Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

October 21, 2013

A Crisis of Confidence and Tree Trimming

Filed under: Business, Musings — Tags: , , , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 8:56 pm

The past 6 months or so have been great on many fronts. Business and personal. I had a great summer. The weather was wonderful and I became an Artlab groupie. Never ending concerts and art shows. There were parties and events and bike rides and sunsets at the beach.

And business was booming. I switched my invoicing to Freshbooks in May and have been watching the columns grow steadily. Until this month.

It has been a fairly dismal month so far compared to the last 5 months. I have some projects yet to be billed, so they don’t show up on the columns yet, and by the end of the month, it will look better, but still, looking at it now makes me wonder what the heck I am doing.

I’ve been making my living doing only voiceover work for more than 10 years – after many years working as a producer/writer and talent.

I do teach an introduction to voice acting class at San Diego City College, but I could pay my bills with my voiceover work. I am now also doing some administrative work for a professional association related to my career. Both of my “side” jobs directly affect my “real” job – one from a training point of view and the other from a marketing POV. And combined, they do certainly help make my lifestyle fairly stress free. But my ingrained free lance mentality knows not to count on anything.

So why do I think that I am a failure? After one month of not-so-hot receivables?

Because there are a LOT of talented people out there. People who are learning how to market. How to get themselves heard. How to make the right choices in an audition. How to land the jobs.

I was at a VO Peeps meeting in Orange County CA this past Saturday and the guest speaker was Celia Siegel (whom I met at FaffCon in San Antonio a few weeks ago). She is a superstar of branding voiceover talent. No question.

But on my way back down to San Diego, I started wondering if, at my age, and after all the things I have done since starting voiceover work in 1977 – is a branding exercise with someone like Celia the right thing for me to do?

Would fresh new branding and a plan of action have prevented this lull in work? Is that what I want? What do I want?

I want the chance to do national commercials. To shoot for that brass ring of reuse/residuals or class A network spots that will pay for that vacation home in Italy.

I know I can compete. At least I think I know I can compete. But that means getting on with an agent who actually gets those auditions. And it gets harder and harder to get picked up by a top agent.

I had a top agent in LA for a while – Andrea Romano. But too soon she left the agency and her replacement just couldn’t adjust to me being in San Diego. It was years ago, well before I had ISDN lines put in my house, but Andrea heard something in me. So did Don Pitts who had also wanted to talk to me about representation.

By the time I got ready to go after an LA agent again, it was a different world and, while technology was making it more practical to take on talent outside the market, the competition had increase exponentially. The chances of being picked up by a top agent to get a chance to audition for the national spots are practically nil.

Combine this fact with my own little nagging crisis of confidence happening. Am I really ready for prime time? Even if I am branded to the hilt – with the perfect logo – and the perfect plan – can I live up to my own hype?

I don’t know the answer. Time to practice what I preach perhaps. Know what I am good at and focus on that. Over the years I have done so many different types of voiceover work. TV Announcing, promo work, imaging, commercials, cartoons, narrations, training, voicemail, video games and more.

Today’s philosophy is to focus on the best of what you do. Brand that. Market that. Branch out later.

For someone who has been doing this for such long time, I guess you could think of it as a tree trimmer – lacing out an overgrown tree. Trimming off the smaller branches makes the tree taller and stronger – and ironically, the smaller branches come back stronger and thicker than they were before.

Does the same thing work in VO? Hmmm.

Maybe it is time to take a look at my branding and trim some excess branches – at least for right now.

October 16, 2013

OMG – I Lost My Phone!

Filed under: Musings — Tags: — connieterwilliger @ 11:53 am

This is the first time I have every really LOST my cell phone. My lovely Samsung Galaxy SIII. With its cool new protective cover. Lost. Misplaced. Dare I suggest picked up with no intent of returning it to the carrier. The innocent Pollyanna in me simply cannot comprehend anyone actually finding a phone and not returning it. Someone purposely stealing the phone is easier for me to understand, but finding a phone and not turning it in…well, my brain doesn’t work that way.

I found my old Samsung – in a bag ready to be recycled – so I will charge that up until the replacement arrives – which should be tomorrow.

But the reality of not being connected hit hard.

Wait, did I say that I wasn’t connected? What am I talking about! OK, for the short term, until I get to the Verizon store and get the old phone turned on, I can’t get calls from people who only know my cell. The bigger issue is that I can’t get texts. I have one agent who texts. But they also email and call my studio line, so I think I won’t miss anything important in the 24 to 36 hours I could be without text. My landscaper may have tried to text me.

But not connected? Hardly. I have a land line, 2 computers and a tablet. I have Facebook and LinkedIn, Skype and email.

But the realization that I could NOT FIND MY PHONE was truly a stomach churning experience. I walked around the house with a cordless phone – dialing and redialing my cell. I did the same in my studio. The same in my car. Nothing. Not a peep. And I am 99.9% sure that the ringer was on.

The not knowing what happened. The not being in total control. These are the things that made me have that extra glass of wine and caused me to sleep in an extra half hour and be late for my morning coffee.

The insurance claim has been filed and a new Samsung is on its way.

Amazingly, even though I toted by tablet down to coffee so that I wouldn’t “miss” something from a client, I am actually pretty calm about all of this. Until I get the new phone, people will hear the “disconnected” message and figure out another way to reach me. Don’t know what they get when they text, but some sort of message I’m sure.

So, in retrospect, other than some money left on the table – despite insurance ($99 more to apply toward frequent flyer miles – and another protective cover to buy), I’m sort of OK.

Once the new phone gets here, there will some time spent as I re-download apps and re-import my gazillion contacts. As well as the yet to be determined mourning period over the loss of all my wonderful pictures (many of which are on Facebook, so they really aren’t all that lost).

Next time (ack! Did I say that!?) this happens, I won’t be such a whiner about it (sorry Facebook friends). And one of the apps that will be going on is a “find my phone” app.

But to say that I am not connected, well, that is an exaggeration.

…oh, but don’t text me for a couple of hours…

(EDIT…phone turned up in the store where I thought it might be. New phone can be returned. Deductible can be refunded. And the “find my phone” app will be installed.)

October 11, 2013

I’m Confused. Just What Constitutes a Business These Days?

Filed under: Business — connieterwilliger @ 12:32 pm

I wasn’t always a full-time voiceover talent. I am first and foremost a video producer and writer – and wore those hats during the first 20+ years of my career. After finding myself working at a television station in the mid-70’s as a graphic artist (art degree), I moved into production and decided that this was perhaps an industry where I could find a career. So I went to graduate school and learned more about it.

It being the 70’s (by now the late 70’s) and being that I am a woman with a Masters Degree, I was hired immediately at a TV station as a director. That didn’t last long. I decided that I really didn’t want to be a news director, I wanted to produce and write. But I found myself in a tiny booth as a live booth announcer for the station – part-time. This was because I did some radio in college and then some booth announcing while getting my masters – but this was NOT what I wanted to do. It was merely my security blanket job while I focused on my Producing and Writing.

Of course, because I didn’t sound like a typical “announcer,” the door kept opening and people kept handing me commercial copy. This led to an agent, Nanci Washburn at Artist Management (still with her today here in San Diego and Orange County). But even though I was starting to become pretty well known in my market as a voice talent, my “real” job was as a producer and writer.

So, while I have always done some “talent” work since those college radio days in the early 70’s, most of the time I was working for local production companies, and didn’t have to worry about how the money was flowing. In fact, I didn’t worry about the money at all. I worked. I invoiced. I got paid.

As time went by, I did a little project management under my own company and started to see how important it was to “worry” about the money. As a business person, it was my responsibility to treat my business as a business. People worked for me. They invoiced me. I paid them.

There was never any question about this part of being in business. Eventually, I decided that I really wasn’t cut out to be the top dog in the food chain of production, so I transitioned away from producing and decided that being “talent” wasn’t so bad after all.

Well, except for the part about getting paid!

What happened to the idea of a business being responsible to their subcontractors!?

Perhaps it is due to the slow-down in the economy – perhaps is it simply a change in business mindset (oh, I hope not) – but more and more, I am hearing about (and seeing it personally) contractors waiting until they get paid by their client before paying their sub-contractors.

Most of the time the bills will get paid, but many times with long delays and many reminder calls and emails. Sometimes the bill never gets paid. For most of us who have been in business for a long time without having issues getting paid, it leaves us wondering if this is a new business model being adopted by young business people due to the tough economy, or a temporary disturbance in the force.

We are in business. From the beginning of the process to the end of the process, let’s treat it as such. I think people get fooled these days by the ease of hanging out a sign and going into “business.” They don’t seem to understand what it means to be “in business.” I don’t know about you, but I get a lot of calls, email and snail mail with offers of business loans – lines of credit. Helping to meet payroll in tough times is part of what these lines of credit are supposed to do.

So, what is a sub-contractor to do!? In the voiceover community, the debate rages. Ask the client to pay upfront. Ask for half upfront. Don’t deliver final tracks unless the invoice is paid. Invoice and wait for payment. More and more companies seem to be working this wait until the check comes in way. And I am sure that it comes from needing to bring in more business in order to keep the doors open. The Internet is a blessing and a curse.

If you work as a director, shooter, editor, LD, grip, craft service, makeup, etc., you have a little bit more leverage when it comes to holding a producer/production company accountable for payment. Word of mouth while networking with other production face-to-face people helps prevent working for companies that don’t pay until they get paid. There are times when everyone is working on faith on a project, but the payment issues are out front.

As voice talent, working remotely for clients you may never have met, it is harder to vet the client. It is easier to get lulled into thinking that everything will be OK. That you will send the invoice and it will get paid. And the vast majority of the time, you will get paid. Most people want to do the right thing.

So, what happened? Why are we seeing an increase in the “you’ll get paid when I get paid” mindset? Is it simply economics? Or is it a shift in the way business is being done? Is it the ease of starting a “business?” Is it really the “Internet?”

I’m confused and curious.

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