As a voiceover actor, I am constantly being given the opportunity to spend money. Sometimes it’s on marketing and business tools (like CRM software), other times it’s on training and equipment. It can be tricky to tell the sensible investment from the wasteful expense. As an entrepreneur, I think I have done well by avoiding the money traps that litter my industry.
Travel (remember that?)
Travel used to be a thing…..and it will be again. And while I am always happy to plonk down a registration fee to Canada’s only VO conference, conveniently located in Toronto; I have never “made the investment” to attend the industry’s flagship event in Atlanta. Why not? Do I not wish to rub elbows with the giants of my industry? Sure, but while (in 2019) I could attend VO North for $250 CDN and crash on my brother’s Toronto hospitality, in sharp contrast 2019’s VO Atlanta has a $575 USD registration fee, plus the hotel, plus the air flight (and now my wife will want to come too) which at the time all worked out to just shy of $5,000 CDN. That’s a big investment to hang with people that aren’t hiring voiceover actors! Maybe if it were an eLearning conference where I might at least see some ROI, but even then, it would require having an extra five grand laying around, and my margins are tighter than that.
The Entrepreneur & Training
Training is a big part of my business’ expenses. Voiceover is an industry of continuous education and incremental improvements. There are always a new course or workshop or coach offering their perspective what I do. This can be a minefield, partially due to the vast number of people looking to separate me from my money, but also due to the simple fact that a few of those people ARE worth it. There’s a lot to be learnt from some great teachers and coaches out there. Life would be easier if they were all quacks, but they’re not. There’s real value to be found for this investment, and due diligence is crucial to not being fleeced. I have worked with excellent coaches, some of the best in the business; gifted professionals that have helped me improve every aspect of my business, from polished delivery to the intricacies of audio editing. I would not be the performer I am today without them, and likewise I wouldn’t be able to serve my clients as much as I do. But…..for every excellent coach or informative workshop, there are many more pretenders, who are just looking to separate me from my money.
The Entrepreneur & Tech
Equipment has long been an Achilles’ Heel of voiceover. Not only can it be very expensive, we also have a reputation of collecting it obsessively. The sunk capital of voiceover’s overhead can be remarkable, and for the uncareful, ruinous. I do well in this area. I’ve spent good money on my key equipment, like my Neumann TLM 103 microphone, to ensure quality. It’s my only microphone right now (seen below.) Some day I’ll likely invest in a Sennheiser MKH416 or maybe even a Neumann U87Ai, but I’ll never have a collection full of mics just for sake of possessing them. Their tools, not trophies, especially when they can easily cost hundreds each. And I’ve saved money where I could by using what I already possess. Confession: I record surrounded by sleeping bags (also seen below.) They’re great acoustic treatment for my recording space, and like a good Canadian entrepreneur, I already owned three; again saving me several hundreds on “acoustic blankets” or the thousands for an Ikea/Lego like booth that arrives on two pallets’ worth of pieces.
To conclude, entrepreneurs have to be smart about money, and not just in making it. We need to be careful investors of our commercial futures. Due diligence must be brought to bear how much we spend on what, but also when. Too little (or too late) and our businesses could starve to death, too much (or too soon) and they’ll bleed out. Such is the excitement of the entrepreneurial life!