Feb 17, 2022
Bosses, in 2022 we are failing fast + furiously. Who’s in? In this Bonus Modern Mindset Episode, Anne is joined by special guest Erikka J. They discuss blending tech + creative passions, pursuing multiple careers simultaneously, and most importantly, why it is oh so important to fail so that you can succeed!
>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.
Anne: Hey everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast and the Modern Mindset series. I'm your host, Anne Ganguzza, and today I am so excited to bring you special guest Erikka J. Erikka is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and award-winning voice actor. She's voiced for brands such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Discover and -- keep going -- Black Lives Matter and many, many more. As a natural born hustler, I love that, she is also a tech girl, just like me, a project and product management professional with 15 years' experience in multiple sectors, including government, e-commerce, software development, and automotive. Erikka J, it is a pleasure to have you, and thank you so much for joining me today.
Erikka: Likewise, thank you, Anne, for having me and, uh, hey to the BOSSes out there.
Anne: Yeah, I love it. So I went to your website, which by the way is beautifully branded. So guys, BOSSes out there, you want to have a look at something that's really beautifully branded, I love the website. I was drawn to the music tab there. So I want to say that I love your concept of delivering meaningful, honest, and relatable lyrics, which you call jewels, right, to your fans.
Anne: I imagine that this also applies to your philosophy in, in your VO being real and meaningful and honest, and I'm sure that that contributes in a multitude of ways to your success. But let's talk -- we'll do, we'll talk about that in a minute -- but let's talk about how did your singing career help prepare you for your careers thereafter in business as well as voiceover?
Erikka: Oh man, I got, uh, I almost want to say I got lucky, but I worked for it too. Um, so I, um, you know, went to college, and even though I was singer and doing all of that, and people were, you know, telling me I should pursue that, I went the whole corporate route. But music chased me; it wouldn't let me stay away from it. So I got the business education from getting my MBA and from working in state government, federal government, and now a corporate job in automotive. But in music, I learned how to record myself out of necessity. So I mean, you know, I didn't have the big label behind me, but I had some ideas and I had to record my own songs that I've written. So started on audacity, started on a Scarlet --
Anne: Wow, all right.
Erikka: Scarlet bundle, like with that mic, like that's where I started, in the closet. Yeah, recording myself in music, I learned the tech side of it and how to listen and get very detailed with my ear. And I eventually, I made my way over to voiceover and those skills came in really handy.
Anne: Wow. Well, I have to say as a young artist back then, that's an ambitious goal, right, to be a singer. Talk to me a little bit about -- I know you said you didn't have a big label, but it's not like you didn't try to pursue a career path that way I would imagine.
Erikka: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I did the indie route.
Erikka: So I mean, at that time, you know, early 2010s around ish --
Anne: Oh okay, gotcha.
Erikka: -- so Internet was around and all the distributions. I could put myself on iTunes and all the platforms. So yeah, I never really did pursue the label route. I wanted to sort of be the captain of my own destiny, you know?
Erikka: Yeah. And I had friends that were engineers, so they kind of helped teach me stuff and get me set up with templates. So, um, I did pursue it on my own, but I didn't pursue the getting signed sort of traditional route.
Anne: Um, now is that something that you're still doing, or you're still considering, or trying to pursue all different routes?
Erikka: I would say I'm probably like on hiatus.
Erikka: Music broke my heart a few times. I love it, definitely my first love. But boy, when I found voiceover and was able to pull all these different things that I love into one big bucket, like I've really just fell hard.
Anne: So what was it that made you go into business? I mean, you have your MBA. So when you're the starving artist, right, everybody says go to college. And that was, that was my mother, go to college and get a real job. But interestingly enough, what made you pursue your master's in business?
Erikka: Yeah, so I kind of always say I lived my life in reverse almost, like in my 20's, I was super serious and straight and you know, yeah, singing's great. But I have to go get a real job.
Anne: Right, right.
Erikka: I went to college and you know, and it worked out well for me, but again, music just kept pulling me back, the creative that, you know, muscle, it just doesn't, it doesn't die.
Anne: Oh, I agree.
Erikka: It won't let you move away from it. So I just decided to do both --
Anne: Love it.
Erikka: -- and it was crazy. It still is crazy. And I preach that all the time. Like I still have a full-time corporate job at this moment in tech and full-time voiceover, full-time I do both.
Anne: Girl after my own heart. I tell ya, it's something special. Right? You have the tech gene and the creative gene. And it's so interesting to have both. It sounds like you love both. And you're passionate about both.
Erikka: I do, I do. I mean, and how I got to voiceover was I was doing gigs on the weekend with a corporate band. So my kids were young at the time, and I was writing my own music and doing all that, my own shows, and working for the federal government, for Department of Defense at the time.
Erikka: So seven days a week, I'm working every day, a little kids, single mom too.
Erikka: So I was away a lot and you know, I've made time for them, but I was trying to find ways to spend more time with them. And somebody had mentioned voiceover and I'm like, what's that? Like, I didn't even know that people get paid for the stuff I hear on TV every day. And then I just, you know, did the Google hustle, man, you know, and figured it out online, and here we are five and a half years later. It's going pretty well.
Anne: Wow. And here you are. That's amazing. Let's talk a little bit about tech --
Anne: -- especially about, I guess, agile practices, which I believe you specialize in, correct?
Erikka: Yeah. Yeah.
Anne: So I know that I've done an e-learning module on agile practices. I don't know if I understood them completely, but tell me a little bit about first of all, what are agile practices and what can we learn from them in our voiceover career? How do we relate those?
Erikka: Yeah, yeah. So agile is like a mindset. It's an approach to software development is how it was born. And I believe it's actually the 20-year anniversary this year or last year it was. It was in 2001 that I think maybe like 17 different software developers got together. Waterfall was sort of their prevailing software development method, which to shorten it is basically just what I used to do, where you write a requirements document. I would write documents that are 60 pages long. You turn that over to your software engineers. You know, we kind of discuss it, go back and forth, make sure everybody understands, and you could be building something for months and then deliver it. So these guys got together and came up with this manifesto of 12 different elements that really focused on the customer, on delivering value over documentation, on making sure that it was an iterative process.
Erikka: Because what can happen is if you're developing something, and you take six months to get it out, what I wanted six months ago is no longer a value to me.
Anne: Yeah. Well, there's nothing worse than having a piece of software, and there's a bug in it.
Anne: And then you have to wait like forever to get that resolved. Right? I assume that that's part of where this all came from.
Erikka: Yeah. Not even a bug. It could mean that they were coding it to spec, but the spec is now changed. Um, you've gotten all the way down the road. Sometimes, you know, these are 18 months projects.
Anne: Right, right.
Erikka: And you've wasted money, time and value now. So this agile approach, and what I wanted to talk about today is one of the, it's not really one of the values that's in the manifesto, but one of the guiding principles is to fail fast and often. The goal is to be iterative and not let that fear of failure keep you from iterating and trying new things and being creative, and then using that process of failure to inspect and adapt. Go back and look at how you failed, what you could do better next time and look at it as a true learning process and a path to success.
Anne: Wow. Well, that's it. We can go home now because that was, that was such a beauty. That was so valuable, what you just said in that short amount of time. I completely agree. I mean, there's so much learning to be had from failing.
Erikka: Yeah, absolutely. There's such a stigma and there's such shame with failure, but you can take that failure, and nobody learns from winning, right? Like --
Erikka: -- you learn from, from when you lose.
Anne: Isn't that that's so true. And I think that just happens all the time, really, in an industry where we audition to win jobs --
Erikka: Yes, yes.
Anne: -- and we are constantly facing rejection or sometimes we hear nothing at all. So we don't know why we failed or how we failed.
Erikka: Oh man. Yeah. As creators, as voiceover talent, as entrepreneurs in general, like there's so much wider, and agile was born from software development, but it really can be applied to so many different areas of life, of business, and just learning how to take that failure and be resilient and, you know, exercise your grit. I just saw the Ted Talk on Angela Duckworth. I don't know if you've heard of her, and she referenced the growth mindset, and you know, how grit is really that willingness to fail and to be wrong so that we can learn from it. And man, if we don't face it every day with auditions --
Anne: Right, that's just the first step.
Erikka: -- I don't know what is.
Anne: And I love how you expanded it out to be not just the performance aspect of our industry, but also just the entrepreneur mindset. I mean, yeah. I can't tell you after so many years of being in this industry and how many times I've failed, and I liked the whole iterative process of fail fast --
Anne: -- because I've always thought of it as well. I just kind of changed direction. Right? I never in my brain, I don't say I've failed. I say, well, I need to just change direction.
Anne: And so that way I wouldn't have that stigma that you're talking about of shame and like, oh my God, I failed. I always said, well, I don't think of it as failure. I think of it as just changing direction, which actually seems to follow the agile mindset as well.
Erikka: Absolutely it does.
Anne: Yeah. Yeah. So how have you learned from that in your voiceover career? Because now how long have you been doing voiceover?
Erikka: Yeah, voiceover. I started in September of 2016.
Anne: Okay, yup.
Erikka: So this will be my sixth year coming up. How have I learned? My goodness. So even when I was doing music, when I was singing and doing all of that, I've did approach it as a business. So I've actually had my LLC since 2015.
Erikka: So I always approach that as investing in myself and looking for an ROI and trying to make the business money that I was making fund the expenses that I had for the business. It wasn't like that for a long time. I was putting in personal money.
Anne: Right? Ugh.
Erikka: I had business debts and honestly just in the past year, I'm going to be really vulnerable and transparent right now, I paid off $50,000 of business debt. That was a failure.
Anne: But that means so much to me that you were vulnerable like that. And you were able to say that because that's going to really help so many BOSSes out there that look, I remember, and my vulnerability is my first year full-time in voiceover, I made like $12,000 for the year.
Erikka: Same, same.
Anne: Like it was not -- it was just -- people are like, oh my God, I'm making six figures or whatever. No, my first year, and I worked my tush off that first year.
Anne: I've known to be a workhorse myself. I feel like we're soul sisters in that area.
Anne: And questioning in the beginning, like, oh my gosh, am I going in the right direction? I remember sobbing one day; everything just came down on me. And I'm like, I don't even know if this is where I should be. Yeah. And I had given up. Now see, for me, I had given up my career in tech. I was teacher tech. So it was kind of the same thing, kind of that technology and creative in the same area. I finally said to my husband, well, let's move to California, and I'm going to quit my cushy corporate educational, secure tech job and just going to do full-time voiceover. And that was just a leap of faith. I mean, thankfully I had put into motion, we had a plan. I mean, I had that financial cushion that allows you to do it, but I did it in 2008, which was the worst year to like --
Erikka: Oh God, yeah, '08.
Anne: -- if you're in tech, you know that if you are out of tech for a couple of months, that's it, you're old, you're dead wood. That's like --
Erikka: Yeah, yeah.
Anne: You've lost any kind of --
Erikka: You will not get up to speed.
Anne: No. I said, oh God, I just need to rest. Give me like three months. I gave it three months, and then nobody would talk to me. It was 2008. And it was like, wow, you cannot stop in tech because otherwise you just, oh, you're not up to speed. And you know, I couldn't even get interviews. And I was like, okay. So I got to make this voiceover thing work and worked my butt off. And I liked that you said it's years. It's not like an overnight, like getting your ROI is just, you have to have, I think the wherewithal and the grit to kind of just survive that and just keep trying things, failing fast, right. And trying something else.
Erikka: And that was the failure is that, you know, I, I knew that I was going to need, you know, different classes to take. And you know, a lot of that was music as well. Like, you know, the, the video that you and I were chatting about before, that costs money.
Anne: Yes. Beautiful video.
Erikka: You know? Thank you. Thank you.
Anne: Yeah. BOSSes, just go to Erikka's page. She's got some really awesome videos, and you have a beautiful voice. So.
Erikka: Thank you. Thank you. I mean, quality was really important to me. So, you know, I mean, you'll see it before I paid for it.
Anne: So I told my husband, come over here and look at, look how beautifully shot this video is, let alone how awesome the whole performance and the storyline. And I feel like when I watched you singing, like I can see so many parallels between singing, performing, and also voiceover. Because again, if you're all about being meaningful and relatable, and I think authentic, I could see that in the video, in your performance. And I'm like, wow, you translate that into a voiceover performance. And bam, like, that's the magic. That's the magic.
Erikka: That was for me because, you know, aspect of music that I always loved the most was that I was able to channel my emotions, not just through the words, but like how, the way that I was singing. And I had no clue how helpful that was, that I had already honed that skill, and that, that was a strength of mine to bring that to voiceover gave me a leg up, you know?
Anne: Oh my goodness, yeah.
Erikka: Oh my goodness. It was great. I mean, not just the failures in music, I wanted to just, 'cause we're talking about failure too, in voiceover, you mentioned that you had left tech and kind of given up and quit on it. And I did just about walk away from voiceover. Same thing. I was, you know, four years in. I think the best, the most I had made was like $25,000 in a year. And I'm like, you know, I can't keep doing this and I have to shout out Mr. Zellman my guy, my man Cliff --
Anne: Oh yeah.
Erikka: Because --
Anne: Who doesn't love Cliff Zellman?
Erikka: I love him so much. Any voiceover that somebody got from me after August of 2019 is because of Cliff, because I was going to quit.
Anne: Yeah. You want to talk about passion in what somebody does? Cliff is so passionate. Honestly, he's so passionate at what he does and he's so genuine and so authentic, wonderful, wonderful person to work with, if you ever get the chance, highly recommended. Yeah. And I can see him. He's like, he almost could be a motivational coach.
Anne: Um, you know, because he is that passionate. Now you work, full-time, you say, at your corporate job and you're doing voiceover as well, and you have a family. So what's the fail first kind of -- does that translate into every aspect of your life as well?
Erikka: Four letter word yes.
Erikka: So all of this really kind of kicked up for me when I started working full-time from home with the pandemic. So that's where I was able to, you know, really dive in and give all my other time to voiceover and still be able to maintain both. 'Cause I was home all the time. The failure, there was boy, and I'm still learning about the self-care aspect, but I kind of really put my family on the back burner for awhile. In my relationship with my boyfriend, we had to really work through that. I'm a hard working woman, and he hadn't been with a woman that was as ambitious as I was before. And I kind of dove in probably a little too hard where I had to learn that you have to live life to be able to give good voiceover.
Anne: Oh yeah. Right?
Erikka: It can't all be the work.
Anne: You've got to rebuild that creative --
Anne: -- yeah, spark I think. And if you want --
Erikka: You've got to have experiences.
Anne: Yeah. You're talking to a workaholic, I get it. I totally get it. And you're right. There's always that balance. And I think I need to sit back and continually remind myself of that balance as well, because I'm like, look, I just want to get to this place. I might be retiring in 15 years. And so I don't want to have to worry about how am I going to pay the mortgage or I want to go travel. And so I'm always working towards something, and I think that a modern mindset of fail fast. I love that. You just twisted that for me, fail fast. Give me an example of the fail fast that worked in your favor because rather than well, let's just, I completely give up voiceover. No, let's just change direction.
Erikka: I could talk a little bit -- I saw that P-to-Ps was something that you guys recently talked about as well. So my approach and my philosophy, whenever I talk to people about those, is I feel like they are a lead source, just like people go to Google to go look, they go to those sites, and they're essentially search engines. LinkedIn is a search engine. So there are some that maybe work better than others and some that maybe don't work as well. My approach was to track my ROI as I went, if I was to pay for more, a higher level tier. So if I pay for one, and you know, I'm waiting and I'll see if I need to cancel. If I need to read the next year, rather than sort of throwing all your eggs in one basket and saying, I'm just going to do stuff for my agents, trying different avenues as lead generators for work.
Anne: Got it.
Erikka: And I keep a close eye on that.
Anne: And I think it's all about lead generation, isn't it really, to be successful in this voiceover industry? I mean, because the entrepreneurial, like the fear factor is that we don't necessarily know what work is coming in every single day.
Anne: So being able to secure maybe a steady flow of possibilities, right, and us acting on those possibilities, like the auditions or even just having people find us, that is, I think the hardest part about being a voiceover actor and making that a full-time gig is that you don't know where that next paycheck is coming from. You don't know where the next client is coming from, and having a lead generation software, or you consider your P-to-P lead generation software.
Anne: And even your website, like I said, again, I'm going to go back to your website, because I'm worked in tech and I worked on websites back in the day. I would never do it today. I hire people, but knowing a good website when you get to it and establishing know, like, and trust. People hire people they know, like, and trust. Your website is your online personification of your storefront. And that storefront, if presented correctly, can be an immediate, like I immediately said, yes, that girl is who I want to hire.
And it was a visual -- I didn't even listen to anything yet. I went to your website and I said, there she is. It's just stunning. It's the attitude, the confidence, the, you know, and now everybody should be rushing over to your website. But it's so true. It's just so well done. I don't know if you had a website before, and for me there's versions of my website that were failure, you know, fail fast and let's switch it up. Let's see what's working. That's another thing that people come in. It is a first impression. And if that first impression is a fail, switch it up, switch it up.
Erikka: You're done.
Anne: You're done. Switch it up. Switch it up, you're done.
Erikka: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Move on to the next.
Anne: Yeah. It honestly has such an effect on first impression. Yeah. She looks like someone I could absolutely trust, and she's just got the goods. Like I want to work with her.
Erikka: And yeah, another piece of that is it's the fail fast and often. So when you bring up my website, and it's so funny, I appreciate the compliments. I did build that site myself on Squarespace.
Erikka: Um, and I'm in the process of having it professionally redone because you know, like you said, I just, I'm like, I'm good, you know, the whole back end piece, you know, to make it really fast. That's not my area of genius. So I'm paying people for that, but it still works.
Anne: Absolutely. It still works with that first impression. Right? It's just like just bam, that first page. And that made me want to go investigate more.
Erikka: Yeah, yeah. And what I've done to kind of figure out what works is playing with the SEO in there, which I know you love to talk about and so do I, because I love passive ways of generating leads. I want to be in the booth. I don't want to go chase clients.
Anne: Isn't that the truth? Like it just saves so much time. I'd rather have someone find me first, that whole SEO thing, especially if it's organic, right? That's all fail fast.
Anne: And keep adjusting and keep evolving. And it's not hard if you're doing organic SEO. And, and I don't know if I would pay people to do SEO other than having somebody maybe writing press releases and you know, doing that kind of thing. That is something again that can really affect your success in the business. And, you know, success begets success. I keep saying that lately. And I think that it just becomes this wonderful ball of energy --
Erikka: Yeah, absolutely.
Anne: -- which when it happens, if you do fail, I always think it's failure on a smaller level. Maybe it's not huge, huge fail when you work with fail fast. I think they're tiny failures, and they're always something that you feel that you can overcome. And I think the confidence of that is so much better than, oh my God, I have failed in a huge way. Let's just P-to-P's just don't work. Let's give them up or I can't get any work. Let's give up voiceover, that's a big fail. You don't want the big fails. You want the little fails that you still have the confidence that, you know what, maybe if this doesn't work, I'll just try this next. And that way it keeps the momentum going.
Erikka: And that is the exact rationale behind agile is that it's not saying, go ahead and do the big failures. It's saying, if you, if you are more iterative in your approach as to how you're developing or how you're managing your business, or how you're approaching your auditions, then when you have those failures, they're smaller and you can continue them and recover from them faster and find the success. So yeah, you got it, Anne, you know agile.
Anne: I love that. Look at that, so now I know agile. Well, how cool is that? So, and then if we apply this to our businesses, and here's where the creative, because I like having the 50-50 brain, right? Because the tech in me says, let's solve a problem. If it's not this it's this, or let's try this. This could be the other solution. And that's where I think that left brain, right brain thing helps because it does help you fail in smaller ways. And sometimes when I work with people who are completely creative or just come from a creative background, it becomes an all or nothing, almost dramatic sort of failure or success.
I think that the small fails is where it's helped me in just having a little bit of that tech brain. And that's why I like the entrepreneurship of the industry, because -- so you've got the, kind of the best of both worlds, right? You've always been an entrepreneur, but now you're also working corporate. So there's a dependability factor there for you, right? You go to work every day, you know what to expect. Hopefully you're getting a paycheck every other week or whatever that is. Right? And that gives you the confidence to really take risks in an entrepreneurial endeavor because you've got a little bit of that cushion.
Erikka: Exactly. Yep. And that was the goal. And that's what I tell people is there's this stigma of you have to be either/or. You have to either be an entrepreneur or you're not all in if you're still in corporate. And that is absolutely not true. For me, my job is a source of capital. As I am building my business up, I've crossed the, the goal threshold that I've wanted to get to. And now it's a matter of, you know, when is it gonna make sense for me to just focus on the one, but for now it's working. So why not take that money and invest it in your business? If you can manage both, it is okay to have more than one dream.
Anne: I completely agree. And that's kind of why, as an entrepreneur, I've divvied up my own business, my entrepreneurial endeavors into multiple segments. It's not just voiceover for me, because again, that is the most unpredictable source of income because sometimes you just don't know, a job won't come in or you won't get the gig. So building up those other revenue streams on the side, whether you're doing it as an entrepreneurship or it's a corporate or a part-time job. I mean, when I went full-time, I did have a part-time job. I was an office assistant, and that gave me the money that helped pay the bills. And so I feel like that is all part of that mindset, that modern mindset of failure that is very similar to agile, where you make the plan to have the finances come in, to give you the confidence, to take the risks in building your entrepreneurial business. And then that will take off like a snowball.
Erikka: There are four like core principles of agile. And one of them is responding to change over following a plan. It's not saying that following a plan is not important or that it's not valuable, but it's if you have one of the two you're going to prioritize responding to change. And that is exactly what you were talking about. I know people where they've, you know, they were full-time. I don't really love the full-time voiceover thing because I know other people that do full-time jobs and are full-time voiceover, like six figures. So, but I know people that have decided to go back and get a job because they wanted to pay off debt or they wanted to have more capital to invest in their business. There's nothing wrong with that. You can change along with the conditions and then alter your plan to fit what's happening right now.
Anne: Yeah. I love that. I love that. And also, if you are just full-time voiceover, things are evolving. Trends are changing, um, technology, you and I know, technology is coming, and it is going to change the industry just as it changes all aspects of every industry, technology. And I, I love the fact that I have a technology background. I feel like you enjoy your corporate job just as much as you enjoy voiceover.
Erikka: I do.
Anne: Yeah. Okay.
Erikka: I work with such smart people and I always tell them, like, you guys are so much smarter than me. And I just learn from them every day.
Anne: It is inspiring.
Erikka: It's inspiring.
Anne: It's inspiring. I'll tell you. I've had some podcast guests on here that are brilliant, and it exhilarates me. And it gives me confidence and motivation to just go further and delve deeper into my own entrepreneurialship and my voiceover career. So it's, it's really awesome. I love that we have this whole modern mindset failure based on technology. What a really refreshing conversation.
Erikka: Thank you. Likewise. I've really enjoyed this, Anne.
Anne: Yes. Oh gosh, BOSSes. Go check out Erikka's website. Thank you so much, Erikka, for being with us today. It's really been a pleasure.
Erikka: Thank you, Anne, for having me. Thank you to all the BOSSes. You guys, keep rocking on.
Anne: Yeah, all right. I'm going to give a great, big shout-out to our sponsor, ipDTL. You too can nerd out with your colleagues and friends and also countless wonderful things. Find out more at ipdtl.com. You guys, have an amazing week and we'll see you next week. Bye.
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to coast connectivity via ipDTL.