Talking Voice-Overs: 8 things my year as a YouTuber taught me

Or how life is a great big learning-curve where people are in fact everything, and quitting is actually OK!

Have you ever wished you could also be a YouTuber, like all those guys and gals you follow who post super-cool videos every week without fail and inspire your dreams of travelling, teach you creative skills, show you the latest life-hacks and 5-minute recipes ?

The thought hadn't really crossed my mind until I realised I'd become one. That's a rather odd way of doing things you'd say. Well, What I did want to do was find a way to meet local voice-over professionals to find out how the industry works in this country where I've been living, South Africa that is, and to see if I could share any of my experiences thus far in return. With Coronavirus and the surge of Zoom meetings, it seemed obvious that Zoom was going to be the only way to speak to anyone - since I'm quite terrified of picking up the phone for a cold call - so I figured I should record those calls, and then, well, why not turn them into podcasts to share with my fellow newbies ? Until I heard of video podcasts, so why not hit two birds with one stone and publish both audio and video versions of my interviews. And maybe turn them into text blogs too... When I catch on to an idea my Dragon mind flies away with it and the Taurus ploughs through everything in the way to make it happen...

That's how Talking Voice-Overs came to life.

1. Preparation

  • It's more than OK to take lots of time dreaming, overthinking, learning and preparing before launching yourself into a new project. Make sure you polish all those angles and figure out everything you're going to need to make a success of it. Just keep believing you can make it work. Don't listen to the negatives - everything new is hard but it can be done with lots of preparation.

  • Don't wait for the perfect time to get started. Just do it now, while it's still hot and exciting in your mind. Once you've polished up everything you can think of, don't worry if you've left out a few nuts and bolts, they'll make themselves known eventually and you'll just learn how to deal with them on the spot.

2. Technical Stuff

  • I learned as I went along how to use Adobe Premiere Pro and work it together with Adobe Audition. Lots of hours spent on Skillshare and YouTube absorbing new skills. Not only the technical stuff but also how to optimise your lighting, framing, equipment positioning... How to ask better interview questions, let the conversation flow, insert subscriber calls-to-action... All the different ways of posting preferred by the algorithms of the different platforms that I like to be on. So much peripheral information related to creating YouTube videos...

  • Editing videos and preparing podcasts takes an insane amount of time and is definitely not as easy as it looks, even after you have mastered the techniques to speed up the job (or think you have, because there are always better and faster ways of doing anything)

  • I dismally failed to comprehend Adobe After Effects but thanks to that, I learned that you can't be good at everything (not even a little bit either) and it's best to leave some things to the professionals !

3. Content

Repurposing content is a great way to get more exposure. You can turn a zoom meeting into a video, a podcast, a blog post, an Instagram post, a Facebook post, a tweet, and a LinkedIn post ! Gosh, so many posts it takes a Postmaster ;) I quickly realised how much time this takes, and I found myself spending more time working on Talking Voice-Overs than actually working on my business of recording voice-overs for clients... Focusing on multiple projects at the same time is detrimental to all of them! So I had to hire a social media manager to organise all this each and every week !

4. Teamwork

  • Hiring a team to do all those things you don't actually excel at frees up your time and improves the quality of your creations :) It also gives you more freedom to think about what you want to create, by releasing some much needed brain bandwidth :)

  • Managing a team is not easy, you have to rely on one person finishing on time before another can do their work and everyone has to be synchronised. To be honest my social media person did that far better than me, and I'm super grateful for them.

Here's introducing my magic creation team ! You never hear anything about YouTubers' behind the scenes team of magic elves, and I think that's a pity, as they all deserve to be mentioned and decried upon roof-tops and hired over and over again ! Social Media superhero: Jo Bert (email: IG: @josuppose) After-Effects animation superwoman: Hanneri Kruger (email: IG: @hanneri1808) Video editing superman: Bradley Smith (email: Theme music supercomposer: Ben Bert (email: IG: @benxbert)

5. Networking

  • Being on social media is not a magic wand to getting more work. You have to show up, put in the work, create and maintain relationships with potential clients before they'll trust you enough to give you work. Social media is a tool to help you do that, but it works in the same way as other networking tools be they face-to-face or via online event platforms.

  • Networking is the best thing you can do for your business, but it's not meant for instant gratification - it has to be a long game of nurturing relationships as it takes time to bear fruit and bring in work.

  • Zoom meetings are great but nothing beats in-person meetings. I had 34 single Zoom meetings which we turned into 43 Talking Voice-Over episodes, including two split episodes and three compilation episodes. But I have to say, nothing beats the follow-up in-person lunches I had later on to really get to know a person :)

6. Interviewing

  • I learned how to direct an interview towards the questions you want answered, as well as let your guest talk and take you into topics you hadn't thought of, but also to know when to make them stop talking so you don't end up with too much content ! Although there's always video editing to shorten two hours into 25 minutes, or two episodes... Sometimes one can get really enthusiastic about a passion topic and repeat things or just waffle on and get completely besides the point... It's really hard to decide to cut out fascinating pieces of information to keep the audience interested...

7. Celebrities

  • Interviewing celebrities results in a lot more views, likes and subscribes than interviewing everyday people... Duh, but you knew that, right ? I would never have had the courage to interview someone famous if I hadn't done so inadvertently.... What ? How on Earth could I have done that ?? Well.... I don't watch much regular TV, or follow tabloids or reality shows or celeb news, so I really don't know who's who ! I found my guests mostly on voiceover groups or agent websites, where everyone there is just one person after another. I would send each and every one the same message asking if they'd like to share some advice for newbies and at the same time promote themselves out there, and wait for a reply. Now, I figured if there were any really big people there they would not answer me, and that suited me fine. I only really researched my guests after they'd agreed. One day I was researching my guest so I'd have relevant questions to ask him, and I read that he was a major radio personality, had published a book and several music albums and ran some pretty big events !! OMG, I was petrified. But I went through with it and he turned out to be the friendliest, sweetest guy and the episode got so many more views than any others :) That's when I realised that even celebs are real people behind all the screen time :)) OK, maybe not all of them though…

8. The Business of Content Creation

  • Starting a business without a business plan doesn't make any sense at all. I started TVO just because I wanted to have conversations with people I didn't know, and then decided TO share them with the world which led me to hire a team to help me with the huge amount of work it entailed. Which cost me bucks with absolutely no return in sight.

  • Most Youtubers don't make much of an income just from their videos at the beginning, if ever, unless they go absolutely viral, and even then. It takes great business sense to setup your marketing to get the viewers, subscribers, followers and likers before you can start cashing in on Adsense, affiliate marketing, product placement and all those magical words that get thrown at you by hordes of other content creators.

  • When you have a very tight niche that only a small audience is ever likely to see (like the voiceover community in South Africa that I was aiming at) there is not much chance that you will get the 1000 followers and 4000 hours of viewing that you need to even point your nose out of the door :) I knew that. My intention when starting was not to make money from my interviews, although that would have been a lovely bonus. But I realised when the production was costing me a regular amount that there was no way I could sustain it.

  • If money goes out, it's a business. If it doesn't come back in, it's not sustainable. It doesn't have to be profitable, but if you want your creation to continue running it needs to be self-sustainable at the very least.

Bonus - It’s actually OK to quit

  • Quitting is not necessarily a bad thing, it seems to me that it's actually harder to stop than it is to continue on a runaway train that's draining all your resources. Especially if you've been doing something so regularly that it has become addictive and that you've started identifying yourself to it. I believed my audience expected to see a new episode every week and I absolutely had to post, which is why when I went away for 6 weeks, I made sure six episodes of material was ready to be processed and posted while I was away. I even edited video on trains flying through Europe :) Come to think about it, that's how I began to realise that I really didn't need to work from my fixed office and could actually do everything from anywhere...

  • Maybe one day I'll figure out how I could have made this sustainable. For the time-being, I'm happy I had this experience and learned all those amazing things and met all those lovely people. Now, I'm going to go and have some new experiences, learn new skills and possibly even apply again what I learned before ! That's what life is all about, in my humble opinion. Subscribe now

Dragons and Tauruses may have some mighty energy reserves and let nothing get in their way, but the fire that drives them eventually needs air to keep burning... If not managed carefully, burn-out makes a big pile of ashes, which is what happened to Talking Voice-Overs. I didn't have the skills to turn the creativity into something sustainable, so I had to stop as I ran out of resources. The show aired 43 episodes, which is a lot more than some, and I met 34 very interesting persons whom I am now honoured to count as friends. 200 subscribers in one year doesn't sound like much, but that's 200 more people who know I exist, plus all those who didn't subscribe, and that's pretty amazing !

It was really fun being able to call myself a YouTuber for a while. Next, I'm going to try my hand at being a Digital Nomad. Maybe I'll be both and more as well. Hey, I'm now a Blogger too, and soon to be a Travel Writer. Anyway, I don't like labels and boxes much. But that's a story for another post...

May 2022 bring you lots of adventures and new experiences !


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