Thursday, September 15, 2016

Clearing the decks!

(aka the art of finishing projects and saying no.)

There's a certain wonderfulness about being a freelancing-independent-business owner. You never stop marketing and never stop pushing to keep the cue full of work that pays money.

The image of Sisyphus pushing that rock up a hill comes to mind. We work 80 hours a week to be our own boss.

BUT there is a skill that one has to learn at some point. Well, two skills actually. One skill is finishing a project.

There is going to be a time (or two) that you'll say "Yes" to a project that you would have rather have said "No." too. But, there was money tied to it, and you just couldn't resist. (Or power, or prestige, or fame, or some sort of ego boosting thingy.)

However it happens, for some reason, you said, "Yes, I'll do it." OR you volunteered your skills!!

Good for you. It's good karma and helps somebody out. 


Ok here's the big but. (insert Sir Mix-A-Lot here) There's only one you and you need time for that 'you'.

How many projects are sitting in the wings that you started? Each one is a weight on your shoulders. 

That edit you promised. 
The script for a friend. 
The website changes.
The marketing material.
The siding on the house.
The project in the basement.

The list can go on and on!


Ok here's the first REAL skill. Saying "No." once in a while. While it's true, if you want something done, ask someone who's busy. I'm very good at lists and getting things prioritized. But I'm terrible at saying "no." when someone asks me. 

That changes today. (actually it changed yesterday, the first time I did it.)

I'm starting with the free things. "We would love you to audition for this show, you'd be perfect for it!" 

Ok, go ahead, stroke my ego, that's wonderful! 

BUT, "I'd love too! I'm just overbooked right now, but please keep me in mind for your next show." is the new response.

The art of saying 'No.' or being more selective is HARD! Especially when you've had the mindset that you need to take on things to survive.

So I've started to throttle back on saying 'Yes.'

Clear the Decks!

I'm clearing out the projects I've promised to do. One by one by order of priority. 

Prop for a show? Done.
Cassette to DVD for a friend? Done.
Pop by and help a friend with his audio chain? This weekend.
Clean my workbench? Today.

Each project you finish, takes some of the weight off your shoulders. The trick is, DON'T ADD ANOTHER PROJECT RIGHT AWAY!

Try not to fill the void. Allow yourself time for yourself and the projects for YOU. 

Your website.
Your marketing.
Your motorcycle in the basement.
Your mental health.

Once everything is done, all the projects have been cleared and the backlog is gone, THEN (Carefully) say 'Yes.' again. But be selective!  

Your time is valuable and finite. Learn to say no once in a while. It's ok.

Friday, December 4, 2015

2015 Marketing update!

Okiedokie... it's DECEMBER.

December 4th to be precise. And I finally mailed out the first round of marketing packages!


Finding time and energy... lame lame lame excuse. But there were a lot of factors, getting the introduction letter right, finding the right box and packing material, creating a client contact database, etc, etc.

New headshot, check. New demo recording, done. Good size boxes for shipping, done. (thank you

Marketing material isn't any good sitting on the floor. It needs to be in peoples hands.

And it has begun.

Now to keep the rhythm going and keep sending things out.

Friday, March 13, 2015

2015 Marketing

Ok, it's March, the temps are warming and we're shaking off the cabin fever. Time to get motivated!

Right now, I have to admit, I'm busy. The eLearning is cooking along, the commercial work comes in and out, (regular, but often enough) and the studio is sounding nice. But there's a plan to do more.

Several months ago there was a great meeting in NYC with a fellow "Voiceoverist" Philip Banks and he said something profound. A couple things actually.

Start at the Top!

If you start at the top, you can only work yourself down. So introduce yourself to the big wigs.

They Don't Know You Exist!

True, so if they have never heard of me, how in the world would they figure out how to hire me?

Make it Easy for Them!

People are so freakin' busy. Seriously. Make it easy.

The Plan.

Last year I hired Celia Siegel Management to give my marking a once over. (money well spent!) That was website, branding, message, etc. I had a new demo produced, revamped the website and had Lee Everett over at Fine Line Multimedia create a new graphic for my name.

So a bit of coding and some photography got the website up.

Philip mentioned sending out a USB with marketing. Sure! why not! But I decided to take it further with the branding. And had UBS's printed up with my new graphic, complete with contact information and dropped my new demo onto it.

It's a USB AND a bottle opener...
The next bit of marketing schwag was the mug.

I have used a mug for marketing for years. People don't toss out mugs. At a recent on-camera shoot, the producer had my mug on her desk. I had cleverly left it in the green room at a previous shoot.

HEY it works! I've had other producers call me, and say, "I have your mug, and had to call..."

People may toss out schwag, but damn, that mug has stuck around. So it needed an update as well, to match. A couple minutes in Photoshop with the new graphic and off to 144 mugs with shipping was just over $500. But completes the package.

New and shiny!

Next comes the tough part. Finding the names and places to send them to.

People will argue over all kinds of things in this business, "It's competitive!", "No it's not..." What I have found is that people are willing to share all kinds of secrets of the business, but they're not going to tell you who their client contacts are. Nope. No-sir-ee-bob.

THAT you have to find and build yourself. There are sources, but it's not going to be handed to you on a silver platter. (Unless you're a nationally known film and TV actor).

The Goal

These mugs and USB drives aren't going to mail themselves, so the plan is to create a list of production companies and agencies and introduce myself. Get things put together and get them out the door.

The more people who know me, and listen to my work, the more people who will know me and listen to my work.

As the amazing Bob Souer says, "Prepare for the avalanche."

I'm ready. And I'm going for it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A New Pre-Amp

Ok, ok, ok. There is a known thing out there called G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and it is a serious affliction that affects techie types.

First of all, to be successful in VO, you need talent and a way to capture that talent. You don't need ProTools and a $3000 microphone. You do need a quiet space and a quality microphone that fits that space that captures your dulcet tones and you'll need some sort of software to edit and get that audio out the door.

George Whittam is a great source for those looking to set up and make buckets of money. Keep it simple stupid. (KISS) And George has mentioned once or twice that the gear that's out there and available to you at a reasonable price is just fine for Voice Over work. To spend more money on more expensive gear starts to get into the minutia of audio.

An Audio Tecnica AT2020 USB microphone and a laptop running Audacity (FREE!) will get you started and from there you dream about a better microphone, and better software. That's how G.A.S. starts. If you're like me, you surf and read reviews over at or and start thinking about spending money. I say it's money burning a hole in your common sense.

Now that I've said all that!

I've been wanting to upgrade my ART MPA Gold preamp. I had put in some vintage Mullard tubes and it has been FINE. Nothing really wrong with it, it gets me work and is quiet and does the job.


I started reading about EMI records, the Beatles and the famed Redd 47 preamp that EMI used in their console. Ok. So I have a Neumann U87ai microphone, and the Redd 47 is supposed to be a great match to it. Shoot.

So I start looking around. Drip Electronics has a nice kit, but presently out of stock, Phaedrus Audio in the UK further stoked the fire, but the present conversion rate of the pound to the dollar made the price a bit un-attractive. Then I find Dizengoff Audio and their D4. $599.00 of tube amp, Redd 47 clone magic.


Howz it sound? I'm dialing it in, but right out of the box this is clean, clear and puts the vocals right into the center of a mix. Not as bass heavy as the ART MPA was, which is fine, I don't want to create a mix of mud. It has phantom power, which the Drip Electronics kit does not have. A pad to knock things down on the output and a phase inverter if needed. The rest is just a couple of gain knobs, rough and fine.

On the back is a XLR input and output. On the front is 1/4" input for an instrument. (hmmm, might have to pick up a cheap Les Paul) That's it. Nothing else in the signal path or any built in compressors or eq. Just a preamp.

So this sound file ABTest.mp3 is me reading first into the ART MPA then the Dizengoff D4, the first phrase is the ART, the repeat of the phrase is the D4. I'm going to continue dialing it in and working with it, but so far, I'm pretty happy. I think I'm done with G.A.S. for a little while.. (no. seriously.)

You may listen to the two preamps back to back and say, "They sound pretty much the same…" and that's true, they are VERY close. Going back to what George said, spending more gets you a tiny percentage higher quality, tiny. But I hear a difference and I like it, the key word for me is clarity, and this D4 has it in spades.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ipDTL (I piddled?) No...

Ok, this is going to be short and sweet.

Go ahead, check it out. You'll need Google Chrome
I have tried, and tried to get ISDN in my studio and
have failed. My local phone company is Fairpoint
Communications, but the phone lines and connection is somehow owned by Verizon. Fairpoint was in bankruptcy proceedings, so they're really not interested in helping me get ISDN.


But now… oh man, I hope it's as good as it says it is… ipDTL is available.

Yesterday I was able to connect over DSL, using Google Chrome and ipDTL to a studio in Birmingham Alabama. They said it sounded great!

I think it's witchcraft!

Seriously. It has to be magic. I'm in the woods, my computer is connected via WiFi, and then Fairpoint DSL, that audio stream is flying over the wire down to a studio and we're able to converse just as if I'm in the booth. At first I could here myself as they had me in the mix, once the removed me from the mix (mix-minus) it sounded normal, but even then, when I was in the mix, the delay was only a fraction of a second.


For now, I've only done the monthly plan of $25.00 with the intention of going to a yearly $160.00 plan if I get one more gig out of it.

Give it a go, let the world know you can connect, and get busy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

One Bowl

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a while.

It SORT OF has to do with V.O. work as I'm in the middle of a 30 pound challenge for FaffCon 7. I can't make FaffCon 7 due to a scheduling conflict, however I have been carrying around an extra 30 to 40 pounds of weight that I can certainly afford to lose.

Wait, Monk, you're giving weight loss tips?

Um. kinda.

I have this working theory that we eat too much. We eat too much for our level of activity and personally I eat to quickly. I can finish a meal before you even think about starting. NOM it's gone.

So the old tried and true, reduce calories and increase exercise, it sells magazines and books every day. All different renditions of the same thing. Cut down in the intake of calories, increase the burning of calories, the result is a reduction in overall weight.

Those calories are sneaky, THEY'RE IN EVERYTHING! And you have to make smart choices of where you want those calories to come from. I'm not going to give up a glass of wine or two at the end of the day. (aprox 175 calories for ONE 6oz glass of wine!)

Ok ok. So we limit the intake of calories, I'm aiming for a day of 1300-1500 calories with a morning walk.

What does that mean? A sausage egg McMuffin with a hash brown is 570 calories according to the chart at the drive up. Ok, not bad, I'm reserving calories for those two glasses of wine brings me up to 920 calories for the day. That's not including lunch or dinner! YIPES.

No egg McMuffin. 

How about an egg and toast for breakfast? The egg averages out to 70 calories, the toast dials in another 70 or so, (spelt whole grain) and a pat of butter is 36 calories. 176 calories!

There's room there to make this work!

So back to the One Bowl thought.

Not to big, not to small.
Excluding green vegetables, which do have calories but we're going to excuse them from being counted. And I mean kale, broccoli, lettuce, etc, not root vegetables like carrots or potatoes. I think it takes more energy to break down celery or cucumber than you get out of it. I don't have scientific proof, but really it's just fiber and water, eat up.

Find a small bowl that fits comfortably in one hand.

One hand. Not a big cereal bowl. A bowl that just fits your fist. This is your meal bowl.

The protein and carbohydrate goes in here. Again, be careful, don't make it a bowl of ravioli! I'm talking brown rice and chicken or meat or fish. This is about portion control!

And even if it is a bowl of ravioli, it's One Bowl.

If you get hungry in a few hours, grab some vegetables and load up. This isn't hard, but put down the bag of chips, step away from the donut, and leave the 4 course dinner to special occasions.


People are having their stomachs pinched and stapled to lose weight. Pinch and staple that huge dinner plate!

Slow down, calm down, consume less, weigh less. One Bowl.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

You Can't Build an Airplane!

In my basement, next to the motorcycle project are the parts to a Spencer Aircar. It's a homebuilt design by the guy who designed the SeaBee. It's a HUGE project

The Spencer Aircar amphibian

Stick with me, there's a reason I'm telling you about this. An airplane is a complex contraption that has moving parts, an engine, wiring, etc. To imagine building one can cause the brain to freeze up and all motor functions to stop.

And here's my point. Sometimes the "big picture" is too big. Instead of tackling it, it gets pushed aside for easier projects.

The Metaphor 

An airplane is a good example, because just the thought, to most people causes a reaction. But this same idea can be applied to learning to play guitar, trumpet or any instrument. It also can be applied to the business of Voice Over.

Becoming a successful V.O. talent can be overwhelming if looked at all at once. (Perhaps not so if you just think you'll buy a microphone and go make money.) But this is a business, it requires marketing, training, tools, and everything else that goes along creating a business. If you were to open up a dentist's office, there's a list of things to check off before you drill your first bicuspid.

The Airplane

The phrase "You Can't Build an Airplane" is common in the home builder, experimental aircraft field. The follow up phrase is, "But you can build parts, that then becomes assembled into an airplane."

That's the key to getting it done. Every day, every single day, work on a small part of the airplane. Cut pieces, read the schematic, glue up a piece of something. No less than 20 minutes to touch the project and do something.

The same holds true for learning an instrument. It's not how many years you've been practicing, it's how many hours. An airplane can take 7000 hours to build from scratch. Taking a bite out of that, bit by bit is how it gets done.

Every Day

Even a small task. A minuscule item. A phone call, an email, research a production company, has value. If you were learning guitar I'd say you strum a G chord, to a C chord to a D chord for 20 minutes.

This all makes sense right? You've heard the phrases! "Slow and steady wins the race." "The longest journey begins with a single step." and so on!

Do something for your business EVERY DAY. Don't put it off till tomorrow and do twice as much. Because then you run the risk of the brain saying, "There's too much to do!" and you'll lock up and become that deer in the headlights.

You can create the parts that becomes your success. One day at a time.