About Me

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!

My Why

I don’t remember my mom ever sitting down when we were kids.  She worked so hard to take care of us. She was always busy. If she wasn’t helping us with our work or cleaning or putting away laundry she was cooking or on the phone with our Mommom. My mom ran a tight ship, then and now. Nothing was out of place. Ever. When she wanted to redo the family room she took down the

Me with my Mom and my sister Julia in Peddler’s Village

wall-paper and pulled up the carpet. When she wanted to move she listed the house. But despite how hard she works when we need help with work or to talk to her she is present so completely and gives with her whole heart. My mom is amazing in every way. There are so many days that I think about what she would have done in a given situation with my kids or with a teacher at work or in my house and I wonder how on earth she had so much energy.  My mom was also always really sweet.

This Mother’s Day, I find myself thinking about my role as a daughter and a mother and what it all means, because to me it means a lot.  As a small business owner, I try to bring so many elements of what my mom taught us growing up into my daily life. I want my clients to feel and to know that there is nothing I won’t do for them, that I will bend over backwards to give them what they need and provide the best service possible. I want them to feel that I am always there, in part because I am working so much and in part because I want them to be so happy with the job I do that they come back to me. And at the end of the day, everything that I do well I attribute to my mom.

My Kids

I have written about this before, but I am certain that I never would have had the courage to start my business if not for my  children.  I had a passion and a desire to pursue voice over since college, but that alone was not enough to inspire me to go after my dream. Instead, the reality of leaving my kids and commuting to New York City was what made me have the confidence to build my voice over career. I didn’t want to miss out on a single minute of raising them. I wanted to be able to work full-time and still be there to attend the science fairs and the school plays and to pick them up if they got sick. The dream of combining my professional aspirations and my personal ambitions gave me such a fire inside that nothing else matched. I will be forever thankful that I am able to have a career and be near by.

One of the many facebook groups I am in is for Voiceover Moms. Other women often post these amazing pictures of themselves in the booth with their babies in baby carriers. I missed that page but every time I see those photos I feel such a sense of pride and camaraderie. I feel like we are all in this together, supporting each other and building something meaningful for ourselves and our families. I also know that some days are harder than others, and knowing that we are not alone and that we are their to support each other means so much.

My Hope

It is my hope that just as my mother gave me so much I hope that I am instilling this fearlessness and sense of self-worth and pride in my own children. From running my voice over studio, I have learning so much from working with others, but before even getting to that point, it is that I pursued my passions for them, and my hope is that Emma and Jack will have the same fire within them and that they too will be fierce enough to go after what they love, both in their professions and in their personal life.

My Village

Nothing in life is so simple for a working mom. My life is better, profoundly better, not just because of the example set by Mom and my Mommom Harriet, but because my sister Julie is so present and helpful too. Julie is always there for me and my kids and helps both as an emotional support and in so many ways, from taking care of the kids and the dog to helping with homework to late night phone calls. Trying to list the way my family is amazing almost seems to trivialize their impact, when my intent is the opposite. I am also blessed to have an amazing Mother-in-Law who is an extremely involved Grandma and is also so close with my Mom. They are like sisters to each other. Whether she is sitting at the table doing Latin and Spanish homework with the twins, or helping with holiday dinners, it is so wonderful to have such a tight-knit family. And my sister-in-law Claudia lives one street away. She is also a wonderful influence in so many ways for my twins. I can go on and on, but the point I am trying to make is that I could in no way raise my twins the way I dream of on my own, and they also happen to have one heck of a father, but since is a blog post and not a book, I will just end by saying that this Mother’s Day I am thankful that I was born to my mother and that we are surrounded by such amazing women.

 

Can’t Win Em’ All

How a Night in NYC Reading for 5 Top Voice Over Agents Went South Real Fast

The Potential for Life Changing Awesomeness

You have to understand that I am a huge optimist. I always think everything will be great and that every single thing I do has the potential to not just succeed but to be life changing. I mean, it’s worked out pretty well, right? I have two ivy league diplomas, married the man of my dreams, I have pretty fantastic kids, and the cutest dog on the planet, so this attitude of hope and optimism has worked out thus far. How could it not? If you’re super smart and you work hard and you try your best what could possibly go wrong?? You see where this is headed….

So like many voice over actors I am in tons of facebook groups. Honestly I can’t even count them all but I really enjoy them both for the useful information and the meaningful social interaction. One night, I think in the Actors in NYC group or something to that effect, someone mentioned the Actors’ Connection. I was excited to see the variety of programs they offered and was super excited to see one that had big agents from top agencies coming to the program. My perception, or rather mis-perception, of the event that I rather enthusiastically signed up for was that it was like speed dating with agents. They were there. We were there. We would schmooze.

My hope was to chat it up. I just got new business cards so I gathered a ton of those. I also printed a list of my top 10 clients of all time followed by my top 5 clients of the month, both of which I am rather proud of. We had to send in our head shots and resume in advance and I was really proud of that as well. I felt prepared and hopeful on the big night.

The working mom in me planned ahead on the home front too. I had my mom coming to give the twins dinner and my mother-in-law was coming to do Latin homework with Jack, so I had all the bases covered. I was prepared for greatness. All I had to do was show up, right?

The Great Debacle: A Fantastic Event For Which I was not Prepared

Did I mention in addition to being an optimist that I am also very type A? I have read for top agents in LA before. Both times I was extremely well prepared and I thought I nailed it. I got very positive feedback and left feeling like a did my best. Was I signed? No. Did my life change in any way from those events other than feeling relieved that I did not f—- up? No. But the key thing is that I showed up prepared.

So last Thursday I also thought I showed up prepared. The thing is, the Actors’ Connection sends A LOT of emails. I do not mean this as a criticism. But I happen to have had a lot of bookings last week, and as a full-time working mom, I do not always read all of my emails. Well, I realized pretty quickly that this was a huge problem. This was NOT speed dating with agents. Not at all. I showed up prepared for an event that was not happening and was totally unprepared for the actual event. You have to understand that I am never, ever unprepared and I was having a silent stroke in my seat.

Every one else had scripts prepared as we were going to read for the agents. Which makes sense, after all, because why would they care just to chat with us?  I did not have a script in hand. I pulled one up on my phone but I did this as the agents were speaking

and of course I was in the front row so I was not at all subtle. I felt like an ass. I found a script for a Culligan Water spot I booked months ago and I thought it was cute and showed my range.

The Epic Fail

As if I had never read live before, and in part because I did not have a paper script and was reading from my tiny phone which I never ever would have done, I began my first read. I raced through. Everything I have been trained to do went out the window. I will not recount all the ways in which I sucked, but let’s say that any charm, finesse, and charisma that my actual audition may have had to book the read was entirely missing on Thursday night. I was both petrified and horrified at once.

On the director’s cue I came out from the booth and got feedback from the agents before the second take. The agent from CESD spoke for the group. I held it together and went back in. The second take was not beyond horrible and at least I was not ashamed to make eye contact when I left. Before I departed the building, I was giving “report cards” with scores and comments from each agent. They showed a range of opinions and feedback from good to excellent and I took everything in me not to cry from the stress of it all. Oh how I longed to be in the security of my own booth!

The Aftermath

I walked in the pouring rain back to Penn Station. I felt both crushed and defeated. I left my children on a school night to go into the city and instead of doing something to benefit my family I crashed and burned in front of an audience of folks I wished I had dazzled and charmed.

What did I learn from all of this? First, I need to read ALL of my emails! Next, even though it felt like disaster to me, the comments were actually somewhat encouraging and they were all pleased with my second read, so I suppose I was able to show flexibility and resilience even though I did not enjoy it. Lastly, even if I had been signed by any of those agents, which I would have loved, it likely would have opened more doors but would not have lead to some sort of instant and dramatic change in the trajectory if my life or career.

So what now? I just get up every day and keep plugging. I have a lot of auditions this morning and a live session for radio commercial at 1:30 so I just keep doing my thing. I am thankful that I get to work full-time in the field I am passionate about.

 

A Sick Day

 

Why Now???

I’m not sure that as a working mom and solopreneur there is ever a good day for a sick day, but I can say with certainty as someone who rarely gets sick that when it happens on your birthday it totally stinks. I can say with even more certainty that when three really good voiceover bookings come in and you have a violent stomach virus, you are even less happy. I cannot tell you the last time I had a stomach bug. I am pretty sure it was 2008 and it was Salmonella. I also can’t tell you the last time I had one, let alone two clients need something as a RUSH job on a Sunday, so the likelihood of 3 jobs coming in and 2 of them being commercials on a Sunday was not anticipated. Further, it was my birthday, did I mention that? A beautiful, sunny Spring day and my husband skipped his early ball game. The only part of the day that I was able to enjoy was a brief walk with my dog. It turned ugly before 8 am. So, how does a professional voiceover actor with RUSH bookings handle this mess when all I want to do is lay curled up in a ball?

How to Manage Clients’ Expectations

At first I hoped it would pass. Wouldn’t you? One of my clients was in LA, so that gave me at least a few hours. But by 11:30 when I had a fever and realized I was sick, like really sick, I emailed all three clients. I believe in transparency in my work always and I told them I was sick. I initially thought it was related to my birthday dinner on Saturday night. We had Korean food at a great place in NYC and I ate a lot. The fever was a clue that it was not. I told all of the clients I just needed a few more hours. Once I gave myself that window I slept. When I was less nauseous and could physically get to my booth safely without falling, I did. One of the specs was to sound sexy. Believe it or not that was much easier than sounding happy and upbeat, so I did that spot first! Once the tire ad was done I had to sound happy and upbeat. It took a lot of focus and re-records to sound like me. It also took a lot of concentration to edit the way I always do. I was drenched in sweat from the fever even though I was in a tank top. One of the spots was a tv commercial and I had to match a previous one I did in the campaign. That was very tricky. When all was said and done I was happy with the quality of the work and I was able to deliver the work to all three clients when they needed it. I then got in bed for the rest of the day. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon.

How to Handle Mom Stuff

As a full time working mom, missing my Sunday Mom duties was actually far worse than juggling the voiceover gigs. I could not do laundry. My 15 year old son did it. G-d help us. I did not even check it, I was just so appreciative. I also spend a lot of time on the weekends cleaning and organizing. That did not happen at all. I typically study a lot with my kids on Sunday. I was supposed to help them prepare for their current events and study for an upcoming History test. That did not happen. Lunches weren’t made. I can keep going and tell you a myriad of things that did not happen. They repeatedly asked me about them, but I was sick and there is only one me. The housework I am not so worried about, the mess will be there when I feel better. The kids can always buy lunch if need be. I am very worried about the school work. I sure hope they are prepared today and that they aren’t upset if they don’t feel ready.

Easing Back in

It’s Monday. The fever is gone and I am on my way back to normal. I did some auditions and am working on this blog. I can eat toast. That’s something. In truth after the blog is posted I anticipate a good nap. If work comes in I can do it. I will also make that practice History test for my kids I didn’t get to yesterday. Now I have to think to the middle of the week. I head to Los Angeles for the World Wide Radio Summit. I need to pack and organize for that. “Everything will be ok,” I keep telling myself over and over again and eventually it will sink in, right? Because everyone gets sick, so we must all understand?

The Joys of Working from Home

It’s Sunday Morning. I’m sitting in the kitchen and my high school aged twins are sitting next to me at the kitchen island working on their Social Studies term papers. I have this blog to write and then I have to send two clients quotes for jobs and do some marketing work. To me, this is heaven. I can do every bit of work that I need to do right next to Emma and Jack. I can help them with citations on their paper, chat occasionally, all while plugging away at my work. As a full-time professional voiceover actor, nothing delights me more than time like this. I had dreamt of a pursuing a voiceover career for many years before I was brave enough to build one, and the hope that it would work out this way and I would be available for my children while still working full-time to help support my family is ultimately what game me the confidence to aggressively go after my dreams.

How is this an Asset for my clients?

It’s obvious why working from home is great for a mom, but I have realized over my years in the voiceover industry that working from home is a tremendous asset to my clients as well.  In voiceover we work across time zones, having clients not just in other states but typically in other countries from Canada to Europe. Actually, my very first client years ago was in Islamabad, Pakistan!  I have done repeat work for a client in Vancouver as well as for a client in the south of France. They need their audio when they need it, and as I always accommodate “rush” jobs, this often means working at add hours. One night, I was in bed under the covers watching tv with my husband. It was about 10:30 east coast time. A new client called from LA. He worked at a video production company and needed a sizzle reel. He needed it within the hour. I happily hopped out of bed and popped down to my booth and recorded it for him. I was genuinely delighted to do it. This is why working from home is of great value to clients. They are often given almost impossible deadlines by their clients. If my broadcast ready studio were not in-home, I couldn’t meet such demands. But, whether it’s 5:30 AM before I feed the kids breakfast or 10 PM before I go to sleep, I can meet the needs of clients when they need it and I know this provides added value to my service!

Why I chose this…

In truth, when I went into voiceover, my decision was based on a passion for the industry and on the hope that this would be ideal for my family. My husband commutes daily to work in NYC. He is an attorney at a law firm in mid-town. When my kids were little, it seemed highly impractical for both of us to shlep to the city every day. With neither of our mothers nearby as backups, who would be here if the kids got sick or hurt at school? But it was more than that. I wanted to be the one who got to pick them up. I also wanted very much to be there for science fairs and history days. I didn’t want to miss a single event in my precious twins’ lives. So we had to find a way to reconcile these parental yearnings with our very real financial needs. Out of it came my voiceover career. I work extremely long days. I am typically in my booth recording before my husband wakes up and I am often still at it after dinner. But, I also have the luxury of picking my kids up from the train (they now commute too) and going to every school event. Can I make it to everything? Almost. But as I write this post my Emma is right next to me and my little dog Violet is on my lap. I could not ask for more.

Do I have it all figured Out?

No. I have some things figured out. I order my groceries online and they are delivered. My husband has become increasingly more helpful. I do not finish everything that I have to every day. I wish that I could figure out how to get my work done and see my friends more. I do not like to go out on week nights ever, except to workout.  I tend to only workout with my kids so that I am giving them time. I am quite tired. I often wish that I had auditioned more in a day or I run out of energy and I don’t cook dinner. I have tried to stop drinking coffee. I still drink coffee.  We have been getting A LOT of takeout. Thank heavens for Uber Eats. But I am doing my best for both my clients and my kids and I give my family a lot of love. Somedays I feel like I am not juggling well. Then I look at my client list, which I built from nothing, and I look at my kids, who are really, really sweet, and I try to calm down, just a little.