Career

The Day I Almost Killed My Family

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing 24 Comments

Yesterday, I had a frightening realization.

In my life, I have wasted way too much time on things I’m not good at and don’t enjoy doing. Things like gardening, ballroom dancing and trying to understand how computers work and what to do when they don’t.

Some things like yard work can’t be avoided, and part of me says it’s good to be outdoors and work with weedkiller every once in a while. 

Things like dancing the Tango I really should avoid, as all my former dance partners can attest to. It’s utterly unromantic to have someone like me call out the steps while on the dance floor, because his stressed-out brain has no idea what the heck his body is doing.

And don’t get me started on computers. My greatest achievement is replacing the memory of my Mac Mini. My darkest hour came when I nearly strangled my old Dell in desperation, because it refused to shut down and install an update Mr. Gates deemed critical. After a series of malfunctions, this was the last straw.

“I’ll teach you a lesson, you worthless piece of trash,” I cried with bloodshot eyes, as if as my miserable laptop was listening.

“I’ve had it with you. If you don’t restart right now, I swear I will go to the Apple store today and you and I are done! It’s OVER! Do you hear me? I don’t deserve this!”

Don’t ask me how, but it did the trick. Two minutes later that pathetic thing was up and running again, and it continued to make my life a living hell for another year. Why did I put up with it, you wonder?

Well, I know my strengths and I have two left hands when it comes to things of a technological nature. I also lack the motivation to change that. Call me strange, but that’s how I feel.

Most men seem to have this “I can fix it” mentality. Psychologists say it’s in our DNA. While women long for men to acknowledge their problems and really listen with an open mind and heart, men are prone to jump in prematurely and offer solutions. It’s pre-programmed. We can’t help ourselves, but we sure want to help others. It’s that Mars and Venus thing.

Well, I must have missed the boat in that area of evolution, because I am rather reluctant to activate that helper-gene in me. Perhaps it’s for the best because over the years I have learned to live with a horrible truth:

I am terrible at fixing things… but I’m great at making matters worse.

Case in point.

When I was five years old, my Dad drove a forest green Ford Cortina. It was his pride and joy. One day and for no particular reason, the exhaust started making menacing noises. Being the frugal man he was, my father decided to keep on driving, hoping the loud bangs would eventually go away.

They didn’t.

Mourners at a funeral could tell he was getting close to the church (my father is a minister), because the sound of explosions would get louder and louder. Thank goodness people didn’t have car alarms in those days. Otherwise, his ferocious Ford would have set them all off at once.

As a child I remember being frightened and embarrassed by the bangs, and that’s why I took it upon myself to secretly intervene.

What if I were to stuff that wretched exhaust with leaves? Wouldn’t that muffle the noise? It worked for Cuddles my Guinea pig, so why not for my Dad’s car?

And that’s exactly what I did. One glorious Fall morning I shoved all the leaves I could find into the exhaust pipe and did not tell a soul about it. This would be my surprise. My gift to my Dad: A quiet Cortina.

That afternoon, on our way to see “The Aristocats,” I nearly killed the car…. and my immediate family, including myself.

So you see, when I say I’m no good at fixing things but I am great at making matters worse, I absolutely mean it!

That day I should have learned a valuable lesson:

If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. 

But I didn’t.

A few weeks later I tried to “repair” an outlet in my room by sticking both ends of an electrical wire in it. I nearly electrocuted myself and I left the whole house in the dark, including a congregation of praying church Elders who were meeting at our home. Good Lord!

When I was seven, I shaved off my five-year old sister’s eyebrows with my Mom’s ladyshave, just to see if I could improve her looks. It took me twenty seconds to realize my mistake, and I used a Sharpie® to bring her brows back, hoping my parents wouldn’t notice. I still remember the site of my poor little sister, looking very much like Mr. Spock. But it gets worse.

One time, when she wasn’t feeling well, I pretended to be a Druid and made her a concoction of apple juice and colorful berries I had picked from neighborhood bushes. I might have ended up an only child, had my mother not entered the room on time, ripping the deadly drink out of my sister’s hand. 

What can I say?

A few years and one or two close calls later, it finally dawned upon me that I better stay away from things I had no knowledge of.  A DIY-mentality can be detrimental, not only to the health and well-being of close friends and family, but to a freelance business. 

Now, that might not be a shocking revelation to you, yet, I find many self-starters to be deaf to that message, and blinded by their enthusiasm and inexperience.

Lacking the funds, the appropriate skills, knowledge and the right contacts, so many of them begin their entrepreneurial journey trying to do it all and fix everything…. and wonder why their business isn’t taking off within the year.

Sooner or later, all of us have to come to terms with our own limitations and fallibility. Or -to put it bluntly- our ignorance, arrogance and narrow-minded stupidity.

Having been self-employed for most of my working life, I learned many lessons the hard way. Had I known what I know now, I could have saved myself valuable time and lots of money. For example:

1. The only shortcut to success is to learn from people who are where you want to be.

Trial and error are the worst and the slowest teachers. They keep you down. You can see so much more when you stand on someone’s shoulders.

I encourage you to find people who inspire you. Identify what makes them tick. Study their skills and strategies. Make them your own. Refine them. Perfect them and pass them on to others.

Those who wish to reinvent the wheel, usually end up going around in circles. 

2. No matter how hard you try, you can’t be your own coach.

You’ll either cut yourself way too much slack, or you’ll be overly critical and paralyze every effort to be productive. More importantly, your ignorance will stifle your growth.

You cannot teach yourself what you haven’t mastered yet.

3. Never trust the opinion of friends and family.

Sticking feathers up your butt doesn’t make you a chicken, but here’s the thing: They don’t know that.

Family and friends are there to support you no matter what. However, most of them know zilch about the business you wish to break in to (more on that in this article). Love them with all your heart, but please don’t listen to them. 

The quality of the feedback always depends on the quality of the source.

4. Focus on what you’re good at and enjoy doing. Outsource the rest.

You don’t save any time or money by trying to fix your computer or build that website. Unless you have a degree in IT or web design, you’re likely to lose time and money you don’t have. 

Why insist on doing your own books and taxes? If numbers were never your strength, you’ll overlook substantial deductions and make a mess of your administration. Some people were born to be bookkeepers. Let them deal with your finances. Strangely enough, it makes them happy when it all adds up!

5. Don’t sing your own praises.

A little bit of self-esteem can go a long way, but too much of it is a huge turn-off. Respect is earned. Let your work speak for itself. It may take a few years to build up a solid reputation, but you’re in it for the long run, aren’t you?

Give others credit, and realize that happy customers are your best credentials.

6. If you mess up, fess up.

Nobody is perfect and you are bound to make mistakes. Some people are quick to blame others for their failures and point to themselves when things go well. As the owner of your business, you must own up to your successes, as well as to your slip-ups.

You’ll never be able to better yourself if you don’t acknowledge that you still have a lot to learn. No one expects you to know it all, and if you surround yourself with experts, you don’t have to. 

Last but not least:

7. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.

When something’s not right, don’t wait until things escalate. If you’re in over your head, look for strong shoulders to lean on. You’d be surprised how many people will welcome the opportunity to help you… but you’ve got to ask!

And above all, don’t waste you’re time on things you’re not meant to do. You know what I am talking about.

These things will never make you happy. 

Stop trying to fix things you have no business fixing.

Believe me. Your family and friends will be eternally grateful!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

What happens when your recording studio is flooded? A nasty home emergency with a happy ending!

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How to Break into the Voice-Over Business

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 54 Comments

“I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.” 

Steve Martin, from his memoir “Born Standing Up

 

As the writer of a fairly popular blog, this is the question I get asked the most:

“How do I break into the voice-over business?”

Questions are interesting things.

One can often tell how the person asking the question thinks the world works or should work. 

Questions contain spoken or unspoken assumptions that reveal a lot about someone’s beliefs and values.

Most people just answer a question without challenging those hidden assumptions, unless they’ve been trained to do so.

QUESTION THE QUESTION

A question like “How do I break into the voice-over business?” has at least three assumptions. Before I attempt to answer it, I need to know more about what is presumed.

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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Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

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

Phil Keoghan ©Paul Strikwerda

What would you do if you knew that your time on earth was about to come to an end?

Would you go back to work and pretend nothing happened?

Would you go on a cruise around the world?

Would you visit as many friends and family members as possible?

Or would you stay inside, close the blinds and curl up with a pint of your favorite ice cream?

Phil Keoghan, host of “The Amazing Race,” was 19 when he almost lost his life. On one of his first TV shoots under water, he got trapped in an upturned interior cabin of a sunken cruise liner and couldn’t find his way out. With very little air left in his tank, he panicked, realizing that his next breath could be his last.

After what seemed an eternity, the support crew on the surface sent a rescue diver to find him. In the nick of time, Phil was pulled to the surface and he survived. The next day, he went back to repeat the dive that nearly killed him.

That was not all.

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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Be Kind. Unwind.

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 10 Comments

Do you know the First Law of Ecology?

“Everything’s connected to everything else.” 

As I was leaving the gym this morning, I had to think about the connection between the world of weights and treadmills inside, and the world outside. 

To me, there isn’t much of a difference. It’s all about sweat, commitment and endurance. Every time I leave the fitness center, I feel lighter, stronger and more alive.

Working out is working out for me!

Some of my colleagues aren’t feeling it. Even though they don’t exercise, they sound like they’re trapped on a treadmill carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders. No matter what happens, they feel they have to keep on running the rat race.

These are people who live in constant fear that’s manifesting itself in many ways. They won’t leave home without a mobile device. They might text or check email while driving. Some will tell you they can’t afford to take a break. Others will take their home office or studio with them on the road or on vacation. Why?

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

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Cut the crap. No more excuses.

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 6 Comments

A few seconds of reflection can lead to life-changing decisions.

My moment of truth happened a few weeks ago. Right around my birthday.

I looked at myself in the mirror and I wasn’t exactly thrilled by what I saw.

Years of leading a sedentary lifestyle and a love for ice cream had clearly caught up with me. As I closely observed my mirror image, I knew that I had let myself down. My inner voice -which is much wiser that I am- couldn’t take it any longer and yelled:

THIS ISN’T ME!

My pants felt too tight around the waist. My muscles were not as toned. My breathing had become shallow and my energy level was way down. Worst of all, the state of my body had started to affect the state of my mind, and not in a good way.

Life’s greatest disappointments are usually very well planned, and this was no exception. I was staring at the result of years of carefully executed sluggish behavior; a sequence of deliberate poor choices and compromises. Too often I had chosen the easy way out, until the easy way became the hard way, and a comfortable lifestyle became annoyingly uncomfortable. Now I couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs without panting.

It was pathetic!

We’ve all been there in one way or another, harboring unhealthy habits, engaging in self-destructive behavior, small things that add up and get out of control. Some people give in and eventually give up.

The question is: Can an unhealthy pattern be broken and replaced and if so, how? Or was I doomed to stay out of shape?

The way I see it, if you’re in my shoes, you have two options:

You either make excuses or you make changes.

That sounds like a slogan from a Tony Robbins seminar. It’s easier said than done. So, let’s examine a couple of factors that may help or hinder change:

1. If you don’t feel you have a problem, there’s no reason to search for a solution.

This is a source of frustration in many relationships, personal and professional. One party thinks the other needs to change. The other party appears to be clueless or believes nothing’s wrong.

Here’s the thing. As long as you are convinced that a certain behavior is (socially) acceptable, why give it up, especially when the perceived benefits appear to outweigh the costs? In a world of instant gratification it is quite common to choose short-term “rewards” over long-term benefits. You only live once, right?

In the society I live in, things like overeating and overspending are not only acceptable, they’re actively encouraged. Happiness is on sale in the frozen food section. In my case, it comes in the shape of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy.

Need to relieve some stress? Grab a candy bar! Feeling tense today? Take out your MasterCard® and buy something you don’t need. You’ll pay for it later, but for now it feels soooo good!

How far do things have to go, before it’s too late?

2. As long as you keep on buying into your own excuses, there’s no motivation to change.

Excuses are like old tapes, playing in the back of your head. You know they’re a bunch of baloney, but they feel so warm, fuzzy and familiar. Some of the reasons why people think they can’t change sound almost plausible:

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
“People just have to take me the way I am.”
“Change is hard and takes a long, long time.”
“That won’t work for me. I am special.”
“I’m too busy trying to make a living.”

I prefer to call those ideas disempowering beliefs. It doesn’t matter whether they’re true or not, but as long as you hold on to them, you’re like a chained elephant. They prevent you from moving forward. They seduce you to focus on the impossible and prevent you from contemplating what’s possible.

What people conveniently forget is that they are the owner of those tapes. Inside, they might sound like the voice of their unloving father, dominant mother or most feared teacher. But if you keep on holding on to old crap in your house -crap that doesn’t even belong to you- there’s no room for change.

Here’s what’s hopeful. By playing the same old tapes loud and clear, you’ve proven that you have a vivid and powerful imagination and that you’re quite persistent. Why not use that power to imagine something that’s positive, uplifting and supports your growth? 

Or is there something to gain from holding on to the past?

3. You have to separate consequences from causes.

I’m not asking you to agree with the following. All I ask of you is to keep an open mind. Please remember that my remarks do not refer to the criminally insane but to ordinary, mentally sound people who can be held responsible for their own actions.

In my opinion, things like overeating, lack of physical activity or overspending are problematic behaviors but never the real problem. They are the consequence and not the cause of something deeper. In the West, we have become really good at treating symptoms and ignoring causes.

We’d rather build dikes to protect us from the rising sea level, rather than do something about global warming. Most health insurance policies don’t cover preventative care but kick in when the damage has been done.

Lasting change takes place when you treat the cause and not the consequence.

4. Separate behavior from intention.

In a strange, twisted way, unwanted behaviors are trying to give us something we want. Take procrastination. By putting something off, we buy ourselves some time and quite possibly, peace of mind. If we were to focus on the positive intention behind the ineffective behavior, the question becomes: In what other ways could we achieve peace of mind, and get things done without delay? That way, the attention shifts from fixing the behavior to acknowledging and honoring the underlying intention.

Habitual overeaters are obviously hungry for something. Is it really the food they crave, or are they trying to satisfy a deeper need? What if we were to find that deeper need, and teach that person to satisfy it with more healthy things than an overdose of food? You can throw any diet at someone, but if it doesn’t feed what they’re truly hungry for, people are likely to fall back into their old, familiar ways.

5. Change the behavior. Accept who you are.

For me, the time had come to take a good look at myself because I didn’t like the “me” in the mirror very much. I felt that I had betrayed my body and it made me angry.

It’s quite common for people who are stuck in not so positive patterns, to beat themselves up over it and make matters worse. Add a dose of shame and guilt to the mix and you have a recipe for depression. Here’s what changed things around for me.

Even though we tend to judge people based on their behavior, I strongly feel that we should not merely be defined by what we do but by who we are.

There’s a big difference between: “I just did something stupid” and “I am stupid.” The first statement qualifies behavior. The second is a statement about identity. It’s a gross and unhelpful generalization.

Doing something that isn’t very good doesn’t make you a bad person per se. It just means that you didn’t tap into the resources yet, to effectively and healthily cope with a challenging situation.

As soon as I realized that, I stopped calling myself negative names that were based on my behavior. Then I had another insight:

As long as I was in the driver’s seat, I could change where I was going.

6. Find the right resources and put a plan in place.

Looking at our cultural history, I can only come to one conclusion:

People are gold mines.

Humans can compose heavenly music, design glorious buildings and write moving poetry. We can turn a desert into an oasis and create a world of abundance.

In spite of possessing a dark side, I believe we are born with positive potential, but like a gold mine, the treasure might be buried deep underground or sometimes it is overgrown with weeds. 

There’s no shame in asking for assistance to unearth what lies beneath the surface. But before you start digging, you’ve got to believe that it’s there. And sometimes you’ll find it very close to home. 

My recipe for getting back into shape is not earth-shattering:

Move more. Eat less. Use fresh and mostly organic ingredients.

I dusted off my hybrid bike and got back in the saddle. I also signed up for a three-year gym membership and started working out.

In a matter of weeks, I could already feel my old energy coming back. It was as if a dear friend had returned. Of course it will take a while before my mirror image will reflect the changes, but that’s okay. The all important first steps have been taken.

One last thing.

You didn’t really think this story was about me, did you?

Good! Now, let me ask you this:

What weight have you been carrying with you in your career or personal life?

How have you responded?

Are you still coming up with excuses, or are you ready to make some changes?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

photo credit: Federico_Morando via photo pin cc

PS If you’re a voice talent, do you want to get rid of audible breaths and lip smacks without editing them out? You can! Here’s how.

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Are you playing by the rules?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 4 Comments

Agents are angels.

Well, most of them are.

Some agents work miracles.

They open doors that were previously closed. They negotiate fees you could only dream of. They do the legwork so you can concentrate on your craft. And sometimes, they have to lay down the law.

Since 1990, agents Beth Allen and Linda Stopfer have been at the helm of The Take One Company. They have a nose for great talent, and that’s why they’re representing the author of this blog.

Of course Beth and Linda want their talent to be successful, but some of the folks they represent don’t make it easy. In fact, gifted (voice) actors are blowing their chances by ignoring the basics of a healthy agent-talent relationship.

As in any relationship, it is give and take. 

You give and they take.

Correction. That was a joke. I didn’t really mean that. As far as I’m concerned, my agents are worth every penny and I do my very best to make their life a little easier by playing by their book.

If you want to play the game, you better learn the rules before you enter the field. 

So, what’s rule number one for dealing with your agent? According to The Take One Team, it is: 

RESPOND PROMPTLY

Take One: “Producers and Casting Directors who are perpetually in a time crunch often contact us after hours with bookings, avails and auditions. It’s no longer an anomaly that our work day starts very early and ends very late. Therefore, it’s imperative that you check your devices and if you haven’t traded up to a smart phone, do it now.

We have very detailed info that you are required to confirm in writing, usually during business hours. If you have questions regarding job stats, please inquire BEFORE auditioning as it is assumed your attendance confirms acceptance unless the terms are changed. And about those terms, we always endeavor to get the very best deal available because we make money only when you do!”

This brings us to rule number two:

BE ACCESSIBLE

Never leave only one number where an agent can reach you. Always give them a backup number.

Take One: “Cell phone signals are not always reliable. Some days, your carriers go off-line with technical email glitches which are very frustrating when we need you. One other thing about cell phones: if you are situated in a place (audition/recording booth, etc.) where the ring tone is inappropriate, keep your phone on vibrate.

One client almost lost out on an audition for a $15K job because he went to the movies and turned off his phone. Also, please delete messages from your voice mail when you no longer need them. It’s frustrating when we need you pronto, and your voice mail tells us it’s full and not accepting any more messages and we can’t reach you.

Please return our phone calls and/or emails within the hour. To make it easy, please enter your agent’s numbers into your cell phone so it’s handy. Email them when you are not available or out of town.”

Here’s the third rule:

BE SPECIFIC

Don’t assume you are the only person your agent is working with. Usually, they’re balancing quite a few plates in the air at the same time. 

Take One: “We have many schedules to keep track of, and you only have yours, so be specific when contacting your agent about “that audition” or “that booking.” Refer to them by product name, date/time, etc. And it’s become apparent that some of you don’t travel with your day planners.

Lately, when we ask about your availability, a few are not sure and can’t confirm until they go home and look at them. Those of you need to take a copy with you when you leave the house. Again, there’s a growing insistence from the industry to confirm avails and bookings quickly, or they move on to the next person of their list. Why lose a job over something so simple?”

Number four:

KNOW THE LINGO

Take One noticed that some terminology can be confusing. I asked them to give some examples:

Availability” (a.k.a “avail”) to record a job, means just that. It doesn’t mean you are automatically booked. Being placed “on hold” or “on avail” means you are reserving that time for that particular job.

Being placed “on first refusal” is an even stronger reservation of your time. It actually means that you agree NOT to book a different job during that time without first consulting your agent. It then becomes his or her responsibility to contact the casting director or producer, giving them the option to book or release you FIRST, before any one else. They then must book you or REFUSE to book you. Only then are you free to accept the other booking.

This availability also impacts your “other career” or survival job. After confirming, you can’t turn around and tell your agent that you’re no longer available because you have scheduled a massage/PT/exercise or business meeting. Casting directors and producers usually go ballistic when this occurs. Disregarding the established protocols usually results in serious repercussions.”

The fifth rule:

BE CAREFUL

Take One: “Please bring to all bookings the information that your agent has provided you with about payment and terms, and make sure that it matches the information on the contract should there be one for you to sign. If there are any discrepancies, DON’T SIGN IT. Once you’ve signed it, should it be incorrect, it is almost impossible to get it changed after the fact. There are three ways to handle the situation:

  • call your agent immediately
  • take it with you  
  • tell the producer to send it to your agent

Make sure you always have the check sent to your agent first, not you, so your agent can verify the correct amount. Once you’ve cashed it, you’ve acknowledged your agreement to accept that payment as correct. “

And here’s rule number six:

RESPECT CONFIDENTIALITY

Take One: “Whenever you are given a script and asked to record an audition, given a script to record at an audition, or given a script to record at a booking, this material is never to be shared with anyone due to confidentiality, especially if it’s a new product. More often now, talent are required to sign an NDA form (non disclosure agreement). This requires you to not reveal the contents of scripts.” More on confidentiality in my story “Winning an audition. Losing the job.

STATING THE OBVIOUS?

Not every casting agency has the same policies and preferences. Nevertheless, some of you might be wondering: Why does Take One have to spell everything out? Isn’t this just plain old common sense? Are the people they represent and who call themselves professional really that oblivious?

YES they are, and increasingly so.

So, before you go on with your day, think about some simple things you can do to strengthen your connection with your agent, or even with the client you are currently working with. These relationships are the cornerstones of your business and the foundation of your success.

Be an angel. Treat them like gold.

When you look good, they look good.

And that’s what it’s all about!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

In the following article, I get personal and take you to my moment of truth, after I took a good look in the mirror.

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The four keys to winning clients over

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 20 Comments

Do you sometimes wonder why certain clients hire you and others don’t?

I think about that a lot.

Rather than making assumptions, I often ask them why they picked me over a colleague. That’s useful information to have, because it helps me fine-tune the way I run my freelance business and how I position myself in the marketplace.

So, what are clients really looking for?

Even though you and I are likely to have very different clients with very different needs, there are three factors that always play a role in every purchase decision. You might be selling a service or a product. It doesn’t matter. All buyers are influenced by the same three things:

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 a Cliché?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Internet 25 Comments

His name is Jake Foushee and he’s an online voice-over sensation. Over one million people have watched his movie trailer man impersonation on YouTube.

If you haven’t seen the video, you might wonder: What’s the big deal?

Well, even though he sounds like he’s in his fifties, Mr. Foushee was actually fourteen years old at the time he shot the video. It’s creepy. Fortunately for Jake, we like creepy. Regular Joes rarely make the headlines, but we all love the bizarre and the eccentric, don’t we?

Next to the bearded lady we now have a 14-year old who sounds a bit like Don LaFontaine. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Ellen DeGeneres had him on her show and like a docile puppy,

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 Wheat and the Chaff

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, International, Promotion 62 Comments

SaVoA, the Society of Accredited Voice Over Artists has imploded.

Six members of the executive board resigned in April of 2012, citing irreconcilable differences between them and SaVoA’s founding father.

On hearing the news, I was stirred but certainly not shaken. To me, the real news was how the worldwide voice-over community responded. The overall reaction can be summarized in two words:

“So what?”

Of course a few inner circle members -sorry, make that “certificate holders”– reacted as expected by telling their version of the break-up. And yet again, thousands of voice actors answered silently in unison and said:

“Who cares?”

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

You see, in the five years of its existence, SaVoA managed to attract and accredit a whopping 170 people, and it never became the organization it set out to be. Instead, it was regarded by some as an old-boys network.

The idea was to bring together a group of voice artists who had proven to their peers that they could provide “vocally and technically proficient, broadcast-quality voice over services” and who would “conduct business in such a way that it enhances the profession as a whole.”

Apart from a few discounts on trainings and gear, accredited members received a SaVoA certificate and a seal that could be displayed on websites and business cards. Like the Good Housekeeping seal, it was meant to reassure prospective clients that they were about to hire an established, highly qualified voice talent.

Upon seeing the seal, most clients said:

“What the heck is that? Just because some unknown body has accredited you, doesn’t mean you’re a good fit for the job. Let me hear your demo. You’re a voice-over. Words speak louder than actions.”

Many colleagues responded the same way. Why would an experienced talent even need to be accredited? Paul Payton:

“My accreditation is 24 years in the VO business, 22 without a back-up job, working with great clients including many who bring me repeat business. If a certificate works for someone, great; for me, every check I cash is an accreditation. Color me grateful.”

Others like Todd Schick questioned SaVoA’s technical standards:

“How good are standards that can be easily faked? What good is legal gobbledygook to a consumer who hired a SaVoA talent, only to find out that they didn’t have a phone patch, the editing was horrible, the sound sucked because they had a -40dB noise floor… and couldn’t work after 5 pm EST because they had a day job?”

The SaVoA certificate still hangs on Danish voice talent Jacob Ekström‘s wall. Even though SaVoA as we know it is no more, he believes it’s useful to set standards.

“Certification in general is not a new thing, and in an industry like ours where clueless noobs armed with a $20 RadioShack microphone can build a website and/or sign up to a p2p-site and think they can compete with VO-veterans with $10.000 studios, it certainly could be an asset to voice seekers with limited time to listen through 500+ auditions or demos. But alas, not if they don’t know what it means, and I guess this is where SaVoA failed.”

“As a well-established talent you can always argue “Sheesh, why would I need this, a $75 badge on my website isn’t going to get me more gigs anyway!” – and that’s true. But for the remaining 90% of us, just maybe it could. Mind you, the original idea was NOT to build a “boys club” – it was to make the industry better, not only for our clients, but more importantly for ourselves.

Having a SaVoA badge on your website should be something everyone should want to strive for, not because it looks good, but because it means you’re serious and you want your clients to know. And yes, we all know you don’t need a $75 badge to actually be serious, but all the $20 microphone guys who clutter the p2p-sites do not, and, apparently, neither does the industry. And that’s why I feel it’s a damn shame SaVoA never made an impact.”

Audio producer, script writer and voice actor Matt Forrest has a different take on the viability of a professional organization for voice actors:

“Unless the standards or code are adopted by an organized group (like a union or SaVoA) and used – and promoted – for the benefit of its members, I’m not sure what good any of it would do. Being individual contractors, we all know how we want to treat our customers and our craft, but getting everyone to abide by them would be like trying to herd cats.”

Dan LenardDan Lenard is one of the former members of SaVoA’s executive board. He strongly believes the voice-over community has to have a SaVoA type of organization:

“We have common needs. We need to come together in an organized manner to harness this energy that has created this unique virtual community, and work together to deal with the unique marketing, legal and technical issues involved, along with the socially isolating nature of our trade.”

OUT OF THE ASHES

Together with other ex-SaVoA directors, Dan has been building a new and more transparent voice-over organization, modeled after a Trade Association. It was incorporated on April 25th 2012, and it was launched a day later. It’s called the World-Voices organization. Lenard explains:

“It’s an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. An industry trade association participates in public relations activities such as advertising, education, and publishing, but its main focus is collaboration between businesses, or standardization. Many associations are non-profit organizations governed by bylaws and directed by officers who are also actual voting “members” of the association, not just certificate of Accreditation holders.

This is a model that makes sense for us, the independently based freelance voice artist, here and now. To have an individual competitive advantage we need to have agreed standards of business to strive for. Marketing wise, legally and because of the new territory of being able to produce quality audio at home, Accreditation of technical skills based on the reality of today’s digital marketplace, not outdated, obsolete broadcasting standards.”

Founding Executive Vice President, Dave Courvoisier says:

“Our founders are Dustin Ebaugh, Dan Lenard, Chris Mezzolesta, Robert Sciglimpaglia, Andy Bowyer, “Kat” Keesling, and myself. All are SaVoa ex-patriates. With certain obstacles out of our way, we’ve been able to organize, conceptualize, implement, and carry-out an amazing array of technical, foundational, and legal collaborations in just a matter of days.

The newly established World-Voices Organization will actively work to promote certified members to potential voice seekers through its website and in an aggressive marketing campaign. Materials explaining a proposed structure will be posted on our website.”

And what do I make of this?

If teachers, lawyers, roofers and even DJ’s see value in building a business organization with a code of conduct and professional standards, I see no reason why voice-overs should not follow in their footsteps.

I am in favor of defining criteria for excellence and ethical behavior. It’s important to create programs that will further our field and promote professionalism. Let’s show the outside world what being a voice-over pro entails!

We have a vibrant, supportive and growing community. It’s time to take ourselves and our line of work seriously. If we don’t, no one else will and we’ll forever be known as a bunch of bickering amateuristic blabbermouths.

We need and deserve this professional organization for ourselves, and to help the outside world separate the wheat from the chaff.

Now, to make sure that good people with good intentions will fail, you and I will only have to do one thing:

NOTHING

It’s very easy to stand on the sidelines and ridicule, criticize and discourage the efforts of a few. It takes no commitment whatsoever. It’s safe, it’s lame and it’s lazy.

I’d like you to consider this.

SaVoA did not fail to grow because the founder had no vision. The fact that SaVoA wasn’t thriving cannot be blamed on directors supposedly sitting on their behinds. Most of them worked their butts off!

The way I see it, SaVoA failed because part of the voice-over community paid lip service to the organization (VO’s are good at that), but never invested in it. The other part looked at it from a distance and said:

“Whatever”

Existing members did not succeed in making the organization relevant. Some of them adopted a wait-and-see attitude and vented their frustration that nothing was happening.

THE FUTURE

Many will look at World-Voices and ask themselves this question:

“What will I get out of it?”

Those who are primarily focused on themselves ask that question all the time. If that is going to be your approach, I predict that this new association of voice over professionals will die a quick death.

This is not going to be a ME-ME-ME organization. This is a WE-organization, working to benefit our entire community and beyond.

I challenge you to ask this question instead:

“What can I do to make World-Voices relevant, strong and successful?”

If you want to make it matter, you have to be involved.

Otherwise, another tree will soon fall in the forest without a sound.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
We have a new internet sensation: a 14 year-old kid who sounds like a movie trailer man. Could your ability to sound like someone else help or hurt your career? That’s the topic of my next blog post

 

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10 things clients don’t care about

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing 56 Comments

Let me preface this post by saying that I feel very lucky.

In the past 25 years I was able to develop a strong relationship with a number of clients. The longer we go back, the fewer words we have to waste on what each side is expecting from the other.

It’s almost like a marriage. And very much like a marriage, a lasting business relationship needs commitment from each partner. It can be love at first sight and it can also end in a divorce, due to unspoken expectations and unfulfilled desires.

Throughout the years I have heard colleagues complain about their clients:

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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