In a Voiceover business you wear many hats and juggle a multitude of balls. You are an actor, solopreneur, narrator, marketing manager, storyteller, audio engineer, accountant, researcher, studio manager, social media guru, I could go on, but you get the idea.
General day-to-day admin tasks and paperwork slows down not only your productivity but your creativity too. All these things take time and resources, and when you are the only resource available something has to give.
Let’s face it, if you are not in your booth, you are not making money. Outsourcing your administrative tasks to an external person could help free you up to spend more time in your booth. Keeping the money coming in and your voiceover business thriving.
Many creative people just aren’t very good at the back-office stuff. That’s perfectly fine, but it’s also perfectly fine to ask for help!
Outsourced business support in the form of a virtual assistant can be a great way to address your challenges. They offer a range of services that help to ease the day-to-day workload of sole traders and small business owners. They provide an efficient way for voiceover artists to not only lighten their workload, but to refocus and provide their clients with extra available recording time and consistent customer service.
“Master your strengths, outsource your weaknesses” – Ryan Kahn
Now you may think that your business isn’t big enough to warrant outsourcing. Being a solopreneur by definition means you have full responsibility for the running of the business. But this doesn’t mean that you have to do this completely alone. Outsourcing also doesn’t mean that you lose control of that side of the business either, it simply means you get the flexibility to delegate tasks and get some time back.
These 5 questions will reveal if you could benefit from having a virtual assistant.
Are you easy to work with?
I don’t know about you, but I have a number of clients who come back to me time and time again, because they know that I will respond to them as soon as I can, produce clear and concise quotes and work orders, and then deliver the best voiceover that I can in a timely manner. They come back because I am easy to work with. It sounds obvious doesn’t it? But being easy to work with isn’t confined to your work in the booth. Your back office processes also impact on this image. You may be a whizz at turning around a perfect punchy promo in one take, but if you struggle to reply to emails in a timely manner, or your quotes and contracts are muddled, or your invoicing hap hazard then you’re suddenly not so easy to work with.
Is your client service consistent?
Keeping your client service consistent is a real stinger. You’ll have clients who operate in completely different ways. Of course, you should always adapt your approach to fit each client, you want to make yourself easy to work with after all. But you should always make sure that you still have a clear process to ensure that all your clients are getting an equally excellent service. Perhaps you invoice some clients immediately when the job is complete, but let others slip a few days, until you suddenly wake in the middle of the night a week later with a ’Gah! I haven’t sent that invoice yet’ moment.
Maybe you usually send out quotes and work orders in writing to clients, but on this particular occasion you were hassled into giving it verbally over the phone. Did you issue a receipt to that new client after the first payment but haven’t bothered since? Do you always say thank you?
If you aren’t consistent with your front facing client service, then your business processes won’t be consistent either, which can put added strain on your output and time.
Do you follow up on enquiries?
You know how this story goes. An email enquiry comes in asking for your demo, you gladly email it back to them. They thank you and say they will be in touch. A week or two passes and you haven’t heard anything more. Have you followed this up? Or perhaps it has got lost in a sea of auditions and that pesky e-learning job that doesn’t seem to have an end. In fact, maybe you don’t even remember sending it in the first place, and quite frankly your inbox is so monstrous you’re scared to go in there in case you lose a limb!
Recently I was very brave and made a few cold calls to potential new clients. I had mixed results. But one particular producer booked me there and then, I literally got off the phone and recorded his script. I found out later that he had just sat down to go through some female demos he had requested a fortnight earlier, to cast this particular explainer. He was interrupted by the phone, it was me. Boom! But I can’t help but think that if the owners of those demos had followed up with him and kept themselves top of mind, it would have gone a different way that day.
It’s all about the marketing right?
And so it is. But once you have researched all your potential new clients and you have compiled your fabulous personal introduction email to them, what then? Are all those contacts left floating around in the word soup that is your inbox? Have you scheduled your follow ups (yes remember those)? Do you have a contacts database? (GDPR compliant naturally!) Have you been told to contact them again in 6 months, but can’t remember when you contacted them in the first place? You can’t build relationships if you aren’t communicating to the right people at the right time.
Do you actually know what you’re doing?
This may seem a blunt question, but really, do you? Voice actors are by definition creatives. Although it is true of course that many voiceover artists have come to the profession later in their careers, and they may have previous corporate experience and knowledge to fall back on. However, I think it fair to say that a majority of voiceover artists have always been performers. For those of you who fall into this category, the operational side of running a successful business is simply not in your skill set. If that is the case, do more of what you know and love and leave the stressful and boring stuff to someone else.
“The boring side of business is what makes it work” – Lord Sugar
The thing is, you don’t have to be good at everything and you certainly don’t have to do everything. The world would grind to a halt if that were the case. Cross pollination of skills and services keep industry and business running.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com started out by selling books from his garage with a small team of just 5 people. If he decided to do everything himself including battling through his weaknesses in those early days, Amazon may not be around today. And where on earth will I be able to get an emergency same day delivery, when my son breaks his headphones at breakfast…on a Sunday!
Here are 5 top tips for working with a virtual assistant
Know who they are
If you are going to entrust someone with your brand, the first step is to make sure you trust that person. You need a virtual assistant who you get along with and someone who you trust with your business information.
Make sure they understand your industry and business
All virtual assistants are not created equal. They have different skill sets, backgrounds and experience. So it is important that you find one who is familiar with the type of work you do. You shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you need to train your new virtual assistant on your business or industry. Ask yourself: ‘Do they understand the voiceover industry? Do they fit my needs? Do they have relevant experience in the areas I will use them in?’
Agree on potential work areas in advance
Have a clear idea of what you need help with before you approach a potential virtual assistant. You will often contract on the basis of the work required and the time required to carry out that work, so it helps if you have this in mind from the start. Make sure you have a consultation (usually offered for free) with your virtual assistant before signing with them.
Be mindful of their schedule
Keep in mind that it is likely that you are not the only business with which the virtual assistant is working. It is important to respect the fact that your virtual assistant has obligations outside of your tasks. Just as you are running your voiceover business, it’s always prudent to remember that your virtual assistant is also running their own business too. Be fair and only expect them to give you their undivided attention during your allotted time/hours. And if you do have something urgent come up, respect that they may not be able to drop everything immediately.
Communication is important in any successful business relationship. But it is essential when it comes to your virtual assistant. You need to work out what means of communication works for both of you. Virtual assistants are likely to be sticklers for a paper trail. So although you may like picking up the phone and asking for help with something, be mindful that your virtual assistant may prefer the request writing, so they can refer back to it and then mark it as ‘complete’ when it is done. When using digital means for communication, be as clear and concise (without being too blunt) as you can.
Your virtual assistant isn’t a robot and they are not your employee. They are a human being with similar hopes and dreams for their own business. Be kind, treat them well, have a laugh. And most importantly, enjoy taking your voiceover business to the next level, as a TEAM!