Working from home can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to the game. When I first made the transition from my Corporate job in the office to voice over full time at home, it definitely took some getting used to. Now, I wouldn't trade it for anything! And now, with #stayathome restrictions in place, I'm thankful I have had the opportunity to fully embrace the #WFH culture. One thing is for sure, embracing technology certainly helps ease the transition. Along the way, I've learned a few tips and tricks that I thought I'd share to make your work life from home a success.
1. Get High Speed Internet NOW
And the sooner the better! Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE the Internet. I have even been quoted as saying I would "marry it" if I could! I cannot tell you how many times my Gig-speed internet connection has saved my business! If it is available in your area, it is well worth the $$ for your business. Fiber optic cables increase reliability since they are made of glass, and can withstand much more than traditional copper lines such as interference from weather, fire, and moisture. My Internet rarely goes down these days, if at all. Low latency means faster loads times, and it is absolutely critical to have the highest speeds possible when using now almost required streaming services for my home studio such as ipDTL and Source Connect. It also helps eliminate those "Your internet has become unstable" messages during your video conferencing sessions, and is there for you during that critical Internet phone and/or wireless calling with that potential client. There is nothing more unprofessional than a dropped connection during the read of your lifetime, or a dropped call when you are trying to seal the deal with your clients.
2. Hardwire that Connection!
WiFi is a convenient, wireless technology that connects devices to the internet and is the most popular type of connection used today. However, there are a lot of potential performance issues with this type of connection due to signal interference and environmental factors. Thick walls and metal objects can totally throw off your network performance, not to mention those smart devices in your home taking up bandwidth that you don't even know about. You can typically get better results by placing your router near your computer in your home or office, but it’s still challenging to achieve the same stable performance of wired - or Ethernet connections.
Wired or Ethernet connections use an Ethernet cable that connects to a hub or router and transmits data over a network. An Ethernet connection delivers consistent speed and is more suitable and reliable than WiFi for streaming audio and videos. Better speed, lower latency, and more reliable connections make for better streaming audio (ipDTL and Source Connect) studio sessions. Don't let a poor performing or unstable network force your client to look elsewhere for reliability! Get network jacks installed in your studio if possible. When I moved into my new house, I literally had 3 ethernet jacks installed in my office alone!
3. Provide Great Quality Audio!
I know, I know - this seems like an obvious statement given the industry we work in. But I am not just talking about providing great quality audio files for your voiceover jobs - but also sounding great whenever, and however, you connect with your potential clients. I'm going to assume you have a decent microphone and a well-treated space here. If you can, make calls and communication from your studio if possible so you can sound your very best - it is what we do after all! This can be as simple as taking your phone into your treated space - just to eliminate those extraneous sounds such as your dog barking or the kids wreaking havoc in the background :). If you frequently video conference from places other than your studio, you might want to make the investment in an external microphone to bump up your audio quality. The more professional you sound, the better impression you'll make! I have a list of recommended mics on my Studio Gear page. (and yes, I have owned all of the equipment listed on the page!)
And if you're in the market of wanting to sound good no matter who you connect to, you can't go wrong with an investment in ipDTL. It's more than just an ISDN replacement that can give you high-quality audio in your studio. Every ipDTL Login ID has its own sip.audio address which means you can communicate (audio and video) with anyone worldwide who has a sip address. (Mine is firstname.lastname@example.org) With the Tel and Tel + options you can dial landlines, mobile US numbers and non-US numbers, receive phone calls, Receive ISDN, and Dial ISDN calls! Its how I exclusively work with my coaching students. Better quality audio during our sessions means I can hear better and direct better! It's also how I connect and record my VO BOSS podcast for the past 3.5 years. Much like with a good quality video, good quality audio helps you feel like you’re closer to the person you are talking to. For example, in my iPDTL podcasts, it can feel like I’m in the same room as my guest co-host - who is usually miles away, in another state, or across the globe.
4. Video Conferencing is EVERYTHING
If you haven't gotten on the video conferencing bandwagon yet, you're missing out on communicating with your clients on a more personal level, especially ones that you work with on a more regular basis. This can replace in-person meetings as well as give coworkers an opportunity to "chat" around the virtual water cooler. Some common video conferencing platforms that are used are Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook Instant Messenger, and Zoom.
That being said, in the more professional realm, Zoom has taken the lead in terms of video conferencing, and its usage spiked during the COVID pandemic, due in large part to its added features. With Zoom, you can video chat with multiple people at once (up to 100 with a paid subscription), change your background, and even add an automatic "touch up" if you didn’t do your makeup. At the moment, anyone can create a free Zoom account which allows you to have meetings with three or more people for a maximum of 40 minutes at a time. Additionally, a lot of institutions (such as schools) have been using Zoom to hold classes, in which case the meeting time limit has been extended for free.
5. Optimize Your Lighting Setup
This may seem like an easy oversight but choosing the right lighting for video conferencing can make a huge difference! For one thing, really good quality video requires good lighting. This means you can see people’s facial expressions better, minimize distractions in the background, and make the colors in the video look more realistic. A few tips for better lighting strategies are:
Make sure to face a light source to avoid being backlit and use natural lighting as much as possible.
Contrary to popular belief, the harsher the light source, the closer you should bring it to your face. It is better to use soft lighting by adding a lampshade if possible.
Use a three-point light set-up. This roughly translates to, one light source at 11, and one a 2 (assuming you’re facing 12 o’clock or straight ahead), and one overhead light.
Too much light can also be a problem so if you’re noticing too much brightness, lower the blinds on your window or add a lampshade on your lamp.
In regards to your meeting space, try to conduct video conference calls in a room with white or brightly colored walls and furniture. Lighter colors reflect light, which will get picked up better by the camera.
The last tip is a bit more of an investment, but video conferencing can be vastly improved by using a conferencing camera system. This type of camera can compensate for poor lighting or help produce the highest quality images in good lighting.
Great lighting helps to create a more life-like image and that can help us feel closer to the person we are talking to.
6. Monitor: Think Big
One of the most common items on a home office wish-lists is a larger monitor or even a double monitor. And for good reason. No matter your age or eyesight, larger monitors are easier to work with than trying to look at everything on a tiny screen. As a matter of fact, according to a study by the University of Utah, a larger monitor helped participants complete tasks up to 52% faster! Not only are larger monitors easier on your eyes if you tend to sit in front of them for long periods of time, as I do, but they also require you to scroll less.
And while video conferencing, a larger monitor can help you feel closer to who you are talking to on the other end since their image can be larger and more lifelike!
7. Back up everything!
Ah yes. One thing I have learned in all of my years working in tech is the importance of backing up your data - whether it be your work, or personal - like those photo memories you want to hold on to. Especially now when most photos are digital! What would you do if your iPhone died, and you weren't backing up those photos to the cloud? Or what if that external hard drive with all of your digital photos just crashed one day, never to spin up again? Yikes! And yes - It's happened to me - but thankfully I was able to restore from my backup!
On a more personal note, during these past few months of the pandemic, I have recorded every family Zoom meeting - knowing that someday I will appreciate looking back on our memories - kind of like a digital scrapbook of sorts. This can also help you feel connected in times when you’re not. I have an old audio recording of my mother (who has since passed) from my iPhone, calling to say Hi and telling me she loved me. It is such a treasure! Of course, I have it backed up everywhere, and play it from time to time when I want a happy memory or pick me up.
A classic backup method is to routinely do monthly full backups and daily incremental backups of your computer files - or whatever timeframe seems logical to you. It’s also a good idea to back up in at least two different places. My personal backup strategy consists of having multiple external hard drives that are mirror images of each other, so in case one fails, I simply use the other one. For example, I have two LaCie 4 terabyte external hard drives where I place all of my important files, and then I use a simple free software on my Mac called Sync!Sync!Sync! to back up all of the files from one external hard drive to the other.
However you do it, just make sure you do it! I guarantee that it will only take one time for your files to get irreplaceably lost, and you will see what I mean. And if you are not technical, get someone who is to help get you set up.
One last thing, don't let all this tech stress you out! Embrace it, get educated, and let it help you to be a better you! Work successfully and less stressfully from home.
Much love and Keep on rockin' your biz.
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.