My last blog post was about taking actions for your business before wrapping up the year. My friend, Rachel Fulginiti, wrote a thoughtful post about kicking off a new year by reviewing the previous year’s goals and then setting your intentions for the new year. I couldn’t have said it any better or more succinctly, so Rachel has given me her permission to share that post with you here. Since we’re only 2 weeks into 2012, it’s definitely not too late to create your vision for the year, the worksheet at the bottom is a great guide.
The start of a new year is always such a great feeling. So much promise, a blank slate, a chance to start again. As humans we measure things in time and it’s such a clear-cut marker of what has transpired and what is possible. I always make it a point to look back and reflect on the year that’s passed and then I love moving on to what I hope to bring in this year. I don’t personally make resolutions but I do definitely set my intentions for the coming year. I believe we are the co-creators of our lives and these days I like to do the creating as consciously as possible.
To that end I’d like to pass along this worksheet that someone graciously sent to me several years ago. It’s definitely thorough. I find it helpful to have a place to write everything down so I can refer to it throughout the year. It helps keep me on track, encourages me get specific and it is amazing to look back in December and see the manifestation.
Wishing everyone a happy healthy and prosperous 2012. It’s a brand new shiny year. Birth your vision!
worksheet courtesy of DAVID BASCH, PCC, CPCC, dwbcoaching.com
This is a personal planning tool designed to powerfully support your success in any area of life. Do it in early January and then refer to it at least once a month during the year. For optimum results share it with your coach, consultant or trusted advisor(s) to keep you on track and hold you accountable.
Answer these questions as truthfully and compassionately as possible. In order to move on, we have to first complete the current year. Close the door on 2011 in order to open the door to 2012.
What did you get done and what didn’t get done?
What would you like to acknowledge yourself for?
What would you like to forgive yourself for?
What regrets or in-completions need to be cleaned up in order to move on?
What did you learn about yourself from both successes and failures?
Any new skills and/or emotional lessons?
Your vision is about creating your ideal self. What is the quality of life you aspire to and what are your best characteristics, strengths and standards that you wish to live up to?
Who will you be in 2012?
What will 2012 be for you as a vision?
Goals are specific and measurable. What will your major accomplishments be in 2012?
Stand in December 2012 and look back on the year. What happened in the area of:
Friends & Family:
Personal & Spiritual Growth:
Physical Environment (Home etc.):
Rachel Fulginiti is a versatile voice actor specializing in commercials and television promos. She has voiced for 100′s of products including Target, McDonalds, Albertsons, eHarmony and many many more.
Thank you for your insight, Rachel!
This blog post celebrates another milestone in my life I’ve recently achieved: I’m happy to say that (officially as of early November) I’m now a full time voice artist + producer.
I don’t suggest anyone decide to quit their job on a whim when becoming fed up with it, or being impatient for a voiceover career to take off. I blogged about having to wait for the right time earlier this year. I’ve had my sights set on an independent career working for myself for quite a while.
Things were looking good business-wise for me, and I had actually hoped to reassess and possibly quit my job for my birthday this year. But, a few days before Christmas 2010 we were thrilled to find out that I was pregnant. This meant the smart thing to do would be to stay at my job as long as possible (making big decisions based on insurance coverage is such a first-world problem!) and take the time I’d have on partially-paid leave to decide if I really could do my part in supporting our family just on my voiceover work. So all this Spring and Summer, I worked extra long hours doing the footwork: building and working on the machine that is my business. I started my leave a few days after my due date in August. 11 days after my due date, we welcomed our daughter Amaya into the world.
Pretty quickly during my leave, the Universe sent me all the evidence and signs I needed to decide to quit my job and be a full time voiceover talent. The scales had tipped, and the income from my job didn’t balance out for the 40 hours it took away from my freelance and everything else. I’m so thankful that Andy and I unanimously decided this is what’s best for our family.
This is the life I’ve been working toward all these years. I didn’t want to have to choose to have either a career or a family. I have the joy of raising my daughter with my husband, both of us working from home for our own businesses. We get to show her by example that you really can be anything you want if you’re willing to work hard for it, and wait until the time is right. With Thanksgiving a couple days away, I have a lot to be thankful for this year.
My husband and I joined a friend for dinner last week and as usual, a bit of business talk came up. I’ve mentioned here that my husband is a photographer, and our friend works for an agency and often is in a position to hire photographers, usually for out of town projects. We talked about the awkwardness of pricing, from both sides – the one holding the budget, and the creative who hopes for fair compensation. Apparently, it’s just as awkward to present a low budget to a photographer as it is gut-wrenching to quote a fair rate that sounds like a lot of money for a few hours of work. She’s one of the ‘good ones’ though and she does her research and tries to work with the client to find enough money to at least be fair.
We know for photos as well as voiceover, the majority of the cost of a project is for the usage and rights. I can’t remember where I heard or read this (I think it was a photography business blog), but another line of thought I love is that the client is paying for you to bring your past experience and training that has created your ability to complete the work quickly, even within just a few minutes. However, the quickest way to get deleted from my audition inbox is to say “this will only take you a few minutes” when we all know that is supposed to somehow be reflected in the rate I charge for my work and your usage. Would you ask a medical practitioner to reduce her fee because she completed a successful surgery faster than someone else would? Price and expediency should not be linked as long as the quality of the work is top-notch.
I corresponded with another friend earlier this week who was asked to submit a quote for a large IVR phone system. We went back and forth on the amount of work, the estimated finished time, the word count, the exposure/usage because of the type and size company it was, and came up with a strategy for her to quote a rate she feels is fair, although she’s still a bit uncomfortable asking for it. I think a lot of people would discourage themselves from charging a fair rate due to that feeling of being uncomfortable. Whenever that feeling comes up for me, it’s a chance to more closely examine the issue at hand and figure out what’s at the root of it. Not feeling that your work is worth the rate? Feeling intimidated by the client? Being scared of losing the business and you’d rather charge lower to ensure you don’t chase them away? When I feel that way when generating an estimate, I think that yes, just 5 years ago I wouldn’t have been comfortable charging that, but I’ve been doing this for much longer and am performing at a level where I know that the rate is fair to the client and myself for my voicework. Plus, a savvy agent would charge you that and likely add their fee on top!
I made it one of my goals this past year to put together a thorough ratecard for myself. Even with my happy little spreadsheet, I still have those moments of doubt in my own rates. Am I not taking into consideration how big of a project this is going to be? Is this rate sustainable for the industry and fair to me and the client? Or, am I charging too much? Back to our dinner from last week, our agency friend shared that she feels anxiety set in the moment after hitting “send” with an estimate/budget. I definitely feel that way when I’m quoting for a large project or for a client I’d really like to work with. Having a ratecard gives me a starting point for finding my confidence in that moment – I look it over and can remind myself of why I charge what I charge, what the benefits are that I offer my clients and that I’m being fair to myself and to the industry in maintaining respectable professional rates.
A few pointers for quoting voiceover rates:
1. Get the full script in your hands (well, inbox, that is.)
Being told that a project is 5 pages long doesn’t help you see what’s involved, how many files it’s broken into, how tiny the font is to fit it on 5 pages, how technical the writing may be and a bunch of other surprises that may be disappointing after you’ve already accepted a rate for the work.
2. Ask questions!
For example, what file format? – phone systems have notoriously funky file requirements and knowing you need 8mHz u-law wav files or 48khz vs 44.1khz audio in the beginning is good to know! How many different files does the client need? – with e-Learning you could be working with just a few or a few hundred files or more, and if you have to name them specifically for the client’s compiler then you may want to adjust your rate to reflect this additional file caretaking. Super important of course is, when do you need it? – I don’t know how clients feel about seeing a price breakout with “rush fee” tacked on, but I think there are times when it’s called for, and you’ll know when it feels right, and it’s your choice to show that line item in your estimate or not. Everyone’s definition of “rush job” is different, but in general if someone requires their audio returned within 24 hours on a large project and I have to change or cancel my personal plans to accommodate for a much longer day in the studio, that qualifies for a set rush fee in my book.
3. Compare rates to similar completed projects. If you’ve done medical narration before and felt your 4000 word, 8 page project about lumbar surgery went well and everyone was satisfied with the rate, and now you have a similarly technical project nearly double that size, you know you have a starting point to go from.
4. Have a ratecard or reference sheet you are comfortable with, but not too comfortable. For established VO artists, don’t be afraid to charge what your talents, skills and experience are worth. This is likely to change over time. Don’t price gouge based on ego, either (1 or 2 national spots don’t rocket you to upper echelon talent status) but certainly don’t sell yourself short. Remember that sometimes the client is not educated on rates or underestimates what’s involved or the cost of the usage they’re asking for, and sometimes they’re just trying to get the cheapest deal. I’d personally rather lose a few potential gigs by bidding fairly than retain clients who don’t respect the value of professional voice over work. There will always be someone willing to do it for $50 on Craigslist from their laptop in their kitchen, and I have no intention of competing with them.
**If you’re just starting out in voiceovers and realize you’re still sounding a bit rough and have much to learn, no, I personally don’t think you should be charging full scale rates as those rates in theory are for trained professionals, and you’re going to be working towards that. But you should re-evaluate your progress and not keep those same amateur rates when your talents and techniques have improved.
If you’re union solely doing union work, you’re protected by scale and the rate likely just is what it is. Non-union talent have the task of drafting their own rate card or quoting on the fly. The Voice Over Resource Guide provides a PDF of the most recent AFTRA rate card, and SAG rates can be found with a bit more digging under the Contracts tab and by selecting which type of VO rates you’re looking for. Specifically for non-union work, Voices.com has a rate education sheet for clients to better understand what is fair to expect, and Voice123 has a more outdated suggested rate sheet for the same reasons.
I voiced my first audiobook, and it was quite an experience. I created over 33 different voices for the 11.5 hour book and honed my process to become significantly more streamlined by the end. I feel that what I learned by doing my first book can’t be explained as easily as it is heard. I also understand why some audiobook publishers won’t hire a narrator until they’ve completed their first book – I’m sure some people are scared off after working on one! I started this project as a shiny new audiobook narrator, and came out of it now a bit more battle-weary but knowing first-hand what it takes and that I can do it and enjoy the process.
There are hundreds more experienced narrators out there to give tips and tricks and tell you how to do it, and since I’ve only done one I really can’t contribute much to that conversation at this point. There were a few things though that were SUPER helpful to me that I think are worth sharing. The most important of those things was the training I had to prepare me for audiobooks. That credit goes to Pat Fraley. I took his Billion $ Read Audiobook workshop in L.A. 2 years ago. He taught more than just skill, he taught the mechanics of the audiobook industry and how to find your place in it. But I’m not dismissing the skill part, no! I’ve studied with him in person 3 times in the 2 past years (so glad Phoenix is on his occasional travel list!) and have worked on audiobook selections each time, and every time my read is elevated by his coaching and perspective. I’m sure I’ve mentioned him on my blog before, but he is the person I refer any interested voiceover talent to check out, contact, and learn from. When you study with Pat, you may also be able to benefit from other amazing talent and producers who drop in for part or all of his workshop – my L.A. workshop included Hillary Huber, Scott Brick, Stefan Rudnicki and Kathe Mazur.
So, go study with Pat. He’s amazing and is the most generous teacher and among the most generous people I’ve met in my entire life. If I’m not convincing enough, here’s a 15 minute video from Pat where he gives away some bigger concepts and lays out some of the workshop content you’ll get in detail when it comes to audiobooks.
The next thing I wanted to share about is way off in a different area. So coaching and having training to be able to approach an audiobook is definitely the most important thing for audiobooks. Next up, I’d say is what’s in your actual studio to help you get the job done. Of all the pieces of my setup or mic chain, I found my iPhone to be invaluable. Remember I said there were over 33 characters that I created different voices for? Well, the iPhone (and I’m sure most smartphones have an equivalent) has an app called Voice Memos. I’d recorded about 10-15 seconds of dialogue from each character – something good, telling, revealing, very true to the character – and renamed the file for the character’s name, and that’s it. That’s how I kept my characters separate. I know that there are a lot of narrators who choose to not make such distinct choices with their character voices, but for this book it seemed appropriate. It won’t be appropriate for every book, and could even be distracting in others, but my choice meant I had to really know what Ramsey sounded like versus the other 15-18 year old boy characters who came in and out of the book. Voice Memo was great in helping refresh my memory as I started a chapter and found who would be showing up in it.
Many publishers will provide researchers, audio proofers, editors, or even their own equipment for you to work from. This situation, I was responsible for everything except the final mastering, done to the publisher’s requirements by their hired engineer who I sent all my raw .wav audio files. So, here’s a little about my process for the book.
1) Read the book, mark it up for emphasis or make notes to clarify scenes; take notes on my characters and their relationships
2) Contact the author with questions – pronunciations, any parts of the book that don’t seem clear
3) Prepare my character voices before recording each chapter – like I said, for some books bold differences would be a distraction, this is something that I did as I prepared to record each chapter. Only rarely did I have to spend a significant amount of time researching a particular dialect or accent, but I did when I felt it needed to be more exact
4) Record!!! I became better about not critiquing every line as I worked through the first 2-3 chapters, and as it wasn’t my first time through the book, my markings in it were helpful guides
5) Send chapters off for review – My very patient, long time friend Kristin happily volunteered for this unpaid position, and she painstakingly listened to my audio while following along in the book
6) Corrections – this happened simultaneously while I continued to record more in the book. Kristin would tell me if I swapped out words, misread something, where and what page, or if something sounded ‘off’ to her as a listener. Having her ears on my first book was invaluable, and she was much more confident in my storytelling ability than I was! It was so nerve wracking to email off those first few chapters and not know what kind of feedback I’d get, but as my friend for over 10 years she’d be able to tell me if I needed to overhaul my read. She said she always enjoyed listening, even though she was ‘working’ at the same time.
7) Edit in corrections – pre-roll is your friend in ProTools, I used a 3 second pre-roll at every stage of audiobook work and it helps edits fit in perfectly
8) Bounce out my audio and upload! Here, I’m a huge fan of Dropbox, since we’re working with at times 45 or 50 minute wav files, the file size can get out of hand.
It really was the marathon of voice overs that others say it is, and this book was recorded mostly in the evening and on the weekends. I’m happy with how it turned out, and don’t feel I could have done any better for my first book. From my experience, if you are even daydreaming about recording an audiobook, I strongly suggest you do your research and at the least check out Pat Fraley’s videos on youtube and free audio on his website to get more insight into what is required of you as a narrator and the skills you’ll need to make it happen. And no, I don’t get kickbacks from referring you, but I wouldn’t feel this good about my first book without what he taught me.
If you’d like to check out the audiobook itself, there’s a short excerpt from the Prologue and a handy link if you’d like to download it at Crossroad Press’ website. The book is Blood Angel by author Justine Musk.
Who has 2 thumbs and hasn’t posted a blog in over 2 months? This gal. (The visual works much better in person.) The short version of what I’ve been up to can be found on my facebook page. It’s great to be busy, it’s just harder to make blogging part of my routine when it’s currently not. Looks like I’m due for a final goals tally, and to create a new list of some kind moving forward. I suppose that means I’ll have another blog post soon!
In the meantime, I’m going to feature a few things I’ve found recently that I wanted to share and figured someone else may find interesting.
Ideaboard fashion website: www.polyvore.com
This website aligns nicely with my recent efforts to not look like a stereotypical radio bum. I’m a sale shopper and refuse to pay full price for clothes (audio gear, on the other hand…) So in Phoenix I’m lucky to have Last Chance just a few miles from my house. It’s Nordstrom’s outlet for all sorts of returns in new (or totally trashed) condition, and also items that didn’t sell well but still may be cute from all over the country. There’s a Dillard’s outlet in Tempe and of course the regular discount places that can be hit or miss. So anyway, this outfit “set” I put together on polyvore.com – it’s like $4,000, which is totally ridiculous. I bet I could find all that stuff for under $150, being the resourceful sale shopper that I am. Polyvore looks like it’ll be a little inspiration to get me thinking more about the image I project with my clothes day after day. Every woman knows that when you feel confident in your clothes, it comes through in everything you do, which can only be good for business.
iPhone app: Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
You know what else is good for business? Getting a good night’s sleep. Also, it’s critical if you hope to live a long life, according to an article from CNN.com this week that I can’t find now. To play devil’s advocate, I was thinking that if you DO spend an extra hour a night sleeping that over 60 years it’s 2.5 YEARS you spend asleep! So I’d at least want to have an ROI of more than 2.5 years longevity if I put the planning into getting more sleep. If you’re more concerned about just waking up feeling refreshed and not in the middle of vibrant dreaming deep sleep, the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock app can be life changing. It uses the accelerometer in your iPhone to gauge your movement while asleep, and based on that, it predicts where you are in your sleep cycle. There’s good science behind this and millions of people worldwide who swear by how helpful it is, myself obviously included. You just plug your phone in overnight, stick it near your pillow and set a wake up time in Sleep Cycle. You’ll be woken up no earlier than 30 minutes before that time, when the app tries to wake you up in your lightest sleep in that 30 minute window. So it catches you before you drift back off into dreaming about Ben-Hur style races against vicious giant rabbits (or work, or whatever you dream about), and you feel soooooo much more refreshed and ready to start your day. That 2nd photo from the app is actually my sleep cycle from last night… I woke up just before 7 and then went right back to sleep before my 7:10 alarm actually went off.
It’s a 99cent app and has been rated 3.5 stars by 2200 people.
Audio gear: Blue Mikey 2
I was talking to an actor/imaging friend about mobile recording gear for in-a-pinch situations. He’s got a great handheld recorder for interviews, client soundbites, even concert audio – but it’s not a great fit for voiceover work for when I take a daytrip to Flagstaff or Sedona, or a weekend trip to Vegas. If I needed to get a quick audition out to my agent, I don’t want to miss that opportunity. So, here’s another iPhone related item, it plugs into the base of your phone but will work with iTouch if you haven’t jumped on board with the phone yet. I haven’t bought this yet, still in search of personal experience from other VO talent about using it. However, I’m totally in love with the idea of something compact, simple and high quality enough for situations where hauling gear isn’t practical.
I’ve also been reading about pairing this mic with an app called VC Audio Pro, which appears to be a bit clunky but is much better than the serious limitations of the 3G standard voice recorder app. The app is $6.99, and Blue Mikey 2 is $99 at Sweetwater.com. I promise that if I get it, I’ll post audio samples so other people can judge for themselves about its quality.
Fun video: Flash mob + Glee =
I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. If you made some this year, how many are you still maintaining and how many did you ditch by Superbowl weekend (be it the food, skipping a routine exercise plan, maxing out on your beer-a-day limit, whatever)… Point being, we all know January 1st is just as arbitrary as any other day, but there’s way more peer pressure involved and what you need to make goals/resolutions work is your own personal motivation, regardless of other people. That’s part of why I made a list of 36 goals to work on over the course of a year. That one year deadline is still a few months away in early April, but here’s a check-in with how I’m doing with them; the ones in bold have had some progress or I felt the need to comment on them:
1. post to my blog at least once a week – Fail!
2. record and donate an audiobook
3. edit new commercial and animation demos - Produced a new commercial demo last fall, didn’t have anything to add to my animation demo, this one’s done. 10/2/09
4. re-record my audiobook demo – Completed 11/27/09.
5. adjust the inputs in my home and work studios for optimal sound – My work studio sound is inferior to my home studio, but also not 100% within my control. I’m going to start bringing a few pieces of my mobile studio gear with me if I can’t get a cleaner sound out of that chain.
6. stick to a realistic workout routine that fits my lifestyle (ongoing, check in every 2 months) – Going well! 26mi bike ride every Saturday, 2 and sometimes 3 days a week at the gym, pretty consistently over the past year, aside from when I had pneumonia.
7. volunteer my time once a month
8. hike Camelback (summit), Squaw Peak (summit), Lookout Mountain (summit), South Mountain (National trail), Cave Creek (Go John trail), Estrella Mountain (Rainbow Valley trail), White Tank Mountains (Goat Camp, Ford Canyon to Mesquite Loop, or Mesquite Canyon to Willow Springs trail) http://www.visitphoenix.com/visitor/index.cfm?action=trails – I’ve got a lot of hiking to start doing…
9. donate blood
10. get back to Raleigh for at least 5 days – Completed September ’09
11. renew my passport – Meant to do this in 2009, since my husband is an amazing photographer and I could have a flattering passport picture.
12. use my passport – Making grandiose yet vague and unresearched plans
13. plant a garden on the back patio with native plants – So close! Took classes with the Phoenix Permaculture Guild on how to get things to grow in our wacky soil, and it’s going to be planting season again shortly.
14. get more agent representation – I’m going to consider the few producers I work with who have large clients come through their studios to be completion of this, ongoing goal…
15. learn how to use Photojunction
16. reconfigure the layout of my home studio for ease of use
17. improve my technical photography skills – Can you ever really be done on something that is an improvement-based goal? Always striving to improve my skills in whatever I do…
18. organize business and tax paperwork – I’m so good about this, my tax guy loves me because it takes 15 minutes to do our joint married taxes and 2 businesses because I’m queen of spreadsheets.
19. study with a voiceover pro
20. beat GH 80′s (Electric Eye + encore song), GH3 (Battle for your Soul level) and Rock Band 1 (Green Grass and High Tides) on expert guitar
21. give handmade gifts – We gave our close local friends mango chutney and home roasted coffee for Christmas this year.
22. research composting and determine whether it’s something we can do (and if so, start doing it!) – We’ve got a bin, we put stuff in it, sometimes we remember to water it and stab it with a piece of rebar we bought for that purpose (keep it mixed, aerate…) It’s not a fancy schmancy compost bin that spins, but it’s cut down drastically on how much food gets thrown in the trash. We feed our compost bin every 2 days or so with how often we go through biodegradable coffee filters and red pepper cores, etc.
23. find a local farmers’ co-op – Have researched a few but not taken further action
24. get together with other recent newlyweds and hang out/drink beer in our wedding dresses
25. babysit for friends to give them a night off
26. use our National Parks Pass twice to go somewhere besides the Grand Canyon – Hmm… I think this has expired.
27. cook dinner for friends once a month – Good intentions, tough to schedule.
28. create parents’ albums with our wedding photos using Photojunction
29. learn a new craft or take an old hobby up a notch – Yes! I would have to say gardening/compost maintenance type stuff qualifies.
30. spend more time with Andy and our kitties
31. get allergy tested – Turns out, I’m not allergic to much. I also now have a fabulous ENT to keep me working at full capacity with little down time.
32. sign on 2 more radio stations for imaging (voice and/or production)
33. mail letters/photos to out of town friends
34. finish painting throughout the house – I’m going to cross this off now, because it’s very close to being completed.
35. help someone else put together a voice demo - Offered this to a friend, hope to get together to help her with that soon.
36. participate in (or be entered and training for) a triathlon or duathlon – I hate running.
So that’s 16 completed or mostly completed, and 20 to go. It’s also interesting to see how my goals have changed, what’s important now vs what was important to me in my business or personal goals nearly a year ago. My current goals are much more focused and measurable in terms of results, vs having completion goals I’m now looking at number goals. I really do enjoy running my own business, I just hate running (see #36.)