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Paul Picks the Best of his Blog

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles 8 Comments

In order to know where you’re going, it’s essential to know where you are and where you came from.

As predicted, 2011 is history.

Because we’re always so focused on the future, we rarely take the time to look back and appreciate what we’ve accomplished. Yet, in this first week of the new year, people like to take stock of their lives as they welcome a new beginning.

Had I not done that, I would have missed the fact that this is my hundred and first contribution since I started writing this blog. My stats reveal that -on average- every article was read 965 times.

Numbers, however, are cold and cannot express how deeply grateful I am that week after week you have taken a few moments out of your day to walk through this Double Dutch door.

Yes, it’s flattering to have made this year’s list of Most Influential VO-Bloggers, but I didn’t make it happen all by myself.

You did.

You are the soundboard that resonates when I strike a chord.

Without you, my words would dissipate as swiftly as a New Year’s resolution on January 2nd. Without your comments (almost 1,700 so far), emails and other conversations, I would be talking to myself (and believe me, I do too much of that already).

Since this is the official blog of Nethervoice, I’d like to indulge myself and use this last post of 2011 to revisit some of this year’s milestone moments in the history of… me.

Here are a few things I am proud of and thankful for:

1. In 2011 I landed four new agents on three continents

2. I designed and built a soundproof voice-over studio in my basement

3. Moving to a Mac, I upgraded practically all my hard- and software

4. At Faffcon 3 I had the opportunity to share my blogging secrets

5. I published two eBooks: “Building a Vocal Booth on a Budget” and “Boosting your Business with a Blog

6. My eighth audio book just went on sale. It’s called “Brains on Fire” and (appropriately) it’s about word of mouth marketing

MY YEAR IN QUOTES

If you don’t mind, I’d love to end this year by looking back at 2011 as we flip through the pages of past posts. What’s worth remembering and what shall we put into the recycle bin? To refresh your memory, here are some of my favorite quotes:

“It’s so easy to speak in generalizations and pretend we understand one another. When we do, we usually don’t.”

from: “Taken for a Ride

“I strive to inform, I attempt to entertain and yes… I also like to rock the boat every once in a while. As a voiceover professional, it is my job to be outspoken.”

from: “Hanging Up My Hat

“Most people find it easier to sum up what they don’t want. Take it from me: You’ll never get anywhere by focusing on the things you wish to avoid. In fact, you’re more likely to attract the very things you’re running away from.”

from: “Are You a Winner or a Whiner

“If you never stick your neck out, you won’t get hurt, but you won’t rise above the rest either.”

from: “Finding your Value as a Voice-Over

“The voice-over future is filled with gloom and doom. When people tell you less is more, they’re usually referring to your rate and not to your interpretation of the script. ”

“If you want to make lots of money, you have two options: you either apply for a job at the U.S. Mint, or you start an online voice casting business.”

from: “Pimping Your Pipes”

“How long does it take to find a quality needle in a huge haystack made of scrap metal?”

from: “Why Pay to Plays will Implode

“Is Ted Williams honing his Kraft or is he still recovering from rehab?”

from: “Pimping Your Pipes”

“Every year, tens of thousands of self-employed people file for bankruptcy because they made one big mistake: they followed a dream and forgot to run the numbers. They are what I like to call ‘under-estimators’.”

“Your fee structure will help you attract the kind of customers you want to be working for, and the type of jobs you are shooting for. At the same time it will weed out the folks that cannot or will not afford you; the ones that are most likely to give you a hard time anyway.”

from: “The Power of Pricing

“Just because a client needs you, doesn’t mean they can afford you, or that you can afford to work for them.”

from: “The Lowdown on Lowballing

“Stop making excuses for those who don’t respect you enough to pay you a decent fee. Unless you’ve seen their balance sheet, you don’t know what they can or cannot afford. Know your bottom line. Add value. Don’t compromise so easily. Negotiate. Dare to say NO to a bad deal. Study the art of making the sale. It’s part of being a pro.”

“The key is adding value. If you don’t offer exceptional value, then your product or service becomes just another commodity. People buy commodities on price. If you’re just another web designer, voice-over artist or a car dealership, you’re in trouble. Value means offering more for a higher price.”

“Those who can’t build value, have nothing left but to compete on price.”

“Being extraordinary talented in what you do, doesn’t guarantee instant success. Life might have dealt you a pretty good hand, but if you don’t know how to play the game, even the best cards are useless. “

from: “Those Bloody Bottom Feeders

“You can set the stage, learn your lines and lessons and strive to be the best you can be. But you can’t force feed your target markets, especially if you don’t know what they’re hungry for.”

“Stop pushing and start listening. Don’t offer a solution before you know what the problem is.”

“If self-control were that easy, very few people would smoke; all of us would maintain the perfect weight and prisons would be empty.”

from: “Can You Control Your Career

“We are free people, living in a free country who earned the right to free themselves of any free time.”

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

from: “Give Me a Break

“Bad habits are very effective strategies for consistently getting undesired results.”

from: “Your Biggest Blind Spot

“If you happen to hire voices, I have a message for you: We can read your script but we can’t read your mind.”

from: “What the heck is Neutral English?

“I go online for information and communication; not for salvation. For me, conversion rate is about turning visitors into customers. Let’s not trivialize the sacred scriptures and turn the internet into a stairway to heaven.”

from: “8 Things I Hate About You

“I’ve come to the conclusion that VO-Pros and cows have one thing in common: they are ruminants. Most ruminants have four stomachs. The first stomach chamber (the “rumen”) is the chamber in which large amounts of food are stored and softened. Once it is processed, it is regurgitated and chewed and digested again in different chambers. At the end there’s only one thing left: bullsh*t.”

from: “Why you a boring me to death

“Shit happens. You just have to make sure it doesn’t hit your fans.”

from: “Mad as Hell

“I firmly believe that the quality of our life is greatly determined by the quality of our relationships. Taking the time to strengthen those relationships is vital and invigorating.”

from: “How I Became An Egotistical Bastard

“People in our profession have a strange relationship with the truth. We get paid to pretend. The most convincing liars get the nicest paychecks, an Oscar and a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. However, true talent, trust and integrity are the cornerstones of a successful career. Trust must be earned. True talent and integrity can never be faked.”

from: “Ten Lies Voice Overs Tell

“Your mindset is the filter through which you look at reality and interpret what it means to you and which actions to take.”

“There are no silver platters, silver bullets or golden shortcuts to the top.”

from:  “Why some will never make it

“Money is a means to a beginning. That beginning is called “autonomy”. As long as you low ball whatever it is you’re offering, you’re telling the world that you don’t believe that you’re worth a penny more. That’s not the road to independence. It’s a road to nowhere.”

“Passionate people have a tendency to be stuck in the now, absorbed in the moment. But even those who have reached the top will tell you that you need to think ahead if you want to stay ahead. If you want to manage your career, you have to learn how to manage your money.”

from: “Right on the Money

“You will never do your best work for the love of money. You do your best work when you hold yourself up to standards no one else can or will match. Your best work is always a labor of love and never the result of greed.”

from: “Are you taking kickbacks?

“Quality calls for experience, dedication, patience and passion. It’s so much easier to be average. Mediocrity can be phoned in. It doesn’t require effort, enthusiasm or attention to detail. It doesn’t ask for sacrifice, continued education or for high-end equipment.”

from: “Finding your Value as a Voice-Over

“The greatest goals are never about personal fame and fortune, and they will never come true the way you imagined them to come true.

At the end of the day, every goal is a picture of what you believe you’re capable of, with all the resources you have available right now.

That means that every goal is limited by your imagination and your perception of what is possible.

The most ambitious goals will seem unrealistic and unreasonable, and yet, even those are confined by what you think you can or cannot accomplish.”

from: “Are You a Winner or a Whiner

Have a peaceful, productive and prosperous new year!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet!

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Finding your Value as a Voice-Over

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing 9 Comments

Etymology is the study of the origin of words. If you love language the way I do, you probably love looking into its history. Delving into the deeper meaning of the things that come out of our mouths is as revealing as it is rewarding.

Take the word competition.

To most people it is synonymous with rivalry or a fight to outdo another; a race that can only have one winner and lots of losers. It’s Darwin’s theory in a nutshell.

It wasn’t always understood like that.

The word competition comes from the latin verb…

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

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Winning an Audition. Losing the Job.

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Journalism & Media, Promotion, Social Media 13 Comments

She jokingly called her students “germ bags” and described school parents as “snobby” and “arrogant.”

On Facebook.

As a result, this Massachusetts math and science teacher lost her $92,636-a-year job.

A waitress at a pizza restaurant in uptown Charlotte was fired after making derogatory remarks about customers who’d made her work an hour past the end of her shift and only left a small tip.

On Twitter.

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried lost his job as the voice of the Aflac duck, after the insurance company found out he was tweeting “jokes” about the devastating tsunami in Japan.

Free speech is a wonderful thing, as long as you realize who’s listening. Big Brother is following you. He might even be a

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

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Are you afraid of raising your rates?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Money Matters 25 Comments

“Those who can’t build value, have nothing left but to compete on price.” Paul Strikwerda

At the end of December 2011, Alex Rodriguez had earned $39,000,000. That’s 33 million in salary and winnings from the New York Yankees, and 6 million in endorsements. Not bad for a year’s work.

Do you think he’s worth it?

In 2006, entertainment tycoon David Geffen sold Jackson Pollock’s painting No. 5, 1948 for 140 million dollars. Assuming you had that kind of spare change, would you spend it on a painting described by some as “stunning drip”?

Can you tell me why 15-year old actress Abigail Breslin reportedly made $65K for 5 hours of voice-over work for the animated film “Zambezia”? Yes, that’s $13,000 per hour!

Let’s be honest: what did these people really do?

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

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The Amateur Infestation

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Internet, Journalism & Media 65 Comments

They’re everywhere. Haven’t you noticed?

Take one good look. Let’s start with your online shopping.

Who’s responsible for most reviews on Amazon.com?

Experts? Consumer advocates? Independent test laboratories?

No. Amateurs!

Who just gave your favorite movie two stars on Netflix? The movie critic of the New York Times?

No. Amateurs!

What kind of people put the “reality” in reality TV?

Amateurs!

Where would talent shows like “American Idol,” “The X Factor” and “The Voice” be without…

Amateurs!

Credentials are so yesterday. Experience is optional. If it breathes and has half a brain, 

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

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Those Bloody Bottom Feeders

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Internet, Money Matters, Promotion 51 Comments

“It’s not the crook we fear in modern business; rather, it’s the honest guy who doesn’t know what he is doing.” Owen Young

The lines have been drawn.

The time to mince words is over.

Every day, our community seems to get more polarized around the issue of low rates. Listen to the buzz. Look at the chatter. Do you think this bubble is about to burst?

Some people are past being polite. They’re frustrated and angry. I like that. If you’re pissed off at something, it means you give a damn and you want things to change.

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

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The Lowdown on Lowballing

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, International, Money Matters 70 Comments

You’ve probably heard the story of the priest who preached the same sermon every Sunday.

After a few weeks, some of the parishioners got tired of it and demanded an explanation.

“Do you really want to know why I’m repeating myself at every service?” asked the priest. The crowd nodded.

“I will continue to tell you the same thing over and over again, until you take it to heart and do something with it.

If you don’t change your behavior, I don’t see any reason for me to change my sermon.”

Well, I may be the son of a minister, but as a writer, I can certainly relate to this priest. When it comes to setting rates, I sometimes feel I’m talking to a sea of people with frighteningly short memories and no backbone.

Watch me as I go to my pulpit and address the crowd:

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

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Are You a Winner or a Whiner?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 12 Comments

We all do it.

With the best of intentions.

We tell ourselves that this is the year we will turn things around.

Finally.

We even tell the world.

And then we move on with our lives and ‘forget’ about it.

A year passes, and we wonder why nothing has changed.

And we always find something or someone to blame.

Our greatest accomplishments and our greatest disappointments are well-planned.

People are good at setting themselves up for failure, and good at setting themselves up for success.

It starts between the ears.

Winners understand the power of planning.

Whiners live from day to day.

Winners say:

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

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Why Some Will Never Make It

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 78 Comments

I remember exactly where I was when it happened.

On my way to Las Vegas, I popped in a Tony Robbins tape from his Personal Power series.

Tony Robbins is a hugely successful motivational speaker, trainer and writer. If you have a million dollars, he’ll give you his private number and you may call him 365 days a year for a private coaching session.

People either love him or hate him. Those who hate him are usually put off by his hyped up, in your face presentation style. Those who love him are pumped up by his towering presence and contagious enthusiasm, whether it’s on CD, during a live seminar or on TV.

Robbins built his career on…

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

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The Essence of Excellence

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Journalism & Media 25 Comments

Some have called him the greatest performer of spoken word of our time.

His videos have brought YouTube viewers to tears. His powerful performances turned comic book addicts into poetry lovers.

In 2000, he won the individual championship at the National Poetry Slam in Providence, Rhode Island – beating 250 North American competitors. In doing so, he became the first-ever winner from outside the U.S.

His first published collection, Visiting Hours, was the only work of poetry selected by the Guardian, Globe and Mail newspapers, for their Best Books of the Year lists in 2005.

And yet, most people have never heard of him.

OLYMPIC MOMENT

All of that changed when Shane Koyczan recited his poem “We Are More” at the opening ceremony for the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, British Columbia. The man who was born in the obscure town of Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories, wowed the world with his words.

Most footage of that performance is of very poor quality because the Olympic Committee regulates the rights to the original broadcast and we’re stuck with amateur video.

Here’s an extended and animated version of “We Are More”.

The reason I’m writing about Shane today can be summarized in one word:

INSPIRATION

Most days I wake up on the right side of the bed and everything just flows. Some days I feel stuck in a rut and I catch myself doing the same things I’ve always done, hoping to get a different result. It never works, does it?

To some, living life on cruise control might be the ultimate goal, but as soon as I find out that my brain has secretly switched on the autopilot, I tell it to turn it off and start doing some stretching exercises.

A big part of me has this inner urge to always learn and grow and expand what I am capable of. In order to do that, I need to be challenged beyond my boundaries. It’s the best way to escape my cozy comfort zone. But where to go? Whom can I turn to?

I am always on the lookout to emulate excellence. If I want to be the best, I have to learn from the best. That might sound straightforward to you, but in our culture that is not necessarily the predominant philosophy.

ROLE MODELS

I never understood why medical researchers seem to spend more time studying illness instead of learning about wellness. During their training, doctors-to-be poke around in dead bodies, supposedly learning the secrets to saving the living. They spend most of their time around the sick and the dying, and some of them eventually become specialists in a particular disease.

The study of the dysfunctional is the norm, but it doesn’t have to be.

In certain schools of Oriental medicine, doctors get paid to keep the people in their care healthy. Their focus is much more on preventing the root cause of a problem, rather than on treating or alleviating symptoms. Instead of trying to find a cure for diabetes, they are teaching their “patients” about a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.

It is a well-known fact that Western doctors have more problems with drugs and alcohol, and a higher suicide rate than their patients. (source) Most Oriental healers practice what they preach and keep on practicing well into their senior years. In their culture, the wisdom that comes with age is held in high regard, instead of hidden in underfunded assisted living facilities.

FINDING FAULT

Like doctors, many professionals are trained to spend most of their time on sick systems, tracking and analyzing problems. Psycho-analysts come to mind, as well as lawyers, economists and -dare I say it- politicians. We have become masters at focusing on what’s wrong and finding someone or something to blame.

“Fast food and soda made me fat. I didn’t do it! Pepsi won.”

What would have happened after 9/11, had we invested just as much money and brain power into building bridges between people, cultures and religions, as we have invested in beefing up homeland security? Or have we ignored the causes while we were busy trying to treat the symptoms?

Why not focus on creating beauty and cultivating friendships, as we fortify our nation to prevent more death and destruction? How can we sow the seeds of peace and understanding if we spend all our money and manpower building more barriers and pave over our gardens with concrete to protect us? Is that a sign of desperation or of inspiration?

I admit it: I have my dark days. When I look for inspiration and the essence of excellence, I sometimes turn to poetry and to my favorite poet: Shane Koyczan. He’s called a spoken word virtuoso for a reason.

As a professional speaker, I admire the way he hammers his words in with heart and with soul. They almost burn into my brain. I’d love to emulate his mastery of language and moving delivery. His artistry is the challenge I am looking for. His depth is what I aspire to.

Shane speaks to me in a way few other people do. One moment he seems to tenderly touch his words with velvet gloves, only to start building a tremendous crescendo of ideas and similes and associations my mind tries to process intellectually but cannot, until what’s left is an overwhelming feeling of intense exaltation.

It’s almost a hypnotic induction.

A great example of his style is the poem “Beethoven”. Even though the quality of the recording leaves a bit to be desired for, it is a monumental performance.

Shane Koyczan still performs his work for sold out houses, but he has done something else. He created a new genre called Talk Rock with his band the Short Story Long. His unique mix of song and verse won him the “Best New Artist” award at the BC Interior Music Awards in 2009.

Even though the poetry corner at my bookstore seems to be shrinking day by day, the spoken word is alive and kicking in Canada. And I can’t help but wonder: what would happen if the world would feed itself with the art of poets, painters, dancers and musicians instead of with the language of hate, discrimination, intolerance, fanaticism and violence? 

Shane Coyczan:

“Because there are times when the cost of truth is so high, we endure our own hearts to hearts break. We make love into a currency that can’t be cashed in, because there has never been a bank that will give out a loan based on the collateral of hope.”

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS What inspires you? Who is your inspiration?

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