incredibly important, because in reality, there is only one of each of us. And we hear so much that we need to sound like this or this… In truth, what will make you book the job is YOU, your quirkiness, your own little things that most people are trying to get rid of. Keep them (but use the correct techniques)!

Being French in a foreign country has absolutely made my career. I was working as an on-camera actress in the UK, and people found me because they needed a French voice and couldn’t get one.

That’s how I landed my first jobs. Then I thought that maybe I should get an agent, so I sent samples of the jobs I had done. I didn’t have a demo at the time, and pretty much all the agents wanted to sign me and I started booking national jobs straight away. I think I recorded my first demo a couple of years later. I was very lucky. To this day, jobs still come to me. I don’t have to work very hard at getting them. I am in a very fortunate position. There isn’t much competition.

PS You have lived and worked in the UK and now you’re in LA. These days, we’re all connected via the Internet. Does location matter anymore?

CD Unfortunately, location still matters a lot. I’m hoping that clients will get used to ISDN, but today, most major clients want to meet up with the voices at the studio. This means that by moving to LA, I’ve lost most of the work I was getting in London. When I go back there for a week, suddenly I’ve got bookings every day in London studios. They haven’t forgotten me, but they want me there in person.

It’s the same in France, I know several people who would hire me regularly, but they want me in the studio in Paris. I imagine that it is the same for Los Angeles and New York.

Of course there are many jobs we can do remotely, but they rarely are high end. I once did a six months national radio campaign for the UK, and the client was happy to do it via ISDN for each recording. This was an exception, and I think it was because it was for radio. In the UK, most radio ads are recorded via ISDN. But for TV, you have to be in the room with them. I did record the Versailles job at my LA studio though, so sometimes it can happen if they really want you.

PS How do you get work, these days?

CD The reality of the business is that most voice-over talents audition every day. I’m in a very different position. The vast majority of the work I do, comes from direct offers via my agents, or directly from existing clients or new clients through referral/reputation.

It may sound strange to American voice talents, but I did not audition for any of the national commercials I did, video games, TV documentaries, high-profile jobs… That’s the way they do it in Europe: we get hired based on our demo or based on a recommendation from our agent or producers/sound engineers. I did however audition for the Fisher Price toys I voiced, but they paid me for the audition and then hired me. I also auditioned for the Versailles job, but they had specifically asked for me.

I think that the system works differently in America. Even established talents have to audition. That being said, I have many American clients that don’t ask me to audition either. I’m glad it works this way because I usually don’t have time to audition. When happen to I have spare time, I will record some open auditions, but this rarely leads to work (funny, no?). That’s the problem with open auditions: they don’t want You; they want A voice, and usually the cheapest one.

PS Do clients, agents, producers and directors have different expectations based on where they’re located? Do you approach an audition differently based on the country and culture?

CD Actually, everyone wants the best product at the best price as fast as possible pretty much everywhere. What may be different is the style of the voice-overs. For example, I find that promos and documentaries on US TV tend to have a “sensational” factor. In the UK they tend to be more casual/matter of fact. In France there’s also a distinctive sound for news or documentaries. The voice talent simply needs to adapt to the style of the country, but also to the medium and the client. Each job is different, which is part of the fun. For an audition, I try to find out as much as I can about the client and the target audience. That way, I can make a best guess as to what style is appropriate for the script.

PS This is a highly competitive business. Apart from talent and experience, what do you think is absolutely essential, in order to have an international voice-over career?

CD Obviously, to have an international voice career it is essential to speak English, so you can communicate with clients anywhere (pretty much everyone will speak some English). Apart from that, you just need the same qualities that will make you a successful national talent, as well as a good marketing plan so people abroad know who you are.

The internet is an excellent medium, but it’s not essential. I know voice talents who have booked major international campaigns through their local agent. By local, I mean: one of the top agents in one of the top cities. It still seems difficult to book high-profile work without one of these agents, and you can usually only sign with one of them if you live in one of the major cities. That would be Los Angeles or New York for America; London for the UK and Paris for France.

Of course there are rare exceptions. There are a few very successful voice talents who do not live in the major cities, but they used to live there at one point. They moved away, and kept their agents and clients thanks to an ISDN-line. I only know of one person who has always lived far away and who is hugely successful.

This will hopefully change in the future, as home studios are becoming as good as studios in the big cities. I think it will still take a while before major clients accept not meeting a voice talent in person. This is why Don LaFontaine had a limo, so he could quickly go from studio to studio to record several jobs a day. It would have been so much easier to have him in one studio and the other studios would connect via ISDN, but it didn’t work that way and he had to drive from place to place.

I wish things were different, but nowadays, the best jobs are still recorded in major studios in major cities.

PS What’s most overlooked by up and coming international talent?

CD Something that foreign voices often overlook is to have an English version of their website. I was once looking for an Italian voice, and all I could find were websites in Italian, which I don’t speak. Had they had an English version, I would have contacted them. But I couldn’t work out if they had a home studio etcetera.

Also, they should indicate their location on the website. I was looking to book voices to come to a London studio, and I didn’t know where they lived. I nearly booked a voice once; I was ready to pay for a ticket to Paris, when he told me he lived in a small town in France and it wasn’t possible to get to where he needed to be, fast enough.

Another voice that I thought was in London, turned out to have moved to Paris. So, keep the info on your website up to date. Location is a big one, not just for outside studio bookings, but so we know your time zone in case we want an ISDN booking or we need you for a rush job.

PS What do you tell people who think that voice-over work is easy money, and that basically anyone with a good voice could do this?

CD Ah, ah! It’s a tough question, I could probably write a book about it! Voice-over acting is an art and the voice is the tool. You might have a fabulous canvas, great paints and a brush, but how easy is it to paint something that will sell for a few hundreds or thousands of dollars and be exhibited in a museum? Hmmm… But if you work hard, learn skills and have talent, maybe you’ll make a living as a painter. Same thing for voice-overs. And a few gifted ones will make it to the top.

PS What technology can you not live without, and how has it helped you book clients?

CD The only technology I really need, is my computer for my emails and my phone so I can take bookings. That’s all. But, with my home studio I can record more jobs and make a better living. Some voice talents earn a lot more than I do, and don’t have one, so it’s not essential. However, other voice talents only work from home.

PS You work for clients on different continents in different time zones. On one hand you need to be accessible but on the other hand you can’t be available 24/7. How do you handle that?

CD Ah, ah! Another tough one! I don’t handle it; it’s a bit of a problem. I get called in the middle of the night (when I forget to switch the phone off), I wake up at 5am for an ISDN session and I sometimes record till midnight! I need to be better at saying “no” to clients and regulate my hours. But I’m weak when people are nice and need a favor. I try to schedule ISDN sessions with Europe starting at 8am, LA time. That’s the end of the day for them. It usually works.

PS How much did you map out your career? Did you follow a strict plan or is it more spontaneous, “go with the flow”?

CD At first I just went with the flow: voice-overs came to me not once, not twice but many times. This is when I realized that I should pursue it. Somehow, people knew I had a gift for it, even before I knew it. Then I started buying equipment to record from home. When my agent asked me to, I upgraded my equipment. When clients asked me to, I got the ISDN. I guess I always go with the flow. I don’t force things, they just happen when they need to, but I’ve got my ears open and I’m listening to the signs that tell me in which direction I need to go to.

That said, when I do something, I don’t do it halfheartedly. When I made the decision to work from my home studio, I practiced a lot to learn how to use the equipment. I listened to other voices and took advice from many people. I took classes etcetera. It took me a long time before I was able to make a quality recording.

When I upgraded to ISDN, I asked an engineer to come and install it for me, and install my sound booth so the sound would be good enough. I also bought a Neumann microphone. What’s the point of connecting to another studio if your own sound isn’t as good?
So basically, every time the decision to go to the next step was made following the flow, but once the decision was made it was thought out and I followed a careful plan.

Being disciplined is absolutely essential if you work from home. It’s too easy to do something else if you don’t have a boss checking up on you, making sure that you are putting the hours in. You have to do it for yourself and be very organized. For me, one of the hardest things is to keep track of the jobs recorded, the invoices sent, the invoices paid/unpaid etc… I find the admin part the hardest.

When I get really busy, I forget to reply to emails that aren’t essential, like companies asking me to fill out forms and send demos for future jobs. Sometimes I struggle to find the time to send invoices. That’s not a good thing. Staying on top of the paperwork is not easy. I’m dreaming of the day I’ll be able to employ an assistant to do these things for me!

PS What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you in this business, and how has it helped you?

CD The best advice I was ever given, as far as performance is concerned, was:

“It’s not about you. It’s about the person you are talking to”.

This changed everything. I stopped watching and listening to myself. I stopped getting nervous and I became so much better.

The best business advice I was ever given, was to set up a website. I had no idea how important it was, until I did it, and it boosted my career immensely.

PS Many thanks Claire, and bonne chance!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet: please retweet. Merci beaucoup!

My next blog is all about playing the lame blame game.

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Cold Calling is Dead

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Journalism & Media, Promotion 41 Comments

Is there a cure for the common cold call, or should we just let it rest in peace?

Before you start reading, let’s do a quick experiment. In a moment I am going to list four things.

As soon as you see number one, simply label your very first response as either positive or negative and move on to the next word.

Are you ready? Here we go:

– Telemarketing

– Cold calling

– Do-Not-Call Registry

– Networking

So, what’s your score?

Do you think your reaction is unique or universal?

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

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Dealing with non-English speaking clients

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, International, Internet, Journalism & Media 18 Comments

Thanks to the internet, any business is now a global business. Getting through to non-native English speakers can be a serious challenge. But just because your client knows a few English words, doesn’t mean he understands everything you’re saying. Here’s how not to get lost in translation.

“I have a good one,” I said to my friend from France.

“Why do gun-carrying Americans usually wear short-sleeved shirts?”

“No idea,” he answered. “You tell me.”

“Because they believe in the right to bear arms.”

Silence…

“Sorry, but I don’t get it,” said Philippe. “Explain.”

“Well,” I said, “I can try, but I don’t think it would make the Second Amendment any funnier.”

“Oh, was it supposed to be funny?”

“Well, Philippe, some people think that puns are bad by definition.”

“What’s a pun?” Philippe wanted to know.

Have you ever had a conversation like that? All along you…

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click here for the paperback version, and click here for a Kindle download.

Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek.

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Never Bite the Hand

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Promotion 4 Comments

“If a picture’s worth a thousand words, why didn’t I become a photographer instead of a voice-over?”

That was typical Bill.

No “Hello” or “How are you”. Bill always comes in with some kind of wisecrack.

“Why do you look so happy?” I asked. “Just watching you makes me miserable.”

“I think I nailed that last audition, man. I totally rocked the house,” Bill said, beaming from ear to ear. “I even added some special effects.” He made the sound of an airplane on the runway. I was utterly confused. What audition was the man talking about?

Bill is no Shallow Hal. Bill is deep. A while ago,

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

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The Yin and Yang of Freelancing

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing 13 Comments

IMPOSSIBLE CLIENTS.

We know who you are!

You’re searching for a specialist who can handle almost anything.

Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

Does your family doctor make a great brain surgeon?

Can a novelist write irresistible advertising copy?

Yet, some clients are looking for a be-all, do-it-all freelancer with young, fresh ideas and years of experience.

Is that too much to ask?

Some psychologists say that the fact that we humans are able to hold two diametrically opposed ideas in our mind at the same time, is a true sign of intelligence. Part of me wants to believe that this is indeed correct. The other part thinks it’s

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

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