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My Best Year Ever

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Career, Freelancing, International, Internet, Journalism & Media, Money Matters, Pay-to-Play, Promotion, Social Media 11 Comments

The author, photographed by Kevin HornAt the beginning of 2014, I took a big risk with this blog.

I no longer wanted to write about things such as:

– What is the best acoustic foam money can buy?

– Should we record standing up or sitting down?

– ISDN. Disappearing when?

– Pay to Play, Yea or Nay?

… and all the other questions that come back ad infinitum on Facebook, LinkedIn and in other social media. In Spoon-feeding Blabbermouths I vented my frustration with being asked to answer the same basic questions over and over again. I wrote:

It’s not my job to do someone else’s homework. Those who wish to make it in this field have to be proactive, independent, and resourceful. If they can’t be bothered to do a simple Google search, why should I take time out of my busy day to do it for them?

I still wanted to write about voice-over related topics, but only if the subject matter would allow me to dig deeper. As an avid snorkeler, I know that things get much more interesting under the surface of the sea.

GROWING MY READERSHIP

There’s another reason for moving away from the road much traveled. Over the years, I discovered that only a part of my readers consisted of voice-over colleagues. Many frequent visitors were fellow freelancers, artists, directors, bloggers, and entrepreneurs. If I wanted to increase my readership, I had to make sure to keep it relevant for them.

The big question is: Did I make a huge mistake or did my efforts pay off?

Well, I’ll let the numbers do the talking. At the beginning of 2014 I had about 3,000 subscribers. At the last day of that year, I counted over 32,100!

PUBLISHING SUCCESS

One of the things that really helped me increase my readership was the publication of my book Making Money In Your PJs, freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs which came out in May. With over 400 pages of practical information for about $10 (eBook) or about $17 for a paperback, it really is a steal. I say this in all honesty and humility. 

Another element in my “success formula” is the way I started using social proof. You can read about it in The Power of One. In this post I go over some of the main reasons why people buy.

A third reason for the growth of this blog (and my business) has to do with what I am willing to let go of, and how I handle problems. In Giving Up, I wrote about the things most people who want to be successful don’t wish to see or hear, and I concluded:

There is no success without setbacks, and when times are tough, you need to reconnect with what ultimately drives you.

YOUR LIFE. YOUR BUSINESS.

That is easier said than done. That’s why I wrote a series about four aspects that play a vital part in the way we live our lives, and the way we run our business. These aspects are Physical, Mental, Material and Spiritual.

The first article in this series entitled Mind Your Own Business, dealt with the physical aspect of our jobs. It inspired numerous colleagues to look at their unhealthy lifestyles, and even to go on a diet! Hundreds of pounds have been lost since then, and a number of Faffcon 7 participants received a copy of my book to celebrate those losses.

In part two, The Stuff Between Your Ears, I share 10 attributes I believe to be the trademark of any successful solopreneur. In part three –Call Me Materialistic– I explore the important relationship between having the right tools for the job, and a little thing called confidence.

On June 18th I published my most personal post to date. It’s a down to earth story about spirituality, and how it relates to the work we do. Here’s a quote:

To me, leading a spiritual life acknowledges the fact that we don’t live on an island. Whether we realize it or not, we’re all part of a larger whole. We’re all connected. Our individual choices and actions have the potential to influence other individuals.

DEALING WITH DISASTER

In July I wrote another very personal story after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. 298 men, women, and children of various nationalities lost their lives. About two-thirds of them were from the Netherlands. It’s called Tears, Tragedy and an End to Conflict.

We often wonder why bad things happen to good people. This prompted me to write Life’s Unfair. Get used to it! In it, I try to come to terms with senseless tragedies. Of course there are no easy answers, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask the questions.

One of the reasons I publish an overview of past posts each year, is because even the most loyal Nethervoice-followers tend to miss stories, which they often regret. Speaking of regret, the following quote is taken from an article I published in September called Forget Regret:

It’s unfair and irrational to explain or judge the past using today’s standards. Present knowledge is unhelpful because it’s limited, and colored by personal ideas of how we think this world works or should work. Present knowledge doesn’t change the past one bit. It just changes our perspective.

CONTROVERSY

One thing I did not regret was publishing a series of articles on a new awards show for voice talent. The first story was called The Voice Arts™ Awards, The New Pay to Play? The follow-up, Paying For Your Prize broke all records. It was read over 3,000 times, and it prompted many heated discussions on this blog, and outside of it. People loved me for writing it, and they hated me for the same reason.

I responded with Partypooper Unleashes Sh*tstorm, and When the Manure hits the Fan. In my last response I quoted a reaction from one of the organizers of the Voice Arts™ Awards to my story. Here’s part of what he had to say:

The intention of the article (…) was to hurt, not inform. Brush it off. With success and recognition comes the unfortunate trail of parasites who, lacking the erudition to create anything truly inspired, seek their sustenance from sucking the life blood of others.

Well, this “parasite” went on to write a seven-part series on script delivery and performance. See for yourself if it lacked erudition and inspiration. You can read the introduction in The Funniest Joke of the Year. In it, I ask the question: 

What makes a good delivery? What’s involved; can it be learned or does it come naturally?

MASTERFUL SCRIPT DELIVERY

In The Worst Acting Advice Ever (part two), discuss something I must have heard a million times: “Just be you, and you’ll do just fine.” Here’s a quote:

Whether on stage, in front of a camera or in the recording studio, you’re not hired to “just be you.” You’re hired to be your best, most professional self, and to make it sound (and look) perfectly spontaneous.

In How to be Believable, I tackle the next aspect of masterful delivery. Once again I try to break seemingly simple concepts down into bitesize pieces. In this case, I discuss the concept of congruence.

The next article in this series (What Clients Hate the Most) proposes that delivery is about much more than the way we read our lines. As a solopreneur, we’re judged by the way we deliver a total package. The bottom line: If you advertise yourself as a pro, you have to present yourself as a pro on ALL levels.

In The Secret to Audio Book Success, I examine how great narrators such as Jim Dale, have the ability to stay in character, and then switch character and get back to the first character, while introducing a third. They do this for hours at a time in a space smaller than a prison cell. I also introduce you to Gary Catona, the voice builder.

This series continues with The Devil is in the Delivery, which focuses on mistakes narrators make every day that cause them to lose auditions. I conclude with a story about something that’s not for sale, and yet it is one of the most sought after things in the world: Charisma. Once again, it’s one of those things everyone is talking about, but very few people have taken the trouble to demystify it. That’s exactly what I attempt to do in Defining the IT-Factor.

ON STAGE

2014 was also the year I made my stage debut. Granted, it wasn’t Broadway, but a local historic production in which I played activist-philosopher Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense. You can read about it in my blog post Acting Out In Publicwhich inspired several colleagues to audition for plays in their neck of the woods. You’ll see that there’s a huge difference between the studio and the stage!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know about my interest in sales and marketing. It’s something many freelancers know very little about. They always wonder: “Is there some secret way to make sure clients buy from me?” If that question interests you, I hope you will read How To Sell Without Selling.

One of the greatest obstacles to professional growth can be very close to home. Some people have a tendency to make their own life rather difficult. If that’s something you recognize, I invite you to read Getting In Our Own Way.

LOOKING AHEAD

At the start of a new year it’s not only good to look back, but also to plan for the future. Are you going to play it safe, or will it be a year in which you dare to take some risks? Perhaps it is time to ask yourself what your job really does for you. If you’re wondering about that, I encourage you to read A Means to an End which examines the question “Why am I doing what I am doing?”

And finally, if you’re looking at your motivation, you might wonder what has held you back all this time. What reasons, excuses and rationalizations do you need to let go of, before you allow yourself and your business to grow rapidly and organically. You may find some clues in What Is Holding You Back.

If you’ve enjoyed spending a small part of your Thursday with me (that’s the day I usually publish my blog), there’s no need to thank me. I just hope you’ll share your enthusiasm with someone else who -in turn- will become a regular reader.

As long as you do your part, I promise to treat you to more thought-provoking, controversial, and insightful articles in 2015.

Happy New Year!

May it be your best year ever!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be Sweet. Please retweet!

photo credit: Kevin Horn, http://www.blinkpix.net

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Paul’s Great Giveaway

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Freelancing, Journalism & Media, Pay-to-Play, Promotion 15 Comments

The other day, one of my colleagues asked me an interesting question.

“Paul,” he said, “Why don’t you speak at voice-over conferences? I mean, we have a number of these events throughout the year, and you’re never on the program. Don’t you feel that you’re being ignored?”

“Not really,” I said. “You seem to think they should invite me. Why is that?” 

“Well, for one, you’ve published a pretty unconventional voice-over book this year. They always invite authors to these events. Secondly, your blog has thirty thousand subscribers. I don’t think anyone in our small industry has as many followers. Doesn’t that mean anything?

But more importantly, many see you as one of the thought leaders of our community. Weren’t you the guy who kind of discovered Studiobricks and the CAD E100S microphone? These days, most colleagues have either heard about them or got one. I think that’s pretty amazing.”

“That may be true,” I said, “but that doesn’t make me (keynote) speaker material. You’d be surprised how many people still believe that I live and work in the Netherlands! They’re not going to fly a Dutchman in to speak at a conference in the States. Even though I’ve been here since 1999 and I’m a U.S. citizen, the myth persists that I reside in Holland with one of my fingers stuck in a dyke.

Secondly, some of these conferences are organized and frequented by people I have managed to piss off in the past. I don’t think voices.com or any other Pay to Play will ever ask me to say a few words, or even write a guest post for one of their online publications. They’re probably too afraid I will say something that is less than flattering. And you know what? They’re right!

I don’t play the game that everything is hunky-dory in voiceoverland. I consider myself to be a positive person, yet, when I feel my colleagues are being taken advantage of, I can’t help but raise my voice. That’s how I was brought up.

Having a minister for a father has taught me that so-called authority figures are ordinary people like you and me. They fail from time to time. They love the limelight. They enjoy being looked up to. And many of them can’t handle criticism very well. They take it way too personally. But there’s more.

Throughout the years I have blogged about increasing voice-over rates, and raising professional standards. I’ve talked about coming together as a professional group, and about ways to counter the erosion of quality and the influx of cheap, ignorant amateurism. Some have seen that as an attack on the free market. Others believe I enjoy belittling beginners. You know better than that.

The way I see it, many conferences want to create an atmosphere of We’re one happy family. Look how wonderful it is to be in voice-overs! Imagine this silly Dutch guy walking in on his wooden shoes, creating controversy. Why doesn’t he go back to Europe where he belongs?”

My colleague chuckled. I continued:

“Here’s the thing. On one hand, we have a very supportive community. If you need a new pop filter, tons of people will tell you which one to get. But if you wish to create a strong, non-profit, member-driven international association of voice actors such as the world voices organization, most colleagues look the other way. What are they afraid of? A little bit of solidarity? Socialism? You tell me!

World Voices is trying to do what I have been doing in my blog for years: Empower and educate people; give them tools to stand out from the crowd. I guess empowerment and critical thinking isn’t that popular anymore. But I digress, don’t I?”

“You could say that,” said my colleague. “I was just wondering why you don’t speak at voice-over conferences. I really think you could shake things up a little.”

I paused for a moment. Then I said: “A prominent voice actor opened up to me recently, and confessed:

‘I considered inviting you to my event, but I was afraid you’d be too critical.’

That surprised me a little. Is that really how people perceive me? 

When I look back at all the stories I have written, most of them were about the business of being in business. I’ve written about selling, marketing, and about communicating with clients and colleagues. I just finished a six-part series on improving voice-over performance. None of that stuff I would label as controversial.

Even if I’ve been critical in some of my writings, why would that be a bad thing? Are we that insecure? As they say: Feedback is the breakfast of champions. It helps us learn and grow. Getting a kick in the pants may hurt little, but any coach knows it’s sometimes necessary for a student to make progress.”

My colleague nodded approvingly. I leaned forward, and whispered: “Do you want to know the real reason why I don’t speak at conferences?”

“Absolutely,” he answered. “I’ve been waiting for that.”

“It’s actually very simple,” I said with a smile. “I’m too shy and too modest.”

“Get out of here,” he responded.

“You? Shy and modest? You must be joking!”

“Guilty as charged,” I said. “However, with thirty thousand blog subscribers and counting, I do feel I have built up quite an audience. It’s my way of public speaking. And I’m not even charging for it. My blog is a platform I’m very proud of, and thankful for. And that’s why I want to give something back to my community.

Here’s the plan, Stan.

I’m going to ask my readers to nominate someone who -in their opinion- could really benefit from my book Making Money In Your PJs. It could be someone who’s struggling at the moment. It could be a beginner. It could be someone with talent but without any business acumen. Perhaps it’s someone who needs a little encouragement.

To keep it confidential, I want my readers to use the contact form on this website to send me the name and the email address of the person they’re nominating. No one else needs to know about it. (Please don’t nominate yourself. This is about giving, and not about getting.)

To celebrate reaching thirty thousand subscribers (and almost 1,000 Facebook fans), I will send at least thirty nominees a PDF copy of my book. Remember, that’s the edition with ten bonus chapters. The person receiving the book will not learn the identity of the person who nominated him or her. It’s like a secret Santa thing.”

So, if you’re reading these words and you have someone in mind, please let me know before December 1st. I’ll make sure they get a complimentary copy (I will not use the email addresses for promotional purposes).

And should you consider having me speak at your conference, rest assured that my bark is bigger than my bite.

As long as you don’t call me Shirley, these two lips from Holland promise to be on their best behavior.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Within a week I received over 50 nominations! It is no longer possible to enter a name. Everyone will receive a PDF copy before December 7th. Thank you!

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One Girl. Many Voices. Perdita Lawton.

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Career, Freelancing, Journalism & Media 4 Comments
Perdita Lawton with "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for Voice-Overs and other Solopreneurs," by Paul Strikwerda

Perdita Lawton

To celebrate the release of Making Money In Your PJs, freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs, I organized a  “Who-wants-to pick-Paul’s-brains contest.”

Today, I’m excited to introduce one of the winners. Her name is Perdita Lawton from the UK. She’s been a professional (voice) actor since June 2006. The photo she sent me immediately stood out, and I had to know the story behind the picture. Perdita:

“The picture was taken on my first scuba diving holiday in Malta. One of the dives was near the set of the 1980’s film Popeye starring Robin Williams. It was taken during a surface interval (to allow residual nitrogen to be absorbed). I thought it was a perfect setting, and time to read your book while taking a picture.”

When and how did you know that you wanted to become a (voice) actor? Who inspired you?

“I guess it was in training at drama school that I realised it was an equal option to theatre, television and film acting. My tutors often told me my vocal work was very strong, and a tutor and mentor Pal Aron (a professional actor) told me to get a demo done as it’s another string to an actors bow. Pal was an inspiration as well as the late Daws Butler, Nancy Cartwright, and Michael Winslow (Larvelle Jones in Police Academy). As a child I watched that series in awe of Michael’s talent!”

A lot of VO artists have a radio background. What’s yours? What kind of training did you have?

“My radio background was limited. I did a few weeks of work experience when I was 15 at a hospital radio station, and then a local radio station respectively. I really loved radio work but focused more on stage acting as I’d got the bug. I went to University where I studied English and Drama, and then I went to drama school. Vocal training involved accent, and general voice classes where you focus on breathing, pitch, tone, resonance, and projection for the stage.”

Do you have a niche, and if so, how would you describe it?

“I think a niche of mine is definitely character and animation voices, I especially enjoy doing eccentric and comedic characters. My range gets wider the more I practice and it seems to be scoring jobs in that market.”

What came first for you: voice acting or on-camera/stage acting?

“Professional stage and screen acting came first, then voice acting came due to circumstances. My late father invested money in some amazing equipment for me so I could set up my own studio in the house, while caring for him as I couldn’t commit to work away from home.”

Do you think on-camera/stage actors have a tendency to underestimate voice-over work? If so, why do you think that is?

“I think most drama schools teach vocal work, so for a lot of actors, the training is already there, and they appreciate how hard it is to convey a message and character just through the medium of voice without a physical form. They do however underestimate us being a ‘one man band’ as described in your book. They certainly underestimate the cost, marketing, business skills and technical knowledge required for a professional home set up (without paying a professional).”

How do you land jobs in this very competitive industry?

“I started getting jobs on a Pay-to-Play site. This got me a body of work built up which lead to an agent, and now I’ve got returning clients as well as new ones from the Pay-to-Play site. I’m also recently scoring some big auditions from my agent.”

Perdita Lawton headshotWhat project or projects are you most proud of and why?

“I’m actually very proud of what I did Tuesday. It’s the biggest step on the ladder so far. It’s an award-winning Polish animation that’s being dubbed into English, and I’ve voiced the lead female role along with a few smaller roles.

I spent the day with a great audio engineer directing me, and we had great fun doing so, the ‘Auntie Hen’ character I play is hilarious as are the storylines. Animation voice acting is similar to pantomime. You have to go as large as possible, and I really like that.”

What has been your greatest obstacle/challenge in your career, and how did you overcome it?

“My greatest obstacle was getting work initially. It’s the catch 22, that I’m sure many have experienced. Without experience you aren’t offered work which prevents you from getting experience. I overcame it by getting local experience voicing newspapers, and magazines for the blind. I also make my own clips when I have time, and post them on SoundCloud, social media and my website. It allows me to be creative, whilst keeping my tools sharp, and lets people see I’m active. The dating.com girls are probably my creative highlight.”

How do you approach your auditions, and how do you deal with not being selected?

“I approach auditions making sure I’ve done everything in my control to get the job: I’ve warmed up, stayed away from dairy products, and done my research on the production/company/writer or whatever may be useful to know. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I also never take rejection personally. What is for you will not pass by you, and just because you weren’t right for one voice over job doesn’t mean you won’t be right for another. The world is subjective, and it would be a boring place if we all liked the same thing!”

Tell me about your ambition. What would you really love to do, professionally speaking, and how are you working toward that goal?

“My voice acting ambition is to be England’s answer to Nancy Cartwright. I’m working towards that by getting my cartoon video seen by as many people as possible. It’s already attracted clients as well as making people laugh which is awesome.”

And lastly, back to Making Money In Your PJs. What has been your biggest take-away? Why should colleagues read it?

“There are several take-aways. It was so good, I re-read it to answer these questions to the best of my ability!

My primary light switch moment was about asking for a testimonial at the same time as agreeing to the job. I’ve been chasing after testimonials for ages with no joy. As soon as I’d read that chapter I had a job come through, and I put it in my terms of agreement, and they were happy to oblige.

Also customizing each and every demo, and not playing safe with demos too, knowing my worth and value, how to chase clients that haven’t paid and asking for a raise. I may get the Freelance Creed printed to keep in my studio.

Colleagues should read this because it’s seasoned advice from a professional, mixed with an amazingly positive attitude, and with tips that really work!”

Many thanks, Perdita!

You can follow Perdita on Twitter @LittleMissVO, and on her website at www.perditalawton.com.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be Sweet. Please retweet!

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Confessions of a Self-Published Author

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Freelancing, Journalism & Media, Promotion, Social Media 8 Comments
Debby Barnes with Making Money In Your PJs

Debby Barnes

“Brilliant.”

“Paul nails it!”

“Required reading.”

“Straight talk with heart.”

“Filled with wisdom and passion.”

“Be prepared to have your mind blown.”

“The book this industry has been waiting for.”

“Strikwerda’s writing is razor sharp and always engaging.”

These are just a few superlatives readers have used to describe my new book Making Money In Your PJs: freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs. I couldn’t be more thrilled! Seriously.

I’ve always believed that what other people have to say about your work is way more powerful than what you have to say about it yourself. I guess these quotes prove my point, and I want to thank every contributor for all the accolades bestowed upon me. And you know what?

You guys are sweet but crazy!

I rarely have bad days, but should I ever have one, all I need to do is go to Amazon.com, and read the rave reviews. Nothing is more gratifying or inspiring. And nothing goes to my head faster!

In fact, it would probably be better for my ego if someone were to give my book four stars instead of five. One person will do, if only to convince shoppers that I didn’t bribe my whole tribe to say nice things about me.

Here’s one thing you need to know: being a published author has some strange side-effects.

AUTHOR AGONY

People I’ve always wanted to connect with, suddenly seem to realize that I exist. They even want to be my Facebook friends! I’m flattered that they’re falling for my innocent scheme, and I intend to milk my new status for all it’s worth.

Fame is fickle. Today you’re the toast of the town. Tomorrow you’re yesterday’s news. So, if you’re anywhere near famous in the voice-over scene, please get in touch with me now, before I disappear into oblivion.

April Karys holding Making Money In Your PJs, freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs by Paul Strikwerda

April Karys

Some people believe that my book has made me an overnight millionaire, and want me to sponsor their event, or give away hundreds of copies. News flash: sales are going really well, but I have yet to break even. Publishing a book is much easier than selling it. You should try it some day.

There may be a sexy man on the cover, but Making Money In Your PJs ain’t no Fifty Shades of Grey. Otherwise I would have called it The Naked Voice Over, and Don Johnson’s daughter would be starring in the movie version. I do have one thing in common with E.L. James. We both like dishing out a heavy dose of tough love. I’m just not into spanking and handcuffs. In my book, SM still stands for Social Media.

SLEEPWEAR

There’s one last side-effect I can only blame myself for:

Everybody wants to know about my PJs.

“Are you wearing your PJs yet?”

“Do you go shopping in your PJs?”

“Where can I buy your PJs?”

It never stops.

Enough already!

As if you didn’t know, the title of my book is just a gimmick. I wanted something slightly more interesting than A Voice Actor’s Guide to a Freelance Career. Something catchy. Just don’t expect me to show up in my PJs at every social event. And no, my pajamas are not for sale. Yet.

Now, on to the big news.

THE CONTEST

A while ago, I launched a “Who-wants-to pick-Paul’s-brains-contest.” The idea was to invite readers to take a picture with a copy of my book which I could use for shameless self-promotion.

Well, I’m happy to say that we have three wonderful winners for three equally wonderful prizes.

Debby Barnes will get to grill me during a 45-minute ask-me-anything session. April Karys receives a signed copy of the paperback, and I will interview Perdita Lawton for this blog. Colleague Colin McLean receives an honorable mention because he’s honorable, and I’d like to mention him.

So, what’s the next stop on my book’s journey to conquer the hearts and minds of colleagues and fellow-freelancers?

I’m so glad you asked!

The core of my very humble and altruistic promotional campaign can be summed up in one word:

Perdita Lawton with "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for Voice-Overs and other Solopreneurs," by Paul Strikwerda

Perdita Lawton

WOMAN

This -of course- stands for Word Of Mouth And Narration.

The voice-over community happens to be very good at spreading the word. Some people even get paid for it. At this point, word of mouth has been generating most of my sales, which is pretty exciting.

The other day I was contacted by a VO-coach whose name you’d immediately recognize. One of her students had mentioned my book, and now she wanted a copy. A studio organizing workshops for voice actors ordered a whole stack of books for their students. Voice-over meetup groups are reading and discussing Making Money In Your PJs together. Copies are reaching Spain, Brazil, the UK and the Netherlands. Yes, I am truly going global!

In a few weeks, I’ll finish up recording the audio version of the eBook, which has ten additional chapters

With all of that going on, here’s the big question:

Is Making Money In Your PJs really “the book this industry has been waiting for,” and “a refreshing mix of common sense, business acumen and great storytelling”?

Well, that’s up to you to decide. Don’t believe your colleagues or the author.

Take your business to the next level, and use these buttons to order your copy:

 

Happy reading!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet!

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The EWABS Interview

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Career, Freelancing, Gear, Internet, Journalism & Media, Promotion, Social Media, Studio 2 Comments

Paul Strikwerda, author of "Making Money In Your PJs."East-West Audio Body Shop or EWABS, is a weekly interactive online talk show modeled after NPR’s popular “Car Talk.”

Hosted by Dan Lenard on the East Coast and George Whittam on the West, the duo answers questions about home studios, and they give tech tips on gear, soundproofing, best recording practices, and more.

Every week they also interview guests from celebrity voice actors to agents. During the show the chat room is open where colleagues comment on the topics of the day, and pose questions to the featured experts.

Every Monday evening (6PT/9EST) EWABS goes live, and you can find an archive of 144 previous programs on YouTube.

This Monday I had a chance to sit down with Dan and George, and talk about my new book, my personal background, the state of the voice-over industry, and my voice-over studio. I also read part of my story “The Most Obnoxious Man in Voice-Overs.”

The segment starts at 30:10.

Enjoy the show!

CONTEST

To celebrate the release of my new book, I invite you to enter a picture of yourself reading a copy of “Making Money In Your PJs.” You can use the paperback edition or a digital version, as long as the cover of the book is visible in the picture.

I’ll leave it up to you to make sure your photo stands out, as long as you are using the real book, or your eReader with an upload of the book. Only one entry per person, please.

You can either post your picture on the Making Money In Your PJs-Facebook page (www.facebook.com/moneyinyourpjs), or you can tweet it to @MoneyInYourPJs. If you really feel inspired, post it on both platforms.

IMPORTANT: By sending me your picture, I will assume that you give me permission to share it with my social networks, and that it’s okay with you to post it on this blog as well. You will remain the proud owner of the photo.

You have until Wednesday, June 18th at 1:00 PM EST, to enter your photo. The three winners will be revealed on Thursday, June 19th.

PRIZES

The third prize -a signed paperback of the book- will go to someone who already owns the digital version.

If you’re the winner of the second prize, I will interview you for this blog, and your story will reach 11,000+ subscribers, as well as many other readers.

The first prize is a 45-minute Skype session with me, where you can literally ask me anything about voice-overs, freelancing and self-publishing.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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Out In Paperback!

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Freelancing, Journalism & Media, Promotion, Social Media 1 Comment

author Paul Strikwerda with a copy of "Making Money In Your PJs."Many of you have asked how soon my book Making Money In Your PJs, freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs will be available.

Well, I have good news for you!

You can now order the paperback version from Amazon.com and Amazon Europe. The Kindle version is also available by clicking here. If you own an iOS device such as an iPad, click here to download the book. 

UPDATE

A lot has happened since I announced the publication of the book at the end of April. At first I didn’t realize that writing a book and publishing it, was the easy part. Getting people to actually read it, is a different matter. First, they need to know that it exists.

Two weeks ago, I launched a new website where you can read three sample chapters for free. You’ll also find out what people like Dave Courvoisier (news anchor, blogger and voice actor), John Florian (VoiceOverXtra), and David Goldberg (CEO Edge Studio) think of my book. Here’s a screenshot of top of the site. Click on the image to access the site itself.

Making Money In Your PJs by Paul Strikwerda website

This one-page website is based on the FlatBook WordPress theme designed by Erik Taylor. Erik created something that is brilliantly simple and modern-looking. With limited knowledge and experience, I was able to customize the theme, and get the site up and running in no time. Whenever I ran into my own limitations, Erik was there to guide me at no additional cost, which was absolutely phenomenal. 

I also created a fifty-second animated trailer to tell people about the book, and to promote the website. I’m new at animation, but the website www.wideo.co made this process fun and affordable. Wideo is a young company, and the creators of the software personally responded to my questions and comments. You should give it a try!

No promotional campaign is complete without a presence in social media. You may have seen the Facebook page where I am building a community of select readers and fans:

Making Money In Your PJs on Facebook

You can also follow the latest developments on Twitter:

Making Money In Your PJs on Twitter

Every publicity campaign begins with a press release. As a reader of this blog, I’d like to share it with you first:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Making Money In Your PJs is the new book by author and veteran voice actor Paul Strikwerda. Subtitled “Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs,” it offers a unique look at what it takes to be and stay in business as a voice for hire or other type of creative freelancer.

Paul Strikwerda: “Audiobook sales reached $1.6 billion in 2013, and are steadily growing. That’s one of the reasons why voice acting is hot at the moment. Year after year, thousands of hopefuls are led to believe that they can build a lucrative career as a narrator using a cheap microphone, a computer, and an internet connection. Others invest a hefty sum in expensive studio equipment, coaching, and demos, only to get nowhere. Making Money In Your PJs takes a revealing look into this booming industry where many are invited and very few are chosen.”

“Every day, I see aspiring voice-overs treat their new dream job as a hobby and fail miserably. It’s not as easy as it seems. People need more than pleasant pipes to make a living as a voice actor. They have to have business acumen in order to succeed. It’s the stuff nobody teaches you in voice-over school that can make or break a career. That’s precisely the focus of this book.”

Making Money In Your PJs covers topics such as:

  • Transforming a hobby into a profession
  • Successfully promoting a business online and offline
  • Turning potential customers into clients
  • Pricing services for profit
  • Getting paid on time, every time
  • What to do when business is slow
  • How to stand out from the competition


These are topics that not only voice actors need to address. They apply to practically anyone who is self-employed. Although this book is written from the perspective of a voice-over, any solopreneur will benefit from chapters on freelancing, marketing, handling clients, and money management.

Making Money In Your PJs is neither a “get-rich-quick by doing voice-overs guide,” nor a step-by-step course that will take the reader from voice-over novice to top talent in three days. Rather, it is a practical, personal, and often humorous account of what life is like behind the mic. It’s written with insight, intelligence, and a healthy dose of realism.

The sheer depth, breadth, and quality of the information on the pages of Making Money in Your PJs makes this book an obligatory resource in your library of voice-over and freelance success-building. 

About the author

Paul Strikwerda is a multilingual voice actor, coach, and writer with 30 years of experience. His weekly blog is one of the most influential in the voice-over industry. He’s an expert-contributor to Edge Studio, Internet Voice Coach, the International Freelancers Academy, and recordinghacks.com. Paul grew up in the Netherlands and now lives and works in the historic town of Easton, Pennsylvania. Previous books include Building a Vocal Booth on a Budget, and Boosting Your Business with a Blog

You may reach the author via the Contact Form on this website, to set up interviews and arrange speaking engagements.

The actual press release will have my full contact information, but I won’t share that on this blog. I receive well over fifty spam comments a day, and that’s why I’m not displaying every detail on this page.

WHAT’s NEXT?

So far, I’ve been doing most of the legwork myself, and that’s part of my job as an author. But as my campaign is warming up, I could certainly use some help in the word-of-mouth department. I’ve already experienced that voice actors tend to be very good at it (no surprise there), and that’s why I have a question for you.

If you are a fan of this blog, I hope you’ll help me spread the news about Making Money In Your Pjs. After all, the book wouldn’t be here, had you not asked for it! Follow the latest developments on Twitter and Facebook, and do tell your friends and colleagues about it.

The ultimate goal of Making Money In Your PJs is not to make me rich and famous, but to assist and inspire our community in becoming more professional. I wrote it to raise our morale, our standards, as well as our rates.

If this message resonates with you, put on your PJs, and start making some noise!

Thank you!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet. 

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The Power of One

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Career, Freelancing, Internet, Money Matters, Promotion, Social Media 10 Comments

Ten Thousand FansThursday, March 6th 2014 was a good day.

It was the day this blog reached 5,000 subscribers. But it didn’t stop there

In less than two months, that number doubled. I could barely believe it.

What did I do to make this happen? And more importantly, what can you do to get there too?

Well, I can tell you right off the bat that I don’t have some secret formula, or a shady deal with one of those companies that promise to take your website to the top of the major search engines. It’s just me and my virtual pen that seem to be on to something.

However, I’m not going to fall back on the predictable answer that attracting readers is all about content. There’s more to blogging than telling stories people like to hear. If writers could simply rely on the quality of their work to reach bestseller status, the world of literature would be a lot more interesting, don’t you think?

So, if we set content aside and we forget about that illusive magical box of SEO-tricks, what could possibly account for this wave of new visitors and subscribers?

SOCIAL SCIENCE

I think the answer may lie in sociodynamics, or the study of group behavior and interaction. The basic premise of this study is the fact that human beings are influenced by other human beings. Perhaps the growth of my subscribers could have to do with what I call the “Late Night Commercial-Effect.”

When I still had cable, those infomercials were one of my guilty pleasures. Although I never bought any Japanese steak knives or Diamonique jewelry from TV pitchmen, it’s a fact that millions of people do, so the home shopping networks must be doing something right. For one, they know about the workings of the human mind.

Here’s one tool I’m sure you’ve seen in action. No matter what’s being sold, there’s always this counter telling you how many people have bought whatever the featured product is, and when this exclusive deal is running out. This may seem like a silly little gimmick to you, but the payoff is huge.

QVC is available in 300 million homes worldwide through its programming in the U.S., UK, Germany, Japan, Italy, and a joint venture in China. In 2013 it shipped more than 169 million products to these markets, generating $8.6 billion in revenues. It was all started by one man in 1986: Joseph Segel. He based his company outside of Philadelphia in West Chester, and today he has 17,000 employees worldwide.

By the way, don’t think that all QVC orders come from late-night television watching shopaholics. Last year, over thirty percent of sales came from mobile platforms. In other words: QVC has learned to be where their customers are, and these customers can’t seem to get enough of it. QVC has well over one million Facebook fans around the world who blog, comment, “like,” and share 24/7.

TRUSTED SOURCES

Feedback from fellow-shoppers is driving sales like never before. It makes sense. When it comes to buying decisions, we all want to minimize risks and maximize the rewards of our investment. We find it easier to trust the opinion of people we can relate to. That’s why other shopping giants like Amazon.com use comments from customers to try to influence purchase decisions.

Acclaimed author Guy Kawasaki wrote “APE, How to Publish a Book.” It’s a step-by-step guide for those who want to self-publish. I have inhaled the info as I was preparing to market my book “Making Money In Your PJs.”

Kawasaki recommends pitching a book to thought leaders, bloggers, and online communities to generate publicity. He calls this process “Evangelizing.” One of the things he tells new authors is to turn to Amazon’s best reviewers. Five-star feedback from them is worth more than a positive review in the New York Times.

Compare this strategy to expensive book launch parties, advertising campaigns, and paying PR professionals to pimp your product. Leveraging the power of social proof is practically free! That’s why it’s such a good tool for the solopreneur. All you have to do is target the right people with the right connections, and word of mouth will do the rest.

Of course it’s not that simple. It took me four years before my readership reached critical mass. In order to get to this place (for my career in general and my blog in particular) I have used a few tools you might want to consider as well. The first I call “The Power of One.”

THE RIGHT QUESTION

It’s based on the idea that a consistent sequence of small efforts can, over time, bring about big changes.

Every morning, I start with a simple routine. I ask myself a question that isn’t necessarily new or revolutionary, but nevertheless transformational:

“What’s the ONE thing I can do today, that would have the greatest positive impact in the area of…”

I purposely limit it to one, to keep things manageable. I’d rather do one thing really well than a whole bunch of things half-heartedly. To me it’s also important to focus on the notion of having a positive impact. Everything we do and everything we don’t, has an effect. That’s a given. But the result of our actions isn’t always positive, unless we make a concerted effort to bring about good.

That one question alone has resulted in a cascade of small improvements in the way I run my business and my life. In the beginning, the changes were barely visible. But when I connect the dots backward and see where I am now in relation to four years ago, the transformation is dramatic. Here’s another tool.

A CUE FROM QVC

After having reached 5,000 subscribers, I made a small change to my blog that proved to be immensely effective. I added a Call to Action in the top right-hand corner. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It says:

“Join over 10,000+ subscribers!”

I made sure to update this number at least once day, if not more.

At first I thought this was a rather self-congratulatory act. I’ve been raised not to boast about my accomplishments. I still believe humility is a virtue, but I’ve also learned that it’s okay to be proud of my achievements. Without an advertising budget or the help of a PR guru, I embraced the principles of social proof.

My “Join over 10,000+ subscribers!” is the equivalent of QVC’s sales counter with one exception. As long as I still have things to talk about, what I have to offer will not run out.

I don’t believe this counter is totally responsible for the increase in subscribers, but it’s the one small thing I changed since March.

MAKING MONEY IN YOUR PJs

Because I was reaping the rewards of social proof on my blog, I applied some of these principles to my newest venture.

While creating a website for my upcoming book “Making Money In Your PJs,” I decided to prominently feature testimonials. I did not want to wait for comments to roll in, so I sent people whose opinion I respect an advance copy, and asked them for a quote.

Later on, I will ask those readers who received the first fifty copies as a gift for a testimonial too. It’s a small favor, considering they got a 500+ page book for free.

Social proof is not only something I use as a book seller or blog writer.

The other day I needed to buy something online. After reading the description from the merchant, I wasn’t one hundred percent convinced that I should spend my money on this product. That is, until I read one positive comment from someone I trusted. Before I knew it, my mind was made up and I let my credit card do the talking.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

One person starting a hugely successful business.

One good review.

One small change to a website.

One good question at the beginning of the day.

I’m telling you:

Never underestimate the Power of One!

If you still don’t believe me, ask Hans Brinker.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet!

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Take a Sneak Peek

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Freelancing, Journalism & Media 3 Comments

Things are in full swing at Nethervoice Publishing!

My book Making Money In Your PJs will be available in a couple of weeks, and most people want to know what’s in it.

The following, taken from the introduction, will give you a quick overview.

From the outside, a voice-over career seems almost ideal. You talk into a microphone and you get paid. In Part One of this book, I’ll debunk the most prevalent myths that unscrupulous sales people use to try to sell you expensive voice-over trainings and demo-packages. You’ll also get a much better idea of whether or not a voice-over career is for you.

Part Two deals with self-guided learning, coaching, and voice acting. I’ll tell you what producers and agents are listening for when they’re evaluating auditions, and how you can learn to let a script speak to you. I will also reveal my number one trick to get rid of loud breaths and other mouth noises that can mess up your recordings.

In the next section chapter we get down to business. Most newcomers to voice-over will give up within a year because they don’t know anything about freelancing. Part Three prepares you for the road ahead by learning from other people’s failures and successes. That way, you don’t have to start from scratch. 

Having a pleasant voice is nice if you want to become a voice-over, but it’s not essential. However, making sure that clients can find you is crucial for your career. In “Spreading the Word” (Part Four), you’ll learn how to market yourself through your website and social media, and by developing a personal brand. It’s the story of “telling, not selling” any freelancer can benefit from.

If you want to build a long-term career, you’ll need your colleagues just as much as you need your clients. In Part Five I’ll tell you how to separate the pros from the con artists, and I will introduce you to some of the colorful characters you’re bound to meet in this crazy business.

Whether or not you are going to make it as a pro, will depend as much on your ability to read scripts as on your ability to read clients. That’s what Part Six is about. I will show you what you need to know before you start bidding on projects, and I’ll share my experience with one of the most popular voice casting sites.

Part Seven is about money. It doesn’t matter what you do as a freelancer, but if you don’t learn how to manage your money, you are sabotaging your success. I will spend a good deal of time discussing what you’re worth so that you won’t ever sell yourself or your colleagues short. And if you’ve ever been short-changed by a client, the chapters on collecting money are a must-read.

Next up, I’ll talk about the secret ingredient that can make or break a freelance career: Attitude. Part Eight is called “The Inner Game.” Life as a solopreneur can be a roller coaster ride. Some months you’ll feel on top of the world. Other months you may feel like hanging up your hat. How do you deal with that, emotionally? Well, you’re about to find out.

Whether you’re trying to make it as a voice actor, a graphic designer or a writer, freelancing is a means to an end. No matter what we do, our working life affects our private life, and the other way around. In the last part of this book you’ll hear more about the things that move me personally and professionally. 

That’s all you’re going to see for now. 

Meanwhile, you can follow the news about Making Money In Your PJs on a special Facebook page: www.facebook.com/moneyinyourpjs, as well as on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MoneyInYourPJs.

The website for the book is now live and you can check it out at http://makingmoneyinyourpjs.com.

Stay in touch!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
photo credit: will_i_be via photopin cc

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I’m Giving My Book Away

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Journalism & Media, Promotion, Social Media 124 Comments

3D 1

Well, there you have it!

What do you think?

In a few weeks, my 400+ page book will be available in print and as an eBook. Later this year you can expect the release of the audio version, narrated by the author. He’s giving me a very special rate! 

Until then, you can keep track of the progress and the official release date on a new Facebook page which I’d love you to like:

The Facebook page of "Making Money In Your PJs" by Paul Strikwerda.

I’ll also be posting updates on a new Twitter account:

The Twitter account of  "Making Money In Your PJs" by Paul Strikwerda.

WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

In the next week I am launching a website (www.makingmoneyinyourpjs.com), that will do several things:

– promote the book with previews and reviews;

– serve as a companion to the paperback edition with hyperlinks from the eBook;

– provide an easy way to learn more about the author and ways to get in touch with him.

But that’s not all. Eventually, this website will evolve into something much bigger and better. More about that at a later stage.

WOULD YOU LIKE A FREE COPY?

Do you want to be among the first to read my book?

To celebrate the release of Making Money In Your PJs, I am offering a free PDF copy to the first 50 people who leave a short comment in the comment section below. Just make sure you fill in your email address before you click “ADD COMMENT.” Otherwise I can’t reach you. Please do not leave your email in the comment box.

The PDF-version will be ready in seven to ten days, and I’ll send it to you via wetransfer.com.

Meanwhile, enjoy Making Money In Your PJs!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet!

PPS Looking for a graphic designer? Try crowdsourcing with 99designs. That’s where I found mine. Last week I wrote about the process.

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Warning: This Post is Rather Graphic!

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Freelancing, Journalism & Media 16 Comments

Book loveIt’s time to let the cat out of the bag.

Many of you have asked for it, and it’s only fair that you are among the first to know.

This spring I’ll publish my first book!

I’ve already written a few guides: Building a Vocal Booth on a Budget, Boosting Your Business with a Blog, and a short paper called Selling more Real Estate with Videos and Voice-Overs. You can order them through my online shop.

My new book will become available in 10+ eBook stores, and you’ll be able to buy the paperback version on Amazon. Being a voice-over, I am also working on a spoken version. I just have to find a narrator who can do my work justice…

Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches to the manuscript. Proofreaders are making sure that this Dutchman’s English can pass the grammar and spelling test.

In the past week I’ve been working with a number of graphic designers to come up with an eye-catching cover. Today I’ll walk you through that process. Not because I expect you to be needing someone to design a book cover for you. I want to talk about it to give you an idea of what it’s like to be on “the other side.”

TURNING THE TABLES

You see, normally I’m the one that gets hired. This time around I’m doing the hiring. It’s an intriguing perspective that has taught me a lot in a short period of time. I think it’s also interesting for you, because you may be looking for someone to design a new logo, stationery, business card or a website.

Let me make one assumption right off the bat: You’re running a for-profit business and you’d like to keep your expenses down. So, the first question you have to ask yourself is twofold:

How important is my professional image and how much is it worth to me?

If you’re hoping to attract well-paying clients who don’t yet know you, image is everything. First impressions speak volumes. You may be selling high-quality goods, but if your store looks disheveled, you don’t exactly exude trust. In a world where the competition is only a short click away, you have a few seconds to impress, so you’d better make an impact.

Second question: Are you going to hire a cheap amateur or a more expensive pro? Third: Would you consider hiring a talented family member or a friend?

GETTING TOO CLOSE

Let’s start with the last point. If family ties and friendships mean anything to you, please do not hire someone from your inner circles. Not even a friend of a friend or a second cousin twice removed. Keep those relationships clean. They are too precious to be muddled by money. You can’t afford to lose a friend with a fragile ego, just because you’re too cheap to pay a pro.

It may sound strange, but I find I can be more direct with a professional than with a friend. There’s no baggage and there are no sensitive toes to step on. Instead, there’s distance that allows both parties to focus on the project. It’s much easier to critique and possibly fire someone you don’t run into every Thanksgiving, Passover, or Easter.

The choice between hiring a talented amateur and a pro is not an issue for me. It would be hypocritical to pick a budget-friendly hobbyist over a professional. In my line of work I’d never recommend doing that. Why would I make a different choice when it comes to selecting a graphic designer? Quality work always pays for itself, many times over.

SEARCHING FOR TALENT

My next hurdle was finding the perfect professional to create that eye-catching book cover. I have never published a book before, and typing “graphic designer” into Bing gave me 109 million results. That was no help. So I asked around. After a week I had a few names and phone numbers, but none of those who were recommended specialized in eBook covers.

For unknown authors such as myself, it is absolutely critical to have a striking cover. Not only did I want to avoid the self-published look, the cover had to stand out in an ocean of postage-stamp-sized images in online eBook stores. It also seemed a good idea to work with more than one designer.

That’s why I turned to crowdsourcing. It allowed me to tap into a collective of artists, and ask for contributions from a vast online community.

CREATIVE COLLECTIVE

99designs.com is such a community. Whether you need a logo for your business, a website, an app, posters, flyers, product packaging, brochures, or book covers, 99designs.com can connect you to an international crowd of creatives.

It’s easy to get started. First you select what you need and then you launch a contest. It begins with writing a design brief, telling a bit about yourself, your project, and your target audience. You can also include ideas, images, sketches, and other documents that might be helpful. Once that’s done, you pick a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum package.

For $299 (bronze), you can expect about thirty designs. There’s a money-back guarantee should none of the designs meet your expectations. Once the contest is under way, you have seven days to pick a winner.

Just to be clear, only the winning designer gets paid, and 99designs takes a commission depending on which package is chosen and the level of support provided. 

THE CONTEST

In the first couple of days you hold a qualifying round that’s open to all designers. During that time you can rate the designs that come in, and you can give feedback to each contestant. Based on that, they can refine their design or come up with something new. You can also eliminate what you don’t like.

In the second round you pick a few finalists and you work with each of them to get closer to the design you want. At the end of the week, you crown a winner. After that, you can continue to work with that winner to tweak the end product to perfection.

I have to tell you that I loved every minute of this process. It took up a lot of time, but it was so worth it. I had been dreaming of a book for years, and now professionals from all over the world were inspired by the title and my description. It was fantastic to see how people transformed the same words into very different designs. Seeing my name and the title of the book on a 3-D mock cover gave me goose bumps. All of a sudden, an abstract idea became concrete!

LESSONS LEARNED

All in all, 17 designers presented me with 61 entries. That was way more than I expected at the bronze level. Here’s what I learned along the way.

1. The more specific you are in your brief, the greater the chance that you’ll get designs that are to your liking.

The first draft of my brief was purposely vague because I didn’t want to get in the way of someone’s creativity. A number of designs that were based on that brief were as original as they were hideous. But sometimes you have to see what you don’t like in order to find out what you do like. I bet many of our voice-over clients listening to auditions feel the same way.

As soon as I became more clear in my instructions, I received entries that had a lot of potential.

2. You have to be flexible and proactive to attract more designers.

My contest started as an open competition. This means that every designer could see what other colleagues had entered. Some were not comfortable with that and asked me to turn it into a blind contest. That way, no one could steal their ideas. As soon as I did that, some great new designers entered my contest.

I also decided to revoke the money-back guarantee. This meant that at the end of the process, I promised to pick a winner, no matter what. This made it more attractive for some contestants to take part. It showed them I was serious.

Lastly, I studied the online portfolios of hundreds of designers, and I sent invites to those that really spoke to me. This turned out to be the key to finding my winning designer!

3. The best designers base their entries on ideas from the client and not on their personal preferences.

I wanted to use the color scheme of my website for my book cover because it is part of my branding. A number of designers did their own thing and came up with very dark designs. That made it easy for me to rule them out. I also put in my brief that I wanted to avoid the stereotypical microphone on the cover of a book about voice-overs. In spite of that, some thirty percent of entries had microphones.

Some added tulips to their design. Now, if you’re already familiar with my site, that’s not a bad idea. However, I want to reach a new audience with my book. People do judge a book by its cover and there’s no natural connection between Dutch flowers, freelancing and voice-overs.

I also received a number of designs that would do well in the business section of Barnes & Noble. They made strong statement as covers, but they lacked a certain whimsicality and lightness which I had specifically asked for. 

4. Top designers are great communicators and are open to feedback.

On the first day of the contest I received an entry that really made me laugh. I absolutely loved it. However, the subtitle of my book was missing and I asked the designer to add it. In fact, I reached out to him/her twice. In seven days, I never heard a word. If someone is not responsive in the initial phase, how can I trust that this will change once we’re working together for real?

Nelly Murariu, the young artist who ended up being my top pick, describes herself as “a passionate self-taught graphic designer with a big heart and a desire to get better at what I do every day.” She was quick to answer my questions, even later in the day. I don’t know how she did it, because she lives in Bucharest, Romania! Her English was flawless and she has a great sense of humor. She made sure she understood what I really wanted, before making any changes.

At one point I suggested something that I thought would improve the look of the book. It was a bad idea. Nevertheless, Nelly adjusted her design accordingly. When she sent it back to me, I immediately saw that her initial concept made much more sense. To me, this proved that she knew how the mind of a client operates: If you show ’em, you don’t have to tell ’em. 

5. Winning designers go above and beyond.

Every time Nelly came back with an improved design, it was way better than what I had imagined. My instructions asked for a design that would work for an eBook, as well as for the print version. Nelly sent me 3-D renditions of the paperback, 2-D images of the front and back, as well as the eBook version. In other words: it was very clear what I was buying.

At one point I asked her if she could retouch the author picture on the back because my face looked a bit orange. It turned out that she had already fixed it. This girl read my mind! I felt a bit sorry for the other designers. Mind you, there were some very strong contenders, but every time a cover from another designer came in, I compared it to Nelly’s work.

Most importantly, Nelly made me feel like I was her only client and top priority.

She was so good that I ended up skipping the second phase of the contest where designers go head to head, and I crowned her the winner. You can find her on 99designs as “Nellista,” and you can contact her directly by clicking this link.

A COMPLETE SUCCESS?

To date, 99designs has a pool of 290,172 designers. In 2012 it opened its European headquarters in Berlin, and has launched localized versions of its services in German, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Italian. Since the start in 2008, the site has paid out $71,576,558 to the designer community through more than 288,987 contests. Impressive numbers, no doubt, but not every designer is happy with how the 99designs works or the commission it takes. It can be as high as 35 – 40%.

Imagine working hard to come up with two or three entries and walking away with absolutely nothing. Well, if you’ve ever auditioned for a voice-over job, you already know how that feels. The big difference is that when we audition, we usually only read a short sample script, whereas these designers are asked to come up with a complete logo, a brochure or a poster. It’s a great concept for clients like me, but it can get demotivating for designers.

Still, no one is forced to offer their services on 99designs. It’s a relatively easy way to get in touch with clients and possibly develop long-term relationships. I will certainly turn to Nelly for future projects, and I highly recommend her to anyone in need of a graphic designer.

For the next two weeks, you can get a free $99 upgrade through this link: http://99designs.refr.cc/W3F6SSR. This offer expires April 10th.

If you’re curious to find out what my book looks like, stay tuned. Next week I will reveal the title, and the cover Nelly designed for me.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

Be Sweet. Please retweet!
photo credit: Carlos Porto via photopin cc

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