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A long time ago when I was stationed in Charleston, SC I used to joke that local licensed drivers were issued a calendar every year to let them know which days were slow days, and which were stupid days…and that the reality was every day was a stupid day. No offense to Charleston drivers here, I was young and stupid myself those days, so it was really all me. As it turns out, I’ll be heading down to the Charleston area next weekend to visit my daughter and have a look at my property to start building, so I’ll let you know if traffic is still the same.
What does any of that have to do with Voice Over?
Nothing really, but when I decided to write about slow days in this business and some ideas of how to deal with them, that came to mind. Probably BECAUSE I’m headed down on Friday and have been thinking about it.
Slow Days (CONT)
What I really want to talk about this week is what we can do as independent artists when things slow down, as they seem to have done this week. The truth is, auditioning and recording are not the only things our businesses need, and having some slow periods is actually pretty useful for you to catch up on some of the tasks you’ve been putting off. Below are some ideas for you to consider, in no particular order.
Yes, I know it is a dirty word, but when you are not busily auditioning or recording for clients it is a PERFECT time to do some of that marketing you’ve been putting off. I’m no marketing expert, but I can think of two off the top of my head. If you lack experience or confidence in your ability to market, maybe taking some marketing training would be a really good idea while you have the time. Check out Joshua Alexander’s website for training opportunities. He’s been at this a while and really knows his stuff. If he doesn’t tickly your fancy, maybe Marc Scott is your guy. Either of these guys can help you jump start your business.
If training is not your gig, then the easiest way to start marketing yourself is to reach out to businesses in your own community to see where they may need help. Think about radio stations for example. Do they hire local talent for their radio spots? Any advertising agencies or production houses in your area? Introduce yourself and let them know you are available to help them. Remember: You are not trying to “sell” your services, you are both trying to establish relationships AND looking for places where your services will help your prospective clients. Marketing is not about what clients can do for you, it’s about what you can do for them.
Work on a new DEMO reel
Have you been thinking about getting into a new or different genre of VO? Now is a good time to start working on putting together a demo reel to highlight your abilities in that genre. Maybe you want to do character voices for animation or branch out into audio books or e-learning. While things are slow, it is a perfect time to broaden your horizons into something new. Which leads directly into…
Yep, I know those are dirty words, but maybe now is the time to devote some time to training. If you are looking to branch out into something new, you’ll need to catch up with the latest trends in that genre, and you’ll definitely want someone to coach you in preparation for recording a new reel. If nothing else you’ll learn whether or not you have what it takes in that genre, and at the end of the day you could just have a shiny new demo reel to use in that first suggestion (Marketing). Just make sure you are working with someone who is working in, and has experience with, the genre you are aiming for,
Improve your space/equipment
It may seem counterintuitive to invest when times are slow, but slow periods are a great time to take care of some of those annoyances in your setup, or to upgrade equipment or software. You never want to change equipment in the middle of a hot run and learning new or upgraded software takes time. Do it while there are not lots of auditions pouring in. Maybe you need to add more acoustic treatment to your room, or have been wanting to build that awesome booth to move out of your spouses walk-in closet; now is a great time for that.
Start blogging/Write a book
You don’t think you have it in you? Neither did I. And here I am writing a weekly blog. To be totally honest, I do struggle at times to come up with topics to write about, but there always seems to be SOMETHING to say. You can even get some great ideas from reading other peoples blogs. Now, before you get the idea I’m suggesting you plagiarize your favorite blogger, what I am suggesting is that a lot of the time reading other blogs give me things to think about which leads to new topics. You could even put a new “spin” on someone’s topic, or spin something wholly different from it.
Wait…write a BOOK?
Yeah, write a book. I did, and I did it by writing a weekly blog and then bringing together all of them that dealt with the same topic and then smoothing them out into something that flowed better. I never thought I’d be a published author, but here I am and it was easier than I thought (don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say it was EASY…just easier than I thought it would be.) Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
Learn something new
Not very accomplished at engineering your audio; maybe relying on a professional engineer to do that for you? Why not take some online lessons for audio engineering? If you are a Studio One or RX8 user, Don Baarns is pure gold! He offers a couple recorded series for S1 and RX, but he can also be booked for one-on-one individual coaching to help you not only improve your audio quality but to understand what your software is doing. He is priceless.
Take an acting class
Believe it or not, as I have written about before, voice over, no matter what the genre is acting as much as it is for stage or film. It may not seem like it, but every time you get behind the mic you are playing a role. Acting classes help you learn how to break down a script to find the subtext, which is what clients REALLY want the audience to hear. Especially if you are working in audio books, acting classes are invaluable. And if you’re like me, it COULD lead to an actual stage or film acting career to go along with your VO.
Unclutter your space
I know, not fun. But neither is sifting through piles of paperwork trying to find that one invoice that either needs to be paid or for the client that needs to be reminded to pay. An uncluttered desk makes working easier, and if you clean it up and file everything, next year when it’s tax time life will be a LOT easier.
Catch up with past clients/contacts
Now would be a good time (OK, ALWAYS is a good time!) to reach out to past clients and contacts just to see how they’re doing, see if they need any help and most importantly; Keep YOU on the top of their mind so you are the first one they think of when they DO need something.
ALWAYS something to do!
No matter what you decide to do during slow periods, there is always SOMETHING to do to keep your business moving forward. Don’t let slow periods discourage you; take advantage of them to get all the things you have been meaning to done now o they are not hanging over your head later when things pick back up!