The Voiceover Farm: E-I-E-I-O
Running Your Business According to Old MacDonald
My maiden name isn’t McDonald. Or even MacDonald. And neither is my married name. But if either were … oh boy! I’d have a fun time creating a version of the children’s song to fit my voiceover business.
It has nothing to do with the animals or the sounds they make, in case you think I’m especially capable of mooing, bleating, barking, etc. I’m definitely not.
So please don’t ask me, unless you’re a very sweet and adorable pre-schooler. In which case, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. And if you were, I’d be so impressed, I’d do my best to entertain you by conjuring up as many different silly voices as I could to go with the farm animal of your choice.
I’m more of a corporate gal by way of background, courtesy of over fifteen years as an IT sales exec. I speak tech, geek, acronym, and “obscure and curious marketing catch phrase.” I also speak plainly and directly (in a very nice way, of course) as an extension of my open and honest work ethic. Which brings me to the whole E-I-E-I-O business.
In my experience, successful companies have their core values, mission statements, goals, and measurable results. At least they should, and if they don’t, then they’ll eventually realize how much they need them. (Can you tell I spent a bit of time working for the Fortune 500? ) As an entrepreneur, I’ve brought that structure to my own voiceover business.
An entrepreneur’s business is often a pretty fair reflection of the person behind it. It’s built upon your ideas, ideals, hopes and dreams, and sometimes driven by your personal fears. For me, it’s a culmination and integration of my love of communications, personal creativity, performance, and business operations – all rolled into one tangible service that expresses much of who I am and what I can offer. And entertaining toddlers aside, E-I-E-I-O pretty well describes the core values behind my voiceover business.
Before I get into the “business speak,” let me first give you a brief guided tour of my voiceover farm, so you can see what lives there.
Instead of cows, chickens, goats, and the like, there’s corporate narration, eLearning for both adults and kids, and explainer videos. Oh, and running around like they own the place are the commercials for all sorts of media. The TV variety are what most people recognize on their first visit, but those pre-roll animated advertisements on the internet are often the most fun to watch and they can get a little wild, so be careful where you step.
Keeping to themselves within their own pens are the different breeds of telephony: the outgoing IVR (greetings and phone trees), the on-hold messaging which love to chatter to themselves non-stop, and the automated assistants, which are a bit robotic by nature.
Then there’s all sorts of character voices that flit around the farm like so many spastic birds. You never know where they’re going to land (or poop) and sometimes they move so fast it’s hard to keep track of them. And finally, there’s the sensible medical narration to balance the seemingly schizophrenic character voices. You’ll find ol’ MN copiously noting the tiniest details of farm operations, ready at any moment to espouse on them at great length, sort of like Christopher Robin’s wise old Owl.
Overall, it’s a noisy and active place, but it keeps the farmhand busy (that’s me!) and happy. And it’s up to me to keep the animals in check and away from turning everything into a human-free Animal Farm. So many entrepreneurs can get swallowed up by the tiniest details and want to run away. As the business owner, I keep order and the farm running in the black with core values and common sense business practices.
Now THIS is where E-I-E-I-O comes in. It’s a pretty simple concept, not a jumble of business practices that have been reworked a bajillion times by expensive consultants who like to write books. In the words of one of my character tracks, “Ya get what ya pay for!” and a whole lot more. It’s the whole “exceeding expectations” and “delivering outstanding customer service” that I cut my teeth on working for IBM and a bunch of tech start-ups. Plus the enthusiasm of a small business owner who absolutely loves her work and partnering with her clients.
It’s my work ethic. And this is how I break it down:
E – Excellence
Always delivering the very best product that you (my client) want, expect, and need. And for especially creative projects, going just a little bit farther to surprise you with additional options that you may not have considered. Excellence means that the skills, training, and experience are in place and ready to be applied by a dedicated professional who knows how to best use them. And most importantly, that this excellence is highly valued by said professional who stands by his or her work and takes no shortcuts. When mistakes are made (as invariably happens when humans are involved), excellence means taking immediate steps to own up to them and correct them. ASAP. I tell my clients that I’m happy when they’re happy – and THAT’S when the job is complete.
I - Integrity
Who I am as a person and, by extension, as a business woman. For me, that’s open and honest communications and business practices, providing you with fair rates, top notch service, and an easy-to-do-business-with mentality to help you meet your deadlines. Even rush requests, when they can be accommodated. Integrity is standing behind both the promised excellence and my professional and personal reputations. It’s doing what needs to be done, as contracted and as expected. It’s offering referrals to other qualified, talented voice actors, if it turns out that I’m not the best fit for your project. Essentially, integrity is living and working with strong moral principles, and doing the right thing regardless of circumstances.
E - Efficiency
I was born with a list in my hand! Ultra organized, detail-oriented, and mindful to beating deadlines by a wide margin. Efficiency doesn’t mean cutting corners on quality! It’s knowing and understanding client requirements, asking questions (like proper pronunciations) up front, and doing the job right the first time. My efficiency honors YOUR deadlines and the commitments you’ve made to your clients, helping you put your best foot forward to secure happy, satisfied customers. In the corporate world, you learn quickly that you’ll do well when you help make your boss look good. The same goes to helping your clients look good to THEIR clients.
I – imagination
Creativity unleashed within the scope of your project’s tone and intention. You want a unique voice to grab the attention of viewers of your creative venture, customers for your product or service. Yes, you may want the standard read that listeners are expecting, but maybe, just maybe, you want to surprise them in unexpected ways. Voice over is not reading a script, it’s immersing oneself as an actor in the message, telling a story from the perspective of someone sharing a thought or experience as it’s being lived. Imagination is crucial to the storytelling, providing interesting alternative choices and bringing your project to life. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun on the VO talent’s side!
O – Oh, Joy!
Underneath all creative work should be an element of joy. A sense of play, positivity, fun. People intuitively connect with the spirit of a thing, whether it’s the compassion and concern within a healthcare message, the mischievous wink-of-an-eye behind an animated explainer, or the excitement coloring a toy commercial. Most projects are focused on providing a positive experience for their intended audiences, so that they will be entertained, inclined to purchase, or motivated to learn. The creative artists need to evoke those qualities within themselves in order to bring them to their work. No problem here! Like many voice actors, I’m doing what I love. Enjoying the work, seeing it as an element of creative play, identifying with the story, and happily applying my training and experience to bring your message to life. The joyful spirit, the right intention, is already in place. Look for people who love what they do - and your team building will be that much easier!
In other words: Go the extra mile. Do what you say and mean what you do. Be a good person. Do your best. And have fun! Silly animal voices optional.