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?