By Stephanie Ciccarelli
July 29, 2011
What can you do to help bring more business your way?
Have you ever thought about leveraging the networks of other business professionals?
Dana Detrick explores the concept of strategic partnerships and the sort of businesses voice talent can align themselves with to get more work in today's VOX Daily.
By Dana Detrick
As voice talent, we're always looking for ways to offer our clients more options, more quality, and more value. These are often the ways we try to differentiate ourselves in a market full of gifted and capable competition.
But the pitfalls of offering too much can sometimes cause our plans of "upping our game" to backfire. Trying to offer too many additional options to our services can add learning curves to our already full workloads, and knock our main work out of focus. Over investing in gadgets and staff can kill our cash flow and put us behind the curve, instead of ahead. And inexperience in pricing these new offerings to create the value we long to provide can turn our feast into famine -- fast!
But there is a simple and social way to do all of this and more for our clients, without spending a dime:
A strategic partnership (also referred to more formally as a strategic alliance) occurs when two businesses combine the skills they each possess, by means of agreements or contracts, to benefit the other and potentially gain clients together. What separates a strategic partnership from a traditional business partnership is that there is no transfer or sharing of business ownership - each entity remains structurally separate, but gets the benefit of having service offerings they don't need to develop in-house.
It differs from outsourcing, hiring, or buying product from other businesses in that there is a mutual exchange of service, that benefits a different end client, as well as shared prospecting for those experiences.
For example, you may be hired by a flash developer to voice a web video they're creating. This makes him or her a client, not a strategic partner.
But if you were to form a strategic partnership with that flash developer, you would each be able to seek projects that included the other, knowing you could call upon that relationship to fulfill the greater service your client needed. You would be their "go-to" for flash projects requiring voice, and they would be your "go-to" for clients requiring the flash development you will be voicing for them.
Neither company would need to formally change, but together, you would be offering one end user something greater.
A Music Composer, Producer Or Library
Often, your clients are going to want soundbeds or more fully-produced spots. By offering this, you'll set your business up to earn more and grow faster. But if you're not a musician, or have no experience mixing music with voice, what you offer may be sub-par, and actually turn your clients off. Royalty-free CDs and sites might be cheap, but you're going to sit there all day trying to sort through endless samples until you find something that works, and even then, you have no guarantee your client will approve it (sending you back to spend more money on more tracks) or even if they've already used it! With so many common pieces popping up on the web and in multiple libraries, you just never know.
But if you have a music composer, producer, or personal library owner as a strategic partner, they're going to know every license that's been issued for a track, making sure you'll never present a client with music they've already used. They will be able to cut the track to fit your project and mix the music with your voice over if needed. And, most beneficially, they can find tracks for you on THEIR time, while you're recording voice over for other clients, and making more money for yourself.
An Audio Editor and/or Studio
It's so common nowadays to assume all voice talent maintain a home studio, but that's just not the case. Especially when you're starting out, if you don't have the money upfront to invest in the gear and education, a strategic partnership with another editor or studio can benefit you both. You will have the resources at your disposal to make the recordings you need, while the studio and/or editor will have talent they can expand their business with. Win-win!
A Video Production Company
Many of us have client rosters full of video production companies. Especially today, when web video is continuing to gain in commercial popularity, it's rare to find a voice talent that hasn't worked on this kind of project. Many of these producers are solopreneurs like us, who need voice talent on a steady basis to bring their clients' projects to life. How much more money would you both be able to make if you combined your skills into a package you both could shop?
Another Voice Artist!
This one is a no-brainer. Clients love hiring voice teams! It insures consistency of quality and compatibility on multi-talent projects. Whether it's a male/female team, an English/Spanish team, or any other combination of characters, clients love having these options under one "roof" (whether or not the talent ARE actually under one roof, physically. In most cases, they'd never know if you weren't!). A solid strategic partnership here could create frequent and fun projects for both talent!
Here are some things to think about:
Who will handle the money?
Will the client hire and pay through one of you, or will you market yourselves together, but be paid separately by the client?
What is your markup?
You'll want to make sure you both understand each other's rate structure. If you're being paid separately but your pricing is incompatible, you're going to have problems with clients. If one of you is handling the quoting and payments, you'll need to make sure your partner is getting their proper fee, as well as yourself!
How long will the relationship last?
Will it be for one project? For ten? For a year? Set timeline boundaries you each can live with, in case there is a change of heart in the relationship. No one wants to be tied to someone they can't work with.
Is it exclusive?
Will you be able to have other strategic partnerships in the same industry? Will you be able to procure projects without them? Don't step on toes or hurt feelings when this is an easy one to decide.
What are your legal and physical obligations?
Who owns what intellectual property? Who will pay legal fees to settle disputes? If you're sharing a physical work space, what are the responsibilities o each party? Settle these things before expenses arise.
What's your exit strategy?
What if a project goes wrong? What if one of you decides to close up shop or move to another industry? Or, most likely, what if you've just run your course with each other and want to amicably move on? Decide from the onset what the best methods will be, and shake hands on them!
Strategic partnerships can be amazing opportunities for voice talent to go beyond being freelancers competing in a vacuum to really establishing their businesses as a force in the media and content creation worlds. By entering into them with like-minded creatives and other small businesses with solid structures, expectations, and goals, you can both win big and create even more satisfied clients!
Dana Detrick received her Associate in Arts from Kansas City Kansas Community College in 1997, with emphasis in Music Technology and Music Composition. Starting in music-making and post-production, she quickly also became known for her attention to fine details in editing and project management, leading Dana to build a reputation amongst high-end content producers and music artists as the go-to for the best in quality and service. Creatively she's been a key component in interactive media with the modern voice, production, and alluring score for many CDs, videogames, educational programs, and advertisements that yield results. As a contributor to sites like Mp3.com and Bizymoms.com over the years, she's worked to fulfill her passion helping others establish and market their careers with both cutting edge technology and timeless business know-how.
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