Don’t get caught with your hub down!

As a self employed professional voice over artist with a busy production schedule having unscheduled downtime is NEVER a good thing – can I get a witness!?! I am responsible for two things – maintaining good vocal health and my equipment. I am blessed to be healthy and haven’t had a cold or any throat issues for as long as I can remember. Equipment is another story.

Like so many other folks, I rely on technology and the BIG 3 working – 1. Computer 2. External hard drives and 3. Internet service. These always have to be working or my clients aren’t happy and I don’t get paid.

My day starts early with correspondence with clients from all over the world and quickly segues into back to back VO sessions/auditions and lots of retrieving scripts by email, music files, online directed sessions and of course delivering what I produce. All the electronic pieces and parts from the most expensive to the smallest all have to work right. Of course if you’ve worked with computers long enough you know inevitably the day will come when stuff breaks and you are faced with clients who still expect deliveries, deadlines that are unforgiving and then there’s that moment you begin to “talk” to your equipment – and I don’t mean into the mic 🙂

The only thing I can’t do anything about of the BIG 3 I have mentioned is ensuring reliable internet service. I am at the mercy of the cable company for my internet and I am blessed that my service is excellent so that leaves the other two.

 

I am not a “techie fixit guy” and never aspire to be. While I have been working with Mac computers in media production for over 25 years and have seen my share of breakdowns and even (clearing throat) broken a few, I understand when a machine or drive begins to act up there are only a couple of things I can do – run diagnostic software or take it to a repair shop. The other solution is to bring up my Amazon tab and order something that will be here in a couple of days – assuming I can wait that long. The key is being prepared as best I can for the inevitable so my clients don’t pay the price for my lack of preparation and foresight cause stuff breaks – and it always does it when you least need it to.

In January I learned the hard way that when stuff broke I was not prepared and was down for almost a week and swore I would never let it happen again – but it almost did this past weekend.

2018 started out rough when my one and only iMac went belly up and would not boot one morning, literally 5 minutes before a Skype directed VO session with a first time client that was paying very well for my time and voice over services. I had to use my phone to go online and contact them and tell them there were technical difficulties and we would have to reschedule and then began emailing other clients feverishly I had scheduled work for that day to request extensions since I had yet to call my local computer repair shop and box up my iMac and take it to the Apple ER. What should have been a day in and day out repair of a video card replacement turned into a week long triage and hospital stay that led to me missing several days of work and losing that new client whose patience ran out, understandably. On day 3 of the repair episode I decided I had to take action and do some shopping – for a new or refurbished iMac online. I actually found a local Mac store with a slightly used iMac that I walked out of the store with. I overnighted the RAM I needed and got my Time Machine backup transferred to it and was back in business – however, this took another 2 days. I did manage to get my older system back in service – bad RAM in addition to the video card.

It took a $1,000 repair and a $1,700 new computer purchase to cause me to realize how important having equipment backup is when you are operating your own business, a business that is driven by tight deadlines and delivery of excellent customer service. My stuff has to work with no excuses and I determined after that it would. I made the pledge to myself and on behalf of those clients who rely on me that this would not happen again. In addition I also purchased a new mic, a new audio interface for my voice recording studio and a new router thinking I had all the bases covered as best I could and a few weeks ago my emergency plan was tested. The new iMac would not boot up one morning so in less than 10 minutes I swapped out the older iMac into its place, hooked up the cables and was back in business – I made the appointment with the repair shop, but not in a panic and they replaced a bad RAM chip and I never missed a project because I had a plan in place to cover the inevitable breakdown. I was feeling pretty good until this past weekend…

I was running on all cylinders and things were working fine until late Saturday afternoon – then suddenly my mic output was garbled, things connected through my old faithful USB hub that I had been using for 7 years (yep that long) suddenly stopped working. I was able to diagnose quickly and knew my hub had finally played out and I didn’t have a backup hub, I was caught with my hub down! A $20 part was stopping me from getting my work done. I had a big audition on Monday that was suddenly in jeopardy. My backup plan had failed because I had forgotten the smallest and cheapest thing in the chain, a usb hub. So I calmly went on to Amazon and found a highly rated but inexpensive usb hub I knew would work and placed a 2 day delivery – since rush was not available.

Monday rolls around and the deadline for sending in the audition is approaching and still no hub. I get an email from an agent reminding me the deadline is approaching and still no hub and I sheepishly tell her that I am having technical difficulties and awaiting a part. Finally with less than an hour to go I hear the mailman and jump up, retrieve and unbox, hook it up and all is right with the system once again – I get the audition in with less than a half hour to spare. Later that day I get an email from the agent congratulating me and telling me she was glad I got things fixed because the client chose me for a very nice paying gig. I realized I had come within a half hour of losing a very good job – another lesson learned.

 

Take aways – be prepared cause stuff breaks and sometimes it’s the little stuff. Set aside funds and purchase a backup to every critical piece of equipment and be able to change it out in less than 10 minutes if you have to.

Don’t forget the smallest and cheapest components like your mouse, hubs, cables. Now that I am down to just one usb hub guess what I’m ordering when I get done with this article – hello Amazon, send me another hub!

Here is my backup stuff:

  • Computer with identical operating system, software and plugins.
  • A backup mic
  • A backup audio interface
  • Extra mic cables
  • Mouse and Keyboard
  • Router
  • Backup Hard Drives
  • Headphones

Troy W. Hudson is known as the “Voice Over with Personality”! In over 30 years, he has produced thousands of commercials, narrations, character voices and messages of all kinds for clients worldwide. Energetic commercial reads, the guy next door vibe, making complex elearning conversational and bringing to life a children’s story or audiobook with voice acting and characters. He delivers.

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