Thursday, February 25, 2010

9 Years and Counting...

Today we would like to take a moment to pat each other on the back for receiving this certificate of excellence from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). I mean, we know we're good -- but it certainly feels good to get that validation nine years in a row from someone whose job it is to rate businesses according to customer satisfaction, "honesty, integrity, ethics and trust".



"I'm really proud when I look at our record with the Better Business Bureau," Ben Werlin, Business Manager at Such A Voice says. "I think it clearly illustrates our commitment to the success of our clients. It also speaks to the strength of our voice-over coaching and production staff and their ability to really deliver quality training and demo production on a consistent basis." He adds, "I am truly thankful to have the opportunity to work with all the talented individuals that make up the Such A Voice Team!"

In case you haven't had the pleasure of working with us, I can tell you that we all love what we do here. Like, seriously -- we love our jobs! We have so much fun working with clients, and you definitely get that sense from attending one of our classes or even just calling us to ask questions. It's hard to not get so much satisfaction working at Such A Voice when we get to see -- and hear -- our clients making their voice-over dream jobs come true every day.

Thanks to everyone for all their hard work, and thank you to our students, past and future, for giving us the opportunity to do what we do best: voice-over training and demo production.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What's in a Contract?




Like any successful voice-over artist will tell you, becoming a pro in this industry takes more than the voice-over training. There's a website to build, marketing to plan, Pro Tools to master, and then there are little "details," like what information to include in a contract. Make sure you have your ducks in a row when you land your first voice-over job so that you look like the pro in the client's eyes that you sound like!

Sending the client a contract is a good idea so that both you and the client are explicit about the details of the project, the timeline, the agreed upon price, and the deliverables -- including how many iterations of the voice-over they get for the rate. In most cases, a standard template in Microsoft Publisher will suffice. Devise a contract template ahead of time, complete with your brand name and logo, which will save you time later on.

You may run into a situation in which you will go back and forth with a client through email about the details of the voice-over job, but it's generally a good idea to summarize everything in a contract one last time. The organization will be appreciated by the client, and documenting your projects will make it easier for you in tax season!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meet Jody Petersen!

Name and title: Voice-Over Coach and Producer


Where are you from? Born New York, raised in Kentucky until the age of 10, then fell of the turnip truck in Jericho Vermont.


Job responsibilities: I produce Demos, write scripts, coach, record and teach students in the Master Class. I also vacuum the studio and put the toilet seat down a few hundred times a day.


Favorite food: My favorite food? Fresh greens, fresh greens and more fresh greens!


Hobbies: My hobbies are listening to music, playing cello, long distance road biking, snow shoeing, hiking, wilderness camping, sewing, cooking, reading, independent films, drinking, renovating, restoring, decorating, entertaining, herb crafting and gardening.


Destination vacation: Cooper Island in the Caribbean or New Zealand


What are you listening to right now? The Avett Brothers, K.T Tunstall, Toni Caitlin (!) and an incredible compilation Aaron (my buddy in Post) put together- It features everything from Jazz, African and Americana to Pop, Alternative and Esoterica. I love variety and this compilation really delivers.


One piece of advice for aspiring talent: Believe in your power to do anything you have your heart set on. Dream it. Believe it. Receive it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Making Sense of Social Media


Continuing our discussion of voice-over technique quality vs. brand marketing, it's important to consider your social media strategy. Not that long ago there was only Facebook and MySpace, but today there are literally hundreds of social media sites to choose from. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are some of the most popular, but don't forget about LinkedIn, Ning, Yelp! or Yammer. Especially if you're just joining us in the social media scene, it can be overwhelming to figure out what you need now, what you can pass on, and what to plan for later.

As a professional voice-over artist, you need to strategize your social media front to get as much exposure to potential clients as possible. That means you should definitely be set up with your own webpage -- either through Such A Voice (if you were a student of ours), on another site like VoiceOver Universe, and/or create your own website. There are plenty of resources that can help you set up your own webpage for free (or for little cost), like godaddy.com, weebly.com or web.com. The point is to get your picture, bio, and demo up and running so that you have a link to refer potential clients to.
Branding. Make sure your business cards match your website design and that those match your logo, etc. Have a professional design your logo after you have created your unique brand, which should represent the special YOU that sets you apart from the crowd. You can set your budget for a logo design and have graphic design artist bid for it at sites such as 99designs.com.
As a new voice-over artist, get the necessities up first and worry about the intricacies of other social media sites later. Twitter is a great way to follow people who write interesting posts about voice-over work, job auditions, or social media articles. Feel free to ask people questions, and don't feel pressure to have a profile on every social media site. Remember: the sites should work for you, not the other way around!

-By: Catherine Marshall

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tax Tips for Your Voice-Over Business



It's time to start thinking about -- if not organizing -- your voice-over business affairs for the dreaded deadline: April 15th. Working freelance as a voice-over artist has definite perks and benefits, so it's only fair that it should have its snags and hassles, too. With a little organization, and a couple reminders, getting your ducks in a row can be stress free (-ish!)

First of all, if you are one of the many people who got voice-over training in 2009, you can deduct the entire cost of the program. Getting just one voice-over job is probably not sufficient enough to prove to the IRS that voice-overs is more than just a hobby.
The IRS considers any business that reports a net loss in more than 2 out of 5 years to be a not-for-profit hobby. If your business reports a net profit in at least 3 out of 5 years, then the IRS will view it as a for-profit business. If you started your new business in 2009, the burden of proof lies on you big time!
However, your voice-over business tax account, business cards, and marketing should be sufficient evidence if they grill you about it. If you have your own voice-over business, you are obviously considered "self-employed." Make sure to re-read your 1040, Schedule C, which covers income and expenses related to your self-employment.
Other expenses, such as your website, high-speed internet access, and your home studio expenses can typically be put in Part V for "Other Expenses." Keep track of money spent developing your business so that you can write it off! However, keep in mind that you cannot use your home office expenses to create a loss. You can calculate your home office expenses by using Form 8829.
Other tips? Stay organized throughout the year! If you are scrambling to produce documents for clients, or if you're missing a paper trail, take this as a lesson to be organized with each and every voice-over job you do in 2010. Save everything as a pdf with the name of the client and the date.
Do you have other tips for us this tax season? Please share advice for the rest of us dis-organized folks! Thanks!

By: Catherine Marshall

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Voice-Over Technique Quality vs. Brand Marketing

When you hear the name Britney Spears, chances are many things come to mind. There was her hit video in the Catholic school girl's outfit, her outrageous kiss with Madonna, and let's not forget her on-again-off-again relationship with K-Fed. Her amazing voice talent probably doesn't come to mind because, well, to be honest -- Britney Spears can attribute about 80% of her success to brilliant marketing and 20% to actually singing.

Admittedly that's a bit harsh, but as business today is swarming with new social media outlets, competition isn't simply about quality these days. As you set up your home studio and professional voice-over work, you may be wondering how much time and resources to put into marketing your product versus practicing your voice-over technique. On the one hand, conventional wisdom still holds true: If no one knows about your amazing product, then no one will buy it. That's a big recommendation to get set up with the bare essentials of social media to get your voice-over brand out there: Facebook, your personal website, and (if you have time) Twitter.

On the other hand, if your product is no good, then social media creates the opportunity for everyone to find out about it. Here, other conventional wisdom holds true: Good news spreads fast, bad news spreads faster! People can write reviews in Yelp.com, tweet about you, and then publish a more lengthy diatribe on their blog.
This pertains to you and your social media marketing strategy for your voice-over work because people pay less attention to advertising and more attention to social media these days. Be careful that you're honest and direct with what you directly promise -- or imply -- to clients with your voice-over marketing so that you still have the goods to back it up! [And *that* is a big recommendation to continue your voice-over technique training with your coach!]

Friday, February 5, 2010

Insights from the Mentor Program


"I wanted to make sure that my ideas and goals were on-track and not overly ambitious -- and also to make sure i was being ambitious enough!"

--Mary Catherine Joes, from the Mentor Program with Brian Thon

Mary Catherine heard about the Mentor Program opportunity in the Masters Program, and again in blog posts and the newsletters, but it took her a few months before she decided to join the Mentor Program with Brian Thon. Knowing that she would work best if she had someone she could check in with, she also wanted to make sure that she wasn't making the mistake of reaching too far or selling herself too short! Jones and Such A Voice Producer and Coach Brian Thon had worked together during the Masters Program, and she felt sure that she would enjoy learning more from him.
"The program has been almost exactly what I expected -- only better!" says Jones. In the beginning, she was concerned that she would run out of questions or that Brian would ask her to do something that she wasn't ready for. On the contrary, she says, "The sessions are jam-packed with exactly the information I need at the time that I need it." By keeping a list of topics they discuss from month to month, it makes it easier for Mary Catherine to chart her progress and see concrete results.
"The best part is, I don't ever feel that my questions are too elementary. Brian reminds me that even he was new to the voice-over industry once upon a time."
Mary Catherine really values Brian's energy and enthusiasm as well. She recently hit a wall with a potential client who looked like he was going to move on to another voiceover talent. She mentioned what was going on to Brian, who immediately suggested that she record another version of the audition, even though the prospective client hadn't asked for it. She sent along two more versions and ended up landing her first gig of 2010!
Mary Catherine's new year's resolution (or business plan) with Brian is to tackle her local market in the Burlington, Vermont area. She plans to network with the Chamber of Commerce, as well as offer her services for producing audio-tours for some of the city's many local art museums. When asked how she plans on snagging those voice-over jobs, she said, "That is between me and my mentor! Ha ha!"
Keep up the great work, Mary Catherine, and we look forward to hearing more of your voice around Burlington this year! For more information on the Mentor Program, go to http://www.suchavoice.com/mentorprogram

By: Catherine Marshall

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Talent of the Month: Tom Sheffield


Congratulations to the Talent of the Month for February: Tom Sheffield

"After completing the Masters Program at Such A Voice, as well as the fantastic support of everyone there, it became really easy to get moving on this adventure!"
-Tom Sheffield, Such A Voice graduate

Like many voice-over artists, Tom Sheffield decided to pursue voice-over work because friends and colleagues suggested that he could "sell [his] voice". After completing the Masters Program with Such A Voice, Tom found it easy to move on to local sports announcing, local radio and Public Television gigs, commercials, and even some audio books for local authors. He additionally found voice-over jobs for web-based applications for corporations and non-profits. His recent success came just a few days ago when he snagged a local radio talk show, which will air Mondays through Fridays, 6pm - 8pm on 1060AM, and can be heard all the way from Castle Rock, Colorado, to Laramie, Wyoming!
One of the biggest challenges for Tom was that even though he had always been comfortable as a public speaker, working with groups in the hundreds, and being on TV, he became unexpectedly nervous in the recording studio. Like many who get behind the mic to record a demo, he started fearing that he would be a failure before he even gave himself a chance! Fortunately for Tom, the recording engineers and producers were encouraging, and Tom felt comfortable when he left the recording studio. Home recording for Tom since then has been easy!
It has only been one year since Tom completed his voice-over training with us here in Vermont, and already his life has "exploded" with opportunities! According to Tom, "Networking with people and references has opened so many doors now ... the coaching, practicing and persistence has finally paid off!"
But it didn't come easy. A typical day for Tom starts by looking at incoming audition opportunities and seeing if there is either a personal interest in the subject matter or opportunity. He dedicates time every day to network with people interested in voice-over work and to expand his local presence. Evenings are usually reserved for recording and editing.
The best thing about being a voice-over artist? "Being a voice-over artist allows me the freedom and ability to be very flexible, and I have the privilege to do a variety of things," Tom says. "Also not having to be tied down to an office!"
Tom's advises budding voice-over artists not to get discouraged, to keep a "thick skin," and to learn from voice-over auditions. He also says, "Practice, practice, practice, and don't be afraid to take chances!" For all of the practicing and networking he does, Tom also realizes the importance of marketing. He says, "Make a plan, review it with your coach, execute, and modify. Don't try to be the answer to everyone's needs. Break it up into manageable goals. ... And most of all, LEARN!"
Furthermore, to recommends to reach out to your connections in your local area. Realize that there are a lot of people out there who would love to "be in your corner" and help you become a success! If you can find a mentor you feel comfortable working with, then you have struck gold, and your dedication will pay off in dividends.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Marketing Tip of February: Market Your Skills, Not Your Title


When you are just getting started in the voice-over industry, we recommend that you definitely let everyone know that you are a "professional voice-over artist." This title means that you have the professional voice-over technique training, the professionally recorded and mastered demo, and even your own website and business cards (even if you're still waiting for them to arrive in the mail!). Letting friends, neighbors, and co-workers know that you now do voice-overs is a basic component of networking and getting the word out there. After all, maybe someone you know is already looking for a voice-over artist for their business.

When it comes to marketing yourself to businesses, however, go about networking a different way. If you tell a business that you are a professional voice-over artist and you would like to work with them, the potential client does not necessarily see how hiring you is going to benefit them. Instead of flaunting your job title and waiting for them to take the bait, think of ways to describe your services and the benefits that you can offer the potential client. Instead of saying, "I'm a professional voice-over artist, and I am wondering if you are in need of a well-trianed voice?" try to go with something more along the lines of, "As a professional voice-over artist, I work with businesses to enhance their voicemail system, improve the quality of their corporate training videos, and I can record and produce professional-quality
commercial voice-overs for radio or TV."

By marketing your skills and not your title, the client automatically thinks, "Wow, I might need that for my business." Another benefit of marketing yourself this way to potential clients is that if you are new to the industry, you can focus on your skills rather than your client list. However, never give the client the impression (directly or indirectly) that you will deliver more than you actually can! Be confident about your skills, but be honest at the same time. If you have other skills to offer the client, like writing or copy editing, don't be shy to offer them as well. Clients like to know that they are getting more bang for their buck! Even if the client you are talking to isn't looking for a
voice-over artist at that time, they might know of someone who could benefit from your services -- and not your job title!

-By: Catherine Marshall