How to Find the Right Coach, Part I

Visiting Voiceover Artist Meredith Peirick

Website.

Realistic expectations.

Is it the same for finding the right business coach as it is for any other kind of coach? Only if you want one that will work.

I just came from the world of a voice over (VO) coaching professional group on LinkedIn. The social network for professionals seem to give me a lot of ideas. I happened to look into one of my groups: Voiceover Coaching Professionals. As a former actor and voiceover artist, I am familiar with media; however, not ever having used a VO coach, I am a little befuddled as to their real purpose. I suppose it is to supplement income, while they profess to be quite successful; or, they are quite successful and they want to be more successful and richer, too.

At any rate, they may be like the writers who edit books to pay the bills or actors who wait on tables until their next job. Or, they are the lucky ones, doing what they love, and in their spare time teaching how they do it to novices–a noble undertaking. I’m sure everyone likes the last, but while I covered almost everyone some variations remain. However, I do suggest that no one get uppity when someone asks the question: “What makes you the one I should use as my coach?”

To clarify: a VO artist does voiceovers for commercials, PSAs, automated services, training films, e-learning and other online training products as well as ebooks. I won’t quote any of the comments. Allie (not her real name) asked the question, since she was new to the business, how to find the right VO coach for her. I should mention that Allie is one of us, a trainer, who I will presume to be a communicator already. She felt she needed her VO coach to be dependable; he didn't have to be on her schedule everyday, but because she worked, appointments were important to keep. She wanted to know what she should expect from such a coach.

Doesn't her scenario work for any client? Are her expectations reasonable? There are some differences with business coaches or consultants granted.

Most of what you will be reading here are my responses to the VO coaches who to responded to a newby who wanted to be a VO artist. She had the “voice for VO and nothing else,” she said. (I would never buy that and neither should she, but that’s for later.)

I didn’t copy the coaches’ responses, just mine. I’ll try to give you the jist of their comments, but they may be obvious to you and you will be able to make connections. The early comments were several coaches jumping in offering their programs, through Skype, without mentioning cost, of course. So I asked:

“I’m just curious,” I said. “Having gotten into the business without a coach: where did you all come from? What is your background? Education? Training? Acting experience outside of voiceovers?”

I thought it was an innocent question. Instead I received a rant on how qualified this man was in something else, but had experience in VO.

What? You can’t ask for qualifications? Even actors’ coaches know training alone is not going to get you the customers you need to survive. Your bonafides have to include professional roles, especially on Broadway–especially if you are located on the East Coast.

Bonafides of some sort give people a place to start. Why does that strike a nerve here? When it does, that is cause to rethink this particular coach. A professional knows that qualifications can be simply a client list at least (or if it has to confidential, say so), years of experience, or tons of the right credentials. Push back is a con artist ploy.

My general suspicion lies with a guy I met whose only claim to fame as a professional speaker was that he was the TV weatherman. He made his living “teaching Public Speaking 101″ to the general public. I could only shake my head when I saw a video of his where he was telling the group to relax and he takes up what I point out to my students as “the fig leaf pose,” a nice relaxed pose with your hands crossed over your groin, the mark of an amateur.

I suspect though push back in the VO area is because it involves voice talent, and not necessarily if you went to college at all or what you majored in if you did. Acting training outside of voice overs was probably the spark to unnerve them. These VO coaches should learn how to handle…

…the competition. The actors who do voiceovers and do not use voiceover coaches. They have agents who send them to auditions or directly to clients. Most are hired by the client and go to a studio. I know several who have a small studio at home and do both stage acting, commercial on-camera and voice over work, including audio books. I’ve had client’s themselves call me back for work, and I would then call my agent so we got the numbers right.

I studied with an acting pro in LA in the beginning. Every actor needs to stay sharp so actors see “coaches” along the way if they do this for a living. I’ve written several articles on education, training vs experience. I do voiceovers among other kinds of acting, and I do teach. My pro career in acting was full early on and sporadic later on with family, and I liked my day job. Retired from government, I pursued a position related to both acting/speaking and my day job: coaching corporate executives in speech. I made my living. Now I do other things.

Still, it is a matter of experience and references in many cases. That’s all I was asking. I have coached stage acting, voiceover acting (not the technical side), commercial acting, and speech. That does not make me better or worse as a VO coach; however, because of my diverse background I can offer options, something beyond what they initially ask for. I am qualified to send them off in another direction.

I’ve always been willing to coach for free. I either had a day job that paid well or I was retired. I offered free coaching to Allie–not a money-back guarantee. People seldom ask for money-back in a service-oriented position–especially one that depends on your talent to succeed as well.

Asking for some kind of qualification to hire anyone is not irrelevant–be it education, training or experience: they are all valid. So is asking for references.

Here’s the bottom line, find out how much risk the coach is willing to take. Don’t abuse the risk he or she is willing to take to get the job. If it feels like a fit and he or she seems consistently right in the course of action, then draw up the contract and welcome him or her aboard. In a talent-oriented business, acting or voice overs, it’s about trust. If you and your coach work well, and you are doing your best, there will be no question of value for the money. If you want to set yourself a time-limit for success, that’s your business, and it’s also how you define success. Is it all you thought it would be? Constantly marketing and sending demos–exciting or a pain. But if it’s truly your path, go for it!

Always remember there are always other ways to get the same information. To keep your body fit, there’s Wii Fitness, Jane Fonda videos, the local gym or a personal trainer–each in its own way helps to do the job, but with varying costs and various amounts of commitment by you.

As with a VO or a Personal Trainer or Business Coach, a lot may be at stake here. Venture off the internet and find other ways that what you want can be done. In business, a trainer may be what you really need, or a consultant in the short term to get you on track, or a motivational specialist. People will tell you what you want to hear. There are some of us who have nothing to gain, who you can ask for feedback anytime. Happy training.

This commentary is my opinion alone and The Free Management Library is not in anyway responsible for its content. I have written several articles of a similar nature. I tend to look at training, the workforce, business management, leadership and communication from a slightly different perspective than you might expect. I published an e-book called The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development in which I explain my reasons for looking at training and development in a different way. I look at it from the outside looking in, from the worker side, from the management side, from the trainer’s, and sometimes from the psychological side. I encourage you to talk about what you think about certain aspects of training on this website as long as you keep it generic. We’ll link to your site, and I hope you will comment here.

Please take a peek at my site, Shaw’s Reality, and you’ll find out more. By the way, I have an e-novel, Harry’s Reality, published by Amazon. It’s a scary look at what the future could be like if we stopped talking to one another and let the devices take over.

For more resources about training, see the Training library.

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