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.

    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.

    What's The Worst Number In Your Business?

    Feb/01/2013 | Posted by John Melley

    One of my marketing mentors, Dan S. Kennedy says “The worst number in any business is One.” What does he mean by that? Well...

    • one major customer/client,
    •  one source or vendor for a product or service,
    • one piece of vital equipment, etc.
    If something happens to "It," you’re left scrambling for a solution or replacement.

    I learned this lesson myself. My AudioMERCIAL™ product. We replicate the program on CD with artwork, a nifty case, MP3 files, the works.

    I have a CD duplication company in the U.S. that is terrific.

    The problem came when my clients in Canada needed to get them shipped from the U.S. into Canada and deal with Customs Charges, etc. The shipping costs shot up. Unforeseen problem. That happens.

    So, I’m left scrambling to find a CD duplication company in Canada—which was a surprisingly difficult thing to do, by the way.

    It took a bit of figuring it out dues to currency exchange rates, different tax laws, etc., but we got it solved.

    Take a look around you and your business. What do you only have “One” of? It’d be smart to work on finding and putting together a back up plan for the time when (not if) you’ll need it.

    I'd love your feedback and comments. Please feel free to share this post and blog with others!

    More next week. Enjoy your weekend!

    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.