Steven Lowell, business consultant, discusses the not-so-little things people do that tend to get them hired more than others
Leaving “voice and copyreading” out of the equation
To discuss the X Factors behind people getting work online, we first have to assume these factors are already in place:
1. You have a perfect voice
2. You know how to turn any script into genius
3. You have a great place to record
Think about it: Seemingly anyone online can claim to be perfect (they always have), buy a great studio, and claim to be able to read a script better than anyone (not a new concept). Yet, so many possessing #’s 1 through 3 may often ask, “I get work all the time at [insert place], so why not here?”.
And this is where voice actors must stop what they are doing, let go of everything they believe they know, and take a step back to look at what people are doing to get work with an objective mindset. If your mindset is, “I do not need this.” or “I have no time for this.”, you just openly admitted, “I am not willing to investigate what is working for others.” So yeah…Channel your inner-Socrates and accept, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Do not get me wrong…Thinking such a way is hard, but at some point it must be done, if only to ask the question, “Why is working online so difficult?”
Before going into it, I just want to mention that any 40+ something in the voice over industry grew up in a time where “being creative” was seen as a detriment to someone’s ability to work in a “business environment”. You were either a “creative thinker” or a “business thinker”. One meant a “life in the arts” and the other meant “a real job”.
In 2015, it seems you have to be both! More so, you also must feel completely comfortable with using both sides of the brain at the same time. I have had discussions with my wife (a painter and customer service manager), and fellow theatre college alumni about this. We talk about how “those crazy things we did 20 years ago”, now seem to be a mandate for getting work in today’s online world. It seems like ALL businesses must have that wild, creative, and down-to-earth side to it, regardless of size, while somehow managing to remain politically correct.
In essence, this means in 2015 being a “jack of all trades” works in your favor. This was not the case 20 years ago. Regardless of your age, you have to channel that inner-creative, free loving side you were when you started out. And if you are a great voice actor, well then…that just makes you all the more desirable. Not everyone can be an artist, politician, ambassador, business, creative director, graphic designer, personal IT team, and voice actor.
The list of X Factors
- Being able to troubleshoot for themselves with websites
- Advanced knowledge of online business etiquette
- Advanced knowledge of modern day email etiquette
- Innate understanding of what is happening on the “other side of the laptop”
- Innate understanding of what consequences are caused by certain actions
- Respect for seeing the “digital” as something “textile or tangible”
- Understanding how website etiquette changes depending on the website being used
- Acknowledging that every online communication is still communicating with people
- Possessing no technical bias whatsoever
- Possessing no bias, prejudice, or grudge towards location, age, race, gender, and years of experience
Explaining Why These X Factors “Get People Work Online”
- Being able to troubleshoot website problems is a big deal. Websites used to get by on live chats or call centers alone, but not anymore. If you are in the middle of using a website and encounter a problem, your first instinct may be to contact the support team. Meanwhile, your tech savvy voice actor may be thinking, “Oh, all I need to do is fix this. I will tell them why I do not like it after I audition.” New knowledge of how to take care of yourself is perhaps the most liberating experience in life. Tech savvy talent are less affected by website quirks, and it is much easier to audition when the environment you are working in makes sense.
- Online business etiquette is a big deal because you are talking about navigating people’s like and dislikes. Many times what you think does not matter can very well drive people crazy when they deal with you. To give a small example, I receive Tweets like what you see below quite often:
- Now, it seems harmless and I like hearing from people. But keep something in mind: I have no idea who is talking to me and why. There is an unfortunate belief that exists amongst many that “if you see something online, you own it because it is there in front of you.” A friend of mine once asked me, “SO, how do I get voice over work?”. I replied, “I will tell you when you explain to me how you got your job.” He knew I was kidding because he works in a creative field, and gets asked often, “How do I get a job like yours?”. Personally, I think this is born of the entrepreneurial trend of “Never be afraid to ask for too much”. This gets misinterpreted.
- As for email etiquette, all I can offer is this tip: Keep it short, sweet, explain what you want in the subject line, and in the body of the email…use links and information to help explain yourself. DO NOT ask an email reader to do work for you. Think about it: Why would you write someone to ask them to find something for you, while using the same methods you could have used to find it yourself? You could have just done a Google search instead of writing an email and waiting for a reply.
- Having an innate understanding of what other people are thinking when they see something you do online, and understanding the consequences of such actions, can mean everything. I am often told I explain myself too much and offer too much information. The reason I do it is to make sure the person I am talking to completely understands me. I learned the importance of doing this the hard way in 2004 when I emailed nearly 4000 people to rant about my disgust for the presidential election results. Let’s just say I lost many friends from that one email. I never stopped to consider other people’s feelings, before writing the email, and I paid for it. That very same year, Facebook was introduced and that same year I learned companies often search a person’s web content prior to being hired for a job. Voice actors who navigate this mine field and know that “what they say can be seen and held against them in a court of public opinion” does in fact matter.
- The “digital” as “tangible” is important for a simple reason: If you think something is less valuable because it is “digital”, you neglect to remember that whether you are working to create something people can touch and hold onto, or creating a website, you are still “working”. That “work” must have a value and never be discredited by others.
- Website etiquette is important because the reasons you get work on one website, and not another, may very well start from the mistake of thinking “all voice over work is the same”. Just because a website has “.com” at the end of it, and offers jobs, DOES NOT make it a “casting website”. You have to know the clients using the site, what the website’s mission is all about, and most importantly what people on the website are doing so well to get work, which sometimes may be NOTHING at all. They may just be relaxed, laid back, and not thinking about “the right way”, a very healthy attitude for creative expression. I quote a voice actor, “When people ask me what I am doing so right to get work, I tell them I don’t care if I do anything wrong.”
- Online communication is still about “people”. I will keep this one short. If you think you are above “people” to the point where you cannot treat them like human beings when you communicate or control what makes you emotional when dealing with strangers, your online behavior will be transparent and your personality will be amplified, not in the way you had been hoping. The tools for working changed. People have not changed.
Regarding biased behavior
If you hold bias or grudges towards technology, people, locations, years of experience, genders, age, race, and whatever you can throw in there, simply understand this:
The Internet is 100% in favor of leveraging the playing field. The Internet is 100% against behavior where people feel the need to posture, feel no need to self-educate, or imposing your personal beliefs onto others as being “better” than others.
I see the people who work online treat the work as, “It is what it is…this is what I do…and this is what I am worth”. Regardless of all the disruptive behavior of websites, at the root of all websites exists almost a Buddhist belief system of “The mind is everything. What you think you will become.” So yeah…There are those who simply get work because they approach everything online with the positive attitude, “I will make my own world.”
And if you can truly commit to doing all of the above…and you already know you are skilled…you will have a huge advantage over others still unsure of the answer to the question, “Can I do this?”.