Warm up your freelancers!
I've been a freelancer for more than half of my working life. The first chunk of that was in a different industry (decorating nightclubs in Manchester, story for another time) in the 90s. We were still in the analogue age then really although things were changing in that respect - the internet, email and mobile phones were fully embedded in working life but we'd yet to move fully digital - no social media, apps, smartphones. So my interactions with clients were often in real life - yes I spoke to people on the telephone! Email conversations were more involved and often referred to real-life or phone conversations too.
Of course much of this human interaction was a result of me turning up to a venue with loads of drapery or props in my arms and asking where the long ladders were. Now though, my ladder work (as it were - I'm trying here!) is done over a satellite signal.
I've had a little think about how things have changed - this stems from sometimes feeling a bit less human now in the 2020s when contracted for projects or if a new customer sends an enquiry than I did back at the end of the last Millenium. Which is surprising really, given all the many forms of communication we now have.
I think I first noticed it before I returned to acting and embarked on my career as a voice artist and narrator actually. I was working in the film exhibition and festivals industry when I realised that people didn't seem to take as much care with their emails. No 'Dear so and so' - it was all 'Hi' or even 'Hey!' And my clients and colleagues would set up their email templates and then not feel the need to add a bespoke sign off.
I saw too, that the rise in social media was happening without me. I had decided I was above such things I think. Until I realised I wasn't allowed to be because I did 'marketing' and you had to do social media in marketing. Perhaps I should have realised at that point that marketing wasn't really what I should have been doing...
But it wasn't really until I started trying to secure clients as a voice actor that I realised how far it's changed. Because when you're a voice actor - actually I expect its the same for any freelancer who works online - you need to be present on so many online platforms. All kinds. They all work in different ways but all of them have a communications set up enabling clients to send an enquiry and / or directly book services. So I started getting one liners asking if I can record something for £x. Which is fine I guess as an opening gambit. In fact its great! Yes please! But I can't help thinking that the following five emails trying to establish what the job actually is and indeed who it is for could have been avoided with an old fashioned Dear blah blah and ending in a Best Wishes from blah blah. With a bit of chat in-between and with a phone number attached. Or just the phone number.
Perhaps I am old fashioned. Although I do do all the fun modern stuff just like you! I plug things in and send things across the airwaves. I'm on reddit for goodness sake.
And actually I wonder if all it is is a question of location, in a philosophical kind of way. Space / time if you will (mm, not sure that works but I'm trying to lighten things, work with me here). And so much of life is about context and response. So I'm going to change my own thing that I do in the hope that that will encourage my lovely clients and peers to be a bit more chatty and forthcoming generally.
Yes, yes, I know social media. Plenty of opportunity to build an online personality. But reddit notwithstanding, I'm not sure I'm built for that. I like doing this more. So, back to freelancer / client direct relations: as the gals over at VO Social North so wisely said in one of their many fabulous podcasts: "You're a voice actor so use your blimmin' voice!"
Yes you are guessing correctly, I will be on the blower before you know it. And demanding coffees in an establishment near you soon.
Meanwhile, please give warmth to your freelancers, voice-based or otherwise. Use our names, tell us yours. Even if its on rentagob.com's own contact service. We're here full of blood and heartbeats and many of us have a sense of humour which, if you're lucky, we might use to make you giggle if you treat us right!
©Melanie Crawley 2022