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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.

Conference for VOs Run by VOs

As a working mom, when I heard that there was a voice over conference with a focus on “the business of the business” right here at home in NYC, I did not hesitate to sign up, especially when I learned that Carin Gilfrey and Jamie Muffett were running it! From the start, VOcation was extremely well conceived. There is something so special about a conference run by voice actors for voice actors. It goes beyond the over all vibe. From the little details like having talents sign up to announce the speakers, to the clever swag they gave away, this dynamic duo thought of everything.

Panel of Working Pros

I can’t tell you how fantastic it was that the kick off panel on the main stage, moderated by Jamie, was three amazing women talents. Two of them, Elissa Zhea and Maria Pendelino, are union talents, and Joey Shaljo is a non-union talent like me. Simply put, these gals are killing it. They addressed all sorts of issues like when to make the jump to full-time, the unique situation of working in New York City and how leaving the city changes your business, and accounting. These women spoke so well. They set the bar high for the rest of us. Not only did they teach us well, they set a standard well for which we should all aspire to. In an industry where 65% of the bookings are male, I applaud Carin and Jamie’s voice to start the weekend with these women. It could not have been better.

Emphasis on marketing

Any solopreneur can tell you that marketing is essential to maintaining client relationships and growth, and the VOcation team sure had this in mind when they planned key sessions as well. I very much enjoyed Tracy Lindley, Joe Davis, Brad Newman, and Tom Dheere.  I have heard Tracy, a LinkedIn expert, speak at other conferences too. To her credit, she always speaks about something different. This time she focussed on strategies for effective messaging. I hung on her every word and ate it up: it’s as if she knew just what I needed and was talking to me! Thank you, Tracy! Joe Davis of voice actor websites spoke about best ways to optimize your website for SEO. Joe’s team has been doing my website since 2015, so I enjoyed getting the most up to date tips from him. Like Tracy, Joe exudes a passion and genuine eagerness to help others, which makes him a true joy to be in the same room with. Good choice again, Carin and Jamie! I confess that I did not get to attend Brad’s break out session but to plan to attend at WoVoCon. I have the slides and they are incredible. Brad is super smart and I trust his business instinct any day of the week. He has been doing my hosting for years and I can’t wait to hear him speak. Last but certainly not least, was Tom Dheere. I was so excited to meet Tom and learn from him. I have a few industry friends who have been coached by Tom. I see why they all like working with him. Tom’s organized approach to Direct marketing would teach any new talent how to build a strong foundation. The marketing components of the conference were great!

The Future of VO

J. Michael Collins delivered the key note address on the future of voice over. JMC as we often call him is dynamic and inspirational. Everyone knows him and everyone loves him in our industry. At one point he remarked that  if you think the sky is falling, move over. His talk was uplifting and optimistic. He gave hope and spoke of current trends. We are lucky to have such a competent talent walking among us. JMC is a good egg and his success brings success to us all. Like the women in the first panel, I believe he also sets the bar high. By keeping his standards high in the demos he produces and the talents he works with, this if good for the industry as a whole.

Overall Takeaways

Like everyone, I had panels that I loved and could sit through over and over again and panels that made me wish I were shopping at Bergdorffs. Maria Pendelino’s panel on negotiations was a home run. It was my favorite panel of the conference and if you don’t know her you should. Maria is a rock star genius and major goddess of voiceover who is making our entire industry better. Both of the panels on casting were not my favorites. There was nothing wrong with them per se, they just lacked the scintillating genius moments that I tend to cling to.

Lastly, I have heard from friends who were not at the conference that they had friends who complained about the venue and the picnic lunches. My response is that they need awareness about NYC. There will never be a shuttle in NYC. It is not that kind of city. I heard someone complained it was near the subway. In New York, it is a luxury to be near the subway, so having the venue directly across from the express subway line was very, very smart of Carin and Jamie. Further, space and food are extremely costly in New York. Options for talent were either to go out to eat on their own as I did or the provided lunch. There is always a choice, you just have to understand your options. For those who are not local, perhaps a better approach might be to reach out to one of us in advance next time, I’d be happy to go out for lunch and go shopping:)

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:)