Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How about we see that mug of yours?

I'm an avid and frequent attendee to Edge Studio's "Talk Time" on Sunday nights at 9:15 ET.  I enjoy listening to the various topics brought up in the call ranging from technique to technology, styles and genres, union or non-union, and everything else in between that's related to voice over.  It's also a wonderful networking opportunity for anyone looking to find practice groups or maybe even some leads for work. The best thing about the calls is that experienced pros, part-timers, beginners, practically all experience levels, are in the discussions and I occasionally put my two pennies in when I feel I can contribute something of worth.

This past Sunday night's call was designated as "Open Talk" which is basically a free-for-all topic discussion.  I find that format the most lively because the conversation can get unpredictable and go just about anywhere.  The calls are moderated by one of Edge Studio's coaches +Graeme Spicer in case anyone or anything crosses the line, and/or gets too off-topic.At one point someone asked whether we as voice over providers should include a picture of ourselves on our websites, business cards, etc.  I was a bit surprised at what I heard which seemed to be a resounding "no, don't do it".   Those supporting the notion conveyed that by putting a picture of yourself on your promotional material may be a detriment because to some directors and producers you may "not look like what you sound".  An example was given of a supposedly well known voice actor who had auditioned and was awarded a job to play the part of a young man on a project, but when the actor showed up to the recording session the project's director called the booking agent and complained about why he had an "old man" show up at the studio.  I don't remember if the caller completed the story on whether this actor was able to go ahead and record the part he had rightfully earned by auditioning remotely, but that real world example suggests that there is a great risk to revealing what you look like as it equates to possibly losing gigs.

[The topic was taking up a bit too much time on the call and I wanted jump in with my opinion, but Graeme pulled another unrelated question from the chat box to help address other topics and move the call along. And, this is why we blog :) ]

What I was going to add to the conversation is that I think in this day and age it's all about transparency.  What does that mean?  Not withholding information, putting ourselves out there and showing all our cards essentially.  I've only been involved with voice over off and on for about four years, but I do have almost 20 years in the corporate client facing capacity.  What I've learned from that experience is that when we reach out to people for any type of service I am willing to bet that most us would like to put a face to a name.  Sure it's great to establish a rapport over the phone or by email, but after a while I'd like to see who I'm dealing with especially if additional exchanges are anticipated.  To give you a real life example, my wife and I will be going into contract on a home purchase and as home purchases go it is in one's best interest to hire an engineer to give the house a thorough inspection and let the potential home buyer know whether or not the house will collapse in a month.  We found a great guy here in Long Island with the necessary credentials, licenses, certifications, and recommendations. All of this information is right on his website's homepage. Guess what else he has on his homepage?  A picture of himself!  Yep, a building engineer showing the world what he looks like.  Speaking to him on the phone thereafter was a pleasurable experience as he presented himself to be cordial and professional.  Try browsing some big company name websites and go to their leadership "about us" page.  Most of them will have pictures of their C-level team on display. Transparency. 

Now, let's look at +Joe Cipriano , +Randye Kaye , and +Paul Strikwerda  (who wrote an awesome book last year which I will review on this blog at a later date).  All are voice over providers and all have pictures of themselves on their websites.  So what gives?  I'll be the first to admit that I had some apprehension on putting my picture up on my webpage, online profiles, etc. when I first got started in voice over. Why?  Because I thought that it didn't really matter at first.  Why should anyone care what I look like? It's all about my voice, right?  But, then I felt that if I wanted potential clients and colleagues to get to know who I was part of that process for me is for them to know what I look like.  Why hide it?Let's go back to the rationale that that defends not displaying your smiling face.  If it is true in most cases, then wouldn't it also affect the seasoned pros I mentioned earlier?  We know that Randy Kaye is an expert when it comes to medical reads among other types she provides.  What if a hospital system decided to produce some internal explainer video on training doctors with a new procedure and wanted someone who sounds like a doctor?  They get a referral for Randy, hear her demo and say "great, let's meet her".  Would it not be possible at the face to face meeting that someone on the hospital's board of directors could say, "nah, I don't think so.  She doesn't look like a doctor, this isn't going to work"?  After all, I think most potential clients don't have a clue about who's who in voice over and wouldn't realize the opportunity they'd be throwing away to work with such a great talent.  I'm of the mindset that if we have websites and online profiles then we should let our clients get to know us before they meet us.  If we're putting ourselves out there by providing such a valuable service that at the very core is human (our voice), then it is that very thing we have to promote.  Let's not be so mysterious.If we're treating voice over as a business, part of growing that business is starting and fostering relationships. 

What follows is accountability and ownership of a process and product which certainly deserves a face especially when it's a job well done.  Still thinking "no" to putting that picture up? We can't hide behind technology anymore.  Technology has brought everyone closer together virtually and although there is a perceive sense of anonymity that one can use to shield themselves it's getting a bit harder to stay hidden. There was a time not long ago where it seemed that we were losing more of that human contact with each keystroke because of the convenience of technology.  As +Paul Strikwerda says, we really can "make money in our PJs" from our personal studios at home.  No more going out to audition.  We can even go grocery shopping from our couches.  It seems then that the sacrifice for convenience might be a partial loss of identity that we capitalize on in order to hide. But, things seems to be taking a different direction now.

Think back to those words of accountability and transparency.  Customers are looking for a deeper connection. Something beyond just the service delivery with an invoice attached.  They want to be listened to and understood so that their needs are met with expected outcomes.  More importantly they want to know what you're all about.  I recently read in an Entrepreneur magazine article that talked about clients not just being interested in the surface qualities of what you do as a service provider, but why you do it.  What makes you love this type of work?  What about voice over drives you to perform and deliver so well? The value you provide is clearly defined when your clients know about your passion for doing voice over. It does become all about you.  My observations in the corporate world tell me that when a person leaves a company and has a great relationship with their clients, guess what happens next?  Their clients follow them on to the next company they work for.  The company, firm, etc. is not why clients do business with them; it just so happens that the person they're used to doing business with happens to work there.

I understand that there are different comfort levels or reasons for a voice over provider not wanting to advertise what they look like. As I think if it more, showing your face just might be risky in getting those Hollywood voice over gigs especially if you're an unknown and where looks are all that matters; it's the nature of the biz as they say.  On the flip side, what I've always been told ever since I got into this business is that about 80-90% of the voice over jobs out there are not even in the entertainment biz.  That's something else to think about. In the meantime, let's bring a little humanity back into the fold and just show us that mug of yours!

Hope you like my smile :) 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The first one - Rookies can talk about, what?

How did I get here?  Oh great, not another blog from some voice over artist, actor, talent...what are we calling ourselves these days?  Let's keep it simple and call me a "VO", but I'm also fine with "voice over talent".

I've been inspired.  I decided at the beginning of 2015 that this was the year that I'd really get back into voice over, and that I was not going to slack off anymore; aside from my day job I'm also a husband and a father of two very young high-energy boys.  I really don't have time to even slack off come to think of it, but with voice over I've been kicking the can around long enough to realize that I can make something out of this.  Through independent research and listening to the wise folks that have been doing this for a long time, I've come to grasp the notion that this just isn't all about recording reads and sounding good, but it's about running a business.  Scary, but I'm accepting the challenge.  So what brings me here, to this blog page?

I first would like to thank the well known talent/coach/instructor +Joe Loesch.  I attended a webinar he conducted through Edge Studio last night on the subject of Marketing, specifically first impressions and how your website represents you.  So, how does my website represent me?  Take a look here at my webpage.  That's all it is, one single webpage - a "landing page" as some may refer to it in web parlance.  I wanted to keep it simple and have everything that you need to know about me on one single scroll-able area.  Granted, I do have links to my G+ page, profile, an email hyperlink, and yes my rate sheet is also linked from my page as well.  It's got a couple of simple colors; red, gray, blue, and I found a cool looking cork-board background wallpaper to help you imagine that you're seeing my add at the laundromat/supermarket community board/college dorm/FBI wanted poster wall, wherever you'd find a cork board with local small businesses doing the old school advertising.  I'm going for that down-to-earth familiarity - the honest, laid back, everyday man (hey, I didn't make that up - those descriptions were from my coaches when I got started).  You be the judge though as my demo and a couple of samples of work I've done are on my page as well.  The rub is if you run an Apple based browser e.g. Safari on your iPhone you'll miss out because my demos are on a customized flash based player (thanks for shutting that out, Apple). Nevertheless, it's something I'll be looking to fix, but in the interim hear me out on my Soundcloud page. Oh, and my site doesn't have a mobile version of itself either - something else on the to-do list.

So why am I here?  As present day marketing strategy dictates blogging is one of the popular ways to get yourself known and keep your business up with that good ol' SEO (search engine optimization).  To me, it seems blogging goes a bit beyond the social media posts and 140 character submissions.  One can expand their thoughts and maybe have some fun (or get into trouble by stirring the pot too hard) when blogging is taking place.  I don't intend to start a raucous, I'm just here to share what I can and promote our profession in a positive light.   

The question I asked Joe on the webinar was how a "new talent" on the scene can market themselves to potential customers.  More specifically, when we invite visitors to our website, blog, etc. one of the best things in creating awareness and establishing relationships is to give out something gratis, perhaps some nuggets of knowledge that backs up the "solopreneur's" professional image.  Well, what if you haven't been around for that long or maybe you have, but you've got one or two steady clients and are doing this part-time (like me)?  Or maybe you just started yesterday?  Joe's answer was quite simple: Write about your current experience - mention a class you took or an article you read and what it meant to you essentially building a story about your journey.  It introduces a level of humility that's certainly real.  I thought that advice was brilliant.  

And, here I am :)

More to come...