Spending Wisely

Do you ever get a sinking feeling after you’ve made an impulse buy that you perhaps couldn’t afford, and which, when you get it home, turns out to be a big mistake?

I certainly have a few disastrous impulse buys hanging in my wardrobe – and it’s even easier to buy impulsively online. However – this post is not about buying a new dress or a pair of shoes. I am talking about spending money on your career and investing in your business – and how to avoid making some costly mistakes.

It’s important to invest in my career and in the equipment and software that I use. I want to learn how to use my skills effectively, I want to build my business and to expand into new areas of work; I want to make social media and marketing work to my best advantage – and to make the most of my USP in an increasingly overcrowded market.

And it goes without saying, there are numerous individuals and organisations that will take my money and in exchange, will promise to help me with all of these things. However, it’s all too easy to get swept away on a cloud of enthusiasm leading to some very expensive mistakes!

When I am out shopping in the real world and am tempted by an impulse buy, I take a break – I leave the store and have a walk around, get a coffee and talk to myself very severely! If I haven’t convinced myself not to buy whatever it is within half an hour, I go back and take another look – a very critical look and I ask myself some questions:

  • Can I afford it?
  • ‘Will this new thing be compatible/work well with what I have already?’
  • ‘Does it suit me and my lifestyle?’
  • ‘Will its value last and will I get good use from it for years to come?
  • If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, then it goes back on the shelf.

If I can honestly answer ‘YES’ to those questions – then I ask myself

  • ‘Have I already got something that does more or less the same thing and is still working?

If the answer to this question is ‘NO’ then I buy whatever it is, guilt free, because I know that I’ve made an informed decision rather than an impulse buy. And of course … I can go through a similar process when buying something online: I can pop it into my shopping cart – then walk away and think about it for half an hour before pressing the pay now button.

But what about shopping online for stuff I need for my business, whether that be equipment, software, coaching, mentoring, support – or membership of an industry related organisation or group?

I know that on more than one occasion I have been swept along on a wave of optimism and have pressed the ‘buy now’ button without a second thought. It’s so easy to do – maybe I’ve succumbed because colleagues are posting on social media about joining this or that amazing organisation; signing up for this fantastic course; taking classes with this wonderful coach; or how simply doing X, Y and Z has transformed their career.

Sometimes it’s a persuasive sales pitch or an hefty discount ‘upgrade to the latest version of ‘A’ and save $100 dollars … offer ends on Friday’ that convinces me that my life and career can be transformed. Why am I tempted to buy a new mic, or the upgrade to the latest version of my editing software rather than sticking with the tried and tested version that I already have – and which works perfectly well? Why on earth do I find myself being tempted into signing up for this, that and the next thing? Why and how is usually-cautious-me being so easily seduced?

I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable and savvy within my field and I am quite cynical about my industry and ‘snake oil’ surrounding it – the selling of the dream. I already have an excellent personal studio set-up that is well-equipped and does what I and my clients need it to do. I know my specialist area of the industry inside out, and I am lucky to have a enough work coming in to keep me busy. I take nothing for granted though – I know that things change and develop so I am open to new ideas and am always looking to improve. I have had some wonderful coaching from some talented and committed teachers – and I still take classes when I can with people I respect, know and trust.

When It comes to coaching, I know that there are sharks out there. I am also aware that there are many comparatively inexperienced folk who set themselves up as ‘coaches’. Good coaching can be expensive – and unfortunately, so can not-so-good coaching – so it’s down to you to investigate. Is the person you want to hire as a coach actually able to support themselves by doing the job themselves? You see, I can’t help wondering whether someone who can’t actually make a living by doing the job, has aby business setting themselves up to teach other people how to do it!

I teach audiobook narration. I began doing this is 2018 because so many people were asking to work with me. I audition them … they evaluate me and what I’m offering, and if we’re both happy, we agree to work together. I only take on a very limited number of students that I know I can manage whithout it impacting on my narration work, and all are either experienced actors wanting to discover more about audiobook narration, or are already narrators and are wanting to improve. And I only coach audiobook narration.

Throwing caution to the wind is expensive! If you’re buying equipment it is so easy to be seduced by a glossy advert – or by peer pressure. There is a lot of snobbery in the audio world, lots of chatter about which DAW or mic is ‘the ‘industry standard’.

Just remember that buying a Steinway Grand will not turn you into a concert pianist, any more than spending $4,000 on a mic will turn you into Nancy Cartwright or Jeremy Irons.

Before buying any audio equipment I think you absolutely have to try it out. Just because a colleague says such and such a mic and interface combination works for them – doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you. An exceptionally sensitive mic may make you sound wonderful if you’re working in a soundproof studio with perfect acoustic treatment – and you have fantastic mic technique, perfect breath control and a quiet mouth; but if the reality is that if your working environment is less that perfect, and you have not got perfect technique then you may not sound as good as you hope. You may actually be better off spending less on a more forgiving mic.

If you already have recording and editing software that does what you need it to do – and that you know how to use quickly and effectively, is that upgrade to ‘this years’ version absolutely necessary? Indeed there is one school of thought that says you should never buy any software for the first year after its release, because there will be glitches. Much better to wait for the gremlins to get sorted before you buy.

And what about coaching? I think a lot of people sign up for coaching simply to have their ego gently massaged and to get a pat on the back. We work in isolation for so much of the time talking to ourselves in a padded room with little or no feedback or constructive criticism, so it’s natural that someone listening to your work and giving you feedback gives you a warm fuzzy feeling; you feel validated and appreciated.

This however, is not what you’re paying for. Before signing up with a coach, firstly you need to ask yourself what you want out of it. If you’re only after a bit of feedback and some general advice, then there are alternatives. I have a group of friends whose opinions I value and trust – and we quite often exchange sound clips and ask for feedback and ideas on how to improve. If validation is what you need – then you might just get that by asking for a testimonial – and if you want some general info or advice, then there are lots of sources online – and organisations like World Voices, APA and Gravy for the Brain, though they do charge a membership fee, offer mentoring as part of the package. ?

When investigating a specific coach, it really helps to have clear goals in mind, a picture of what you want or need to improve. If your career is not progressing as you wish, are you sure what type of coaching is most likely to help you to achieve your aims? Perhaps you need help with marketing or business skills rather than your voice or acting skills. Perhaps you’re actually spreading your net too wide rather than playing to your strengths.

I’ve worked with some wonderful coaches over the past couple of years, but I have also had some coaching that left me feeling totally underwhelmed. I admit to having got carried away with what everyone else was doing – I listened to the chatter rather than to my gut instinct.

The desire to ‘belong’ is strong!