Frank’s Blog

Today's post: The Pickle Principle.

FEVS 002-2

The Pickle Principle

I just had lunch at one of the more popular spots near Boulder, Colorado. I ordered a small Caesar Salad and a Rueben Sandwich. And as usual, the Rueben arrived with the obligatory pickle on the plate as a garnish.

Why am I writing about a pickle that most people won’t even eat? Because that pickle tells you all you need to know about the quality of that restaurant or business.

I call this test the Pickle Principle. And you can apply it to anything and know in a micro-second, everything you need to know about that business, service, product or person.

Here’s how the Pickle Principle works.

If the pickle on your plate is limp, cloyingly sour, warm or just looks unappetizing, you may be in for a bad meal. On the other hand if your pickle is crisp, cold, pickled just right and looks fresh, you’re almost sure to be in for a wonderful dining experience. Even if it’s just a Rueben or a Burger.

If you get the “afterthought” pickle, it means that the restaurant doesn’t really care all that much about The Pickle Principle or quality. Their pickle is there to fill out the plate visually and nothing more. It’s the “good enough” pickle mentality that far too many restaurants and businesses apply to their brand, service or product.

But – if you get the “fresh” pickle, it means that you’re in an establishment that applies The Pickle Principle to everything they do. They take their business seriously. Nothing is on your  plate that hasn’t been well thought out, taste tested or that doesn’t belong there. When an eatery goes the extra step to serve a fresh, cold, snap when you bite into it pickle, you can be sure they value you and your business.

Agree? Good. Because The Pickle Principle is a metaphor for your company and your life.

What kind of pickle are you serving your customers? Is there anything about your business or brand that hasn’t been well thought out? Your logo. Website. The way you answer the phone. The way you handle problems.

Starbucks understand The Pickle Principle and serves a great pickle.

Their stores are immaculate. The display case is always full. The Barista’s are highly trained professionals and they tell you upfront (via signage) that if your coffee drink isn’t perfect – they’ll make it again. They aren’t satisfied until you’re delighted with your drink. To me, Starbucks is the epitome of great customer service.

Starbucks knows the power of The Pickle Principle. But the master of all pickles and principles is an Apple!

The late, great Steve Jobs was so into The Pickle Principle that serving a pickle that wasn’t the best pickle in the world was grounds for termination.

He enforced The Pickle Principle in every nook and cranny of the Apple Brand. If you own an Apple product, you can be sure that nothing is there to “fill out the plate”. From the placement of the Apple logo, down to the way the keys on the keyboard react to the way you strike the keys – The Pickle Principle has been applied, tested, retested until . And if it didn’t pass the ultimate test, Steve’s test, it doesn’t go to market until  it does.

It was and still is Apple’s application of “The Pickle Principle” that makes them the most valuable company in the world. A company born in a garage, fathered by two hippies who didn’t “fit in” the conventional limp pickle world, is now the ultimate Pickle.

Can you say the same about your business? If your customers ate your pickle, would they order another or spit it out in disgust?

You can apply the Pickle Principle to your business. You can apply it to your life. Whatever you apply The Pickle Principle to – will prosper. Because when you accept nothing but the absolute best, you’ll get it every time.

So get out the pickling jars. Buy farm fresh cucumbers. Order the freshest, best tasting pickling spices and get pickling.

Apply The Pickle Principle and you won’t get lost in the barrel. You just might rule the world.

Happy pickling!

The Truth About A Career In Voice Over

I get asked a lot to coach newcomers who want to become Voice Over Artists. The first thing we do is have a conversation about what they expect to do and what they are willing to do to launch their career. How they answer that question tells me whether they’re serious or just dipping a few toes in the water.

The first question I ask is “Why do you want to get into VO? I get the usual responses. “I want to do something else and this seems like fun and it pays well.” Another one is, and you’ve all heard this, “People tell me I have great voice and should be doing commercials.”

Okay.

Then comes the axe. The one that separates the men from the toys, so to speak.” How much are you prepared to invest in launching your new business?” “Huh, what? Invest? I have to spend money?”

“Yes Mr. Howell. You have to spend money on training, recording equipment, a website and a first class demo. And you need all four. Three, two or one just won’t do.

This is when I cut to the chase and tell them that it’s gonna run them somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000-5000 to launch their new business. That’s when eyeballs begin to explode. It’s funny that people will gladly borrow $20-40,000 to buy a new car, but won’t invest a few thousand in themselves.

Many wannabe VO’s fail to understand that Voice Over is a business. It’s not a hobby. Not that hobby’s are cheap – but you’re going to become a business owner and that means spending money to open your store or, in our case, our storefront or website.

Some respond with “Okay let’s go for it.” Then I ask the fatal question. “Are you prepared to sell yourself to get work?” “What? I hate selling. That’s why I’m a (fill-in the blank.)

Yes, Thurston, you have to sell your services. “But I thought that’s what agents do?”  And therein lies one of the biggest myths in the Voice Over Business. The myth that your Agent will get you work. Let me set that record straight.

Agents represent you. They do not go to the office everyday and call everybody in town trying to get you work. Agents post your demo on their website, negotiate rates, bill clients, collect fees, subtract their percentage and send you a check for the balance of the original agreement.

Do you need an Agent? Yes, you do! But you must learn how to market your Voice Over business or you’ll soon be out of the Voice Over business.

Many can’t cut it in VO. And it’s not because they don’t have talent. It’s because they can’t or won’t take the necessary steps to build a rock solid client list. And that involves selling. However, there are many ways to sell/market your VO business without cold calling and getting rejected. Here are a few.

LinkedIn is a great place to market your VO business. In fact, I’m also posting this blog on my LinkedIn page. Most of the time LinkedIn will not generate much income – but then again it might and it serves to remind your connections who you are, what you do and why they should call you when they need a VOA (Voice Over Artist) for a project.

Networking is another must for aspiring as well as veteran VO people. Your local Chamber of Commerce usually has a Networking event 6-12 times a year. Go to them. “But I hate that small talk stuff.” Get over it. Just be you and go with the intention of making new friends. Not getting booked. Hand out cards and ask to meet for coffee. You never know who they may know who may just hire YOU!

A Website. Make it great. Make it easy to find and play your demo files. Make it easy to contact you. I spent several hours creating my website and upon review I discovered I left out a contact page. And please, please, please do not put one of those annoying “CAPTCHA” widgets on your site that make people prove they’re human. I see those and I’m gone! I’d rather deal with the small amount of spam that comes through than send a client to a competitor.

A Steady Paycheck. The only way you’re going to get a steady pay check in VO is if you work for a broadcast company. As a VOA you’re a freelance artist and you need lot’s of clients sending you small checks every single month. Sure you can pray for that big national gig – but it’s the little $200-500 gigs that will sustain you. Pick a number from 0-$500 or more and set that as what you need to bill every day to make it in the Voice Over business. Some months you hit or go over that number. Some months you won’t come close. But if you become determined to build a solid client base, you’ll do very well as a VOA. And have a lot of free time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. And even if you’re in sessions 8 hours a day – you’ll still be doing something you love. And you must love it. Never do something for the money. Do it because you love it and the money will take care of itself. Meaning you love doing what’s necessary to build and maintain your business.

There’s a lot more to this VO thing than what I’ve posted here today and we’ll get into the “other” types of work VOA’s can do other than Commercials and Narrations next time. Until then – Stay Blessed. Stay Humble. Stay Busy!

 

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Assembling The Pieces Of Your Voice Over Career.

Ever buy furniture or a toy that needs assembly? You know, from Ikea or someplace like that? The instructions promise assembly is easy but somehow you end up with a bunch of random parts that never seem to go together.

Your voice over career can feel like that. A microphone here, a demo there, a note book from a course you took with a bunch of sticky notes that made perfect sense at the time but now, you’re feeling completely confused.

You’re left with a bunch of random parts that just don’t seem to fit together. What do you do first, second, third?

In the 27 years as a professional voice over artist helping thousands of people, I’ve observed that there are 4 pillars to voice over success. You’ve got to develop each of them to ensure that you have a stable business to achieve the freedom and income you desire.

Those 4 pillars of voice over success are performance, technology, marketing and mindset.

Many emerging voice talent focus intensely on their performance skills, trying to audition just a little bit better than everyone else. Its great that you’re improving your performance skills, but the danger here is that you risk becoming the best kept secret that no body knows about, spending hours in your home recording closet, doing endless auditions for the voice talent shopping malls with nothing to show for it.

Other voice talent get the gear thing down flat. They have the latest microphone, recording software and a beautiful studio full of high tech gear. They proudly show their studio to friends and family the way they’d show off a gleaming new sports car in their driveway or garage.

But because they haven’t paid attention to the other 3 pillars of voice over success, soon all that beautiful gear begins to gather dust

And then there’s the mindset pillar. Some people think they can visualize their way to voice over success. They try to build a business based on positive thinking and dreams, but you don’t need me to tell you how quickly those sand castles crumble and get washed out to sea.

Positive thinking is great of course, but whats really important is learning about how to stay motivated and focused when the going gets tough and how to avoid unconsciously sabotaging your promising career. Of all the pillars, I’ve found that the mindset pillar is the most important to explore and the rewards of self mastery have lasting and powerful effects, not just in your voice over career but in the rest of your life as well.

The fourth and final pillar of voce over success is your marketing. Many people complain that they just want to perform. Marketing and selling themselves feels painful and embarrassing- an uncomfortable chore. They’d rather hand the whole thing over to an agent, or someone else to do it for them. Unfortunately, that never works. Once I figured out that marketing was really a service to my customers and a way to forge wonderful lifelong professional friendships that were profitable too,. I became a lifelong student of this fascinating science.

To speak with one of our talent advisors and find out more about how we can help you build a solid and successful voice over career focused on these 4 pillars of success, give us a call at 800-333-8108 or email info@greatvoice.com

Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit www.greatvoice.com.

Copyright, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved. Assembling the pieces of your voice over career.

 

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Hot Marketing Idea.

Here’s a marketing idea you can implement for just a few dollars. Buy 100 “Thank You” notes. Make sure it says “Thank You” on the inside.

Under the “Thank You” on the inside write – For visiting my website, listening to my demos and considering me for your next Voice Over Project.

Now put your business card inside the note cards and mail them to 100 Ad Agency Creative Directors.

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 Recording On The Road In Noisy Areas.

When traveling with your remote gear, you may find it hard to locate a quiet place to record your audio. Rental cars are great, but if you’re in a metropolitan area, you may be miles/hours from a quiet place. Here’s what I did on a recent trip to Florida.

I was on vacation in Flagler Beach and got a call from a client who need a narration ASAP. I set up my road gear in my motel room, but we were right across from the Atlantic Ocean on Highway A1A, and my mic was picking up the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach. What to do?

I called a local radio station and asked to speak to the GM. I told him I was a former radio guy now working as a Voice Actor and was in town on vacation and had my own gear. I asked if it would be possible to use one of their production rooms for 15-30 minutes. I offered to trade-out a couple of promo reads or commercials. He said come on over.

They had a great production room and I set up my Macbook and Apogee Mic on the edge of their console, recorded my narration, emailed it to my client and sent an emailed an invoice for $350, as well. Not a bad trade for 30 minutes of vacation time.

Next time you need a quiet place to record, call a local radio or TV station. It sure worked out nicely for me.

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Building The Best Studio You Can Afford!

One of the biggest mistakes a new Voice Actor can make is to buy the least expensive audio gear they can find.

Yes, prices on recording gear have dropped like a rock over the past 20 years. But a cheap studio is just that. Cheap. And you’ll sound that way if you go that route.

I advise my new people to be prepared to spend $2,500-$5,000 or more on their home studio. And if you can’t afford a home studio, you’re not ready to be a serious VOA.

The first thing to invest in and the most important part of any studio is sound absorbtion. And that starts by treating the walls with good quality acoustic foam. Then, comes your microphone. Yeah, you can get a decent mic for $200-$400. But don’t. Invest big in your mic. I use an Audio Technica 4033. It’s over 20 years old and sounds great. My next upgrade will be to the Neumann TLM 49. It’s $1700. And worth every penny.

Voice Over Veteran Harlan Hogan has some great mics and studio gear that he personally uses to sustain a very, very busy VO career. Check out Harlan’s affiliate link on the right sidebar.

After those two thing are locked down, you’ll need to decide on a computer for recording. Should you go PC or MAC? I switched to a MAC based system about 6 years ago and will never go back.

When getting your recording computer get as much RAM as you can afford. A 500 gig hard drive will do. I have 1 Terabyte on my iMac HD and 8 gigs RAM.

Now that you’re set to open the doors to your new business, your next most valuable investment will be in yourself. Hire a VO Coach. It’s a must to jump-start your career. Your coach will also help you create your first demo.

Your demo is your calling card. This is what gets you work. Create the best demo you possibly can. It’s often a potential clients first impression of you. Get this right, the first time.

Now send your demo out and find an agent. Once you have that, you’re ready for the big $$$ to start rolling in.

Uh… Not so fast.

Building a client roster that will sustain you takes time. Be prepared to spend 1-3 years until you’ve established a quality client base.

Being a Voice Actor is fun and can be very lucrative. You can earn a nice 6 figure income if you work at it. But know this – the Voice Over business is work. And it’s a business, not a hobby.

We’ll get into building your client base next time. Until then – stay blessed. Stay busy!

If you found this blog post helpful, please share it and subscribe on the home page or sidebar to get each post or podcast delivered to your inbox.

I’m also available for coaching. Contact me anytime.

Now go have some fun.

Voice Over Grille Podcast Episode 3:

Featuring Voice Actor, Blogger, Author, VO Coach Paul Strikwerda. www.nethervoice.com

Paul Strikwerda Photo

Plus – Why I love Sweetwater Pro Audio. (Hint:) It’s got nothing to do with price…

 

 

Voice Over Grille Podcast Episode 2:

Features VO Artist, Coach and Entrepreneur Extraordinaire Susan Berkley. www.greatvoice.com

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Plus, how to overcome “The Resistance”. The Resistance is that thing that’s standing in your way of achieving your dreams and living a life that matters.

 

Voice Over Grille Podcast Episode 1:

Features VO Coach Extraordinaire Marla Kirban

VO Coach Marla Kirban

and the story of how Howard Stern helped launch my VO career.

 

Do You Charge Friends for VO Work?

I’ll sometimes get a call from a friend who wants me to do their company V-Mail Greeting. They ask “How much will this cost?”

I used to tell them the first one is free. Then I thought, “This is how I make me living.” Now if a friend wants a voice-mail message or anything else, I charge full price. For a V-mail message (whether it’s one line or 50, I tell them my rate for this kind of work is $135.00)  If they can’t afford it, or think the price is too high – I understand. But, if your friend owned a restaurant and you went in for dinner would you expect the meal to be free? Should she/he comp my dinner every time I come in? Of course not. They are running a business. I get that. And so are we, fellow Voice Actors.

Your skills and talents have value. You’ve invested in your career and have purchased top-of-the-line audio gear so your customer gets the best sound quality possible. That costs money. If you work for free – that’s now costing you money.

Another thing has happened to me recently. A friend called and offered to buy me breakfast so that he could give me a script for his VoiceMail mail prompts. I went along with it. But I have changed that policy. My skills and talent are worth a lot more than a $10 breakfast and a cup of coffee.

Also, when someone acts surprised at my fee I say, I don’t work by the hour unless it’s a long form narration. I work by the project. Recording voice mail greetings is $135 per hour or any part thereof. If it takes me 5 minutes or 59 minutes it’s $135.00.

Let’s pretend you’re a highly trained Chef. You’ve studied at the top culinary schools in America and France. Would your friends invite you over for dinner and when you arrive, show you to the kitchen so you could prepare the meal? Not likely. You and I as Voice Over Artists are highly trained at our craft as well.

Look, your work as a VO Artist either has value or it doesn’t. And I understand there may be exceptions to this rule. But, once you work for free, your customer (friend or not) will expect you to work for free or at a deeply discounted rate from then on. Don’t open that box! It’s not worth it. Stick to your published rate for everyone.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Frank’s Blog

  1. Thank you Frank for the wonderful interview with Paul Strikwerda, he truly is a great and talented guy!
    I really enjoyed your interviewing style. I look forward to checking out more of your site. All the best!

    • Hi Mark,

      First – thank you very much for listening to the podcast. I’m honored that you visited the site. And thank you for your kind, encouraging words. I truly appreciate them. If you have any suggestions for making the podcast better – i’m all ears.

      Paul is a great interview. He made it very easy for me. Thanks again for listening and thank you for taking the time to comment. You now have a friend in Boulder, CO.
      Stay Blessed. Stay Busy!

      Frank