I recorded this video about a year and half ago. It’s still relevant no matter what business you’re in. A couple of updates to it though:
- I’m now using an Android phone, but I keep my iPad handy.
- I grew my beard back. 🙂
This article isn’t so much about voiceover, but about business.
I really thought I was on the mend last week, but I regressed over the weekend and ended up with acute bronchitis. Yep, the plague just doesn’t want to leave me alone! Armed with a new antibiotic, steroid, inhaler, personal steamer, and a stack of pillows to rest upright on, it’s back to bed.
I’m very thankful for my clients. They have been very understanding through this. Even so, I’ve lost $1,400 in business this week that I know of. That’s in addition to what I’ve lost in the prior two. In a few weeks, things will be skinny around here! But this raises a very important thing to think about.
When you’re self-employed, you don’t get paid sick days. No working means no invoicing. No invoicing means no checks are coming in. It is imperative that we think ahead and plan for such eventualities. Hence the emergency fund.
If you have a nice cushion in the bank from your healthy days, you can take it easy on your sick days. It’s like paying for your sick days ahead of time. Dave Ramsey says start with $1,000 in an emergency fund before starting to pay off debts, but then get that cushion up to several months of living expenses.
Of course we can (and should) do this with our personal finances. But I recommend doing it with your business as well. If you have a corporate structure like I do, then any money you keep in the business is not realized income in your personal finances. (Check with your CPA to be sure…this may vary by state…I’m in Michigan.)
What does a sick day look like in your business? Imagine this: you walk into your studio, turn the computer on, and well…it doesn’t come on. After several minutes of troubleshooting, calling in your teenager to diagnose it, or calling tech support, you determine your main studio computer is toast. What to do? If you have an emergency fund, just go buy another one. If you don’t, you either a) use credit or b) hang it up.
Thankfully, I have an emergency fund. Even though I’ve lost some work, I have great relationships with my clients. My steadiest clients have said there will be work for me when I’m healthy again. Yes, I may need to spend some extra time marketing in a couple of weeks to fill up my pipeline again, but I don’t need to worry. I planned for this. My body and my mind need the rest.
And with that, it’s back to bed with me!
I’ve been a fan of Freshbooks for many years now. It has served me very well and clients find it easy to work with when paying me online.
At $29 per month, it’s an affordable subscription. However, they kinda irritated me this past year by really pushing their new version, which does not include the ability to use PayPal. This function was one of the main reasons I stuck with them. PayPal still works, but only on the old version of Freshbooks. If you move to the new version, you lost that ability.
Ever on the hunt for a better mousetrap, I like to take a look at various systems (like invoicing) every few months. I was very pleased to find something called Invoice Ninja.
Short story: just as powerful and customizable, open source, and $8 per month. Their mobile app is a bit buggy at times, but I’m not usually invoicing from my phone. I’ve never cared for the Freshbooks mobile app either.
It’s open source, the benefits of which you can Google on your own. Suffice it to say, you can run it on your own server if you want to. I don’t want to so the $8 per month subscription to have it on their server works good for me.
For payments, you can use just about any gateway you want (except Square at the time of this writing). For now I’m using Stripe for credit cards and PayPal. The client portal is very simple too. I tested it quite a bit and finally started sending some invoices. So far so good!
I was able to import all of my contacts AND invoices from Freshbooks. This was crucial as I don’t want to lose all that history.
So if you’re looking for an invoice solution, Invoice Ninja is certainly worth a spin. As always, YMMV.
It’s coming up on not just the end of 2015, but the beginning of 2016. Happy New Year! This is the time of year when many folks make resolutions. Whether it’s self-improvement, career related, or something else, the new year brings with it a clean slate of sorts.
For some, starting a voiceover business is on that list. Is that you? I thoroughly love this business and am always happy to help hopefuls get going. However, it’s important to consider the cost of any new venture.
To that end, I’ve drafted a list of 10 questions that I think are important for a person to ask him or her self before pursuing the business of voiceover. This is also a good place to mention the “Voiceover Entrance Exam” by my friend and colleague Peter O’Connell. In fact, I would recommend going through his e-book FIRST, then come back and ask yourself these questions.
OK, on to my list. In order for these to be helpful, you need to 100% honest with yourself. Here goes.
Are you comfortable with the idea of owning and operating a business?
It’s been said that “show business” is 98% business and 2% show. This is 100% true. In addition to performing, you need to keep track of expenses, income, taxes, and more. Are you willing to take on all the minutia that goes into running a business?
Are you entrepreneurial?
For the working voice talent, jobs don’t just magically show up in your email. Well, sometimes they do, but it takes a lot of prospecting and relationship building to get to that point. Prospecting for work and building relationships is a big part of the voiceover business.
Are you OK waiting up to 30 days (or longer) to be paid?
I always put “DUE ON RECEIPT” on my invoices. Many clients honor that and pay immediately, but a lot don’t. It’s just a reality of being in business. A lot of times, it’s as simple as your VO client can’t pay you until THEY get paid. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business. If you voice for larger corporations, sometimes this gets pushed out to 45 days. Government contracts? Even longer.
Are you teachable?
The best thing anyone can do to get their voiceover endeavors off to a good start is to get coaching. This is a big one for former radio people. A good coach will help you break bad habits, establish good ones, and equip you with tools to approach your work. They will also let you know when you are ready to record your first demo.
Are you disciplined?
When you work for yourself, it takes discipline to get the work done! I think it’s a huge mistake when people go online and brag about doing VO in their pajamas or underwear. Seriously? That’s what a professional does? No, a professional is disciplined and gets up at a decent time, showers, gets dressed, eats a little breakfast, and gets to work. A professional has systems in place to make sure they are doing the right things. If you want to be a consistently working voiceover, you need discipline.
Are you looking to make a lot of money real quick?
Can you make a good living in voiceovers? Yes. Will this happen immediately? Probably not. Remember, this is a business. It takes time to build relationships, your systems, find your strengths, and really find your niche. As my friend and colleague Bob Souer has said, “Voiceover is a wonderful way to make a living, but a terrible way to make a living quickly.” Wise words indeed!
Are you willing to spend money on your business?
A microphone, computer, headphones, and other studio equipment are obvious expenses. But I see too many people willing to spend money on gear and not on professional services like a CPA and/or attorney to get a solid business structure in place, voiceover coaching so they have a chance at competing for work, or acoustically treating the space they intend to record in so it’s dead. I recommend coaching, business structure, and studio refinement before you get a demo done or buy any equipment. Those things really are that important.
Do you have basic people skills?
This too may seem obvious, but as a business owner, you will be interacting with prospects and clients. I’m not saying you need to be a “people person”, but it doesn’t hurt. Don’t worry if you’re not; you can learn people skills.
Do you handle rejection well?
It’s been said that the “work” of voiceover is auditioning. Doing the actual job is the fun part. There is certainly some truth to that. The working voiceover talent will audition a lot, especially in the beginning. You will not be selected for a gig way more than you will be selected. Even folks that have been in business a long time still audition and are not selected.
Are you running AWAY from your current job/career or are you running TO a new career in voiceover?
Running away from something is almost never the right approach. It can set up a mindset of despair and scarcity, leading one to take ANY voiceover job…even one that takes advantage of them. When you run TO something, I think it’s easier to set goals, have patience, and pursue the dream. This subtle shift of thinking can be a powerful force in either direction.