The VO Annual Checkup: What to Review to Keep your Business Running Smoothly
Just like you go to see your doctor every year for an annual checkup to ensure your health is in top form, there are certain aspects of your VO business that you need to review every year as well to keep things running smoothly.
Your doctor may check your blood pressure, hearing, vision, and other things that make up your overall health and well-being. So too must you check the things that make up the overall well-being of your business as a VO Talent. In this post, we'll take a look at what those things are and the best ways to review them and keep them all in tip top shape. I recommend you review each of the following items at least once a year, if not more. Setting calendar reminders or setting specific times of year for this review are great ways to stay on top of it. There are also some tools to help you keep track of your annual checkups in the resource package for this post which you can download at the bottom.
What's probably one of the most obvious things that you need to review every year (if not more often) is also one of the most important. Your Demo Reels are the heart of your marketing tools as a VO Talent and it is essential that they are always current, relevant, and high-quality.
What to Check:
First, review what demo reels you actually have. Do you no longer pursue audiobook work? Maybe it's time for that one to go. Have you been getting some promo work and think that can be a good niche to start targeting? Maybe it's time to have a proper Promo Reel. Review the demos you do and don't have, and make sure you have one for each area of VO you are pursuing work in.
Next check your reels to make sure they reflect who you are as a VO talent, today. Has your recording chain improved over the past year, are you just flat-out better as a talent? Demos that don't reflect these changes aren't serving you as they should be, make sure your demos represent the talent you are today.
Not only should your demos reflect the talent you are currently, they should reflect that talent at it's best. Any high profile or really high quality work, (the kind of stuff you tell people about when they ask what you've done VO for) belongs on your reels as long the client is ok with it. If you haven't done any super high profile work yet, that's ok too - just ask yourself if you're capable of delivering something better than what is on your reel right now, if the answer is yes, create some new material for it.
Another huge marketing tool in your toolbox, is your website, and thus it is also incredibly important to keep it up to date. Since your website is the hub for everything related to you as a VO talent online, this is actually one that I think should definitely be reviewed more often than once a year.
What to Check:
Firstly, reassess the overall look and feel of your website. Is it still user-friendly, easily accessible, clear, uncluttered, etc...(all the things a good site should be). Or have trends in website design rendered your site old-fashioned and outdated? Platforms like Squarespace, Wix, and many others make it incredibly easy to create very modern and high quality websites for your work. Whichever platform you use, the main thing is that your website represents you as a high quality talent, and a site that is high quality in look and feel is the way to do that.
If you're happy with the design of your site, now it's time to assess the actual content. Make sure every piece of content on your site is the most recent one available, that goes for your demos (obviously), headshot, credit list, bio information, video samples, contact info, social media links, and any other piece of content on the site.
P2P/Casting Site Profiles:
Just as your personal website should always remain current and up to date, so too should your "websites" or profiles on P2P and other casting sites. This is a good one to check simultaneously with your website, since you will likely have the same information and content overlapping between the two.
What to Check:
If your personal website is up to date (which it hopefully is) then simply check to make sure your P2P or casting site profiles are representations of your personal website on those platforms. Carry over your demos, headshot, credit list, bio, contact info, and anything else that may have changed since you last updated your profiles.
An additional thing to check that applies to these sites, but not so much your personal site, are keywords and search terms. The search engines on these sites use tags and keywords in your profiles and demo descriptions to generate results when clients search the databases. While littering your site with descriptive adjectives (conversational, sincere, natural, etc..), client namedrops (Google, Coca-Cola, Dell, etc..), and celebrity references (Sam Elliott, Morgan Freeman, etc...) may cause clutter and distraction on your personal website - they are useful search terms on the P2P and casting sites, and can help you pop up in the search results more often. So when doing your checkup - assess the terms and tags you currently have, and think about adding any new ones.
The way you make contact with potential clients is always important. You want to make sure you always present yourself as a professional who can deliver high quality work. During your annual checkup, make sure you assess whether your marketing and proposal templates are accomplishing that.
What to Check:
Review your email marketing templates and proposal templates on P2P sites and make sure they still say what you need to say in a clear, concise way. If you list credits in them, make sure to add any new and impressive ones. If your website has changed, you better be providing a link to the right site. If you list any details of your service offerings (24 hr turnaround, ISDN, Source Connect, etc...) Make sure you still can offer all of them, and add any new ones that you may have. And also just assess the overall tone and style of the message and make sure it is still coming across as casual and friendly and not too pushy/salesy.
While your skill level as a talent is arguably one of, if not the, most important aspect of your business - coming in as a close second would be your recording quality. Your voice may be exactly what the client was hearing in their head when they wrote up the job posting, but if your audition sounds like it was recorded on a 10 year old flip-phone, you're probably not getting the gig - so check up on your recording quality and make sure it's still competitive.
What to Check:
Go online and research some top talents with a similar voice to yours - listen to their demos and anything you can find on their sites. Then play back some of your recent projects and auditions immediately after and ask yourself if your audio quality is on par with theirs.
Think about the mic position your using, the space you are recording in, any software or hardware processing you are recording through, and the hardware itself - your mic and interface. If you think there's some room for improvement and things have been going well lately, maybe it's time for that new mic or other upgrade to your studio.
Although this is a bit more boring than things like your studio, demos, and website - it's still a crucial part of your business. The software and systems you use to track jobs, receive payments, send invoices, contact clients and leads, and run the day to day operations of your business have a direct effect on how productive and successful you can be, and they should be included in your annual checkup.
What to Check:
Review the systems you currently use, and think about any areas of weakness in your current operations that could benefit from the addition of a new system or service. It's essential to keep track of jobs, payments, clients, and communications. Make sure you have systems in place to do so and think about the actual details of the information and data you are tracking and collecting in regards to each one.
Some services that you may not already be using, that you may want to look into adding to your operations are:
- Accounting Software (to track jobs, payments, invoicing, expenses, and other financial aspects of your business)
- CRM software (To track clients and leads and keep detailed information on them)
- Time Tracking (To keep track of where your time goes and how you can better spend it to be more productive - A good one I use is Toggl)
- Email (Do you have an email for your domain rather than @gmail or another service, would it benefit you to do so?)
- Backup (Do you have a system in place to backup audio sessions and jobs in case of an issue with your computer?)
- Calendar/Scheduling (To keep track of upcoming deadlines, live recording sessions, or any other reminders)
Last but not least, in addition to the technical and business related aspects of VO, you should also assess the thing that is at the heart of your entire career - your actual voice.
What to Check:
Compare some of your recent work or auditions to recent work from top talent and the stuff you see on current tv and radio commercials. Do you hear your work as being on the same level? Are you delivering high quality and competitive reads?
Are you looking into expanding into other niches (Animation, Promo, Audiobooks, etc..) and aren't sure whether you have the chops yet to get work in those areas. Consider adding some practice time into your work schedule to improve on your actual voice and read quality, or consider coaching sessions if you feel that would benefit you.
To sum up, there are a bunch of different components of your VO business that all work together to make you successful. It's extremely important that you keep all of these components in their best shape and a great way to do that is to perform an annual checkup on different aspects of your business to make sure they reflect you at your best, including your: Demo Reels, Website, P2P/Casting Site Profiles, Proposal/Marketing Templates, Recording Chain, Business Systems and Services, and your Voice.
If you haven't checked up on some or all of the items mentioned in this post in a long time, open up your calendar or scheduling system and set a precise day and time to do so, right now. Choose a day not too far in the future.
Then once you are at a point where you've gone through and performed a checkup, and everything is up to date - set notifications in your calendar to do so again in a year (or sooner, maybe 6-8 months) - you don't have to check everything all at once, maybe put "check up on Demo Reels" for one day, "Check up on Website" for another, etc... just make sure you have it on your calendar to review all the aspects of your business.
If there are any other aspects of your VO business that you regularly review, let me know in the comments below!
You can also download the Resource Package for this post by clicking the button below, it includes a PDF version of the post, a printable checklist, and an excel checklist that you can use to keep track of your Annual Checkups either in written or digital form.