The business of business Part 1
What the hell has business knowledge got to with Voice Over? Why do I need to be on the first page of Google? I’m an actor, somebody else will deal will all of that for me. I want to perform, not spend time behind a computer. People just send me money, somehow the taxes will get paid. Errr, well – NO.
Unless you live in LA, work in animation or promo, or you are famous and have a manager – you’re going to have to treat your career as a voice actor as a real business. ‘Cos, that’s what it is! Whether you like or not, the times have changed, and we are now expected to be tech savvy sound engineers, accountants, marketing experts, schedulers, brand specialists and so much more. As you get more successful you can afford to pay someone to take care of some of these roles for you. But if you are starting out or early in your career – sorry to break it to you - it’s on you!
This isn’t a doom a gloom pity party. I actually LOVE the business side of the business and look at it as another skill to learn. You are in control of your destiny and more importantly, in control of the success of your business. Learning the skills early on and putting them into place as soon as you are serious about your voice over career is crucial to your success.
While I was in training, a large portion of my time was spent figuring out how I was going to run a successful business. You should visit as many Facebook groups, forums, and other resources as you can BEFORE you get started if possible. Vopreneur, Tom Dheere and VoBoss are some great resources as are the Facebook groups this blog is posted in. The earlier you have things in place like a business plan, marketing plan, company name (and register yourself as a business), SEO (search engine optimization) and website design, the more organized you are going to be. My one piece of advice here is not to over think it. You are going to make mistakes, lot’s of them (I know I did), but you need to get a jumpstart on being a business owner. And hey, it allows you to wear a suit – even if it’s imaginary!
I remember my first month vividly after deciding this is what I wanted to do as a career. My first task – what was I going to call my business? You need to know this before you register your business at the local tax office. Be careful when choosing a name. You need to know that the name is available as a domain, is search engine friendly (has a search term that people will type into Google like “voice”) and hopefully explains your business a little. Some people say that you should just use your name. This presents 2 problems.
1. Nobody is going to search for you if they don’t know who you are (and believe me, they neither know or care who you are!)
2. It doesn’t help explain what you do
Here was my first mistake. I thought the keywords that I should focus on would be “voice”, “voice over” and “voice talent”. Craigsvoice.com and craigsvoiceover.com domain names were not available. (To check if a domain is available go to a site like https://www.name.com/domain/searchand type in your name.) You want a domain with .com as the extension if possible. So, I chose craigsvoicetalent as my business name and craigsvoicetalent.com as my domain. I went straight to the local tax office and registered my business name. After I left there, I went to my bank and opened a business account in the name of my business. This is all before I recorded even one audition.
When naming my business, I should have thought more about the people who would be searching for me on Google. After a year or so and analyzing search data on Google, I discovered that “British voice actor” and “British voice over” were my top two search terms. Makes sense now with hindsight. I live in the US and most of my clients are going to want a British Voice not just a voice. I should have bought craigsbritishvoice.com to start off with.
I didn’t let the domain name minor mistake bother me. Instead, it made me more determined to make sure that I showed up high in the Google search rankings. I wanted a first page spot for the search terms “British voice over” and “British voice actor”. Before I started my business, I had little SEO experience, so I was going to have to learn it all by myself. I suppose I could have hired someone, but I’m not built like that. I wanted to do this myself and be in full control.
I learned that back links back to your website that contain your specific search term work great. Tip: Use Microsoft Word to create your phrase “e.g. British voice over” and then highlight the text in Word. Select hyperlink and then link to your website. Copy this link and paste it into any comments you leave in a forum as the signature. If the forum allows you to create a standard signature, paste this in there also. Obviously, make sure you leave a comment that is relevant to the post! Then, when Google crawls the internet, it will see that the term “British voice over” links back to my site so it gives it a better ranking instead of the term https://www.craigsvoicetalent.com. On that note, leave comments everywhere related to voice over that allow you to link back to your website. Google puts a huge amount of weight on backlinks from sources that are relevant to your business.
Also, keep updating your website. Google LOVES new, relevant information. That’s why so many of us write a blog. It’s a way to keep changing the content on our websites. Every time Google crawls my site, it notices something different and therefore classes the site as relevant. The more it thinks your site is current and relevant, the higher the ranking it gives you.
Make sure you sign up with Google my businessand Bing business. These sites give you more exposure and allow people to find you easier on the web. And that’s going to be your biggest problem. Don’t think that creating a website is all of a sudden going to have people flocking to your site. It is like any other business. Even a brick and mortar business. If people don’t know you are open, who you are, what you do – how on earth would you expect them to find you? Do you think as soon as I started, people were searching for Craig Williams because the internet told them too? I wish. It takes patience and hard work to become visible on Google (or a masters degree in Google algorithms!).
How much difference does this make? Well, it’s hard to tell. I know that if you are in the US and search for “British Voice Actor”, I should be in the first two organic results. Definitely on the first page. If you try “British voice over”, depending on which location in the US, I should still be on the first page, if not second. Have I had anyone contact my website and book me direct? Yes. Is it a huge revenue generator? Not at this time, but as more and more people use Google to search for services, I don’t want to miss out. It took me 3 years to get the SEO right, so if I hadn’t done this, I would be 3 years behind and at a disadvantage. I do know that if someone IS searching Google to hire a British voice in the US, I have an advantage over all the other British voices.
You should also be constantly figuring out who your customers are and where they are. I know that the majority of my clients are in the UK, even though I live in the US. People in the UK are not going to search for “British voice over”. They are going to search for “voice over”, “male voice” or “voice actor”. This makes SEO nearly impossible for me. I do not feature high up for any of these terms in Google.co.uk. My website is hosted in the US. My business is in the US. Google knows this and always tries to return the best results based on location. Therefore anyone with a .co.uk website is going to come way before me. So, I rely on direct marketing for those clients.
I hope I didn’t bore you too much with all of the SEO and domain name info. Some people will say that it isn’t an important part of their business model. And that’s OK. But why does being ranked on the first page of Google come with such prestige? Why do big companies spend so much money on that? I think I know the answer and I’ll hedge my bets thank you very much!
Next week we’ll talk about marketing. See you then!