If you’ve been in the voice-over business for a decent amount of time, this may be a familiar scenario:
May was a great month, exceeding last year’s monthly income by 9%. June? Well, June blew your mind, with a 32% outperformance! And then came July, and you were stopped dead in your tracks by a 6% underperformance. Now it’s August, and so far you aren’t posting the come-back numbers you hoped for.
How do you cope with this type of flux in your income? Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as it may seem. I want to share four concepts with you that can dramatically improve your ability to weather these storms.
Before sharing these ideas, there is one theme that is consistent across them all, and if you take one thing from this blog it should be this – it’s better to prepare than to react. You can’t guarantee the future, but you can give yourself a much better chance with some forethought and planning.
With that in mind, let’s get to it.
1) Budget & Savings
What goes up, must come down. Business may be good today, and even for weeks to come, but in general, there is no straight line when it comes to growth. Stuff happens. Your gear will break at the worst time. A major client will suddenly change direction and drop you from their roster. The “golden read” of today’s market may change, requiring a new demo. To prepare for all of these possibilities, consider the following:
- Emergency Savings: Sit down with a piece of paper, and outline your bare minimum monthly living & operational expenses. Whatever this number is, make it a priority to set aside 3 or 6 times that amount (more is even better). This is your go-to stash to cover living expenses in the event of a sudden downturn in your income or to help cover the cost of that audio interface you accidentally spilled your coffee on.
- Planning major expenses: While emergencies do happen, over time you can learn to predict things like income loss, equipment replacements, and other expenses. We’ll discuss this more, but when you smell an expense coming, it’s a good idea to set funds aside specifically for that purpose in advance. Then, when you have to drop $2,000 on a new demo you won’t have to live on ramen noodles for the next two months to do it.
As the saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” But why? Well, if you have every egg in one basket and the basket is dropped…there goes all of your eggs. But if you have your eggs in multiple baskets and one is dropped you still have more baskets left. In voice-over terms, this means you should not do a few things:
- Don’t rely on a single genre of voice-over. If you only work in video games, for example, an industry strike could really nail your income. Other genres may have seasonal ups and downs.
- Don’t use a single source for all of your jobs. You may book a lot of jobs on your favorite pay-to-play website, but if a change occurs to that website such as increased fees, throttled audition quantity, or even the website shutting down, all of your income through the site will be affected. If this is your only income, period, that becomes a big issue.
- Don’t market only to one geographical region. If you only market to one region, for example, an economic downturn in the major industries of that region can take a serious toll on your workload. Clients may have less money, which means less hiring of voice talent (aka – you).
The goal here is simply to have opportunities available in several different unconnected areas so that if one fails, the others remain relatively unaffected and can help offset the loss.
3) Constant Marketing
A business mentor once told me that if I was experiencing a downturn in sales today, I likely need only look at my marketing efforts 90 days before to find the culprit. If I wasn’t marketing enough then, I was probably reaping the fruit of that effort (or lack thereof) now. I’ve found this to be very true. Clients will come and go. Your biggest client today may totally change their marketing focus and require a new type of voice. Then, through no fault of your own, there goes the income. It happens.
Never assume that your clients will always be there. If you aren’t constantly marketing and setting up a new stream of leads, you can find yourself up the creek without a paddle very quickly. Remember, it often takes time to build new relationships with clients that result in a strong flow of job opportunities. You don’t want to try and scramble to make up income on the fly, because it’s probably not going to work.
4) Constant Assessment
The past can teach us much about the future. I suggest reviewing your job details and income at least quarterly. You are tracking that information, right? If not, it’s time to research a CRM – or customer relationship management software – which can help you to keep track of details like the industries and genres you’re booking in, your audition-to-booking ratio, and your income levels.
All of this information will allow you to identify trends such as when certain genres you market to are busiest, or slowest; when you may want to focus on one type of marketing over another; when is the right time to record a new demo; and when your income is typically the lowest. Using this information you can focus on budgeting, savings and marketing to deal with these times.
Dry spells in your business are inevitable, but not something over which you have little-to-no power. You don’t need to fear these times – simply take the initiative to prepare for them. The above four points should get you started; how you execute each of them is entirely up to you, but whatever you do – do something. I know you can do this! Keep your head up, stay focused, and remember: every storm has its end.