Voice-Over Narration: Do It Yourself or Pay for a Pro? by Debbie Grattan

A silly Lab puppy looking like he just got caught getting into paint cans and making a colorful mess.

Your corporation could have one, two or even dozens of video ideas in your lineup, from how-to instructional videos to those providing a description of your company or a rundown on specific services or products. You may also have an in-house team that typically takes care of all your production needs.

But, is that team using a voice that can really “cut it” when it comes to keeping your viewers fully engaged?

If you’re tempted to tap the smoothest-sounding voice from your staff to narrate your corporate videos, you may think you’re saving time, money and the hassle of searching out a full-time voice-over pro to hire for the job. But you could instead end up wasting time, money and creating an even bigger hassle when the smoothest-sounding voice doesn’t necessarily produce the smoothest final result.

As a longtime professional voice-over actor, I often get contacted by clients who have already completed their narration with someone that just didn’t work for them. The companies have already shelled out money as well as enormous amounts of time and effort – only to be saddled with a video they couldn’t use – due to shoddy and substandard narration.

The shoddiness may have come from any number or combination of problems. These are problems you simply won’t face if you hire an experienced full-time voice-over pro.

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Twitter Truths, by Dave Courvoisier

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Still don’t get Twitter?  Lotsa people don’t.  You’re not alone.

Sometimes days go by and I don’t post or even read posts…and that’s probably bad policy. Twitter should not be ignored, so don’t be frustrated by this social network.  Next to Facebook, it is the most influential social network to see and be seen.

Don’t take my word for it…search Gary Vaynerchuk in YouTube, and listen to ANY of his motivational talks about social media (just be ready for plenty of profanity).  He’ll make you a believer. Not only does it help raise your profile on the internet, but Twitter is actually a great prospecting tool.

That’s right.  With Twitter, you can find new clients. The formula is not hard, you just have to bend Twitter to YOUR rules.

The key is smart searching with the right keywords, then engaging prospects with your usual charming self.

Here’s the generally-accepted 3-fold formula:

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Getting Paid, by Rachel Fulginiti

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This week I received a delightful and unexpected gift. I got paid for a job I thought I’d gotten burned on. Let me backtrack. My business is divided into two parts. There’s the agented side of things: I audition for jobs with my agent (s) either at home, in their office or at casting places and when I book a job they send me to the studio. These are the “Cadillac Jobs”. Kushy and smooth. I am just a voice for hire. I go into an awesome studio, record for a half hour and then get a check sent to me a while later. No engineering, no invoicing, no call for pickups, (unless there’s another paycheck attached!); it’s pretty sweet.

But to make it as a VO in this day and age, you pretty much also have to have a home-based business, as well. On this side of things, I am not only the “talent”, but also the engineer, as well as the accountant and office manager. Most times, I am also the director and sometimes the producer. Jobs come to me through referrals from past clients, online sites, or by people finding my website.  Someone contacts me about a project, I provide a quote and tell them my policies, they send me a finalized script and I record it, either with them on the line or on my own depending on their preference. Then they may come back to me with one round of pickups. After that the job is usually (hopefully) just another good memory. Next. I fondly refer to these jobs (privately!) as “turn and burn”. No disrespect, they’re great. I get paid, complete the job quickly and it’s wrapped up nice and tidy with no unnecessary time and energy lingering. Everyone’s happy.

To this end, I always ask for payment up front, especially the first time I work with a client. I didn’t always do that, but I learned the hard way. Many times, clients seem to magically disappear after they get what they need, and understandably so; they are typically on tight deadlines and still have post production ahead of them. A few times I was stiffed completely. More often, I would eventually get paid, but it might take months and months…and that meant months and months of me following up with them, sending gentle reminders, more terse reminders…you get the idea. The whole process was a hassle, uncomfortable for me, a time suck and just plain not fun. So, I decided to adopt a policy that was in place at a corporate job I had years ago.

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10 Simple Ways to Surprise Your Clients, by Paul Strikwerda

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“Clients don’t like surprises,” said one of my business mentors.

“In an unpredictable world, they need to know that they can depend on you. If you can live up to their expectations, you’re building a long-term relationship.”

Wise words from a wise man, and yet I only partially agree with him.

In order to live up to your client’s expectations, you first need to know what they are.

Many clients forget to tell you, and many freelancers don’t bother to ask. They just assume they know, and get burned in the end.

Thanks to the marvels of the internet, there’s often little or no direct contact between a client and a freelancer. You know how it goes. We respond to vague job postings with a vague budget, and simply hope for the best.

If we happen to land the job, we get straight to work so we can meet the deadline. But what to do when we’re not sure what to do?

Some freelancers will turn to their colleagues, and ask them for an uninformed opinion:

“Please help. Should I pronounce this strange name in this way or that way?”

“Do I read all the footnotes or shall I leave them out?”

“What kind of tone or accent would be best for this book?”

Sorry people, but you’re barking up the wrong tree! It doesn’t matter what your Facebook friends think you should do. Your client doesn’t care what you think either.

Go to the source and ask!

The only way to consistently satisfy your customers, is to meet and exceed their expectations. You’ve got to offer exceptional value that justifies your rate. That’s how you build your business.

Now to the first part of my mentor’s advice. The part about surprises.

I happen to think that clients are human, and humans like surprises. That is, as long as they are pleasant.

The first way to surprise your client has everything to do with what we just talked about:

1. Communicate

Unless it’s cut-and-dried, don’t just accept the job and get to work. Get in touch, and stay connected. Show some interest in the project you’re hired to do. Ask questions. Get details. Give updates. You’re not some speech-imitating computer program. You’re a real person, so show your client you care.

You’d be surprised how much goodwill you create when you communicate. Time spent getting to know your client’s preferences will save you time in the end.

So, let me ask you this. If you could work with someone who is open, flexible, and communicative, or with someone who isn’t, who would you choose?

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How to Avoid a Small Business Audit By The IRS, by Brendon Pack

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During tax season and throughout the year, IRS agents carefully review every tax return that comes across their desks. However, agents take a second glance if they catch something on a return that seems abnormal. This may result in an IRS auditduring which the IRS contacts a taxpayer to clarify certain information.

The IRS audit process varies based on the extent of the information needed, and an audit can be for an individual taxpayer or a business. Taxpayers typically receive an audit notice in the mail to begin the process. Or, an auditor may visit your business in person to examine certain financial records. It can take several months – or even a few years – to fully resolve an audit.

If you’re wondering how to avoid an IRS business audit, use these tips:

1. Adopt a formal entity structure for your business.

If you work as a sole proprietor, the IRS will likely give your tax return some extra attention automatically. So, why not set up a formal LLC or corporate entity? Doing so can give your enterprise more credibility, allowing you to claim deductions and other tax-saving measures without fear that your activities will be examined more closely. Simply registering a formal entity for your venture can help reduce your risk of a small business tax audit.

2. Always file a completed business income tax return.

There are many taxes for small business owners to be aware of and ultimately cover on their IRS returns. After your income tax return has been completely filled out from top to bottom, review it with a keen eye. Be sure that every line that is applicable to your business tax situation is filled out completely and correctly. If you send an incomplete tax return to Uncle Sam, the IRS may question why you failed to disclose certain information on your return. This could trigger an audit.

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How To Secure Return Business, by Paul Strikwerda

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It must be hard to be Balloons the Clown.

For years, Balloons has been a fixture in my Borough.

He drives around in a silly red VW Beetle with a slogan prominently printed on the back:

“Honk if you like clowns.”

I’ll be honest: in all the years that our paths have crossed, I’ve never heard a single honk. That must be pretty depressing, if you’re a professional clown. But as one of my old teachers used to say:

“The meaning of our communication is the response we get.”

Here’s my question: Why would someone like Balloons even ask us to make some noise? My guess is that it has to do with the theme of last week’s blog postreassurance. Perhaps this family entertainer is hoping for honks to confirm his presumed popularity.

Even though you probably don’t make a living walking around in huge shoes wearing a red nose, you and I, and Balloons, have something in common: we like to be reassured.

Our need for reassurance has to do with a deep human desire: the wish to be accepted. It’s this universal, comforting feeling that we matter, that we are safe, and that everything is going to be alright. It’s what lovers love, preachers preach, and what politicians promise. The person able to reassure us the most, gains our trust and gets our vote.

Clients are no different. They want to know that they are in good hands, and that their money is well spent. It is your job to convince them of that fact. As I suggested last week:

Selling is about reassuring. Before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale.

THE DO’S AND DON’TS

As the client is making up his mind, here are a few things that will make him feel confident that you’re the right person for the job. This is what you have to do:

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