Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The business of the VO business

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there is more to this malarkey than just being able to open and close your mouth in front of a microphone. And ultimately, if you are going to make this business work for you, you have to see it as just that - a business. I'm going to let you in on a few areas of my business that are just as important to me attaining my goals as a Voiceover Artist.

Basic business etiquette and understanding of standard procedures such as invoices, balancing the accounts, and all that comes with financial dealings, tax returns, and spreadsheets and forecasts and checking that clients have paid on time, in the right currency, are all vital parts of the VO experience. Suddenly time I spent doing temp jobs in accounts departments to get through Drama School seem to have been useful and helpful on my journey, way beyond getting the immediate wage packet at the end of the week. Plus having been responsible for a large theatre school with over 120 children on my books means that I am accustomed to keeping track of payments, and have developed a thick skin when encouraging late payers to cough up. If you're not good with numbers, find a local course to help you gain confidence- often in the UK you will find that your local council run free business start up sessions on basic accounting. This really is an area that you don't want to get wrong. I mean you aren't doing this VO thing solely fo the kick of hearing your voice on the telly are you?

Letter writing. You remember the good old fashioned postal method? Well, to me that is still a regular experience as I send CD's to land on desk somewhere. (To be honest I enjoy the stroll to the Post Office- gets me out of the studio and I have real social interaction, not on the phone or via email, or on the ISDN line!) Emails and mp3 are great- but you can't get your branding to jump out at someone in quite the same way that you can from an attractive bit of packaging. Plus it is much easier to dump an mp3 in the trash, than it is to put someone's CD demo in the bin without a moments thought. I have quite literally had a job 8 years after I first sent a demo to a producer - he found me on his shelf, getting dusty. You just never know where a demo CD will end up. It may seem a little old fashioned, but if it works, don't knock it.  Every CD needs a good cover letter, and again, basic knowledge of business ettiquette is vital. You are the brand - and everything has to be right with what you present a potential client. And no one likes a badly written email either, by the way.

Branding is crucial. You have to know your product, so that you can attract your market. There is no benefit in trying to be master of all voice styles. Know what you are suited to, and market the hell out of it. Find your niche and work it, baby. Demos, business cards, logos, invoices, letter heads, emails, pretty much anything and everything that leaves the studio from you needs to make an impact, and one that works in your favour. Photographs, also, carry a strong weight. There is debate as to whether VO's should have their pic on their website or not, given that it is their voice they are selling not their ugly mug. My thought is that we live in a media rich world, and we kind of expect to see a face to put to a name. So make sure that pic is a good one, taken by a pro, and not a dreadful snap of you in poor lighting. That photo will end up everywhere as you market like crazy on social media sites. Is that really the image you want for your business?

Which brings me to the world of Twitter, blogging, Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn and more besides. This is possibly the single thing that makes the difference in my career. Networking,constantly.

My quiet spells of work often happen a month of so after I take a break from networking for a week, that's how big an impact it can have. Choose how you represent yourself in every interaction. It comes up in Google rankings! I have developed a fantastic community of Voiceover peers and buddies, who can now help in my time of need, and many producers have booked me after following me for a while. I honestly don't know how people did this for a living before!

So there you go, a few of my tips and pointers on how I do my bit in this business. Chiefly though for me, I never feel that I can sit back and wait for the work to roll in. Even at my most hectic times, with recordings and editing round the clock, I still put in the hours on the admin and networking, I still strive to protect myself against the inevitable quiet periods. So have a look at how you do things on a daily basis for your VO work. Are you presenting yourself in the best light? Are you doing things with your 'business head' on? If not, I suggest you consider a few changes. It'll make all the difference to your career, and your business.