What is "time off"?

Hey! Sorry for the unexpected two-week hiatus. I started a long overdue bathroom remodel and it quickly got out of control.

Have you ever seen The Money Pit?

Well, I'm a much less charming and funny Tom Hanks. Thankfully the tub didn't fall through the floor... yet. I did laugh the same way when I found that the bathtub drain my wife and I had worked on for most of a day on was leaking... again.

But a one week project quickly turned into a 2+ week project, so that's awesome. Now we're out of the woods and have a mostly functional bathroom that we're really happy with. Just a little finish work to get it wrapped up.

It did get me thinking about how I haven't really taken time away from work for more than 3 years now. Even when I've taken a week or more to do something else, I've always used the margins of my day to get work done. I step away from the extra stuff (direct marketing, social media, and this newsletter) and just focus on client work.

For example, I kept up on one steady customer that sends me a few scripts every week, a pretty large and urgent eLearning project that came through, a smaller one of the same, and a handful of auditions from agents. All done late, at the end of a physically exhausting day.

But at least it was from my home studio.

Like many VO's, I've taken a recording kit to Vegas, Seattle, and Orlando... booked a studio in Orlando for a gig, actually. There's something nice about being able to travel and record, but there is also something that bothers me about not being able to shut it off.

I think of the last couple of weeks and the income that would have been lost had I not been able to actually record. One of those Learning projects was 20% of my target monthly income and needed less than 24 hour turnaround. If I couldn't do it, they couldn't have waited, they would have hired someone else.

Then, there's the gap in my 30-60 day pipeline. Not marketing or auditioning on P2P as much for a couple of weeks will absolutely lead to a gap somewhere in the future, though it's hard to say when or how big.

The key here is FOMO (fear of missing out) and I get it bad when I think of taking time away from work. That can't be healthy right?

So, I'm dedicating this issue to digging into taking time off as a freelancer and how we can manage it without feeling guilty.

Also, this bathroom remodel was anything but a vacation and I often enjoyed having a reason to run away from it to do some client work. That said, I'd love to get the family out of the city for a week and away from all the connectivity that fills up most of our hours.


Let Your Regular Clients Know Ahead of Time

This is one I definitely need to start doing. I have a handful of regulars that I can count on weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on what they do. Shooting them an email a month or more in advance of some time off might get them to adjust their schedules. So, those urgent eLearning projects I always get from the same client might end up a little less urgent or maybe done a bit earlier if they know I'm going to be out.

The Freelancers Guide to Taking Time Off

Add bookends to your time off

Adding an extra day or two to the bookends of your vacation time might be just the thing to give you a little more ease into and out of your vacation. A day prior lets you wrap up anything before you pack your suitcase into the overhead bin. A day or two after you return can let you ease back into your working schedule and maybe even wrap up something that you've been putting off for awhile... looking at you messy studio.

How to Take a Vacation And Detach From Your Business When You’re A Freelancer

We're not alone...

If you feel like I do when it comes to taking real time off, we're not alone. The gig economy is getting bigger and bigger and basically all of us working as freelancers feel like we can't take a nonworking vacation.

92% of US freelancers can’t take a nonworking vacation, a new survey reveals.

Vacation when everyone else is

I actually kind of hate this idea. There's nothing better than taking a trip in the middle of the week to a busy weekend spot. Or traveling to a tourist destination in the shoulder season. That said, maybe the best time to take time off is around the holidays when many of your clients are doing the same and work slows down anyway.

I'm a Freelancer and I Hate Summer

Being here every week

Not going to lie, I knew being here every week and writing an email would take some time to get the hang of. That said, I'm going to work to make sure I'm incrementally writing these pieces throughout the week. Rather than making Monday or Tuesday a mad rush to put together the articles I've found and write something for you all. I do a good job of keeping up on articles throughout the week, but I hope to keep the info flowing to you uninterrupted by staying just a little bit ahead of schedule

How to Get Work Done in Advance if You Thrive on Looming Deadlines

Rise of the robots?

There is a steady stream of robots doing everything for us these days. I have one that opens my garage, another that operates a few lights, one that turns on my fireplace, and even one that can dig around Disney+ for that episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse my daughter wants to watch. It only makes sense that they'll get better and better at talking for us too.

Or talking in place of us.

And it's easy to feel a bit disheartened when you see what happened to Bev Standing or articles with titles like "We're Losing Voice Over eLearning Jobs to AI Voices". AI is getting better and more prominent, but people have been using text-to-speech in eLearning for a long time. So, what should we do?

Well, the first step is to avoid narrating like a robot.

Too often on eLearing demos and in projects I've seen, the voice talent is doing what sounds like a bad impression of the eLearning voice in their head: rigid, overly precise, and impersonal. If you sound like a robot already, why not hire one?

Get some personality in there!

I've heard eLearning narration treated like a read-aloud of a technical manual, without the depth and empathy that needs to be included in the training experience. Think of the learner and who they are. What are they going through with this change? Change brings stress and every training is some sort of change. Where are they in their careers? What do they already know? Who are you to them (as the presenter of information, not the VO)?

Some eLearning scripts read like a technical manual because they essentially are, but you can make it a better experience for the learner and maybe avoid giving them a reason to hire robots.

For now, I'm not worried. Robots can't feel excitement, empathy, or sympathy, so they can't add those emotions to their read. Plus, the folks ditching us and hiring robots are very budget sensitive and those are the clients I try not to keep for long anyway.

Talk to me again in 5-10 years and maybe I'll have a different opinion.

Keep Talkin,


VO vs TikTok

Since we're on the subject, I wanted to bring up Bev Standing's GoFundMe again. If you have the means, throw a few bucks at it to help the fight. This is different from the robots simply taking our jobs, this is literally taking someone's voice and leveraging it in ways that weren't agreed upon.

You like me have probably been tempted to tinker with a service like Descript. They take a sample of your voice to create a pretty decent avatar of it. Once they can do it, what stops them or someone else from doing this to you later on down the line. For the meantime, I'd suggest keeping your voice to yourself.

Support Bev Standing

Go Bigger or Go Deeper?

Sometimes we're more mind reader than voice talent. I know I've booked stuff and then after a directed session the final project sounds NOTHING like the original audition. In the space of an hour and after passing through SourceConnect "Come down to the racetrack this Sunday for a great time." ends up as "SUNDAY! SUNDAY!! SUNDAY!!!!".

That said, we're in the business of interpreting direction in the moment, letting go everything we've done or holding on to everything. The only way to be able to do that effectively is to keep taking direction from multiple sources.

The Difference Between Notes From an Acting Coach & A Director

Drawing a Line

4:45pm, last Friday. (6:45pm client time): "Just some minor client feedback. Could you get this back to us ASAP?"

What does ASAP mean to you?

For me, as I was walking up my stairs to start cooking some dinner with the family, it meant a quick email from my phone to tell them I was off for the day, but had planned on doing some work over the weekend, so they'll have it by Monday. I knew this guy, he works late and on the weekends, so I definitely felt a pull to head back downstairs and into the booth. But I resisted (it helped that I could hear my daughter running to the stairs to greet me).

The job wasn't lost, no deadline was pushed, but I absolutely felt the guilt and fear of potentially disappointing my client as I hit the send button.

A Guilt-Free Approach to Freelance Client Boundaries

A Loner But Not Lonely

My wife is a teacher, so she's home a lot of the summer. A few years ago I realized that this created some unexpected issues for me when she heads back to school in August. In 2019, a few weeks into her school year, I got hit with a weird bout of mild depression which I've since attributed to loneliness.

I had spent the last few months with her always around during the days, so I fell into a habit of skipping my local meetups and coffee shop work sessions. When she went back to school my interactions with people dropped significantly. It took a month or so to set in, but I hit a major funk in late September that year.

Knowing this, I now go out of my way to keep up my outside relationships, even when I don't feel that pull.

How to Battle Solopreneur Loneliness

VOMM Spot of the Week

Grubhub - "We Serve Restaurants"

The VO in this spot has a really cool, understated delivery (with a nice touch of vocal fry at the end of a few lines). He keeps it subtle and doesn't get in the way of the visuals.

Lots for me to learn here. For example, I would have probably waaay overplayed the "Bacon-stuffed lobster" line, but I think the way he lands it is just enough.

What I'm Reading

I'm a bit of the way through Sanford Meisner on Acting and am really enjoying the fly-on-the-wall view into a class of one of great acting coaches.

The main thing that's hit me so far is thinking about what came before you entered the scene. You're coming from somewhere, you are carrying with you the emotional baggage from that experience, how do you bring that into the scene? Definitely something that could be translated into your VO performance.