5 things you should stop doing in the new year

Are you a nail-biter, a chain-sitter, or an overeater?

We all have bad habits we want to get rid of in the new year.

Here are some of the things I have written about in the past, I wish colleagues would let go of in 2018. 

1. Spending money on new equipment while you’re still in a bad recording space.

Yes, I know Santa brought you a few gift cards, and you’ve been eyeballing that new microphone for the past eleven months now. But will it stop the neighbor’s leaf blower from blowing, or the deep rumble of the school bus from making a guest appearance in your auditions? Will it magically tame the flutter echoes in your improvised booth, and make you sound like the next movie trailer man (or woman)?

Not in a million years!

The number one thing that held me back from being successful as a voice-over, was the absence of a dedicated and isolated recording space. Once I built my own booth, I had the freedom and confidence to go after every job I felt I was suitable for. This year, every single production I’ve been involved in began in my home studio. It has paid for itself many times over.

Treat the space first. Then treat yourself to some shiny new equipment. If you must. 

2. Expecting the keys to the kingdom on a silver platter.

I’m a member of many social media groups dedicated to voice-overs. A majority of these groups are supposed to be for professional voice talent. Yet, every single day I see amateur questions that have been asked and answered hundreds of times, coming from people who are too lazy to do their homework. In the age of the Internet no one can claim ignorance, so:

Stop playing dumb, people! It’s embarrassing. 

It’s not that our community isn’t willing to share. If anything, the VO-universe is very giving to those who demonstrate relentless commitment and extraordinary talent. But I refuse to help people who want to pick my brain out of a false sense of entitlement, and a simplistic idea of what it takes to make it in this business.

So, dear colleagues: Stop giving free rides to those who don’t feel like learning how to drive. If you keep spoon-feeding a child, it will never learn how to eat by itself. 

3. Complaining without taking responsibility or action.

“The book I’m narrating is awful. The author is impossible to work with. The deadline for this project is unrealistic. They expect me to record a complete rewrite of the script for free…”

First of all: Stop whining!

Winners aren’t whiners. 

You’re a freelancer. You are free to work with anyone you want. Nobody is forcing you to read a crap novel about a topic no one’s interested in for a ridiculous royalty share. You don’t have to collaborate with a disrespectful writer who pretends to know more about voice-over narration than you do. If a deadline doesn’t work for you, then don’t agree to it. Never record a complete rewrite at no charge. Your time and your talent are valuable.

If you feel this particular pay-to-play you’re a “member” of, is greedy and unethical, don’t keep it in business by renewing your membership. Don’t tell me your livelihood depends on this one company. It’s bad business to put all your eggs in one rotten basket. If you want quality clients, start doing the legwork yourself. It’s part of being a pro!

4. Working for less than you deserve. 

No matter what freelance business you’re in, there’s a quick and easy way to get rid of clients that treat you like dirt, and pay you accordingly:

Price for profit and raise your rates!

It’s not that complicated. Every time you accept a job for less, you send a signal to the market about your worth, and the worth of your colleagues. Clients aren’t stupid. They love getting more and more for less and less. We all do. But we also understand that there’s a link between value and price. Price is an important indicator of professionalism and quality. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When it comes to voice-over fees, you’re either part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution. As soon as you start competing on price and out of fear, you’re doing yourself and your community a huge disservice. As soon as you start competing confidently on added value, you’re teaching your clients about the worth of (y)our work. 

By the way, here’s something else you should stop doing in the new year:

5. Making assumptions about your clients.

So many colleagues tell me:

“If my quote is too high, I’m afraid the client won’t be able to afford me, and I’ll lose the job.”

Let me ask you this:

“How do you know what a client can or cannot afford? Did you talk to their accountant? Let’s say you didn’t get that job because of your higher bid, what did you lose?” You can’t lose something that wasn’t yours in the first place. Secondly, you’ve actually gained time to pursue or do a job at a respectable rate.”

This year I’ve said “no” to more offers than in any year of my entire career, and this is my best year on record. I’m not saying that to impress you. I’m saying that to empower you.

Don’t ever pretend to know what your client is thinking of, or hoping for. You’re not in the mind reading business. You’re in the script reading business.

Never assume. Always ask.

Having said that, I won’t assume what things you’d like to stop doing in the new year.

I don’t have to, because you’re going to tell me in the comment section.

Won’t you?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet. 

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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."

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

25 Responses to 5 things you should stop doing in the new year

  1. Saundi

    Paul, what a great post! Loved and agree with everything you said. I will work on #4 and #5, there were a few lessons learned last year based on assumptions and working for less. But that will change effective 2018.
    Thanks for sharing and caring.
    Hope your VO year is Prosperous and Purposeful!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Same to you, Saundi. Make this a year to look forward to looking back on!


  2. Pingback: Here's What You've Missed | Nethervoice

  3. Drita Protopapa Dumont

    Thanks for posting and sharing! I am definitely going to stop making assumptions about my clients because when you ass-um-e, you know what happens! 🙂 Happy New Year!


    Drita Protopapa Dumont Reply:

    oops … I put the hyphen in the wrong place: ass-u-me! Drita


  4. Matilda Novak

    Thank you, Paul.
    Your words are Always worth reading, and i appreciate the gift you are to our industry….
    Happy Hannukah to you, and blessings in the coming year!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Many, many thanks Matilda. Wishing you nothing but the very best!


  5. Jonathan Hanst

    Love this one Paul: “This year I’ve said “no” to more offers than in any year of my entire career, and this is my best year on record. I’m not saying that to impress you. I’m saying that to empower you.”

    I’m a big believer in the “power of no.”

    Thanks for doing what you do.


    Jem Matzan Reply:

    Does that mean that you did less work and made more money? I think the fear many of us have is that it’s bad to turn down a cheap rate when there’s no other work. Maybe it’s just survival instincts from oldschool TV/radio/modeling work that demands that you take what you can get. “Well you can book this job, or it can go to someone else.”


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Fear is the worst counselor. Prominent radio and TV personalities as well as high-end models make more money because they’re worth it. They don’t have to take what they can get. They are where they are because they are selective.

    The problem with going cheap is that once you’ve shown your willingness to work for lower rates, people aren’t ever going to hire you for more. Why should they?

    Taking what you can get doesn’t require a lot of skill or effort. It’s pretty easy to book a low-paying job, and people who do that end up working more for less. They also send a message to the market that it’s okay not to pay people a decent, living wage.

    In terms of my own situation, I’ve landed more new clients than ever before, at rates I deem reasonable. Mind you, this did not happen overnight. It is the result of many years.


    Jem Matzan Reply:

    this did not happen overnight. It is the result of many years.

    Aha! You see, at the beginning of any acting career, you take what you can get. Hopefully you survive long enough to be able to choose the better jobs and turn down the worse ones. But how do you draw that line? Or more appropriately, *when* do you draw that line?

    If I book one job all year at $20,000, is that better than booking forty $500 jobs?

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I cannot tell people where to draw the line, but I can inform them about the dangers of lowballing using this blog. I’ve done it so many times that I’m surprised people aren’t getting tired of it.

    I do not agree with the notion that “at the beginning of any acting career, you take what you can get.” You might not want to charge top-dollar, but that doesn’t mean you have to put yourself up for sale in the bargain basement. Beginning bakers don’t sell their bread at a loss. Novice taxi drivers don’t work at half price. Why should voice-overs have to take what they can get?

    I’m very much in favor of using a scale. If you look at the rate guide of the Global Voice Acting Academy, you’ll see a low, average, and high rate. That low rate is not an “anything goes” rate. It is a rate that is still considered reasonable.

    I don’t know if you’ve read my series on “The Power of Pricing.” In it I discuss the concept of a price floor. Here’s a quick quote:

    “A Price Floor is a point below which a product or service should not be sold. In the long term, the price must obviously cover the full costs of a product. Otherwise the seller cannot make a profit and will not survive. Volume never makes up for selling below cost.”

    To answer your last question: I’d rather book one job at a respectable rate, than do ten jobs paying less, that should have been offered at a fair rate.

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You’re very welcome, Jonathan. It’s only a two-letter word, but it’s one of the most powerful words in the language. I keep on saying “yes” to saying “no.”


  6. Anna Castiglioni

    Well said, Paul. With my one recent book I came close to “whining” but in my defense I think I was still shy of that line and only “venting.” I had managed to negotiate a deal I could live with. The rest, thankfully, I’ve already stopped.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    First we vent, and then we circumvent. Sometimes we need a bad experience to teach us something good. The price we pay in this transaction is what the Dutch call “leergeld,” literally translated as “learning money.” It’s an investment in our ongoing education.


  7. Paul PAyton

    As usual, Paul, you are right on point!

    I’d add that I will continue to “breed the jerks out of my client base.” Happily, I’m pretty much there – I’m always happy to hear from my repeat clients as well as new ones, most of whom are righteous – but working for jerks takes more time than non-jerks and doesn’t pay us any more for our effort! (There’s also the converse: I promise to try not to be a jerk myself!)

    Happy Hanukkah, Paul, and may 2017 be a really good year for all of us!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Never work for a jerk! Great advice, Paul. Speaking of Hanukkah, I wish you a de-light-ful holiday season. Potato pancakes, sour cream and apple sauce look good on any dinner table around this time.


  8. Ed (Ed-VO) Waldorph

    Thanks Paul. Brilliant as usual. I hope you forgive me for saying that part of my future in this business depends on folks ignoring you.

    Have a wonderful holiday season and all our best from ask of us to all of you in the New Year


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Rest assured, I’m being ignored by many, and vilified by a few. I take your comment as a compliment! Wishing you warm and wonderful holidays, and an exciting new year!


  9. Rich

    I’m happy to say that I’ve already stopped doing all of those things. Spot on, Paul!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Good for you, and good for us. Thank you Rich!


  10. Bernard

    Excellent and to the point. Bernard


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you Bernard. Enjoy life on the island (or perhaps you’re in Germany for the holidays).


  11. Melba King

    Excellent advice! Thanks and Happy 2017!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    My pleasure, Melba. Happy Holidays to you and yours!


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