If you’re relatively new to a voice-over career, you are probably like everyone else who started out: Doing everything yourself. Are you dreaming about when you have your VO team and all the support so you can focus on your art? Good! Because it’s possible and it should happen if you are determined about this career and find the success you desire.
When I started my VO career, it really was me and only me. I didn’t even have a significant other at the time, so I had no one else to lean on. No friends in the industry – I was a complete outsider.
If you’re in a similar circumstance, you can also probably relate to the dream of a “team”: someone to handle all the bookings and invoicing, the taxes, the legal contracts, and the business plan. And since you’re the boss, you are the final approver on everything while you mainly focus on your craft and creating recordings for your valued clients. Maybe you’re in Hollywood or New York, too! A lot does depend on talent, and what your specific goals are. But I’m here to tell you that if you are determined, you will evolve your VO team over time – in whatever form – because all business professionals need a team.
Let’s think about this… what is a team, exactly? According to Wikipedia, a team is a group of individuals (human or non-human) working together to achieve their goal. So today, probably if you pay taxes, you already have a team member. An accountant or a company or an application that helps you prepare your taxes. You probably don’t talk to them (or use it) every day, but at least once a year or a few times a year. Perhaps you have a significant other or a spouse that is part of your ‘life’ team and supports you too. Where you get your VO training – that’s part of your VO team too.
As time passes, your career and your team evolve. I did everything on my own, it seems, when I remember the earlier years of my career. But I did receive a solid year of training and met mentors and friends and graduated to my first client from that ‘team’ setting. Essentially, we always have a team, small or large. It evolves as our volume of work grows and we need tools and expertise to support us in continuing to grow.
I remember feeling burdened by creating invoices and dreaming of a day to have an assistant or bookkeeper do it for me. In the early years, I created all kinds of excel sheets and tracking systems to keep on top of it. Even if I wasn’t sure it was the most effective way, it was the only way I knew. And taxes! Oh gosh as my income grew, I needed to pay more of course. I had a hard time learning how to balance saving ahead for that. I wasn’t working with an accountant who was guiding me and I wasn’t being accountable for myself. I paid more in taxes in the form of penalties due to those errors.
Problems can arise when we don’t have a good team set up to help us, whatever our errors may be. Creating a team of mentors and professionals who can support you, who you get along with, and have practical, pragmatic, friendly, and professional communication with can help you avoid errors as much as possible.
How do you grow your team? How does it evolve? There is no “one” road map, but there are basic concepts and milestones that you can learn and define to personalize the path for yourself. For example, the best basic concept for knowing whether or not you need an external team member to support you is to ask these questions: Can you do it effectively, easily, and does it give you satisfaction? Or conversely, could an assistant or specialist do it as effectively, and free your time up for higher-value work?
The decisions about when and why things change are often personal. Use my example for invoicing: it was something I absolutely did effectively but it always caused me frustration and dissatisfaction – even though the final invoices were fine. I just felt aggravated by the process – too much like accounting for me. However, I had the time to do it. As my business grew, though, I hit a certain level of volume where there was too much invoicing and VO recording to get done with quality and still have a life. I took this career path to have a life. So that was my ‘notification’! That balance shifted to too much invoicing and frustration. I knew that I needed to hire someone to help me. I was nervous that I couldn’t afford it, but it’s simple business pragmatism: you need to spend time where you create the most value and delegate other tasks as needed. I researched a bit, got referrals, interviewed the top two, and then hired a bookkeeper to do invoicing monthly based on my volume at the time. After a couple of months of transition and education, I released the reins. My bookkeeper did a great job and eased my frustrations! I never looked back.
Who else can be in your team? A tax accountant.a talent agent, a coach for your VO acting, social media specialist, marketing or branding or sales specialist, graphic designer, web designer, producer, business coach, lawyer, manager, virtual assistant, an entourage…friends! Family! Mentors of all kinds….
Keep in mind that when you hire a specialist or assistant, even if virtual or just for a project, you will need to invest time into the transition and handing over the tasks as a training period. During that time you evaluate the value of this new team member – confirming that it’s the right next step for your business. This is true for all types of team members – because in the end it truly is your voice-over business.
Looking over the past 10 years, I hired a graphic designer for a few things, and I’m still working with that same bookkeeper who is also now my virtual assistant. I tried a couple of other virtual assistants, but she’s been my rock. I’ve had at least 3 tax accountants, besides doing it myself. I am always getting VO coaching of some kind, via online or in-person workshops. For a couple of years, I’ve worked with a company to help me with social media and I’ve hired a lawyer for a couple of important circumstances, web designers, demo producers… it really never ends.
I hope this helps give you a little sense of how the team can evolve. Running a business, whether it’s as a voice actor or anything else, is a pleasure and a lot of work! Embrace your current team – even if it’s just family. Support is meaningful. And as your VO biz grows, your client list expands, embrace it and hire the people you need to continue being satisfied with your career, and hopefully make wise and profitable choices.