About Me

My Wheels Are Turning….

Perhaps because I have been following The Budget Mom, and I have been spending a lot of time thinking about personal finances and where our money goes, it makes sense that in this time of reflection as a working mom I would also reassess what has worked well and been of value in by business and what I might have done or do differently. As a solopreneur, ever single dollar counts and at least in my perception has even more weight than it would in a large company, so for me my choices in my voiceover business matter a lot. I confess that I lay in bed at night thinking about them and praying that I have put myself on the right path so that I succeed for my children. I am passionate about my voice over work to be sure, but I also have a hunger to continue to build a thriving business and every choice matters.

The Demos

The very first choice most talents make is who to work with for their demo and which demo to do. I am EXTREMELY thankful and proud that Anne Ganguzza and I did such an amazing commercial demo. It is the rock solid foundation that my business has grown upon. It was worth every single penny and I am very glad that I invested in that. I feel the same way about my narration demo that I did with Bill DeWees. I also have booked A LOT with my eLearning demo that I  did with J. Michael Collins. I am extremely proud of all of my demos, but I have brought in substantially more work from these 3 demos than all others combined.

I watch these adorable videos that my friend Heather Foster posts on Facebook called things I’d tell my younger self. Well, I was in a big hurry to do a lot of demos and for better or for worse they sure helped me build a full and diverse website. But, had I realized where my bookings would fall, perhaps I could have saved myself some money early on and not rushed to do so many demos. It is hard to commit to that statement, because I have done quite a lot of telephony and IVR, and gotten some great clients like Whole Foods, from that demo (also produced by J. Michael Collins) but the majority of my bookings continue to be commercials.

Equipment Purchases

I am very happy with my studio. I am very thankful to have high end equipment in a well-treated booth.  I built my studio early in my career and made upgrades as I got big, steady contracts for consistent work. This made sense at the time and it still makes sense. I had lots of industry people make digs about spending money and I had to filter them out. In fact, I probably should have invested in my expensive microphone, my Neumann TLM 103, when I started, instead of spending $500 on a mid-range mic only to upgrade within a few years. I intended to succeed and I did, and my studio, which is acoustically treated to perfection and also has an amazing pre-amp, is a huge piece of the puzzle. I am very happy about these purchases and filtering out the nay-sayers was a good move on my part. If you want to succeed in voice over, that is often a piece of the puzzle.

My Website

Home-NEW

I am VERY pleased with my website and my website team, but I have made some mis-steps- not with them, on my own. In the beginning, I worked with the brilliant Anne Ganguzza to do my branding. She was fabulous and I am pleased with all she helped create. When Joe Davis and Karin Barth at Voiceactor Websites came into the picture, we made some great upgrades. I am happy with everything I have done with them and pleased with all I have invested.

At some point a few years ago I decided to create a separate entity for government bidding. I created a separate webpage for this. I regret spending the money on this page and not just adding another page to my current site.  I took a lot of advise from a government contracting mentor outside of voiceover, and his did not understand the voice over industry well enough. It is not in my best interest having two separate pages. It is often frustrating. I spent a lot of money and time on this and regret these choices.

I also made another mis-step with my main website. When I initially built my page, I first made it a scrolling page instead of a multipage site. Then when I wanted to add pages, I asked a random person to do it. It was a mess. I had to go back to Joe and Karin and ask them to fix everything. I felt terrible to have sidestepped them, which was years ago, and had to do a major website upgrade. It worked out in the end but I wish I had invested in a more elaborate website from the start. I had no idea how much work I would do.

Final Analysis

Don’t be short sited. Make choices that make your life easier. Work with kind people who are helpful. You can always spend money later, but if you are booking from something, you don’t need something else. Just keep doing what you are doing!

How Much Are You Working?

The possibilities are limited only by our imagination and determination, and not by physics.” ~ Mike Duke, PhD, NASA Geologist

THE question:

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, I get a lot of questions; but, the one I seem to get the most, is “So, how many hours would you say you work now?” Somehow saying that it’s a full time job has net been a clue. So, what I gather is that folks can’t imagine is how the work of a creative can fill an entire day, or perhaps weeks and years on end. Given the opportunity, I will happily, and enthusiastically elaborate and tell you what days are like for a working voiceover talent.

The Home Studio

Like most voice over actors, I have a professional home studio. This gives me the ability to accommodate clients in different time zones, not just in the Unites States, but abroad as well. I love getting started early, because I feel like I have gotten a lot done in a day. In truth a lot of my steady clients are on the West Coast, so I often go back down to record jobs that come in late after dinner as well.

Daily Tasks

The amount of booked work I have shapes my day. I typically record all booked work before doing anything else. If a big audition comes in, I will pause a job and record and submit that. While I record, I hydrate continually. I drink water all day long. I limit myself to one coffee a day. Once I am done recording actually bookings, my day is divided between auditions, client outreach emails, LinkIn follow ups, and general marketing tasks. I do try to do 20-40 auditions a day, and they come in from clients, Pay to Plays, and agents around the country. If a booking comes in mid-day, I stop what I am doing and record. For bigger jobs I typically have advance notice. For example, I did 20 videos on Thursday, but I new about them about 2 weeks in advance so that I could book out the day on my calendar. I do I lot of commercials and have a lot of RUSH work as well. I am always happy to do rush jobs. I understand when folks have deadlines, and I never mind getting audio right back to clients. Often when more booked work comes in, time on LinkedIn or for marketing takes a back seat. I tend to keep up with my client correspondence as that is very important to me!

Mom Life

It seems the more I get into a rhythm with my business, the less I feel in control of life at home. When my twins were small, they had all of my focus and attention. I was with them full time and I could spend all of my energy thinking about meals and school and their clothing. Now I worry a lot about their school work since they are in high school. But, our house is not as organized as it was. Our dinners are not planned. I often scramble to make lunches before taking them to the train in the morning. I am so so so thankful that the groceries can be delivered or I am not sure we would ever have any. 

Another issue is that because I am a small business owner, even when I am driving my kids to sports or taking them to the doctor, I am still thinking about my work and checking for client emails. I can’t ever completely detach because there is no one else to man the fort. Since I am the business, if I disconnect, it ends. I find it challenging to find the right balance between savoring this precious time with my children, which goes entirely too fast, and catching the momentum of my business which I have worked so hard to build.

I do remind myself that my kids are learning from see me running a business at home. They see me working not just at nights but on weekends. They hear client calls. They get to hear and see my actual work. This all cushions the blow. So the house may not be perfectly tidy when the family comes for a visit. And we may have to get takeout more than we had planned. And I may often forget to go back out and put the cover on the grill. 

My hope is that while friends that we meet for dinner may have natural questions about what it’s like to be a full-time working creative, my kids, the people who matter most to me in this world, will not have any questions because they see everything. I also try to talk to them about all of the issues that I grapple with and pose thought provoking questions.

So, I can tell you with certainty that a working voice talent has plenty to keep them busy! Odds are their more than 40 hour work week blows by and they have a hard time figuring out where the time has gone!

Where Am I Going With This….

Even though I work full time, as a mom of teenage twins, I am in the car A LOT. My SUV has a great sound system, and I confess I enjoy belting it out. The other night I had a realization though: unless my four year old niece is in the car, I am typically belting it out alone. And it is not that I am not playing great music, because I can assure you that it is always a party when I drive. I think it has more to do with the personalities of my husband and kids.

I asked  my son Jack why he didn’t want to belt it out? Perhaps the music should be even louder? His response: it’s just not him. He, and they, are just not wired up that way. In contrast, I can’t keep it in. I dance. I rap. I pour my heart and soul into it. ACDC. Snoop Dogg. Gladys Knight. Jonas Brothers. It doesn’t matter, I’m into it! So what on earth does this have to do with voiceovers? Well, people often ask me how I got into voice over or how I started booking work. It’s a tricky question. There are a lot of talented people who do what I do. There are also a lot of people who have had access to the training that I have had. They may even have the demos that I have. So, what sets us apart? Our schtick. Our unique personality and spark. The ability to put my dignity, airs, “whatever” in the metaphorical back seat and whoop it up for the clients, is essentially what I have been practicing for years. One of my beloved coaches, Fred Frees, used to tell me if I was going to “make it” I had to be fearless in front of the microphone. This singing in the car is exactly the same thing. When you have the reckless abandon to belt it out in front of everyone, odds are you will also be fearless in front of the mic.

Are there personality traits of Voice Over Actors?

So here’s an interesting question that I get. Just like in every field, all types come to voice over. I do find that the industry friends that I have are kind, supportive, and an overall super friendly bunch. We all have to wear our emotions on our sleeve, because if you can’t hear them, no one will hire us! So, I do find that in voice over people are typically willing to share, and that openness makes everything better.

Do We Actually Sing In Our Work?

Yes!  I have had to sing for Indie Video Games, Toys, and Commercial Jingles. I have also sung for mobile apps with Nursery rhymes.  Some people who have had a lot of musical training have singing demos. I do not, folks just ask me to do it and I send them my best. A lot of the voice over talents that work in animation sing a lot. As that has never been my bread and butter, I do not do that.

What If We Don’t Sing or Sing Terribly?

Don’t worry! Our job is not musicians. There was a spec on a job I was sent last week that specifically said that they wanted someone who was not perfectly on tune so that it sounded natural and not overly polished. I think a more commonly sought after skill is the ability to sing in character, which has a lot more to do with staying in character, and less to do with hitting each note perfectly. That being said, when I have sung for toy demos, I have to do scales and have to hit each note in the middle and it takes a lot of work and concentration for someone who did not grew up singing!

My Thoughts

I did not go into voiceover because I wanted to sing. To the contrary, the jobs that involve that component are typically my hardest.  The point of this is that the silly abandon that we have when playfully, often gleefully belting it out in the car whether we are alone or have an audience of 3, that is what we need to bring with us into the booth for every job. The ability to switch gears as quickly as a song changes on the radio is priceless. The ability to reinvent ourselves every two minutes is also priceless. All the professional training in the world cannot change the feeling that you have in your gut. I have been told by another coach that I “dive in” rather fast. I believe that, too, is one of my greatest assets! Whether it is a new station I am imaging for and each take on a line needs to be fresh, or a 15 second holiday spot, or an eLearning module, be the talent who is willing to shake things up and delight your client at every turn!

A Rare Glimpse

On Friday morning I went to Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey to pick my almost 16 year old daughter Emma up from her two week program in video game design. As a mom, I was so proud of her to have done this program and

Emma and her roommate in their classroom on presentation day!

spent time in the summer exploring an interest and working hard. As a full-time, professional voice over actor, I was even more delighted that she chose to pursue a course of study that could ultimately give us an opportunity to work together. In total honesty, I was completely elated and hoping that she loved every minute and found her calling.

But back to the point of the blog, my inside scoop into the video game world. So the professor that Emma had for her weeks at Stevens was Professor O’Brien, a brilliant creative whose personal focus is gaming with a social message to create change. I did not anticipate that he would be speaking, but this dynamic man spent a lot of the morning not just explaining what our kids had been doing, but sharing what a course of study in video game design might look like and what their career path after completing said course of study might look like. I was excited and enthralled.

The Team

I learned that like real world game design, Emma participated in a team during her program. They each assumed a role, as in

Emma and her game design team

actual video game design. There are coders, programmers, floaters, narraters, artists/creators, team leaders, and this was just in the student lab setting. All members of the team were essential to building and creating the game. Even though Stevens is an engineering school and the kids there take the same classes as the computer science students in the Engineering college, the professor explained that in gaming the team needs both the essential computer skills and the creative and artistic skills and has to comfortably float between these worlds. I was particularly pleased that my child had this experience, because as a small business owner, I have to do this every single day. I have to pour all of my creative energy into my voiceover projects, and then put on my business cap and do invoicing and market myself. Here is my child, a rising sophomore in high school, already learning to think this way.

Roles in Their Organization

From listening to Professor O’Brien speak, I learned about the various roles in a gaming company as well. While I have had a few roles on Indie video games, and there are typically several people in on the live sessions, I have never thought too much about the different opportunities available in the company. Apparently, after graduating from a university with a BA and a BS with a concentration in Video Game Design, these kids are prepared to be any part of the team, including project managers, creative directors, programmers, coders, writers, artists, floaters… the list goes on and on. It is clear that they need team players who understand both the technical and artistic components of the game creation.

Places to meet Gamers

I was fascinated by this part of that Professor O’Brien mentioned. As someone who spends so much time marketing and reaching out to new and potential clients, I was fascinated to learn that folks in video game design like twitter.  Here are other useful resources I learned about:

What Surprised Me?

As a voice over actor, I was first surprised that none of these games have a voiceover component! The student projects did all have music, which my daughter told me was all free and public domain. When I asked the professor, he told me that even at the university level, the skill of casting voice talent adds a layer of challenge that they are not typically prepared for and that students don’t usually have voiceover in their projects. Next, I was surprised that so many gamers are on twitter. For years I tried to persistently market on twitter, posting about three times a day. I got no results from this. Perhaps I had the wrong target audience? Next, I was delighted to learn about the team aspect to the creation and about the team/community aspect to the testing and trial phase. I was delighted by this. Lastly, I was surprised by the technological rigors of the program. My daughter has an updated Mac that is several years old. Her rather expensive computer was insufficient to meet the needs of the high-tech software used for this course! She had to use a university provided loaner.

I am so thankful that my child had this opportunity! I am so thankful that I had the flexibility as a working creative to come and see hew finished project. I am one proud Mama!

 

My Own Family’s Roots

In 1913, my Great Grandpop Sam, his father, his mother, and his brother Yudel came to Philadelphia on a ship from Lithuania. He was a young teenager. When they arrived, his family was sick and quarantined and was going to be sent back to Europe. My Great, Great Grandmother Seina made a hysterical plea for young Sam, who was well, to stay and fulfill their dream. Seina died at sea going back. Yudel never made it back to the states. He fought in both World Wars and died fighting in World War II.

But the story has great relevance today in light of our present refugee crisis for multiple reasons. First, I should explain that all 8 of my grand grandparents were Jewish immigrants from different parts of Europe, I was just particularly close with my Grandpop Sam so I will focus on his story. Next, his story in particular has so much meaning in light of what is happening today.

Grandpop Sam always told us that he “lost” his family. We never could understand how this happened. We know he had gone to Boston in search of his father, and we had heard rumblings that perhaps his father was in Chicago, but Grandpop spoke with a heavy Yiddish accent and he did not like to talk about sad things, so he never described to us that his family was ripped away from him at the port in Philadelphia and we did not understand how they were separated or lost. We had images of the little mouse Fivel from “An American Tail,” but that was it.

Another relevant matter to today’s immigrant crisis is what happened to my grandfather once he came here. He did not have immediate family as they were all sent back. So, he went to live with relatives who were kind enough to take him in. Grandpop was fortunate to have a place to live while he got his feet on the ground. He was a tailor and he worked in a garment factory for his life. A few years after he came he fought in World War I. He earned a Purple Heart and a Silver Star but he would never tell us what they were for. He was in some brutal battles and we imagine it was very difficult for him. He came home and worked again as a tailor. He sewed beautifully actually. He went to night school to learn English and that is where he met my Great-Grandmom Sara. So, even though his life was not easy, he was not living in a prison on a cold cement floor. He came here for opportunity and he became a union member and a home owner and his life flourished.

It actually took us 100 years and the help of ancestry.com to find our family. When families are being torn  apart by the current administration, I am not sure if they realize that it will take a century to overcome this, but that is how long it took us and my grandfather was not tortured when he arrived. In 2012, my kids had to do a family tree project for their school. They had some friends who went on ancestry.com and asked if they could too. They showed ancestry.com to my sister, Julie, and she became very eager to work on our family tree. Julie has actually blogged about this as well:

https://www.levingenealogy.com/2019/05/02/discovering-my-great-grandfathers-lost-relatives/

The abridged version is that when we added our tree, my sister Julie spent a lot of time researching and found a Russian professor who was active on Jewish genealogy sites. This woman knew some of our cousins! She asked if she could ask us some questions. To our shock, this woman was able to connect us with Grandpop Sam’s immediate family now living in Moscow, Russia and Karkiv, Ukraine!

It turns out that my Grandpop has a nephew named Lev, my Grandfather Simon’s first cousin, who is still alive and now in his early 90s, and living in Moscow! Lev has a beautiful family. My Grandpop Sam had another brother named Moisey and his family is alive and living in the Ukraine. They survived the World Wars, the Holocaust, and Stalin, and are somehow alive and still Jewish. It was shocking, just shocking.

Perhaps more remarkable is that while we had absolutely no idea that any of them existed, they knew about us.  Apparently they had been in contact with Grandpop Sam through the 1940s and were aware of his whereabouts until that point. They knew he had a family. They had a dream of looking for us and my second cousin Yuri had been to Philly several times looking for us with no luck.

I could go on and on and tell you about each member of the family, but instead I will tell that in 2013, one hundred years to the day that my great grandfather came to Philadelphia, we returned to Russia to meet our lost family.

How is this Relevant today?

  • First, my Grandpop did not have an easy start here in America but compared to the immigrants in the jails across our country, it was a walk in the park.
  • When families are separated, like mine was, it is not easy to reconnect. Even with modern technology and DNA testing, it can take many years and multiple generations to find each other.
  • Families can get trapped in other countries never to reunite.
  • It takes the kindness of strangers for folks to get a clean start in a new place, even when they are not coming from a crisis situation.
  • Immigrants help build this country. My great-grandfathers barely spoke English when they served for the US army in World War I. For many years, our economy and military have depended on the major contributions of immigrants.
  • The major majority of immigrants coming to the United States are good people coming here with hope for something better than whatever they are escaping. They are risking everything to start over.

What can we, as voiceover actors, do to help?

  • This is an interfaith group to help find a better place to get these people situated. I am in touch with Victor Salama, the head of the group, and in addition to visiting refugees, I have offered pro-bono voiceover services to help as much as they need.
  • If you want to be a part of my voiceover team that I have put together, please email me at laura@lauraschreibervoice.com.

I’m Starting to see a Pattern

When I actually stop working and venture out of my padded foam booth, I have found that a lot of folks are super inquisitive about what it is like to be a professional voice over actor. Yesterday my husband and I went to Philly, about an hour and a half from where we live to pick up a new car because we got a great deal. Sitting in the dealership waiting to sign the papers, I realized that almost every weekend I have the same conversations. So, in case you too are curious, in the form of a self interview I will address these burning questions:) Here goes:

Q: I’ve Always wanted to get into voiceover. Is it hard to get started?

A: YES! Like all professions, it takes training, years of commitment, and a financial investment. For each genre that you

I am so fortunate to have trained with the best! Bill DeWees, Dave Fennoy, Anne Ganguzza, and Fred Frees. I worked with Anne for so long that I her her voice in my head every single day. I actually found Fred on Bill’s website and working with him was a blessing!

endeavor to work in, you need separate coaching and a demo. When I decided to pursue voiceover, I made my training my full-time job and I did the work that my coaches gave me 5-6 hours a day every day. I also took acting and improv classes. I have had coaching for many genres, but have spent the most time working with coaches for commercials, character work, radio imaging, and narration. It is really important to find a coach who understand your goals and helps you reach them. They are the foundation of your career!

Q: So, do you have your own studio or something?

A: Yes!! In the United States, particularly for non-union talents like myself, it is expected that voice over talents have their own professional studios. My studio is as good as any professional studio in New York or LA. It was set up by professional audio engineers and I have thousands of dollars of equipment in it. I record on a Neumann TLM 103 and an Avalon M5 preamp. I also had to have a lot of training to learn how to edit my audio as most VOs are our own engineers too. A few folks who are in the top of the field have full time engineers working for them, and I would love to be able to do that in a few years, but for now I record and edit all of my own work. I also got my studio WoVo approved. That means that a team of engineers had to review my raw audio and sign off on it. I have a certification number for my booth.

Q: Do you have a specialty?

A: Yes! Since I started, I have always booked more commercials than anything else. About 80% of my bookings are commercials, and I book more radio than tv, but I do both. In addition to regular broadcasts, I am on Pandora’s roster and this year I have also done quite a lot of work for Spotify. Top clients include Gap, Jersey Mikes, Bobbi Brown, Jet Blue, Walmart… and the list goes on and on. The rest of my work is a split between radio imaging, telephony, narration, eLearning, YouTube bumpers/Social Media campaigns, and podcasts. But when a commercial comes my way, I typically feel right at home. I especially love tags. I also get so excited to do those super fast disclaimers at the end of spots. Perhaps my most favorite thing to do is to be the voice of Christmas cheer in the holiday season.

Q: Is there work you won’t do?

A: Erotica. I’m just not comfortable with it. First, I sound quite young, so it bothers me even more when I am asked because I very much am disturbed by the implications of asking someone who is even sought because they sound like a young girl. Next, twice I have been hired for jobs. The initial script is clean/mainstream. After the booking the script comes in and it is shockingly crude. Of course my husband always thinks I should just take it, but it is a line that I am not comfortable with and I will not do. Not my thing, I’ll save it for my better suited colleagues who can have fun with it!

Q: Is there anything that has surprised you about your voiceover career?

A: Yes!  I have met so many amazing people and made wonderful friends. I have had the opportunity to travel a bit which I did not anticipate. I am continually learning and growing and being challenged, the professional development never ends.  The needs of the field to keep changing. I am learning a lot about marketing. And lost, but not least, I have done so man period spots it is shocking! I will leave you with this British one I did for Tampax.

It’s Good to Have People

To There are Ups and Downs

As in all fields, in voice over there are good days  and bad ones. A common expression professional voice over actors use is that “it is feast or famine.” I have experienced this myself. Sometimes I am so busy I do not know how I will stop for a bathroom break or to feed my family. Other weeks I wonder if all my clients are on vacation at the same time. In good times it is great to have friends to celebrate your successes. In challenging times, you need people you can really trust to talk through your thoughts. So, how do you go about surrounding yourself with trusted people?

When you surround yourself with the right industry friends, you can share this journey with them!

Tips for Finding People

  • Coaches. Coaches are likely the first people you will meet. They have seen so much and are seasoned. They are looking to meet people to so this is a great start.
  • Conferences. Specifically voiceover conferences.  I have blogged about conferences before, and VO North and Vocation are coming up, but other voice over talents are looking to connect at these conferences. You can make lifelong friends there.
  • Facebook groups. You really can bond and get to know people, even online. You have to be a little more careful when you are not meeting someone face to face, but if you have mutual friends this should help sort out who is a good connection for your intimate network.
  • Acting Workshops. I actually go to acting technique programs at local theaters. When others are working on there craft too, they are likely to have similar goals, and are good for you to connect with.

Topics to Discuss with Your People

  • Actual accountability. You need folks that you can be frank with and in return they are candid with you.
  • Ideally you will have friends as accomplished and more accomplished as you are.
  • Goals. You can discuss how you are actively pursuing your goals. What’s working? What’s holding you back?
  • Feedback. Have you gotten a great review? Have you gotten feedback that you did not expect? It is important to be able to

    These are my people, well, some of them, and they make every single day better!

    bounce this off of your people.

  • Finances. Are you building a sustainable business? When trying to reach consistent financial benchmarks each week or each month, it is really important to report to or have others that you can discuss this with, both in vague and specific terms. From marketing to accounting, a lot of responsibility falls to a solopreneur, and we can learn me from each other than if we function in an isolated bubble.
  • Ways to support each other. I am in an accountability group that talks very regularly daily. I know groups that share assistants. I know groups that market themselves as a whole. There are lots of ways you can go, but first you need to start by finding your people.

What the Universe Sends You

Just as the voice over industry has no geographic boundaries, your peer group is the same! The woman I am closest with that support me daily are scattered about the continent. I feel very strongly that everything happens for a reason, as these women inspire me, pick me up, and are there. I hope that I do the same for them. As I right this, I have the Barbra Streisand song in my head “People,People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”

It’s That Time of Year Again…

It’s hard to believe that it’s June and sunscreen and bug spray are repeat items on our weekly shopping list again. My twins’ final exams are over and summer vacation is in site. My kids are teenagers so we have a few exciting new times on our agenda. My daughter is going away for the first time to a summer program at a college and both kids are getting their driving permits, fingers crossed. As a full-time working mom who runs my own business, I want to make summer special for them while still meeting my professional goals and working full days. Like many women who work, I am juggling a lot of balls, but somehow when the whether is beautiful and the sun is shining I feel like I can do it all. Over the years of being a momtrepreneur, I have come up with the following tips to make our summers flow in a way that makes sense for everyone.

1. Plan Ahead

I am trying to keep a straight face as I write this part, but planning ahead is very helpful. Even in a business where many of my commercial bookings come in 12 hours or less in advance, planning ahead and having a schedule makes life a lot less stressful.  If I can look at my week and see when the kids have to be various places and what I have on my plate in terms of my bookings and my clients’ needs, I can best accommodate everyone without stress. As summer weeks tend to have a lot more variation in schedule than our weeks during the school year, planning ahead helps a lot with scheduling live or guided sessions, and with making sure that I leave ample time for editing. At the same time, if my kids need to be driven to activities, plans with friends, etc, I am ahead of the curve.

2.  Block Off Time Specifically for Summer Fun

Even though I have financial goals that must be met every month,  summer is the right time to take off for fun indulgences like days at the beach or catching a show in New York City. Since it is impossible to spend special days like this with my kids during the school year, I block chunks of time throughout the summer so that I make sure these days are available. In fact, our first special day is coming up this Friday. I have blocked half a day for my niece’s pre-school graduation. Does this mean that I will not meat my monthly minimum? Last year, I was able to meet my goals and actually surpassed them in both July and August. I find that I am extremely motivated by doing well for my children, so carving out this time in my schedule makes me even fresher when I step back into the booth.

3. Keep Kids Stimulated

A key to a successful summer is not just how well a mom organizers her time, but also how busy the kids are kept! I have found that when my kids are meaningfully engaged they are happy and fulfilled and everything goes more smoothly. For example, last summer my kids volunteered as counselors at a camp they went to for years. It was a really rewarding job and they very much enjoyed it. They came home tired but happy. I got my work done and they were busy. If you can make plans like that for your children, your summer will be a lot easier for everyone!

4. Put it All in Perspective

Summer is a time for hammocks and lemonade, for flip flops and coverups. Summer is not the time for harsh criticism and self-assessment. After a few years of juggling work and motherhood, I can tell you that it will all be ok. There might be some days where your kids have to wait for you. They may not be able to swim when they want. You may also miss a client call because you took your kids to the park or to see friends. It’s ok. We all expect so much of ourselves all the time. We make so many plans and so many promises. If all of it gets done, that’s wonderful. If most of it gets done, great. What I have learned is that I always get essential tasks done. Everything else is gravy.

The other thing I now realize is that your kids learn so much from how you, as a mom, handle these situations. I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to remember me smiling and laughing and enjoying them, and not as a crazy basket case. Just give them the summer that you really want, and no one ever fantasized about a summer at their desk!

5 Ways to be a Good Client

 

It’s a Two Way Street

As a full time, professional voice over actor, I can go on and on about how wonderful most of my clients are. Over my years in the voiceover industry, I have worked really hard to build and maintain relationships with my clients. With every new job that I book, I am not just looking to meet my monthly financial goals, and I am looking to do my very best work for that new client so that they come back again and again.  I try to get to know them. I want to know, in addition to pristine audio, what their unique needs

With an eLearning client at DevLearn last fall and visiting a client in Orlando last Spring:)

are. I love to learn about the specifics of their business. When I also learn personal details about pets and hobbies, well that is even better. The better I connect with I client, the better I can serve their specific needs.

Likewise, I try hard to be easy to work with:) In addition to being responsive and doing the job I am hired to do, I am upbeat and bend over backwards. What do I expect in return? Well…. You would think it would not be so complicated. I am hired to record audio. I record and deliver the audio as per the specs… The best ways I have learned over the years to be a good voiceover client to the folks I work with, whether they are video production teams, talent agents or their clients, ad agencies, marketing executives, include:

1. Confirm the Terms

I am always happy to be cast in every job, so when the initial booking email comes, I immediately follow up with a “Seal the Deal” Letter. Some of my voiceover friends, like Carin Glifrey, call this their “Welcome Letter.” Mine literally begins with the word “Yay” to express both my joy and grattitude. Years ago in a helpful and thorough session with J. Michael Collins he detailed the importance of confirming all of the terms of work upfront. This email has many important components. It:

              • confirms the actual booking
              • confirms the fee
              • confirms the turnaround time on my end
              • asks the client what they need in the finished audio (i.e. WAV or MP3, raw or sweetened)
              • confirmed my policy on revisions and my charge for pickups

I want to serve my clients well, and I think that in order to do so I need to be very clear upfront.

2. Deliver the Audio Exactly as Stated

Next, I take great joy in actually recording the voiceovers that I am hired for. I pay close attention to the specs and the requests of my clients. About 80% of my bookings are commercials, which means I am providing them with multiple versions of the recordings. When I do long form narration or eLearning, I am meticulous with my editing so that I save both of us time moving forward. I take a lot of pride in the audio that I send out, and I know that to be a good client I need to deliver outstanding quality every single time.

3. Be Available for Pickups

To keep my clients happy, I make myself very available for pickups. For my bookings over $250, I include one round of revisions in my quote. For jobs lower than that, I charge $75 per 30 minute session. As I am in my booth full time, and I understand that my clients are on a deadline, I make myself available for these revisions so that my clients have what they need as soon as they need them! Often they have a quick line change or just need one more take, and it is never an issue. I just want my clients to have what they need as soon as possible.

4. Hold them to the Initial Terms

In a business where we often bend over backwards to be a good client and to make our clients happy, we have to remember that it is actually ok to hold them to the terms they initially agreed to. So, if in the “Seal the Deal” email we offer one round of revisions, we should not hesitate to charge for the next round that they ask for. Hugh Edwards just posted a really important article about VO rates and our overhead costs that can be found at

Voiceover Rates – The Biggest Threat To Our Industry

We must continue to maintain our industry standards and hold our clients to the same standards they hold us to. Just as we have to provide them with the audio they need, they must pay for it, and we should not bat an eye at adding to our invoice and sending the update.

5. Follow Through

Ideally, follow through on a great job means sending a thank you note and thanking your client for the opportunity. And when you are lucky and the voiceover gods are smiling down on you, that is the end of it and payment comes anywhere in the 30-90 day window. Sometimes, though, follow through means having to more aggressively pursue payment even when you have bent over backwards to provide outstanding quality and service. How do I go about this?  I have a multi-pronged approach:

              • The thank you note is actual a great reminder of the work that you did.
              • At 30 days and at 60 days my billing software sends an automatic reminder.
              • After 60 days, I send a more direct “friendly reminder” and ask them how everything is going.
              • If I still have not received payment, I cc my husband aka manager who is an attorney at an NYC law firm and he sends a follow up note as my representative. In 5 years this has happened less than 10 times, but every time he has collected in full immediately. Sometimes he has to contact the clients council. Sometimes he has to speak with a CEO. But he always gets paid.

It should not come to that. On the two way street, if we provide the audio, we should be paid, regardless of whether or not it ultimately makes its way to where it is supposed to, that is not part of our deal. We record. We deliver. We are an absolute delight to work with. That makes a voiceover talent a good client. The rest is up to our client to do right by us, and most of the time they do:)

Voice Over is Not my First Rodeo

For me, like many people in voice over, this is neither a first career not my first job. Most of us bring all the experience and life lessons from our many jobs and often another professional life  with us and combine all of that knowledge with our talent and training to serve our clients. As I started working young to have spending money and pay for things like car insurance, I have had a LOT of jobs. I started working in 10th grade when I started driving. By my senior year in high school I had three jobs, at a flow shop, a pediatric eye doctor’s office, and a deli. In college, I was also fortunate that we both had a great internship program and my sorority sisters in AXO at Columbia would pass internships on to each other. So, before I ever had a career, I worked a lot. And when I asked other voice over actors in my community what jobs they had before their current career in VO, I was amazed! Long before she as a TV weather woman, Kim Handysides cut grass for city works and waitressed to pay for university. In the 1970s, Randy Thomas was a limousine driver in Miami. Mary Morgan worked in movie theaters and Blockbuster. Juliette Gray was a travel agent in London before becoming an executive assistant at Warner Brothers. Bobbi Maxwell was in customer service at a tractor supply sore. Paul Stefano was paid to watch the Playboy channel all day. I’m not kidding, that was a real job. Pierre Maubouche  worked as both an office boy and a strawberry picker. Jeff Berlin was a supermarket cashier but they did have him record the announcements of the specials. Joe J Thomas may tike the prize, though, as he toured as a stuntman in a wild west show along with an Elvis impersonator!

It seems we all had lots of jobs, some cooler than others, and they all make us who we are today! I had a lot of energy and I was very enthusiastic about each position I had. I learned so much from both the tasks that I had and the folks that I worked with and I bring all of that with me to my work in voiceover now.

Lesson 1: Manual Labor Is Not for Me

My very first job, besides baby sitting, was at a WaWa market in Huntingdon Valley, PA where I grew up. My best friend Josh, who is now a family doctor in South Jersey, helped me get it as he had been working there for years.  It was funny that Josh worked there because he is and has been a vegetarian and he had to work at the deli counter, but a job is a job and we all needed them. Anyway, I went through the corporate training and my mom was concerned in the event the store was held up. As a kid, and I really was young, I was not in the least worried about that. After my initial training I started work. My first few shifts I had to unload boxes in a refrigerated storage room. I do not recall a precipitating event. I just realized that I did not think I would be moving boxes, I thought when they hired me I was only going to be a cashier, which was immediately clear was not the case. I did not like what I was doing. I was alone in a semi-dark room and I had to move heavy boxes. I am was a small kid and this was physically challenging. I spoke to my friend as this was now awkward and gave notice. I learned from that I both needed to flesh out what I would be doing and that I would not ever take such a position again. I did, however, continue to shop at WaWa.

Lesson 2: I need a Job without Communications/Speech Restrictions

I shared my WaWa conundrum with my friend Rena in Hebrew school. Her family happened to own a beautiful bathing suit store in our area called Shirley and Co. It is still open and it is an amazing store that I still love. She thought they might need me as a stock girl. I was thrilled. The only snag was that the rule was that my job was to hang up bathing suits after they were tried on. I was specifically told not to talk to the customers and not to give my opinions even when asked. They had sales people and that was their job. Well, if you have ever met me, I am super friendly and really upbeat. The women getting bathing suits would talk to me simply because I was there. It was really awkward, how could I not talk to them? It was beyond my ability to be quiet. It was a more advanced version of the “quiet game” that is often played with kids and I failed. They did not fire me, I just simply could not remain quiet and had to remove myself. I lasted one weekend. I learned that I had to be honest about my own personality, assets, and limitations and not put myself in such situations. I needed to find a position where my personality was a virtue.

Lesson 3: It’s Ok To Stand Up for What’s Right, Even When It’s Very Humbling to Do So

The summer between my Junior and Senior year of college I had a coveted internship at Zagat Survey, and those were the days when everyone had those little red restaurant guides and nothing was online! I went after the job because I thought that with my love of writing it might be cool to work in publishing after college and this would be a way of seeing if it was a good fit. I was initially hired, with the other summer interns, to do copy editing and fact checking. After the third day, Mr. Zagat’s temporary personal assistant was not working out so I was told that I would be his new personal assistant. To be clear, I learned a lot and in the age of “me too” nothing inappropriate happened, but he is a quirky guy and I learned that in the real world your boss is often not so professional.

If you have ever watched the television sitcom “Seinfeld” and are familiar with the character Mr. Pitt, working for Mr. Zagat was more like that. Every day after his second lunch he would curl up on the couch in his office and nap. But his office had glass doors and his entire staff could watch his nap. One day I was sent to get him coffee. This was not unusual but what was unusual was that he was in a hurry so I had to go to the kiosk down stairs from the office in the Steel Case building at Columbus Circle. I brought Mr. Zagat his coffee the way hi liked it and he was horrified. The coffee was not to his standards. I was told I had to take the coffee back, return it, get a receipt, and explain who it was for and what was wrong with it. Returning the coffee was both awkward and embarrassing on so many levels. The guy at the kiosk was shocked. I gather no one ever returned coffee before. He did both give me the cash back and the receipt.

There are so many takeaways from that single morning. Mr. Zagat was a restaurant critic. Of course he would not drink lousy coffee and of course he would not handle it himself, he was above that and those were the details it fell to me to sort out.  I realized, as I was older, that while I might not have chosen to take the time to return a coffee for myself, there is something to be said for demanding quality and all aspects of our life and not settling. There is also something to be said for holding one’s head up high and fulfilling a task or obligation, even when it is not our preference to fulfill said task.

Lesson 4: If You’re Doing What You Love, Long Hours Don’t Matter

In between college and graduate school, all at Columbia, I worked in Corporate Gifts at Bergdorf Goodman. That is basically like personal shopping but for businesses. I was assigned mostly to Sony Music but also did a little work for Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Revlon. About 90% of my time was spent shopping for the folks at Sony.  My job in what was then part of Bergdorf’s Special Services division was very much like Anne Hathaway’s character in “The Devil Wear’s Prada.” We had pagers and were always on call. We had to shlep large garment wracks of clothing up Fifth Avenue, and we opened the store early and stayed late so that celebrities or their assistants or their security team could shop off hours. The great problem with this was that while I very much love to shop at Bergdorf’s for myself, it was really not a fun job. I was like a glorified stock girl who was extremely well dressed and overly educated for my position. It was dreadful. The day after dressing all of the Tommy Motolla’s support staff for the MTV Music Awards I had it and gave notice that I was leaving and going back to graduate school. When you love what you are doing, the way I do with voiceover, the hours don’t matter. When you are miserable, minutes feel like an eternity.

While working at Bergdorfs, I learned that even though I was not particularly happy, the clients never needed to know what I was feeling. I also learned that some clients are nicer than others, but they all deserve the best service possible.  I worked very hard at that job and some people were easy to please and other people were miserable human beings so even surrounded by all that luxury, my friendly face would not help.  Fellow voiceover talent talks about learning similar lessons when working in customer service. P.J. explains we must always be “attuned to the customer’s priorities, sublimation of ego, handling upset customers regardless of fault, when to say no by offering alternatives, and when to say no by showing them the door. There was also getting the job done no matter what but working live events was the master class on that topic.(sic)” It is clear that we all take so much from our past jobs and bring it with us to voiceover.

Conclusions

When I think about our community, regardless of what each of us did before working in voiceover, we all have one thing in common now: our determination to serve our clients well.  We have not just a commitment to the industry, but a sense of pride in doing well for the folks who trust us with their projects every single day. Whether we came to voiceover from architecture like Christina Lanz and Dave Edwards, or from pharmaceuticals like Dana Hurley, it does not much matter.  What matters is that we use our skills and compassion to serve well. Those of us who book solidly know that our job is about so much more than talent, and perhaps it would take a business background like the one Leslie Horovitz has to analyze how we are really growing and changing, but I believe that it is the ability to synthesize our vast skills, both from voice over and from life experience, that make us able to thrive in a creative and unstructured environment.

Because they were so wonderful, I have organized the responses from facebook and I will post them here as well. I am so thankful and appreciative of all who participated!

So, from my wonderful community:

News Broadcasting:

Leif Anders

I learned broadcasting skills and got my commercial radio license by joining an explorer (Boy Scouts) post at legendary WSM in Nashville. Learned about green screens and weather forecaster stuff from Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajack before he went on to bigger things in LA. 

The staff at WSM from engineering to on air talent taught us more than any broadcasting school could do. Real hands on.

I worked my way through college going town to town up and down the dial both TV and radio. Wound up in LA like Pat, but not like Pat, working for Westwood One. Had always done promo and narration while in school, so I got in with Don Lafontaine’s agent and have been working in VO since 1988.

Dan Harder

I’ve worked as a broadcast engineer for 30+ years. In that time I’ve learned a lot about construction, tools, and IT security. I also grew up around mechanically minded people, so I totally understand industrial, technical projects. 

My clients have commented more than once that it really sounded like I knew what I was talking about.

Drivers

Randy Thomas

 I was a limousine driver in Miami in the mid 70’s. I drove for real estate developers.

Lots of Randoms:

Kim Handysides:

Cut grass for City Works and waitressed to pay for university, Radio DJ, station music director, actor (theatre and film), TV reporter, TV weather woman, TV producer, Part time VO during that slew of jobs, then full time VO from ‘91 through until 

Mary Morgan

My favorite kind of post! Everybody starts somewhere. Early jobs I had as a teenager to young adult were working in a movie theatre, working at blockbuster, two dinner theaters, and as a performer at Six Flags.

Jodi Adler

I’ve been a financial analyst, a news anchor reporter, special ed teacher and weight loss counselor. I wrote a book and give advice as Auntie Jodi. Also stage and on camera acting.

Juliette Gray

I was a travel agent in London; an executive assistant at Warner Bros in feature film development, a stock market day trader

Jessica Suzanne Fields

I was a private piano and voice teacher and a working musician for almost 20 years (started as a teen) before starting VO. It was common for me to sight-read and perform three lines of music on two instrum ents (voice and piano) at a time, reading 4 if I was also playing a duet with a student. It definitely impacted how my brain works in processing and performing information instantaneously. I never have to read-through scripts first. 

Also, I worked a job in my early 20’s as a telemarketer with my sister and we used to experiment with how different groups of people responded to different voices on the phone. Women would respond better (with their wallet) if we did a super friendly Southern accent, while men responded more to a strait-laced business voice. Regionally also made a different, with the far NorthEastern states leaning toward the smart business voice as well. Definitely affects how I interpret copy for different audiences.

Pierre Maubouche

I’ve worked as an office boy, a strawberry picker, a dispatcher (on motorbike), a mover, a dance ball organiser and MC, a radio DJ, a carpenter, a bouncer, a roadie, an advertising copywriter, an event organiser… and now a voice over for 25 years. No, I’m not 100 years old.

Bobbi Maxwell

My first job, at 16, was in customer service for Tractor Supply Stores. Part of that included PA announcements. Many years later (2018) I was hired from a P2P to do in-store announcements at all the stores across the country. They had no idea that was my 1st job!

Joe J. Thomas

I toured as a stuntman in a wild west show along with an Elvis impersonator.

Kelly Connor Piepho

Switchboard Operator, customer service for phone company. radio announcer.

Jeff Berlin

I was a cashier in a supermarket – they had me record the announcements of the specials that ran over the Musak.

JJ Surma

 Concert promoter. I learned not to act like a diva

J Rodney Turner

I was an air traffic controller and the ability to effectively communicate while focusing on a number of different things at one time has served me well as I pursue a second career as an audiobook narrator and voice actor

Scott Reyns

I worked in marketing, mainly B2B tech, startups included. IMHO, working in VO is extremely similar. My previous life gave me a chance to work both client-side and services-side, which helped me understand first-hand what it’s like to be a client or on the team at a creative agency in service thereof. It also helped me understand how to qualify leads and opportunities and work with sales people and channel partners, and gave me some exposure to investors and the venture capital community, which helped prepare me to work with agents, managers etc. and learn to think both strategically and tactically about how to run and grow my own business. Lastly, as I’d found my way into marketing through a side door as a web developer, it helped me pick up technical skills that have helped me create efficiencies throughout my business.

Before I went into marketing I’d been a musician, a singer with an electronics and production lean, so when eventually I got serious about VO, having previous experience in pro audio helped too.

Susan Bernard

I once worked as a Corporate Recruiter, so I know how to find the people I need to talk to and get detailed info on a lot of important things in a short amount of time. 

I’ve also been a Director of Sales and Training for a software company, and I know how to market b-to-b and b-to-c.

I was in radio for over 16 years…. that’s a whole other skill set that taught me far too much about every aspect of life!!

Jessi Kennan

Taco John’s, Hy-Vee, Detassling, Disney World singing princess, Back up singer, Online marketing director, waitress, salvation army (yep) Uber, Postmates, extra work, on camera work… I’ll stop there. Now just VO. Thank GOD. it’s been an awesome fun road.

Martha Kahn

First job in LA I worked for Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special, in the accounting department. Then I work for the merchandising department for Cheap Trick😎 and was a chef in a microwave oven kitchen on San Vicente in Brentwood. Those were just my 70s jobs!!

Paul Stefano

Ran Master Control for Primestar TV. I was in charge of all the PPV including the Playboy Channel. Job was to literally watch it all day.

Radio

Samuel E. Hoke

I was a theater major in college (first go round with academia).

Then I was a major market radio personality as well as a recording studio engineer producer for over a decade. Insert a 30+ year absence from said experiences and I am now a very happy, productive audiobook narrator. I think being deprived of that creative outlet for such a long time has given me a perspective that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Lee Gordon

I spent 18 years as a radio station Production Director. I’m sure no other voice overist have a background as unique as that. 

Nic McFiendish

 For me, it all started with elementary school announcements & choir & grew into pro radio & songwriting, both of which honed the voice skills 😊✌🏿 For me, it all started with elementary school announcements & choir & grew into pro radio & songwriting, both of which honed the voice skills 😊✌🏿

Greg Marston

I started out in the 70’s as a “mail-boy” for an insurance company in Australia. Left them for a job as a “mail-boy” for the government. They then “promoted” me to a clerical position (ooh!). Some years later, I went on to sell office furniture (new and refurbished). In between I did some hay-bailing, soaked bits of felt (door and window-sealing strips) in a noxious liquid and attempted to sell clothes in a men’s clothing store as ‘assistant manager’. I’ve also sung everything from John Denver to Led Zeppelin in (and out) of various pop/rock/punk/indie/jazz bands since 1977 until recently. Other than that, I’ve held most every position in radio broadcasting (from cart-boy to music director) since, 1982 – and I’m still behind a microphone today – HELP

Keith Houston

 I was a radio DJ for a few years, and I’ve been a karaoke host for 15. Singing has helped immensely when hearing the music of a script, and it certainly helped me when I have to do legal, since I know how to talk fast enough between songs to keep the show going, but still be coherent 

TV

Christy Harst Rodriguez

I was an intern at MTV my senior year in college. I learned quickly about how fragile egos are and how famous people are just people. The gif above goes with this reply

Helen Casey-Smith Glover

I was a tour guide for the local, what was then, NBC owned and operated station in Atlanta in the mid-70s, before I got into radio news

Business/ Accounting

Leslie Horovitz

I was an accountant and financial controller (my own business) until I was 50 and have been a Voice Over for the past 5 years. Definitely the one thing that I took from my years in business which applies in the VO industry is… under promise and over deliver.

Tech

Daniel Wachs

I owned a small telecom services company in the early 2000’s. Turned out my then new Website designer was an ex-radio guy like me. And he was also in voice over! He became my mentor and that’s how I entered this business 9 years ago.

James Lorenz

I got my start in VO while being an audio-visual tech for corporate events. I would occasionally be asked if I could make some announcements at events, which led to offering to do VOG (Voice of God) Someone at Dime Savings Bank said they liked my voice and asked if I wanted to do some VO for an upcoming project they were doing. I was hooked

Customer Service/HR

P.J. Stoppleworth

Probably the most influential was working front line customer service in hospitality and recreation businesses. It taught the principles of customer service, the importance of delivering on promises, attunement to the customer’s priorities, sublimation of ego, handling upset customers regardless of fault, when to say no by offering alternatives, and when to say no by showing them the door. There was also getting the job done no matter what but working live events was the master class on that topic

Christine Cullingworth

I worked as a Human Resources advisor in Environmental Services – and a Life Coach dealing mostly with employee onboarding, coaching, performance. Any eLearning I voice on these topics is very familiar!

Architecture/Design

Dave Edwards

I’m a Building Information Modeling Manager and gave seminars all over the country about 3D Architectural Modeling and Photorealistic Renderings.

Christian Lanz

I was a licensed architect up until 2005, when I left the building+design industry to become a full-time actor. 

It allowed me to design and oversee construction of both my current recording studios, so I guess it ended up impacting my voiceover career more than one might expect.

Medical Pharmaceutical

Dana Hurley

I was a Pharmacist and worked in the pharmaceutical industry. Now I nail medical narration terminology!