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A Degree of Trust…

As a professional voice over actor, I can say I interact with industry contacts as just that, as a professional. I get auditions, I submit auditions. It is non-emotional. It’s business. When I connect with people on Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s business. I’m delighted, but still, it’s a business contact. Yet, there is a degree of trust that we must assume when we interact with clients and new contacts alike in the voiceover industry, right? Voice actors like myself often send recorded audio to people, whether they be clients or prospects, that we actually know very little about, and when we do this we trust that the audio we send is being used under the agreed upon terms. We trust that it is not manipulated. We trust them with our contact information. There is a lot of trust going on. For those of us who are working mothers, who have a family at home, we have a lot invested in the businesses we have built, and this trust is no joking matter.

Crossing the Line…

I will be vague as I describe a bizarre and quite disturbing incident that happened in the last week. I need to be vague to protect myself and my family, and unfortunately a friend who was dragged into the mix. The story begins on LinkedIn. Like many voice actors, I spend a lot of time connecting with prospective clients on LinkedIn. I have made some great contacts and gained wonderful clients that way, and only twice before had issues where I felt like lonely guys were a little too friendly. This incident was not that. This week a contact asked for my email so he could send an audition. Perfect, right? That is typically the goal of LinkedIn correspondance, isn’t it? The male clients sent me the “script.” I call it that because it was written as a short story, and from that he wanted me to read for three animation parts. It seemed unusual, but after years in the industry little surprises me and he wanted an improv read, 30 seconds each. No problem, I submitted and moved on and this was just one of the many auditions I was doing. Then he called me. He turned out to also live in the NYC area. He wanted help shopping his script. This is when things got weird.

At first I did not see any red flags. I connected him with an agent and she was not interested. Next I connected him with an industry friend. To protect my friend I will give very little details as she is extremely well known in the voiceover world. I was still assuming that this was completely professional. While my interactions with this guy had been completely professional and he was not flirtatious with me, my friend is single. Their interactions were flirtatious. She asked me if he was for real, and I had no idea, as I really did not know him, as we seldom do when we meet people on the internet. My friend was smart enough to google this man. She found a shocking post about him in the NY Post!  He was a known scammer who served hard time for a sextortion scandal. This was one sketchy guy. While yes it is possible that he is on a path to redemption and yes everyone can change, as a working mom I had no desire to find out where he was/is on this journey and was very shaken to have had any involvement with this guy who had been calling, texting, and emailing by this point. I was further shaken that I had actually made industry contacts and friends vulnerable as well. This did not sit well in any way.

Immediate Response

My immediate response was to block him in every way I could: by phone, his email, his texts, and on social medial. This still felt, though, that it was not enough. Learning to do my research (or different research) also seemed like a step in the right direction, but when the contact was a result of research, I felt like I was spinning in circles. The problem is that when you are a working mom, a solopreneur working from home, there is no security at the front desk keeping anyone away. My dogs are more likely to kiss any one who comes to the house than threaten them. And that points to the next issue, I realized just how findable I am. I am on “google my business,” which is in my home. My home address is on client invoices and newsletters. I use my actual cell phone number.

I posted in the “Voice-Over Mamas” Facebook Group asking other working moms in voice over whether they use PO Boxes and their phone numbers. Their were quite a few established talents who do use PO Boxes, but less for safety and more for making sure that clients who pay by check always get the checks to them. It seems that everyone in the group used their real mobile phone.

I went looking to see what other businesses do to protect themselves. The only other option it so invest in a virtual office space, which a lot of LLCs, which I actually am, are doing. I found this useful article if you want more information about how to do that:

https://www.virtualpostmail.com/blog/5-ways-to-get-a-commercial-business-address-for-your-startup

The Aftermath

Besides feeling shaken, I have not changed my setup yet. I have lots of questions. I think more than changing what how I am set up, this icky feeling (for lack of a better word) will stick with me. This feeling of vulnerability is not a pleasant one and I think that when future contact behave in a way that is outside the norm I will simply pass on the opportunity. I am not desperate for work, I am established in my career. I would rather forgo something that does not seem right than expose myself and my family to potential harm.

How a Night in NYC Reading for 5 Top Voice Over Agents Went South Real Fast

The Potential for Life Changing Awesomeness

You have to understand that I am a huge optimist. I always think everything will be great and that every single thing I do has the potential to not just succeed but to be life changing. I mean, it’s worked out pretty well, right? I have two ivy league diplomas, married the man of my dreams, I have pretty fantastic kids, and the cutest dog on the planet, so this attitude of hope and optimism has worked out thus far. How could it not? If you’re super smart and you work hard and you try your best what could possibly go wrong?? You see where this is headed….

So like many voice over actors I am in tons of facebook groups. Honestly I can’t even count them all but I really enjoy them both for the useful information and the meaningful social interaction. One night, I think in the Actors in NYC group or something to that effect, someone mentioned the Actors’ Connection. I was excited to see the variety of programs they offered and was super excited to see one that had big agents from top agencies coming to the program. My perception, or rather mis-perception, of the event that I rather enthusiastically signed up for was that it was like speed dating with agents. They were there. We were there. We would schmooze.

My hope was to chat it up. I just got new business cards so I gathered a ton of those. I also printed a list of my top 10 clients of all time followed by my top 5 clients of the month, both of which I am rather proud of. We had to send in our head shots and resume in advance and I was really proud of that as well. I felt prepared and hopeful on the big night.

The working mom in me planned ahead on the home front too. I had my mom coming to give the twins dinner and my mother-in-law was coming to do Latin homework with Jack, so I had all the bases covered. I was prepared for greatness. All I had to do was show up, right?

The Great Debacle: A Fantastic Event For Which I was not Prepared

Did I mention in addition to being an optimist that I am also very type A? I have read for top agents in LA before. Both times I was extremely well prepared and I thought I nailed it. I got very positive feedback and left feeling like a did my best. Was I signed? No. Did my life change in any way from those events other than feeling relieved that I did not f—- up? No. But the key thing is that I showed up prepared.

So last Thursday I also thought I showed up prepared. The thing is, the Actors’ Connection sends A LOT of emails. I do not mean this as a criticism. But I happen to have had a lot of bookings last week, and as a full-time working mom, I do not always read all of my emails. Well, I realized pretty quickly that this was a huge problem. This was NOT speed dating with agents. Not at all. I showed up prepared for an event that was not happening and was totally unprepared for the actual event. You have to understand that I am never, ever unprepared and I was having a silent stroke in my seat.

Every one else had scripts prepared as we were going to read for the agents. Which makes sense, after all, because why would they care just to chat with us?  I did not have a script in hand. I pulled one up on my phone but I did this as the agents were speaking

and of course I was in the front row so I was not at all subtle. I felt like an ass. I found a script for a Culligan Water spot I booked months ago and I thought it was cute and showed my range.

The Epic Fail

As if I had never read live before, and in part because I did not have a paper script and was reading from my tiny phone which I never ever would have done, I began my first read. I raced through. Everything I have been trained to do went out the window. I will not recount all the ways in which I sucked, but let’s say that any charm, finesse, and charisma that my actual audition may have had to book the read was entirely missing on Thursday night. I was both petrified and horrified at once.

On the director’s cue I came out from the booth and got feedback from the agents before the second take. The agent from CESD spoke for the group. I held it together and went back in. The second take was not beyond horrible and at least I was not ashamed to make eye contact when I left. Before I departed the building, I was giving “report cards” with scores and comments from each agent. They showed a range of opinions and feedback from good to excellent and I took everything in me not to cry from the stress of it all. Oh how I longed to be in the security of my own booth!

The Aftermath

I walked in the pouring rain back to Penn Station. I felt both crushed and defeated. I left my children on a school night to go into the city and instead of doing something to benefit my family I crashed and burned in front of an audience of folks I wished I had dazzled and charmed.

What did I learn from all of this? First, I need to read ALL of my emails! Next, even though it felt like disaster to me, the comments were actually somewhat encouraging and they were all pleased with my second read, so I suppose I was able to show flexibility and resilience even though I did not enjoy it. Lastly, even if I had been signed by any of those agents, which I would have loved, it likely would have opened more doors but would not have lead to some sort of instant and dramatic change in the trajectory if my life or career.

So what now? I just get up every day and keep plugging. I have a lot of auditions this morning and a live session for radio commercial at 1:30 so I just keep doing my thing. I am thankful that I get to work full-time in the field I am passionate about.

 

Ever feel like you are doing 20 things at once ?!

Any working mom can tell you that there are not enough hours in the day, so social media serves multiple purposes in our life depending on what form you are talking about. And any working mom can tell you that often when we are doing one thing we are thinking about the other 10 things we have to get done at the same time. From enabling a small business owner like me to let potential clients know about my business to staying connected with friends and voiceover industry friends from all over, to staying on top of current trends and hot tips, social media across the board is really important. If you were to ask me how social media directly effects my voiceover business, I would tell you that it depends on the specific genre, so here is a point by point break down of how the most relevant genres relate to my voiceover business. 

Twitter

A few years ago a prominent voiceover talent was offering a class with another industry insider on Twitter marketing. You’ll see as I go on why I leave their names out. I loved the class. I revamped my twitter strategy based on what I learned and was determined that I, too, would make upwards of $20,000.00 after the class. I did every single thing that we learning with gusto. I posted a minimum of 3 times a day every day for 2 years. I never gained more than 1200 followers and I did not book one single job from twitter. I also hired a marketing person to help with my twitter endeavor. Again, we yielded no results. As I book mostly commercial voiceovers, I do not think that folks are looking to hire talents like me on twitter.

Instagram

I love Instagram for personal use but I have also never booked work from Instagram. My Instagram account is a business one. All of my postings are “brand” relevant. I have tried for several years to post here and to connect with industry folks that I am curious about. I also hired a hot young intern who had a pulse on Instagram. Nothing. Then I hired a marketing consultant. These so called experts did not generate any better results than I did. So, I have a lot of fun at night before bed looking at pictures of jewelry and cute dogs but I do not believe that the people who want to hire me directly are looking for me on Instagram.

Facebook

I love Facebook and always have. I love it both as a way to keep in touch as so, so many voiceover talents and production people seem to hang out here. I also love to post and share projects and blogs on Facebook. While I have never booked an actual job from Facebook, I have formed the foundation of some amazing friendships that exist off line. I have met so many fantastic people. I also love the groups that I am in. Especially because we use so much audio equipment in voiceover, I find that the support of these Facebook groups is key to my success. For example, if I am having questions about ipDTL or Source Connect, I just hop onto the group and ask. Also, I love the Voice Peddler’s Tech Tuesdays. Others are always so genuinely helpful and insightful.

LinkedIn

Working side by side with my Dad while on vacation… a real plus of life as a solopreneur!

Now this is a platform where I have gotten quite a few clients! I love connecting with folks from all over the world in all different industries. Perhaps it is because we are all definitely talking about work on LinkedIn, I have made professional friends and booked solid jobs in genres from Radio Imaging to eLearning and everything in between. I am certain that because LinkedIn’s platform make’s it so easy to post samples of voiceover work and connect to our website, potential clients can get a real feel for the service that I provide. I find that the time that I spend on LinkedIn is extremely valuable. For years I had the professional membership but now, with almost 5,000 contacts, I have the basic membership and I am very pleased with it. 

Summary

So across the board the different forms of social media platforms play a different role for me as a solopreneur. In truth a love Pinterest, and spend a lot of time making pages for my house or my nails, but I have not found a way to make it relevant for my business as of yet. I also do use YouTube a lot, but it is typically either to repost work that I have completed or to create videos that will enhance my blogs and help clients and potential clients get to know me. And at the end of the day, that is really what it is all about. Even when I am not directly booking work on genres like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, if it is helping the community get to know me as a person and as a creative that it is worth the time and the energy. I’m not so complicated, I’m a working mom who loves my kids, jewelry, getting my nails done, and walking my dog; so if folks take that away from my post than they get it. And if they understand that I put my heart into everything that I do then the really get it:)