Freelancing

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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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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Turning a Hobby into a Business

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 18 Comments

It often starts with a compliment:

“I just love your voice. I could listen to it for hours.”

“Wow, you take great pictures.”

“Your jewelry is absolutely amazing.”

“You’re a born writer.”

Followed by:

Have you ever thought of doing this professionally?

For a moment you are flattered, but you quickly dismiss the compliment and say:

“Thank you so much. It’s just something I like to do for fun.”

But after hearing the same comments from different people, your brain starts playing with the possibility. Someone planted a seed in your mind and it’s definitely growing! One day, you wake up in the middle of the night with this question:

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.

Making Money In Your PJs cover

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Asking for a Raise

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Freelancing, Money Matters 9 Comments

The project was perfect.

It had my name written all over it.

Better still, I didn’t even have to submit a demo. It was mine!

There was only one problem: the budget. It was a bit low.

I asked myself: “Shall I do it anyway?” It would certainly be nice to add another prestigious brand name to my portfolio. And if they liked me, perhaps they’d hire me at a better rate next time.

Seconds later I knew I wasn’t making any sense. Big brands have big budgets. Even for voice-overs. And every sales person on earth knows that the first offer is never the best. It’s a test.

Assume I’d say yes to what they were offering right now. I’d set a precedent. Why would a client feel inclined to pay me more next time? 

If I really wanted this job, there was only one solution:

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.

Making Money In Your PJs cover

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Marketing Demystified

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Promotion, Social Media 8 Comments

Marketing.

It makes many freelancers uncomfortable.

They look at it as a necessary and expensive evil.

If possible, they’d rather delegate it to someone else. 

I disagree.

A while ago, Chris Kendall of Voice Artists United interviewed me about it. 

Here’s his first question:

Many people rely on just having a website and an Internet presence on Twitter, Facebook or on a P2P site to do their marketing for them. Does this work, and if not, why not?

Let’s take a step back and start with my definition of marketing:

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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Looking Back

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Gear, International, Internet, Journalism & Media, Money Matters, Pay-to-Play, Promotion, Social Media, Studio 3 Comments
Nethervoice blog author Paul Strikwerda

blog author Paul Strikwerda

In my last post of the year, I always go back in time to highlight some of the articles you may have missed or would like to revisit.

December turned out to be Gear Month at Nethervoice, and in a way we’ve come full circle. My first contribution of 2013 was entitled “Confessions of a Hopeless Gearhead.”

If you’ve ever wondered why evaluating and selecting new gear is so subjective and challenging, you have to read this  article.

CLIENTS FROM HELL

No matter in what stage of your career you are, you and I have at least one thing in common: we’re always communicating with customers. How to effectively deal with clients has been a recurring theme on this blog.

If you believe the customer is always right, you’re wrong and I’ll tell you why in a story about lengthy translations, short videos and managing expectations. “Bring in the Natives” looks at the many reasons why ignorant clients and careless online casting sites don’t bother with quality control any more.

In “Rotten Carrots and Cool Clients” I will introduce you to Type A and Type B clients, and I’ll show you how you can tell the difference. Here’s the bottom line: stay away from one of them!

VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES & TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

January was the month I finally decided to open up about something I feel strongly about: violence in video games and the role voice actors play in the production of these games. In “It’s just a Game” I weigh some of the evidence on the links between violent games and violent behavior. 

Makers of violent video games may proclaim that all they do is provide innocent entertainment. I’m not buying it. You may not agree with my conclusions, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to consider what I have to say.

Another recurring theme is the position of newbies in the voice-over industry and ways in which beginners can increase their level of professionalism. In “Learning on the job” I expose one of the persistent myths that it’s totally okay to advertise yourself as a pro and treat your clients to trial-and-error sessions.

I even went as far as to share my entire voice-over working agreement with you, so you wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Success does not come easy in this profession, and certainly not overnight. My article “Failure is Always an Option” tells the story of a number of colleagues with great intentions who made bad decisions that killed their career. There are lessons to be learned from failure!

LET’S GET PERSONAL

Every now and then I also give you an inside look into my personal life. I don’t do that because I’m a closet-narcissist (you can read about that in “Call me a Narcissist”).

It’s because I want to draw attention to a charity I feel passionate about: the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In “Overcoming Obstacles and Giving Back” I tell the story of how my wife discovered she has MS and how she is dealing with this confusing and unpredictable disease.

Together, readers of this blog raised over $5000 for the MS Society, making us the number #5 fundraising team out of 58 in my area. I can’t thank you enough for your incredible generosity!

Speaking of my wife, in “The Wind beneath my Wings” I blogged about the importance of having a supportive partner in this field of work. A partner can be a dear friend but also a life partner. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to do what I do, if it weren’t for my better half.

As a reluctant introvert, I tend to keep things inside. “The Emotional Dilemma” is a story about how my feelings are influencing my work for better or for worse, and how I am channeling these emotions as I’m interpreting scripts.

Many people have asked my about my background as a voice actor. “How it all began” will tell you more about the early days of my voice-over career.

TECH TALK

Of course no year goes by without me delving into some of the more technical issues that come with our job. In “Get the boom out of the room” I reveal some of my personal secrets to creating a dry recording space.

Factory Demos and Fatal First Impressions” deals with sure ways to kill any chance of winning an audition and what you can do about it.

2013 was in many ways a testing year.

Last week I reviewed Audient’s iD22, a top-notch  audio interface that is my number one pick for best new VO-gear of the year. I also tried out Microphone X from Aphex. It’s a unique USB mic with built-in analog processing.

My new Presonus Eris 5 studio monitors inspired me to write an article about gear selection, and I tried out several gadgets designed to turn a smart phone into a voice-over recording device.

I also reviewed CAD’s Acousti-Shield 32 and their Sessions MH510 studio headphones.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

Getting paid is always a hot topic in voice-over land. A few months ago, I wrote a series of stories on that topic, beginning with “When a client owes you” followed by “Give me my money!” If you’re still waiting for that check that was promised ages ago, and you’re wondering what you can do about it, I’m sure my tips will help you.

For those of you in Europe or with clients in that part of the world, I reported on the efforts of the EU to crack down on late payments. A new EU directive protects people like you and me against clients who demand you deliver your work yesterday and who pay whenever they feel like it.

Of course my blogging year wouldn’t be complete without mentioning two stories that turned out to be immensely popular because they dealt with one popular Pay to Play site in particular.

In “Leaving Voices.com” I told you about my falling out with this Canadian company (be sure to listen to the audio sample!). This article was widely discussed and quoted, and I added a follow-up with “As the Dust Settles.”

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to leave every online casting site that is not working in my best interest and in the best interest of our profession. I’d say that covers about ninety percent of them. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR ME

All in all it’s been a pretty productive year.

Many people have asked me how I manage to write a blog each week (plus guest posts), and to have a full-time voice-over career. Just read “Are You Talking To Me” for some answers, as well as tips for those thinking of starting a blog in 2014.

Of course there are many articles from 2013 that I did not mention in this overview, but I’ll leave it to you to explore more and pick your personal favorites.

If you’ve enjoyed my writing in the past twelve months, I’d like to ask you one small favor.

Please keep on sharing my stories with your friends and colleagues and stay in touch.

Your comments, friendship and collegiality continue to inspire me!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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The Voice Over Working Agreement

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters, Uncategorized 19 Comments

European Voice Talent Paul StrikwerdaLast week I answered some frequently asked questions about blogging.

Today, I’ll address something I get asked a lot by colleagues who are relatively new to the voice-over industry. They want to know if I have some sort of a working agreement in place with my clients.

The answer is Yes. It’s actually a mix between a working agreement and practical tips that are the result of over 25 years of experience.  

One of the first things I tell them is that I am a member of the World Voices Organization, and that I subscribe to the Best Practices for Voice Talent. I believe in this new organization, and I want my clients to know that I am committed to providing voice-over recordings that meet professional standards that are adopted and promoted by World Voices.

So, step into the shoes of my clients, as I take them by the hand and give them tips and guidelines for working with me.

A. HOME STUDIO & DIRECTION

By hiring a talent with a home studio, you save time and money. The studio fee is included in my quote; you’re not paying for an audio engineer or a director, and there are no travel costs to reimburse. I use professional, top-of-the-line equipment in an isolated, acoustically treated recording space. This allows me to deliver pristine, ready-to-use audio in a format of your choice.

Because you’re not physically present at the time of the recording, you cannot give me directions during the session. Please remember:

I can read your script but I cannot read your mind.

That’s why it is your responsibility to give me clear instructions ahead of time. More about that later. With those guidelines in hand, I will do my very best to interpret and read the script according to your wishes. If those instructions are missing, ambiguous or very broad, I will ask for clarification. If no (further) explanation is provided, I will assume that you have given me permission to interpret the script using my experience and expertise.

B. LIVE SESSIONS

You can choose to listen to a recording session in real-time and give directions via Skype or phone. It is the fastest way to get on the same page. My Skype ID is paulstrikwerda1. You may also call me at 732-322-5292 to communicate during a session.

Remember that I live and work close to New York City, which puts me on Eastern Standard Time. If you’re in Europe (Central European Time), you’re probably six hours ahead of me. By the time Europeans call it a day, I still have many hours left to finish your project so it’s ready for you first thing in the morning!

Important:

1. Please send your script at least 24 hours prior to the session. This will give me time to prepare.

2. If you opt to join me for a virtual session and have to cancel, please notify me 24 hours in advance. That way, I can accommodate other clients.

3. I am always happy to record another version of your script if my interpretation is not to your liking. However, if you did not provide clear instructions ahead of time and/or you changed your mind and chose not to direct me, this will be billed as a new project.

C. ANALYZING THE SCRIPT: TONE, TEMPO & ACCENT

Any text can be read in a thousand ways. The more specific you are about what you expect of me, the easier it will be to give you what you hope to hear. Here are a few ways in which you can get me on the right track:

1. Listen to my demos and pick a particular one you’d like me to match.

2. Ask me to record a short demo of your script to give you an idea of my approach. Based on that, you can give me feedback allowing me to fine-tune my performance.

3. If you’d like me to read in the style of e.g. Liev Schreiber narrating a documentary or John Cleese doing a commercial, please send me a link to a video on YouTube or Vimeo to give me an idea of what you’ll hope to hear.

Important: I am a voice actor and not a celebrity impersonator. Impersonation can be seen as a form of theft and it is illegal to impersonate a person without their permission with the intent to generate a profit.

4. If you have asked me to record a project that was produced in another language, please send me an audio sample of the original and I’ll do my best to match that, if that’s what you want.

5. Give me the backstory of a character and/or an image of a cartoon character you’d like me to voice. Tell me about age, family background, education, occupation, life experiences, accent, intentions et cetera.

D. PRONUNCIATION

I specialize in multilingual projects with an international angle. Correct pronunciation is one of the key factors determining the credibility of your message. Please help me get it right the first time. Here’s what you can do to help.

1. Provide a pronunciation guide in writing, or record an audio version of certain words, names or phrases. Alternatively, you could send me a link to a word on http://www.forvo.com or http://www.howjsay.com or use other online pronunciation resources. Remember; you can also coach me via Skype.

2. Sometimes, a script in one language contains words in another language. You need to make a choice as to how these words will be pronounced. Let me give you two examples.

– A Dutch script mentioned the name of an American company. Even though I could have pronounced the company name with a Dutch accent (as is common in the Netherlands), the client instructed me to pronounce it with an American accent.

– A Dutch e-Learning module about bikes featured many models and model numbers such as “Road Racer 315.” The client asked me to pronounce ‘Road Racer’ in English and the number in Dutch.

3. Please be explicit and write things such as numbers and abbreviations down the way you want them to be read. Examples:

– 120: one hundred and twenty or one hundred twenty?
– January fifth nineteen hundred and twelve or the fifth of January nineteen twelve?
– “In twenty twenty we will host the World Cup” or “In two thousand and twenty we will host the World Cup”?
 – “I’d like to say two things. 1. You are the best” or “I’d like to say two things. Number one: You are the best”?
– “5. The Fall of Rome” or “Chapter 5. The Fall of Rome”?

Tip: Never assume that I know how you want me to pronounce and/or read something.

In doubt, spell it out!

E. REVISIONS, CORRECTIONS AND RETAKES

Most scripts go through many drafts before they land on my desk. I will assume that the script you are giving me is the FINAL and OFFICIALLY APPROVED version. That’s what I will read and record. Once this recording is completed and received, payment is due within the time frame listed on the invoice.

Important: The recording of a script that was revised after the first, officially approved text was recorded, is regarded as a new project and will be billed accordingly.

Retakes that are the result of mistakes I made are always free.

F. TRANSLATIONS

Even though you didn’t hire me as a proofreader, you are paying me for script preparation. Every week I receive scripts filled with errors due to poor translation. Because my name and professional reputation are closely associated with the projects I voice, I will not record scripts that contain grammatical errors and other mistakes made by an unqualified translator.

Tip: I’m happy to translate or retranslate a script from English into Dutch or Dutch into English for you. I charge $0.15 or 0.11 Euro per word with a minimum of $30.00 (22 Euro).

G. AUDIO FORMAT

Audio files can be recorded and saved in many formats. Prior to recording you have to let me know what your preferred audio format is, such as MP3, WAV, AIFF, FLAC et cetera. Add to that the required bit depth (e.g. 16 or 24 bits) and sample rate (e.g. 44,100 or 48,000 Hz). If you’re not sure, ask your audio engineer.

Unless otherwise instructed, I take it that you would like to receive clean, unprocessed audio.

H. EDITING, FILE SEPARATION & SYNCING

Some clients automatically assume that home studio talent will deliver fully edited, ready-to-use audio at no extra charge. Be aware that audio editing is very time-consuming and that it requires a special skill set. Producing one hour of finished audio may take three to four hours of editing! While you may think you’re paying the talent for one hour of work only, he or she might spend half a day in the studio to complete that hour.

Unless otherwise agreed, my quote includes an editing fee.

For some projects it may be necessary to have me separate, label and save many files individually. Bulk processing is not always possible. Please realize that this could take longer than the actual recording and that an additional fee may apply.

If you’d like me to sync my voice-over to a video, make sure your script is time-coded and that it lists a maximum time for each segment. Should a paragraph be broken up into sections that need to be synced up precisely, make sure those sections are time-coded as well.

Alternatively, you may send me the video and the script, and I will time-code it for you at an additional charge.

I. RECEIVING YOUR RECORDING

In general, large audio files cannot be sent via email. Please let me know how you’d like to receive those files and if you’d like those files to be compressed.

Some clients use Dropbox, others use an FTP solution. I often use www.wetransfer.com, a free file transfer service. Once the audio is uploaded, I will send you a quick email. You will also receive an email invitation from wetransfer.com to download these files.

Important: Technology is never 100% foolproof. If something did not go as planned, let me know ASAP. If you did not receive an invitation to download, please check your spam folder. If you did receive the files, kindly send me a quick email to confirm receipt.

J. USAGE OF THE AUDIO

My voice-over rates are based on a number of variables: the medium (radio, television, internet), the market (local, national, international), the length, the nature and the use of the audio. The recording you are about to receive may only be used for the purposes indicated in your request and for the length of time and market we agreed upon in advance, unless a buy-out fee has been negotiated. Should you wish to change the original purpose, time and market, you must inform me of your intentions and additional payment is required.

Important: As long as the invoice has not been paid in full, the intellectual property of the audio (not the script) remains with me.

K. COPIES OF FINISHED WORK & CREDITS

Once a job is finished, I will ask you for a copy of the finished work for my portfolio, unless releasing the work violates a confidentiality agreement signed by me or the producer/client. You agree that I may use all or a portion of the copy on my website or voice-over demo or demos, and reference the project on my resume, but only for promotional purposes of my voice-over services and subject to any confidentiality agreement that may be in place.

If credit is given to those participating in the project for which I was hired, such as the actor(s), editor, composer, producer, et cetera, credit should be given to me as voice talent, as well.

L. PAYMENT

Once the job is completed and the voice-over is approved, you will receive an invoice from my assistant via email. To make sure this invoice reaches the right person and can be processed without problems, let me know to whom the invoice should be sent and to which email address. Please include all the information you need so the invoice can be generated and processed, such as a project number, job code or purchase order number.

I always strive to meet or beat a project deadline so you can have the audio you ordered at the agreed time. In turn, I ask you to make sure the invoice gets paid by the date listed on the invoice, regardless of whether or not you have received payment for the voice-over from the client you are working for.

*                     *                    *                    *                     *

At this point I go over the rest of my payment policies with my clients.

As you can see, I pretty much tried to cover all the bases, but I have to tell you that this is a work in progress. Feel free to add anything I might have missed. The comment box at the bottom of this blog would be perfect for that.

One last thing. The document you just read is followed by a legal section where I formalize this working agreement in a way that would make attorneys very happy. The entire document can be accessed online. All I have to do is send a client a link to the web page.  

Coming up with all these “rules” and stipulations is not a part of my job I very much enjoy. Yet, it’s important to have these things in writing to avoid misunderstandings and possible problems down the road.

It’s part of my free and ongoing Client Education Program, brought to you by the friendly folks at Nethervoice.

Class dismissed!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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