Do Less, Make More

Being busyWhat’s frustration number one for a freelancer?

Being busy without being productive. 

It’s a trap I have fallen into many times. I was working all day long, without much to show for it. That is, until something finally dawned upon me:

Busy people talk about how little time they have. Productive people make time for what’s important. 

The question is: how do you know what is important for your business?

On some days, everything seems important: answering emails, invoicing clients, making phone calls, updating the website, recording auditions, paying bills, designing marketing materials, researching new gear, keeping up with social media… The list is endless, especially when you’re a one-person band. It’s tempting to do it all, and to do it all by yourself. 

That’s mistake number one. Here’s how to fix it:

Focus on what you’re good at. Outsource the rest.

There’s a reason why a brain surgeon doesn’t do her own billing, a CEO doesn’t answer every call, and Tim Cook doesn’t design the next iPhone. People who run a successful business hire people who are smarter and more talented than they are, to take care of certain aspects of that business. These experts are able to do things better and quicker, leaving you with more time to focus on your strengths. That’s where the money is!

So, if you’re not a kick-ass web designer, hire someone who is, and have him/her teach you to maintain and update the site once it’s up and running. Or do you have time to become an SEO specialist? I didn’t think so!

If you stink at bookkeeping, get an office assistant to take care of the numbers, and let an accountant prepare your taxes. This ensures that you maximize your deductions, and you minimize the money going to the IRS. An office assistant can also take on other administrative tasks, such as dealing with unpaid invoices. That way, you don’t have to be the bad guy (or gal). 

If you’re struggling to create a logo or a catch phrase, hire a graphic designer and a copywriter. They specialize in making you look and sound much more professional than you’ll ever be able to do yourself. Clients will only see you as a professional if you present yourself like a pro.

If you’re recording a massive project (such as an audio book) on a tight deadline, pay someone to edit and master the audio for you. Why spend time on a $50 to $100 per hour job, if you could make between $350 and $500 per hour? 

If you’re thinking about how much all of this will cost, you’re looking at it the wrong way. Reinventing the wheel, learning on the fly, trying to do everything yourself… it will leave you frustrated and without energy to do what you do best. You know, the very things clients hire you to do. That is going to cost you!

If -on the other hand- you decide to outsource some or all of these things, you’ll be surprised how much time you will gain. Now, let’s see if I can save you some more!

AUDITION SELECTIVELY

In the beginning of my career I spent way too much time auditioning for jobs that were out of my range. Why? Because someone had told me that it was a numbers game. The more I auditioned, the greater the chance I would eventually land a job, they said. Doing auditions was a way to learn on the job, right?

Wrong!

Clients hire you because they trust you can do the job. They don’t want you to experiment on their dime. These days I am super selective. I know I don’t have a movie trailer voice, so I’m not even going to try to sound like one. I won’t audition for projects by companies or causes I cannot support (sorry fast food and tobacco industry). If you’re not offering a decent rate, you can find yourself a Craigslist talent, but please don’t waste my time. 

I also got smarter in the way I audition. Knowing that clients will often only listen to the first seconds, I am no longer recording three-minute scripts. Unless the client specifies otherwise, I’ll pick a few lines from the beginning with the company name, and I’ll include the payoff line at the end. Then I’m done. I know Michael J. Collins auditions this way, and he seems to be doing okay. 

One last thing about auditions: I no longer record ten takes before I’m satisfied. If I can’t produce a good read in a few tries, the job is probably not meant for me. 

THE HARDEST WORD

Apart from curbing my presence on social media, there’s one other thing that has saved me tons of time: I became better at saying a certain two-letter word. 

“Can you evaluate my demo for free?”

NO!

“Can you write a guest post for this blog with 12 subscribers?”

NO!

“Can you tell me how to break into the business?”

NO!

“Can you answer this question I am too lazy to research myself?”

NO!

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy helping others, but I don’t run a charity. I run a for-profit business. That means that in everything I do, I have to think about the Return On Investment. 

Making enough money gives me the opportunity to invest in ways that will save me money and grow my business, as well as the freedom to engage in activities that are important, but that won’t generate any money.

ONE MORE LESSON

When I look back at my career, I wasted so much time waiting for things to happen. I thought that if I put a few things in place; had the right equipment and a decent amount of talent, things would turn out okay. After all, a wise man had told me: “Do what you love, and the money will follow.”

Tell that to the people who are going broke, lovingly living a dream.

A few hard years later, I realized that if I wanted to be successful, I had to become the prime instigator and number one delegator. I had to stop being busy, and start becoming productive.

It was quite the transformation, but you know what they say:

“Busy people talk about how they will change.

Productive people are making those changes.”

Are you?

VO ATLANTA 2019

If your VO business isn’t where you want it to be, and you wish to change that, come to VO Atlanta at the end of the month. On Saturday March 29th I’ll be leading a workshop (X-session) called Six Steps To Turning Your Business Around. It’s a practical, 3-hour, hands-on session during which I will challenge you to take a good look at six aspects of your voice-over career. What’s working, and what isn’t? Is one aspect sabotaging other areas? What aspect needs more work? At the end of the session you will walk out with a practical plan to take your business to the next level.

The day after I hope you will join me for a fun one-hour breakout session called Winning Mindsets To Take Charge Of Your Career. Great equipment and a good voice can only get you so far in this business. What you tell yourself is just as important as what you tell others. Find out what accomplished colleagues are doing differently between the ears that leads to their success.

If you cannot make it in person, join the conference live with VO Atlanta Virtual.

  • Enjoy watching presentations from the main-stage featuring industry experts
  • For the 1st time ever, watch select breakout sessions along with expert panel discussions
  • Exclusive Interviews with thought leaders from around the voiceover industry

 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

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

7 Responses to Do Less, Make More

  1. Heather Henderson

    Paul, I will sometimes copy a particular gem of a concept from one of your blog posts onto a slip of paper and pin it somewhere in my studio. For the past 6 months, I have had a piece of paper sitting on my script stand that says (from your June blog about perfectionism: “It’s the imperfections that make a performance ‘perfect.'” It is wonderful to have you 😉 remind me of this every time I hit Record.

    And from this newest blog post, I have copied the part about auditions, especially that excellent reminder not to waste my time with ten takes — “if I can’t produce a good read in a few tries, the job is probably not meant for me.” THAT’S going on my studio wall, too.

    Thank you for another great post, Paul.

    -Heather

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m truly honored that my words are in your studio, Heather. I can’t imagine getting a nicer compliment!

    [Reply]

  2. KIm Handysides

    Love this Paul!
    I agree wholeheartedly. It’s so important to take time to reflect, streamline & make moves toward higher efficiency. This past year I made a move to sub out all my paperwork & editing on anything over 60 seconds. I increased my productivity & now have more time to recharge my batteries (balance life!)
    Looking forward to seeing you at VO Atlanta. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Balance is so important, and not always easy to achieve. My greatest challenge was to be okay with not doing anything productive. At first, I felt terribly guilty. It took me a while to realize that I had to make time to recharge, otherwise I’d run out of gas, and my body would not heal. I’ve come to appreciate the power of afternoon naps, and long strolls in a nature reserve. Good things can come out of things that are not so good!

    I’m glad you’re coming to VO Atlanta, Kim. Look for the man in the yellow clogs!

    [Reply]

  3. Jodi Krangle

    Wonderful words of wisdom, as per usual, Paul. 🙂

    I just hate standing still. That means a lot of things to me. It means constant coaching, it means evaluating my demos on a regular basis and figuring out if they need an update here or a tweak there, or if there are new genres I could get into that I haven’t investigated before, and it means investing in outsourcing of some marketing that I just feel someone else is better at than I am (though I’m heavily involved). The more funnels we have leading to our door, the better off we’ll be.

    And yes – definitely being selective in the projects I take on and the auditions I do, has been something I’ve refined over the years. It makes my business more successful and it increases my enjoyment for what I do.

    There’s also nothing wrong with taking a little time to just do NOTHING for a little bit and relax. We’re not machines, after all. And this year’s VO Atlanta is all about “Refresh”, right? 😉

    Those sessions of yours sound fantastic! Really looking forward to seeing you at VO Atlanta. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    In the past twelve months, I was given the opportunity to take some time off. A long time, actually. My voice needed to come back to me after I lost it in a stroke. Financially it was challenging, but it felt good to be able to distance myself from the world of voice-overs for a while. It gave me the time to focus on my healing. In running my business with enthusiasm and energy, I had neglected my body, and I paid the price. That’s why I needed to be unproductive for a while. I can now tell you that I enjoyed being busy being unproductive, and am reaping the rewards as we speak!

    I can’t wait to see you at VO Atlanta 2019. Perhaps we could even enjoy some refreshments together!

    [Reply]

    Jodi Krangle Reply:

    I’m really glad you were able to take the time you needed, Paul. You’re right – sometimes just being UNproductive, gives us the perspective to do what we need to do, and allows us to feel refreshed and re-energized later. Time to heal is a very important time. Nothing at all unproductive about that! I hope you’re feeling a lot better now. And sharing refreshments would be outstanding! 🙂

    [Reply]

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