Top Subscription Services for the Creative Entrepreneur
Anyone who knows me or follows me on social media knows that my husband Jerry loves to cook. He's truly an incredible chef! He has a wonderful combination of talent, passion, and creativity. He also owns many kitchen gadgets that help him to make his culinary creations shine. The right tools at the right time can help him create his masterpieces easier and with more joy. The same can be said about the voice-over entrepreneur. You have to have the right tools to do your job effectively. A lot of these are based on a subscription service model. I could not run my business and do my work efficiently without some of these services. But which ones are essential? That’s the topic of today’s blog. A lot of these services have free versions so you can try them out, but if you like them, I always recommend upgrading to the paid subscription-based version for the most up-to-date features. Here are some of my favorites.
ACCOUNTING: I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.
Let’s kick it off with some of the essential business services that I feel are absolutely necessary when it comes to running your voice over business. First and foremost, a great accounting system will help you with your contracts, keep track of expenses and income, and allow you to efficiently submit taxes every year. There are many services available out there: Microsoft Money, Freshbooks, Wave, Sage, Xero, and more. I personally use, and LOVE, Quickbooks online to keep track of my business finances. I’ve used it for years, and I find it to be a super reliable and stable system. And it's especially well suited for online management and maintenance. I even gave access to my accountant, and we are able to have monthly meetings while both looking at current, real-time data together. When tax time rolls around, all of my data is there, and it’s super easy to send all my information to my accountant with a couple of clicks. Compared to my standalone Quickbooks software from years ago, this version is a godsend, and makes my accounting a breeze!
ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE: Sign on the digital line
When it comes to contracts, technology has really stepped up and made the whole process much easier. No more printing, signing, and scanning those client contracts and NDA's. Thank Goodness! Today, there are a plethora of solutions out there for digital signing such as Adobe Sign, DocuSign, HelloSign, SignEasy, SignNow, and more. I use Acrobat Pro DC with advanced e-sign for my contracts. It’s easy for me and my clients to use and understand. And for me, it is entirely worth the $19.99/month price tag simply because of the ease of use. It also has a great mobile app that you can use to easily scan docs to sign! And don't forget if you are a student or a teacher you can get a great educational discount on Adobe Creative Suite. which makes a whole lot of sense if you already use Adobe Audition as your DAW!
WEB HOSTING: Hang your shingle
We all know that a website is essential if you want to operate as a business today. It’s one of the first places that a client can go to learn more about you and your business. Back in the day, I was an avid GoDaddy hosting and Word Press website user and supporter. Lately, however, my sites have required a more complicated and functional back end that supports e-commerce, scheduling, email campaigns, and more. The more functionality I needed, the more plugins I needed, and the more chance for them to not play nicely with one another. I ended up spending a lot of money on a managed Word Press website, and then for a developer who could update my plugins that didn't play nicely. It got to be quite cost-prohibitive. I have since moved all of my brands over to web hosting by Wix. Wix is a stable and intuitive platform for both website design and hosting. Out of all the systems I’ve used, Wix has not let me down yet. Whenever I need to add a service or make a change, the Wix interface makes it simple and straightforward to do. Of course, there are several other services that also fit this need. I have also used Bluehost and Nexcess. Squarespace is also a great hosting and design service. And lots of VO peeps love the personalized hosting they get from Brad Newman and Upper Level Hosting.
INTERNET: Ground control to Major Tom
In order to use most of the services mentioned above, you need to have a broadband connection. It’s fundamentally the most important of them all. Unfortunately, depending on your location, you may not have a huge choice of speeds and/or providers. I use AT&T Internet - 1Gb Fiber since it's offered in my area. I even researched my area's internet before I made the decision to move - knowing I would need impeccable service. The faster you can get - the better, especially since your communication with your clients depends on clean, reliable service. I recommend that you don't skimp on this! Why? One of the most important tools for voice talent today is the ability to remotely connect to any studio in the world via a high-quality audio connection such as ipDTL or Source Connect. Many of us were able to continue our business without disruption over the course of the 2020 pandemic by subscribing to these services. As a matter of fact, if you didn't offer these services to your clients, you might have been passed over for a job. I personally offer both services for the convenience of my clients. I also use ipDTL for all of my coaching clients - it’s fast and easy to set up, sessions can be easily recorded, and it's free for them to use when connected to me.
DAW: Check, check, 1-2, 1-2.
Of course, the big DAWg for voice actors is recording software or digital audio workstation, DAW (see what I did there?). There are many, many DAW’s to choose from. Because I work on a Mac, I use Twisted Wave. It’s simple, feature-rich, and stable. I’ve been using it for years so I am super comfortable with all of the shortcuts and best practices. Another big player in this industry is Adobe Audition. It’s reliable and professional. I have Audition as well through my Adobe Creative Suite subscription. And I would be amiss if I didn’t mention, Logic and Protools, and there are some lesser-known DAW’s as well - such as Hindenberg, Reaper, Audacity, Garage band, Ableton Live, and more.
GRAPHICS: Creative Marketing
I’ve always said, you can have the best voice in the world, but if no one knows about it, then it doesn’t do you much good. You have to market yourself! And these days, that consists of a smattering of social media and email marketing. For the majority of my online social media marketing material, I use the professional version of Canva. I.LOVE.Canva!It’s an online tool that allows me to create an endless variety of marketing graphics and video content. Canva comes with a great library of templates, photos, videos, and elements. It also gives me templates for just about every format, from PowerPoint to YouTube, to Instagram and everything else. It’s one of my favorite tools in my toolbox.
As far as graphic design, I also use Photoshop occasionally when the need arises, since I am subscribed to the Adobe Creative Suite. For other content and marketing material beyond graphics, I really like Envato Elements. There are some great stock photos and videos - as well as a great music library (from Audio Jungle) that I can use for producing spots for my clients. There are also other services that come in handy; Headliner for when I need to create an audiogram, Veed.io is great for transcribing subtitles for my videos, and I am just now starting to trial Descript for video presentations.
BACKUP: Bringing Data Back
It is so incredibly important to ALWAYS back up your data. Having a 20-year career in technology was a great teacher for that. :). I cannot tell you how many times my backup has saved my butt! AND, you want to backup your backup just to be sure. With that said, my first backup consists of identical external hard drives that are mirrored. Every morning around 3 am when I am not using the computer, I schedule a backup using a free software called SYNC to copy all of my work data from one drive to the next (I never store work files on my main drive). This allows me to always have the most recent copy of my work available to me. And I am quite sure that every one of you has lost an external hard drive - usually, it happens at the absolute worst time. This allows you to recover almost instantly! I have bought lots of drives in my lifetime, but for my mac, I have the best luck with the LaCie hard drives - they may be a little more expensive, but they are SO worth it - I have had mine for years and they are still running strong.
After my physical drive backup, I also backup my data to the Cloud using - Full disclosure - this is my Affiliate link coming up - Backblaze. I seriously LOVE Backblaze! It is seamless and super easy to retrieve your files when you need them. I have been using this service for a couple of years and have never been disappointed. I love them so much that I recently upgraded to the one year revision version. So there you have it - Double backups!
FILE AND VIRUS MAINTENANCE: Keep it clean
There is a rumor that if you use a Mac computer, you don’t need to worry about virus attacks. Ahhh, no. That’s not true. Any system; Windows, Mac, ios, Android, Linux, is a potential target for hackers. Plus there are other security measures you should consider, from passwords to privacy. These days it’s super important that you keep your systems clean and as protected as you can. I use a Mac for all of my work, and for me – Clean My Mac X does the trick. The cool thing is that it also finds large and old files if you need to quickly recover space on your hard drive. It also catches anything that might get past my firewall be it a virus or malware.
If you’re on a Windows machine, consider Macafee or Norton 360. For mobile devices, Bitdefender is a good choice. If you’re like me and have trouble remembering all of your passwords, try a password vault service like Lastpass, or Keeper.
CRM: Stay Connected
If you’re looking for a CRM software (Customer Resource Manager) there are many to choose from. CRM’s can be an effective tool when it comes to maintaining a connection to your leads and clients. My choice of a CRM is probably going to be quite different than yours since I also do full-blown email marketing. My email service - Ascend by WIX - that is part of my hosting platform WIX, has my CRM built-in. That means I have a separate list that subscribes to my content and exists on WIX to be marketed to. I also use Active Campaign for my monthly mailers for VO BOSS. This site allows for me to have a large number of contacts (125K+) and is both a CRM and a mail service provider. For all of my direct mail marketing purposes, and for my Blast customers, I keep track on Active Campaign. I can see how many clients received my emails, how many opened the email, how many clicked on links, and how many bounced or unsubscribed.
PASSWORD MANAGER: What was my password again?
These days, being connected and online is way of life. Now, more than ever, keeping your personal information secure on all of your devices is paramount, but omgosh - SO.MANY.PASSWORDS! Who can remember them all? And every site seems to have a different password requirement - a number, a special character, a capital letter, a minimum of 10 characters, and on and on. An app that can keep track of these passwords can be such a help! I have used LastPass, Dashlane, and now I use 1Password. What I love about it is that it syncs across all of my platforms - desktop and mobile - with one master password. One quirk is that it is so secure that it doesn't really allow my browser to do any remembering of passwords or information. This is actually for my own good - but it's definitely something I had to get used to. Whatever password manager you use, it's bound to be much more secure for you than using the same password everywhere you go, especially with the sophisticated hacking programs out there.
CASTING SITES: But what about…?
When it comes to essential subscription services to run your voiceover business, I’m sure I left out a bucket full of companies and services that are amazing. One of the categories I left until now - Online Casting Sites. These should definitely be on your bucket list as viable potential opportunities for work. It's no secret that there is a lot of discussion in our industry defending - or - protesting these sites. Some yield great results, and some promise greatness only to underdeliver. Just keep in mind, these P2P sites tend to have great SEO, and are a part of our industry that is not going away. You might keep them on your radar when considering an investment in your business, and proceed accordingly.
BACK TO THE FOOD ...err... YOU!
As Jerry will tell you, pasta is much easier to make with a pasta maker and a good omelet pan is worth its weight in gold! The VO business is a fun and rewarding venture. With the right tools , can yield much success. My advice is that whatever service you choose to subscribe to, make sure it’s working for you. It needs to be a tool you’re comfortable using, and are getting as much bang for your buck as possible. Having the right tools will make your life easier as a creative professional.
Much love and Keep on rockin' your health and 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.