Freelancing

The Freelancer’s Creed

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

Paul Strikwerda with tulipsTo my past, present and future clients:

I AM A FREELANCER and my added value will always be higher than my rate.

I am here to make your life easier; to solve a particular problem; work on a project and save you money by getting the job done more efficiently and more skillfully.

When you hire me, you can rely on my expertise, my experience and my enthusiasm.

Unlike so many people who go to work and go through the motions just to collect a paycheck, I became a freelancer to do what I’m good at; to do what I love… and I love what I do.

I need no time tracker, no hand-holding micro-managing supervisor or never-ending on-the-job training.

When your 9 to 5 crew leaves the building,

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Failure is Always an Option

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 10 Comments

A few years ago, entrepreneur and New York Times contributor Jay Goltz asked owners of failed small businesses what had gone wrong.

Guess what?

Most of them didn’t really have a clue.

To a certain extent that’s not surprising. Had they known what the problem was, they might have been able to fix it.

Some owners were in denial. Instead of acknowledging their own responsibility, they blamed the economy, the current administration, the bank or an idiot partner. Never themselves.

In many cases, Goltz noted that (ex) customers had a much better understanding of what went wrong. The owner still had his stubborn head in the sand.

Over the years, I’ve counseled quite a few struggling voice-overs who were ready to give up. Without exception they were sweet, well-intentioned and hard-working people. Some of them were even talented. And like the folks Goltz interviewed, they were wondering why their new career was going down the drain.

TAKE LARRY

Larry called himself a victim of the recession.

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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Creating a Wave

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Internet, Promotion 27 Comments

You and I, we walk a fine line when it comes to drumming up business.

Here’s the situation.

Clients won’t hire us unless they know we exist.

Colleagues won’t recommend us if they have no idea what we’re capable of.

Agents might think we’re yesterday’s news if we don’t prove ourselves every once in a while.

The remedy to anonymity is self-promotion. However, we all know people who are constantly promoting themselves. They hijack threads on Facebook to toot their own horn. They pop up in LinkedIn groups to talk about themselves. They spam your inbox with “newsletters” that glorify their latest accomplishments.

They must believe they’re very interesting.

If you’re one of those people, I have this to say to you:

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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Rotten Carrots and Cool Clients

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing 24 Comments

In a black-and-white world, there are two types of clients:

Type A: Pain in the neck

Type B: Pleasure to work with

After many years of freelancing, I have developed a sixth sense, warning me ahead of time which type of client I’m dealing with. Usually, this gut feeling is spot-on, but recently, I was unpleasantly surprised.

It all started when I was asked to narrate a Dutch script. From the first paragraph I could tell…

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 Customer Is Always Right

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Freelancing, Money Matters 17 Comments

Do you actually believe that?

I’m not buying it. Not even for a second.

Customers will do anything to get a discount, a freebie or something extra. At the end of the season they’ll return clothes that clearly have been worn, and ask for their money back. They’ll order a steak medium rare and want a comp because they say it was undercooked.

They don’t follow instructions, break the appliance and blame it on the manufacturer. What’s more, they’ll tell everybody on Facebook and Twitter about it.

Are those customers right?

I don’t think so.

Customers are calculating, conniving and…

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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Spending a year with me

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Gear, Internet, Journalism & Media, Money Matters, Promotion, Social Media, Studio 15 Comments

2012 is a year I will remember for many reasons, but the main reason is this: 

Your generosity.

Did you know that readers of this blog donated $2,500 to the National MS Society this year? Thanks to your contributions, our Walk MS team raised a total of $6,504!

When I told you that my friend Patrice Devincentis had lost her Sonic Surgery recording studio in Hurricane Sandy, you stepped up to the plate big time.

Donations to Sonic Surgery

Donations to Sonic Surgery

Right now, part of my basement is taken over by audio equipment that was donated to Patrice, mostly by friends in the voice-over community.

Just when she thought her career was over, your help gave her hope and a chance to start rebuilding a studio and a career. 

As soon as her recording space is ready, I will deliver all the gear on your behalf, but that’s not all.

When you go to the Sonic Surgery GoFundMe page, you’ll see that together we’ve raised over $2,600 for Patrice. We still have a long way to go before we’ll reach our $10,000 goal, but it’s a great start.

SPREADING THE NEWS 

As readers, you’ve also been generous with your blog comments (all 2,658 of them), retweets, Facebook “likes” and all the other ways in which you helped my stories reach a wider audience. Thank you so much for that! It works and here’s the proof.

A story like the introduction of Studiobricks (a new type of vocal booth), has reached almost two thousand readers. Mike Bratton’s interview and review of the Studiobricks ONE cabin, has been seen over fifteen hundred times. But there were more reviews this year. 

In collaboration with recordinghacks.com, I put the Microtech Gefell M 930 Ts microphone to the test; the amazingly affordable and brilliant CAD E100S mic, as well as a shock mount for the 21st century, the Rycote InVision™ system.

I presented seven reasons to hate home studios, and most recently, I had a chance to review Jonathan Tilley’s new eBook “Voice Over Garden.” 

THE NEW NETHERVOICE

Let’s remember that 2012 was also the year my website got a major facelift. It gave me a chance to write about why your website stinks, how analyzing web traffic can help you craft content, and how you can use social media to spread your message (as long as you don’t step into the filter bubble). 

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I love writing about the business of being in business. Having a great voice doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically have a great voice-over career. You have to be a savvy entrepreneur as well. 

When you open up shop, you’re all of a sudden the head of the advertising, marketing, sales and the customer service department. Are you sure you can handle that? Some customers can be a royal pain in the tuches, but you have to attract them first.

Over time you’ll notice that there are at least 10 things clients don’t care about, and that there are many things your clients won’t tell you that you absolutely need to know before you hit the record button. This year, I finally revealed my personal marketing strategy and the four keys to winning clients over.

Now, all these ideas didn’t appear to me in a dream. It has taken me quite a few years of running a freelance business to come up with certain vital concepts. Trial and error are the slowest teachers, and I had to learn many of my lessons the hard way. I still remember the day I almost made a $10,000 mistake.

Nethervoice studio

Nethervoice studio

STUDIO STORIES

On an average day I spend at least eight hours in my vocal booth/office, and of course I blogged about life behind the mic. I gave you the grand tour of my studio in two installments. 

First you got to see how I have outfitted my voice-over booth, followed by a review of the equipment I use to make my clients happy.

I also wrote about certain aspects of (voice) acting. In “Are You a Cliché” I dealt with the downside of doing impersonations. “Why you suck and what to do about it” is all about breathing and how to get rid of those nasty clicks and other mouth noises that can ruin a recording. “Are you playing by the rules” tells you what it takes to maintain a good relationship with your agent. 

MONEY MATTERS

In 2011, 44% of independent workers had trouble getting paid for their work. 3 out of 4 freelancers are paid late or not at all at least once in their careers. That’s why the New York-based Freelancers Union ran a campaign called “Get Paid, not played.”

I tend to write a lot about value and remuneration. Just click on the “Money Matters” category over on the right hand side of this blog and you’ll see what I mean. When my website got a make-over, I decided to publicly post my voice-over rates. Not everyone believed this was a wise move, so I wrote a story exploring the pros and cons of being open about fees. 

One relatively new way to fund your business, is to use crowdsourcing. I asked audio book publisher Karen Wolfer to share her experience with Kickstarter. Another money-related topic that came up this year was this: Should you work for free for charity? On paper “giving back” sounds like the right thing to do, but is it always the case? As with any of the stories mentioned above, click on the blue link to read the full article. 

TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF

Let’s move from wealth to health. I shall remember 2012 for one other reason. Never before have I written so much about fitness and well-being. In “Be kind. Unwind” I wrote about the importance of taking a break, being in the moment and leading a balanced life.  

After meeting the globetrotting host of The Amazing Race Phil Keoghan, I discovered four principles to live in the spirit of NOW (No Opportunity Wasted). In August it was time for me personally to cut the crap and rid myself of excuses that had me trapped in an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE 

All in all, 2012 has been a great year. We’ve had to weather some powerful storms, but the year was also packed with positive change. 

It always amazes me how relatively small changes can have a huge impact. Imagine someone throwing a pebble into a pond. See how the ripple effect moves through the water in ever-widening circles. That’s the effect one individual act of generosity can have.

It happens when people who care, share what they have to give without expecting anything in return. It can be time, it can be money or -as in Patrice’s case- even audio equipment. 

I am grateful and appreciative that you have chosen to take a few minutes out of your day, to see what I have to say. Many of you came back, week after week. Hopefully, you’ve found my stories and ideas helpful and worth sharing. If that’s been the case, I have news for you: 

I’m not done yet!

In fact, I’m ready to push more envelopes, stir more pots and be more outspoken in 2013. 

Do you think you can handle that? 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet.

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Work for FREE for Charity?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Freelancing, International, Money Matters 28 Comments

The other day, one of our colleagues posted the following on Facebook: 

Now offering FREE voiceovers for charity and animal rescue organizations. Please spread the word…

 When I first saw this message, my reaction was mixed. At first glance, it looked like a noble thing to do. Times are tough for charities, so why not help them a little. The less they have to spend on advertising, the more money is left for the cause. What could possibly be wrong with that?

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 Day I Almost Killed My Family

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing 24 Comments

Yesterday, I had a frightening realization.

In my life, I have wasted way too much time on things I’m not good at and don’t enjoy doing. Things like gardening, ballroom dancing and trying to understand how computers work and what to do when they don’t.

Some things like yard work can’t be avoided, and part of me says it’s good to be outdoors and work with weedkiller every once in a while. 

Things like dancing the Tango I really should avoid, as all my former dance partners can attest to. It’s utterly unromantic to have someone like me call out the steps while on the dance floor, because his stressed-out brain has no idea what the heck his body is doing.

And don’t get me started on computers. My greatest achievement is replacing the memory of my Mac Mini. My darkest hour came when I nearly strangled my old Dell in desperation, because it refused to shut down and install an update Mr. Gates deemed critical. After a series of malfunctions, this was the last straw.

“I’ll teach you a lesson, you worthless piece of trash,” I cried with bloodshot eyes, as if as my miserable laptop was listening.

“I’ve had it with you. If you don’t restart right now, I swear I will go to the Apple store today and you and I are done! It’s OVER! Do you hear me? I don’t deserve this!”

Don’t ask me how, but it did the trick. Two minutes later that pathetic thing was up and running again, and it continued to make my life a living hell for another year. Why did I put up with it, you wonder?

Well, I know my strengths and I have two left hands when it comes to things of a technological nature. I also lack the motivation to change that. Call me strange, but that’s how I feel.

Most men seem to have this “I can fix it” mentality. Psychologists say it’s in our DNA. While women long for men to acknowledge their problems and really listen with an open mind and heart, men are prone to jump in prematurely and offer solutions. It’s pre-programmed. We can’t help ourselves, but we sure want to help others. It’s that Mars and Venus thing.

Well, I must have missed the boat in that area of evolution, because I am rather reluctant to activate that helper-gene in me. Perhaps it’s for the best because over the years I have learned to live with a horrible truth:

I am terrible at fixing things… but I’m great at making matters worse.

Case in point.

When I was five years old, my Dad drove a forest green Ford Cortina. It was his pride and joy. One day and for no particular reason, the exhaust started making menacing noises. Being the frugal man he was, my father decided to keep on driving, hoping the loud bangs would eventually go away.

They didn’t.

Mourners at a funeral could tell he was getting close to the church (my father is a minister), because the sound of explosions would get louder and louder. Thank goodness people didn’t have car alarms in those days. Otherwise, his ferocious Ford would have set them all off at once.

As a child I remember being frightened and embarrassed by the bangs, and that’s why I took it upon myself to secretly intervene.

What if I were to stuff that wretched exhaust with leaves? Wouldn’t that muffle the noise? It worked for Cuddles my Guinea pig, so why not for my Dad’s car?

And that’s exactly what I did. One glorious Fall morning I shoved all the leaves I could find into the exhaust pipe and did not tell a soul about it. This would be my surprise. My gift to my Dad: A quiet Cortina.

That afternoon, on our way to see “The Aristocats,” I nearly killed the car…. and my immediate family, including myself.

So you see, when I say I’m no good at fixing things but I am great at making matters worse, I absolutely mean it!

That day I should have learned a valuable lesson:

If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. 

But I didn’t.

A few weeks later I tried to “repair” an outlet in my room by sticking both ends of an electrical wire in it. I nearly electrocuted myself and I left the whole house in the dark, including a congregation of praying church Elders who were meeting at our home. Good Lord!

When I was seven, I shaved off my five-year old sister’s eyebrows with my Mom’s ladyshave, just to see if I could improve her looks. It took me twenty seconds to realize my mistake, and I used a Sharpie® to bring her brows back, hoping my parents wouldn’t notice. I still remember the site of my poor little sister, looking very much like Mr. Spock. But it gets worse.

One time, when she wasn’t feeling well, I pretended to be a Druid and made her a concoction of apple juice and colorful berries I had picked from neighborhood bushes. I might have ended up an only child, had my mother not entered the room on time, ripping the deadly drink out of my sister’s hand. 

What can I say?

A few years and one or two close calls later, it finally dawned upon me that I better stay away from things I had no knowledge of.  A DIY-mentality can be detrimental, not only to the health and well-being of close friends and family, but to a freelance business. 

Now, that might not be a shocking revelation to you, yet, I find many self-starters to be deaf to that message, and blinded by their enthusiasm and inexperience.

Lacking the funds, the appropriate skills, knowledge and the right contacts, so many of them begin their entrepreneurial journey trying to do it all and fix everything…. and wonder why their business isn’t taking off within the year.

Sooner or later, all of us have to come to terms with our own limitations and fallibility. Or -to put it bluntly- our ignorance, arrogance and narrow-minded stupidity.

Having been self-employed for most of my working life, I learned many lessons the hard way. Had I known what I know now, I could have saved myself valuable time and lots of money. For example:

1. The only shortcut to success is to learn from people who are where you want to be.

Trial and error are the worst and the slowest teachers. They keep you down. You can see so much more when you stand on someone’s shoulders.

I encourage you to find people who inspire you. Identify what makes them tick. Study their skills and strategies. Make them your own. Refine them. Perfect them and pass them on to others.

Those who wish to reinvent the wheel, usually end up going around in circles. 

2. No matter how hard you try, you can’t be your own coach.

You’ll either cut yourself way too much slack, or you’ll be overly critical and paralyze every effort to be productive. More importantly, your ignorance will stifle your growth.

You cannot teach yourself what you haven’t mastered yet.

3. Never trust the opinion of friends and family.

Sticking feathers up your butt doesn’t make you a chicken, but here’s the thing: They don’t know that.

Family and friends are there to support you no matter what. However, most of them know zilch about the business you wish to break in to (more on that in this article). Love them with all your heart, but please don’t listen to them. 

The quality of the feedback always depends on the quality of the source.

4. Focus on what you’re good at and enjoy doing. Outsource the rest.

You don’t save any time or money by trying to fix your computer or build that website. Unless you have a degree in IT or web design, you’re likely to lose time and money you don’t have. 

Why insist on doing your own books and taxes? If numbers were never your strength, you’ll overlook substantial deductions and make a mess of your administration. Some people were born to be bookkeepers. Let them deal with your finances. Strangely enough, it makes them happy when it all adds up!

5. Don’t sing your own praises.

A little bit of self-esteem can go a long way, but too much of it is a huge turn-off. Respect is earned. Let your work speak for itself. It may take a few years to build up a solid reputation, but you’re in it for the long run, aren’t you?

Give others credit, and realize that happy customers are your best credentials.

6. If you mess up, fess up.

Nobody is perfect and you are bound to make mistakes. Some people are quick to blame others for their failures and point to themselves when things go well. As the owner of your business, you must own up to your successes, as well as to your slip-ups.

You’ll never be able to better yourself if you don’t acknowledge that you still have a lot to learn. No one expects you to know it all, and if you surround yourself with experts, you don’t have to. 

Last but not least:

7. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.

When something’s not right, don’t wait until things escalate. If you’re in over your head, look for strong shoulders to lean on. You’d be surprised how many people will welcome the opportunity to help you… but you’ve got to ask!

And above all, don’t waste you’re time on things you’re not meant to do. You know what I am talking about.

These things will never make you happy. 

Stop trying to fix things you have no business fixing.

Believe me. Your family and friends will be eternally grateful!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

What happens when your recording studio is flooded? A nasty home emergency with a happy ending!

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My $10,000 mistake

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Freelancing, Money Matters, Promotion 32 Comments

I was in a rush. I wasn’t thinking.

And it almost cost me ten thousand dollars.

The lesson I learned that day has been one of the cornerstones of my success as a voice talent. Before I share that lesson with you, let me ask you this:

Have you heard of the Calimero complex?

It is named after an Italian/Japanese cartoon character named Calimero, and many freelancers seem to suffer from it.

Calimero is the only black chick in a family of yellow chickens, and he still wears half of his eggshell on his head. It is as if he never really made it out of the nest.

Calimero is the archetypical underdog. He often gets in trouble and believes the whole world is out to get him. When the show reaches a dramatic climax, Calimero usually utters the following catch phrase:

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 four keys to winning clients over

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 20 Comments

Do you sometimes wonder why certain clients hire you and others don’t?

I think about that a lot.

Rather than making assumptions, I often ask them why they picked me over a colleague. That’s useful information to have, because it helps me fine-tune the way I run my freelance business and how I position myself in the marketplace.

So, what are clients really looking for?

Even though you and I are likely to have very different clients with very different needs, there are three factors that always play a role in every purchase decision. You might be selling a service or a product. It doesn’t matter. All buyers are influenced by the same three things:

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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