In the United States, tax day this year is 17 April. The normal deadline of 15 April falls on a Saturday, and Monday 16 April is a holiday in the District of Columbia. You therefore have a 2-day extension to file your return.
I don’t pretend to be an accountant, nor can I recall providing the voice for one. I would never offer advice about income tax except to say that you can claim a refund this year of a telephone excise tax. I leave my tax return in the hands of my very capable CPA.
I was thinking about my CPA today because I wouldn’t ask him his professional opinion of my tax situation without expecting to compensate him for his time. I wouldn’t think a lawyer would help me with a legal scenario if I didn’t pay that person. I created my first web site but paid professional software engineers to develop the current site. When I take my car for service, I expect that I will be charged for any diagnostic work by the technicians. In any professional situation that I can think about, I would think that I needed to compensate the person who is spending their time to provide me with the value of their experience and education.
However, I have observed that people who hope to enter the voice-over profession don’t seem to have the same thought process. I have received countless requests from newcomers who ask me to evaluate their demo and/or give them personal guidance about their career. I give all of them the same answer: No.
My stance on this subject and, indeed, in writing this post, may seem a bit harsh, especially when compared with my other writing and my overall helpful and encouraging attitude. I’m grateful for my experience and training in voice-over, and I have shared information on my web site and blog. Anything that I would say to a new talent about a demo would be only my opinion. Another voice-over actor could hear the same demo and give conflicting advice. Inevitably, the talent would want to incorporate some suggestions and would expect the person giving the suggestions to review the changes. I tell the aspiring voice talent that they really need to work with a reputable voice-over coach who could help them craft and tune a demo so that it is the very best presentation of their skills and abilities.
One thought that I have never shared with aspiring talent is this:
If I personally assisted everyone who asked for my help,
I would never have time to do any work of my own.
I’m running a business. While I feel that part of my mission on earth is to help people in pursuing their passion for voice-over and living their dream lives, all the good feelings in the world don’t pay my mortgage. Among all the people who have asked for demo critiques over the years, I remember only 1 person who offered to pay me for my time and knowledge.
Newcomers to the voice-over industry seem to have the notion that voice-over is not a business. They call me and send me e-mails whenever it is convenient for them, including the person who called at 10pm one Saturday night and the person who awakened me in Paris at 4am. Both just wanted to ask how to get started in voice-over. Since I love working in voice-over and have provided so much helpful information on my web site and this blog, almost everyone who has contacted me seems to expect me to provide personal instruction simply for the joy of being helpful.
These people do not realize that more is involved with a voice-over career than just talking. In the time that it would take to listen to a demo and write comments back to someone who expects my free advice, I could do any number of things that would move my business forward, such as research or contact prospects, write a blog entry, practice recording, learn something new about my software, or submit an audition.
A cardinal rule of marketing is to remember your audience and answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Those who have approached me with requests for demo critiques and advice about their careers have not addressed that question. Until such time as I start coaching people on a individual basis for a fee, I will hold to my policy of turning down requests for demo critiques and personal advice on voice-over careers. I hope that readers of my blog find useful advice and much-needed encouragement in my entries.
If you want a free opinion of your demo, some of the voice talent on www.vo-bb.com will evaluate your demo in one of the forums. Be patient if you post a demo or marketing materials there as the voice talent are professionals who must first take care of their own business. Read and abide by the critique forum rules. While it isn’t a rule, I would also suggest that you express your thanks to anyone who responds to you. Finally, I think that if you’re asking for professional advice, you should be willing and prepared to provide compensation for the assistance that you receive.
Since I started this post by writing about taxes, just remember that you have to work in order to gain income. Much of your work in a voice-over career is going to be in managing the business aspects of the job, which starts with your good demo. I recommend that you consult only a few trusted advisors in whom you have confidence; otherwise, you can get too much input and spend too much time perfecting your demo and not enough time marketing it.