Client Relationships

Why Leaving the Foam Booth is Worthwhile

As a full-time, working mom, working from home is a major perk. I realize often how lucky I am to have my home studio. Whether it’s a day where I can accommodate multiple client sessions and run to m kids’ school to watch a special presentation, or a day when I am feeling exhausted and want to stay in yoga pants and no one knows the difference, working from home is a pretty sweet gig. But I will also be the first to say that in order to be a successful solopreneur, I need to leave to comforts of the home office that I have worked so hard to build in order to broaden my professional network.  I have made amazing connections in both expected and unexpected places because I made the effort to leave the booth!

Connections in expected places

I have blogged in the past about my conference adventures. From voice conferences like WoVo Con and VO Atlanta, to eLearning conferences like DevLearn, I have made very important connections at these conferences. At voice over conferences, I have met

Wonderful industry friends at WoVo Con, a night out with Uncle Roy in China Town the weekend of Sovas, an eLearning Guild conference in Orlando, and the WWRS in Burbank!

industry friends in person that I otherwise only know online from facebook or instagram. The bonds that form are amazing and so meaningful. These folks have become my daily support, my confidants, and my work family. These are the people I trust and confide in. The relationships would never be the same if we were not together in person. We also often refer business to each other, and again, we would not trust each other to share clients if we did not know each other so well, the way you do when you actually spend time together.

I have traveled pretty far for eLearning conferences like DevLearn and other eLearning guild conferences too. These conferences are different because you are putting yourself face to face with the companies who might need your services. Some of my most regular clients are from the smallest conferences I have gone to! The tricky thing about these conferences is that companies often send their sales team, and these are not people who cast voice talent, so as a voice over actor, you have to learn how to access the people that you can work with. You also have to learn the difference between the people who create content and the LMS providers, as they never need our services. It is also important to note that simply meeting these people at a conference and exchanging pleasantries in know way guarantees the connection. Instead, it takes months if not years of consistent follow up to build a rapport and maintain the connection that began at the conference.

Connections in Unexpected Places

I have also made wonderful connections for my business when I was not “on” or in “networking mode.” Once, at an ATD conference in Atlanta, I was totally exhausted. I did not know how I would get through the day in the massive venue with so many booths left to walk through in the expo center. I decided I needed a snack break. I had to take the escalator up four flights, which

This is what the first glimpse looked like. It was an enormous expo and several days there was both a great opportunity and exhausting all at once!

felt like an eternity, and I began chatting with a really nice lady from Boston who is now a client. She also needed a break and like me was desperate for a bottle of water, and being in that snack stand at that moment, seemed meant to be. We chatted and chatted and this instructional designer started venting about talents she had used in the past that had not worked out. The conversation flowed, and the opportunity was natural.  Sometimes it is these genuine, real chats that make the most impact and help people get to know you and then if there is a professional synergy it is that much better!

Recently, I was at the AI conference at NJIT in Newark. To be honest, even though I was only about four miles from my house, I was petrified to be in such a tough part of town and I was seriously questioning the logic in having a potentially great conference at such a venue. Well, there was another young man and woman who also had to walk from the parking garage to the main building around the same time. We just started walking together. I was relieved and started venting immediately. It turns out this woman was a talent agent from Denver and we had so much in common! That first chat has led to multiple phone calls. I am now on their talent roster for voiceover, promotional modeling, and on-camera work:

Laura

So, like my experience at ATD years ago, this wonderful connection came from a genuine, heart-felt conversation and there also happened to be true professional synergy. I did not start out trying to market myself, I just sought out human connection. This is why leaving the booth is so essential!

A Rare Glimpse

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

Emma and her roommate in their classroom on presentation day!

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

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

The Team

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

Emma and her game design team

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

Roles in Their Organization

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

Places to meet Gamers

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

What Surprised Me?

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

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

 

Top Tips for the VO Blogger

In the last week, well-established voice over Goddess Kim Handysides, released a blog of her favorite/highly recommended voiceover blogs: 

https://kimhandysidesvoiceover.com/2019/07/01/top-10-voice-over-blogs-collins-courvo/

The list is still unfolding actually. Since then, not only have I been ruminating over why I blog, but I have also been thinking about some big “no, nos,” the imaginary line in the sand that is not to be crossed. Some rules that seem straightforward to those amongst Kim’s top 10 but perhaps were not so clear to those left off the list. Perhaps it is better framed as a positive list of tips and suggestions of what I think works and reaches the people we really want to reach.

Tip #1: The Blog Helps You Seem More Relatable

A blog can accomplish many goals, but a great one is that clients and industry friends alike can get to know you better. Whether you are sharing a recent personal experience or your work philosophy, the blog gives a more in-depth glimpse into who you are and how you tick. It let’s folks know what is going on in your head, and you can really open up. The catch though, is that in the voiceover world we give up our private lives a bit for the sake of our public ones. We may not be Beyonce or Lady Gaga, but in our own sphere we have given up our anonymity by existing on the multiple profiles we post and share. So, when attempting to share, carefully think about the way in which you reveal yourself. If you want to seem relatable, make sure that you in fact post blogs that are warn, helpful, and approachable.

Tip #2: The Blogs Establish You as a Professional With Expertise

Yes, you likely have a client list on your website. Sure, you have demos. And you probably have shared some of your finished jobs on your website, LinkedIn, or YouTube. But, a great way to let clients and potential clients alike have a glimpse into what sets you apart from others in the field is to blog about your feelings on a recent work experience or booking. Perhaps you want to kvell about a commercial you were thrilled to be a part of? Perhaps you have a new tech insight that is valuable? Perhaps you were in a dream project and it meant the world to you. Or you want to write about some new coaching that you got and how it played out in a recent casting. All of this helps clients understand why you are special.

Tip #3 The Blog Helps Folks Feel Like they Know You

The world is getting smaller and that is a good thing! One of my favorite aspects of voice over is that we work with people from all over the world. Literally all over the world. Even as a solopreneur, I think globally. My very first ever booking in voiceover was for a women’s clinic in Islamabad, Pakistan. Since then I have had clients in Italy, China, France, Germany, England, India, and the list goes on and on. I am thrilled to have every single booking, but what I can tell you is that I work at home in a padded foam booth, and I want to build a relationship with my clients. It is hard when our time zones are three hours apart. When we are more than 8 hours apart, we rarely speak on the phone. Typically a few emails back and forth is the only correspondance we have. So, it is my feeling that having these blogs on my website gives clients an available glimpse into who I am. I feel the same is true of my newsletters. I can’t tell you how often tidbits are commented on or repeated back to me that only came from a blog. I also check my google stats and my blogs are pretty well read, so it does make a difference.

Tip #4 Stay Positive

When you are having a bad day, don’t blog about it. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Meditate. But for heaven’s sake, do not have a public melt-down for all to see and post it on every voiceover site and share it with every person you know. The voice over community is small. People want to have each other’s backs. We generally lift each other up. I feel that I have a wonderful family in my VO friends. Blog about the lessons you learn from rising up, from over coming, from doing your best. Everyone has good days and bad, but your clients do not need to know about the bad ones. Give them a reason to think the world of you and to hire you. Give them a reason to sing your praises from the rooftops. Give them sunshine and pixie dust and sparkling glitter. Give them what they can get only from booking you! That is what you blog about!

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!

The first spot in this compilation for Raw Juice is the spot discussed in this blog!

The Excitement of Booking the Job comes with a degree of Trust

As a full-time professional voiceover actor, I book a lot of my jobs on the casting website Voices 123 and have for many years. Every talent, whether they are new to the field or long established working actors is delighted when a booking comes in. When the above video script came in, I was pleased as it was for a large franchise and the story of the script was something that resonated with me on a personal level. I, too, have thyroid issues. I, too, work hard every day to plan healthy meal options for my family. So when this booking came my way I was both happy about the voiceover opportunity and excited about the synergy I felt.

Professional Voice Over Actor Laura Schreiber in her booth

Also, realize that I was not hired directly by the juice chain. While the owners selected my voice, ultimately I was cast for the project by the video production team. So, my actual client was the video production team.

When it came time to record, based on the rate they negotiated, I sent them several takes. Each versionI sent was edited and broadcast-ready. I received positive feedback and was delighted that they were happy. All that was left was the business end. Keep in mind this happened over about 6 hours from start to finish.

Invoicing

I sent off my invoice. As voice actors, we never know if we’ll be paid that day, in 30 days, or in the dreaded but seemingly  acceptable 90 day window. On this particular booking, there was an unusual scenario. I say this is unusual as someone who does several hundred bookings per year, typically multiple bookings per day, and has been full-time since 2015, I think I have a enough of a sample size to say that this was unusual. I am typically paid by the person or company that casts me in the spot. In this case, I was being paid by the end client. This is not standard. Right away the invoice was being passed from person to person, and almost everyone seemed to say “not it.” This was not a good sign.

Collections: What’s Normal and What’s Not

What is standard? Typically whoever hires me pays me. If it is a big job or if they are going to have repeat business I also send them a W-9 form. Most of the time it is that simple.

In the past I have offered multiple ways for clients to pay me. I have sent pdf invoices, PayPal invoices, Square invoices, and have accepted QuickPay by Zelle. It was becoming so complicated with all of the different requests that last month a client could not decide or figure out how to pay. Further, I had to make detailed notes in my CRM to remember which kind of invoice I sent out for each client.

I have now had enough of this. This month, in April 2019, I went back to my initial method of invoicing through FreshBooks. It is simple and straight forward. It is better for my clients and for me.

But back to the story about the Raw Juice debacle…

So after 90 days I was really aggravated. The nice guy who hired me had passed me off to the Juice company and they were non-reponsive. I found the folks who worked there on FaceBook and LinkedIn but how aggressive did I want or need to be? I finally direct messaged the owner who gave me his direct email. When I emailed him I ccd my husband who often acts as a manager of sorts and is an attorney in NYC. I will tell you that I was very upset that it came to this. I did the work. I did a good job. They were happy. I should have been paid.

Was that enough? No! They wanted proof that I did the work! Can you even imagine?! I sent them the invoice again with the above video. It ultimately took about 120 days and a tremendous amount of time and effort to finally get paid. I was not happy. These were not good people.

The Shocking Aftermath 6 months Later

So this week on my CRM, Voiceoverview, which I happen to love, I got a friendly reminder that I had not done a job for a little while for that producer. I decided he was nice and he had done nothing wrong so I might as well drop him a quick note to say hi and learn about what he’s working on. Would you believe after all of that, the juice company had gone back to him and said legal never approved the script and they wanted revisions and more VO! Thankfully the producer had my back and had the sense to tell them no. I took a lot away from this though… First, I was correct to trust my gut that the producer was, in fact, legit and a good guy, and was also in a tough spot. Next, when people seem like  – – -holes they likely treat everyone else that way too. Lastly, since voice over folks are often the last part of the team called in, remember that we often DO NOT know the entire story so it is best to just remain calm and do our job.

 

Reasons to Feel Enthusiastic

Some Mondays it can be easier to get into the groove than others, right? But today, just back from World Wide Radio Summit 2019, I am feeling about as motivated and enthusiastic about my work as a gal can feel. This is in large part the consequence of a panel that my friend, fellow voice talent, and Radio Imaging trailblazer Kelly Doherty AKA “K3” ran. There were hundreds of people from around the world, from Europe, South Africa, all over the US, and Canada, and all week everyone waited for Kelly’s panel. The energy in the room was amazing. You could feel the joy, the love, the pride, and the creative power. For the women in the audience, there was another element though. Kelly was running the show. Not that this is anything new for our beloved K3 as she has voiced the top stations around the country for more than a decade, but here, at this industry event, she was setting the standard and guiding what Radio Industry Imaging protocol was for everyone. So when she asked her highly selective panel of guests if a female voice can be the main voice of a station, Kelly’s question was met with a resounding “YES”!!

There were two sessions specifically targeting radio imaging at WWRS2019. K3 included several other amazing women as panelists, among them Melissa Thom,  Issa Lopez, and Ashley Cavalier. These women, unique, bright, and talented share an enthusiasm and passion for our industry. They are also all incredible talented. So I was incredible proud not just to be their to learn from them but to feel that they were representing us. And to clarify the “us” is both the women who are in imaging and at the conference, and those of us who plug away daily in our booths to contribute to an industry that we adore. To be sitting in the audience amongst power houses like Taylor Kaye, Rachel McGrath, Amanda Madi, Heather Walters, Heather Foster, Nicole Britton, Jenn Sweeney, Roberta Solomon… I could keep going but our presence fueled the message of the panel. It used to be they our voices were only used to compliment the mail voice on any given format. Now, as women we have an opportunity to take the lead. So, it is apparent that audiences across genres trust female voices and our moment to shine has come.

Trusting Female Voiceover Actors

While I could go on and on about my radio imaging work this morning because I just got back from this amazing conference, in truth I am super enthusiastic about my voiceover work across genres. I settle in to a commercial read or a telephony project with just as much passion. I try to always consider who I am speaking to and why my client need  my voice. According to the Daily Mail, “two studies have revealed that both men and women preferred female voices – which were found to be ‘warmer’ and ‘understanding’.” While I am often asked to be upbeat and conversational, I know that in essence the folks casting me want the listener to connect, and that connection will only happen if the read is believable and the listener trusts the voice they hear.

Apparently, even in the growing world of AI, the shift to women voices is a huge trend! Have you noticed that Siri, Alexa, and often your GPS all sound like women? In an interview of Amazon executives in PC Mag, they were asked why they often use women are for AI voices and Amazon explained “We tested many voices with our internal beta program and customers before launching and this voice tested best,” an Amazon spokesperson told PCMag. “However, for our objectives—building a helpful, supportive, trustworthy assistant—a female voice was the stronger choice,” according to Mr. Redmond. So, it is not only in radio imaging that more doors are opening for women.

Correlation Between Women In VO and Women in Workforce

As the trends for hiring women in voiceover start to shift in our favor in recent years, which I can assure you was not the case when I entered the industry years ago, I can’t help but wonder if this is directly related to changes in the work force in the United States in general. I found some hard facts that lead me to believe that it is. According to WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council):

  • As of 2018, there are 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. Compare that to 1972, when there were only 402,000 women-owned businesses, representing 4.6 percent of all firms.
  • Women own 4 out of every 10 businesses in the U.S.
  • Industries with the highest growth rates in terms of number of women-owned businesses include utilities (151% growth), other services (126%), construction (94%), accommodations and food services (85%), and administrative, support and waste management services (70%).

So it is within this setting that women in voiceover have begun to sparkle. And my hope is that as  women entrepreneurs continue to expand exponentially, so will their confidence in the women of voiceover!

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.