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Two hats, one tool to empower and collaborate with clients

Simon Smith crafts stories that entertain, teach and celebrate. Dropbox gives his clients the power to follow and contribute to the evolution of their unique story.

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By Simon Smith, Audio Producer at Voice Bubble and Humanist Celebrant

I have two current roles in my professional career – audio producer and humanist celebrant. They both focus on how voice and story contribute to creativity, which involves multiple stakeholders and collaborators. In both, I have to ensure that we meet strict deadlines and nothing goes wrong along the way. 

About a decade ago, I began using Dropbox for file storage. I then discovered it had a lot more benefits than I anticipated. It streamlined the collaborative journey for myself and my clients, and our projects are better for it. Here’s a look at how Dropbox continues to surprise me.

Man in recording studio sits in front of computer; Replay audio files

The challenges of an audio producer tied to physical storage

One of my hats is as an audio producer for VoiceBubble, a voiceover and voice talent business in the UK. We produce a variety of online content, including podcasts, audiobooks and even online training. As you might imagine, this work generates sizable audio files. 

When I ran out of space on my computer, I began using external drives. As much as they were convenient, they were also prone to failure or slow performance. Many of my projects are time sensitive, and I couldn’t afford to lose anything – files or time. I needed a more reliable tool that allowed me to move faster. That’s when I started to use Dropbox.

One of my favourite Dropbox features is selective sync. Everyone needs access to the most recent version of a project, but syncing 60–80 GB audio files can slow down a device and take up space. Selective sync allows me to remove specific Dropbox folders from my local hard drive to save space. Those files remain stored in the cloud, so I can still access them at any time. 

Expected and unexpected benefits of Dropbox

It quickly became clear that Dropbox would be useful beyond file storage. I expected that worries about slow performance or running out of storage were a thing of the past. What I didn’t expect was just how much Dropbox could improve communication and sharing media. 

What’s really helpful for me is being able to share media with clients in a way that’s really simple for them. I just send them a link or give them access to a folder, tell them, “Here you go”, and they can see that media as a file.

Dropbox provides a simple process for clients to access files, review content and coordinate changes. I can send an audiobook project chapter by chapter, so clients have the flexibility to listen and leave comments over time instead of all at once. When I make changes, I can rely on reviewers’ detailed directions, which they can add at the exact places where changes need to be made.

These streamlined communications have helped to move projects forward faster. Dropbox is easily accessible from any device, and because everyone can leave comments and notes in Dropbox, there’s less confusion and miscommunication about edits. Everyone is happier with the final result. And my audio book clients, like Nilgiri Press, love it.

“On our last project together, I was glad that VoiceBubble used Dropbox to share audio files with us.

We already use Dropbox, so the interfaces are familiar to me, and it was excellent for sharing large audio files. I could listen from either the browser or download the files – both worked quickly and easily.”

– Stephanie Mandel, Press Co-Manager, Nilgiri Press
Audiobook cover reads ‘The Compassionate Universe’ with a cherry blossom tree

Celebrating the human moments

When I’m not producing audio, I often don my hat as a humanist celebrant. I create ceremonies and rituals for people who don’t necessarily ascribe to a particular religion or faith. As part of this work, I develop and share scripts with clients to get their feedback when creating a ceremony. Shortly after, I realised Dropbox’s potential for audio content, I also started using the platform in my humanist work.

When I meet with clients and discuss what they’re looking to get out of their ceremony, I’ll often take handwritten notes. It’s usually a fairly intimate conversation where people share personal details, and from that, we create one-of-a-kind events. Before using Dropbox, I was stuck with a pile of paper after those conversations. But now, I can take a picture of my notes and upload them to Dropbox where all parties involved can access that file throughout the process. 

Recently, I began using Dropbox Paper, which has given clients more agency in the work as it evolves. They’re more willing to jump right in and provide feedback. In Paper, clients can edit sections and add other materials, even photos, in real time. The result is a more collaborative process that leads to more personalised and creative ceremonies. 

“My audio work, and indeed my celebrant work, has become more collaborative, because things aren’t finished until everybody says they’re finished, and that's an evolution that's kind of new.”

Man talks at outdoor podium as group of guests listen

Cloud features that combine flexibility and security

Working on multiple devices has become the norm, and now that I use Dropbox, I can stay efficient while moving freely. Because everything’s in the cloud, anyone can access the files they need from wherever they are. Even if I only have a few minutes here and there, I can make small changes or review my notes. 

This has also become useful when I encounter referrals. I have nearly 7,000 files of my previous events and ceremonies. But when someone contacts me and mentions a particular speech or oration from a friend’s funeral or their sibling’s wedding, Dropbox’s simple interface allows me to open up the file on the spot. I can connect with people quickly and begin to identify their likes and preferences.

People want a celebrant to be a safe pair of hands. Since they trust me with personal, sometimes sensitive, information I can assure them that Dropbox fulfils encryption and data security requirements. I enjoy that it’s separate from growing privacy concerns with the larger providers. Since I pay for the service, I feel in control of the content, making it both functional and reassuring.

Dropbox enables me to get back to clients within hours rather than days, regardless of what I’m doing.

A modern way of collaborating

I don’t use email – or post – to share files anymore; I do everything in Dropbox. It’s refreshing to work with a product that evolves with my needs, and my clients appreciate it because it gives them a greater sense of ownership. Everyone gets on the same page much faster than we could before.

Everyone needs to branch out and explore new ways of working, which involves trying out new and existing solutions. In my case, doing so brought exciting benefits for my business, whether I’m wearing my production hat or my celebrant one.