Recent Posts



    Seasonal Marketing

    May/07/2013 | Posted by John Melley

    Really quick post here today.

    I went to Starbucks and as I'm standing in line I notice a rack of Starbucks Gift Cards.

    Their designs had:

    • "2013 Graduate!" Congratulations Grad!
    • Mother's Day And a few others.
    The point here is they have been able to give the person giving the gift card a "Customized" gift that does 2 things.
    1. The person receiving the Graduation Gift Card sees  that it's specifically for their graduation - and it has more impact than a generic gift card.
    2. It speaks to the conversation in the customer's mind. The person in line sees the cards for Mother's Day and Graduation and is reminded "Oh, I need to get a gift for so and so's graduation" and they pick it up and buy it.

    Really smart on Starbucks' part.

    There are events going on all year. How can you apply events that people are thinking about into your marketing that triggers a response "Oh, I should get that for so and so."?

    More Marketing Info Here:

    I invite you to listen and subscribe to my Voice Over Marketing Podcast, THE podcast dedicated to teaching in-depth and advanced marketing strategies for people in the voice over and audio production professions.

    My goal is to help you make more money by showing you ways to leverage your time, charge more for your talents and allow you to spend more time doing the things you want to do in your life. We interview some of the best and brightest people in Voice Over and Marketing.

    A new episode comes out about every couple of weeks.

    Just click here.

    I hope you enjoy it.


    Vocal Tension - Why Your Treadmill or Elliptical Trainer May Be Part of the Problem

    Apr/22/2013 | Posted by John Melley

    Ok, this is a little different than the typical posts I put here, but it is relevant to our vocal performance.

    Some of you may know I have been on an amazing journey in an attempt to become more fit and healthy. One of the most amazing things I have learned through my work with my trainer is how important our nervous system is. That may seem like a completely obvious statement that needs no explanation, but please… let me explain.

    Our brain is amazing.

    Its number one job is to keep us alive. Its number 2 job is to move us around. In many cases it moves us around in order to fulfill objective number one (Get food, move out of harm’s way, etc.)

    In order to protect us, one of the things our brain is really good at is pattern recognition. All of our senses; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch all send signals to our brain with various pieces of information. The brain assembles those pieces and recognizes patterns and adapts our movements accordingly. Depending on the pattern, the brain determines whether or not everything is Hunky Dory, or whether it should start to take steps to protect itself.

    The Startle Reflex

    These protection steps are collectively called the “Startle Reflex.” It’s hard wired in our brain. We all pretty much physically respond to threat the same way. Among other things the head tips down to protect the eyes and throat. The jaw clenches to harden against a blow to the head. The shoulders come up and forward to give more of a base of support to the neck and more protection to the heart and lungs. The arms come up to block anything coming toward your torso. Your rib muscles tighten. Your pelvis tilts and you bend forward to protect your vital organs. Adrenaline and other hormones and chemicals kick in to get you ready to move out of harm’s way.

    Here’s the thing. The startle reflex can be at varying levels of intensity. You don’t need to have a rock flying toward your head to initiate the startle reflex. Driving your car in bumper to bumper traffic, the phone ringing unexpectedly and a 1000 other things can create a low level startle reflex.

    How does all this have anything to do with treadmills and vocal tension?

    When your senses compile information and the information doesn’t match up with the brain’s expected pattern it’s called a “Sensory Mismatch” and that triggers an appropriate level of the startle reflex. Remember I said it happens at varying levels of intensity.

    I’ll pull this together for you by asking a question.

    What happens when you walk/run down the hall, or along the street?

    Answer: You move forward.

    When you walk or run forward, your eyes see things come toward you and move past you in your peripheral vision. Your skin feels the air moving past you. Your ears pick up the sound of that moving air and other sounds coming from different directions.

    The brain says: “Legs and arms are moving. Eyes are seeing things move past. Air pressure is changing depending on speed. Sounds are appropriate to the patterns I’m expecting.” With all that and about a million other inputs the brain determines everything is Ducky.

    What happens on a treadmill or elliptical trainer?

    Brain says:

    “Ok, my legs and arms are moving. I feel changing air pressure on my arms and legs, but… wait… nothing on my torso and face. Hmmm.

    Sounds aren’t changing as I expect them to. No air is rushing past my ears…. Huh….

    Hey wait a minute… nothing is moving past me either. The TV is on and it’s on a wall a lot farther away and higher up than the one in my living room.  It’s not coming closer to me like I expect it to, even though my legs are moving in a direction toward it! Jeesh!

    By the way, I’m used to a sitting position when I watch TV. Why are my legs moving? (Same thing with the book I may be reading… I’m usually sitting, or lying down before I go to sleep when I read. Should I be getting ready to rest instead of this walking/running thing?)

    This is NOT what I’m used to. What is going on? Sensory Mismatch! NOT a pattern I recognize. I’d better prepare. Initiate low-level startle reflex!”

    You might ask, “Well if I train on a treadmill or elliptical everyday then it will start to recognize the pattern, right?”

    Yes it will. It will also associate that pattern with the startle reflex. Every time you do it, you will reinforce the aggregation of those senses and your brain’s reactions to them.

    It will also be in conflict with the patterns you create/reinforce when you spend most of your time walking around normally, when things do go according to the expected pattern.


    This low level startle reflex can accumulate over time and create vocal and other tension. I’m not saying “Don’t use a treadmill or elliptical.”

    But I am saying that what I’ve described above IS happening and it will create tension in your voice and body overall, albeit a subtle amount. Now that you’re aware of it, you may want to consider walking/running outside or on an indoor track to reduce this tension. Natural motion, like natural food, is better for you.

    And Now for Something Completely Different

    On another note, I invite you to listen and subscribe to my Voice Over Marketing Podcast, THE podcast dedicated to teaching in-depth and advanced marketing strategies for people in the voice over and audio production professions.

    My goal is to help you make more money by showing you ways to leverage your time, charge more for your talents and allow you to spend more time doing the things you want to do in your life. We interview some of the best and brightest people in Voice Over and Marketing.

    A new episode comes out about every couple of weeks.

    Just click here.

    I hope you enjoy it.

    Typos Can Kill Your Web Traffic

    Mar/28/2013 | Posted by John Melley

    In This Post I discuss how typos can reduce your web traffic and how you can proactively solve the problem for VERY Short Money.

    Take a close look at the picture to the right. It's my web traffic from various sources for a particular page I generated last week.

    It's tough to see but pay Particular attention to the bars at the far left of the bar chart. They're also the tallest - meaning that's what most people entered when they searched for that page.

    Notice anything? It's tough to make out so I'll tell you. The top entry page was ""

    You might be thinking... "Yeah. So what?"

    What a Difference a "Letter" Makes

    Well... I spell my last name "M-e-l-l-E-y," not "M-e-l-l-y." My official Web address is

    Several years ago some really clever person (I forget who he was) asked me if there were any common misspellings of my name.

    Yup. People frequently drop the "E" that goes between the 2 "L's" and the "Y".

    "Register for that domain too and have it redirected to your site, so when they misspell your name it won't matter. They'll still get to you."

    Thank You Mr. Super Clever Person Who I Can't Remember.

    This is just one page for one week that I have this data for.

    This happens all the time. For this particular page, for this particular week it's 45 unique visitors with 60 page views that I would likely have missed if I hadn't registered that domain.

    Who knows how many I would have lost over the years?

    Little Hinges Swing Big Doors

    If you have a domain that is "your" and people frequently mess up the spelling of your name, then register the misspelled version of your name as well.

    For less than $10 bucks a year it's a small investment to capture more web traffic and keep the people who are LOOKING FOR YOU from getting frustrated and clicking elsewhere.

    You work hard to get traffic to your site. Don't let a typo diminish your efforts!

    Do you have any web traffic capturing tips? I'd love to hear them. Please share!

    Money From Thin Air

    Mar/27/2013 | Posted by John Melley

    In this blog post I discuss how Staples generated $15 out of thin air by selling me a card that assures repeat business and more importantly, Customer Loyalty.

    I end it with a question: How can you do the same in YOUR business?

    This morning I stopped into Staples to buy some DVD-ROMs. At the check out the cashier asked me if I buy a lot of toner and ink at Staples to which I replied "Yes."

    (Marketing Tactic Alert - She set up the sale very well by asking me a question I would most likely respond with a "Yes" to.)

    She then presented a "Savings Pass" that would guarantee 10% savings on all ink and toner purchases between now through May of 2014. All it would cost is $15.

    I did some quick calculating in my head and figured I would recoup that $15 investment pretty quickly, so I bought it. Then I congratulated her and said "Nice Up-sell."

    She smiled and said "Thanks." Though I didn't ask her, I'll bet Staples pays her a percentage of each one she sells - which would be a smart thing to do.

    What Happened Here?

    Well, Staples wound up with $15 in revenue they probably wouldn't have had from me. They increased the transaction size from $20 to $35. They also sold me money at a discount. I'll save 10% on future purchases and my savings won't really start until I've recouped the $15.

    Like I said, I'll do that, so it was worth it to me.

    Loyalty for Sale

    Here's the other thing. They "Sold me loyalty." By making me pay something to access the savings they made me put some "skin in the game." Now I'm more likely to return to Staples to buy my ink and toner, because I want the savings and I want the money back. I at least want to break even. The 10% savings I get won't really hurt Staples too much either.

    It also means I'll be walking through the door more regularly and probably buying items other than just ink and toner.

    If I don't then hey, they got $15 of my money for free so it's a win for them.

    But it's also a win for me. I basically have 14 months to recoup a relatively small investment with savings that will add up over time. I win too, so that's a great arrangement.

    Here's a Secret

    One way people/businesses get rich is by getting paid before doing the work. This is a brilliant way of getting money up front.

    How Does This Apply To You?

    Your first instinct might be to say: "John, I'm a voice over talent. I'm not in retail so this won't work for me."

    Yes it will. You just need to think about it creatively. I've got a couple of ideas already for my business. Rest assured I'll be thinking of other ways I can use it too.

    What Ideas Do You Have?

    Can you think if ways you can apply this concept in your VO business? I'd love to hear from you. This is a great opportunity to think outside the box. Let's hear them!

    Establishing Voice Over Rates For Beginners

    Feb/26/2013 | Posted by John Melley

    It seems the subject of “Rates” is a hot one, particularly for people new to Voice Over.

    After my article on Are Your Low Voice Over Rates Your Own Fault? I received several questions/comments.

    Here’s one from a new voice talent. My thoughts on his questions follow:

    Dear John,

    I'm new to voiceover work and thus do not have a lot of context to what a job should cost. I know how much I would like to make, but I also know that if I ask too much I may lose the job and at this point gaining clients and experience seems to be the priority.

    At the same time I'm working on a presentation narration project that has turned out to be much more work than I expected and I am hesitant to go back to the client and ask for more money.

    I'm sure that with time I will learn to better gauge how much work a project will take, and thus bid more appropriately.

    Love to hear your thoughts on tips for those of us new to this line of work.

    Thanks for the great article.



    Hi Tim,

    Yes, it's a "chicken/egg" question on rates for new voice over talent. Most talent look at what they should charge for voice over rates from a clean slate – like they should start really low.

    You need to ask yourself a few questions

    Here’s a question. Did you ever start a new job where you were doing the job for the first time, but someone thought you were capable of learning it so they hired you? Did you work for free, or did they pay you? Most folks get paid. Yes, it might be lower to start and it could increase with experience, but you got paid something.

    Same thing goes for Voice Over.

    You need to ask yourself a few other questions. Answering them honestly can help you determine your comfort level with your rates.

    I have found that most discomfort about what people should charge comes from being unsure of something; be it experience, level of comfort with the material (do you know anything about the subject matter you're recording) or attitudes about money, etc.

    So ask yourself:

    • Do you have enough VO Training to deliver a good performance of the material you're being asked to record?
    • Can you deliver it to them as promised?
    • Why did the client pick you? (This is key. Did you audition and were you selected from a group of auditions? Was it your style and do you have the "sound they're looking for"? Or were you selected because you gave them the best bid?)
    • Was a budget discussed prior to recording?
    • Was there a negotiation on rates beforehand?

    If you can confidently answer "Yes" to those questions, then charge something you're comfortable with knowing you're new, but don't plan on staying there too long. You can get trapped.

    This can become a problem especially if the same client comes back to you for another project and they expect a similar rate. It's only natural for them to do so. You'll need to up your rate or else you'll end up resenting the work. (Kinda what I'm hearing in your narration project.)

    As for Going Back and Asking For More $

    I'd stick with what you quoted for them on the narration project and do it for what you agreed to, but at the same time, I don't see a problem with saying something after they've approved your work and give you a compliment on it.

    I'd say something like: "Thanks. I enjoyed the project and learned a lot from doing it. I must say it took quite a bit more than I expected. I'm new to voice over and editing so I'm learning what different projects take in terms of time. I'd love to be considered for other projects, but I'll have to be more realistic in the amount of time it takes when I quote you a figure. I hope you can understand that."

    Pricing can be a great positioning tool.

    Higher prices impress people. "Gee they must be really good." Here's the caveat. You've gotta be able to back it up. If you charge a higher fee and you deliver a so-so performance, you're cooked - and rightfully so.

    And Now For Something Completely Different...

    Finally, to put a completely different spin on this: If you've had any work experience you're probably knowledgeable about something. You bring that knowledge and experience with you. Don't discount that.

    What am I saying? If you're an expert in candy making, (or whatever background you come from) then consider doing VO projects in that arena. In that world, people won't question you and you can get the rates you want because you're already an expert and you're expanding your product offering. Then you leverage the voice jobs form those projects and build your rate base for other types of projects from there.

    I hope this helps!

    Do you have a Voice Over Business or Marketing question? I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to ask. I'll try and answer it here. If I need to, I'll do some research and present what I find and we can both learn something!


    2 Ways To Stay Focused - Free Time Tracking Template

    Feb/15/2013 | Posted by John Melley

    In this post I cover 2 unique ways and a FREE Resource to help you stay focused while working.

    Ok, so today I must admit I struggled with maintaining my focus while in the studio. I had a number of distractions. We had a band come in and perform, The Dunwells (Killer band by the way. Check 'em out at and they brought in lunch.

    Then there was the herding of various people to voice scripts, the rush before a 3 day weekend and yaddah, yaddah....

    Ever have one of those days where hours seem to go by and toward the end of the day you look at the pile of work and it has grown?

    Yeah - today's been one of those days.

    Here are 2 techniques I use when trying to regain focus and/or crank through a lot of material.

    • The Mighty Egg Timer
    • Time Tracking
    First the Egg Timer (There's mine in the upper right)

    While I don't recommend you use it while recording, there are plenty of other activities where you can use it to enhance productivity, like editing, writing, checking email, research, time on social media, even phone calls.

    How do you use it? Set the timer for a period of time. I like to set it for 30 minutes. Some people like 20 minutes, others 40 minutes. I find 30 minutes works best for me.

    So I set it for 30 minutes and I GO. I write, edit, load spots, check email - whatever and I go at it for 30 minutes non-stop. When the bell goes off I stop.

    I take a 5 to 10 minute break and then I set it again for another 30 minutes and I go at it again. I kinda play "Beat The Clock" with myself and I do this consistently throughout the work day.

    I get an AMAZING amount accomplished.

    Here's The Trick

    The trick is that you can't do something else while you're working on a project during that 30 minute time block.

    For example, if you've set the timer for 30 minutes of editing - then spend the 30 minutes editing. Don't have the email open and when the little bubble pops up saying you've got a new message you stop and go check your email. NOOOOO!

    Shut off the email for the 30 minutes and focus on the editing.

    Set the timer again and use that block to check email.

    Multi-Tasking is... in a word... uh... bullshit. Many people might think they can check email and edit at the same time, but what they're really doing is stopping to check email. Then they go back to editing. That slows things down dramatically.

    Substitute any other 2 activities like texting and driving and you get the same result. Neither activity gets "done" very well and sometimes with tragic consequences.

    Next Item...

    Time Tracking - and FREE Resource

    Take a sheet of paper or create a spreadsheet with the day broken up into 15 minute segments down the left column.

    If you'd like a free PDF of my tracking sheet template that I use, just click here.

    Then in each 15 minute segment you write down what you did during those 15 minutes.

    You Have To Be BRUTALLY Honest

    To get the full benefit of this exercise you have to be BRUTALLY honest with yourself. If you find yourself hesitating to write down what you actually did during that block of time, that alone should tell you something.

    Two things will happen. You will get more accomplished in a shorter amount of time and you will start to see how much time you really spend on non-productive activities.

    Do this for a full week (2 weeks are even better) and you'll start to notice patterns of activity. You might even start to notice certain times of day are more or less productive than others. That helps you adjust your activities to best suit the most productive times of day for you.

    To Make It Work You Need To Be Discipline

    Yes, it may be tedious to do this and it will take some self discipline, but it will be well worth the effort.

    I find I need to do this exercise every few months to help me get refocused. It's a very powerful tool. If you haven't downloaded the template yet, take a moment and click here to do so.

    What Do You Do?

    These are a couple of my ideas. What do you do to maintain focus? I'd love to hear your thoughts and learn any tips you may have.

    Have You Relaxed Today?

    Jan/30/2013 | Posted by John Melley

    This is something a little different.

    We spend a lot of time taking in information, searching for Voice Over work and running around. Sometimes it's important to stop, rest and catch our breath.

    Take 3 and a half minutes to stop and watch this beautiful video.

    It's particularly impressive when you enlarge it to full screen mode.



    Melley Voices Characters for Sticky Burr Video

    Jan/10/2011 | Posted by John Melley
    I voiced 3 Animated Characters for this video. Can you guess which ones? (Hint: I first show up at 2:05 into the video)



    Recording Session Nightmares

    Dec/13/2010 | Posted by John Melley
    Last week I sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers and asked them to share some of their weirdest experiences, while recording or performing.

    The winner of the voted best story will win a $50 Starbucks gift card, or something of equal value if you're not a coffee drinker.

    I'm happy to say the stories I've received so far are great, so if you have a great recording session story, send me an email to: and share it with us. I'll post them and the story that receives the most votes will win the $50 Starbucks gift card, or something of equal value if you're not a coffee drinker.

    Read On!

    Hi John, good to hear from you

    I specialize in audiobook narration, and a big part of my enjoyment in doing this comes from volunteering at RFB&D.  I get to read/record all sorts of books for them, from technical instruction manuals, to medical textbooks, to fiction.  Recently I had a children's book by author Jon Seizka (sp?) called "Spaceheadz".  I was having great fun with it until I got to a chapter 4 pages long of the hamster speaking.  4 WHOLE PAGES of "eeek weeeeek eeeeek eeeeeee, weee eeek"! This one got me both laughing and out of breath.  I can now add a 3rd language to my capabilities..... hamster!

    Kind regards,


    Hey John,

    My nightmare has reoccurred a few times, recording my interviews over the phone and nothing on playback.

    Flipped the wrong switch.

    We’ve been caught saying some things with the mics open at the Meadowlands.

    Once I called an entire race with the mic off, or they didn’t record the race, so I had to improvise over the replay.

    Watched the replay show with bad edits inadvertently left in.

    I’ve done spots with the wrong dates or inserted words that weren’t in the script (Freudian slip)

    Ken Warkentin

    Dear John,

    The funniest and most embarrassing thing to ever happen to me was at a recording session in Berlin, Germany.  I was assigned to the American Forces Network and scheduled to do an interview with the incomparable Count Basie.   First of all, I was so doggone nervous meeting such a giant of a talent, and would you believe - the Count was in his
    underwear in his hotel room eating peanuts from a planters bag?

    He greeted me and asked me to take a seat.  In hooking up my Nagra Reel-to-Reel and plugging it into the wall socket as a safety precaution in case the battery failed I began my interview.  Half way through it, I happened to look down and notice that the mic cord was dangling.  The darn thing wasn't even connected to the recorder.  You talk about a red face. Whew!  By then Mr. Basie noticed it too and he began to laugh and laugh - then I began to laugh and laugh as tears rolled down my face.  Being the kind gentleman he was, he said don't worry sonny, we can start all over again whenever you're ready.

    Ed Tooma


    Hi John,

    About 25 years ago, I had a client who sounded like a sloth on downers, but insisted that he do his own tag line.  This was many years before digital manipulation would have allowed me to time compress him, so I used an old trick I learned years before.  Several wraps of tape around the capstan increased the speed of the tape slightly, speeding up the delivery but not so much that it distorted his voice.  Judicious splicing of the resulting tape made him sound a lot less like he was on Quaaludes.  What they say about multimedia these days was always true: it's all about the workarounds.

    Calvin B. Littlefield

    Dear John,

    Does singing the Ave Maria in church and swallowing a bug interest you?  I was singing a solo and straight out...... mouth open....bug in and gag, cough, gag! 

    It was difficult to explain to the congregation what had happened, so I continued and re-grouped. Maybe that's how you all got your show-biz genes.

    Elinor Melley A.K.A. “Mah!”

    So send YOUR  great recording session story to: and share it with us. I'll post them and the story that receives the most votes will win the $50 Starbucks gift card, or something of equal value if you're not a coffee drinker.

    September is National Voice Over Month

    Sep/01/2010 | Posted by John Melley
    September is National Voice Over Month!

    How are YOU going to celebrate National Voice Over month and share it with your clients?

    Watch the video below and then Share your ideas by sending me an email to

    I'll put all the ideas together and post them on my blog so we can use it as a shared resource to market our businesses!

    Join the celebration and I hope to hear your ideas!