My Bad Business Model

My product can’t be manufactured without me being physically in the “factory”; I’m a shopkeeper who always has to be on the premises in order to make a “sale”, and my “product” can’t be made in advance, stockpiled, or frozen.

I am, in fact, my “product” — the telephone prompts I voice for telephone systems around the world are, for the most part, made-to-order, custom, and require me to be present in order to create them. Pretty bad business model for anyone who desires to vacation, travel for any significant length of time, or, Godforbid, wants the luxury of getting sick.

Oh sure, my stock prompts are available for free download (www.theasteriskvoice.com) and they come pre-installed on every Asterisk box purchased (www.digium.com) , but those will only take you so far. Every company — from a handmade soap maker operating out of her basement, to a major defense company — requires customized, personalized company-specific greetings. When I travel, I’m largely out of commission to record: I’ve blogged previously about my mishaps at attempting to record on the road (and try to maintain the same sound quality to which clients are accustomed) like many other voice talent seem to do – and booking a recording studio while I’m on the road would be prohibitively expensive (and kind of defeats the purpose of vacationing) — so there we have the dilemma of not being able to take an extended vacation.

It also needs to be pointed out that while I’m not exactly lifting heavy objects for a living, voicing is actually very taxing, physically. While I often push the recommended limits, I estimate that a voice talent can realistically voice for five hours at a stretch (or cumulative throughout the day) and still maintain a level of consistency and safety for the voice. Therein lies the bad business model: I can’t outsource; I can’t hire a staff to “man the counter” while I’m gone/incapacitated, and I can’t exactly increase production to accommodate demand, when that increases. And it seems to. Thankfully.

No, I’m not presuming to say that I’m indispensable. There are lots of other voice talent who do what I do, and if it came down to it, regular clients of mine could (and do) easily hire one of my counterparts in my stead. But if they wish their current sound files to match up with what I’ve previously done and their telephony tree to flow seamlessly, they need me. It goes deeper than that – I’m at the point where I need to hire an admin assistant to handle things like invoicing, accounts receivable, basic handling of intake e-mails, and returning phone calls. It should be great news when someone reaches that volume of business when the administrivia should be outsourced – but I have a hard time relinquishing control over virtually any aspects of the business which I’ve run successfully on my own to date. After years of handling every aspect of my business alone – from constructing my own demos, to marketing, issuing invoices, (and following up on those which are overdue) – it’s hard to delegate those tasks into even trustworthy hands to free up more time to do the actual job of voicing.

I’m envious of those who have established and set up a business and – with the proper training and an eye to quality control – can actually gradually step away from their business and watch it run itself as they have more opportunity to enjoy the rewards of having created an entity with its own momentum.

Next week, I’ll explore in a little more detail this marvelous but strange mechanism called The Human Voice – its limitations and its vast capabilities.

Thanks for reading! As always, comments are hugely welcomed!

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2 Comments »

  1. There are three critical components to hiring help or outsourcing some of your tasks…

    1. Writing up a list of the tasks that you would most like someone else to do. These should be a blend of things you hate along with things you can easily train others to do–preferably both.

    2. Being able to establish a workflow/process that will actually decrease your workload, not have you spending half as much time managing the delegation as it takes to just do it yourself.

    3. And most importantly, mentally preparing yourself for allowing someone else to do the work that until now, only you were good enough and cared enough to do perfectly. And then, letting them do it wrong a few times while providing only gentle and constructive correction.

    I think you know processes and documentation pretty well, so I think your biggest challenge will be the last item. But you have to do it. Baby steps if you must; pick a task or two that will least upset you when it’s not done your way. And who knows–you may find that someone else does it better than you do. I know that when I’ve let go of my least-favorite tasks, coincidentally, they also tend to be the ones I don’t do as well as others do.

    • voicegal Said:

      Carlos —

      Thoughtful insight, as always. You can think of hundred of arguments for not outsourcing (“It will take longer to explain how to do that to just do it!”) but in the end, I need to delegate this ever-growing wave of administrivia. Voicing and blogging! That’s what I want to do…


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