How I Started A $40K/Month Multilingual Voice Over Agency And Marketplace

$40K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
product
Voice Crafters
from Santa Ana
started January 2009
$40,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
754K
alexa rank
124
followers
26
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Start A Voice Over Service Buisness

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, my name is Mony Raanan, and I’m the founder of Voice Crafters, a multilingual voice-over agency and marketplace.

Our network includes over 1,000 professional voice actors in more than 80 languages and we provide professional voiceovers for commercials, training videos, video games, e-learning, and much much more.

Voice Crafters has been around since 2009 and has produced thousands of voice-overs for brands like Google, HP, McDonald’s, American Express, United Airlines, and many, many more.

We pre-screen every voice actor to make sure they can self-record broadcast-quality audio and have at least 5 years of commercial experience.

Voice Crafters operated as an agency until early 2020, at which point we launched our online marketplace. This move essentially helped double our revenue and we’re on track to making at least $500,000 in 2021 with a bottom line of around 40%.

how-i-started-a-40k-month-multilingual-voice-over-agency-and-marketplace

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I lived in Los Angeles for about 12 years. During that time I worked in sales while going to university. After having graduated from Business School at Cal State Northridge, I worked for a software company in the Healthcare industry.

It’s tempting to dig deeper and attempt to start with a better product. However, the best thing to do is to put out something functional and collect as much feedback as possible.

During that time, I also recorded an album and toured with my band whenever possible.

Working at the software company was obviously not as exciting or fulfilling as playing live, but I enjoyed being challenged with tasks that were totally new to me. In hindsight, my employment there helped me refine my technical skills and most importantly, taught me how to “speak” with programmers and developers in a language they understand.

When the band broke up, the lead guitarist and I decided to put a recording studio together and focused on learning the art of recording and producing. I met an old acquaintance who ran a post-production facility in Santa Monica. He told me that one of his partners was leaving and offered that we move our studio from my bedroom to his office.

That enabled him to offer his clients audio services in-house instead of outsourcing them to nearby studios, while we both gained a lot of knowledge and experience in audio post-production.

We would work on projects for MTV, VH-1, and BET, write music, and record voiceovers for commercials that would run in the US. This went on for several years until the amount of work dwindled and we closed the studio.

Around that time I returned to Israel (which is where I’m from originally). I started working for an e-learning company as a module developer. The idea of starting a voice-over agency came to me when I realized the earning potential of voice actors who recorded audio for the learning modules we were working on.

I didn’t write a business plan, but what I did realize is that, apart from e-learning, there are many applications to voice-overs, like TV commercials, IVR systems, corporate videos, video games, kiosks, audiobooks, political ads, inflight announcements and so much more.

The need for this product across industries meant that there’s a lot of demand and that this business would be able to sustain an economic downturn if run successfully.

I joined forces with a friend who helped build our first website. Initially, we weren’t really sure of the direction. The website promoted audio work and we started sourcing local talent to add to our roster.

The first 18 months were hard. I had no contacts and very few prospects, but I kept pushing myself to promote the business and put myself out there. My partner was unfortunately not able to continue working because the business wasn’t pulling enough money.

After a while, I was fortunate to land a tech company as a major client, for whom I produced voiceovers in various languages for online campaigns. Slowly, I began to accumulate local and international customers and things started taking off from there.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Voice Crafters went through several phases before it became what it is today. Initially, it functioned as a voice-over recording studio, scheduling slots to record local talent for various projects.

I needed a way to leverage the business so once I understood that I can source freelance, professional talent from around the world, I was able to complete more projects every month. Talent would record at their studio, I would edit and master the audio, perform post-production tasks where needed and submit work to clients.

I actually did this for many years, but the job would often become overwhelming and stressful. Since audio post work usually comes at the end of the production process, the deadlines are super tight and I would often find myself juggling 10-20 projects at a time.

In 2019, I finally decided to do what I should have done much sooner, and that is to create an online marketplace so that the entire process would be handled online.

I was very hesitant to do this for several reasons:

  1. I knew the development costs for building a system so complex would be high, and
  2. When taking the business online, I wouldn’t be able to charge as much as I do offline.

Nevertheless, I knew this was the only way I could really scale up.

I worked with my developer and graphic designer to build a workflow that resembled Upwork and other freelance sites. This wasn’t about reinventing the wheel, but we did need to account for situations that are unique to the voice-over industry.

I wanted to put a product out there, knowing that despite all of the planning, designing, and redesigning - there would still be changes.

The main takeaway from how we did things is that we didn’t wait for things to be perfect. As Voltaire (and others) said - “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” It’s tempting to dig deeper and attempt to start with a better product. However, the best thing to do is to put out something functional and collect as much feedback as possible.

We created an automated email asking clients why they opened a project but never funded it, and we would use the negative feedback to improve our UI. We welcome it to this day because it gives us a better idea of where the customer pains are when using our product, and we use that to make improvements and reduce friction.

Our initial quote form is a good example of how things evolved.

The process would start with the client selecting voice actors to get quotes from, and then returning to the home page, where the quote from lived:

how-i-started-a-40k-month-multilingual-voice-over-agency-and-marketplace

Besides going back to the home page being confusing, the user would have access to all the links on the home page (they could simply scroll up and down the page), which meant that they could just as easily jump out of the form.

The signup was at the end of the form because the thinking was that the user would not bounce at the signup page after having gone through the entire form.

The process today starts with the user signing up.

The idea is that we want users who sign up and don’t complete the form to enter an email campaign funnel that incentivizes them to open a project.

Additionally, the quote form is not part of the home page. It’s a much cleaner, link and distraction-free page that walks the user through steps of gathering information before advising them that they’ll receive quotes to their inbox.

During the process of improving our UI, I also consulted with friends and clients, asking them to open projects and getting their feedback on how user-friendly the platform was.

One of the most important lessons I learned in this process is removing yourself from the equation.

When you design a product and someone points out the flaws in it, the instinctive reaction is to protect your ideas and dismiss their opinion, because it's negative.

It’s very important to be ego-free and objectively think whether they represent an actual pain that is common to other users or not.

In time I really strived to get as much negative feedback as I could, because an angry client helps improve the platform a lot more than a happy one.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Our launch wasn’t a spectacular feat of marketing magic. We already had about 200-300 daily users and around 10 quote forms filled before actually transitioning to a marketplace.

My main concern at the time was that we would "lose" our regular clients to the online platform and that they would order voice recordings at a lower profit margin.

However, the clients we work with offline enjoy the hands-on service we provide, so to this day, most prefer and value that over working through the platform, so there wasn’t a conflict in that regard.

The first version that we released was confusing to clients, particularly the quote form and the backend client interface used to manage projects.

A friend of mine who is a UI expert helped me redesign and rethink the process of choosing talent and funneling the user to a much cleaner form. Today, we keep thinking about how we can make the experience as “frictionless” as possible for users.

One of the first concepts we learned in “real-time” was transactional emails. When building the system, my developer and I weren’t aware that Gmail isn’t designed to handle tens or hundreds of system-generated emails sent to users.

In the beginning, everything worked well, but a few days later - emails were suddenly not being sent and we had no clue why.

As an entrepreneur, you should “remove” yourself as much as possible from daily operations so that you can overlook it. Spend more time on marketing (or delegate it too!) and your long-term business goals.

It took a lot of investigating before we found out that we need to use a dedicated service for transactional emails to users (like new user messages, forgot password, etc.) - so that our emails would not end up in users’ spam folders or not be sent altogether.

The first 5-6 months were full of similar experiences. We learned new things and tracked customer behavior through Hotjar recordings to keep fine-tuning the interface again and again until the majority of users (both clients and voice actors) could intuitively understand how to navigate the system.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

First and foremost, our talent is so good that many clients simply come back to work with them on the platform, so carefully vetting voice actors turned out to be a very good investment as far as client retention.

We monitor a lot of the activity between our users and try to identify issues that clients experience. When we do, we proactively engage with them, and I think it’s that personal approach, while not scalable, really helps customers feel they are in good hands.

A tool I really love using nowadays is sendspark, which we bought a subscription to through Appsumo.

What’s cool about this tool is that you can record a video of the interface and the steps to follow to solve a customer’s issue. You can then embed the video in the email and send it to them. It’s super helpful.

However, it can also be used for simply thanking a new customer for making an order, for example. This personal, non-scalable approach ultimately helps create fans or ambassadors for your business, who will ultimately recommend it to others.

how-i-started-a-40k-month-multilingual-voice-over-agency-and-marketplace

To scale the business, we reinvest our income primarily through link building and content marketing.

We’ve used links that rank to build ranks for keywords we want to promote and we use Market Muse for content. Market Muse is great in helping optimize new and old content to rank better on Google through their AI-based algorithm.

We just initiated an email marketing campaign, which we run through Mailerlite. Our email sequences target customers based on their position in the buying cycle (for example, users who abandoned the quote form, users who initiated a project but never funded it, users who abandoned the checkout page, etc).

We use light and humoristic approach to engage users, like the example below:

how-i-started-a-40k-month-multilingual-voice-over-agency-and-marketplace

Two other marketing tactics we are planning to utilize this year are:

  1. Website translation. Since our main offering is multilingual voiceovers, it makes sense to translate our site to several major languages, as it would be easier to compete for higher rankings in non-English speaking countries.
  2. Badges - we plan to implement badges that voice actors can place on their site, that will point to their profiles on the site and provide us with more backlinks. To incentivize this further, the links to our site from these badges will be coded such that voice actors will not be charged any platform fees when a user clicks them. The idea is to gain more clients this way that would work with additional voice actors for future projects.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Our online platform’s customer base is growing and online sales currently drive about 60% of our overall revenue.

Users who initiate a project on our site are 35% likely to fund it.

18.5% of our customers are returning customers.

I would like to bring the last figure to 20-25% through our drip campaigns by the end of the year.

I would like to bring online sales to 90% and limit offline sales to our older clients.

This year I plan to increase traffic substantially through content and email marketing, as well as site translation and affiliate marketing.

The goal is to bring our current revenue to 100K per month and double that next year.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Lesson #1 - Automate whatever you can and delegate everything else.

I spend many years with a “busy bee” mentality, thinking that I have to do everything, whether to save money or because “no one can do it better”. I spent much of my time wearing many hats during any given day - Sound engineering/editing, bookkeeping, project management, marketing, etc.

As an entrepreneur, you should “remove” yourself as much as possible from daily operations so that you can overlook it. Spend more time on marketing (or delegate it too!) and your long-term business goals.

Lesson #2 - Don’t sit on an idea - bring it to life as soon as possible.

It was only when I was totally overwhelmed with work that I was “forced” into converting my business into a marketplace and automating many projects that I would have otherwise managed offline.

In hindsight, It’s something I should have done many years ago.

Lesson #3 - Introduce balance into your life.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with work as an entrepreneur. There would be days and weeks that I would literally work all day and into the night to get things done, only to go through it the next day. Make sure you spend quality time with your loved ones and give yourself enough rest.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Here are some of the tools we use at Voice Crafters:

  • Trello- Project management and site dev.
  • Invision- site/process design.
  • Mailerlite- email marketing
  • Mailgun- transactional emails
  • Easy Digital Downloads - Plugin suite that integrates with WordPress. We use it for our sister company Audio Buzz as well and it’s a great solution for everything you need to build a digital goods e-commerce platform.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Books I recommend:

Podcasts I listen to (when I have time)

  • My wife quit her job
  • The Tony Robbins Podcast
  • The Blogging Millionaire
  • Marketing Secrets

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

Very often we fall in love with a business idea without thinking if there’s a market for it or whether our business model will actually attract buyers.

Understand that your final product can be very different from what you envisioned after having listened to users and fine-tune it.

Be ready and willing to make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. Be ready to fail and start over. There’s absolutely no shame in failing.

Take the plunge. Sometimes over planning puts us in “analysis-paralysis mode” and you end up not doing anything.

Don’t be afraid of competition. Find a way to differentiate your offering and pitch the hell out of it!

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Mony Raanan,   Founder of Voice Crafters
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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