Working For Me
  • #pimpmyreel with Sounds Wilde

    Welcome to #pimpmyreel - your free, online voice reel & voice demo surgery.

    Every month I'll put a #pimpmyreel call out on Twitter.

    You follow me & tweet a link to your voice reel or voice demo @soundswilde.

    I follow you and DM you 3 ways you can make your voice reel or voice demo more awesome. 

    Each #pimpmyreel session will last from 2 - 8 hours depending on how much time I have that day and the number of responses.

    #pimpmyreel submissions will only be accepted via Twitter.

    The first #pimpmyreel will start on Sunday January 31 from 10am. See you there!

    And if you're wondering why you should listen to anything I say, have a quick listen to the voice reels & voice demos I produce.

    (Picture shamelessly stolen from James Baxter, taken during his voice reel session in November 2015.)

  • Sunday Sound - Sunday March 8 2015

    Happy International Women's Day everyone.



     "From a manufacturer’s perspective, failing to hire women is a serious blow to innovation" Why are there so few women in A/V?

    Having the courage to raise your hand: profile on trailblazing sound engineer Leslie Ann Jones, Director of Music Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound

    "Let go of your pride and pick up some weights" - Kerrie Mondy on working on your physical strength to work in live sound

    Video game audio expert Karen Collins gives us the rundown of 10 inventions that changed the history of game sound




    Debbie Harry on punk, refusing to retire & sex at 69

    How Björk broke the sound barrier and her thoughts on sexism

    The 10 best female drummers of all time

    Stevie Nicks looks back in Rolling Stone




    Nancy Cartwright is best known as the voice of Bart Simpson. Here's how her road to fame began as a 10-year-old boy.

    Voice over pro (The Walking Dead game, voice of AT&T) Mara Junot on how a radio background can help you in VO

    What's the difference between announcer style and conversational style? Voice coach Abbe Holmes explains

    Do you have a healthy voice? Dr. Ann Utterback has 10 daily recommendations to follow.




    What leading feminists want to accomplish in 2015

    Why are creative women dismissed as "quirky"?

    10 women who "became men" to get ahead

    Dear DC comics, this is why you shouldn't leave creative little girls behind

    See you soon for the next Sunday Sound....

  • Sounds Wilde in 2014

    It's been an an interesting year. Lots of challenges balanced by unexpected gains.

    The biggest challenge and change was moving my studio in the middle of the year. I've welcomed a more relaxed (and quiet!) space for my studio and a (slightly) bigger voice booth and the pleasure of finally being able to offer clients a cup of tea! (the previous studio had no kitchen facilities).

    I've missed working in Shoreditch more than I thought I would and although I've gained an extra 1.5 hours which used to be commuting time, I've lost a gym I loved (it's too far to justify a daily visit now) and a reason to get out of the studio! It's taken a diagnosis of severe Vitamin D deficiency to realise this is a bit of an issue. 2015 goal: more time outside, more sunshine.

    I did a lot less travelling than I hoped (none, save a trip to Hebden Bridge to host a workshop), and I also gained more friends than I expected. One of my 2014 goals was to make more of an effort to get out and meet people, and joining The Voice Over Network was one of the best business decisions I made this year. Thanks to all the voice over people I've got know this year, there's too many of you to list and you're all awesome.


    I also joined Sound Women, which has been on my list for a while, and I'm planning to get more involved in their events next year.

    Voice over can be described in one word for me: steady. I've added a few bigger names to my client lists (IKEA, Cap Gemini, Swiss Post, Bank of New Zealand) and I've had more work in Australian accents, which is something I've been working towards after deciding to embrace Antipodeaness in general. I've finally accepted that outside of Oz & NZ (and it hurts to admit this) we sound the same to most people. 

    Voice reel production has really taken off for me this year. I reached my 100 voicereel milestone in October and it makes me proud every time I've heard about a voice reel client signing to a great voice agency, or landing a great contract with an audiobook agency, voicing a character in a video game or being chosen to voice a national commercial campaign. I'm flattered that Loud and Clear Voices have chosen to work with me this year as a preferred supplier, and I look forward to working with them (and United Voices) in 2015. And I wrote a bit for Actor Hub.

    Schedules and locations moves meant I produced fewer Sounding Wilde shows than I wanted, but we've built a solid foundation for expansion next year, with our show about voice agents proving our most popular one yet!

    I had a bit of a focus on passive income this year, which led to the creation of my Create Your Best Ever Soundtrack Ecourse, aimed at performers who want to learn how to edit their own music for their acts. I poured a lot of time into it and I've added new skills and learned a lot about marketing, so in terms of my personal growth alone, it was worthwhile. 

    On the sound design front, I drowned myself in the bath for Murderer (Upstairs at the Gatehouse, March), 

    matched Borodin with Lana Del Rey for Marriage (Jack Studio Theatre, June),

    blended politics with modern jazz for An Ideal Husband (Tabard Theatre, June)

    and created Arabic mobs from British voices for Warehouse of Dreams (Lion & Unicorn, November).

    I also contributed sound recording & mixing skills to the House of Burlesque season at London Wonderground.

    So that's it: my 2014. I've skated over the setbacks, the disappointments and most of the challenges, because I feel I've done a lot of sharing of the lessons I've learned throughout the year: in my regular Sunday Sound and Creative Business Tombola rondups, in my Working for Me series and in my twice-monthly Awesome Voice Over Stuff Newsletter

    2015 has already started for me, I'm sound designing A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Arcola and Boris Godunov at the Jack Studio Theatre, both of which open in January. After that, I have no idea where 2015 will take me. And that's just fine. 

    I wish you glorious and safe NYE celebrations, wherever you are in the world, and a positive start to 2015. 

    P.S. That's a Studio Ghibli soot devil in the top photo, in case you were wondering. I haven't replaced Bess the studio cat, she just wouldn't sit still!

  • Working For Me: On taking a break

    I don't understand one-upmanship when it comes to working hours.

    Recently I arrived at an event I was sound engineering looking and feeling pretty run-down after weeks of constant work with no breaks. The stage manager grabbed me to take me through the most recent changes to the show and commented that I looked like I'd had a hard day. I said no, just tired, I've worked several weeks without a break. To which they replied "oh me too, it's been months for me, just you know, shows back to back, so much travel and I've been ill and I've had family obligations, and I've still had to keep on top of all my work during the day, it's so hard!"

    My immediate reaction: Hang on, it's not a competition. 

    Why is it so important that we sound like we're just about to drop from exhaustion because we're so terribly busy all the time? I have definitely been guilty of working hours one-upmanship in my time and it's bollocks. As I was talking to the stage manager I realised I didn't want to play this game anymore. I wasn't boasting about being tired, I was stating the fact that I was working too much, and I was actually aware of not having enough energy to do my job effectively.

    Being overworked means I skip meals, exercise and sleep, which makes me cranky, stressed, tired and exacerbates both my anxiety and my depression. Working long hours with little breaks makes me less effective, which certainly isn't something to boast about.

    As freelancers, solopreneurs or small business owners, we often live in fear of the dry spells, and we combat this by taking all the work, all the time, even when we're working 14 hour days already, because we might need that extra £50 next month. I'm now starting to live in fear of the day where I am so tired, so wrung out by constant work, that I make a big mistake that will cost me more than saying no to a one-off £50 job.

    At the present time, I am the core of my business, and until I get to the point where my business can run without me, I need to invest the same time and care into myself as I do with my work so I can be productive, and not busy. I am saying no to work when I know it'll mean sacrificing my own downtime, not to mention non-negotiables like food, sleep and exercise. I am actively working towards working less. I am leaving the cult of busyness.

    The next time someone comments on being tired and working to much, I'm going to say "You should take more time off. I do, and it's worth it."

  • Working for Me: 5 quick ways to get you going in the morning

    I'm not really a morning person. I would like to be and I tell myself that getting up early and being in front of my computer by 8am is because I function best at that hour, but really, I know I'd much rather be in bed.

    Because of this, I'm pretty resistant to starting work in the morning. I faff around on social media. I stare at my inbox and think "I'll just make coffee first". I find a really interesting article and give myself permission to read it "just while I'm eating breakfast". Soon it's 11am, I haven't made a dent in my to-do list and I am well on my way to feeling bad about not doing enough.

    This year I've been learning about how to nip this early unproductive streak in the bud by getting started as soon as possible every morning. Here are 5 of my favourite quick ways to kickstart your work in the morning, or anytime you're feeling sluggish:


    1. Do the toughest task first

    Also known as "eating the frog". There's more tips on productivity and how to quit procrastinating in Brian Tracey's book (that's a link to the whole book online)


    2. Do the easiest task first.

    Sometimes it's good to start with a few super-quick wins to get you into working mode, especially if you're feeling under the weather physically or mentally or didn't sleep well. Send out an invoice. Say thanks to the last person who retweeted you. Schedule a few social media posts for the week. 


    3. The 13-min life changer

    This one comes from Nicole Antionette at A life Less Bullshit. Set a timer for 13mins. Choose one task to work on, close all other distractions and work solidly on that task for 13 mins. 


    4. Do an hour of 10 minute task-switching

    Like gym circuits for productivity! I do this when I have a lot of small to medium tasks that I'm procrastinating over, either because they're a bit daunting, they don't have a fixed deadline or they're things I really want to do (e.g. training & industry articles/videos/podcasts) for which don't feel I can sacrifice "work time".  

    I'll spend 10 mins on a daunting task, then after 10mins I'll switch to a different, more fun task. I'll do that for 10 mins, then go back to the first task, if I haven't finished on it, or go onto something else, and so on. After an hour I find my brain is humming along, I've broken the back of a task I was dreading and I'm mentally prepared to get stuck into a task for a longer duration. And if not, I do the same again for another hour. 

    What really works for me is if each task is in a completely different medium: so if my first task is writing a blog post, my second might be listening to a podcast or watching a video. 


    5. Get moving

    A productive day for me is one when I've exercised. Exercise gets the blood moving, it increases your energy and once it's over, it makes you feel like you've accomplished something, which in turn makes you feel you can accomplish the next task. Win!

    Whatever your exercise of choice - yoga, running, pilates, weight training, walking, cycling, HIIT circuits - it's the best way to get yourself going and get you away from your computer. Sometimes just getting away from screen glare for a bit is enough to ease the pressure of your to do list and put seemingly impossible tasks into perspective, and you might as well move your body while you're at it.


    So those are my top 5 productivity quick wins! Did I miss your favourite? Let me know.

  • Working for Me: Creating Opportunity

    You've probably heard the saying "I make my own luck." It's popular with successful entreprenuers, particularly in response to "you're so lucky!"

    If luck is things happening in the right place at the right moment, then creating luck surely means creating spaces for those things to fall into. In other words, creating opportunities.

    How many opportunities did you create for yourself or your business last year? Were you proactive, or did you prefer to let people come to you? How well did your strategy work for your business?

    I know I feel more productive when I am out there, making things happen for my business - and I've found that the more I put myself out there, the more opportunities come my way. 

    Because of this, I am challenging myself to create at least 2 business opportunities per week, and I think you should join me. The interpretation of "opportunity" is completely up to you - it could be anything from following up those potential clients who sent you one enquiry last year that didn't lead anywhere, to entering industry competitions, to emailing that blogger/producer/promoter who liked your work who you met at your friend's birthday drinks to see if they'd be interested in working with you.

    Last week I tweeted an event producer who took my card in reference to my soundtrack design work at an industry drinks event last year and emailed a number of audiobook production companies asking to be added to their voice talent roster. 

    This week I'm going to enter a voice over industry competition (this one, in case you're interested) and send my CV off to a theatre company I've always wanted to work for.

    2 opportunities created per week for 1 year equals over 100 opportunities created by this time next year. Who wouldn't want that for their business?

    So come on. Join me and let's create our own luck in 2014 #opportunityknocks

    Photo credit: Glen Carrie

  • Working for Me: How to negotiate rates like a pro

    Money. To make it, you really need to get comfortable talking about it.

    While I am very much of the mindset that if you're embarrassed about asking for payment, then you should rethink whether freelancing & entrepreneurship is for you, I recognise that negotiating your fee with a client can be pretty scary, especially when you're starting out.

    Price yourself too low and you'll look like a desparate amateur who doesn't value their own work. Price yourself too high and you risk losing the client. So how do you find that sweet place where a client feels they're getting value for money and you're earning what you need to survive and thrive? 

    I have a few suggestions:

    Photo credit: Tiago de Castro

    Tip 1: Write a rates card

    Your rates card sets your base standard. You shouldn't even twitch your fingers in readiness to send a quote to a client before establishing the minimum amount you're prepared to accept for every one of the products and services you supply. Having a rates card makes it easier to quote with confidence, and so much easier to turn down the jobs that are offering peanuts. 

    Tip 2: Get as much detail as possible

    Write down a list of everything you need to know about each type of job you accept that might affect the rate you charge. For example, for voiceover jobs my list might look like this as a starting point:

    • script length
    • usage - commercial/corporate/other?
    • raw audio or ready-to-use recording?
    • how many takes required?
    • file format?
    • any extras required - sync to video, background music, FX?
    • delivery date
    Knowing these will give me an idea of how long the initial job might take, and how complex it might be, which will help determine how much extra time I should allow to cover retakes, re-editing, file transfer and time for communications.

    Tip 3: Get them to go first

    This is an old negotiating trick that really works. Knowing what a client is prepared to pay, whether that's a price range or a fixed fee, is extremely useful as it gives you a clear indication of how much they value your service. and how close they are to your standard rate for that service or product (as defined in your rates card). Bear in mind that most canny negotiators will offer less than they are actually willing to pay, even if they tell you it's their "absolute maximum".

    Tip 4: Offer deals by only charging for the essentials

    One of my business "aha!" moments happened earlier this year when I realised that some of my clients weren't interested in everything I could do for them. They were only interested in what I could do that they couldn't do themselves...and that's the only bit they wanted to pay for. 

    When I feel resistance from a client on meeting my preferred rate, I start considering why they approached me in the first place. Which part of my offered service is essential to them and (potentially) unique to me?

    In the case of voiceovers, what is unique to me is my voice - no one else can give them that - but the sound editing of my voiceover could be done by anyone with the right skills, and they may want to provide this themselves. This is especially true of production companies, who often have multi-skilled audio/video staff.

    In these cases I might offer two rates - one for a single voice recording file with no edits, and a higher one for fully-edited voice recordings. The first one takes into account the time I save by not performing the edits, and I calculate the fee accordingly.

    Tip 5: Stick to your guns

    Once you've set your rates, don't be tempted to deviate wildly from them. There will always be someone who will offer to do what you do for far, far less and you do not need the clients who want the cheapest deal possible. We're living in tough times and everyone is out to save money, but the clients you want to encourage recognise that quality comes at a price. Know yours, and stick to it. 

    What are your tips for negotiating rates with clients?

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday October 23 2013

    This week I've found myself wishing for more time. More time before I go away for a month to fit in all the work I need to do (and would like to do), more time to implement my newest marketing & product launch plans, more time to myself so that I'm not a frazzled ball of mess when I do get on that plane to Australia. Sound familiar? It's something I've really noticed this past year of self-employment: time just seems to leak away through my fingers. This week's goal: learn from the productivity masters featured in this week's links.

    Photo credit: Steve Richey

    Be practical

    Manage your business for results with an iron fist

    10 golden rules about being paid as a creative

    Do you have an editorial schedule for your blog & social media posts? Do you need one? Problogger has some answers for you

    Be productive

    More insights and lovely typography from Sean McCabe here

    99 ways to market your art

    Loving these 15 tips & hacks to stay productive from Dexterous Diva

    Be passionately creative

    Hooray, the trailer for the new Wes Anderson film is out!

    British Gas's recent attempt at engaging customers via a Twitter Q&A after the announcement of their price hike led to some very funny (and pointed) responses

    When Cthulu visited a Waterstones and why the Waterstones Oxford St Twitter account (and the imaginative writer behind it) is so damn awesome

    Have a happy and productive week 'till next we meet. 

  • Sunday Sound - October 13 2013

    Is it Sunday again already? I've been in theatre-land this week, tucked away in yet another sound box checking levels & programming desks for the first dates of the UK concert tour of The Secret Garden. Every good sound designer/engineer/sound no.1/sound no. 2 (I am all of these on this show) needs a break now and then again to shake the frequencies out however, so I present to you...this week's lovely links.


    Want to create pro studio acoustics at home? Check this out: DIY studio acoustics tutorial

    Everyone needs a reminder now & again: 5 mistakes you made on your last recording


    Producer & sound engineer Marcella Aracia talks about her career, including working with Missy Elliot and her take on  working in a male-dominated industry

    Is Lorde's song Royals racist?

    Amanda Palmer is putting together a female-centric music video playlist in preparation for You Tube's new program of curated playlists and she wants your input (it's pretty awesome so far)

    Does classical music have a "women problem"?


    Thom Yorke's best quotes

    The winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine credits his bassoon teacher for teaching him the powers of analysis and concentration

    Great Scott! These guys have replicated Marty McFly's gigantic speaker

    Awesome early perfomance from Janis Joplin (and check out Mama Cass's reaction right at the end) 


    I wrote a review of In a World....

    Wondering what on earth is this voice over "unconference" you've been hearing about called Faffcon? Dan Friedman's concise round-up is a good place to start

    What would you charge as the voice of Siri?


    What do crickets sound like when their sounds are slowed right down? Well, quite beautiful.

    Extraordinary desire: how child prodigies are made

    Banksy takes cuddly farmyard animals to the New York slaughterhouse

    Epic Halloween costumes #1: an entire family Labyrinth

    See you next week...

  • The Week That Was - Monday September 9 2013

    Since my last update post (yes, more like a few weeks ago than just one) I have....

    ...been to Edinburgh to work at the last week of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (view from my accommodation above). Here's one of my adorable hosts...

    And when I wasn't working, I managed to get out a bit and have some fun...

    I also produced more voice reels for some fabulous clients...

    ...was very proud to record the "wedding podcast" for some wonderful friends (also the very top picture)....

    …coped with the aftermath of a house fire….

    ...recorded an audio guide for the new Penguin Cove habitat at the National Aquarium of New Zealand...

    ...and spent an average Friday night being sound & lighting tech aka Lady Wizard for Boylexe at the Shadow Lounge

    What have you been up to over the past few weeks?

  • Working for Me: Recover, reflect, reset

    A bit of a reflective post for you today. A week ago, this happened:

    The round gap is where the extractor fan for our lavatory used to be. It caught on fire at 4am last Friday, probably due to a build-up of dust which caused the motor to burn out and short the circuitry. The jagged square hole above it is where the fire service had to cut it and the wiring out of the wall to stop the fire spreading.

    If you're a regular reader, you'll know already that thanks to working smoke alarms and a fire service that arrived within minutes, no one (or cat) was hurt, that we didn't lose many possessions and aside from plastic smoke inhalation and shock, me and my partner are both fine. 

    But it has made life feel a little more fragile this week. Shock is a funny thing, and even though we weren't physically hurt aside from the nasty smoke inhalation, myself and my partner have found work a bit tougher over this past week. We've both been unfocussed, found it hard to settle at tasks and to concentrate. At first we both tried to work harder to compensate (we're both self-employed), but that's just made us both get frustrated, snappy at and teary with each other and finally admit that we need some space and time out from work to recover, reflect and reset.

    It's a hard thing to do, even when the reason for it stares you in the face several times a day (in our case). We can get in our own way when it comes to simply stopping.

    My partner and I completely ignored the signs our bodies were giving us at first. On Friday I was asked by several strangers if I was okay in the supermarket after I had been staring at the shelves for a bit too long wearing an eclectic ensemble of "whatever smells the least like plastic smoke". We wore ourselves out staying up all day Friday cleaning, sorting and working, then I dragged myself up early for an all-day wedding on Saturday which I was also recording for their wedding podcast. By Sunday, moving from bed seemed a gigantic task.

    People can be funny about other people's personal hiccups too. We had lots of supportive Facebook messages and concerned questions from people we knew at the wedding, but there were also people, some of whom we know quite well, who clearly thought we were making a big deal out of nothing. "It was only a small fire though, and you're fine" one of them said to me. It had the effect of making me feel like I was whinging about nothing and guilty that I felt like I needed any time off at all. Even though I wasn't really fine at all.

    It can be hard to ignore these kind of comments. For me, other people saying I seem fine makes me feel lazy and selfish for thinking any different. Other people can indirectly get in the way of simply stopping. I just have to remember that this is my experience, not theirs, and I need to cope with it my way. 

    This weekend, I'm concentrating on the following:


    Taking the time to stop working and let my body and mind unwind and move out of the jittery state they've been occupying all week to a place of calm. I'll probably take some long walks, read, limit my computer use, make sure I eat enough food (I have a tendency to skip meals when stressed), spend time with my partner and sleep. Whatever my body tells me I need to recover.


    I've found that in order to move on and past an event, I need to put some time into recalling what happened, how it made me feel, and what I learnt from it. It's not dwelling or ruminating, which aren't productive exercises, but a way for me to accept what has happened and clear it from my mind.


    Once I feel ready, getting myself back into my working routines is important to me. It's a way of reaffirming my committment to my business, which may have swayed a little under the recent mental stress. It also re-creates my sense of stability, which has been somewhat shaken as well. 

    If something has happened, or happens, in your week that has put you off-balance with work or life (and it definitely doesn't have to be as traumatic or life-threatening as a fire scare), make sure you make space to recover, reflect and reset. A day or a few days off won't hurt your career, but by not taking it you are potentially sacrificing your physical and mental health. After all, if you're working for yourself, you only have one you. 

  • Working for Me: Losing your footing and getting it back

    Recently, I lost a lot of work. Work that brought in over half my (ir)regular monthly income, to be more precise. Enough work to trigger significant worry and mild panic.

    It was nothing to do with the quality of my work (I was assured) but simply down to the company (my employers) not having enough work to go around. I had been hired as a freelancer when the company was experiencing growth, but as that growth had unexpectedly slowed down to a trickle, my services were surplus to requirements. 

    Losing income and the associated money panics can send even the most level-headed freelancer/small business owner into the slumps. However, throwing your own pity-party isn't going to make the situation easier to manage. As hard as it feels, in my experience what will get you through the tough times is some kind of plan of action. Here's mine:

    1) Vent offline

    We all know moaning about our lot on social media makes us look unprofessional but it's so much harder to resist doing it when life does seem to have dumped us in it. Resist, resist, resist...get someone to hide all internet-capable devices if necessary! You can get the sympathy you deserve from your significant other, friends or family. Unless you're part of some kind of high-powered family firm, you can afford to let them see you sound desperate, whiny and disheartened - but you definitely can't afford social media-savvy potential employers see you that way. 

    2) Accept the situation (and turn it to your advantage)

    It sucks, but constantly wondering "why me?" isn't going to change it. It's happened, now it's time to move onwards and upwards. If your employment has ended on a positive note (you're not being fired for incompetence, for instance!), a thank you email is a great way to show your appreciation for the employment (however short it was), for the company and for your employer, to offer your services for any future work and to ask your employer to recommend you to other clients. 

    3) Acknowledge the lessons learnt

    In my case, I had a very clear reason as to why my workload took a sharp nose-dive, but often it's not so clear-cut. If you haven't had a clear answer why your services are no longer required, draft a polite email to your employer and ask them (you might want to include it in your thank you email), and take time to consider all the feedback you receive, positive and negative. I'm a huge believer in feedback as it's one of our greatest learning tools and can highlight areas for improvement that you never considered. 

    Think about what you could have done within your business practices that might have changed your current situation - would having a written contract have helped avoid this? Should you have been clearer about your hours of work, availability, turnaround times etc.? Something I should have done was not be so quick to consider this job as "regular" income after only a few months. I would have been better prepared if I had planned to earn the same money from multiple sources, rather than trusting it would come from the same source month after month.

    4) Retrace your steps

    How did you get that work in the first place? You must have done something right to get your foot in the door and it may be worth repeating the same steps.

    If it was a specific freelance or jobs site, bookmark it as somewhere worth returning. Go back to your application letter and highlight what you think may have made you stand out to that employer. Revisit the demo, audition or portfolio sample you sent them - did you tailor it to them or was it more a sample of your strongest work? Re-read any correspondence you had with them before, during, after the job  - is there anything about your audition, application, work or business practices that they single out? If you got the job through personal recommendations, consider why your contact would have recommended you - or better yet, ask them!

    5) Embrace the opportunity

    If the work you lost was a large ongoing project or regular work, chances are you'll be left with some holes in your schedule. Sure, a portion of that time will be taken up with finding work to replace the work you've lost, but you might well find you're still left with a bit of spare time. 

    Take the opportunity to work on those projects you've left to one side while you concentrated on "real work". If you've put in the time and effort into your business, the work will return, but until then, why not use the time productively and tick off some of those tasks you've been saving for a slow period? Updating accounts, revamping your website, polishing skills, reading that amazing book on creativity, creating that free e-book, writing blog posts, making sure your portfolio is up to date across all the job & freelance websites...all of these can get lost and forgotten in the process of day-to-day money-making. Now's your chance to catch up.

    And if you've got projects, particularly revenue-generating projects like e-courses, e-books or workshops that you really need a solid block of time to get done, why not consider a Make-Cation

    In the few weeks since I lost my footing, I've actually become very thankful for the extra time it's given me to reassess my priorites, make progress on projects, catch up on TV series that I've been meaning to watch for ages and you know, have a break. Losing work is scary, but hopefully this post has shown that it doesn't have to be the end of the world. 

    What are your coping strategies when you have a sudden dip in work?

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday July 10th 2013

    Photo by Jarda. Used with permission via Unsplash

    Happy Wednesday everyone! That's my short & sweet intro for this week, less time wasted, more time to get stuck into this week's round-up of creative business links:

    Be practical...

    Seth Godin's thoughts on money are, as always, worth reading

    45 marketing tips for creative professionals (it's aimed at audio pros but the content is relevant for all of us)

    Social media - what's it good for?

    Photo by Margaret Barley. Used with permission via Unsplash

    Be productive...

    How to get more of the work you love

    6 ways to smash your creative block and launch your dream

    5 ways to use video to promote your micro business

    Photo by Oleg ChursinUsed with permission via Unsplash

    Be passionately creative...

    9 ways to keep you fresh, inspired and creative

    10 creative thinking tips

    5 tips for creatives from "the original 'Mad Man'" and the guy behind Apple's "Think Different" campaign

    The art of the humorous Amazon review

    That's it for this week. Stay focussed, stay fresh and I'll catch you next time.

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday June 26 2013

    By Alejandro Escamilla

    This week is one of those where I oscillate between being eternally grateful for a full-to-overflowing week of work, and wishing slightly that it was, possibly, a little less hectic? Of course, I'll take it while I can get it, like a good always-on-the-edge-of-total-life-panic freelancer, while finding time to read all of this week's very useful links. Especially the productivity ones...

    Be practical

    What every creative person with a product or service needs to know (with fun infographic!)

    How to create the perfect social media post (fun infographic and very useful tips on when to post on which social media tool)

    Want a free (non-scammy) e-book which helps you realise how to earn twice as much as you do already? Of course you do!

    How to (impressively) introduce yourself to a peer, potential client or hero (sidenote: this approach is probably a little too casual/cheeky for me but if you're a bold person, try it out!)

    Be productive

    Do three essential tasks every day (no more, no less)

    Why you need to unplug every 90 minutes

    9 ways to blog smarter and harder (and probably faster)

    How to write a good blog post & 5 steps to writing great blog posts (mix, match & learn)

    Be passionately creative

    Frustrated? Embrace it! It's a vital part of creativity

    Your (long, arduous, doubt-enducing) surefire path to success

    If you can't get to the David Bowie retrospective Bowie Is at the V&A, definitely read this review from Style Bubble about the inspiration a non-Bowie fan can find in Bowie's story (you can read what I thought about it too as well if you like)

    RIP James Gandolfini

    Catch you next week, creative-heads! 

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday June 12 2013

    by Alejandro Escamilla

    I loved my new 3-buzzword format so much last week that I'm using it again! Here's this week's pick & mix of Practical, Productive and Creative links for your creative business. 

    Be practical

    Here's a new, great source for free images: Unsplash. 10 new images every 10 days, hi-res and completely copyright free. It's always good form to credit the photographer anyway - check out my first Unsplash image above!

    I would really love to speak at a conference at some point in the future. You too? Get prepared by reading this and this 

    Kill your darlings and 4 other rules for creative work

    Do you use mind maps? Here's why you should. I admit bias - I've been using them to work since I was 12...

    Be productive

    How to participate meaningfully in social media: why we create & share cat videos and why it matters

    How to come to terms with the tough times

    Three ways to make your past clients your biggest cheerleaders

    The art of the follow up or How to Make a Great Second Impression

    Be passionately creative

    Arianna Huffington on becoming fearless


    Billy Joel on the business of creativity

    7 habits of highly creative minds

    Till next time, creative minds!

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday May 29 2013

  • Working for Me: 6 Suggestions on Client Relations

    Clients make our world go round. Some days, we wish that wasn't the case but unless you have a private income, even the most successful of artists still need someone to buy what they sell.

    Learning how to effectively communicate with clients and build relationships is a bit of a trial-and-error process but it doesn't have to be daunting.

    Here are my tips:

    1. Set your boundaries...

    Turnaround times, cost, availability, project scope: before you even start talking to a client you need to to decide what you're willing to do, for how much, for how long.

    Define the base rate of your services or packages and make sure you have your client agree to the service they want in writing.

    Negotiations are an inevitable part of most client-supplier interactions so you need to be very clear on your starting point, and it's crucial to the next point...

    2. ...then be prepared to bend them a little

    We all like feeling we're receiving a personal service, something that's tailored to fit us. Clients may want your Bronze/Standard,Tier 3 package because it's the one that best fits their budget, but they would also really appreciate it if you could just include this one extra bit on top, just for them.

    I'm always prepared to adjust my rates and services to accommodate clients' needs, if I feel it will be worth it (they will be more inclined to use me in the future and may recommend me to others) and the extra service will not be a major change to the project costs or time. If it's only an extra 10 mins and easy to do, then I'll generally do it. 

    If I feel I can't accommodate their extra requests within the service (it will take a significant amount of time or will incur extra cost), then I always offer an alternative or a very clear reason why I won't be able to include it...which moves us onto the next point...

    3. Be accommodating, but not a pushover

    So you've bent over backwards for your client but they're still asking for more and are not willing to pay for it. There are always going to be people who think they're entitled to ask for anything and everything from you because they're paying you for one service.

    This is where your written agreement with the client comes in very handy. When politely reminded of what was originally agreed, decent clients will either revise their expectations or will agree to cover the extra costs. Clients that challenge the original agreement and become more demanding or aggressive are not people you want to work with in the future anyway. Finish the work and sever those relationships as soon as possible.

    But what if they're incredibly important/respected in your industry/someone you really want to impress? Read on....

    Photo copyright Mat Ricardo Photography

    4. Keep your standards high

    As long as you deal with every client in the most professional, ethical manner you know, you can stop worrying about toxic clients potentially poisoning your business reputation.

    Some people like to complain and some people are bullies and even if they're the world leader in your particular field, if they treat you with contempt when you are doing your job to the best of your ability, they are not worth worrying about. There are better clients out there and bad press will fade quickly if it's unfounded. 

    Of course, you can always do your best to turn potentially damaging situations around...

    5. Apologise, and offer a solution

    If someone really has a problem with your service or product, the first and best approach is always to apologise. Yes, even if you think it is partly or entirely their fault. Sympathise with their situation and make them feel their concern is valid. 

    It is amazing what a simple apology can do to lessen someone's aggressive, aggrieved mood.

    Some time ago I had a situation where a customer had misread some specific instructions and demanded a refund for a service. I apologised - but then went on to point out why they were wrong. God only knows what I thought this would prove, someone who's already on the defensive is not going to suddenly concede their position. It was the wrong move. The client, already annoyed, became even more inflamed and I am very lucky that they didn't decide to denounce my services all over the internet (as far as I know). One line of their last email really stuck with me: "A simple apology would have been enough." They were right.

    After you've apologised, offering a solution gives you a chance to restore their confidence in your service and hopefully retain them as a client. Sometimes this means taking a hit to your finances (replacing a product, re-doing something from scratch) or to your pride. You can probably deal with both.

    If you really feel a customer or client is trying to pull a fast one, that's when your terms & conditions come in very handy. Sometimes it takes a bad situation for you to realise what you need to have in writing to prevent the situation happening again, but hey, that's part of the exiting world of working for yourself.

    You can also read about how other creatives spot and avoid clients who take advantage of you.

    6. Value your positive customers, learn from the negative ones

    I thank all of my customers (even the not-so-great ones) because the least they have given me is increased knowledge - even if they don't realise it. It really does cost nothing to be polite, it's an important part of 4. above - Keeping Your Standards High, and it's part of being professional!

    If I have enjoyed working with or for a client, I always say so. It gives me an immense boost when a customer tells me how great it was to work with me, so I make sure I do the same. 

    What are your best tips for maintaining great relationships with clients?

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday May 1 2013

    Hi-dee-hi freelance campers! No theme this week (even a vague one), just lots of interesting and useful bits and pieces. Enjoy!

    5 things everyone should be told about working for yourself


    The image at the top of this post is from a new free online image library called Imgembed. I often use my own photos in my blog to avoid having to use libraries and the copyright or expense involved with them. Imgembed makes the process of using and crediting images simpler and while there isn't a massive database yet, I'm sure it will become more popular over time. 

    Still a bit unsure as to how LinkedIn can benefit your business? If you're a blogger, there's some good tips in this article: How LinkedIn Groups can explode your blog traffic

    If you're a product-based business selling online, there's some great tips in this video about how to photograph your products for online selling

    It might be because I'm a sound geek, but I am pretty excited about this transcription app which will transcribe your voice files to a Word doc for US$1 per minute (there's also bonus material in the article about how to record phone calls using Google Voice)

    10 little-known apps that entrepreneurs can't live without

    Today's Inspiration: the last lecture of Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon professor.


    Final note: Seth Godin reminds us that it's okay to set limits with our customers

    Have a good week!

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday April 17 2013

    Hello happy workers! I am badly in need of a day off so this week's post is a little scatter-brained, but hopefully you'll find something useful in the bunch.

    Here we go...

    I may have posted this before, but it's great and worth seeing again! Designers turn negative comments into funny posters

    A bit of a controversial I really need a website?

    Networking like a pro...yeah, I need a bit of this advice!

    For the bloggers (and proto-bloggers) out there: 11 things I wish I knew before I started my first blog

    I wasn't really considering time management when I was 20 (unless it was, "how many more beers can I have before I really have to go home and write that essay?") but I still liked this: 26 Time Management Hacks I wish I'd Known When I was 20

    I'm not sold on Google+ as an effective social media or networking tool yet, but this post on finding clients on Google+ and this one on using Google Hangouts make me more inclined to give it a proper go

    Bonus video! Because I'm sure, like me, you never realised that you've always wanted to know this

    Stay creative till next time! 

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday April 2 2013

    Image courtesy of

    Since the last Creative Business Tombola I have been told how to do my job as a theatre sound engineer by a bartender in the theatre I regularly work in during the show (rude) and to "calm down" when I was politely asking a service provider to confirm an order (rude!). I am a little irked (hence calming blue bubbles). So this week's (vague) theme is customer service! 

    Do unto others...yup, reciprocity rules between businesses!

    "Do simple things in exceptional ways" is probably the best advice I've read on customer service

    Writing sensible email messages - there's something useful for everyone in this.

    Remembering why - why did you start your business and what keeps you going? 

    Extreme customer service: learning from companies that go above and beyond

    And in case you missed them, here's a couple of bonus April Fool's jokes from Google, who have obviously incorporated Arthur Freed's important message "make 'em laugh" into their customer service:




    Wishing you zen calm and good service to and from your business until next week!

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Friday March 29 2013

    Thanks to Dexterous Diva for this pic!

    It's the better-late-than-never edition this week! The death of my faithful, 5 year old laptop last week has meant communications, social media updates and blog posts from the Sounds Wilde studio have been a bit thin on the ground. 

    Internet-wise, I've been in the middle of nowhere

    I am now the owner of diminished savings and a new Macbook Pro. I am also extremely grateful to the staff at the Apple Store in Covent Garden for giving me a much-needed and generous discount on a new model as a goodwill gesture for having spent a few hundred pounds on fixing my 5 years old (vintage in Apple terms) Macbook Pro in December last year, only to have it break in a different way 3 months later. People can be unexpectedly nice and it is worth remembering that!

    Being without access to most of my work was an illuminating experience which I'll probably blog about later in the week and it's no surprise that a number of the posts that have caught my eye this week are about switching off and assessing our relationship with our online personas. Enjoy!

    Jo of The Dexterous Diva wrote about deliberately switching off from wifi for a week and how awesome it was

    Bangs & A Bun wrote about how much we curate our lives online

    "The only place joy can be found is right here and right now" - Seth Godin on FOMO, joy jealousy and the lizard

    6 rules every business owner needs to obey

    Don't be afraid to start small: the story of Innocent smoothies

    I'm reading this NOW: how to grow your email list to 5 digits and beyond

    Finally, a bit of workplace humour

    Normal programming will resume next week!

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday March 20 2013

    The Overcoming Adversity edition! Some inspiration to help you keep going when you're not sure why it's worth it.

    We all know how it feels to fail - it sucks. Here's how to bounce back stronger after you blow it.

    Is it ever game over for an artist?

    I'm a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson, so much so that I think his book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything should be required reading for everyone who's wondering what they could be doing with their life (or why they're doing it). His 2007 TED talk is similarly passionate, funny and thought-provoking and wonderful for reinforcing the importance of creativity.

    Cash & Joy tells us how giving something away might be the best action you can do for your business - how to rock out free sessions

    Some great advice from (apparently) Michael Caine's dad: make money while you're asleep

    That's it for today  - short & sweet! See you next time.

  • What voice over work has taught me about my business

    Every piece of feedback is valuable

    It stings when a client says "it's not right". But if you can get them to say why it isn't right, you have something that should turn your frustration into gratitude.

    Feedback is a short-cut for our own rate of improvement as artists. Isn't it quicker and easier for someone to point out our weak spots than for us to eventually identify them weeks..months...or years later?

    Every time I receive feedback from anyone (but especially a colleague or a client), I say thank you. I may not agree with them. It may be something I will never use, or will only apply to specific situations. It may completely contradict what the last client said, or what they said themselves 6 months ago. But every piece of feedback teaches me something, even if it's that I need to trust my own judgement more.

    Sometimes you will just be wrong for the project. Don't take it personally. 

    Voice acting is artistic and creative. Anything creative is subjective, which means it is open to the interpretation of the audience - whoever that audience may be. The best work you produce today may be rejected by everyone who sees it today - but celebrated by the person who sees it tomorrow.


    Persevere. Persevere. Persevere.

    To quote a Pantene ad that aired all the time in New Zealand in the '90s: It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

    This is a career you're building. You expect something that lasts a lifetime to require a lot of work, right? That person who is hailed as an "overnight success" was probably steadily working, building, creating, networking in their industry for 5, 10, 15 years before the right set of circumstances came along to launch them at a wider audience.

    Build on your successes. Work through your mistakes. Repeat. 

    Go with your gut.

    If a project/opportunity/job feels right for you, then it will be right for you in some way. It doesn't matter if other people think it's wrong for you - what they usually mean is that it's wrong for them. They aren't you, so really, how can they know what's wrong or right for you? 

    More important for me is to trust my gut on when something feels wrong. It's hard to turn work down when you're building a business and everything relies on money, but I know that I have never regretted turning down work that felt wrong and pretty much always regretted doing it. When you think or talk about  a job or client to a friend and you complete this sentence "I just know this job  will be..." with anything along the lines of difficult, frustrating, time-consuming, not worth it then you shouldn't be doing it.

    Have you got any great business lessons to share?
  • Working for Me: An Office of One

    I was reading this post on Thought Catalogue about how your lifestyle is designed by your working practices and this sentence jumped out at me:

    the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours

    When I think back to my days at the BBC in open-plan, busy broadcasting offices, I think that was probably true for me. Offices provide endless opportunities for distractions: chatting with co-workers, coffee/cigarette/extended lunch breaks and the timesink of the internet.

    This got me thinking: now that I'm self employed, do I get more work done?

    I don't have to think hard about that. Definitely, yes. On any usual working day, I will easily, devotedly and earnestly work for at least 8 hours. According to the Thought Catalogue post, that's 5 hours more per day than I did in a big-company office environment. Here's why:

    My workspace works for me

    For the past year-and-a-bit, I've had my own studio, outside of my own home.  

    From the start of my business, it was very important to me to have my own workplace that was separate from my home. Firstly, I have a tendency to work all day, every day, and separating my physical work space helps with my work/life balance. Secondly, my partner is also self-employed, so works at home a lot, and I know I work better alone.

    In a networking group I used to belong to, the founder said that one of the aspects of self-employment that had worried her, prior to making the leap, was that she thought she was going to be alone all day.

    In my self-employed days so far, working alone has never, ever bothered me. I love working by myself. I enjoy working collaboratively, but all of my best work is done by myself.

    If you're working for yourself, you'd better get used to being okay with your own company to some extent, but you can choose the type of work space that suits you.

    Co-working spaces like B.HIVE, Central Working and TechHub offer you an office-like environment, while still allowing you your own business space. If you need a permanent creative space, many designers, photographers and other creative types share spaces that range from separate studios to large open-plan warehouse areas. Many self-employedites I know like using their favourite cafe (or pub) to work in for a few hours each day, to take them out of their home office and connect them with the world.

    I have no problem being self motivated

    Self-motivation is essential when you're self-employed. There's no boss nagging you to meet deadlines and aside from fulfilling clients' requirements, there's no one to force you to keep developing your business, keep pushing your products, keep increasing and striving and achieving.

    Self-motivation, like the best habits, can be learned. I know I've always been self-motivated to some extent, I've managed to study for and pass school, university & professional exams, for example, but it's been my personal goals that have really taught me about self-motivation.

    In the past 10 years I have moved my life to the other side of the world, on a 1-way ticket and the vague promise of a couch to crash on. I've trained for and run a marathon in 3 hours 38 minutes. I've gained British citizenship. These are all goals I am proud to have achieved. When the going gets tough running my business, I think back to what made me keep saving, keep training, keep studying for the Life in the UK test and I harness that to keep me going.

    I allow distractions

    In my office of one, I have my odd moments of distraction. Usually it's an indication my work/life balance has become askew and my body or brain is asking me for a break. I know there's no point in forcing myself to work when all I really want to do is take a walk, have a nap, read a book or just remove myself from the world for a while.

    I'm most productive when I'm feeling calm, centred and relaxed. I know from experience that the 3 hours of distracted, frustrated work that I force out of myself when I feel I "should be working" but really, really don't want to, will probably have to be redone the next day, and could be done in just 1 hour when I'm feeling focussed again. Knowing this, I would rather spend those other 2 hours getting myself in the right frame of mind.

    I enjoy what I do

    This is the heart of it all. Yes, I don't enjoy every single task that I do as part of running my business (tax returns, anyone?) but most of the work I do, I really enjoy. I'd rather be doing this than anything else. Which makes all the rest of it - self-motivation, working by myself, accepting distractions - come that much easier. 

    I often hear friends complain about their jobs. I'm sure you've heard these excuses too: "It's not what I really want to do, but I need the salary to cover the mortgage/child care/my hobbies"...." I can't change jobs at the moment because I need to work at this level for a while if I want to move up in the future..."

    In making the decision to go self employed, you are saying "I want to do this". If working for you really isn't working for you, ask yourself: "do I enjoy this?"

    If you don't enjoy what you do, no amount of workspace tips is going to make you significantly productive. Maybe if this is the case, the type of environment where you can work 3 hours a day and get paid for 8 would be best. Until you figure out what you really want to do.

  • The Creative Business Tombola - Wednesday January 30 2013

    Is is mid-week already? Hooray! Pat yourself on the back for surviving thus far and enjoy a bit of a advice and a snip of inspiration in this week's links:

    Do what you do best and out source the rest

    Last year, Neil Gaiman gave the commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, which has been entitled "Make Good Art". It went viral and if you watch the whole address (it's worth it), you'll see why:

    Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.

    Then Zen Pencils made it into a cartoon. And that is also very cool, inspiring and a bit meta. Making good art from a speech about making good art! 

    Russ Hughes makes some good points in this article about the challenges every creative has when charging for their time

    How to make working from home work for you

    If you spend most of your day job resenting the fact you're not already your own boss, this blog post I wrote is for you

    Don't wait to be discovered - launch yourself at the world!

    Amma Adjubi-Archibald's advice in this post is spot-on for me at the moment. I especially love the chicken/pig question, which I'll be applying to every new project from now on!

    For my business, this week I am...

    • taking a break. My January has been all 12-hr+working days every day, I've had 2 bouts of bed-ridden-level illness to deal with and today I noticed my fatigued, distracted, attention deficit body was telling me to SLOW DOWN and REST. I really need to make it to February (and through the rest of the year), so I'm going to pay attention
    • getting active. I really need regular exercise to help calm my brain, give me enough energy to get through those 12+ hour days and let me sleep. Joining a gym or going to classes haven't been possibilities for me for a while, so I'm focussing on fitting in regular walks, runs and home workouts whenever I can.
    • making time to update my schedule & calendar. Almost nothing makes me breathe easier than knowing I know exactly what tasks I need to complete this week, and by when

    What are you doing for your business this week?
  • Working for Me: What you can take from your day job

    Don't sweat the day job. Based on my own personal experience, even if you hate your job, seeing it as a barrier to doing what you really want to do isn't going to make it any easier to get through the days.

    Even if you don't realise it (and I didn't at the time), you're learning skills that will be immensely helpful to you once you make the leap to self employment.

    Here's a few skills you use every day in your day job that you can apply to self-employment.  You're already ahead of the game!


    Dear co-workers: please watch out for vampires!

    You know how to draft emails which have the right balance of friendly and professional

    You know how to keep communications short, to-the-point, but not brusque, to elicit the most effective response from your time-poor coworkers (double this if you work in print media or broadcasting)

    You know how to adapt your communications to suit your boss or your boss's boss or the IT person who needs to fix your latop

    You know how to ask for information when you really don't know and help when you really need it (for some reason, we often have difficulty doing this when we work for ourselves)


    No, you can make the tea

    When you're self-employed, time spent on a task you hate doing is time spent away from your business. It's unproductive.

    In your day job, you already delegate tasks you don't want to do, don't have time to do,or for which you don't have the right skills, to other people in your team and different teams, without much of a pause for thought. From taking minutes at meetings to data entry to fixing the photocopier, even if you're a general dogsbody assistant for an extremely small company, you won't do every single task that needs doing and you are fine with that.

    Hold on to this attitude. When you're self-employed, it's very easy to think you have to do everything. You don't. Someone else can do your accounts, design your flyers, maintain your website. Yes, it costs money. Your reward is time you can invest into working in your business.


    Ready to multitask? GO!

    You already have personal systems in place to deal with work on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis.

    These will be driven by the industry you work in, so whether you start the day checking emails or going over your notes for the weekly editorial meeting, you know how best to meet your deadlines and juggle multiple work streams. 

    You know how to prioritise, how to deal with changes in expectations or project "scope creep" and how to say firmly "I won't be able to get that to you today, but I will have it in time for Monday". 

    When you work for yourself, you'll be the one setting a lot of the deadlines. Treat yourself like any other client (manage your own expectations) and you'll do fine.


    Specifically, selling (or presenting or pitching) yourself and your work.

    There is a high chance that at some point in your working life, you've had to interview for a job. And if you're in a job now, then you must have been able to convince whoever hired you that you were perfect for it, in an interview situation (formal or informal).

    You can already sell yourself verbally.

    You probably also had to submit either a CV or an application form to get an interview. 

    You can already sell yourself in writing.

    You already know how to successfully pitch yourself. You already know what you need to do when you pitch your ideas and your work to future clients. 


    You've more than likely worked with teams that didn't work well and you could tell me why (poor communications, unclear goals, people not pulling their weight), and you've probably worked with great teams and you could tell me why they were great (clear communications, everyone committed, goals achieved together).

    You know what to look for in potential team mates and how to make a team work.

    One of the benefits about being self-employed is that you get to pick your own team.

    Every day in your day job is not a day wasted. It's a day where you get to build on those skills that will help you build your own business, once you're ready to make the leap to self employment. 

    Chin up, best foot forward!

  • Working for Me: Make Your Working Life Easier with these Tips

    We all know that running a business requires you to be organised, but I don't think you really comprehend the sheer amount of admin you need to do to keep it all tickety-boo until you're suddenly in the middle of it all. Which is usually around tax return time, so in the UK, about now.

    The following tips are practical, obvious and not time-consuming. Despite this, it's taken me three years to get up the resolve to actually do them all on a regular basis, because the work they involve is not as much fun as say, ignoring said work and figuring out how to match that funky d&b beat to a Fred Astaire track.  Like most useful gifts however, now I wonder why I didn't start using them earlier.

    Here they are: tips that when used, will make your daily business life easier. I guarantee it. 

    1. Write a To Do list

    Unless you have a Sherlock-like memory technique, you'll need to write tasks down in order to remember them. Write down every task you can think of following the following principles. They're based on SMART but without the M. If you're into Measuring your tasks you need another sort of advice.

    S - SPECIFIC "Tidy up my website" is not specific. "Update my website calendar with my next 6 months of scheduled appointments/appearances", "email client X to schedule meeting for next week with suggested dates and times", "upload my latest portfolio video to You Tube" are specific tasks

    A - ACHIEVABLE Make them realistic. These are tasks, not goals. 

    R - RECORDABLE You're writing them down, so that's this covered!

    T - TIME BASED When does it need to be done by? How long do you think it will take? This will be important when we get to step 2

    2. Write a schedule

    Schedule making is boring. But I prefer the 20mins of boredom it takes to draft my work schedule for a week to the heart-squeezing panic of realising you're 5 days late sending a piece of work you had completely forgotten about. 

    Start with the first day of your working week. Take your to-do list and put each clearly-defined (SPECIFIC) task you want to do that day in a separate box. Be realistic about the amount of tasks you can complete in one day. Do the same for the rest of the week.

    Each time you finish a task, cross it off. If you've finished every task, hooray! Work is done for that day. Aim to complete all tasks but don't sweat it if you don't. Stuff happens. Tasks you don't complete can be carried over to the next day

    3. Use a calendar

    I have 2 businesses and an actual life, which generate a lot of meetings and other commitments. I used to put appointments into my iPhone calendar. Until it wiped them during an update. I now use Google calendar to schedule all my appointments because I can tag them as relating to one of the businesses or personal, and they sync to my iPhone. I put a commitment into Google Calendar as soon as it's confirmed and set a reminder on my phone. No more missed meetings. 

    5. Create email templates

    If you find you're responding to the same type of email with the same response more than once, you need email templates in your life. Make a list of the most common enquiries you receive or emails you have to send and write an email template for each. Once written, email templates save time, which can then be used for doing more interesting tasks. Simples.

    6. Choose and use a billing system

    Have you ever got to tax return time, only to discover that a load of clients owe you money going back months, because you forgot to chase them for it? If the answer is yes, your billing system isn't working. It doesn't matter if it's Freshbooks, your own book keeper or PDFs in a folder on your laptop with payment reminders manually scheduled in Google Calendar, unless you have a billing system that works, you will be losing money. Research the options, pick one, implement it. Today!

    6. Do your accounts monthly

    Accounts are possibly the most boring part of business ownership and it's a real struggle for me to go through my receipts and fill in spreadsheets with my earnings and expenses every month. But oh my god, the amazing relief and slight sense of smugness you get come January when your social media feeds are full of people moaning about floating in a sea of receipts and tax return hell, and you know all you have to do is copy and paste a few numbers into yours and it'll be done in well under an hour.

    Plus, knowing exactly how much is coming in and going out of your business is an immensely powerful tool that will help you really evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your business finances and ultimately, help you grow your income. Don't be scared of the numbers. You can make them work for you if you put the effort in, and a couple of hours once a month is nothing when it comes to financial peace of mind.

    Kris Atomic has an awesome post about her accounting process for her UK-based creative illustration business. I recommend starting there if you're feeling overwhelmed about it all. Rosie Slosek of One Man Band Accounting also has some great advice about doing your own tax return for UK sole traders and limited companies.

    7. Put all creative ideas you get while doing these tasks on a list

    As I've said, these tips are for tasks that are not terribly creative. On more than one occasion I have been derailed in my organisational intent by a great idea, which has been so much more intriguing than what I'm doing that I've stopped making a schedule/doing my accounts/updating my to do list and gone off exploring the idea. Great for my creative impulses, bad for the organisation of my business. The more times I do this, the more the necessary tasks get pushed to the back and soon I reach a crisis, which usually manifests as forgetting an important deadline, wondering why I haven't been paid by a client or realising I haven't done my accounts in 6 months. 

    Now, if I get a great idea when I'm doing an organisational task, I write it down on a list so I don't forget it, and then I go back to that list once I'm done with the boring stuff. Organisation and creativity win!

    So there we go - 7 tips to help make your business life easier. Have you got an awesome tip or trick that you use in your daily business life? Let me know in the comments below!

  • The Creative Business Tombola: Jan 9th 2013

    Welcome to the second new feature for the blog: The Creative Business Tombola.

    Like Sunday Sound, this is a round-up of interesting interweb musings that I stumble across over the week, except these ones will be around running creative businesses (or running businesses creatively). A bit of self-employment stuff, some business common-sense, probably some stuff that's more about how you feel than how you feel your KPIs should look but creative people shouldn't shy away from that anyway.

    (Nothing actually about KPIs, I promise)

    How to make a website: a tactical guide for marketers

    True professionals don't fear amateurs

    Molly Crabapple's advice for young artists 

    Is Twitter worth it for freelancers?

    I wrote about what you should have before you make the leap into self employment

    Watch this every time you dither about charging for your work or time:

    ...and decide on your own policy about working for free

    Happy Wednesday!

  • Working for Me: Before you start your self-employment journey...

    I hang out (virtually and actually) with a lot of creative types. Around this time of year I see a lot of this kind of update:

    This is the year I want to give up the day job and go for my dream! But I'm really scared...should I make the leap and go fully self-employed?

    If you know it's right for you, then absolutely! But have a good think about preparation first. There's a lot to be said for just getting out there and doing it, but if I'd planned my self-employment leap better, I would have put several key ideas in place first. Here's what I think you need before you start in self-employment

    1) Making money: Ways of doing it, ways of building on this

    What are you going to offer? Services or products? It took me the best part of a year to define what my business was going to sell. Save yourself the sleepless nights and work it out now. Then get creative and build on this. Turn knowledge into products (books, ecourses), skills into partnerships. You make something, ergo you could teach making it!

    Multiple income streams is the way forward (this Bullish article is a great start). Turn "what can I do?" into "what can I sell?"

    2) Keeping afloat: Financial support & being prepared to make sacrifices

    You need some way of paying rent/bills when you can't work or don't make enough money, whether that is your partner, parents, an overdraft, savings or whatever.

    An extremely useful course I went on before I took redundancy (run by Jasmine from Money Magpie) told me to calculate how much I needed to live (rent, bills, food, extras) for at least 3 months, then make sure I had that in savings before I started working for myself.

    I was also told it generally takes at least 3 years to turn a profit on a new business.

    Be prepared to change your lifestyle for the amount of time it takes for your business to start making money! The Money Saving Expert mantras are always good ones to use before you buy anything

    3) The ability to treat yourself as a business

    Promote yourself while ignoring feeling like a bit of a dick for doing so.

    Charge what you really feel you're worth, or even a bit more, and stick with it even when you worry you're losing work.

    Keep proper financial records (taxes of course, but keeping track of billing & payments is also very important).

    Invest in training/tools without any guarantee that you'll see a return from them.

    Learn not to take rejection of your services/products personally.

    Figure out your own stance on working for free.

    More on this: How to sell yourself as an expert

    4) Emotional support

    It can be very tough. The first two years were much tougher emotionally than I thought they would be.

    You take knock-backs way more personally when you are your business.

    You need people who will be supportive and not judgemental.

    Make friends with other self-employedites. They will be there to answer questions, boost your creativity, say "it will be worth it" and tell you success stories.

    Keep friends with anyone who has consistently told you you're great, talented and can do anything. They will be there to keep positivity flowing and remind you why you thought you could do this in the first place.

    5) Knowing that you are definitely going to succeed (watch the video, it's good)

    When you don't give yourself any other option, it has to happen eventually.

    I didn't think I was a big believer in self-belief before I made me my main source of income. I thought you just had to work hard and it would all come from there.

    After a series of major let-downs and set-backs in the first year (financial & emotional), when all my hard work seemed to rate about zero on the getting-ahead scales, I was pretty surprised when I checked in with myself and realised I wanted to keep going.

    From the start, I wanted to do this more than I wanted to go back to working for a big company. Which means at some point, I am going to consider myself a success. 

    Like Alan Watts says " Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way" 

    More inspiration: 

    What do you think needs to be in place before you go self employed?

  • January Voice Over Workshops

    Hello Sunday-ites!

    With the last voice over workshop of the year being sold out I thought it was a good time to tell you about our January workshops.

    Becca and I have had a blast running these this year and we're excited about sharing our combined knowledge with more of you next year.

    And because it's coming up to Christmas...we've got a special deal on too!

    ***XMAS SPECIAL!***



    (excludes Home Studio workshop)

    That's right, a whole hour's extra studio time to practice scripts with direction and feedback from myself and Becca - what an awesome kick-start to new skills and a potential new career as a voice artist for 2013!

    Details of the workshop are below and at the Workshops page on this site. If you have any further questions, please just get in touch, I'd love to hear from you.

    Becoming a Home Studio Voice Artist

    Sunday January 13 2013 11am - 3pm

    You don't have to have an agent to work as a voice artist! A fun and informative workshop focussing on how to establish yourself as a voice over artist working out of your own home studio.


    Direct Booking Link:

    Branching Out Into Voice Overs

    Sunday January 20th 2013 11am - 3pm

    A fun and informative introduction to working as a voice over artist for actors and people with performing or acting experience.


    Direct Booking Link:

    Advanced Voice Introduction

    Sunday January 27 2013 11am - 3pm

    A fun and informative workshop focussing on advanced character & professional skills for voice artists and actors


    Direct Booking Link:

  • Working for Me: Business Stress-squirrels

    One of the biggest hurdles I face with my business is the constant scratchy feeling that I'm not achieving "enough". "Enough" can mean different things on different days - enough money, enough respect, enough clients, enough awards, enough happiness....I'm sure you can add to this list.

    Feeling like I'm underachieving in my business is stressy and leads to bigger feelings of self-doubt (how did I ever think I could run my own successful business??) which can tip me over the edge into other problems. Indulging in these feelings is ultimately both a waste of effort and something I can't avoid.

    Want to combat stress-squirrels? My answer is ACTIVITY.

    Doing something makes you feel more in control of the situation. It focuses your attention on the task rather than the worry. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when you've completed the task. It helps you feel you're propelling your business forward.

    When stress-squirrels threaten to gnaw me to pieces, I do the following:

    1) I work in my business

    2) I work on my business

    These terms were introduced to me by my friend ReeRee Rockette, who runs London-based networking group Wonderful Women Minding Our Own Business (or WWMOOB) as well as her successful salon Rocaklily Cuts.

    Working IN your business is doing work for your clients, for income or some renumeration. In my case this is creating voicereels, recording voice overs, mixing tracks, copy editing text etc.

    Working ON your business is doing work to keep your business running: admin, marketing, creating content, accounts, all the stuff that is necessary but you won't see an actual financial benefit as a direct result.

    I have two TO DO lists: one for work in my business, one for work on my business.

    So my stress-squirrel combat plan looks like this:

    1. Make a TO DO list if I don't have one already

    2. Write each task as specifically as possible.

    "Blog more" is not specific, how on earth would you know when you'd actually completed that? "Write a blog about the importance of taking time off when you're self-employed" is a better example of a specific goal.

    3. Divide the list into In Business work and On Business work

    4. Do one task from the In Business list. 

    If you're feeling stressed but resolute, do a difficult task or one you've been putting off first. You'll feel a big sense of accomplishment once it's done and the next task will look much easier.

    If you're feeling stressed and fragile, do an easy task first. If you pick a difficult or boring one there's a chance you may feel overwhelmed. Easy wins are a good way to boost confidence and ease yourself into your activity.

    5. Do one task from the On Business list

    6. Repeat until your worktime is done.

    7. Look over everything you've achieved today and feel pleased!

    The In Business tasks I completed today included: writing a script for one of my forthcoming elearning courses and recording a trial screencast for the same course. My On Business tasks included emails, invoicing, polite client payment reminders and writing this blog post! More On Business than In Business but I still feel I had a productive day and poisoned today's stress-squirrels quite thoroughly.

    Note: The term "stress-squirrels" is my version of "panicweasel" from Cash & Joy, a site I thoroughly recommend for any creative self-employed peoples. Especially this post, which is completely relevant to today's post.

    Would this work for you? What do you do to keep the stress-squirrels at bay?

  • 2013 London Cabaret Award Nominations

    Last year I wrote about the London Cabaret Awards and all the shows and performers I had worked for and with who were nominated, and how pleased I was for all of them.

    The awards are back and this time, it's even nicer because Mat Ricardo's London Varieties has been nominated for Best Ongoing Production

    I've written lots about my contribution to London Varieties this year (see alsohere,hereand here). It's a unique and special show and I am thrilled that Mat's hard work and vision has been recognised.

    If you're wondering what, where and why, have a listen to the podcasts of the 2012 shows at the British Comedy Guide(as produced by me) and take a look below:

    London Varieties will be back in February next year with new and special stuff (which is as much as I'm allowed to say at this point...) Mat's also been nominated for an award as Best Speciality Act, double cabarati points!

    Massive congratulations to all the artists, events, productions and venues nominated for a London Cabaret Award this year. I've had the pleasure of another year of being involved in London cabaret and variety and I hope to continue to be involved for many years to come.

  • Working for Me: Time Off

    It's got cold and I have a cold.

    I'm writing this from the back-end of a couple of weeks worth of congestion-filled fatigue, courtesy of a charming virus that manifested as soon as I decided to have a day off.

    Just my luck? More like just my fault.

    Before I decided to force myself to take a day off, I hadn't had one for weeks, so many weeks that it was pretty much months. 14hr+ days every day for months. Unchecked, my days go something like this:

    8am Wake up, make coffee or tea, check emails

    9am Shower, breakfast, head to studio. Check social networks & emails on train.

    10am - 8pm Work in studio and at some point fit in eating (at desk, while working) and a run

    8pm Travel home, continuing to check social media & emails.

    9pm Arrive home, have dinner, sit straight back down at the computer and work

    midnight - 1am At some point realise it's past midnight and go to bed. Read for 20mins or so, pass out.

    The only break I take from work is my run, and there's plenty of days recently when I didn't even allow myself to take a break to do that. The result: high stress levels, high anxiety levels, feeling of being overwhelmed by work and life in general...and then extended illness. Not fun.

    When you are your business and your ability to make that work is between you and homelessness, taking time off feels scary. What's more scary is enforced time off at inconvenient times because you've run yourself into the ground and have left your mental and physical immune systems so low that they've succumbed to every bug and black dog day going.

    We don't want that! So, here are a few tips to help you take the time off you need to recharge mentally and physically so you can keep going to the best of your ability and make your business as awesome as it can be:

    1. Set working hours and stick to them

    Whether you're a 9-5 person or a 1-9 person, work out what works for you and stick to it as much as possible. There will be days where you can't be rigid, but even if you work at home, you need an "end-of-the-day" feeling as much as anyone. You'll never be able to relax if you consider every hour as one you should be working. Advertise your working hours to your customers and your colleagues and stick to them.

    2. Don't bring work life into home life

    Much easier if you don't work from home, and especially hard if you work & play in the same place on the same computer/iPad/phone, but even then, you can set clear rules.

    Have a separate work email address and don't check it after a certain time. if you have a separate office or work area, leave work/equipment there so you physically don't have access to it at home. Get a separate phone line or mobile for work and leave the answer phone on when you're not working and don't give out your personal number to clients.

    3. Take at least 1 full day off a week.

    This has been a really hard one for me to follow but it's so important. I'm flexible with my day off and work it around my schedule, so I can plan around any urgent work, but I make sure I have at least one day off a week. On those days I don't go into the studio and I do whatever fun stuff I've been saving up, catch up on movies and with friends, listen to music, whatever I like and whatever I need.

    4. Balance the intensity of your work

    Like many self-employedites I have times where I work "in" my business - mixing, recording, meeting with clients etc. and times where I work "on" my business - marketing, emails, finances etc.

    Both types of work have varying degrees of intensity so I make sure they balance each other out. If I have a week of intense studio work, working to specific deadlines and tight turnarounds, I make sure the next week has days where I can be more relaxed with my pace and my tasks require less focus - invoicing clients or catching up on industry news, for example. I find this helps to keep me calm.

    On my lower intensity days, I'm still working and making progress, but it takes me away from the edge of burnout and gives my brain a bit of downtime.

    5. Pay attention when people tell you "you're working too hard"

    My partner is one of the best watch dogs I have when it comes to my overworking tendencies. He's self employed as well so he knows that hard work comes with running your own business, but he also sees me every day and can assess my physical and mental state objectively.

    When he tells me "you need a break" it means he can see my physical & mental reserves dropping and me being too focussed/pig headed to see it myself. When people you trust say "take some time off" it means they are worried and you should be too. 

    You need breaks as much as you need to work hard. Seriously! It'll keep you mind and body healthy and that will keep you working, in every way, for longer.

  • Working for Me: What You Do Is Pretty Cool

    Last week I performed at a cabaret night and afterwards was introduced to a friend's new girlfriend. We got chatting about work, she told me about her "okay" job (her words) working in HR for a city firm, I told her about the job I left at the BBC and she asked if I now performed professionally.

    Me: performing professionally! Photo copyright Mat Ricardo Photography 

    I said yes, it is one of my jobs and explained about Sounds Wilde, voice reels, voice overs, sound design, post-production, podcasts and all the other sound-related work streams I have as a self-employed small business owner that keep me in whiskey & out of penury.

    "Wow" she said "that's so cool. I really admire people like you who decide they want to do what they actually enjoy and they just go and do it"

    I've heard this before and I always feel compelled to counteract their praise by talking about how I wouldn't have been able to do it without redundancy & a small inheritance and that the constant money worries & fear that I've made the wrong choice aren't very cool at all etc etc, but fortunately someone interrupted us at that point and I just had to leave her remark to stand and resonate.

    There are great aspects and rubbish aspects to any kind of work. The rubbish bits that I was on the cusp of pointing out, in a pointless attempt to bring myself down because I actually felt a bit embarrassed about being publicly praised (so British!), are bits that she already knows. They're not exclusive to self-employment. Plus, although deciding to use the money gifted to me to set up my own business was a no-brainer for me, many people would have opted for a holiday instead, then found another job similar to the one they had been doing, despite maybe having the same desire I did to go it alone and do what I really wanted to do.

    Which made me pause and think two thoughts that I don't articulate very often: What I do is pretty cool and the fact that I'm doing it at all is pretty cool too.

    Most days I find myself worrying about the not-so-great bits about being self-employed, which can be summed up as "I'm not making enough money". It's too easy when you run a small business to focus on the financials but it's not the whole picture and it's probably not the overriding reason you started your business anyway. It's certainly not mine. So, for all the self-employed and considering-self-employment bods out there, here are 6 reasons why being self-employed and having your own business, is Pretty Cool:

    • You can work when you like it & where you like
    In my opinion, flexibility is one of the best advantages to working for yourself.
    Want to work from 11am - 7pm...or 4 days a week only...or nights rather than your a separate your kitchen? You can! You can also go to the post office when it's quiet instead of queuing in your lunch hour, schedule GP appointments when it's convenient for you and get the Sainsburys man to deliver groceries during the cheaper rate times. And then there's the commuting...if you work at home, 5 mins bed to desk vs 1 hr in rush hour? No contest.
    There's probably going to come a point where you need some kind of structure to your days, but you get to choose what that is and how it works. For me, just knowing that if I need to take Thursday off for any reason, for example, I can make up the time during the week or over the weekend without clearing it with anyone, is a big relief.
    • You can work with who you want
    You are your own boss, obviously, and for anyone who's had to deal with nightmarish, ineffectual or simply absent bosses (I had no direct line manager at the BBC for years) this is good news. But more than this, you can choose the people you want to work with creatively and collaboratively. You can create your own teams based on people and work you admire, not on the 3rd party your company has got into bed with. And you can choose not to work with people, for no other reason than it doesn't feel right. It's completely up to you.
    • You can work how you want
    Working in a busy broadcasting environment, in open plan offices and in studios for years, I used to hear people complain all day about tasks they hated doing. Attending meetings. Calling 3rd party suppliers to bargain prices down for products and services. Giving presentations. Dealng with HR. Checking expenditure. The kind of tasks I used to put to the bottom of the pile if I couldn't face them, knowing I'd have to do them eventually.

    Once you work for yourself, you decide what methods work for you. If you hate talking on the phone, you can make your business online only. If meeting people in person makes you uneasy, you don't have to do it. Don't want to go over accounts every month? Pay someone else to do it. Feel uncomfortable taking on a job because you disagree with the client's ethics? Say you're sorry and move on.

    You could argue that some of these can only be achieved when you have enough turnover, outsourcing your accounts, for example, costs money. But if it's something you really hate doing, make it one of your priorities and look at how you can make it happen. No one else is going to take responsibility for your mental well being.
    • Take credit for all of your work (and responsibility for your mistakes)
    If you've worked for any company before I'm sure you can also think of a time when a colleague or boss took credit for your hard work or ideas, directly or indirectly. Large companies also often include a clause in contracts which state that any concepts, ideas or products created by the employee while employed at the company belong to the company.
    Working for yourself means all of your output is yours. It belongs to you, the creator. Take pride in this! You've put something out into the world that must be valuable to someone - otherwise you wouldn't still be in business.
    Taking responsibility for your mistakes is also a Good Thing. Every time you say "yep, that was my fault" you've learnt something, and as you already know, you need to learn in order to grow. Take Neil Gaiman's word for it
    • You are your own job security
    Working for a nice, large corporation isn't the secure position it used to be. Downsizing and redundancies happen frighteningly quickly and redundancy payments can run out just as quick, while your days are reduced to completing the umpteenth application form and crossing your fingers for an interview to work at (another) large, faceless corporation. I have been there.
    Working for yourself can be scary - no paid sick leave or holidays or other financial benefits - but your source of income - you! - is always right there. If one idea doesn't make you money, you have all you need - you! - to come up with another one. No interviews, no climbing the ladder of someone else's company, you can always be working for your own rewards and your own security. 
    • Someone out there really, really wants to be doing what you're doing
    I am 100% sure this is true. We all have days where we think about jacking in the 14 hour days and getting a nice safe salary-secure 9-5 job (although that's not really the case these days...) but whatever your business is, someone will be admiring what you do.
    A friend of mine runs a wonderful vintage lifestyle blog, which I've read for years, long before I decided to set up Sounds Wilde. I used to read her blog and think "I wish I could do that". I was inspired by the fact she left a job she hated to pursue a passion, that she figured out how to make that earn money back when there were very few guides on how to do it, and that 5 years later that she now runs several associated businesses and is regularly nominated for awards. I mention her because even though I am now fully self-employed and run a very different fulltime business, if I wasn't doing this, I would still really love to do what she does.
    For every actor I meet who works doing training role plays for corporations to pay rent and dismisses it with "but it's not proper acting", I meet at least 2 who say they would do any kind of acting work if it meant being able to work as an actor and not in a bar. Every full-time blogger who envies another blogger's international work has probably at least ten followers whose biggest dream at the moment is to make their blog pay enough to do it full time themselves.
    If you are making your business work, in whatever way, you are already winning. Because what you do is Pretty Cool.
    PS. Specifically for my female readers, according to Women Unlimited, fear of failure prevents many women from starting their own business. If you're thinking about it, have a read of some of these inspiring female entrepreneurs as profiled by ReeRee Rockette. If they can do it, so can you.  
  • Working for Me: Working for Free

    PIcture Credit: (click on link to see the full-sized useful glory)

    It's been over 18 months since I said good bye to Auntie Beeb and started Sounds Wilde full time.

    I've been thinking recently about what I've learnt about working for myself during this time and how this knowledge may be useful to share.

    Some of it is my own thoughts, some of it is tips and advice I've picked up from others.

    The suggestions are going to be sometimes more relevant to arts-based businesses because my field is in the arts, but in general they'll be applicable to most service-based small businesses.

    Here's the first one: Working for Free. There's tons of articles, blogs and general opinions on this all over the interweb so I'm going to just share a couple of simple rules that I follow, some links to other people's opinions whom I rate, and a pretty picture.

    I've worked for free in the past and I still don't discount the possibility of working for free - but it's got to be on my terms. Every time I am approached to work for free or come across an unpaid opportunity that interests me, I consider the following:

    1. Do I already provide this as a paid service?

    If people already pay for this, why should I do it for free? It devalues the paid service. If clients know I'll do work for free that they've paid for in the past, they'll feel cheated and their perception of my brand suffers. This ESPECIALLY applies if the client is from a well-known or established brand. Being Disney/MTV/National Geographic/other big brand doesn't mean I'll do it for free for the "exposure" and the "privilege" of saying I've worked with you - it means you definitely have the money to pay me! I'm not a recent graduate, I don't need the "experience", and I'm not going to be seduced by your promises of "future paid work". Unless you present me with a signed contract that guarantees me paid work after I've done this piece of unpaid work, your promises are just that and nothing more.

    NB: Same applies for charities. Charities have budgets. If you're a supporter of a particular charity and you're happy to waive your fee in lieu of a donation, then fine. You can also always negotiate fees. But don't be swayed by cries of "but it's for charity!". Charities that can afford to employ the people who accost you on the street for donations (and they do pay them) can afford to pay you. A younger me spent 3 weeks as a student doing the phone equivalent of street charity workers (cold-calling strangers for donations to a variety of charities). I am 100% sure my current work requires a far greater skill set.

    2. What tangible benefit will I receive from doing this work?

    The operative word is tangible. I'm sure I'll get a warm glow from doing someone a good turn but that fades pretty quickly when you realise that's all will ever come of your hard work. I'm very bad at saying "no" to people so this is an important rule to help me decide whether it's really worth it for me. A tangible benefit for me would be: an IMDB credit as a sound editor/mixer/designer (hard proof to the film community that you have experience in your field) or inclusion of new/different material in my showreel

    3. Am I prepared to set the scope and working rules?

    If you're not charging the client, it's easy to feel uncomfortable about formalising the working relationship. Much easier to just keep things casual right? Especially if it's for a mate, that way they'll understand if you can't get it done exactly when they need it....

    Your client, be it your mate or someone you've never met, has just got you to agree to work for free. That's their biggest battle won. There is nothing to stop them now demanding you do it to their exact specifications and deadlines.

    A casual agreement often has stretchy boundaries. What started as a simple 1-hr music editing job starts stretching over days when your friend decides they don't like the music after all so could you redo it with new music and could you add this sound effect which you have to find first and this kind of reverb and maybe make it sound like a backing track for Lady Gaga? Kaythanxbye and I need it by tomorrow morning...

    It's not always like this, but it often is. Unpaid projects without any kind of scope definition can take over your working day until you resent the work and the client. So if you really want to do the work, treat it like a paid job: define exactly what needs doing and be clear about how much time you're going to spend on it. Written, signed agreements are always best. And if the client complains, point out that they're not paying for it and that they can always go somewhere else. Don't panic about losing them, if they don't want to pay you and they don't want to agree to defining how the FREE WORK will be done, you don't need them as a client.
    I always remember: their (the client's) project is their first priority.

    Obvious, you think, but say it to yourself a few times and it becomes clear. You've agreed to do their work. Do they care about how much time it takes you to do it? No, because that's not their priority. Do they care whether it will cost you money? (in travel/software downloads etec). No. They might express thanks/sympathy but as long as it gives them what they want in the end, it won't matter to them. You're left feeling put-upon and with no earnings, they're left with what they wanted. It's up to you to change this.

    4. How much time will it take?
    Or, how much will it cost you? While you're working for free, you won't be earning money. Is 2 weeks of solid, 5-hrs-per-day work (or even 2 hours or 30 mins) worth whatever benefit you're getting? Can you financially afford to take that time as a holiday from your own work that directly or non-directly earns you money? Can you mentally and physically afford to give up your preciously-guarded non-work time to work on someone else's dream? Can you afford to cover any extra travel expenses/software downloads/sound effects purchases?

    5. Will this forward my own dream?
    I consider this before taking on any work, paid or unpaid. It's related to 2. but it makes me really consider whether I am moving towards or away from my own goals by taking on this work.

    That's the words & the pretty & extremely useful pic (or rather, chart), here's some other stuff on the topic which is worthwhile checking out:

    Interesting ideas about PIE - paid in exposure, mentions contracts when working for free and this: "On the other hand, if you come across any of the following payment schemes, I suggest you run for the nearest exit"