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.
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:
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.