Thursday, August 06, 2009

Does your business need a helping hand from a cool chick?

As you all know, from time to time I come across a vendor or resource that I think is the bee's knees. I've seen a *lot* of marketers promise to help businesses get more attention and get more done, but I doubt few can deliver as much as Indie Biz Chicks does! From blogs and newsletters, to coaching, to informative resources like podcasts and articles, it's one of the coolest one-stop shops I've seen. Plus it's not a budget breaker!

I found the site through one of my favorite magazines, Venus Zine, which is also a great resource for us "crafty professionals". Check 'em both out!

And just so the fellas don't feel left out, here's something Just for Men.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A little post about YOU.

Ok, so it starts out about us, but you'll see--it IS all about You. As we celebrate our 13th birthday here at Serious Vanity Music, reflect with us over where we started and how far we've come (thanks to you).

Voice Over and Studio Life: Is it a Hobby or a Business?

My partner in all things Paul Clark made a great post yesterday at his music blog about treating your music career like what it is--a business.

But I think it's worth repeating in the voice over and production studio realm, too. I think it's easy for careers like ours, where we have so much fun and get to do such creative projects, to start getting a little too lax in how we treat our time and our mindset.

I think too that the bulk of voice over artists and studio owners have left a 'first career' in a less creative industry or a string of unsatisfying day jobs for the freedom of studio life, which makes it seem like a vacation. (In our case, Paul did that very thing. He was in the transportation industry for 18 years. For me, this is it!).

But, ultimately, as Paul quoted John Assaraf saying in the post linked above, "If you treat it like a hobby, it will cost you like a hobby. If you treat it like a business, it will pay you like a business."

I've found this to be true, on both sides of the coin, and I've made a few changes in my routine in order to facilitate my "business", that you may want to adapt to your life, too:

#1: My workday has set hours. Your clients do. And everyone in your life will thank you for this (including yourself, once you see how much more you can work in!

This was actually the hardest one for me, because I hate to say no to my clients. I want to be available on the weekends or holidays, or 2am if I happen to catch an email. But my life suffers, my work suffers (always remember that--especially with voicing, if you're not in peak shape, it will show up in your recordings), my health suffers (especially the ears).

#2: My workday hours are organized and scheduled. This is amazingly effective. I spend half of my workday on office time (paperwork, filling orders, talking to clients and prospects, email, blogs, updating the website...all the good stuff), break for lunch, the spend the last half on studio time. You find that when you limit the time you're working, you only perform your highest income and highest impact generating tasks. If you're loosey-goosey about your schedule all day and float in and out of work and play modes, you'll find yourself blurring the lines. Too much time on Facebook. Too much time cleaning out your inbox. Before you know it, nothing has really been accomplished, but you've not noticed because you stayed "busy".

#3: I say "No thank you". Remember those "highest income/impact" activities I mentioned above? Guess what? That's all you need to do. To the rest, say "No thank you," like the polite but stern owner of your own destiny.

I know, I know, they HAVE to get done too, right? I mean, your desk HAS to be clear, your inbox HAS to be sorted, your magazine racks HAS to be organized by year/month/and paper type.

Does it? I mean, does it really matter if you have too many emails (here's a quick hint: If you haven't read it yet, you don't need it. "Delete" is your friend.)? Will the world end or your business fall apart if you don't have every file folder labeled in the same font?

I'm not saying being a perfectionist is bad (though I DID get interviewed about that in Oprah magazine, believe it or not!). Just be choosy about what you're a perfectionist about. Want to have a perfect office? You'll be a great decorator (unless you're actually trying to be a voice over artist or producer). But want to have a perfect business? Be perfect with your time. Practice perfectly. Hold yourself to the perfect standards of focusing in on the critical things that will make the difference, instead of the time sucking details that will rob you of your dreams like a thief in the night.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hitting the halfway mark: how're you doing?

Welcome to July, which may start your fiscal year...or it might mark the halfway point. Let's go back to those New Year's goals: doing as well as you'd planned? Exceeding your goals? Still feeling the fallout of the economic woes of your clients?

Halfway is a good point to really measure how you're doing. If you're a procrastinator, halfway is when you start to pick up the pace to catch up. If you're an overachiever, halfway is where you take a breath. And if you're a well-organized planner, halfway should be where you pat yourself on the back for being right on target.

I've always hated running. In junior high, we had to run a mile or two for gym class one day, and as usual, there I was in the bottom three finishers. I always felt like such a loser, but I just didn't feel like I had the strength to keep up with everyone else. I didn't let myself walk the whole thing (I wasn't going to be last, mind you), I just kept up my baby-step pace in my lane, kept my face down so I didn't see just how far behind I was, and kept going.

My teacher pulled me aside (it wasn't hard, everyone else was already in the showers), and encouraged me to go out for the Cross Country team. Was she nuts?!? Did she not just see me fail the exercise? I looked at her like she had three heads.

She laughed at my reaction. "You're a distance runner," she said, "You stayed steady the whole time, and finished solid."

It took me a long time to realize how important what she said to me was. Unfortunately, I didn't get it before I got out of junior high (therefore, never proved my worth on the Cross Country team).

You see, I was a classic overachiever. "Book learning", as we call it in the country, came very easy to me. (As an aside, I'll be exploring the "why" behind this in a later post when I do a little review of the book "Outliers") So easy, in fact, that anything that wasn't as easy, I disregarded.

I was a mental "sprinter". I wanted to get there, and get there fast. Win and be done. The hare, taking a nap on the side of the trail, while the tortoise soldiered on.

In my business life, I expected to continue being the sprinter. I did have some quick successes, but ultimately, I had to learn (at times, the hard way), that it's all about being the distance runner. Stay steady, know where your competition is in their lane, but ultimately, keep your nose down and just move forward. If you stop, you're out. If you waste all of your energy up still have the same distance to go, and you're going to be beat when you get there.

(And for the record, I LOVE running now.)

So I'm halfway through 2009, and I'm not winded yet. How're you doing?

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Bleeding Edge vs. Your Comfort Zone

In building our new site, I've had the opportunity to revisit a lot of old audio projects and samples we've done over the years. I remember taking that leap into professional voice work around 2003, and how capable I really felt when I landed that first voice client.

Soon after I ended up moving my studio to a much different, bigger location, and I felt like the new environment I created improved the overall quality of what I was producing. At the same time, it was obvious that my performance ability was also growing due to all of the experience I was picking up along the way.

Then I felt like I really hit my sweet spot a few years back. My environment, my production level, and my performance level, were all consistent, and my client base was largely a solid group of return clients that I knew how to please.

But, there is a danger in this kind of thinking. It lies in getting too "comfortable". I can hear it now when I listen to those audios I created at that time. The same performances aren't fresh or relevant now. My experience has lead me to be better now, but what else can I do to make sure I don't turn myself into an audio dinosaur before my time?

Step One: Acceptance. Change is happening all around us, all of the time. As industries grow into different markets and technologies are innovated, we have to keep up as professionals. If we stop learning, we stop growing, which makes us stop being useful to our clients. They will not run the same campaigns, create the same kinds of projects, or have the same audiences forever.

Step Two: Research. Are you keeping up with your clients' industries? Following what ad agencies, publishing companies, or the other creative companies who hire you are following, so you can stay on the cusp of their innovations? It's not just about what they're doing today, though it's great if you're an audiobook artist to be listening to current audiobook productions, or if you're an e-Learning specialist to be keeping up with those current releases. But with an eye to the future, you can help your client develop the kinds of audios that can put them--and you--on the map. It's not just about the voiceover or studio industries when we're working for someone else.

Step Three: Practice. Being a performer or producer of any sort means keeping your chops in top form. If you're waiting until you're in the booth or behind the desk to practice your art, you're relying on conscious competence. This is when you're spending too much 'brain time' coming up with solutions or approaches. What you want to aim for is unconscious competence, which is that gut knowing how something should be done. This comes from keeping your skills sharpened with constant reading, recording, reciting...all of the things you love anyway.

If you don't have a client, give yourself an assignment. And see it through. It doesn't matter if it's getting through a tutorial on a new piece of software you want to learn, going to a seminar, finding a voice coach and keeping up with your exercises, studying how others in your field are creating, or just recording for recording's sake.

Volunteer to read to school children to practice character voicing and narration. Help a neighborhood teenager produce their first demo. Just do something to challenge yourself to not stay in that comfort zone.

So now, I'm working on some new samples and projects that reflect my new skills. I still have most of those clients from a few years ago, and guess what? I can still provide what they need--faster, and better--because I chose to stay on the bleeding edge of my craft. Sometimes it's not cozy, but it's always necessary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Speed vs. Quality: Which Sets YOU Apart?

Here at Serious Vanity Music, we're blessed to work with a lot of great personal development and business growth experts who are making the world a better place. In their industries, like in most, there seems to be a trend when it comes to audio for one of two things: speed or quality.

In the speed category, they're working to keep up with the fast pace of the industry by getting their information developed and released as quickly as possible. This sometimes means getting teleconferences online immediately after they take place, or recording their own web audios or podcasts via a cheap dynamic microphone plugged into the input jack on their laptop.

This does get the job a sense. You have to remember, as a business person, you're ALWAYS branding. Would you give someone a business card you just scribbled out, without even proofreading for spelling errors? This is essentially what you're doing if speed is your main objective.

Another shortcoming of differentiating yourself by speed is that you're shortchanging yourself down the road. You may end up with more audios available in bulk, but what will you be able to do with them tomorrow? Absolutely nothing.

Let's look at quality. With high-quality, top-notch audio, you look good, plain and simple. Proper branding is a no-brainer! And whether your audience is listening as soon as your podcast is available, or a month later, you still look good.

On down the road, if you want to create information products on CD or in downloadable form, you're already ready to go, without having to go into a studio to develop new audios, hire voice talent, or create scripts. You've done the heavy lifting up front!

You may not have as many audios with quality as your goal (though, with a studio like ours that has a quick turnaround, you've got a pretty good chance of coming close). But you'll have more impact, which will in turn, get you and your audience better results.

Which are you focusing on?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Voice Over Industry puts the "BOOM!" in "boom mic" this year!

David Ciccarelli posted the Report on the Voice Over Industry: 2009 at Interesting data, that I know for certain my fellow audio workers will be pleased to see.

Of course, I'm sure many of us had a hunch that while other industries have been struggling to keep up with the fluctuating markets and ever-changing business landscape, we've been growing strong. Thanks to the popularity of Web 2.0, gaming, and mobile audio devices, it's become our time to shine...and prosper!

How do you make the most of this boom?

1. Take advantage of close-out prices and liquidation by software and recording equipment dealers and upgrade your studio! I've never met a studio owner who hated buying gear, and by having the latest technology to offer, you're that much more appealing to clients.

2. Build long-term relationships. Odds are, you're going to get a lot of clients in the near future who are going to be watching their budgets, and hiring you for a little here, a little there. Developing "bulk rates" or being a go-to in these tough times will be something they won't forget when the going gets better, thus cutting down on the amount of lead generation work you'll have to put in tomorrow.

3. Go where the business is now. Odds of doing a major car ad right now? Probably pretty slim. Voicing debt consolidation ads? Better.

4. Use any down-time between jobs to better your skills. Take a voice course, do work outside of your comfort zone, or network with other talent and trade tips.

5. Be the best you can be, in performance, delivery, communication, value, and all-around experience. This is ALWAYS the way to go.

It's our year. Let's jump beyond the projections and make this industry the best it can be!

How to Succeed in 2009 - more on the Power of the Plan!

Janet Attard has a great article on how to succeed in 2009 up at Business Know-How, which I think works in perfect sync with my post here the other day on the Power of the Plan: 2009. Keeping "the end in mind" (as my coach likes to say) is a fantastic way to really get goals (and dreams!) accomplished.

As I've said before, I'm a very "visual" worker, and I've got to get all of my senses in alignment or I start to get confused. On my vision board, I actually stuck a little drawing with my overall "end goal" at the top, with the depiction of a road leading from it. Along the road, I've got all of the things sketched that I need to do, or that are aspects of my life that I'm doing now that already lead to the road, to keep me on track. Other things, which I may also be doing (or have done in the past), that lead away from the road, have arrows pointing away, reminding me that they're not good choices if I want to get where I want to be.

The lesson is, you need tools! No good craftsman, either in business, in art, or in life, operates without them. Don't shy away from using as many as you can.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Power of the Plan: 2009!

Happy New Year! Another one is behind us, bringing with it financial ups and downs, political changes, and beautiful opportunities to shine and grow. I have two freebies for you today, to help get your new year started off right:

1. The Power of the Plan!

A few years back (2000-2003, to be exact!), when I was a writer for the now defunct Women of, my first article each year was my very own personal and business planning outline. I have always believed strongly in putting dreams, goals, and visions down in physical form, as a means to not only get clearer on the steps I need to be taking, but also as a message to the powers that be that "this is what you need to aid with!". It was not a big shocker to me, as I moved deeper into studying personal and business development that many great minds also used this method to move closer towards their goals. It's a very important part of the business growth network I belong to today, and the foundation on which I've built my tiny empire.

2. Some "Soulstice"!

Download the free mp3 above to groove your way into the new year while you read the article below! Brought to you by our very own Serious Vanity Records and performed by Gentlemen Prefer Bombs! You can enjoy it and the other 11 tunes from the "wintery mix" Too Cool for the Yule at the CD's official page, for free, for a limited time.

And now...on with the plan!

Whether you're a full-time pro in your industry, a part-time enthusiast, or a hobbyist just looking for a little more direction, this will be a helpful activity to get your head in the right place.

Get yourself a pen, lots of paper, and a big glass of leftover egg nog, and let's get to work!

Page 1: title this one "MY DREAMS FOR 2009".

I like doing this page best. Let your imagination run away with you as you list all of the amazing shows you'd like to play, ads you'd like to produce, albums you want to record. It's important that you don't concern yourself with budget on this one. It's purely creative visualization material. Just let your heart play dress up with it, and list anything and everything that would be your "dream gig".

Page 2: title this one "MY GOALS FOR 2009".

Here's where we get a little more precise and budget-minded. If you think it's realistic that you could put out a CD in 2009, add this to the list. If you'd like to play certain clubs or go on a regional tour in the summer, add this to the list. If you've got a prospect that's looking pretty close to getting on your schedule, add this to the list. If you've been meaning to do more web promo, social networking, blogging, or physical marketing, add this to the list. You get the picture.

Page 3: title this one "DEFINITES for 2009".

Name says it all! If you know the CD you've got at the plant will be back next month, or your iTunes songs you submitted last week will be live soon, add this. If you've already got shows lined up, add this. If your networking, online and off, is in action, and you know it will continue, add this. It's very positive after seeing everything you want to see a list of everything you're already accomplishing.

Page 4: title this one "TIMELINE".

This is where pages 2 and 3 start to come together. Page 1 will work itself in through the year, as you accomplish these other goals and definites.

Make a calendar (this can actually replace Page 4), January through December 2009. Be precise in lining out the shows you already have, the release dates that are coming up, and (the organized Virgo AND synesthete in me suggest using a different colored pen here!) the release and launch dates you have on your goals (Page 2) page.

Put as much info as you can on your calendar. Seeing the way your business and creative endeavors will potentially fill up your year will help you to meet your goals!

Page 5: title this one "BUDGET".

Ah, the least fun page (if you're not Bill Gates).

This is called a revenue plan in other spheres, and should really be far more detailed. But I believe that you've got to start somewhere, and especially for us right-brained musician types, a big picture is very necessary before we can even begin to deal with fine tuning the details.

List your resources. What's your band's monthly income? How much credit do you have available for CD pressing or merchandising? What's your average weekly/monthly biz spending? It might be something you're not used to rigidly keeping track of. But once you start, you'll see that you are better managing the money you have left over after web fees, guitar strings, promo items, or new microphones (my favorite vice).

Break it down as much as possible. Yearly incoming/outgoing doesn't give you enough of an idea of what you have to work with. Monthly and weekly budgets are a lot easier to manage. Truth be told, I've now broken mine down into a daily picture, with my various bids and scheduled jobs worked in well in advance, so by mid-week, I know whether or not I'm hitting the targets I need to.

Hold on to your budget and your timeline, and be prepared to amend them as you go. Tuck everything else away until mid-year. When you have some down time in June, whip those puppies out and see how many of your definites are done; how many of your goals; and most surprisingly of all, how many of your dreams.

Believe in the Power of the Plan, and it will work for you!

Dana Detrick-Clark is an entrepreneur, musician, composer, producer, award nominated voice artist, writer, and all around rockin' Zen gal. What kind of world do you want to create today? Dana's mission is to help. Learn more and get more F*R*E*E information on her site.

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