“Why do clients always think they can play me?” said one of my students. Let’s call her Ella.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, first they try to nickel and dime me, and then they expect me to record a major revision of a script for free. After going above and beyond to keep them happy, they wait months and months to pay me. I’m sick of it! Who do they think I am? Some kind of doormat?”
“If anything, you’re a goody two-shoes,” I said, “and that might be part of your problem.”
“How so?” my student wanted to know.
“I’ll get to that in a moment,” I responded. “First you have to acknowledge something I had to learn the hard way.”
“And what is that?”
“It’s the fact that it’s virtually impossible to change other people. You can only change yourself. So, if you want a different response from a client, you have to change the way you respond to them. That’s the way it works in any type of relationship. And when you act differently, your environment might start to treat you differently.”
“Can you give me an example?” Ella asked intrigued.
“Sure. Here’s one thing I noticed when we started working together,” I said. “You’re a very friendly person who will go out of her way to please people. You also have a tendency to become very informal very quickly.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a kind and open person. However, you can be friendly and business-like at the same time. There’s no need to share all kinds of personal details with someone you know professionally. You work together to get a job done. You don’t have to become best buddies. In fact, I think it’s often best to keep your personal life out of it.
Because you tend to be so informal with everybody, some clients might get the impression that you’re not very professional. It’s a lot easier to push people around who don’t seem to know what they’re doing. Do you know what I mean?”
“I totally get it,” Ella said. “I probably come across as someone who is very naive and inexperienced.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me, Ella, and part of this business is all about perceptions. If people perceive you to be weak in one area, they’ll take advantage of it.”
“So what do I do?” Ella asked.
“Use your secret weapon,” I said. “Use your voice!
I have noticed that your voice has a tendency to go up at the end of most sentences. You might not even be aware of it, but it sounds like you’re not very certain of yourself. Everything ends in a question. It makes you sound insecure. And if you seem insecure, clients won’t trust you. We’ve got to work on that.”
“Perhaps I am insecure,” said Ella. “I don’t have a lot of experience, and I don’t want to lose a client because he doesn’t like me.”
“Thanks for bringing that up,” I said. “Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that you are rather inclined to take things personally. Is that true?”
“That’s going to be tough in this business. Very tough. In any given week you’ll hear a lot of no’s, and very few yeses. If you take every single no as a personal rejection, you’ll be absolutely miserable. And I don’t want that to happen. You’re too talented.
Unless you completely messed up, or the quality of your recording was abysmal, it is never about you. It is all about the subjective opinion of the person casting the job. Emphasis on subjective.
Now, back to using your voice.
If you end your sentences with a period instead of with a question mark, you’ll sound a lot more confident. Period. You might not feel entirely confident, but the client doesn’t know that. You also have to work on your breathing, but that’s for another day.
Secondly, keep things strictly business. Remember, you are the expert. That’s why they’re thinking of hiring you. They’re not looking for a new friend.
Take charge of the conversation, and -if it is a new client- explain how you usually work. Let the client know they’re in good hands. And one more thing: stop apologizing all the time. You came in seven minutes ago, and you’ve already apologized ten times for things that weren’t even your fault. Why?
“I’m sorry,” said Ella…
And then she realized what she was doing. She blushed, and said: “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“I know you’re not doing it on purpose, but it’s not doing you any favors. Did you have a Catholic upbringing?”
“No, said Ella. “I’m Jewish.”
“Now, let’s get back to what we were talking about. I was giving you some advice, so here’s another thing I want you to consider: only take on a job you know you can handle. Be clear about your policies and procedures, and be firm about your rates. Never negotiate a rate after the fact. Get to an agreement before you go into the studio, and confirm things in writing ahead of time. Are you following me?”
“I’m listening,” said Ella, “and it all makes sense. I just don’t know if I can come across as someone who has been doing this for years. I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not. That’s not who I am.”
“I understand that” I said, “but here’s the good news:
In this business you get paid to pretend.
I just recorded a voice-over for a pharmaceutical company, and I played the part of a neurologist. The day before I worked on a guided tour for a museum, and I was cast as a historian. Who knows what they want me to be tomorrow? A mad scientist? A cartoon character? A Flying Dutchman? That’s the fun of this job! You can pretend to be anyone you want, and make some money too! The better you are at pretending, the more in-demand you’ll be as a voice-over.
If you can convince the client you mean business, you are in business.”
Ella looked at me, and I could see that my words had ignited a spark.
“Ella, listen to me. You know that as soon as you get a script that reads like it’s been written for you, you’ll knock it out of the park, right? In other words: it’s not even a matter of being qualified or not. It’s a matter of you believing in yourself. Don’t you agree?
A wise teacher once said: You can pretend anything, and master it.
So, let’s start this coaching session by “pretending” you know the ropes, okay? We’ll do a mock conversation with a potential customer. I’ll be the obnoxious client, and you’ll be the brilliant voice talent. It is your job to convince me that you are the right person for the job.
Are you game?”
“As in voice acting, you might need a few takes before you hit the nail on the head, but by the time we’re done, you’ll know how to respond like a pro, and you’ll never be played again.
“Paul, my client would like you to voice two animations. Both advertise the same product on the same platform, but each one appeals to a different audience. Both scripts are no longer than 125 words. Normally we’d pay you €250 per video, but the client was wondering if you’d record both videos for €250. After all, these things are very short, and this is for the same product on the same platform. Another option would be to offer the client a $150 discount. Let me know how you’d like to proceed.”
What do you think I should do? Should I voice these two videos for €250 or $350? Should I charge the full €500, or even more?
Well, the answer depends on your pricing strategy, and on how you position yourself in the market place.
Let me explain.
A TALE OF TWO PICKLES
In front of me I have two 24 ounce jars filled with pickle spears. One is a store brand retailing for about two dollars. The other is a jar of Famous Dave’s Signature Spicy Pickle Spears, selling for about five bucks. Both jars contain the same basic ingredient: crunchy cucumbers immersed in an acidic solution.
Why would people pay five dollars instead of two, for ten to twelve pickles, you may ask. The answer is simple. Dave’s spears are distinctly different. His spicy cucumbers tingle your tongue with a signature blend of sweet and heat. They are addictively delicious.
Last weekend I was entertaining guests, and I served Dave’s pickles without telling them. I just put them on a plate. After the first guest took a bite his whole face lit up and he said: “Wow, where did you get these pickles? They are incredible!” Two minutes later everyone in the room was crunching away, and wanted to know where they could buy these special spears.
Yesterday I talked to one of my friends who was with us that evening, and he said: “I had so much fun last weekend. And by the way… those pickles were amazing!”
So, let me ask you this:
Would you rather be an ordinary pickle, or one of Famous Dave’s Spicy Spears?
MAKE A CHOICE
Are you a dime a dozen, or do you have something unique to offer? If you fall into the last category, in what way do you distinguish yourself, and how do you convey that to your clients? You see, believing that you’re special doesn’t get you anywhere. You need to prove it.
Famous Dave is a smart guy. He knows he’s got something awesome going, and that’s why he’s not competing on price. He is competing on added value. Added value can be defined as “an improvement or addition to a product or service that makes it worth more.”
As a voice-over, you add value to a video, a computer game, an ad campaign, an e-Learning program, a bestseller, or a major brand. The right voice can bring credibility and authenticity to a message. That alone can be worth millions of dollars, and advertising agencies know it.
You will never see those millions, but I happen to think that you deserve to be well compensated for your contribution. That will only happen if and when YOU value what you have to offer in terms of your expertise, and your experience.
PRICE LIKE A PRO
One way to convince a client that what you’re offering is valuable, is by using the link between price and professionalism. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Your rate is more than a number. It is a powerful statement. It says: This is what I believe I’m worth. It is also a way to prequalify your clients.
My rate sheet tells them: I take my job seriously. Lowballers better stay away. Quality clients are welcome. I will treat you with respect, and I will do the best job I can.
Like Famous Dave, I know that what I have to offer is different. My English has a European quality that adds a special flavor to a script. Those who like that flavor have no reason to haggle.
Now, let’s discuss that discount I talked about in the beginning of this blog post. Here’s my take on reducing a fee.
1. Discounts are for people who compete on price only, and for clients for whom price is the determining factor.
Here’s a hint: price is rarely the sole determining factor in a purchasing decision.
If clients would buy based on price alone, it would be perfectly fine to take months to send them a poorly made product, right? They wouldn’t dare to complain because you were the cheapest.
2. But Paul, didn’t the client say that these two jobs combined would be no more than 250 words? Why not give in a little?
Well, there are two hidden assumptions behind that argument. One: This job is something I could record in a heartbeat. Two: Clients pay me for my time. Both assumptions are false.
We all know that most clients have no idea how long it takes to deliver any length of finished audio. Secondly, I don’t charge clients for my time. They pay for my talent, my skills, and for my experience. They pay me for the added value I bring to their production.
3. If I were an on-camera actor, and I’d be featured in two videos targeting different audiences, wouldn’t I get paid in full for both? Then why should a voice actor accept a huge pay cut? Does that make any sense? Just because we’re invisible, doesn’t mean people should take advantage of us.
A MATTER OF TRUST
4. The client promised that both videos would be for the same platform, but how can I trust a claim made by someone I’ve never worked with? Clients will tell you anything to bring your price down. What guarantees do I have that these two videos won’t end up on different platforms? Who’s going to check that?
5. In the beginning of a relationship with a new client you set the parameters. If you accept a certain fee for whatever reason, that becomes your going rate. Don’t blame it on the client. That’s what you’ve trained them to expect.
So, the next time you ask for more money, don’t be surprised if your client comes back with: “But last week you did a similar job for X amount of dollars. Why should we pay you a penny extra?” And you know what? They’re right!
6. If you accept doing two jobs for the price of one (or even less), you’ve just stabbed your colleagues in the back. We are not independent contractors. We’re interdependent contractors. We are connected. A going rate is nothing but the prevailing market price. Every individual pricing decision -big or small- impacts that market. Before you know it, you’re contributing to a downward trend.
Having said that, here’s where I’m willing to give a discount:
A. When a client commits to a long-term working relationship, and a high volume of jobs.
B. As an incentive for a client to pay in full upon receipt of the invoice.
Some colleagues are in the bad habit of giving discounts to all charities, but I make that determination on a case-by-case basis. More about voice-overs and charities in my article “Work For Free For Charity?”
STICK TO YOUR GUNS
Listen carefully. You don’t have to agree with me when it comes to discounts. In fact, you don’t have to agree with anything I’m saying in this blog. It’s just my opinion. But if you haven’t thought about your value, your pricing, and about your position on discounts, simple questions like the one from my contact can get you in a pickle.
I decided to charge full price for those two animations, and I told my contact why. Taking a stance means taking a risk, and I ended up losing the animation job to a colleague who was willing to do it for less. But the story doesn’t end there.
Two weeks later my contact called me again. Working with the cheaper voice-over had left a bitter taste in the mouth of the client, and they wanted me to step in.
“At full price?,” I asked.
“At full price,” he said.
Being cheap often costs more, but some people have to learn that lesson the hard way. Don’t be one of them.
That day I went to the post office to send my contact a small thank you gift.
“Does this parcel contain anything fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous, including lithium batteries and perfume?” the woman behind the counter wanted to know.
“Yes it does,” I said.
“What’s in it?” she asked.
“It’s a jar of Famous Dave’s Signature Spicy Pickle Spears!”
“Oh, those are the best,” she said. “Not cheap, but so worth it!”
PPS The word ‘pickle‘ comes from the Dutch word ‘pekel,’ meaning‘something piquant,’ and originally referred to a spiced, salted vinegar that was used as a preservative (source.) You should know that I am in no way compensated to promote Famous Dave’s delicious pickles.
Guilty as charged: In the past few years I’ve become a hopeless gearhead.
I like to look at new audio equipment; I like to read about it, and I like listening to sound samples.
On any given day, I have to spend at least a few minutes studying reviews, gazing at pictures and drooling over obscure objects with buttons, switches, cables and meters.
Dear Abby: Is this weird and should I be worried? I mean, my equipment is fine. There’s nothing wrong with my microphone and I don’t need another preamp. For a voice actor like myself, a simple studio setup will suffice, so why am I staring at all this stuff?
I know I’m not alone.
My photographer friends are always looking for the latest cameras, the best lenses, or software that will revolutionize the industry. Musicians wonder what they would sound like on a new instrument. Professional chefs can’t wait to get their hands on a new set of sharp-looking knives. Even quilters go gaga over new gadgets.
Why is that?
WANTS AND NEEDS
There’s a constant battle in our brain between our wants and our needs. It’s scary how good most of us have become at justifying purchases that make no logical sense whatsoever. All of this to answer the basic question: What If? What if I bought this new guitar? What would it do for my sound, my creative abilities – my career? What would this new high-tech camera allow me to do? Would I finally be able to take those impossible shots? And what about this new editing software? Could it save me time? Would it make my colleagues green with envy? All these questions and unfulfilled desires can create massive tension inside an otherwise rational mind. No longer happy with what we already have, we start looking for the next best thing. And trust me. As long as we’re alive, there will always be a next best thing. The industry feeds on our never-ending desire for new and improved products, and brands big and small are masterful at pushing all the right buttons at the wrong time. When it comes to selecting the perfect audio equipment, I have a hard time answering the following question: Having decided on a budget, how do I know a certain product is right for me? Let’s say I’m in the market for a new microphone. Is staring at pictures, reading reviews, and listening to audio samples helpful? The answer may surprise you. DON’T JUDGE BOOK BY ITS COVER Ultimately, it shouldn’t really matter what a microphone looks like. Clients are paying us for our sound, not because our JZ BH3 microphone has a hole in it. So, if we forget about looks for a moment, are descriptions – whether from critics or manufacturers – actually helpful? Take a JZ Black Hole mic as an example. The maker writes:
“Fantastic vocal mic, is great on every application it is used. Unbelievable clarity and definition, smoothness and full transparency.”
Be honest: Does that help you make a $1,599 investment? Once you start reading up on microphones, you’ll be amazed at how many makers call their mic “great on every application.” It might be a true statement, but it doesn’t say much, does it? It only tells us that the maker is trying to sell his gadget to a wide audience. Here’s a quote from the Sound On Sound review of the JZ Black Hole. You can usually count on them for an unhyped writeup. “Tests with spoken word revealed a clear, well-focused sound that balances low-end warmth with high-end clarity, and because there isn’t much in the way of coloration, the Black Hole should work well as a general-purpose studio vocal mic …”
Tell me, did that sell you on this pricey microphone? USELESS LINGO The problem with words is that they are inadequate. They attempt to describe an experience or object, but they are not the experience/object itself. Words are always open to interpretation. That’s where the trouble starts. What I describe as a “smooth” or “warm” sound is colored by my personal biases. If anything, it probably tells you more about me. This so-called “warm” sound might be perceived by someone else as “muddy” or “dark.” So, if words can’t properly describe a specific sound, and if looks don’t matter, wouldn’t it be helpful to listen to some recorded audio? Surely, that must be the best way to select a microphone online!
It is easy to forget that any microphone is part of a recording chain, and when you change one link in that chain, everything changes. Of course, the source of the sound is very much part of that chain.
IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS Let’s examine the variables in more detail: • The person recording the track. Does s/he have a decent mic technique? Some mics are known for their proximity effect (bass boost) if you get too close. At the right distance, a mic might sound clear and open, but when you’re almost eating the thing up, listeners could get the wrong impression. If you’re not careful, your microphone might also produce a sharp s-sound (sibilance). Most of the time the narrator’s lack of technique is to blame. • Was a pop filter used? A pop filter keeps a mic nice and dry and it softens plosives, but some filters muffle the sound like a dirty old sock. • If a microphone has multiple settings, which setting was used during the test recording? Omni, cardioid, figure-8, or another setting?
Some mics have a low-cut switch which activates a high-pass filter that reduces the amount of low frequencies in the output signal from the microphone. This obviously alters the sound. Some mics even come with multiple capsules. • Where was the track recorded? In Carnegie Hall, at 3 Abbey Road, or in a Studiobricks booth? How was the microphone placed in relation to the narrator? The sound of a microphone differs depending on the acoustic environment. Microphone tests recorded in a manufacturer’s lab don’t reflect how that same mic will sound in your walk-in closet slash home studio. • Two mics of a kind don’t necessarily sound the same, either. Especially classic microphones go through some remodeling over time.
The famous Neumann U87 has a vintage model, the U87i, and the current production version, the U87Ai. Some engineers will even tell you that the two U87Ai’s they own, do not sound the same. There’s a reason most manufacturers will sell you “matched pairs” of microphones for stereo recording. • True audiophiles claim that the quality of the cables used to connect various pieces of equipment can make a difference in the quality of the signal and ultimately the sound. Others believe we might as well send a signal through a coat hanger wire and save ourselves a lot of money. • Preamplifiers used to bring the low-level microphone signal up to line-level, may add a subtle signature sound to the signal, too. You’ll often read that tube preamps are supposed to add “warmth” to the sound, whatever that means.
Of course, we also know that audio engineers use a bag of tricks to alter the sound of a mic, such as compression, equalization and all kinds of fancy filters to manipulate what comes out of the loudspeakers. FROM RECORDING TO LISTENING All those things happen in the recording studio. Now let’s look at how we receive the sound of that microphone we’re evaluating. What variables are we dealing with on that end?
• Is the sound file you’re listening to a lossless sound file such as FLAC, or is it compressed, such as an MP3? Compressed files take up a lot less space for faster downloads, but in order to achieve that, a lot of data needs to be deleted. Compression leads to loss of quality and clarity. Hint: all audio on YouTube is compressed. When’s the last time you watched a microphone shootout on YouTube?
• Are we listening on cheap computer speakers, high-end studio monitors, or are we using headphones? The quality of these devices is in part responsible for the character of the sound we’re evaluating.
Compare listening to a track on your iPhone through cheap earplugs, to hearing it in a soundproof recording studio equipped with Genelec 8260A 390W Active Tri-amped studio monitors that cost over $5,000 each. Even the position of the speakers, as well as the position of the listener in relation to those speakers, needs to be factored in. • In which acoustic environment are you listening? Sounds bounce off the walls and resonate differently depending on the shape, size and treatment of the room. Are you focused or distracted as you’re listening? That, too, can play a role in how you evaluate the sound. • Hearing in and of itself is a subjective experience. It’s an attempt to understand the world around us. Mechanical sound waves are converted into electrical impulses and sent to the brain for processing. Once in our brain, the hearing centers go to the memory banks to localize and identify the sound.
Think about someone’s tone of voice. Whether a sound is labeled as “pleasant” or “warm” is a matter of personal taste. • Then there’s the issue of hearing loss. In a world that seems to get noisier and noisier, hearing loss is on the rise among young and old. It’s hard to make a precise measurement with faulty equipment.
We all suffer from selective thinking and hearing, which allows us to notice and look for information confirming our personal beliefs. It’s called confirmation bias. One such belief could be that all microphones under $300, especially those made in China, are rubbish. Another belief could be that Neumann is the best brand in the world. Imagine listening to a mic test, knowing in advance which mic you’re going to hear. Do you honestly think it’s even remotely possible to be completely objective? COMPARING MICROPHONES The other day I was watching a video comparing the Prodipe Lamp Studio Pro ($299), the M-Audio Sputnik ($679) and the Neumann U47 ($1,599.95). As I watched the video, it told me when the engineer switched from one mic to the other. Click here to access the video. I don’t know about you, but I found the differences between these mics to be very subtle. I listened on my Beyerdynamic DT 880 Studio headphones, and when I closed my eyes, I often didn’t even hear when they moved from one mic to to the other. Perhaps this unmasks me as a complete audio ignoramus. Perhaps it demonstrates that you don’t need a sixteen-hundred-dollar microphone to produce a decent sound. You be the judge. The question that remains is this:
How on earth do you find out which microphone is right for you? Do you really need a big brand name to play the game? Is expensive always better? Do clients even care?
TOUGH CHOICES This I can tell you: Making a wise choice based on online info only is virtually impossible and silly. When you change just one of the fifteen variables mentioned above, you change everything. Factory specs tell you a lot about pickup patterns, output impedance, frequency response, and the self-noise of a mic. However, no specs can ever reveal the microphone that most flatters your voice in your recording environment with your recording setup. When researching your next mic, it might be tempting to listen to the snobs and self-proclaimed experts on the gearhead message boards. That can be a frustrating and intimidating experience. Should you always trust the dot-com critics that give a mic four out of five stars? Too many online reviews are actually written by people who are paid to say nice things about a product. Even some veteran voice-over colleagues you may trust, are compensated to endorse a brand. I’m not going to name names. Click here instead. At the end of the day, you have to rely on your own judgment in your own studio, and ask a few professionals. Ideally, try to get hold of a couple of microphones in your price range and take them for a spin. Maybe a colleague in the area is willing to lend you some of his or her gear. Maybe you’re a member of a voice-over meetup group. Perhaps you can find a maker or a pro audio store willing to send you something on a trial basis. Kam Instruments, for instance, gives you seven-day inspection period. If you decide to send the mic back, you’ll pay for shipping, insurance and a 15 percent restocking fee. It’s better than wasting a whole lot of money on something that doesn’t meet your expectations. Harlan Hogan’s VO: 1-A mic is sold with a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee.
Some fifteen years ago, I walked into the office of my very first U.S. casting agent.
I was absolutely thrilled, but I didn’t realize that I was about to make a big mistake.
The walls were filled with posters of all the blockbuster movies the agency had been involved in. Signed thank you notes from famous directors decorated the hallways. Old awards were gathering dust in the renovated warehouse-turned-office that oozed sleek, expensive minimalism.
“Our voice-over director will see you shortly. One of her sessions is running late. Would you care for some coffee?,” asked a secretary.
Ten minutes and a perfect cappuccino later, I was handed an audition script. It would take a little longer, I was told.
“No need to be nervous,” the girl said. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”
It’s strange how these things work. When I walked in, I was feeling great. I knew I could nail this. But as soon as she mentioned nerves, I felt like a kid waiting outside the principal’s office, wondering what I had done wrong.
It was my first year in the States and I was green. I even had a Green Card to prove it. I didn’t really know anybody, and nobody knew me. That’s why I had brought a friend along for the audition.
I just needed some backup, a second opinion if you will, to make sure this place was legit. Too many people were being taken for a ride by shady characters posing as casting directors, and I didn’t want to become one of them.
This friend happened to be nosy. Very nosy.
If you were to invite him to your house, he would read the back of the postcards that are hanging on your fridge. He would open up a family photo album without asking permission. I once caught him checking out a closed bedroom on his way to the smallest chamber in the house.
So, while I was learning my lines for the audition, you can imagine what my friend was doing. When the secretary was away to get the coffee, he went over to her desk and looked at some of the contracts she was working on. When she came back, he grilled her about the business, as if this was an episode of Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den.
I tried to give him the Cut it out, You’re not helping me-look, but to no avail. He acted like a pit bull sniffing a hot trail.
It got even worse when we finally met the voice-over director. Initially, my friend was wise enough to let me do all the talking. But when I went into the vocal booth to record my script, I could see him distracting her with all his inappropriate questions.
When the session was over, I heard in my headphones: “Paul, we need to talk…. in private. Ask your friend to go back to the waiting area and tell him not to snoop around.”
ONE ON ONE
“Let me level with you,” the casting director said when we sat down. “You have talent. You have experience and I love your accent. I don’t think we have anybody that can bring that European sense of sophistication to a read. In short, we’d like to represent you, but on one condition.”
I knew what was coming, and I knew she was right.
“Don’t ever bring your friend to this office again. I can understand you’re new to this country and you needed some support, but seriously… I almost kicked the two of you out. He was asking all sorts of questions about how much you would be making and how many jobs we would offer you each month. It was obvious that he knew nothing about the casting process, and we hadn’t even taken you on board.
Let me be clear. Contrary to what your friend seems to believe, there are no guarantees in this business. We can send you auditions, but YOU have to book the jobs. We don’t control our clients. If they ask us to recommend five voices for a project, we give hem five voices. You might be number one on my shortlist, but that’s irrelevant. You’d be surprised how often a client picks the voice I personally find least suitable. It’s all very subjective, and you have to be okay with that. By the way, did you bring some recent headshots?”
We talked for another ten minutes, we shook hands, and I left.
“It’s up to you, but I would never do business with these people,” said my nosy friend when I came out of the meeting. “I got the weirdest vibes off that casting director. You should have seen the way she looked at me. All I did was ask some simple questions to make sure the place was kosher. What’s wrong with that?
Of course it’s up to you what you want to do, but I think you should explore other options. One day you’re going to thank me.”
He was right. I did thank him for teaching me a valuable lesson that day. I also told him that I had signed with the agency. Two months later, he went his way and I went mine. Recently, someone told me he’s now an investigative reporter at some magazine I’d never heard of.
Our choice of friends says a lot about who we are as a person and as a professional. In order to be successful in any business, it’s important to surround yourself with people you believe in, and who believe in you.
I don’t mean people who think that every word that comes out of your mouth is pure gold. That role is reserved for proud mothers and misguided fans. You need people who look out for you in a discreet, intelligent way. Preferably, people who know the territory. There’s nothing as useless as the advice coming from the mouth of a person who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
And let me tell you something else.
The most important friend you and I will ever have, is the person we choose to live our life with. First and foremost, this friend needs to be comfortable with uncertainty. Although attitudes are gradually shifting, most people still prefer the predictability of a steady job (and income) over the freedom and fluctuation of a freelance career.
If you’re living with a voice actor, you know some months are slow and others are crazy busy. You probably know how much money goes out every month, but you never know how much money will be coming in. That makes it hard to plan ahead. The perfect partner for a voice actor has a steady job with benefits. This is especially important in the beginning of a career.
Because of the ongoing uncertainty, this partner also has to be incredibly patient, flexible, and understanding. Ask any established talent, and they’ll tell you that a voice-over career is not a sprint but a marathon. If you’re still in business after the first three years, you’re either a fool or you’re beginning to get somewhere.
Not everybody can and will hang in there while you’re trying to make it in a field that’s becoming increasingly competitive. You need to sow a lot of seeds, and the harvest might be years away.
BENDING OVER BACKWARDS
Talking about flexibility… I can’t tell you how many times we have had to change our family’s plans at the last minute, because some client needed me to record a script pronto. At times I wish I had the audacity to tell that customer:
“You can’t do this to me. I have a life, you know! When you called this Sunday morning, we were all wearing our bike shorts, ready for a ride.”
Instead I keep quiet, go down to my studio, close the soundproof door and start recording that darn, poorly written script about the importance of family time. When the client says “Dance,” I dance. Meanwhile, the family goes on a bike ride without me.
If you’re not ready to roll with the punches and take life one day at a time, you’re not ready to start a serious relationship with a voice actor. And if you are, you must be a saint!
People with a steady job often have a hard time wrapping their brains around what it means to be self-employed. I’m lucky to be married to a professional musician. She understands that if someone offers you a good gig, you take it. If you don’t, someone else will, and they’ll start calling that person next time.
On paper it sounds great. Today’s voice actor stays home all day, recording short commercials and promos that bring in more money than most people will make in a month. It’s easy to forget that getting the work takes up far more time than doing the work.
Every audition brings new hope. “What if I get picked to be the next voice of ….?” (name a big brand name). “I’d finally have some income I can count on, and the recognition I’ve been secretly longing for.”
Of course you’ll never hear back about the role you thought was made for you, and when you turn on the radio three months later, you hear a complete idiot mess up the lines you auditioned for because they chose him over you. That morning, you will hear that stupid commercial over and over and over again. This will make your day. I guarantee it!
But you’re never going to take your frustration out on the one you love most, right? You always manage to stay calm, composed, and positive. You never take things personally. It’s only your voice they’re evaluating.
Instead, you send a quick email to congratulate the lucky bastard who landed the job, and you put on a fake Facebook smile because it’s so wonderful to be able to do what you love and get paid for it. Meanwhile, you don’t know how you’re going to pay this month’s health insurance premium, or how to fix the fridge that just broke down.
At that point you need a soft place to land. You need someone who has your back. Someone who doesn’t think you’re a failure. Someone who says:
“I love you. Let’s go for a walk. It’s a beautiful day.”
Other times you do get lucky and you hit the jackpot. You get tons of work and you need the house to be quiet so you can finish your recordings. Who’s there to make sure you can work in peace? Who’s taking over your household chores so you can finish editing that never-ending audio book?
When things go really, really well, and your voice is heard all over the nation; when hotshot agents who always ignored you all of a sudden know who you are; when you yourself start believing that you’re the Big Kahuna now… Who’s there to celebrate your success, and keep you grounded?
When you’re too big for your boots, who will gently put you in your place? Who will tell you that there’s more to life than talking into a microphone, or being adored by countless fans? Who’s going to be there for you when the applause fades away? With whom will you share and develop other interests?
I guess it boils down to this:
WHY are you doing what you’re doing?
Does it make any sense if you can’t share your setbacks or successes with someone?
Mind you, even though I am happily married, I’m not advocating the advantages of matrimony per se. I am simply in favor of surrounding yourself with a couple of close friends who can keep you sane in a weird and complicated world. People with whom you can let your guard down, be vulnerable, and be yourself.
It’s about time we give those friends the credit they deserve.
There’s not much I remember of Monday, March 26th, but it’s a day I will never forget.
In the late afternoon while at work in my studio, I suddenly and inexplicably began to feel light-headed. My legs became weak like rubber, unable to support the body they held up. Then I blacked out for who knows how long. It felt like minutes, but it could have been for hours. When I regained consciousness, I found myself on the floor, painfully twisted like a pretzel, gasping for air. I tried to get up on both knees but couldn’t. It was as if my brain’s messages didn’t reach my muscles. I’d never experienced anything like it in my life.
The phone rang several times. My arms reached to the desk above, hoping to grab it. No matter how hard I tried to lift myself up, I had no strength to do it. It was infuriating and terrifying at the same time. After a while a text message came in, and I desperately wanted to answer it. I grabbed my desk chair, hoping to climb up on it, but it rolled away from me.
Something told me that whatever was happening to me, was serious, and I needed to contact the outside world without delay. Then I remembered that I could simply ask Siri to call my wife by shouting instructions at my iPhone. But when I attempted to form words, I noticed something very alarming. My tongue felt swollen and useless. My slurred speech sounded like a drunken sailor. What the heck was going on?
While I was lying on the floor, I noticed that my breathing had become very shallow. I had no idea for how long I had been down. The lightheadedness got worse by the minute, and suddenly it dawned upon me that I was using up all the oxygen in my seven by seven, hermetically sealed, and unventilated voice-over studio. I clearly needed help, but who could possibly rescue me?
My wife was at a borough council meeting that night, and she wasn’t scheduled to come home early. Screaming to alert the neighbors was pointless, since I was in a solid soundproofed space I had designed myself. I remember trying to open the heavy studio door, which under normal circumstances takes a lot of strength. An industrial metal door closer keeps it firmly shut, and to make matters worse, my unresponsive body was leaning against it.
I felt trapped, and it quickly dawned upon me that if no one came to liberate me, I would soon use up all the oxygen, and suffocate in my own studio.
At borough council, my wife was concerned that I didn’t show up for the meeting I’d said I would attend, and that I did not answer my phone. A few weeks earlier she had found me face down on the kitchen floor after I had thrown out my back and was unable to move. Six hours later an ambulance crew had to pick me up off the floor and take me to the nearest hospital. With that in mind she called our friends who lived nearby and had a house key, asking them to check in on me. Since this was a council meeting, the police and fire chiefs were present, and they promised to send a few guys over for a welfare check.
Knowing that crying out for help would be futile, I began to bang a loud SOS on the walls of my recording space in the hopes somebody would hear me. It took all the strength I had, but suddenly and miraculously, the back door opened, and I heard voices. Neighbors Scott and Danny had arrived, but they had no idea what had happened and where to find me. In one final attempt I pounded the loudest SOS on the studio door and it worked. My friends came running down to the basement where my studio is located.
At first they couldn’t open the door because I was lying against it, so I had to roll myself away from it. As the fresh air was flowing in once the door opened, I took the deepest breath I had ever taken in my life. I remember Danny, who is a trained nurse, bending over me, saying: “The left side of his face is drooping and he’s unresponsive. He might have a stroke!” At that point police officers and firemen came in, ready to get me out of my miserable situation.
What happened next, I don’t remember very well. They got me out of the house and to the nearest hospital to stabilize me, and find out what was going on. A quick scan confirmed that I had indeed suffered a stroke caused by a blood clot in the right side of my brain. To avoid further brain damage and possible paralyzation, it was imperative to get me to a stroke center as quickly as possible. That’s when the medevac team was contacted.
A helicopter landed on the helipad at a nearby high school, and within minutes I was airlifted in a cacophony of engine rumble and intense vibration. At the stroke center a specialized team was anxiously awaiting my arrival, ready to physically remove the blood clot using a procedure called mechanical thrombectomy. Doctors threaded a catheter through an artery in my groin up to the blocked vessel in the brain. A stent opened and grabbed the clot, allowing doctors to then remove the stent with the trapped clot.
Get this. During the operation I actually woke up out of my sedation, and I felt the stent going in, grabbing something inside my head. As I stared at my smiling surgeon’s face, there was a moment of sharp pain, followed by intense relief as I drifted away. The next thing I remember is waking up in the ICU, being welcomed back into the world by my wife. For the next two weeks, I would be attached to a network of tubes leading to beeping equipment measuring any type of vital sign.
I was weak, I was dizzy, but I was alive. Thank goodness I was alive!
What happened next was even more miraculous. As soon as I shared my hospitalization on Facebook, hundreds of people started reaching out to me. Every day I received encouraging, heartwarming messages from all over the world from friends, colleagues, and family members. Some mornings, the nurses caught me using WhatsApp to talk to my sister in the Netherlands, Facebook Messenger to connect with a colleague in Spain, and email to let a client know I couldn’t narrate a script just yet.
While new medications were slowly stabilizing my situation, I want to tell you that there’s nothing like the positive power of kind, caring people healing what was broken. I felt strengthened, supported, uplifted, and energized. Soon I would be walking the hospital halls in my yellow slipper clogs to the amusement of staff members. I began climbing stairs, regaining my balance, and finding my bearings. Paul Stefano, Trish Basanyi, Uncle Roy Yokelson, and Mike Harrison came to visit, bringing good cheer and yummy treats.
Friends started cooking for my wife who spent most of her time by my side, keeping track of all the information and advice from neurologists, cardiologists, and other health care experts involved in my treatment. She was the one I leaned on, literally and figuratively, and I count my lucky stars to have her love in my life.
So, how am I feeling now, a little over two weeks after I had my stroke?
Right now, the biggest challenge to my recovery is… me. I want to get back on my feet as soon as possible, doing all the things I’m so used to doing, even though I might not have the energy and coordination to do them. I have to learn to pace myself and say no. I also have to come to terms with how I handle stress caused by pressure I put on myself, and pressure from others. But based on what has happened, people are surprised to see me in such good shape. I attribute that to two things. The day after my operation the doctor told me: “It’s important to keep a positive outlook.“ He’s absolutely right. I truly know that being negative is a luxury I can’t afford.
The second thing is the importance of having a support system. That’s precisely where you came in, and I am so grateful for that. To you, it might have seemed like a few kind words on social media, or a card with an encouraging message. To me, it made all the difference, and I can’t thank you enough for that!
The consequence is that you’ll be stuck with snarky, lucky me for a while, using this blog to dish out my weekly commentary on the wonderful world of voice-overs and life as a freelancer.
Are you sure you can handle that?
I know I can, because I’m Still Here, and I’m not going anywhere!
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m rather ambivalent about artistic contests promising people a chance at winning some shiny object to brag about, and charging them for it. Could this be any different? Besides, I thought there already was a British award for voice-overs.
For the past twenty years, the U.K. has had the VOX Awards, celebrating “the best creative audio talent in the media and broadcast industries across 10 categories.” Circa 2013, the organization behind these awards was VOX National Events. Last November, VNE was acquired by Bubble Communications, a global PR, marketing, and events agency.
MORE OF THE SAME?
So, how do the One Voice Awards (OVA’s) try to set themselves apart from VOX, and other VO award shows, such as the Voice Arts™ Awards? First of all, the OVA’s are the culmination of the One Voice Conference in London that brings together VO artists industry-wide for four days of workshops, talks, networking, and lots of practice.
Inspired by the setup of voice conferences in the U.S., creators Hugh Edwards and Peter Dickson have said they want to set a new standard for what a U.K. voice acting event should be.
Secondly, these awards are not open to any employees or relatives of the One Voice Conference team, or Gravy For The Brain Ltd. None of them can be nominated, nor win one of their own awards.
The OVA’s team writes:
“The One Voice Awards have integrity. Our doors are not open for corruption as the awards are independently judged by an extensive panel of industry leaders, anonymously.
The One Voice Awards doesn’t take advantage of nor monetise voice artists, therefore, the awards actually mean something. They’re free to enter. We do not believe in triple-charging you (submission fee, attendance fee & award fee) for winning an award that you deserved to win.
We are celebrating excellence wherever it lies across our incredible community. The One Voice Awards isn’t just about giving yet another award to big names, or those who can afford to put themselves in the running to win industry awards.”
BUILDING A BETTER MODEL
Reading these words, I felt gratified, because it seems Edwards and Dickson are addressing some of the very things I have pointed out regarding the Voice Arts™ Awards. When I asked Edwards about it, he had this to say:
“Not only do I subscribe to your blog, but also to your point of view. I think that they are the same viewpoints because we both believe in fairness to people. I also realise that we have an uphill battle to climb with perceptions of awards in general though. Some awards organisations manage it, some do not. My opinion of the whole thing is that integrity is absolutely key. I think that it’s very difficult to dissociate the monetisation and profiteering that happens with other awards that go on, with the benefits that awards can bring to people.”
Over fifteen hundred hopefuls entered the One Voice Awards, and a panel of judges narrowed this down to ninety-six finalists across thirty-one categories. Some VO’s were shortlisted in more than one category.
Hugh Edwards: “There is a reason why in some cases there are only three shortlisted nominations and in some seven in this year’s OVA’s: There were only three in that category that came up to a certain standard (and we are not profiteering to just let people buy table spaces to make up numbers), and in the other case of seven, some were tied in their excellence and there was nothing between them – and in this case we are not going to take away that achievement from someone by arbitrarily selecting one out of three to be removed from the list because it’s important for those voice artists to be recognised for their achievement.”
CHEAPENING THE INDUSTRY?
Some people in the VO business are afraid that because anyone can submit audio samples, and anyone can come to your conference, this opens the floodgates to amateurs who will cheapen the industry. What do you think?
Hugh Edwards: “I completely understand those concerns, and I’ll address them both individually. Firstly to the point of anyone being able to submit themselves to the awards, and even before that, the idea of self-submission which has been raised to me before too. I think many people think that the larger awards bodies, such as BAFTA, the Oscars, the Emmy’s and so on, look to the industry and choose the films/projects that should be submitted themselves, but this is not the case. Even with those huge awards, it’s the production companies who produced the films who submit their films for consideration to the awards, exactly in the same way that the One Voice Awards do – there is no shame in this, and clearly, we do not have some kind of ‘magic eye’ that can see across the talent of anyone who voices in the UK!
Then, with regards who can submit audio clips, it’s quite clear that having the awards open to everyone is the only fair way to do this – and if this were not the case, who would police who is a ‘non-amateur’ voiceover artist? Who would determine the requirements set to determine who is ‘professional’? BAFTA, for example, does not restrict anyone who creates a game from that game being submitted for consideration in the game awards, before proving that they have already developed 5 successful titles – no, the only criteria is that the work is excellent, and that’s the only way it can fairly be run.
If you take that one step further, with over fifteen hundred submissions, yes we did receive some work that was not up to current professional standards expected in the industry today, but this work quickly fell to the bottom of the pile, and the cream of the crop rose to the top, as you would expect it should.
So, the only negative consequence to opening the submission doors to everyone, is that it means more work for us to listen and judge everything, but it means only positives for the voice community, as the final shortlisted nominations are genuinely the best of the best, and far from being ‘amateur’. Remember: we believe in being fair to everyone involved, and no one should be restricted from entering.”
THE EVALUATION PROCESS
There’s no information online about selection criteria or judges, so I asked Edwards about the judging process.
Edwards: “To have belief in the validity of the judging process, you need to be able to see inside that process. We have started the dissemination of this to the public and will be unveiling it fully at the awards. However, we have built our system from the ground up (actually based on how I cast voice talent, interestingly!) and it has the following criteria:
– All submissions are listened to; – All submissions are anonymised (so that judges are not swayed by ‘friendship’ voting); – The identity of the judges is secret (to protect any ‘corruption’ attempts); – None of the judges are aware of who any of the other judges are (to protect ‘collusion’ voting); – None of the judges can see any of the other judges scores (to prevent any ‘historical’ voting).
The idea is to protect the integrity of the awards so that it is uncorruptable.”
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
What has been done to prevent potential conflict of interest?
Edwards: “Our system is a software-based one, and we can see exactly who has voted for what, and when. There is one judge who is a voice artist, who entered into, and was shortlisted for one category, and through mutual agreement she abstained from voting in that category, and we have proof of that. All other judges were entirely independent.”
When judging artistic contests, there are objective and subjective criteria. Sound quality for instance can be objectively established, but script interpretation can be a matter of individual taste. How do the OVA’s deal with subjective judging?
Edwards: “The way to fix this (as we have) is to provide a top-level spread of senior judges from across a broad range of industry, as well as including some senior level voice artists – the hirers and the do’ers. Our judges are experts in their field, made up of: five senior-level Voice Artists, a senior-level Voice Director, a senior ADR Director/Mixer for film and TV, the CEO of a Voiceover Agency, a Head of a Network Radio company, two Heads of Creative from advertising agencies, two senior Studio Engineers and two Heads of Creative from television companies.”
A PRIZE FOR BLOOPERS?
Some of the OVA’s categories are pretty straightforward: male and female voice-over artist of the year, best character performance in animation, best audio books performance in fiction and non-fiction. There’s also an award for best demo reel performance, and for best outtake of the year. I think that awarding a prize to the best demo reel is like having an award for the best headshot, or demo tape of an aspiring rock band. And do the best bloopers really deserve a prize?
Hugh Edwards: “The demo reel category is actually as much for the demo creators as it is the voice artists. They deserve that recognition as well. There are some great demo producers out there, but there are also so many sharks doing shit work in the demo industry that we wanted to show excellence in this area. I think that category is valid to be honest – it’s an area of the industry that is widely seen, widely charged-for and widely used so it shouldn’t be restricted. The bloopers one you may have a point on, but it is there to provide comic relief throughout the awards ceremony and lighten the proceedings to help make it an enjoyable experience. I will re-evaluate it once this year’s OVA’s are done.”
THE CYNICS AND THE SKEPTICS
I’ve been in touch with a number of UK colleagues, and I got the impression that not every talent is going crazy over these awards. Some have suggested that you’re taking advantage of newbies. Some of the more experienced voice actors don’t want to come to the conference because they fear they’ll be perceived as amateurs.
Edwards: “I’m pretty shocked by this suggestion, as it is in our company ethos to do the exact opposite. I can only presume that whoever asked this has not actually seen inside (I’m presuming they mean) Gravy For The Brain (GFTB). Look at other training companies in the UK and the USA and you will see average prices for day-training courses between £200-£300 – that’s for one topic, one subject, one coach. Multiply that up by the number of courses you would need to get up to a professional level (e.g., a beginners course, an advanced course, some professional mentoring sessions, for example then, an audiobook course, a course on how to setup and run a studio and edit, a course on voicing commercials, a course on getting your business, marketing and branding right etc), and you’re well into the thousands of pounds.
At GFTB we charge £39 a month (often discounted to £29) for literally everything you will ever need, with no signup fee, no cancellation fee, and no minimum term. So if you’re a ‘newbie’ and you want to be with GFTB for 3 months, at which point you could have taken 16 courses, watched 35 hour-long webinars, received the 12 live mentoring sessions we would have run in that time, used our CRM, had your home studio checked out, and much more….that would have cost you £117 – which is less than half the price of most single-day-long courses out there.
I would go as far as to say we are one of the only voiceover training institutions in the world that is not taking advantage of the new talent in the industry.”
Thanks for that mini-commercial. Now, what about the second point?
Edwards: “With regards to the questioner’s concern that “experienced talent may not want to come to the One Voice Conference because of a fear they will be perceived as amateurs“, we should take a look at the biggest voiceover conference in the world: VO Atlanta. I was at the (excellent) conference this year and last year, and was in the room when the organiser asked the delegates to hold up their hands if they were a beginner; it was about a quarter of the room in each case. I’ve seen our attendee list for One Voice (where we’re just under 2/3rds of the tickets sold, with 5 weeks to go), and based on the attendees I know personally, I would estimate that this ratio is about the same. About a quarter of the attendees are beginners, and the rest are not.
One of the things I love so much about the US conferences, big or small, is that there is a feeling that everyone in the voiceover community is in the community together. Just look at WoVO(World Voices Organization) in the States: What they are not doing is complaining about all the ‘newbies flooding the industry’, instead, they are using their experience and knowledge about the industry to help the industry as a whole, including the beginners.
What’s frustrating about this comment is that in a few small pockets of the UK community, there is a feeling from some of the more senior artists of negativity against the newcomers to the industry. I find it frustrating because they were newcomers too once, and someone helped and trained them at some point. They have had their careers, and they are probably still doing well from it. I’m not sure if it’s fear of change on their behalf, a fear that the industry is being too far diluted, a fear that their incomes will be taken from them. But change to the industry has already happened, and will always happen. It’s going to change further, and surely the best way to deal with this is to embrace that change and move with it.
The newcomers to the industry are the voices of tomorrow’s industry, and we all co-exist together. We will always support the newcomers as much as we support the intermediates and the advanced VO professionals, but you most definitely should not be perceived as being an amateur for attending a voice conference that celebrates everything about excellence in the industry.
I mean, we have the woman who voices the Oscars and the Superbowl there for goodness sakes – the two biggest VO gigs in the world – does that sound like amateur hour to anyone!!!?? It certainly doesn’t to me!”
THE VALUE OF THE PRIZE
And finally, is winning a One Voice Award really a credit worth having?
Edwards: “Let’s take the Oscars as an example. Obviously, the winner of Best Picture at the Oscars has huge benefits to the sales and marketing of that particular film, and also to the studio as a whole, and it also benefits the other people who have worked on that picture. Importantly though, being shortlisted for the nominations is also incredibly important to those productions/studios/staff, and you will often see them use the fact that they are nominated (but didn’t win) in their marketing and PR. The same is true for voice artists.
Yes, the winners of the awards will be able to put that on their marketing and PR, but the nominees can as well. It’s not just about people liking shiny things, it’s a line drawn in the sand to say that this voice artist stands out above their peers for excellence in their category, and that reflects then throughout their career.
In the end it’s all about integrity. Once the industry becomes aware of how we are doing things to protect the integrity and why we are doing it, I suspect that its value will grow and grow. Our plans for the OVA’s and actually the entire conference extend beyond three years even as of now, so we are committed to this for the long term.”
The One Voice Conference is held between 26 and 29 April, and the Awards gala is on the 28th, hosted by Peter Dickson (click here for a full schedule). Joe Cipriano is the keynote speaker. Randy Thomas, J. Michael Collins, Peter Bishop, Marc Graue, Graeme Spicer, Jon Briggs, Trish Bertram, Anne Ganguzza, Armin Hierstetter, and Brian Bowles are among the presenters.
That’s the somewhat ostentatious subtitle of Celia Siegel’s book Voiceover Achiever. It’s an illustrated, conversationally written step-by-step guide to branding your voice-over business, by one of the most amiable experts in our industry.
Will your life change after reading this book? It depends on how you’d answer the following question:
Can you get slim from reading about weight loss?
Or, to put it differently:
Are you an active, or a passive reader?
We all know people (perhaps intimately) who have tons of self-help books in their Billy bookcases that just collect dust. I call them shelf-help books, because that’s what they are. They’re the useless property of passive readers who are all talk and no action. In my estimation, about eighty percent of non-fiction fans fall into this category.
Active readers, on the other hand, absorb and embrace the information like a sponge. They make notes, they do the exercises, and start applying what they’ve learned immediately, and consistently. If that’s you, Celia’s book has tremendous potential to help you transform your business, and even your life. Whether you’re a voice-over, or otherwise self-employed.
And here’s the remarkable thing: Celia does it all in under 130 colorful pages, many of which feature large illustrations.
WHO NEEDS BRANDING?
But why buy a book about branding? I assume you have talent, training, equipment, connections, and even some business skills. You run a small shop. You’re not a company like Coca-Cola or Apple. Do you really need to boil down your essence into some smart slogan and a logo? Celia Siegel:
“The big question in our industry used to be: Do you have a beautiful voice? Do you know how to act? Those are still important. But they’re no longer enough. These days the question is: Are you brandable?”
Here’s the gist of it: In a cacophony of voices, you want to be found and heard. You want to stand out. You want to distinguish yourself from the rest by highlighting what makes you different, and more desirable. That’s what intelligent branding does. And since you personify the service you’re offering, you’ve got to start thinking of yourself as a brand, by -in Celia’s words: “being loud and proud about who you really are.”
That sounds great, but here’s the not so easy part. A brand is not something you can bottle and sell at a supermarket. It lives in people’s minds. A brand is the result of many implicit and explicit associations and perceptions of a product, a service, a person, or a company. It’s what turned brown, carbonized sugar water into a billion dollar business, and Oprah Winfrey into one of the most influential and wealthy people on this planet.
Now, here’s what you need to ask yourself: How can you create and control these associations that set you apart, and help your business perform better? That’s precisely what Celia Siegel does for a living, and her book is loaded with examples of voice talent whose niche she’s helped define.
Chapter by chapter, Voiceover Achiever takes you through the process she uses with her clients, helping you identify what makes you unique, and showing you how to tell the story of your brand through language, visuals, and different media. If this sounds like a daunting task, think again. Celia writes the way she speaks. She keeps it light and playful. She clearly knows her stuff, but she’s never stuffy, and at no point does she come across as a know-it-all talking down to noobs.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
As you can tell, this is not a boring intro into branding. It is a book about Celia, Celia’s business, and Celia’s clients. That’s its strength, and its weakness. Examples from the same talent are reused throughout the book, and at times I got the impression that I was reading a long testimonial. All those testimonials are from voice-overs, and not from agents, or from people who are searching for voices for their projects.
I’m glad the people who hired Celia are happy with their new image, but what about the professionals they wish to reach? What’s their feedback? I want to know to what extent business has increased after Celia’s intervention, and how much can be attributed to branding.
Here’s another question: How much are rates part of branding? If we’re in the business of controlling associations and perceptions, the price of a product or service definitely influences how it is perceived. That’s why some people prefer a Rolex over a Seiko, even though the much cheaper Seikos are just as good at keeping time. There’s no mention of rates in Siegel’s book.
A MATTER OF IMAGE
Some of the images in Voiceover Achiever feel like fillers, just as the twelve empty pages of Brand Journal in the back of the book make it look more substantial than it is. I wish there had been more content, instead of pictures of lollipops, unicorns, and bicycles that seem to have come out of a kids magazine.
While I appreciate the examples of websites that have had the signature Siegel makeover, I would have loved to see a before and after, revealing some of the no-no’s of branding. Celia also doesn’t mention A/B testing and other methods as a way to find out what clients most respond to.
Teaming up with a “Brand Buddy” as suggested by Siegel (a fellow vo-talent embarking on his or her own branding journey), might not be ideal. As a sounding board, a colleague could be just as clueless as to what works and what doesn’t as you are. If, on the other hand, you need someone to hold you accountable and keep you on track, a Buddy could be very helpful.
As a European living and working in the U.S., I’d like to know to what extent branding is context dependent, meaning that a different market may require a different message. In the Netherlands where I was born and raised, humility is considered a virtue, and superlatives frequently found on American websites, are often seen as bragging and off-putting.
I also don’t agree with some of the advice Celia’s giving. She recommends using a personal Facebook profile for business purposes, and I do not. It’s actually against the Facebook Terms of Service (for more about that, click here).
Siegel writes about website design:
“If you’re doing it yourself, I suggest a one-page, endless-scroll website, the simpler the better.”
From an SEO-perspective, websites that use pagination (spreading content over a number of pages) do much better because Google Analytics and other sites measuring statistics count page clicks. Visitors to infinite scroll sites don’t click. Clicking lowers the bounce rate, and increases engagement.
MAKING SOME NOISE
When it comes to spreading the message, I agree with Celia: You have to remind people that you exist. If you want to stand out, it’s no enough to be outstanding. That’s where her book moves from branding to marketing. Siegel explores social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. She lists the benefits of using stickers, branded E-cards, banners, newsletters, and networking. However, there’s no mention of blogs, podcasts, or videos. That’s a big omission in a time where YouTube has become the second largest search engine, and blogs such as this one are huge drivers of website traffic.
I also would have liked to see a few paragraphs devoted to brand protection. Your brand is your intellectual capital, and national and international trade mark registration should at least be discussed. At the same time it’s important that you don’t infringe on someone else’s intellectual property by using names, tag lines, or images that are already in use by existing brands. It could cost you dearly (more on that when you click here).
Last but not least, instead of empty Branding Journal pages, I would have loved a list of recommended resources such as graphic designers, website developers, copywriters, copy editors, SEO-specialists, illustrators, social media experts, and other people who can help you tell your story, and spread your message.
Voiceover Achiever covers a vital aspect of our business that, until now, has not been written about in much detail. As such it is a welcome and wonderful addition to the growing list of books about the voice-over industry (click here for a list of other books). Better still, anyone running a freelance business can benefit from Celia’s experience and expertise. However, please keep the following in mind:
No amount of clever branding can cover up a bad product or poor service. It may take years to build a reputation, and it can be destroyed in a matter of minutes.
Before you buy this book (and I really hope you do), ask yourself:
Sorry for the clickbait headline, but I couldn’t resist. My clogs sometimes take me places I have no business going.
Before I get into anything else, imagine this…
You just came back from a spectacular four-course dinner at an amazing restaurant.
The atmosphere was incredible. The waitstaff treated you like family. The cuisine was exquisite. You even took pictures to show the rest of the world what they’d missed.
Days after your experience you can still taste the food, and you can’t stop telling family, friends, and colleagues about it.
And guess what?
No matter how enthusiastic you are, and how great the meal looks in all the pics, people just don’t get it! They never will, because they didn’t share the experience. It’s frustrating, but you can’t blame them because that’s how things are.
Words are just words, and photos of food are two-dimensional. They have no taste, texture, or smell. In spite of many technological advancements, we still can’t bottle the positive energy that’s palpable in a room, and sell it on eBay. No drug will ever replicate or replace a hug. And that’s the way it should be.
Here’s the truth. Some, if not all of life’s best moments are literally beyond words. And this is what makes them so inexplicably precious, personal, and powerful.
So, I’m not even going to try and explain to you what it’s like to have been at the world’s largest gathering of voice-over professionals, a.k.a. VO Atlanta. It’s just as futile as telling you about that amazing dinner. But I will tell you this:
This year, VO Atlanta was not merely a Conference. It became a Movement!
For a movement to gain momentum, people have to be moved, and be willing to move. There was plenty of both from the early hours of the morning until… the early hours of the morning (those who took part in the Team Challenge often didn’t go to bed until 2:00 AM).
A movement has to have a common cause. Well, no matter where the attendees were from, all of them came to help strengthen and raise the professional bar for voice actors and voice acting. In my mind, this involves a number of things:
– an open mind, and a joyful commitment to lifelong learning – a celebration of diversity, equality, and kindness – a readiness to set higher standards and rates for our profession – a continuous and selfless contribution to our community
Take any panel, any presentation, or any X-session… these four elements were markedly present in every room, and they made this conference a transformational experience for so many.
Now, you know me, don’t you?
I’m often critical and sometimes cynical of certain developments and players in our industry. I can smell a scam from miles away, and when I feel an emperor is wearing very few clothes, I will tell you.
I also know that one cannot orchestrate authenticity. It is impossible to fake friendship and sincerity. No matter how well any conference is organized (and believe me, VO Atlanta ran like a well-oiled machine), it ultimately depends on the people who attend, to pour their hearts and souls into it.
And that’s exactly what they did from the get-go. Together they made this conference a safe place to share, be vulnerable, try new things, feel empowered, as well as a space to learn, grow, laugh, cry, sing, act, admire, and dance.
In many ways, this is extraordinary. Why? Because the so-called real world doesn’t seem to work that way. To many, that world is a dark and fearful place, filled with people who are out to get us, instead of support us. It’s a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest society, where a ME-ME-ME mentality often prevails over a WE-frame of mind.
Being at VO Atlanta gave me hope that there is a different reality, and a different future for the voice-over work we love so much. By all accounts the segments of the market we contribute to are growing: eLearning, audio books, explainer videos, cartoons, documentaries, gaming, virtual reality, and so on.
Somewhere, someone is looking for your voice, and it is part of your job to make sure that this someone finds you, or you find him (or her). If you don’t know how, perhaps you should go to a voice-over conference and find out. In the afterglow of VO Atlanta, colleagues have already reported that using what they’ve learned only a few days ago, has paid off big time.
There was something else I noticed.
Faced with bold moves from self-absorbed, predatory companies that seek to devalue our talent and our training, a new awareness is growing that we have a choice to whom we lend our voice. Yes, we want to work, but not at any rate, and not for companies that demand more and more for less and less as they triple dip into a client’s budget, while denying us our fair share.
I felt a strong resolve in Atlanta to fight the commoditization of our work, and a deep desire to come together and show what we are worth. At this moment we have ethical agents, brilliant software developers, and SEO-specialists on our side, who are coming up with new, intelligent platforms to showcase and sell our services.
Online voice matchmakers such as Voice123 and Bodalgo are listening to us, and are coming up with smart, exciting features that benefit clients and voice talent alike. The World Voices Organization is growing every day, providing invaluable support and leadership to its members and our community at large.
Paul Strikwerda presents
Colleagues with years of experience share what they have learned with humor, wit, and wisdom. People whose voices you’ve grown up with suddenly sit next to you in the bar, and strike up a conversation. And guess what? They’re just as interested in you, as you are interested in them.
At first, VO Atlanta can be a bit overwhelming, but boy does it feel good when we eat, drink, and dance together, and colleagues from all over the world become fast friends. And speaking of friends, you may remember that I do my best to keep my personal and professional Facebook contacts separate (click here to find out why). That’s why I have a Nethervoice Page and a personal Profile.
However, if you’ve been to VO Atlanta this year, and you feel that we’ve connected in a meaningful way, I now warmly welcome you to my virtual living room, because I consider you my friend!
I hope we will meet sooner, but if not, I can’t wait to see you again in 2019!
PPS If you are a current, or prior, attendee of VO Atlanta, you’re eligible to register as part of a super-early bird registration which saves you $150 on the conference registration for 2019. This offer expires March 18th. Click here to register.
As you’re reading these words, I’m at VO Atlanta, the largest gathering of voice talent in the world. When people spot me on the conference floor, one of the first things they usually say is:
“Hey, are you Paul from the Nethervoice blog? I thought I’d recognize you!”
Then we’ll chat for a few moments, and inevitably, people start asking me questions about my blog. Of course I love talking about the stories I write, and I’m happy to give aspiring bloggers some pointers.
Now, to save some time I’ve decided to answer some Frequently Asked Questions, and that way you don’t have to take any notes. So, here’s question number one:
Should every (freelance) business have a blog?
That’s a tough one to answer. I can certainly tell you why I blog, and then you should decide for yourself if blogging could be beneficial to your business.
Here’s the thing.
You could own the best store in town, but if nobody knows who you are and where to find you, you’re not going to attract any customers. So, you need to do something to get people in the door. Once your customers have found you, you have to gain their trust. Nobody likes to do business with people they don’t trust.
My blog does a number of things. It brings thousands of people to my website every month. That’s a big deal. It means that out of all the voice-overs sites they could have gone to, they go to Nethervoice.com, and they stay there for a while.
Why do they do that? Because they find something of value that makes them come back again and again. That “something” happens to be my blog. And when they read that blog, they get to know me, and they learn about my take on the business I’m in. It’s a way for me to position myself in the voice-over market place as someone who knows a thing or two about my line of work. This builds trust.
I call this approach “under the radar marketing.” What do I mean by that? Well, I’m not putting up ads that say:
“Better call Paul.
He’s the best!
If you need an international voice, Paul is your man!”
People have become allergic to this kind of in your face, self-congratulatory marketing.
Instead, I write reviews, I give advice, and I tell stories. Most people hate ads, but they love a good story!
Does this approach work for everybody? Absolutely not. I happen to love writing. I’ve been doing it for most of my life. If you don’t like to write, then a blog is not for you. Perhaps you should do a weekly podcast. Others love making videos, or they put out a picture diary on Instagram.
The important thing is to do something that excites you, and that fits you. People can sense whether or not your heart is in it.
How do you become a successful blogger?
Before I answer that question, I’d have to answer another question. How do you define success? That’s not only important for blogging, but for any area in your life. Success is one of those tricky words. We think we know what we’re talking about, but we all have our own definition.
“Success is the continued expansion of happiness, and the progressive realization of worthy goals”
The next questions would then be: What makes you happy, and what are worthy goals?
Money? Fame? Influence?
For some bloggers, success means having two hundred followers. Others want two hundred thousand. Some bloggers look at how much money their blog is making them. My blog makes me happy because it enables me to connect with people from all over the world. Clients and colleagues. And when they tell me: “What you’ve written really helped me today,” that is a success. That makes me happy.
When people write to me and say: “I don’t agree with you, but you really made look at some things in a different way,” that too is a success.
Now, if I would tell you that numbers don’t matter, I would be lying. I am proud that I now have over thirty-nine thousand subscribers. For some bloggers that’s nothing, but I look at it in the context of our small voice-over community.
If you believe that you have something that’s worthwhile sharing, you want to share it with as many people as possible. So, 39K is a nice start!
Now, back to the question. How do you become a successful blogger?
Three words: Content, Personality, and Promotion.
We all lead very busy lives. Every week I ask people to take a few minutes out of their day, and spend those minutes with me. They will only do that if they feel I have something to offer that is valuable and relevant.
My blog is a free service. It’s not a sales pitch, and I think my readers get that, and appreciate that. But there’s something else that I think makes it work.
If you want to appeal to a wide audience, you have to have a unique point of view.
Why do people watch the Late Show with Stephen Colbert? It’s not because he rehashes dry facts from the paper. It’s because he’s Stephen Colbert.
Another reason why my blog has become a success is because I know a little bit about spreading my message. And thankfully, my readers are my best promoters. Without them, I would make as much noise as one hand clapping in a soundproof room.
What should a blogger write about?
If you don’t mind, I have to answer that question with a few more questions.
1. Who is your audience?
2. What are they interested in? What are they hungry for?
3. What do you have to offer that distinguishes you from other bloggers?
One of the things I like to do is to write about topics that are timely, and make them relatively timeless. News is outdated the moment it is published. Analysis lasts much longer.
If you want to give your content more staying power, I suggest you use specific examples to make a general point. For example…
Last year, I wrote about World Voice Day, an international event held every year on April 16th. I used it as an opportunity to write about vocal health. In the past I have written about the Voice Arts Awards. I used that story to talk about the pros and cons of competitions. I wrote about Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson who was fired after physically and verbally abusing a producer. I used his story to identify seven traits of successful colleagues, and the ways they treat the people they work with.
What things should you avoid as a blogger, and what are things you should absolutely do?
Here are a couple of dos and don’ts. Let’s start with a few don’ts.
1. Do not oversell yourself. People love to buy but they hate being sold. A blog is about offering value for free, and about creating a connection. Once people start trusting you, they will start trusting your product, especially if you happen to be your product.
If you wish to increase sales, don’t make it about selling.
2. If you want to highlight what you have to offer, don’t make it all about you. Show people what you’re made of, but avoid the ME, ME, ME-stories. Focus on your readers.
Here are a few do’s:
3. Educate without lecturing. Come across as an expert, but not as a know-it-all. The most compelling way to pack information is to make it fun and light. Make your blog conversational, as if you’re talking to one reader who is sitting across the table from you. Use stories to make a point.
4. Always do your research. Make it easy for your readers to find and check your sources. If you want people to look at you as a reliable source of information, don’t spread rumors or make claims you cannot back up. It may take you years to get a decent following. It takes one stupid gaffe to lose your tribe.
Give your readers an opportunity to go one level deeper by giving them links to sources and resources. It will enhance your credibility.
5. Care about your readers, but don’t care about their opinions. If you feel like stirring the pot, then do it. Push that envelope. If you want to bring about change, you have to start pissing people off. Make a few folks uncomfortable. But be prepared to live with the consequences.
I once wrote a blog post about podcasting that didn’t go over so well with the podcasting community. People started calling me all kinds of nasty names, and I had to change my comments policy because of it.
Some stories come easier than others. On average I’d say I spend at least one day every week on my blog, but usually more. This includes prep time, writing, rewriting, and publishing. It also includes how long it takes me to respond to your comments, tweets, Facebook & LinkedIn messages, and emails.
Absolutely, and this brings me back to the beginning. People don’t do business with someone they don’t know and can’t find. Years ago I was at a voice-over conference, and I did a presentation. At the beginning I asked people how they had heard about me. No one said:
“Because you’re on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+.”
Most of them said: “We know you because we read your blog every week.”
Now, you might say: “These people are your colleagues. Not your clients.” Well, I happen to get a lot of business through referrals from colleagues. But my blog is also read by agents, on-camera actors, producers, audio engineers, and other freelancers.
What many people don’t realize is that I’m also a voice-over coach. Most of my students come to me because they’ve read my blog and/or my book.
So, in all modesty I can say that my blog did put me on the map. People visit my website because of it. They don’t go to a voice casting site or my Facebook page to find me. They come directly to me, and I can deal with them on my turf, and on my terms. To me, that’s huge!
How did your blog get over 39,000 subscribers?
Let me tell you: it didn’t happen overnight. It is the result of a lot of calculated small steps, and the support of my readers.
If you want to have that kind of success, the bigger question really is: Why would people come to your website?Why would they want to spend some of their limited time with you, week in, week out?
Here’s the answer:
You have to offer them something of value that is relevant to what they’re doing and thinking, and you have to present your content in a way that’s easy on the eyes.
People also read blogs to find out where someone stands. My most opinionated pieces are the usually biggest hits. People like controversy, and a good rant. As a blogger I have made many friends, and also a few enemies.
In summary: content, relevance, value, personality, and a pleasant format is what brings people to a blog.
But there’s even more to it.
If I were to write for the VO-community only, I would never have gotten where I am today. If you wish to be successful, you have to widen your reach. How do you do that? Start by asking yourself:
What greater community am I a part of?
This is what I came up with:
– Actors & artists
– The self-employed
– The underemployed
– Small business owners
As a narrator and voice actor, I’m also in touch with:
– Linguists & translators
– Sound engineers
– e-Learning specialists
– Advertisers & Social Media specialists
– People in the entertainment industry
Looking at this list, I had an idea: What if I were to write a blog that would be of interest to all of these groups? That way, I could use the angle of the voice-over industry as an example of a much greater picture. This really brings us back to one of my most important content rules:
If you want to appeal to a wide audience, you have to have a unique point of view.
Take fellow-freelancers for instance. They run into the same problems as I do as a voice-over professional:
• How do you put a price on your product?
• How do you handle challenging clients?
• How do you advertise your services?
• How do you overcome fear of failure?
• Where do you find new business?
Those are some of the things I write about every week.
Last but not least, you have to use technology to spread the word. My publishing platform is WordPress, and I let some of the WordPress plugins do part of the work for me.
A few tips:
1. I optimize my blog for search engines, using the All in One SEO Pack plugin. This allows me to enter a title, a short description of the topic, and keywords to the blog.
2. On the day my blog is posted to my website, I add it to relevant Facebook groups, such as Voice-Over Pros. I try not to post the blog to all groups at once.
3. I add it to relevant LinkedIn groups, to Google+, my Tumblr site. I add it to StumbleUpon and Reddit. Some of that is automated via the JetPack plugin. I usually write special Twitter links with shortened url’s.
4. I make it easy for people to subscribe to my blog. Some bloggers offer an incentive to get people to subscribe. It’s usually a free book or link to a video. I don’t do that, but I’ve heard it works well.
5. I encourage people to add my blog to Feedly, a content curator.
6. People can search for blog content by typing in keywords, or by category.
7. I have a list of the most popular posts, and a list of the most recent posts.
8. I offer them related posts. That way they stay on my site a bit longer. For this I use the Related Posts by Zemanta plugin.
9. I encourage my readers to share my stories with friends and colleagues, and people do.
10. I reward interaction. I do my best to thank every commentator and people who share my content. I believe in the power of PR: positive reinforcement. First-time commentators get an automated thank you note, via the Thank Me Later plugin.
All these small steps combined create a nice wave of publicity, and it’s such a joy to ride that wave with you!
Thank you so much for your comments, and for your continued support. It means more to me than I’ll ever be able to put into words.
If you happen to be at VO Atlanta for the next few days, I’d love to meet you in person!
It’s February 2018, and the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang are in full swing.
Since the start of these games I have been glued to the television.
For me, that’s a strange thing to do, and I’ll tell you why.
I’m not a huge sports fan. I don’t support one particular team. Between you and me, I think mostsports coverage is overrated as the most important of very unimportant news.
I often wonder why millions of people get all psyched about a major game, but seem to care very little about famine, global warming, or the annihilation of yet another endangered species.
I don’t get why some folks are willing to fork over a fortune to buy tickets to a match, but aren’t willing to pay a few dollars more in taxes so their state can properly fund education, or repair those bridges that are on the brink of collapse.
I don’t understand why people make time to go to a lame game where two teams are chasing a round rubber object, but they couldn’t be bothered to leave the house to vote.
I find it profoundly disturbing that music, drama, and art teachers are always the first to be fired when schools need to cut jobs, but nobody dares to touch the athletic department.
Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m not fully integrated into American society yet. The USA is a country where baseball is called “The National Pastime,” and where NFL stars are paid more to defend their team’s title than we pay servicemen and women to defend their nation.
How we spend our money as a society, reveals our priorities.
If you want to know what’s important to a country, you should also listen to its language. U.S. politicians talk about “leveling the playing field.” Motivational speakers teach strategies for “winning the game of life,” and managers will ask us to “step up to the plate.”
Sport is part of the American spirit.
Enthusiasts tell us that it teaches healthy habits, strategic thinking, and teamwork. Sport, they say, is a powerful metaphor for life.
That may be, but is sport always healthy?
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, an international non-profit organization aimed at preventing unintentional childhood injury, every 25 seconds, a child athlete suffers a sports injury serious enough to send him or her to the emergency room (source). At age twenty, American snowboarder Trevor Jacob once admitted that his memory is already a little fuzzy as the result of at least 25 concussions.
And what does sport teach us about relationships?
When we talk about sports, we’re talking about competition. Competition is based on confrontation where being the best is often more important than doing one’s best. The aim is to overpower the other team or fellow-competitor(s), rather than to work together as teams toward a common goal. It’s a black-and-white world of us against the rest. A world of winners and losers.
America does not like losers.
These days, the world of professional sports is also a universe of sponsorships, mega-contracts, endorsements, and merchandise. You may be thinking that you’re watching a fun game, but in reality it is a shameless vehicle for product promotion. At this point the ad agencies have conditioned us so well, that many viewers are more excited about the TV commercials than about the game itself.
As voice-overs we’re benefitting from this development because we often lend our voices to these commercials. Fifteen seconds of script can pay the bills for an entire month.
Many of us have embraced sports metaphors in our line of work. We talk about “winning or losing an audition,” and we sign up for seminars to stay “ahead of the competition.” A bottle of “Entertainer’s Secret” is the performance enhancing drug of choice.
Having said that, I think it’s a big mistake to compare our job to what athletes do. First of all, most athletes are in much better shape! Secondly, we’re not running a race (although it may feel that way). We’re not competing for a place on the podium.
Yes, just like athletes we need coaching, quality equipment, and experience. Our success demands sacrifice. But submitting an audition is not the same as entering a competition, because we do not determine the outcome.
BEING THE BEST
In many sports, the fastest competitor wins. It’s that simple. Winning an audition has little to do with being the best. It’s about being the best fit in the eyes and ears of whoever is casting the part.
As voice talents we are not opponents. We’re colleagues. We have no title to defend or national reputation to uphold. Your success does not diminish my standing. As far as I’m concerned, we have a common goal:
To deliver the best service, to increase our standards, and to ensure that we’re getting paid a fair and decent rate.
In order to do that, we need to lead by example, and we need to stick together.
Clients love to have us fight among ourselves, especially about rates. They’re trying to drive a wedge between those who sell their talent for less, and those who refuse to devalue what we have to offer. It’s up to us to play that game or not.
One thing I know for sure.
As long as we see each other as competitors with a price to beat, there’s only going to be one winner: The Client.
Back to the Olympics.
By now you know I’m not that much into sports, but I have been watching what’s happening in PyeongChang. Even though I don’t consider myself to be a chauvinist, I’m usually rooting for the guys and girls in orange: the Dutch team. But what really got me, was something that happened during the games in Rio.
New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin tripped and fell to the ground during the 5,000m race, accidentally bringing American D’Agostino down behind her with around 2,000m to go. The 24-year-old D’Agostino was quick to get up again, yet instead of carrying on with her race she stopped to help the stricken Hamblin to her feet, encouraging her to join her in attempting to finish the race. However, during her tumble, D’Agostino suffered an ankle injury, slowing the runner down, but Hamblin sportingly hung back to in return offer her encouragements. The two women went on to complete the race together.
Now, that’s the spirit I love in sports, and I love seeing it in my profession too: people helping each other succeed.
So, be a good sport. Take the time to become good at what you do before you enter the race. Get an excellent coach. Buy professional equipment. Engage in fair play. Cheer each other on.
You might not receive a medal, but you’ve just earned my respect, and the respect of your community.
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