MicPort Pro

The New Nethervoice

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Internet, Promotion, Social Media 88 Comments

the old layout

Surprise!

No more brown, blue and green.

Gone are the windmills in the background.

Good old Double Dutch had to make way for the new Nethervoice. It might take some time to get used to, but believe me: it was inevitable. Let me tell you why.

If you have your own domain, do you know how many visitors come to your website in a day or a week; how they found your site; what they were looking at during their visit and for how long they stayed before going somewhere else?

If you don’t, you are in trouble. It’s like owning a store and having no idea how many customers come in and what they’re interested in. You cannot manage what you don’t measure.

As I was going over the Google Analytics stats for nethervoice.com, I had an epiphany. It turned out that in the last six months over 50% of my visitors had used a mobile device to access my website.

With millions and millions of tablets and smart phones sold, that was not exactly a revelation. My epiphany came when I realized that my site was never designed with mobile devices in mind.

DRIVING BUSINESS AWAY

Nethervoice.com looked okay on a 20″ monitor, but on an iPhone it was dreadful. Important information was cut off, buttons had disappeared and it was very user-unfriendly. No wonder my bounce rate was way too high.

Unknowingly and unintentionally, I was driving most of my visitors (= potential clients) away!

Now, do you know what your site looks like on an iPad or an Android?

Would you like to know?

Why don’t you visit this site right now and type your url into the test field. You can select “width only” or “device sizes” to find out what others see when they look at your website using a mobile device. If you’re on a desktop, make sure you enlarge the screen all the way to the right to reveal the iPad Landscape setting.  

In my case the conclusion was crystal-clear: I would have to build a new site from the ground up. These were my criteria:

  • It had to be mobile responsive to allow my site to automatically change layouts according to the visitor’s screen size, whether on a desktop, smartphone or tablet
  • I wanted to maintain it myself
  • It had to have a sleek, professional look
  • It had to represent who I am and what I stand for
  • I wanted to open an online store and make my demos downloadable

My content management system (CMS) of choice would be WordPress. Because my old Double Dutch blog was WordPress-based, I already knew how easy it was to create pages with little or no knowledge of html code. If you’ve never worked with WordPress, here’s what you should know.

The look and functionality of a WordPress site is determined by a template called a theme. Right now there are thousands of themes available, but not all of them are mobile responsive. Most themes can be customized to your suit your needs and reflect your style.

Some templates are specifically designed for bloggers, photographers, restaurants, bands et cetera. Many themes are free, but premium themes cost anywhere between $35 and $100.

The theme you’re looking at right now is called ProMotion. Try changing the screen size manually and see what happens. You’ll notice that the layout changes but that the content remains visible.

EASY DOES IT

The functionality of a theme can be enhanced by plugins and widgets. For instance, the Subscribe box in the upper right-hand corner of this blog and the list of Popular Posts are both plugins. Once installed, they can simply be dragged and dropped to the sidebar as a widget. No programming experience necessary. Because this is open source software, you can choose from a database of more than 18,000 plugins!

The WordPress platform itself, as well as the themes and plugins, are regularly updated. When an update becomes available, it can usually be installed by clicking a button. It’s that easy. If you’ve ever worked with a more traditional CMS, this is like going from a stick shift to an automatic. And since I’m not a computer geek, I prefer automatic.

ENTER THE EXPERT

I do know my limitations, and to make sure the transition would be smooth, I asked Joe Davis to give me a hand. Joe knows WordPress inside out, and he recently helped Dan Lenard, the Home Studio Master, with his new site. It was particularly important to me that my entire archive of blog posts would migrate seamlessly. 

Before my new site went “live,” Joe uploaded the theme to his server and put the main building blocks in place. That way I could see what the site would look like as we worked on the individual pages. It’s almost like writing a book: you go through several drafts before coming out with a finished product.

I asked Joe about the biggest hurdle he had to overcome in this migration project. This is what he said:

When working with someone like you Paul, who has such a good understanding of what a website can do and brings out that functionality with plugins, it can be a challenge to make sure they all play nice with each other. The more plugins you have, the greater the risk of a conflict between some of them.

You work a lot with the WordPress content management system. What are the advantages of WordPress as opposed to the more traditional CMS systems?

This may come as a surprise to some of your readers but although WordPress started out as a blogging system, it has turned into the world’s most popular CMS. WordPress is a very fast, easy to use, robust framework to build a site in. With the enormous list of plugins available you can add almost any functionality you are looking for. The way themes are handled by WordPress also provides lots of flexibility for the creative folks among us.

With WordPress, web design seems to have become a lot simpler. But not everything is as easy as it seems. What are some of the things you recommend people get help with?

It depends on what the goal of the website is, but generally I would say the areas that people need the most help with are theme/layout design if they are creating a new design and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). On site SEO can be the difference between a great website that nobody sees and a great website that needs a new welcome mat because so many people have stopped by.

What basic mistakes do you see when you visit websites?

Everyone wants their website to be attractive but it is also important to remember why people are on your site. They are looking for something and that should be as painless an experience as possible. Many times I see websites that have huge beautiful headers with lots of pretty graphics. The problem is users have to scroll in order to see the content and must do so on every page. To add that extra step in order to get to the meat and potatoes, on a platform like the Internet where people decide if they are going to stay or leave within seconds, is not a gamble I’m willing to take. Other common mistakes include poor usability, content disorganization and lack of SEO.

Your main job has to do with SEO. Any tips for the uninitiated to improve their SEO?

There is so much you can do, but you will be ahead of most if you remember these life basics that apply just as much online.

If you are interesting, people will come talk to you! Content, content, content! If you don’t have good content, the search engines won’t give you much attention and humans won’t either.

Speak their language! What does someone do with a magazine they pick up that is in another language? Usually nothing because they can’t understand it (or maybe just look at the pretty pictures) but either way the text is lost. Often people will put important keywords that they want to rank well for… in an image. This is a big mistake. Be very careful what you put in graphics. Search engines can’t read anything that’s in an image and will ignore it.

You are associated with who you pal around with! Relevant inbound links are critical. Regarding linking up: Pretend you are looking for a date. Make sure that person is from nice folks with similar interests. If you are a voice actor don’t have your buddy with the real estate company link to you unless the page he links from has content directly related to your field. A link from an audio production house will have a much better result.

Where can people best reach you?

Well, let’s practice a little SEO here. Please visit us for more information about Voice Over Websites and Marketing. See what we did there? We created a relevant inbound link with relevant anchor text to a special page I created solely devoted to voice over that opens in a new window. And you linked to a relevant page which is good for your site. Everyone wins!

Meanwhile, why don’t you do some site-seeing and let me know what you think of the New Nethervoice. Your feedback is much anticipated and appreciated!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

We could all use more clients, but where to find them? Next up, I’ll  offers you a counterintuitive strategy: stay under the radar!


Give Me a Break!

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Gear 22 Comments

After much use, even the sharpest knives get dull. Paul Strikwerda

Can a voice-over pro ever take time off?

Do you have to be available 24/7?

Is it okay to shut down your business for a few weeks of Rest and Relaxation?

Will your Facebook fans unfriend you?

Will your Twitter followers desert you?

Will your voice-overworked agent ever talk to you again?

Let me answer these questions with a question:

What won’t happen if you don’t do it?

BALANCING ACT

I am a big believer in a balanced lifestyle. As a European living in the States (the number 1 “no vacation nation”), I see a lot of people around me who are absolutely addicted to their jobs. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected and become a burned-out, boss-pleasing slave laborer.

Have we forgotten our history?

On January 31st, 1865, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States. It read:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

I guess the keyword is involuntary servitude.

We are free people, living in a free country who have earned the right to free themselves of any free time. Instead, we have chosen “voluntary servitude.”

Now, that’s what I call progress in a society built upon the principles of “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!”

But let’s put the cynicism and sarcasm aside for a moment. If you’re pursuing happiness as a full-time freelancer, you are in charge of your own destiny. You set your own hours. You determine your own rates. You’re the only one who can call it a day and shout from the roof tops:

Give me a break!

You’re self-employed. You embody your service. Literally. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. If you don’t guard your boundaries carefully, good people with the best of intentions will step on them and leave you depleted.

TRAPPED & TIRED

A few weeks ago, I was asked to do a presentation in front of hundreds of people. Prior to that, there was a reception and -of course- you can’t have a reception without background music. It’s a known fact that most musicians aren’t capable of staying in the background. No matter the crowd, they have to be LOUD.

I knew that if I were to schmooze prior to my presentation, I would have no voice left, even though my vocal cords are well-trained.

As they say: “If you schmooze, you lose.”

Besides, the next day I was going to New York for a recording session and my voice had to be in top-shape in order to sell well.

So, I was left with a choice. Either slip something into the drinks of the band that would have them running to the restroom in a matter of minutes… or hide myself from the crowd until it was time to go on stage.

The first option was obviously more entertaining, but I ended up hiding in the basement. Unfortunately, an overzealous janitor came down, turned off the lights and kicked the door shut, leaving me trapped.

This is where cell phones can save the day. I called the organizer of the event:

“Hi, it’s Paul.”

“Paul, where are you? We’ve looked all over for you!”

“I am trapped in the basement. It is dark in here. Rats are nibbling on my feet. Please rescue me!”

That day, instead of being a voice-over, I became a voice-under.

I think you get my point.

In order to give your all, you sometimes have to get away from it all. But avoid being locked up.

GO AWAY

Now, in an ideal world you would just pack your bags and go where no one can reach you. But what to do when you’re waiting for that all-important callback or that once-in-a-lifetime chance to audition for something you can’t afford to refuse?

In that case, you need to take some gear on the road and improvise. Rather than spending a few hours going over all the options, I suggest you read Harlan Hogan and Jeffrey Fischer’s classic Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home and on the Road. It’s jam-packed with practical information and I highly recommend it to anyone remotely interested in a voice-over career.

Here’s what I take along on my travels:

  • a laptop
  • a microphone
  • a CEntrance MicPort Pro
  • earplug-sized headphones

A MicPort Pro is a nifty mini audio interface/preamplifier that plugs directly into your microphone. On the other side there’s a USB cable that plugs into your computer. In other words: this device can turn any microphone into a USB mic. It has phantom power, a headphone jack and two knobs for setting the record level and the headphone volume.

So… after all that subtle product placement, let’s get back to the original question:

Can you take off for a period of time without ruining your career?

Here’s an experiment you should do at home:

Fill up your watering can to the brim and start watering your plants. Keep on watering and watering and watering… until there’s no more water left.

I don’t have to tell you that -in order for those plants to grow- you need to water them regularly. An empty watering can is useless. The moral of the story:

You can’t give what you don’t have.

Now, why is that so easy to understand when it comes to our plants, and why are we surprised that “We the People,” are so stressed, so drained and left without an ounce of creativity?

Take my advice and get lost! Recharge your batteries. Discover that you have significant others in your life who’d love to get to know you. It can’t be all work and no play… Your job is just a means to an end.

TAKING TIME OFF

Be sure to let your voice casting sites and agents know that you’ll be gone for a particular period of time. If you must, bring your gear, but promise yourself that you will only do what is absolutely essential. Otherwise, you’ll get sucked into obsessive email checking, incessant instant messaging and frantic Facebooking.

Only use your cell phone when you’re stuck in a basement and someone’s thrown away the key.

When you come back from your well-deserved vacation, notice how refreshed, alert and full of energy you are.

People can see it in your face. They hear it in your voice.

Now you’re ready to wow the world again!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice