Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays! Going on Vacation?

This is a very popular time of year for travel, and given that every voice talent is their own online business, it is important to communicate when you have gone on vacation, and let them know 'your personal voice over store is closed'. This avoids a feeling that a business inquiry was ignored. Voice123 has such a tool for your profile. Simply go to this link here and leave a return date from vacation.

'Must Read' Notes:
  • This does not work like an 'Out of Office' email message.
  • This feature provides a note on your profile that you will not be available. You will still get invitations, which you can ignore and it will not affect anything on your profile.
  • You can also get direct invites if the voice seeker wishes to directly invite you. The voice seeker will be forewarned of your absence to better communicate your availability.
  • Please take a look at my profile and note how the 'On Vacation' feature works.
  • Voice123 will be closed for operations Christmas Day, Friday, December 25th, and will be open Saturday, December 26th.
We wish all the best this holiday season!

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Steven's Blog
Follow us on Twitter! @Voice123

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bogota, Colombia: Great Film Shoot with Hangar Films!

I feel like an idiot that I once believed there was any truth to what I watched on TV or in movies in the US. In the two years I have been working for, a company with an office in Bogota, Colombia, I found out:
  • 'Clear and Present Danger' and 'Miami Vice' is laughable. I sometimes apologize to people I work with from Colombia on behalf of the US film and television industry.
  • 'Mr.&Mrs.Smith'...Bogota is not a tropical weather city with cops dressed in black, carrying AK-47 machine guns.
I also learned Bogota, Colombia is an amazing place to shoot a film! I see several reasons why from the creative perspective:
  • The city is filled with electric, creative energy and freedom.
  • The people of Bogota are the most hospitable, caring, warm, and positive individuals I have ever come across.
  • The locations around Bogota are versatile and equally beautiful.
  • You can always count on consistent weather all year. The sun rises and sets at the same time almost every day.
From a business perspective?
  • The cost of shooting is lower, with no sacrifice of production quality. That should keep both business and creative satisfied.
Recently, I was assisting a Voice123 staff member, Giselle Geney, with her short-film based around the experiences as a call center phone operator for a cell phone company.

Such inspirations for this blog came from speaking with a film production service in Bogota, Hangar Films. Please check out their website. The staff I spoke with were incredibly friendly, absent of egocentric behavior, and completely supportive of Giselle's efforts. They supplied equipment and technical crew to assist with lights, grip, and cinematography equipment.

As a student, Giselle took advantage of a student discount Hangar Films offers with the understanding of the 'bigger picture' that all students will be customers one day of Hangar Films. They gave Giselle an 85% discount on rentals. As a former actor, and director of theatre, I can honestly say I was never offered this end of financial support as a student. Saving Giselle money now, to be returned as repeat business in the future is the true act of a company making an effort to build a film industry. Once more, the shooting lasted more days than expected, and they didn't charge her more than what was agreed.

The equipment was picked up and returned to Hangar every single day, so it was managed well and not held for more than 24 hours. The equipment was professional, and in great shape.

The shooting ended this week, and maybe inspired by the end of this, it felt like a great time to talk about Hangar Films. If you are ever looking for a new place to shoot, I do recommend Bogota, Colombia. You will be pleasantly surprised. I also recommend contacting Hangar Films to assist you.

Hangar Films was founded on 1979 and is one of the main film and television production equipment rentals in Colombia. They also train their own staff to assist with shooting. Currently, they are co-producing films in a strong effort to build the Colombian filmmaking industry.

Best regards,
Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace

Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Steven's Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Toolbar Contest Winners Announced & Ranking System News!

Back on October 27th, we announced the release of our new Voice123 Toolbar. In the blog post, we mentioned two special offers for voice talent, as well as, the voice seekers posting voice over jobs:

   Voice Seekers: GET UP TO $100 FOR YOUR NEXT PROJECT!

This week, Voice123 would like to announce the winners of the Premium Subscription raffle. These members of the voice over community were chosen at random in a lottery-style format among those eligible:

Congratulations to the following winners of a Voice123 Premium Subscription!
(Winners of the Voice Seeker raffle will be announced to the voice seekers in a separate message!)

Voice123 wants to thank all those who downloaded the Voice123 Toolbar, and hope you continue to enjoy it in the future! If you would like to download the toolbar, you can do so here (Toolbar for voice talents).

One last note, you may notice a change in the ranking system. It was put into place this week based on ideas from Voice123 voice talent.

The phrasing 'Likely Hiring' has been switched to 'Finalist'. The idea was originally proposed in this forum post by Voice123 talent, Mark Weitzman.

The best thing about a ranking system is that it gives buyers the ability to find voice talent they enjoyed working with, as well as, those they enjoyed hearing and could not hire; each time they use Voice123. Although 'likely hiring' worked at first, at some point in recent months, it didn't anymore and we noticed the trend had changed. Change was in order, and it always will be when it comes to working online.

We know the most professional voice talent in the world are on Voice123. The technology created looks to serve this voice over community by creating positive, professional business relationships, and will do its best to always look out for the needs of the online voice over community.

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace

Juan Salcedo
General Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Twitter: @JuanSalcedo

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ranking System Change on Voice123

Voice123 created the Ranking System as a form of 'keeping you connected to the very voice talent you enjoyed listening to while using Voice123.'

Each time you use Voice123 SmartCast to post a project, and the auditions come to you within an hour, you will find a series of stars next to the audition.

The 5th star used to read 'Likely Hiring'. On December 15th, 2009, it was changed to 'Finalist'.

Why? The reason for this is that Voice123 learned through user feedback from voice talent and voice seekers, that 'Likely Hiring' was not satisfying the task of connecting people, whether they would be hired or not, and at times led to confusion between the voice seeker and talent.

We made this change to assist you in connecting with voice talent you enjoyed hearing, through steady usage of the ranking system.

You will now see these choices, when you run your mouse over the five stars listed:
  • Finalist (highest)
  • Considering
  • Maybe
  • Not Likely
  • Never Again (lowest)
You will also see an option to make someone a 'Preferred Talent', under his/her name. Such algorithms found in the audition inbox are great for the entire voice over community because they help build you a network, and still stands as a reason why Voice123 shines brightest when it comes to building professional online voice over relationships. With so many repeat clients offering work to voice talent, SmartCast, and our voice over search feature, we see at least 2500 voice over job solicitations pass through Voice123 during our high traffic months, and slightly less during holiday seasons.

If you have projects open right now, try this out for yourself, or post a project to see how Voice123 works for you in finding the most professional voice talent, today!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask us!

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace

Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Steven's Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Voice123 Quality Assurance

The explosion of social media has made the online world a much smaller and safer place to find work. There is growing responsibility each day in all websites, not just Voice123, to pay attention to the 'small things' that take place in the voice over community. I figured I would use this week to explain how Quality Assurance is done at Voice123.

I was hired as a QA Associate back in July 2007, a few days before SmartCast was released, and during my time here I have seen how Quality Assurance can also be considered 'customer service'. I will do my best to explain exactly what takes place to give you a better understanding as to how much Quality Assurance plays a role in Voice123:

There are two types of Quality Assurance:
  • Proactive: Using proven experience to stop things before they happen.
  • Reactive: Fixing issues when something new has happened and must be corrected. These are usually isolated instances, reported to me, directly.
I manage a team that does Quality Assurance for several areas:
1. Profile content (see tips on filling out a profile)
2. Voice over demos on the profile
3. Voice over auditions
4. Voice seekers and voice talent website problems
5. Voice over projects

How it works:
1. Profile content is screened for typical things like spam, or damaging content that could affect our ranking on search engines. Profiles are also screened to make sure that the person's profile belongs to them, only, and no one else. The reason for this comes from past experiences with profiles that lacked truth or integrity, which is something that is costly to all members of the Voice123 community. Sometimes, you will see emails from our staff that requests 'link exchange' as a great way to display a link on a profile. In general, no matter your profession, it is important to keep in mind when creating a profile or demo, that lying about your ability on a resume never has positive results, whether you work online or off. (A 'spin' is different. You are not lying about your ability, and you show your creative side; for example, checking off that you have ISDN, but you have to go to a studio to rent it because its not at home. If you can take care of it, why bother a buyer with the details of how you delivered?)

2. Voice over demos are screened to make sure that the audio quality is good, and has no problems that affect the professionalism of the talent or Voice123. (Examples would be, a demo for phone messages uploaded ten times under ten different categories not related to IVR, or a demo removed because it is not the voice of the person who owns the profile). When such things happen, a person is emailed to let them know of the decision that it had to be removed. This may seem somewhat 'harsh', and for that I apologize. Our problem is that we have close to 80,000 standard voice talent, and not all understand the importance of positive and professional web content.

3. Voice over auditions are screened for spam and audio quality. Spam is considered the 'junk mail' of the Internet; basically the 'I did not ask for this. Why are you sending it?' type of file. For audio quality, if a demo cannot be heard, or there is significant background noise, it is sent back to the voice talent, and the voice talent is emailed that there was a problem, and to send it again. You may also find emails from me or my staff offering advice or praise. Sometimes, voice talent do things that completely break the mold, and it makes me smile so I write to the talent. That is the absolute level of the process that the staff is involved in. On Monday, we had a total of 65 projects posted, with 104 direct invites, and 1018 auditions. It takes great concentration to pay attention to each one and get it to the client. As a rule, if an audition is not sent to the client, for any reason, the voice talent will be notified immediately to fix any issues.

4. Voice seeker and voice talent quality assurance is something I personally do more than any other form of quality assurance. It is both proactive and reactive. There have been isolated cases of payment disputes, undelivered work, website abuse, dropped communication between parties, and poor online behavior. This has to be attended to at all times. Most of these QA issues are reported to me personally at, but I can also be reached through the Customer Service page, if you ever feel like working with someone left a bitter pill in your stomach.

5. Voice over projects require quality assurance because, even though the voice seeker interface offers a wide variety of explanations as to how to help a voice seeker request voice talent, not all of them understand the process, or know how to fill things out to get the best results. As a rule, we do not adjust 'manual' data so you get a picture as to how that person filled out the project. We also offer automated data, so you can see how many jobs they posted in the past, their listening behavior, and if the project is a re-post. This data is helpful in analyzing the professional level of the person you are dealing with, so you can see if it is something you may want to pass on.

Voice over QA has been made a great deal easier because of social media. Almost all businesses using Voice123 have a social media profile on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Given that one-sixth of the world uses the Internet (true stat), all you have to do is talk to someone online, or search Google, and you will find out who you are working with. Do some people slip through the cracks? We try our best not to, but that is when I must do quality assurance in the 'reactive' state of mind.

A quick thanks to Voice123 voice talent, Barry Hayes, for inspiring me this past week. He contacted me about a problem on Voice123 that affected some who had already auditioned for a project. I appreciate him taking the time to be thoughtful enough to help others, and it showed me how simply 'talking about what you see' can do so much for the voice talent community. He helped more people than he is aware of, and when this happens, I become aware just how Quality Assurance plays a part in customer service, and the importance of social media to help grow a safer online industry.

Thank you for reading!

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace

Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Steven's Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ways to Take Positive 2009 Voice Over Inventory

Working in the voice over industry, or any media field, is the most exciting and challenging of all careers. If you think about it, it is the only career you can spend a life-time in college or classes learning about, and educational degrees are no guarantee that you will always land full-time work. It is definitely an adventure, not a '9 to 5' gig, so it is very important that every voice over talent stays positive about upcoming adventures in 2010, and leave negative days in 2009, behind us.

Psychologically, the end of the year brings with it the potential to start feeling negative about working in the voice over industry. There is typically a business slow-down, while people doing the hiring enjoy the holidays. Business slow-downs are not easy for creative, energetic voice talent, who are ready to work at anytime.

What I wish to give to you are positive ways to take inventory of the past year, and a 'belief system' that used to get me through the holidays, while working as a voice talent in New York City:
    1. Take care of the bills first:
    Around this time of year Voice123 is emailed consistently asking for receipts of payment by those looking to gather information to do taxes in the first month of the year. Knowing this career is not about 'steady paychecks', it gives peace of mind to know that finances are managed before going into the holidays. Stress has been known to affect a person's body physically, and we all want to be healthy and ready to start 2010.

    I also tried something a few times that gained me experience I consider priceless. If money is really tight, find a part-time 'holiday season' job. This was something I used to do in New York City to keep my spirits up during December. Being around those who are smiling and enjoying the holiday season rubbed off on me, while working part-time jobs in Times Square, or FAO Schwarz. When the season was done, I also had a nice paycheck to handle some minor bills going into 2010, and literally, I felt like I was paid to be part of a month-long holiday party. I also made some great connections in the voice over field because the people I worked with were also voice talent. In addition, I was learning how to sell products that gave me experience towards future voice over jobs I booked. Selling over 400 Incredible Hulk action figures to kids in an 8-hour shift is not easy. Knowing 'how to sound' played a part in it.

    Some may not see how that is related to voice overs, but being that we all 'sell' with our voice, I found a way to apply it to my voice over career. The opportunities for voice over work will always be there. December is just typically a slower month. It is best to emerge from December, in shape and ready to go for January 2010.

    2. Take note of the amount of voice over contacts you have met this year, online and offline: Contacts are essential to this industry. Feeling like you have a large group of people to start working with in 2010, makes 2009 feel like a success.

    3. Take an honest look at what helped you get voice over work in 2009:
    Life is all about decision-making. Some decisions maybe did not turn out the way we had hoped, and some were surprisingly successful. The importance of taking a look back at decisions during the past year is to leave behind what did not work, and most importantly, build on what worked for you in the voice over industry to have a fresh start to 2010.

    This leads into creating a 'belief system' for yourself as a voice over talent for 2010:'Success' is usually determined by how well a person learns from mistakes they have made, even if at times, they seemed like the right thing to do. The one great thing that makes being a voice over talent so great is that you are your own boss, in control of what you decide to do to get work. Bosses make mistakes, too! Do not beat yourself up over something you decided to with great intention, and found it was not the right move to make.
Voice123 does stay open on certain holidays simply because we all understand that the voice talent's quest for work rarely takes a holiday. Given that this company is international, we know work must be out there everyday. So, in closing, cut your boss (you) some slack this holiday season. Do not beat yourself up over anything. Spend time around your family and voice over friends, either online or offline, and use that support group to prepare for a positive 2010!

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Steven's Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123