P2P: VO Work on Generic Freelancer Websites? part 2 in a series

24 Apr

I am relatively new to voice acting, and in the midst of conducting an experiment to compare some free and P2P voiceover websites. I will be reviewing several sites, giving each service 30 days to prove its worth. This blog entry is about generic freelance websites: freelance websites that do not specialize in a single field or industry (I’ll get to the VO-specific sites later in this series). What follows is my experience with Elance.com, a generic freelance website.

I have extensive experience hiring freelancers and independent contractors, so it was quite natural for me to begin my quest for non-union, non-agent voice acting jobs by way of a freelancer website. Freelancer websites connect clients looking to hire independent contractors and the freelancers looking for work—for a fee, of course. They may charge the client, the freelancer, or both. The charge may be a flat rate or a percentage of the total project fee. Some websites shepherd the work and payment processes, while others simply play matchmaker and leave the client and the contractor to work out the details.

There is no shortage of freelance websites, as a quick Google search will reveal. I chose Elance after hearing about it from my friends who were interested in starting a tween online zine and in need of writers. While I was aware of the VO-specific websites, and assumed they would lead to more prolific opportunities, I liked the idea of starting my voiceover career with a site that did not cost hundreds of dollars and require a year’s commitment.

I signed up for a free account with Elance and completed my profile, which is similar to most other websites: demo reels, head shot, descriptions about my voice/experience/etc. Before I completed my profile, I took a look at the other VO artists (there are many) on Elance to compare the kinds of information they provided to potential clients. It wasn’t much different than what one might post on a site such as Voices.com or Voice123.

I was given 15 Elance “credits” for use in applying for jobs. Almost all jobs require one credit in order to submit a proposal. Elance users receive 15 credits each month for free, but do have the option to purchase additional credits if desired. When submitting a proposal, users also have the option to “promote” their submission to the top of the list of applicants by using two credits instead of one.

I then began my search for voiceover work on Elance. As a free account holder (there are “premium” accounts to be had for a fee, of course), I was limited to searching for jobs in one category. This was just fine with me, since the majority of voiceover work is listed within one Elance category. Within each category, users have a lot of options for narrowing their search for work. In addition to a traditional keyword search, listings can be filtered and sorted by posting date, closing date, hourly rate, project fee, etc. As I reviewed voiceover listings, I added them to my “Watch List” (similar to eBay’s) and added comments for each listing. This was helpful in filtering the jobs requiring custom auditions from the jobs for which I could just send my demo reel with my proposal.

Once I selected the jobs I wanted to apply/audition for, I reviewed the descriptions again and submitted my proposals. Elance proposals include the usual cover letter-type text, an MP3 or two, and details about fees and turnaround time. Elance jobs are structured for two kinds of payment: hourly or flat fee. Sometimes jobs listed as paying hourly are really flat fees, because they dictated the number of hours and the hourly rate. In all cases, however, the contractor is free to proposal whatever amount they want.

Elance adds .0875% to the contractor’s bid fee (this is how they make money). For example, if a voiceover actor wants to get paid $250, the bid shown to the client in the proposal would be $271.88. Once everything is all said and done, if Elance sends the contractor a paper check instead of using Paypal, he or she will receive the $250. If payment is done through Paypal, the contractor will receive $250 minus Paypal’s fees.

Job listings on Elance resemble the Wild West, in that there is little consistency in pricing or quality. There is no shortage of people looking to pay bottom dollar, and no shortage of people looking to work for bottom dollar: It’s a buyer’s market on Elance. This can be a challenge (i.e., disappointment) to a professional voiceover actor living and working in the Western world, accustomed to a minimum hourly rate that is hard to come by on this website. While a user can propose any fee he or she wants with each bid, Elance does provide the low, high, and average fees of the proposals already submitted for the same project for comparison. This helps guide the contractor in proposing a competitive fee, or skipping the project altogether. I’ve certainly done both.

Voiceover job listings on Elance also vary in quality and professionalism. Some listings have such minimal information (“I need someone to record my book as an audiobook!”), I don’t know how anyone submits a serious proposal, but it does happen. [Elance gives users the option to respond to a job listing without a project fee in order to request additional information, but I’ve never received a response from the hiring client when I’ve tried this.] Other listings are clearly posted by professionals or at least people who know what they are doing (“We need someone to record a 20,000 word audio book within 2 weeks, submit clean WAV files, and be available for pick-ups the following month. Payment will be 20% upfront, remaining 80% upon completion. Please record the sample script below and send an MP3, along with a demo reel or link to your demo online.”).

For the most part, I’ve found that voiceover listings on Elance are open from four to thirty days, which negates the need for the feeding frenzy seen on most P2P VO sites, where a hundred auditions are submitted within the first hour of a job being listed. And though I’m sure it happens occasionally, I have never seen a VO job close early on Elance (which is something I see often on VO-specific sites, hence the feeding frenzy). For whatever reason, clients hiring voiceover talent on Elance are in much less of hurry. Sometimes proposal are rejected before the closing date, but with a reason (there is a lengthy list of canned responses for clients to choose from, but they can also write their own reason for rejection of a proposal). For example, I’ve had two proposals rejected because my bid was too high. I lowered my bid for one job and resubmitted it without having to use another Elance credit. The other proposal I felt was fairly priced and opted not to resubmit.

Once you are awarded a job by an Elance client, the work and payment processes all happen on the Elance website. All work is uploaded to the Elance “workroom,” which is basically cloud storage for files and messages. [I’ve also chosen to communicate with clients directly via email instead of via Elance just for the ease-of-use of Gmail over Elance when on the go.] Milestones, and payments associated with each of those milestones, are set up and agreed to by both parties before work begins. The Elance system sends reminders when updates or invoices are due. My description here does not give the Elance system justice: It’s an excellent tool for those who are great at their craft, but perhaps have some room for improvement when it comes to managing the business aspect of their craft.

In summary, I found Elance to be a worthwhile website to include in my personal voiceover marketing plan. While the rates paid for voiceover jobs are generally lower than other websites, at fifteen free proposals per month you can make the numbers work in your favor. Also, there is little risk of getting stiffed by a client with Elance managing the process, as they do not get paid until you do (if that’s something you worry about). As always, when applying to voiceover jobs over any website, it’s up to the voiceover actor to decide which jobs make the most sense to audition for, and at what price he or she is willing to do them.

My personal big win on Elance was a small voiceover job for an advertising agency on another continent. Since doing the first job for them, I have done a second and have a third on-deck. They are great to work with, and I’ve established rates and terms with them for future work in order to keep the ball rolling. Not bad for a website for which I paid nothing.

Lastly, from the other side of the fence, Elance is a great place to find contractors who can help you market your voiceover career: website designers, avatar artists, marketing pros, audio editors, and more are all available and ready to work. I have hired several contractors for various projects on Elance, and have been very happy with the results.

🙂

Wendy

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @AlgranatiW

View my website and listen to demos at http://www.wendyalgranati.com/

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Feeding the Fire: Voiceover and Coffee

21 Apr

Voiceover acting, and acting in general, is a vocation you simply cannot “phone in.” You might be able to drag your tired self out of bed to drive your kids to school, answer phones, run a cash register, or even attend a boring five-year strategic planning meeting with your boss, but you cannot bring anything less than your A-Game to an audition and expect to find success. No matter how much you love what you do, sometimes you need that extra oomph to get you going, to get in the zone, to do a stellar job, and to land a gig.

I’ve found Twitter to be a great place for advice on the subject of staying physically and emotionally motivated while pursing work in the voiceover world. Lots of VO pros and newbies alike often tweet their thoughts about what keeps their VO mojo going. There are a lot of nuggets of wisdom out there. Let’s start with the easiest method: Coffee.

 “Disturbing news: coffee dehydrates the voice. Okay. But it engages my brain which my mouth needs to make words. Ugh! This is a dilemma!” @VOVillageRadio

No surprise that coffee is at the top of the list of motivators. We are a heavily caffeinated society here in the United States. In fact, you are probably drinking some coffee as you read this blog!

Coffee is a cheap and readily-available commodity that has grown into a daily ritual for most Americans. Already a global phenomenon, coffee got its lucky break into North America during Colonial times, when revolutionaries wanted an alternative to highly-taxed tea. No doubt that the Founder Fathers were hopped up on caffeine as they debated and eventually penned the Declaration of Independence, right?

Like all things in life, coffee has its pros and its cons, its fans and its haters. Recent research suggests that the benefits of drinking one or two cups of coffee each day may in fact be beneficial. For example, WebMD notes that coffee drinkers are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia, and have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes. Coffee has also been used to help treat depression and severe cases of I-don’t-want-to-go-to-work-today-itis.

And now for the sad news: According to the Cleveland Clinic, the caffeine in coffee may cause increased stomach acid production and acid reflux, which can irritate the voice. This is bad news for voiceover actors who suffer acid reflux. After all, what good is it to have your mouth awake and ready to work, only for your vocal cords to sound lousy?

Luckily, I haven’t had this experience. I drink coffee, the caffeine kicks in, and then I’m awake and ready to rock n’roll… for a while. The problem I personally have with caffeine is the crash and burn that follows. Today, for example, I drink the equivalent of three cups of coffee, and then had a two hour phone call. Afterwards, I was physically exhausted. I crashed hard.  Fortunately, I was at home and had a couch nearby. When I awoke a few hours later, I was refreshed but ready for more caffeine, which is fueling my writing of this blog and will shortly fuel this evening’s recording session.

Maybe, if we all committed to going to bed on time and getting enough sleep, we wouldn’t need all that caffeine in the first place. We would all be well-rested, fine physical specimens with clear heads, focused minds, and crisp voices. And we would all have extra funds for voiceover classes or that new mic in no time by skipping the daily Starbucks trip.

Easier said than done.

🙂
Wendy

References:

Twitter

http://coffeeuniverse.com

http://www.webmd.com

http://www.sharecare.com/group/cleveland-clinic

 

Follow me on Twitter @AlgranatiW

View my website and listen to demos at http://www.wendyalgranati.com/

Pay to Play: Friend or Frenemy? part 1 in a series

18 Apr

When you’re a non-union voiceover talent and without an agent, online booking websites can be your best friend. You find open gigs online, record auditions at your home studio on your own time, and (hopefully) land a job! Then you work with the client remotely to agree on final terms (file format, project fee, turnaround time, and so on), finalize tracks, and arrange for payment. A win-win for all parties, and a job well done!

On the other hand, finding voiceover jobs online can be a serious frenemy. Online gigs often cause a feeding frenzy among VO talent, where literally hundreds of auditions are submitted for a single, low-paying spot within just a few hours of the job being posted. Many auditions are never listened or responded to, but sit in a black hole hosted by the P2P (“pay to play”) website. The majority of online gigs I’ve seen over the last eight months, depending on where exactly I saw them, are offered at far-below recommended rates for non-union talent.

Follow my blog as I conduct an experiment to compare some free and P2P voiceover websites. I will be reviewing several sites, giving each service 30 days to prove its worth. I’ll report back on what I did, what I saw, and what I learned.

Cheers!

Wendy

Follow me on Twitter @AlgranatiW

View my website and listen to demos at http://www.wendyalgranati.com/

Welcome to the blog of Wendy Algranati, Left Coast Voice Over Talent

17 Apr

Welcome to my new blog, launching soon!

I’ll be writing about breaking into the world of voice over acting. Stay tuned!

Follow me on Twitter @AlgranatiW

View my website and listen to demos at http://www.wendyalgranati.com/

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