5 Reasons We Stopped Using Content Writing Services

writerPreface
We realize that this post may not apply to enterprise businesses with a grand social disconnect from customers caused by the size of a company or chosen path of leadership. However, Realtime Casting is a voice-over casting website in a niche industry, an industry everyone wants in on, but not everyone many can hang in for the long haul.

About one-year ago, we made changes to the company, which included no longer using paid-for content writing services. If you are a writer and voice actor you may be more familiar with these services. In short, any well-paid writer views them much in the same light as voice actors view low-paying voice work websites.

Needless to say, crowdsourcing established creatives for the purposes of making them more affordable to more people, while driving rates and wages down for the creatives, as the website takes a commission is not a new practice. Regardless, we stopped using content writing services for several other reasons that go beyond the affect it has on creatives.

5 Reasons We Stopped Using Content Writing Services

5. The “online formula” was taking precedence over “company heart”
Last year, we basically said to Jim Kennelly, producer with Realtime Casting, “Hey. When you talk, people listen. When we pay others to talk for you, Jim’s heart is gone.” We found when others spoke for us that had no connection to the voice industry, the content ended up stale and typical. It was nice, but it had no heart.

4. Voice actors respond to what is being said online, all the time
If you asked someone to write a blog about your business for you, maybe even a press release, a voice actor who belongs to the website will read it. If that voice actor reads it they hold the company accountable for what is being said. They often email the company asking questions about content sometimes to simply ask, “What does that mean?” This is the one thing that makes casting websites for voice-overs so intriguing. The players in the game are hungry for answers on how to get work and there are only so many business posts you can read about the voice industry. Worst of all, if the voice actor finds out, “I am not really reading the thoughts of the company!”, they will lose trust in the casting website.

3. You have to know voice actors to write for voice actors
A voice actor who chooses to make their money performing scripts in soundproofed boxes has a greater chance for success, if he/she does it for the love of the art. If the voice actor simply sees it as an easy way to make money, their career will have an expiration date. You have to know why voice actors really love what they do in order to write for them. Content services tend to focus on methods that work for SEO, saving money, or appearance online. Voice actors cannot relate to people who don’t speak to them directly when they write. Speaking a person’s business language is important.

2. You have to know how to write to appeal to different groups in the voice-over business, such as producers or agents
The unwritten rules between talent, producers, and agents are endless. They stay “unwritten” because they can change instantly depending on the business relationship. Hiring a person to write content, who does not understand the “unwritten rules”, is a waste of money.

1. The business is too small to not be a thought-leader and thought-leadership starts with personalized writing from thought-leaders, always
We can run down a list of thought-leaders in the voice-over business and beyond. If each of them started writing about their passion, you would know them immediately by their point of view, just like you can tell the writings of Mark Twain from Edgar Allan Poe.

The voice industry is so small and the community is so demanding of transparency enough that if anything reads just a little “fake”, people see right through it for its intention. Realtime Casting, a year ago, was trusting strangers to write about the company for them and what got lost in the content for a very small industry was this website’s vision.

Closer to the heart
You can relate #1 to “heart” as well, but the fact remains when a company uses its own people to do the work and write about what they feel, instead of having others “shape it for them”, you can read the difference. Every person in a creative field wants to know their is a creative heartbeat on the other end of the laptop. It is interesting when websites claiming to disrupt corporations for the better choose to save money by “attempting to hire a heartbeat”, which is the very sickness of certain businesses to begin with.

To date, though many websites have tried, there is no way to fake the creative heartbeat. The proof is clearly shown in how each website has its own personality, which seems to be a collected representative of the owner and staffs’ thoughts and opinions.

Incredibly, in just one week after staff and owner took over the writing of the content for Realtime Casting, readership quadrupled on this blog.

That should tell you something about the power of a company’s “voice” when it speaks for itself. If it takes a little more work or time in the day to personally share the company’s voice, voice actors and creative types will know it and respect the passion, as it speaks to their minds and hearts.

Voice Actors: Time to get with the times now!

In this blog, I candidly speak to voice actors working on Realtime Casting

Real-time voiceover castingI speak largely to those who have had the majority of their career experience or success WITHOUT the Internet, and are choosing to do so now.

Preface
My wife often accuses me (rightfully so) of being too blunt with people, both face-to-face and when writing to large groups of people. The argument we usually have goes like this:

Wife: “Steven! You cannot just tell people what they are doing is wrong. You have to show them and not be so abrasive.”

 

Me: “That is insane! Do you mean, if I see someone putting themselves in harm’s way, I should consider their feelings BEFORE I consider how they will hurt themselves or their career?”

 

Wife: “Well, yes. Because people like to discover things on their own, and do not like to be told, “You are wrong”.

 

Me: “No, I don’t buy it. That is copping out and that is the problem with the world today. We don’t even try to be good people anymore. We cannot see people’s intentions because we are obsessed with our own feelings, making sure we do not get offended. I love having people tell me I am wrong. I do not mind debating. It is the only way to grow and learn faster, or get an understanding of what the other person thinks. Besides, if I see someone crossing a street, and a car is coming, I am going to push them out of the way first and worry about their feelings later.”

 

Wife: “Physical harm and career harm are two different things and as usual you take this to an extreme that does not apply.”

 

Me: “Depends who you talk to… (wife storms out of the room saying something about me sounding like an arrogant fool with a death wish)

I preface with this because what I am about to say may come across as extreme to some and while others may think like my wife, I am still convinced what I am about to say has to be said. You may reply with, “Wow. I did not know this was happening.” or “How dare he speak to me this way!”.

Special promotion from this weekend
Over the weekend, I posted a marketing promotion on Realtime Casting. The purpose was to display specific talent for a specific criteria, while showing off the Playlist Feature for voice-over producers. This is a way to show people, “Hey, the website works well and the talent are even better.” It is one of the more fun things to do, actually. Regardless, here’s the Criteria I posted in order to build a playlist of voice talent:

  • Language:English (US)
    Age Range:26 to 35, 36 to 45
    Union Affiliation:SAG-AFTRA
    Production Capability:Home Studio, ipDTL, Professional Studio

Here was the resulting playlist, all great audio and good looking people!  Now, that seems simple enough: Promote the website, the voice talent, and its features, to producers and agents.

The problems exist in what you do NOT see
Over the weekend, I had people ask me questions I have not heard in over 5 years:

  • “If I am not SAG-AFTRA, should I submit?”
  • “You said you accept non-union talent, why are you posting this?”
  • “Is it safe for me to use Realtime Casting? I am not union.”
  • “Aren’t you alienating people?”
  • “If I submit, will I get in trouble?”

I also want to be crystal clear about the fact these questions were asked by experienced voice actors with little to no online experience. Voice actors who started online never would have asked me such questions, mainly because they started out online and the fact the posting appeared online does not change their behavior, if they suddenly worked offline. This makes a difference and I now explain why. Much against my wife’s advice, this is me “telling you how to avoid putting your career in harm’s way”.

Get with the times, and here is why…
The Internet has come full-circle. It is a legit business tool. It is time to start treating it that way.

  • You should not lie to anyone, not in real-life and ESPECIALLY not online.
  • Attempts to deceive are amplified by the fact it is well-known how people try to hide what they are doing.
  • Yes, there was a time when people could hide easily online, but you should know NOW…There is no such thing as hiding online.
  • Someone always knows, be it people like myself or others who may not have yet seen a reason to state the dangers, who is doing what. Websites do not “guess” when they market. They have tools to track who does what and who says what and when. Regardless, this does not mean there is some form of “police” out there stopping people before they do well…anything.
  • Websites are neither “police states” nor do they share accountability for what people’s career decisions, nor the thoughts that run their subconscious when wondering, “How can I get a leg up on the competition.” There is no website or business that has solved the problem of “negative guile” and that is a good thing.
  • Websites care about quality just as much as voice actors say they care about quality; a bi-product of the Internet becoming a legit casting tool.
  • Websites used to be all about, “Everyone is welcome! ps- We will shut the door to maintain our policies, later”.
  • Now, websites put their policies upfront because they have to care about quality due to the competitive nature of online business. Websites may be more discerning than they were years ago.
  • Now more than ever your email behavior is seen as a reflection of your personality, intentions, skill-set, and your ability to communicate or work in today’s environment. (If SONY did not prove this, I am not sure what will)
  • Now more than ever, if you feel like you are working with people who wish to not work online at all, you should measure “When their careers will end vs. When you plan for yours to end”. In five years, all connectivity between clients will involve working online in some aspect. If someone important to you has stepped away from technology, they may be pulling your career with it.
  • If you think “people get in trouble” for doing things online, you need to change what you qualify as “getting in trouble” because no one gets in trouble online.

If you sense a bit of hypocrisy…Welcome to the Internet!
You see above I said a whole bunch of things “to do”, and then finished it with, “No one gets in trouble online.”

How can this be? For years, you were told a set of rules about when you should and should not do something. You know of the history of the voice-over industry, and how being in a union is a level of achievement some shoot for and others do not.

Why did business get so complicated? The Internet leveraged the playing field. In a leveraged playing field there is no such thing as “getting in trouble”. There is only your choices, holding yourself accountable, and picking and choosing who you wish to work with. And if you ask me, that is just fine. If you do break some code of ethics you agreed to follow, expect a “cease and desist” type of letter, which is not “getting in trouble”. NO ONE has the right to say to anyone online that they are “in trouble”.

But if you hate the sound of this…
If you hate the sound of an industry where the imposed hierarchy must see themselves as “colleagues to the little people”, prestige is earned, where people’s “talent”, “business choices”, and “personality” determine if they get work or not, you will forever hate working online. What I personally realized about 10 years ago is that all people prefer being treated with respect; not a respect qualified as “sucking up”, but more so respect for people’s lives, businesses, and boundaries.

I also realize that 98% of the world would rather be:

  • Plucked from a crowd
  • Told where to go to work
  • Given direction
  • Then be given large sums of money

But to get with the times today, one must do the following in an online environment

  • Be accountable for all choices made and consequences following for better or worse
  • Be confident in decisions
  • Be truthful to a personal belief system
  • Be relentlessly creative
  • Be ethical
  • Respect people’s business choices regardless of personal feelings
  • Control emotions in business dealings
  • Never assume or accuse without all facts
  • Never be afraid to take educated risks
  • Never lose a sense of humor
  • Never forget you are working with people
  • Never believe you are bigger than the Internet
  • Always apologize for ticking someone off
  • Always follow what your heart tells you in cooperation with what your mind is telling you

Above all…Get back to the love…
Get back to the love, which inspired you to become a voice actor. To be honest, I know my wife is right, but I also know that today’s online generation could NOT have handled the cut-throat behavior of a casting office in the 20th century. Therefore, working online has to always “be nice”.

If you have to ask a question, you probably already know the answer, but if you do not you can find answers through Google searches.

In conclusion…
The Internet, more than anything, gave people something they said they always wanted:

  • Truth or the open ability to voice “interpretations of truth”

Perhaps, maybe just a little more than people expected. The downside is that being truthful with oneself takes hard work and thought, especially to wield through the maze of mob rule/troll opinions online. But in five years, when your character is called into question at the height of your career or business success, you can proudly reply, “I believe in what I do NOW, always have in the past, and will be flexible for the future.”

In five years you will be happier you did not let time get away from you.

The Producer’s Chair with Jim Kennelly

Producers Chair ValentineEvery week at Realtime Casting there’s one project that stands out. That wows me, even after 30 years of producing commercials and narrations and anything that requires a voiceover. The Producer’s Chair answers the question we all hear…

How did that spot get cast?

I am a firm believer in…”Be nice to everyone”. How often professionally has it happened that a new client says, “You may not remember me, but I used to work on the such and such account and you were so nice”…and now, she’s an account rep or has her own production company and wants to work with you.

The Second Time Around

Since it is Valentine’s Day weekend…

Everyone in voiceovers L O V E S repeat business. Oh it’s so nice to fall in love again! It’s great when a client calls you up and asks you out on another date. This week at Realtime, we had 3 repeat sessions for our members.

We also received a really hot audition for a sexy ongoing gig. A few years ago, Realtime was casting the In-cab TV media and IVR work for BR Guest Hospitality. It’s fun to grab a cab in NYC or be making reservations and suddenly hear your voice. That will impress your date! Alas, as with many relationships…our producer moved on and we lost the account.

Absence can make the heart grow fonder!

It turns out our producer “friend” was tempted to LA for a delicious job as Director of Integrated Marketing, Restaurants at SBE. SBE is a global hospitality and entertainment company which comprises a thriving collection of award-winning hotels, casinos, residences, restaurants and nightlife destinations. Nice date! Indeed!

OKCupid has nothing on Realtime.

SBE posted an IVR audition to Realtime for all their destinations and restaurants.

Here are the specs:

SBE is searching for their IVR signature voice. Female 20’s, early 30’s: very hip, trendy, upscale.

A number of talents were selected to audition. SBE asked for a second round of auditions to create a shortlist of 3 voices. And like on The Dating Game, they asked questions… Experience? Availability? Easy to get along with? Takes direction well? Hmmmmmmm?

Let’s meet our Bachelorette’s!

Bachelorette number one: is young, hip & trendy.

Bachelorette number two: a British VO, a cross between Emma Watson and a dominatrix.

Bachelorette number three: 30’s, very experienced in IVR, has cool sophistication.

Sorry fellas, we can’t play their auditions just yet. You’ll have to be patient.

We can’t wait to find out who wins our Realtime Dream Date as the new voice of SBE.

So to all voice over contestants…

When you’re playing the voice over field, it makes sense to Be Nice to Everyone! Sure, you’ll meet some dud clients. But, you’ll also find fireworks! Clients who really flame your creative spirit. Stay flexible and have confidence! Remember, “You can’t love another without loving yourself”.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Get a nice card and say it with words and flowers!

HEART

 

What do you charge for that app voice over?

No, seriously…what do you charge? Talk about this with me!

realtimecasting

“PHABULOUS” voice over work?
This morning, I was using my new Samsung Galaxy5. The thing is practically a Tablet or iPad, and “phablets” have impacted sales of iPads and Tablets. Oddly enough, it is one of the biggest “phones” I have ever owned. But that is not why I write today…

You see, as with new mobile phones, there are many factory-installed pieces of obnoxious garbage the company is test driving on consumers. I was holding my phone this morning and after my Gmail upgraded for the 90th time, a video came on and my phone screamed at me, “SODALICIOUS!”.

A part of me thought for a second, “I bet you I know that guy.”, and the other part of me said…

What do you charge for that app voice over?
Before all of the techno-phobic loyalists to television voice over work chyme in with, “I would never do such small-time work”, I invite you to think about some facts.

According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of American adults own a cellphone. In addition to this, as of January 2014:
58% of American adults have a smartphone
32% of American adults own an e-reader
42% of American adults own a tablet computer

Now, let’s throw on top of this that “Sodalicious!” is a Facebook app, and Facebook is used by nearly 900 million people globally.

Stop and think about this, especially if you are in a union
What type of media outlet offers a listening potential of nearly 90% of the US market, and 800 million people globally (because 100 million Facebook profiles are known to be fake)? Now I happen to know somethings from experience, and it is always unsettling:

1. Voice over work for apps and mobile technology do not pay in a way that reflects “sales” or “audience”.
2. There are voice actors who scoff at that type of work
3. The result is that this type of voice over work is often done by non-union voice actors, usually tech savvy and with less mainstream experience, and able to accept less pay.

What I think shakes me about this is how I know voice actors with mainstream experience influence the type of voice over work being done everywhere. These experienced voice actors represent a niche of less than 10,000. What you have is a scenario where a small group of highly influential people are turning down voice over work that offers exposure to nearly 900 million people, world-wide, which leaves the influence to be controlled by the masses, especially when such voice over work is turned down.

Why is it turned down by experienced voice actors? When I ask why the responses I usually get are:

1. “It’s not real voice over work.”
2. “It does not offer professional pay.”

I tend to think #2 is the result of believing in #1. It is kind of hard to tell people, “I deserve to be paid more”, while at the same time telling them, “Your work is not real.”

Where does the problem start?
I have to call unions out on this one. Not having categories for certain types of voice over work, or creating vague categories that cannot address specifically the type of work being done, plays a large role in why pay for such abundant work does not reflect “sales of the product” or “audience”.

There needs to be categories that address the way technology has impacted media. There does NOT need to be protesting against certain types of work because it will happen with or without the experienced niche getting involved.

What would you charge for doing this type of work?
…And still have it protect voice actors from being exploited?
Google Ads
Smartphones
Facebook Apps
Large tech jobs that may require thousands of messages

What you CANNOT do is call this type of voice over work “unprofessional” and “beneath you”. Why? Because you are dismissing voice over work heard by nearly 900 million people. It is somewhat unrealistic to say, “I want better pay”, when you represent a small niche outnumbered 9000 to 1.

The Deal with Tech Voice Over Jobs
Simply put, when you deal with such people you are dealing with people who are taking risks. The tech market is competitive and there is no way to truly know if an idea will take off. There can be scientific guesses made, but not everyone knows what happens when a product takes on a life of its own.

Some food for thought…

What if people thought the voice of Siri was creepy? What would that do to sales?
Who is really at risk when a voice over damages the quality of a product or makes it infamous for negative reasons?
What if you work for a major media outlet like NBC or ABC, but only to do ads for their websites?
Should you be paid the same given the audience will be larger than a TV viewing audience?

What you should NOT do?
Never call a person’s revenue-generating, product “unprofessional”. When we hate something that is happening it usually means there is something new to learn. The deal is right now is that I think voice actors are charging rates for such work in a mindset that focuses on “hobbyist”, “always breaking even”, or “living hand to fist”; meaning “very little to no profit”.

The last thing you should do is believe this voice over work will go away simply by “sticking together”. The work is here to stay for the foreseeable future, ad agencies are loving it, and now it is time to put the positive influence on getting paid well. For me, I know I am 1000 times smarter than I was 20 years ago, and surprisingly I have steadily seen pay decreases each year since the Internet went mainstream.

SO! Forget what websites tell you in rate sheets, and what others tell you. Just let us know:

“What do you charge for things like apps on voice overs?”


“People must be big enough to admit mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. – John C. Maxwell”

The X Factors Behind Why Voice Talent Get Work Online

Steven Lowell, business consultant, discusses the not-so-little things people do that tend to get them hired more than others

Get work on Realtime CastingLeaving “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?”

Preface
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

  1. Being able to troubleshoot for themselves with websites
  2. Advanced knowledge of online business etiquette
  3. Advanced knowledge of modern day email etiquette
  4. Innate understanding of what is happening on the “other side of the laptop”
  5. Innate understanding of what consequences are caused by certain actions
  6. Respect for seeing the “digital” as something “textile or tangible”
  7. Understanding how website etiquette changes depending on the website being used
  8. Acknowledging that every online communication is still communicating with people
  9. Possessing no technical bias whatsoever
  10. 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:

realtime tweet

 

  • 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?”. 

The Producer’s Chair with Jim Kennelly

Producers ChairEvery week at Realtime Casting there’s one project or session that stands out. That wows me, even after 30 years of producing commercials and narrations and anything that requires a voiceover. The Producers Chair answers the question we all hear…

How did that spot get cast?

It’s cold here in the Northeast. It sure doesn’t feel like paradise! But, we’re staying happy and busy keeping our casting flame burning for Redemption Audio in Calgary, Canada (great hockey town).

Redemption Audio is a boutique award-winning custom music and sound house. They came to Realtime Casting looking for announcers for two web projects: Cornerstone Calgary and FLYHTStream. They hired two equally talented voices and produced their voice tracks over Source Connect this past week.

Here’s how it went down…

REDEMPTION:

Little project to start the year…
Calgary Cornerstone:
Female, super conversational, non announcer, girl next door 30-40

50 second corporate video
FLYHTStream
Looking for friendly, approachable, knowledgeable. not salesey or pro VO sounding.
Looking for both male and female options. 30 to 40 ish.
Would be nice to try and use source connect.

Realtime Casting:

You’ll have voices right away. Let’s go to work…
Auditions are underway!  Have a great weekend! Thanks.

Redemption:

Awesome. Looks like we will want to record wed for both projects. Doable?
The Cornerstone client has selected Kaira Klueber for the VO. Lauren Berst for the FLYHTStream project. We need to record this as soon as its possible. Let us know when they available.

With the help of their agents, Redemption was able to schedule the sessions back to back.

That made our client experience “happiness”

Redemption:

Hey Guys. Great sessions today. Talent for both were fantastic!!!!

Meet the talent

Cornerstone Calgary picked Kaira Kluber with Abrams Artists. Kaira is thrilled to have recently wrapped on her 11th segment for ABC’s “What Would You Do?” She received training from Penn State University’s School of Theatre BA program, Actors Theatre of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She has been fortunate to pursue a professional career in New York City in areas of film, television, stage, voiceovers, commercials and print.

FLYHTStream went with Lauren Berst from Access Talent. Originally from the Midwest, Lauren has been in New York for over 15 years, and holds a MFA from the National Theatre Conservatory, BFA from the University of Evansville.

Let me share some #VOsense:

Even with all their voice experience, both Kaira and Lauren understand that they are not bigger than the Internet. Online casting is now a major part of our industry. Joining Realtime Casting is all about “moving forward” and learning how to work together in the online voiceover community.

Til next week…

The Producers Chair with Jim Kennelly

Producers ChairEvery week at Realtime Casting there’s one project or session that stands out. That wows me, even after 30 years of producing commercials and narrations and anything that requires a voice. The Producers Chair answers the question we all hear…

How did that spot get cast?
Jay Advertising in Rochester, New York has been a long time fan of Realtime Casting. We’ve cast voices for Raymour & Flanigan Furniture and First Niagara Bank. Anne Carney auditioned on Realtime and was cast as announcer for a series of web videos. And like most narrations, it required a pick up session, immediately.

But what if there’s a snowstorm coming!
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these voice talent from the swift completion of their booked work.

Good morning Realtime.
I wanted to check your book and Anne Carney’s schedule for a quick record of 1 line for the First Niagara work we’re doing. I would like to check to see if this can be done today. I know weather and being a last minute request are issues but thought it would be worth a shot.
Please let me know if this is possible.
Thanx

Realtime Casting:

We contacted Anne and she said she can record at home.

Jay Advertising:

Thanks for the quick reply,
I think we’d like to take our chances with Anne recording from home. If that does not work out, we’ll redo. Urgency is a compelling factor for us at this point. We would like three takes of the attached copy.Please advise on how we may move forward and how we can acquire the files.
Thank you very much.

Realtime Casting:

OK. Anne has a home studio set up, she is going to try a few reads.

And then this email…

Good morning Realtime Casting,
Thank you again for saving our butts yesterday. The one line we needed was adequate for the work at hand.
Please send an invoice amount as well.
Thanx

Anne carney_JimThat’s our snow storm story.
Because Anne Carney has taken the time to create a good home studio environment, knew how to use her equipment and work online as a voice talent…she could save the show!

Easy fixes are for easy problems. And what do big problems, call for?

Experimentation, improvisation, heroics, and talent!

10 Reasons Why Experienced Voice Actors Get Smoked Online by Newcomers

…and it has nothing to do with undercutting budgets…and in no way is that an insult. Steven from Realtime Casting explains…

Realtime CastingI have been around the block now starting out in 1991, working for highly criticized companies both in voice overs and other businesses (AIG, P2P’s, Disney).

Am I glutton for punishment? Maybe.
Do I like it? No.
Why do I do it? To learn.

I want to learn why highly criticized companies do so well. I KNOW I am a good guy and already know what I WONT do. So when I see a problem, I say something. It is not an easy way to live. I have noticed anyone I annoy usually takes one-year before realizing, “Oh wait. He said this to help me.” I love to solve problems by making things balanced. I have noticed something over the last year at Realtime Casting, and the P2P’s prior to this, dating back to 2007.

Experienced with high profile work under their belt are getting smoked by newcomer voice actors and they don’t know why
Let me start this with an email I was sent this week:

“Hi Steven,
I am curious. Why do so many people not have demos displayed on Realtime Casting. How do talent on your site get hired, when they can’t be heard?”.

There is nothing I can say to such emails because I agree 100%, and so I start my list of reasons. Mind you, I am completely aware of when it is human error on the website’s side. Those problems are the types of things that keep me up at night (not kidding). Alas, that is why I wanted to work for websites to see the human side to the operations:

10. Not being aware of what their web presence tells other people.
a. Using a company placeholder graphic = No one is home
b. Low resolution image = May not care
c. No demo = No one is home
d. Using selfies as pics = Spam or unprofessional

Let me throw an example at you: Which one of these profiles below do you think has a greater chance of being hired?

realtimecastingPeople can also tell, oddly enough, when something online is “copy and pasted”.

Fun little facts related for you:

a. Not long ago, I told the owner of Realtime Casting to stop using a service based on the premise, “When we outsource it to someone, we lose the heart of why we do what we do.” It was weird at first because “that is just the way things always worked”, but when Jim Kennelly from Realtime Casting started tweeting himself, instead of some paid service…It instantly had an impact. Why? Call it psychological. People know the real thing when they see it, just like you can see Realtime does not have a million-dollar development staff. We are young and new again. That means changes all around. (pleeeease update your profiles people!)

b. When I worked in Quality Assurance for both P2P’s my biggest problem was not demo or work quality. My biggest problem was stopping people from hurting themselves by doing very strange things with their work (ex: keyword stuffing or work-arounds like profile sharing). Regardless of quality of demo, these actions damaged the integrity of their online presence for looking like an attempt to work around something, or trick something.

Google search algorithms were built by more than 165 of the smartest people in the world. Trust me. You cannot trick them. You will get further online by “keeping it real”.

9. Believing a resume is enough to show who should be hired
People go to websites to hear demos first. Text displayed has got to be comprehensive, but still many will not read it. This does not mean it should not be there.

8. Following advice from the wrong people.
Oh dear. This is an awful one. Just ask yourself this every time you read advice:

“Is this advice coming from a Sous Chef or Chef Boy R’ Dee?”.

Why? Because anyone can do a Google search and feed back to you what they read. It does not mean they know how to do something. I am very open and honest about my strengths and weaknesses and refer people to experts when I cannot do something.

8. Loyal to technology trends for too long a period of time.
If you are still using Internet Explorer, look at these statistics.

When people build websites they have to pay attention, just like store owners do, to things that “everybody is using”. No one builds a website to cater to 8% of the people online using Internet Explorer, and no one working online should expect all browsers to be equal.

In addition, things like ‘renaming files’ have been automated for years. If you don’t know this, but you think everyone does it, consider that process has been automated by websites for years.

7. Ignoring communication dynamics of working online.
I love LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook has gotten too sad for me and ad filled with click-bait. This reflects in the amount of connections I have and how they talk to me because I feel comfortable on some websites vs. others. The point is…the more you dislike a website, the more it will reflect in your success. Are you uncomfortable working online? It may be why people are uncomfortable hiring you online. It really is “like that”.

6. Not understanding who is “in charge”.
Metaphorically speaking: Google is the “mall” and you, me, everyone are stores within it. Google has rules to their “mall”. If you try to make up your own rules for working online, and think a small community of your friends can influence change by asking others to conform to wishes, it will not happen. Trust me. I have tried. I had to learn rules before trying to change them.

5. Sometimes yeah…It’s about attitude
The Internet is a counter-intuitive work environment where all bets are off. You could have climbed Mount Everest to record a job, and guess what…10 of the 2 billion people online may have done that before you. If your response is to tell the 10 people they are unprofessional because of {insert reason}, you have violated unwritten rules of the Internet.

I have noticed over the last 8 years how Atlanta has become a new major market. I also have a sharp memory of how they seemed very willing to adapt to technology, as have talent from San Francisco. BTW…did you know that 51% of people adapt to changes in technology, before “adaptation” is forced upon them? What do I mean? Well…when is the last time you bought a VHS tape or VCR? Getting frustrated with people over changing technology and for not communicating the way you know best due to localized conditions can drive business away. Why? Online work dictates that the playing field is now even. What you “did” is not as important as “what you can do today”. Getting mad at that psychology only starts snowballing a series of problems stemming from the resistant attitude.

I have also seen and heard comments about talent who are REALLY friendly and tech savvy, but because of where they live they are not seen as legit. I am sorry but to me that is just silly, especially if they are doing well. I have a friend in Richmond, Virginia with more TV and movie credits to his name than friends I have in NY & LA. Thankfully, we are all just happy to be working. But the attitude that one person’s way is “better” due to location, local studios, past coaches, or experience beyond 10 years ago is just an attitude that violates every unwritten rule of online business etiquette. It is safer to let the work and results speak for itself than criticize a person who makes $75,000/year for mainly working online and lives in Montana.

4. Wanting technology to make things like they used to be, while keeping up with current trends in websites
We all want what we want, but the hard fact is that “change is uncompromising”. For example, I have heard for years how voice talent dislike when working online is like a “shopping experience”, yet when it comes to having tools that make getting hired easier, that is exactly what they ask to have implemented.

Why is this a problem? People more familiar with websites get over things they do not like, know why things are what they are, and thus online communicate faster without asking for assistance. I remember very well what it was like to sit in a casting director’s office with a CD in my hand with newly burned labels.

Websites are basically “things” that get people to the “things” they want faster and easier. If you remove people from technology during the evolution of a business, you cannot inject them back in whenever you want them to be involved.

Now the not-so-simple stuff…

3. Alienating those with tech skills for working at home.
2. Online business skills of marketing and communications.
1. Effectively measuring whether or not something will be a complete waste of time, and doing so based on “data”, not “emotion”.

Addendum…added three hours after original post!

“Not knowing the relationship between websites and who you actually audition for”

I need to say this: I really dig voice actors and people in the voice over industry. Yet, I notice at times they audition and speak as if they are auditioning through the website for “me” and “the agent”.

And in doing so…it throws everything out of whack. Why? We all talk to people in different ways.

Online you are auditioning for “producer person” below, and they may be looking at your auditions like this:

realtimeBUT…what if you factor in that professional producers out there can also look like this:

3 actorsYou may end up with this:

imgVirusYou may wonder, “How do I avoid this?”

Simply put, you have to be your own “universal ambassador online” free of the following biases:

  • Experience level
  • Intelligence level
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Age

Ultimately, it means you may be dealing with people you do not know. Be diplomatic and politically correct.

Note: The 4 guys you see above all have solid working careers in voice overs, theatre, TV and movies. You just don’t know if the job poster just came from looking at a rage-filled Facebook post before posting an audition. Be your best laid-back “you”.

Why it leads to experienced people getting smoked?
Simply because newcomers started their careers using technology, not by building relationships through postcard & demo mailings, and became more acquainted and comfortable with being tech savvy. But they also started their careers because of experienced voice actors already in the game, who have yet to work online or are trying right now…

Raise your hand if you see an opportunity here to create a solution. There are lots of geeks not good at voice overs and lots of voice over talent who are far from being tech savvy geeks.

I know I see opportunity, but it all depends on whether or not people “want to learn why”.

The Producers Chair with Jim Kennelly

Producers ChairEvery week at Realtime Casting there’s one project or session that stands out. That wows me, even after 30 years of producing commercials and narrations and anything that requires a voice. The Producers Chair answers the question we all hear…

How did that spot get cast?

BKP Media,Dubai is a longtime client of Realtime. Their producer, Vanessa Bergqvist email us around 6:00 AM EST on 1/15.

“Hello Jim

We will be recording 1 script and 2 radio tags. Below are the voices that we shortlisted. We aim to record next week Tuesday or Monday at 5pm Dubai time. I would need a new audition of the Voices below as per the script attached to share with the client. “

Now, it’s time for Realtime to get to work! I posted the job on our site and notified the 5 voices short-listed for the audition. Each of these voices had previously auditioned for another BKP Media gig, “The Rib Room”, a very clever and funny 3 radio spot package that is still being cast.

Honestly, Realtime members, knock me out with how quickly they respond to our audition postings. Within less than 30 minutes, 3 auditions were being reviewed by Vanessa in Dubai! The second two followed by the end of the day. Next day we receive this email:

“Hello Jim
• We are now working on the last amends of the radio script
• VO selected: Sam Williamson.This is for Seafire Steakhouse in Atlantis The Palm Dubai. We are recording via ISDN”

Let me introduce, Sam Williamson. Sam is a new Realtime member. Sam Williamson is currently the voice of The Oakland Raiders professional football team and The Kansas City Royals professional baseball team. Sam explains, “For the Royals I voice all the TV and radio promos. For the Raiders I voice the Raider Report which is an NFL films style week in review”. Nice gig Sam! Sam currently resides in Kansas City and works consistently with CCTV, the worlds largest broadcasting network in China with over 300 million English speaking viewers, voicing the station IDs and promos.
Sam Williamson_01_1145

Sam and Deb1165 In addition,Sam’s wife is a professional engineer. Sam is proud to say, “We work together from our home studio and consequently, our turn around time is only a few hours or minutes if necessary. We are available to work 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Our client is our first priority”.

When I asked Sam how he enjoys working on our new site and being a Realtime member he emailed us at support@realtimecasting.com to say…

“Thanks Jim! I’m getting ready to audition for a narration.The site is great! Plus, customer service is awesome.”

Now that’s the kind of service and voice talent I can get behind!

Great Book for Voice Actors to Create Zombie Loyalist Clients

Steven Lowell, business consultant with Realtime Casting, writes of a new book to help voice actors step up their game in today’s business world

zombie loyalist
I had worked in customer service for many years prior to working for online casting websites. By the time I worked for casting sites to help voice actors, I had formed my own belief system as to how customer service should work.
Through those tough days when it seemed like nothing I ever did was good enough, a person who has personally been an inspiration to me over the years by voicing his beliefs has been HARO founder, Peter Shankman, whom also authored the book “Nice Companies Finish First” (a book that still sits on my desk each day as motivation).

When he writes a book on how to create “rabid fans”, voice talent need to know about it. Voice talent with “fan bases” tend to work more than others, especially given the voiceover industry today has such a popular online perception.

Voice talent offering customer service? Do NOT perish the thought!

If your mindset for working online is, “Give me a script to read and then pay me”, you are indeed a product with an expiration date. Working online requires a new attitude. Why?

In today’s online world, where things like “empathy” and “trust” are rare jewels to find, there HAS TO BE something special and different about the people you work with. Customer service is a strong way to prove you care about your business AND your clients, most importantly. As they saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In fact, I still personally believe one of the reasons voice actors NOT in major markets have done so well online is simply because they come from cities with that “mid-western smile” or that “southern charm”. This translates well online and maybe the reason Atlanta grew into a major voiceover market had as much to do with “talent” as it did the customer service only southern charm could offer. A loyalty to a market was created and people wanted in.

This book will help you land, build on, and keep clients

Needless to say, I am going to read this book Zombie Loyalists and I hope you do, too. Gary Vaynerchuk, bestselling author, as well as founder of VaynerMedia, said this:

“At the end of the day, all business comes down to customer service. If you want to win in the new customer-centric economy, check this book out.”

Note: If I have personally ever helped you get work, use a computer, get paid, or connected you with someone that lead to you getting work, you may learn why I did many unselfish acts from reading this book.

It is not always about “business”. Sometimes, it is about showing “people” care enough to use the business to make the world a better place.

“A small group of thoughtful people change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead”