About Me

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.

Booking Work is Great, But Repeat Clients Are Event Better

Every time a job comes in for a voiceover actor it is a good day! Jobs for us come from many different sources, but it can be simplified by saying a job is either from a new client or from a repeat client. For me, about 70% of my work is from repeat business. I’m not sure how this compares to the rest of the industry, but I am delighted that folks keep coming back! When a new client sends me work, it is my hope that it is just the beginning of our work together and I do everything that I can to make them happy. So, what are some of the tips and tricks to keeping my voiceover clients coming back for more?

Case Study of Now Foods

I thought to best way to understand what works, is by doing a case study of  a client I have had the pleasure of working with a lot in the past year.  Let’s look at my work with NOW Foods. Above is just one of quite a few projects I have done for them. Initially I booked the gig from a cattle call audition on Voices123. A video production company hired me. I loved their team and the project went well. There were no revisions or pickups and they were great to work with. I followed up with a thank you not and that was that.

A few months later that same producer reached out and said the company wanted to work with me directly and asked if I minded. I said I was happy to do whatever was easy for them. To my delight the company reached out and I have had the opportunity to work with them several times. I have made it a point to be:

  • responsive
  • have fast turnarounds
  • friendly
  • appreciative of the work

I think the combination of all of these factors is critical to building lasting client relationships.

Quality of Work

Do a good job! Every job that you do must be outstanding. Whether the job pays a small amount or a small fortune, treat them all the same. You never know which client with the small job today will have a years worth of work tomorrow. Every bit of audio you send out should have the same audio quality: pristine. Do not ever cut corners with your equipment and software. At the end of the day, if does not matter how sweet you are, you are only as good as you sound and if you don’t sound great your clients will never be happy and they will never call again, even if you are the nicest person on the planet.

Relationship Building

You actually have to put effort into building relationships. Some folks in the industry are friendlier than others. I have made an effort to visit clients when I travel. For example, I had a chance to see a regular eLearning client at DevLearn in Las Vegas this past fall.  Since they are based in the MidWest, it meant so much to me to be able to catch up in person. I went to visit another client that I do regular narration work for when I went to Orlando for an eLearning Guild conference last year. I spend time talking to my clients, whether it is at the start of a guided session or during an actual phone call.  Put simply, if you don’t talk to them, you can’t possibly get to know them.

It has also helped me to get to know my clients by reading their “about” sections on their websites. These are often even more personal than what they might share on LinkedIn and I am often amazed by how much we have in common. For instance, it is not only amazing how many of my clients have dogs, but how many of them bring their dogs to work! This makes it so easy to genuinely connect with the people I work with. I also always send both follow up emails and follow up notes. I believe it is essential that your clients know how invested you are in their project and that you are there for them to the end!

Be A Talent they Can Count On…

If you want to be a client’s go to talent, then you need to be someone they know they can count on all the way through the project! Revisions, pickups, and turnaround time all matter! They matter a lot because we all know that folks make script changes. Their teams just change their minds. It has nothing to do with us, most of the time, it just happens. And then sometimes they have no flexibly and need those new recordings right away. So, if we want to make them happy, we will take care of all of this in a jiffy. We will do it with a smile, and we will make it easy for them. And when you are this “Angel of Voiceover,” i promise they will fall in love!

Passions do Matter

It’s that time of year again when flash cards come out and multiple trips to the library and books stores all over town are a must: it’s term paper season. My twins are fortunate, the History teacher this year and the teacher the had in Middle school are both outstanding, so the kids have learned how to do research. Still, as the mom of two dyslexic kids, they need help. Time management, sorting through the material, and making sure they are on the right track are not skills that come easily to most teenagers, and especially to kids with learning differences.

As a full-time working mom, I spend a lot of time at nights and on the weekends doing work with the kids and I look forward to our time together. My daughter Emma is much more a math and science kid, so when a huge research project came her way in History this year she was less than thrilled. One Sunday in the den with my sister, Emma had a tearful outburst and said “I just want to write about macaroons!” We got it. She spends hours a day doing homework and she wants to work on something she loves, and you know what, Emma LOVES eating macaroons. Smart girl, right?

So, we began searching on line, and learned that Catherine de Medici, the Italian Queen of France, brought Macaroons to France! She also brought the fork, cigarettes, and the side saddle, along with numerous other significant cultural contributions, but this is not about the Medici Queen, it’s about my sweet and smart daughter Emma pursuing her passions. Once we focussed on a subject that Emma loved and cared about, the term paper became a joy and something she was happy and proud to work on.

So, what on earth does this have to do with my professional voiceover career? Everything! Just as pursuing her passions academically makes all the difference for Emma, pursuing my passion for voiceover all day every day is extremely meaningful and fulfilling for me. I had been home with my twins when they were young, and the only way I could go back to work full time was to go after something as wonderful as, well, macaroons!

Creative Outlet

I think one of the reasons I love working in voiceover so much is that it provides such a creative outlet. Between the auditions and my bookings, every day’s work is very different in that regard. I love having fun with the reads and trying to think of an approach that others won’t come up with. I am enthusiastic and passionate and voiceover work is upbeat and happy most of the time. I am really thankful that I spend so much of my time doing something so creative.

Sometimes clients are not sure what they are looking for. I love helping make suggestions and providing alternate reads so that they have options for their project. It is extremely rewarding to bring something to life.

Working From Home is a Gift

Before I had my kids I taught Middle and Upper School History at an all girls school in New York City. The thought of commuting now and being so far from my kids makes my stomach turn. I want to be the one who is here when they are home sick. I want to attend the school science fair and parent teacher conferences. I want to pick them up in the afternoon and hear all about their day. I can still work an 8 hour day and do all of these things. One of the benefits of being a solopreneur is that I create and manage my schedule. I lose no time commuting and my studio life is a delight. My studio dog Violet is by my side every minute and she is a love. Her presence is calming and fuels my joy.

Being a Working Mom Ain’t Easy

My voiceover tasks don’t vary much day to day. On a daily basis, I work on my bookings, try to always do at least 20 auditions, work in marketing outreach and client correspondance, and do bookkeeping. I also have to maintain my social media content. It fills the day and the work day goes by in the blink of an eye.

While I am preoccupied with my voiceover work, all of my tasks as a wife and mom sit. When my sister and I were little we loved the old fable The Elves and the Shoemaker. Oh how I wish there were elves that would sneak into my house to tidy up and do the laundry or the dishes! I find tasks like cooking dinner and preparing lunch for the kids to be the most challenging because I try so hard to make our food healthy and well-balanced and it is hard to do that quickly and last minute. If I were not spending my day doing what I love, it would be quite frustrating to feel so challenged all the time.

Learning from my kids

My kids are young enough still that they do not keep their feelings bottled up. Instead, we know just how they feel in the moment. The blessing of that, though, is that the kids don’t ignore their passions. They pursue them whole-heartedly.  This is a wonderful example to live by. Our lives go by so quickly. As Plato said, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Talking about it all at Sunday Brunch

My friends often remark about how much time my family spends together, but it is something I look forward to all week. Actually, when I travel for work, I have FOMO from being away from my family because we all have so much fun together and are so close. When I say my family is together, I am talking about me, my husband, our twins, my parents, my sister, my husband’s parents, my husband’s sister, and her family. That is a lot of people!  Our time together often involves lengthy conversations about where we should eat, and you can imagine with so much input it is hard to make everyone happy.

Anyway, last Sunday we were at a new South Orange hotspot opened by a well-known Brooklyn restauranteur called the Fox and the Falcon for our brunch. I was in my glory because I got to sit next to my four year old niece Emilia and she is quite precious.

As a small-business owner and professional voiceover actor, people in my family and in truth random acquaintances alike are always making “helpful”suggestions about potential clients I should pursue. So at brunch my dad said, in his heavy Philly accent, “Hey Laur, I was thinking. It would be really great if you could do a car commercial for Mercedes.”  Really dad? I am not a sarcastic person by nature, I am pretty much all rainbows and lollypops. But did he really think it never occurred to me that doing a television or radio commercial for a luxury brand like Mercedes would be a dream come true? Or that I did not already have such ambitions? There is only one way to make such voiceover dreams come true: to pursue them with all the ambition I have in me.

Delivering For Our Clients

The single most important thing to remember is that our clients have a dream. Perhaps vision or goal is more appropriate. They may have a personal career dream, but for the specific project we are supporting them with, they have a vision and it is up to us to bring that vision to life. Any voiceover actor who has had a live session recently can tell you that you will give multiple versions of the same line until your client hears what they need. They know what they are looking for and they want us to match what they have in their head. I have been told over and over that producers don’t know what they want but that is not my experience. We have to give them exactly what they want only better so that they are overjoyed when our session is over. We not only leave our clients feeling over joyed by providing amazing reads, but our studios must be broadcast ready and our sound has to be perfect. That is how we deliver their voiceover dreams.  We make it feel effortless to them so that they are delighted and thrilled and then we thank them for casting us. It’s that simple. We have to be a pleasure to work with and they have to have exactly what they need at the end of the session. So making our client’s dreams come true is entirely about the service that we provide for them.

 

How Do We Make Our VoiceOver Dreams Come True?

Making our voiceover dreams come true is a lot more complex! First, you must know what your dreams and ambitions are. The idea of “success” is far to vague. For me, I have always been extremely passionate about commercial work, so I cast a broad net in other areas of voiceover that were tangentially related, including radio imaging, promos, and telephony. That strategy has worked well for me. My dream is not just as vague as having consistent, sustainable income in this genre. Like my dad suggested, I do dream of specific clients and have been fortunate enough to work with them.

Roll Up our sleeves and work hard: Cold Calling and Cold Emailing

The only way to add new clients to our roster continually is to make cold calls and cold emails regularly. Yes you will have a lot of rejection, speak to a lot of morons who have no idea what you do, and feel like you are waisting a ton of time. But for the past year I have done countless phone messages for Whole Foods Markets. And guess what? That was the result of cold calling. I have been on Pandora Radio’s roster for several years. That was the result of cold emailing. I have more than 15 agents. All of them were from cold emails. Every day I typically email between 30 and 100 radio stations in hope of getting them to sign a retainer for ratio imaging. All of the stations I presently work with I have found this way, and with over 12,000 stations in the United States alone there are a lot to go after. It is imperative that you actively pursue your dream and if you are not willing to do this then you must question how dedicated and determined you really are.

LOTS of auditioning

Auditioning will also help your dreams come true. Whether they are for pay to plays, direct from clients, or for agents, this is your chance to showcase your abilities. I have heard other industry people say that the audition is the job and I could not agree more! You cannot audition too much and if you have a poor audition ratio than you likely need more coaching. Your auditions are a microcosm of your actual work, so you cannot fear auditions.

Sitting and waiting never helped anyone!

In any industry, have you ever heard of anyone who just sat home and waited for success to find them? That never works. In an industry filled with go getters and lots of legitimately talented folks, you must pursue your dreams with all of your ambition. Your dreams can come true, but they can only come true in voiceover with hard work, perseverance, and determination.

What triggered these thoughts?

Since Thanksgiving, I have been working out regularly with my 15 year old son Jack. Jack and I have been work out buddies before, but never with such regularity. So what motivated me, a full-time working mom of 2, to stick to my routine this time? Well since 2016 Jack has been on growth shots. He was not producing enough growth hormone and was so small he was not even on the charts. Now, with the help of Nutropin, after just two years he has grown more than two feet and is bigger than I am! But, as with all strong medications, there are terrible side effects and one of them is that Jack’s blood sugar is quite high. The doctor suggested that losing weight would help. 

Jack and I joined the Max fitness challenge and have loved it. As a professional voiceover actor, I spend my days in a padded foam booth. Getting out every night for out 7:15 class has not only helped me reach me health and fitness goals, but has been invigorating in so many way.  Often others in the class will comment about how great it is that Jack is there and ask why he came. Not thinking any thing of it, I would answer honestly and explain about the growth shots and Jack’s sugar. Often as busy mom’s we won’t make a change for ourselves, but for our kids we will move mountains, right?

Well one night this week Jack told me that he would prefer that I “tell the truth” when asked why he was there. I was blown away, as I thought my reply could not be more honest. Jack said he was going to Max Fitness because he was looking for a harder, more challenging workout. That was it. He objected to my response because it made him sound like a “lazy schlub.” This really got me thinking. Two truths. Two sides of the same coin. But Jack’s perspective was surely the much more optimistic one. Jack’s outlook was full of hope and did not focus on any possible negative outcomes. This had me reexamining so many facets of my life. That very day I had been complaining that I had such a tough day, when actually four great things had happened. Instead of focussing on the great things as my kid would have, I was sweating the small stuff and letting everything that did not go my way define my perspective, and I realized that was ridiculous!

Just in Time for Grattitude Day

My conversation with Jack gave me a lot to reflect on. It turns out that Friday was National Grattitude Day. For someone who spends a lot of time working as a professional narrator, narrating other peoples explainer videos and projects, it was time to change my own narrative! Ironically, I am often chosen for projects because I sound hopeful, but I continue to be so hard on my self.

Well, this grattitude day marks the begging of a conscious choice to celebrate my successes instead of fixating on my own shortcomings. It is an irony of life that I am often specifically hired for the vocal qualities of being upbeat, energetic, and happy while internally I am measuring all of the things that I did not finish or the additional jobs I had wanted to book or the blogs that were never written or the friends that I never saw. After so many years of wanting to accomplish so much, it is easier to maintain this pattern of self scrutiny when we set the bar so impossibly high.

When the reality is that we are working more than 8 hour days, booking work in a super competitive industry, and somehow still managing to feed my family, help my kids with their homework, do the laundry, workout, and see friends from time to time. When I look it at that way it seems that working mom’s everywhere should not only be celebrated by our families, but we should be doing a heck of a lot more to remind each other  how proud we are!

This is My Fight Song…

A lot of times when candidates run for office they have a song for their campaign. When Jack and I are in our gym class every night, and I am just breathing and trying to make it through, a lot of times it’s the music that helps me get through. I focus on the song. The beat, the rhythm, the lyrics all help me pass the time and survive what our trainer has us doing. On Thursday the old song “Get Ready, Cause Here I Come” was playing and if there ever were a song that captured the spirit of how I feel, it is that song! The lyrics do not fit exactly, but boy does it get to the heart of how I feel. I feel like I am still just at the beginning of life’s journey and the world better be ready for me, because here I am:)

Giving Thanks

I don’t know what it’s like in your family, but around here when we have a yummy treat like fudge it only lasts for seconds! We circle around that package like a bunch of starving wild animals in for the kill and in the blink of an eye that box is torn apart and empty!

So, when I need to come up with a special gift, naturally fudge comes to mind! As a professional voiceover actor, all year I am rather focussed on physical wellness as it is so essential to my success. But, when holiday season rolls around, this is the time to roll out the treats and send them to the folks I am most appreciative of- my major clients. Each year, I review my financial data and take my top clients and send them a special treat. The treat should be just that, a special indulgence that they are not likely to buy themselves and lets them know just how thankful I am of their repeat confidence in me. It should be something that they are super excited to receive and that they will truly savor.

So, why did I pick a special assortment of fudge and salt water taffy from the Fudge Kitchen in Stone Harbor and Cape May this year? Well, first and foremost, the fudge is outstanding. Next, this fudge shop is special to my family. Let me flesh this out a little more….

Another Opportunity To Get to Know Each Other

As a small business owner, it is really important to me to build meaningful relationships with my clients. So, I try to make it easy for them to get to know me better. When I started my newsletter, I included this video

 which talks about how important going down the shore every summer is to my family. When we go down the shore, every night my kids get fudge from this very fudge store. They try different flavors from the samples being passed out and we typically let them buy a square. Let’s just say the fudge doesn’t last long! The fudge, then, is one of the best items that seems to be authentically part of the Jersey shore and since I am a Jersey girl, this is just perfect!

Carrying on the Tradition – While Supporting Local Business

It means a lot to me to take my kids to the beach every summer. As a full time working mom, I treasure this time with them and love every second! As a voiceover actor, it is often hard to step out of the studio, because leaving the booth means walking away from potential work, and I think as a small business owner there is always that struggle. But, on a beautiful, sunny summer day, there is no where I would rather be than on 96th street in Stone Harbor with my kids!

I have memories of being at the fudge store with my grandparents, and parents, and of all of them there with my kids, so in a very real sense with every purchase of fudge I am carrying on a family tradition.

I also love supporting a local business. It means so much to me that the small businesses stay open and continue to thrive. I have joked with my dad since I was a teenager that when I shop it’s good for the economy, but in this era of online shopping, I feel that it is more important than ever to patronize local stores. If we want these businesses to be there for the next generation, we must go to them now! Otherwise, with such stiff online competition, they will not stand a chance. So, when it came time to select a special treat for my clients, buying local was a priority.

The Holiday Spirit

How better to thank my clients and let them now how I feel about this special time of year then to give them a present fraught with meaning?  When folks say “’Tis the Season” the words “Of Giving” or “for Thanks” immediately spring to mind.  I am thankful for every single booking, bug and small. That is why I also take the time to send all clients and industry friends holiday cards as well. But I cherish the relationships I build as a small-business owner. I am not looking for one-offs, I look forward to working with clients over and over again, and I use this time of year to acknowledge how appreciative I am.

Building a voiceover business does not happen over night. It takes years of hard work and diligence. It requires a level of perseverance. It also requires an attitude of gratitude, because at the core of a sustainable voiceover business are these repeat relationships. I believe that clients come back for a reason, and I do not think that it is ever as simple as the voice on the other end of the mic or the equipment in my broadcast-ready studio.  After years of working with clients all over the world, from video production companies, to advertising agencies, to talent agents, to instructional designers, it is essential to stand out. And if you want to know me and to know my brand I leave you with one final thought before Christmas: fudge helps.