Three years ago, two aspiring voice-overs took the plunge, and opened up shop.
One was incredibly talented, undisciplined, and thought he always knew best. The other one wasn’t as good, but she was business-savvy, and listened to feedback.
36 months later, number one is now an Uber-driver, entertaining his clients with celebrity impressions. Number two is starting to make a living… as a voice talent.
What went wrong, and what went right? Was it a matter of luck, attitude, or preparation?
Simply put, it takes more than talent to make it as a freelancer, no matter what field you pick. Way more. Let’s explore.
INVESTING IN YOU
Here’s a question for you.
If I were an investor on Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den, and you came to me with a pitch to back your business, what would I be looking for?
Number one: I’d look for your ability to make me money. By the way: that happens to be the same reason why agents sign you, and clients hire you.
Think about that for a minute.
You may believe that you’re doing what you’re doing to make money for yourself. If that’s the case, I have news for you.
Your clients don’t care whether or not you turn a profit. Your clients don’t want to know how much you spent on that new microphone or revamped website. All they are interested in, is this:
“Will your voice help me spread my message so I can make more money?”
Even if you happen to work with a non-profit, it’s always a matter of benefits and costs. The benefits of hiring you should outweigh how much your clients pay. If that’s the case, those clients will perceive you as an asset, and not as an expense.
MAKING YOUR PITCH
There’s a lot of psychology in selling, but it starts with this: in a competitive market you have to offer a competitive product. Something that’s different, or better than what’s already on the shelves.
If you’re providing a service like voice-over narration, you better bring it from day one. Don’t jump into the ocean if you barely know how to swim. Amateurs learn on the job, and they get eaten alive. Professionals know what they’re doing, and they’re able to survive.
In the Shark Tank as well as in real life, you’d need to bring something to the table that’s rather unique; a brilliant solution to a common problem, sold at the right price. Yes, you heard me. As one of the investors, I would expect you to know what you’re worth and charge accordingly.
Mark my words: Those who sell themselves short, aren’t taken seriously.
You’d also have to demonstrate what sets you apart from the competition. You have to come up with a solid marketing plan, and convince me why I should trust you.
It’s also important that you present your plans compellingly and logically, particularly under pressure. The reason is simple. If you cannot sell yourself, how will you ever sell your service, especially if you are the embodiment of that service?
LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS
Lastly, you’d have to show me your books.
Some freelancers think this is the boring stuff, but to me, this is where things get interesting.
No matter what business you’re in, the way you manage your money is one of the most important predictors of success. You may have the most enchanting voice in the world, but if you don’t price for profit, and you spend more than you make without even knowing it, you may end up driving for Uber.
Your balance sheet needs to reflect a few other things as well:
- a keen sense of organization,
- an aptitude for making intelligent investments, and
- an ability to control costs.
If it’s okay with you, I want to talk about the last two things I just mentioned: investing in your business, and controlling how much you spend. Today I’ll talk a bit about spending. Next week I’ll show you a few of my favorite ways to save.
WHERE TO PUT YOUR MONEY
No matter what some people want you to believe, you cannot run a profitable voice-over business on a shoestring budget. It starts with getting the proper training. Clients pay you because they trust that you know what you’re doing. They don’t expect you to figure it out on the fly and on their dime.
Just as a carpenter needs quality tools to deliver quality work, you need to have equipment that says you’re taking this voice-over thing seriously. Otherwise, you’re nothing more than a hopeful hobbyist talking into a stupid snowball microphone.
Now, if you’re just getting started, here’s something you probably don’t want to hear: without a dedicated, isolated, and acoustically treated recording space, you’re not going to make enough money to stay afloat.
When a client calls, or there’s an audition, you need to be able to jump into your booth and press “record.” Otherwise the client will go somewhere else, and you’ll be last in line for that audition. You really can’t afford to wait until your neighbor stops using his snow blower, or until that barking bulldog finally falls asleep.
An expensive microphone in a bad recording space won’t sound half as good as a cheaper microphone in a treated environment. I think you get the point. Looking back at my career, building a home studio was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It has paid for itself many times over, and frankly, I wish I’d done it earlier.
THE INVISIBLE EQUALIZER
Another investment you should make, is an investment in something invaluable that cannot be bought or rented. You can’t taste it, or touch it. Yet, everyone is using it every day (some to greater effect than others).
I’m talking about Time.
The success or failure of your business greatly depends on how you spend your time. First of all, give yourself time to become good at what you want to do. Cultivate your craft. Don’t rush it. There’s a lot more to doing voice-overs than most people think. And just because it sounds easy, doesn’t mean it is.
Time is all about goals and priorities. We usually get things done that are important to us. People tend to get their “musts,” but not their “shoulds.”
In a past profession, I interviewed many people who were considered to be a success. Politicians, captains of industry, and entertainers. Most of them were incredibly busy, but they were really good at planning, or had someone else do the planning for them. That way, they made the most out of every day.
These people were just like you and me, but they didn’t spend hours checking Facebook, or watching soap operas. What struck me most was their tremendous power to prioritize, delegate, and focus. Whatever they were doing at a particular moment, had their full attention.
So, if you wish to learn from those who are where you want to be, don’t ask them about the moment they knew they wanted to be a voice-over.
Don’t ask them about the silliest thing that ever happened to them in a studio.
Ask them how they spend their time, and learn from it.
This will help you get ready for the Shark Tank that is your professional life.
Three years from now, it might make the difference between working a dream job, or driving a cab.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Be sweet. Please retweet!
Rick Jonie says
I find knowing my worth is the most difficult thing in this profession. Being assertive enough to talk about price is difficult, at least for me.
Paul Strikwerda says
Since the GVAA published its global rate card, we have a solid guideline to help non-union members out. Eventually, you’ve got to get a spine. Otherwise clients will take advantage of you, and you become partly responsible for the steady decline in voice-over rates. Always price for profit. You’re not running a charity!
Jes Martin says
The information is very interesting for voice overs. I am a Spanish voice over talent.
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt says
As someone who has survived a devastating illness, you can appreciate the challenges I go through trying to produce top-quality fiction with a mind which doesn’t always cooperate.
I have ME – I’ve had it for thirty years+. I write anyway – and I have the luxury of spending as much of my time as I can make my brain work doing it.
In my second profession, I can put in as much time as I need. I can accept no one else’s schedule or deadlines – but I will publish when each book is up to my standards. Time and determination can make up for many things, such as the lack of nimbleness that comes with perpetual exhaustion.
I’ve also taken a lot of what I deal with, and gifted it to one of my characters, because I’m also writing about how the world doesn’t get to tell you what you can or cannot want, based on how it values you.
The story is not autobiographical (I wish!), but I couldn’t write it without having learned so much of it the hard way. In many ways, a reader gets to experience the life of a person with a disability from the inside – without having to become ill.
The struggle back to health is only managed part of the time, and I am impressed at how much you have been able to recover of your professional life. Mine was completely lost – you can’t do research physics without a brain – but I had planned to write when I retired anyway, and I’ve been able to pour everything I have left into that.
Not fast enough for a shark tank-type profession – but there are many things that can be done with the slow-but-determined life.