elearning

Booking Work is Great, But Repeat Clients Are Event Better

Every time a job comes in for a voiceover actor it is a good day! Jobs for us come from many different sources, but it can be simplified by saying a job is either from a new client or from a repeat client. For me, about 70% of my work is from repeat business. I’m not sure how this compares to the rest of the industry, but I am delighted that folks keep coming back! When a new client sends me work, it is my hope that it is just the beginning of our work together and I do everything that I can to make them happy. So, what are some of the tips and tricks to keeping my voiceover clients coming back for more?

Case Study of Now Foods

I thought to best way to understand what works, is by doing a case study of  a client I have had the pleasure of working with a lot in the past year.  Let’s look at my work with NOW Foods. Above is just one of quite a few projects I have done for them. Initially I booked the gig from a cattle call audition on Voices123. A video production company hired me. I loved their team and the project went well. There were no revisions or pickups and they were great to work with. I followed up with a thank you not and that was that.

A few months later that same producer reached out and said the company wanted to work with me directly and asked if I minded. I said I was happy to do whatever was easy for them. To my delight the company reached out and I have had the opportunity to work with them several times. I have made it a point to be:

  • responsive
  • have fast turnarounds
  • friendly
  • appreciative of the work

I think the combination of all of these factors is critical to building lasting client relationships.

Quality of Work

Do a good job! Every job that you do must be outstanding. Whether the job pays a small amount or a small fortune, treat them all the same. You never know which client with the small job today will have a years worth of work tomorrow. Every bit of audio you send out should have the same audio quality: pristine. Do not ever cut corners with your equipment and software. At the end of the day, if does not matter how sweet you are, you are only as good as you sound and if you don’t sound great your clients will never be happy and they will never call again, even if you are the nicest person on the planet.

Relationship Building

You actually have to put effort into building relationships. Some folks in the industry are friendlier than others. I have made an effort to visit clients when I travel. For example, I had a chance to see a regular eLearning client at DevLearn in Las Vegas this past fall.  Since they are based in the MidWest, it meant so much to me to be able to catch up in person. I went to visit another client that I do regular narration work for when I went to Orlando for an eLearning Guild conference last year. I spend time talking to my clients, whether it is at the start of a guided session or during an actual phone call.  Put simply, if you don’t talk to them, you can’t possibly get to know them.

It has also helped me to get to know my clients by reading their “about” sections on their websites. These are often even more personal than what they might share on LinkedIn and I am often amazed by how much we have in common. For instance, it is not only amazing how many of my clients have dogs, but how many of them bring their dogs to work! This makes it so easy to genuinely connect with the people I work with. I also always send both follow up emails and follow up notes. I believe it is essential that your clients know how invested you are in their project and that you are there for them to the end!

Be A Talent they Can Count On…

If you want to be a client’s go to talent, then you need to be someone they know they can count on all the way through the project! Revisions, pickups, and turnaround time all matter! They matter a lot because we all know that folks make script changes. Their teams just change their minds. It has nothing to do with us, most of the time, it just happens. And then sometimes they have no flexibly and need those new recordings right away. So, if we want to make them happy, we will take care of all of this in a jiffy. We will do it with a smile, and we will make it easy for them. And when you are this “Angel of Voiceover,” i promise they will fall in love!

When a Solopreneur is Part of a Team

with Shelley and Jack at Devlearn

I did it. I flew across the country to Las Vegas and arrived at Dev Learn, the biggest eLearning conference of the year that the eLearning Guild runs. Any working mom knows that packing one’s bags, getting organized, and getting out always seems like an amazing feet. I even had my hair done. As a professional voiceover actor, a good percentage of my work load is narrating elearning modules, so going to an event like this just makes good business sense for me.

The morning of the conference arrived and with my super cute wheely bag in tow I arrived at the Mirage conference center. Even though I have my own business and run my own broadcast ready recording studio, this morning I was not alone. Before even entering the conference, I met up with other experienced voiceover professionals Shelley Avellino and Jack de Golia. We met for coffee and registered. We spent some time perusing the listings of attendees and discussing who might be good to connect with. I also scanned the list to find my current clients so I’d be able to check in with them. Imagine, we were there to support one another and I walked into the packed expo knowing that there were others there who had my back.

Voiceover is a unique industry. There I was at Dev Learn with the goal of reconnecting with current clients and picking up new ones. The other voice talents there had the same goal. While in other industries we might view eachother as competition, in voiceover, with these folks, we worked together. We supported eachother. We met for lunch and compared notes and swapped contact information. It was extremely helpful. I am not sure which other industries do that. Feeling part of this team was fantastic and was part of the magic of DevLearn.

Staying Current 

With eLearning industry professionals from all over the world, DevLearn provides a wonderful opportunity to stay on top of current trends in an ever-evolving industry. I spoke to professionals from as far as Australia and Russia. While many of these folks were LMS providers and do not work directly with professional narrators like me, hearing about their platforms is essential to understand what the content creators I work with are using.

I also was able to meet a lot of folks who do work in content creation. From mobile learning to gamification, there was so much to see at the amazing Demo Fest. I was also over joyed to reconnect with current clients from around the country. It is really special to see people that I work with regularly in person.

Connecting with Other Working Moms

While it is great to find people who need professionals to narrate their eLearning, in truth it is even better to find universal connections and just have great conversations. I found that I could talk endlessly with a lot of different people at the conference and only had to move on when someone else clearly needed them. I found it particularly easy at the expo to connect with other working moms. This happened over and over again. Whether we had human children or dogs, we were exchanged photos and talking about our loves at home, and the lengthy chats had evolved well beyond the world of eLearning. We talked about everything under the sun from safety to dog treats to our hours. These are the conversations that meant so much to me as I was making real connections and actually getting to know people.

In the middle of the conference a client invited me to a sushi dinner at the Mirage sponsored by Vyond, formerly known as Go Animate. At this dinner, I found myself sitting at a table of women all in instructional design, all working moms. These women were amazing. They were bright and innovative. We were all from different places: Toronto, New York, California, Tennessee, and Michigan. Despite different climates and different backgrounds, we were of similar ages and we were all working moms. We all somehow managed to get all the way to Las Vegas for DevLearn.

Our conversation moved from light banter to some pretty deep topics. We covered faith, skimmed politics, and touched on issues relevant to client relationships. Being surrounded by intelligent, sophisticated women, this table at the Vyond dinner was a microcosm of the DevLearn conference. We represented what is possible in the industry when folks come together and exchange ideas. It wasn’t all pats on the bag, we challenged and questioned each other too. It is, after all, only from this kind of honest banter that real change and genuine creativity can flourish. And I believe that we were there, in this self-created circle, where we somehow felt safe enough to be open with these other people what we were only just getting to know.

The Sum of it All

So when we think about where our training comes from, and when we think about who creates the content for major companies, I am proud to say that I have met the curators of this content and that I am part of this process. The magic of DevLearn is vast, but for sure as a creative it is a joy to be a part of this process.

Professional Voice Actress - Laura Schriber

Last year I made the bold and previously unprecedented move to fly to Atlanta for the annual ATD conference. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Anyone attending, literally anyone, was a potential client for me. Besides the enormous marketing potential that the conference venue gave me, I knew that I would also have an opportunity to learn so much about an industry that I already was extremely passionate about. I arrived at the Atlanta Conference center via shuttle on the first day of the expo and as I descended down what seemed to be endless levels of escalators to reach the expo level, my enthusiasm and anticipation grew. With my bag of information about my professional voiceover business  and swag for potential clients in tow, I was ready. On the way down, I stopped to get a bottle of water. I began chatting with a women who was also attending for the first time. She was also stopping to get a bottle of water. Over our shared thirst, both for eLearning and for water, we realized we had so much in common. As it turned out, my warm, professional sound was exactly what her company needed for their training modules and my water buddy has become a longtime client. Put simply, I am the solution that they need- the comforting, warm, relatable professional voice for an elearning narrator who is pleasant to listen to AND delivers my finished audio promptly.

A Relatable Narrator

First, my meeting was so fortuitous because I had the professional, corporate sound this new client sought in an eLearning narrator. My voice gave a vibe that was both warm and relatable. As a professional voiceover actor, sounding geniune is essential in all genres and especially in eLearning work. When I have the opportunity to meet a client and speak with them person to person, and they realize that the same warmth carries through when I narrate their eLearning modules, I am able to deliver a unique and desirable finished product that appeals to their employees. Why does it matter if I sound warm and not just sophisticated and savvy? They actually need the content to be listened to. Evert word. All the way. So I can sound like the ivy league graduate that I am, or I can sound like the hip millennial that you are happy grabbed the seat next to you at the conference table. The latter always wins out.

Next, as I narrate eLearning work, even though the modules I am given are often very straight forward corporate policies, I am ALWAYS playing a role or character. I learned this technique early on in my training. I decide who my client needs me to be, whether it is Susie in Human Resources or Kim in IT, and then I flesh out my character even further. What is their story? Once I decide who I am playing, I commit to the scene and you can hear it in my voice. As a professional voiceover actor, this technique absolutely makes me a stronger eLearning narrator.

It’s the Teacher in Me…

Lastly, as a former teacher, when I am with people in eLearning I fit in seamlessly. Whether I am talking to an Instructional Designer or an LMS creator, as an eLearning narrator I love the eLearning and Training community. I often say that I have found my people, and perhaps because I identify with them so easily, finding my voice in this crowd happened quite naturally. When doing what you love to do, and what you are passionate about, it is much easier to break down a task, analyze it, and deliver.

Keep Em’ Listening!

Companies hire professional voiceover actors like me to narrate their eLearning modules because these modules have an intrinsic value, the companies spend so much on the technology, and ultimately they want the voice to sound fantastic too. The voice can make or break the entire project.

Friends and family often ask me about my work. Sometimes they do not even know what eLearning is and I have to explain it. Sometimes they do. Recently we had dinner with a good friend of mine who is a Vice President at a major pharmaceutical company. When I told her about some of my recent projects, she said “oh- you’re the training that I play in my car and I skip right though?” Well, my answer is that if they cast my voice and the listener is connecting, then- no! With the right voice to draw in the intended audience, content should not ever be skipped. By using a warm, professional, connected voice as the eLearning narrator, clients should be delighted upon final delivery and employees should connect to the eLearning with ease.

So you’re a newbie. You’ve found your passion! Wonderful. The problem is, the pursuit of your dream doesn’t come easy and you want to work with the best in the business to get your foot in the door. Here are some ideas until you earn or save enough money to finance your private coaching sessions:

  1. Listen to podcasts of known coaches.
  2. Watch youtube videos.
  3. Organize a group of talents and create a class with a coach.
  4. Look for actual voiceover classes- there are so many of them and they are outstanding!
  5. Find a practice partner who is at least at your level or slightly better and work with them often.

Ultimately, if voiceover is the only thing in the entire world that you can imagine spending your life doing, than you will not let anything prevent you from achieving these goals. If having a coach and doing a demo is essential, then you will come up with the money. If your dream had been to buy a franchise of Dunkin Donuts and you wanted to make donuts, you would have found a way to invest. Well, in voiceover we need to invest in ourselves. There is no better way to build a strong foundation than with good coaching, and  if you do any of the above suggestions as preparation, any coach will appreciate that.

  1. Did your voiceover talent have coaching?
  2. Do they pursue on-going professional development?
  3. What is their studio setup/equipment?
  4. What it their policy on revisions/pickups?
  5. What is their turnaround time?

 Put simply, the answers to these questions will tell you a lot about a potential voice over actor! If you take the time to answer these questions before hiring a voice over talent for your next project, you will avoid a good deal of stress and uncertainty!

Why does it matter whether or not a voice over talent ever worked with a coach? Just as teachers have on-going professional development workshops, doctors go to medical conferences, lawyers must take CLCs, voiceover actors must continually work on their craft. This is in part because the needs and expectations of our industry are constantly changing and in part because we can always improve on our skills. Professional feedback and working with others is the only way to bring out the best in our performances. Voiceover talents who are willing to invest in their training are worth your investment. Voiceover actors who have not committed to their own practice are likely not worth your time either.

Does this voiceover talent pursue ongoing professional development? In a fast-paced, evolving industry that has so many new niches, it is so important for a voiceover coach to take advantage of professional development opportunities. In addition to coaching, there are on-line webinars, accountability partners, voiceover conferences, professional groups, podcasts… the list goes on and on. There are also professional organizations like the eLearning Guild and the Children’s Media Association that voiceover talents often belong to in order to enrich their learning and their networking opportunities. All of this matters very much!

The studio set up of your voiceover talent matters A LOT! While there is not one right microphone or or one go to interface, there are some guidelines that are important. It does matter that your talent have a microphone with an interface and not a USB mic. This all pre-supposes that the voiceover artist has their own studio in the first place which is, of course, essential. Rule out and talent who does not have their own studio. The easiest criteria is to look for WoVo approval of the studio.  WoVo is the professional association for voice actors. If the voiceover actor or voice over actress has gone to the trouble of getting WoVo certified, then audio engineers have vetted that talent and their booth is ok to use for your project.

All talents have a policy on pickups and revisions. There is not an industry wide policy, so if it is not made clear in your initial email or phone exchange, simply ask them what their policy is. It is very important that the voice over actress or actor be accessible if you have a last minute script change or if you need a pickup and you need to find out in advance what is included in your initial price and what is not. I cover all performance errors.  The cost for revisions varies depending on how much was paid for the job upfront and the size of the revision. It is also always only considered a revision BEFORE the work has aired. Once the work has aired it is a new job. Still, all of this needs to be fleshed out at the start of the job so that you know whether or not you are within budget.  The GVAA rate guide is a great way to understand industry standard rates, and from there the talents’ policy should make more sense.

Lastly, you should find out what the voiceover talent’s turn around time is. Some voice over actors accommodate RUSH jobs. That means you will have your finished audio delivered within four hours. Typically, unless you are doing a large eLearning module, a 24 hour turn-around is standard. Still, you should never assume anything. When sending out a job, it is best to tell the talent what you need and ask the talent specifically if they can accommodate that.

The best recipe for success is open communications! While there are no guarantees, voiceover actors are typically friendly, outgoing folks, so the more specific you are from the start, the better your project will be!

Say What?

Some things just role off the tongue. Some scripts, or pieces or copy, are music to your mouth. You open the file on your computer and you smile because you know that it will be a joy to work with such a script, either because it is so clever, or because it is so beautifully written, or sometimes because it is just so fun.  Other times you think, ok, no problem. Then sometimes you remind yourself that this E-learning content is important and you have to bring the meaning to life regardless of how it is written.

So, what happens when there is some very tricky vocabulary in the copy (that’s voiceover jargon for script.)  Sometimes we get lucky and there is a pronunciation guide.  Sometimes we are even luckier and someone has thought to attach a recording, especially if there is a regional dialect that effects how the word is pronounced. Other times we are left to figure it out. We can use the dictionary or the internet. Youtube videos can be amazingly helpful.

Occasionally I have submitted a project and been confident that my pronunciation was spot on only to be asked for a pickup for that word. The answer is, the client is always right! However they want you to say the word is how it will be in their project. At the end of the day, it is most important that the client is happy.  I have never had a scenario where more than one pickup was needed on a specific pronunciation, so it always gets taken care of.

I guess the point is, no one has seen every vocabulary word or name or place, so we are bound to run in to something in our career and need to know how to say it. As long as the voice talent is pleasant and accommodating, it should always end with a job well-done!