Client Relationships

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.

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!

Sometimes you realize from the start of a project that you need to hire a professional voiceover  actor. But other times, the voiceover is an after thought and much of the budget for a project is almost gone. Then the production team realizes that they need a voiceover talent. They scramble to find someone who is willing to work within their meager budget. They may have very advanced technology, spent a ton on instructional design or graphics, but now this very essential element is overlooked! Let me flesh out why it is better to go back to your client and re-budget for voiceover than to look for a cheap voiceover actor. You will never be happy if you hire a low budget talent!

1.You want pristine audio quality and a cheap voiceover talent will not deliver that.

Why? Anyone who has invested thousands of dollars in their studio is someone who cares about quality. They understand that the quality of their equipment impacts the quality of the finished audio they produce and consequently would never settle for sub-standard rates. When I decided to work in voiceover full time, I had a custom studio built. I paid my contractor to coordinate with not one but with two audio engineers: George Whittam and Roy Yokelson. This way, the sound in my booth was designed from the start to be outstanding.

Over the years that I have been in business, I have made countless equipment upgrades. I now use a Neumann TLM 103 and an Avalon M5. I am confident that the combination of this microphone and this preamp give my clients pristine audio on every single job that I record. As some of my radio clients like the audio sent RAW, my sound quality is outstanding with these devices. Having made this investment in my business, I would never lower my standards by working with folks who under pay. I am so proud of the audio that I deliver, and as they are receiving audio completed in a broadcast-ready studio, the rates I charge reflect that.

2. You want a well-trained professional voiceover actor, and a well-trained talent will never accept cheap of low rates.

I always wonder if our clients think about this, but it takes a lot of training to go into voiceover successfully and most of us continue training and ongoing professional development. Top coaches start at $150 per hour and charge upwards from there. Imagine that for each demo we likely had upwards of 20 hours of coaching, and think about how many demos we all have on our websites! Those conversational, authentic, relatable reads that sound so natural? Well, believe it or not, we did not just wake up knowing how to do that!  And just like our equipment, after investing so much in coaching, our voiceover rates reflect the level of training we have had.

3.  You hire talents based on excellent demos, so why would someone spend thousands on their demo and then settle for cheap rates?

Our demos are our calling cards. There are trends in demos to be sure. For example, right now our first spot is supposed to be short. We are trying to show a change in emotion. Regardless of genre, the demos show case a variety of reads. This is true across the board. In voiceover, different demo producers are sought after depending on the genre. They typically charge well over $1800 per demo. Again, in order to thrive in voiceover, we all have multiple demos. So, if we are willing to invest that much money in ourselves, we need to book jobs that will enable us to build a sustainable income. We are not looking for a race to the bottom.

4. You want to work with a team player who maintains industry standards, and a cheap voiceover actor undermines the entire system.

Voiceover actors typically work alone, all day, in padded foam booths at home. Most of us are super friendly folks who are eager to be a part of your team! We are looking to build long term relationships and work with you over and over again:) But guess what, we are also part of another team: the voiceover community! And the voiceover world is pretty close knit and supportive! We are in constant contact through social media and we talk about rates all the time. We help each other sort out tricky situations and we share rate guides. Just as you want to hire team players in your office, you want someone with that mentality as your voiceover talent too! You would never want to work with someone who is willing to throw their industry friends under the bus for a quick $50, right? Wouldn’t that make you suspicious? Instead you want the talent who shares the professional rate guide and explains what their standard rates are based on.

Best of luck to you in your voiceover endeavors!

What can I serve you today?

In one of my “Wonderful Wednesday” (as I like to call them) Women’s group meetings, my friend Shelley told us about a friend of hers who wakes up every day to several voiceover jobs in his inbox. He had created what to me, a foodie at heart, could only be described as a “menu” of voiceover services. The only word that came to mind was BRILLIANT! Clients can choose what they need, meeting industry standards of usage, add it to their shopping cart, and the work comes in! Sounds perfect, right? The only problem with this menu, is that my clients have not started asking for service this way yet! So, if you still have not discovered my “SERVICES” Page, come in on, We’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! I’m happy to work with you and as a full-time professional voiceover actor, I am super enthusiastic about this purchasing option for you! It can be found right here:

Services

What were the goals of this voiceover purchasing system?

  • First and foremost, my goal is to be extremely helpful to my clients! I always want to get them what they need as quickly as they need it.
  • Transparency is very important to me. I am always consistent in what I charge folks. When asked what I base my rates on, I always send a link to the GVAA rates card.

GVAA Rate Guide

  • I always want my website to be user-friendly. Besides trying to offer up to date samples to help showcase my work and ability, sometimes clients need inspiration and ideas and the samples and demos are their for that as well.
  • This menu was create to make voiceover shopping or purchasing as easy as one, two, three. As per the above video, you simply go to your category, select the item, add it to your cart, and voila. Within hours you will have your finished audio!
  • We never seem to have enough time in the day, right? My hope is that this purchasing option saves you time as well!

Can I accommodate RUSH jobs with this?

ABSOLUTELY, YES! The purpose of simplifying the voiceover purchasing process is for my clients go get the pristine audio that they need as soon as possible. I typically can accommodate RUSH jobs, you just need to let me know when you book that it is a RUSH job. A RUSH job is typically a job that you need back within 4 hours. Otherwise you can expect a 24 hour turn-around on your project. I understand that sometimes you have clients on the other side who need something right away, and consequently you need something from a professional voiceover actor right away. I am happy to help and the quality of your project is always the same regardless of your deadline.

Laura Schreiber, Working in her broadcast ready studio on a Sunday Morning to get an IVR client what he needs!

Now, how can we make this process go smoothly? I will need you to: 

  • Send me your script/copy
  • Answer questions I might have for you about production including whether or not you want your files RAW or Compressed, etc
  • include your email and/or phone number
  • Because you have already paid, there is no discussion of invoice!

Are there daily specials or menu changes?

Well, yes and no. Occasionally folks on my newsletter get promotions, so if you help me with referrals I can help you meet your voiceover needs under budget. If you would like to join my newsletter mailing list please email me at laura@lauraschreibervoice.com.

The other “special” you will likely notice is that for sections like Toys or New Media, it says that you need to email me for a quote directly. I typically give a lot of thought to how each job is priced. In these categories in particular, they must be custom negotiated every single time. The usage issues are just too complex.

Lastly, as the GVAA rate guide changes and conversations in WOVO, our professional voice actor’s  organization, progress, I will update my Menu. The purpose of this purchasing process is to make purchasing as easy as possible for my clients while maintaining industry standards. Therefore, regular updates are essential to this process.

Time to Come in:

So that’s it. I hope that I can help meet your voiceover needs today. I try my hardest to listen to what you are looking for and make every single project perfect. I get really excited for every single booking, whether it is an IVR job or a commercial, I am overjoyed to work with you. I deliver every job with a smile and am always accessible via phone, email, and text. I also offer multiple options for guided sessions including ISDN, ipDTL, Source Connect, and Skype. I hope that you LOVE what’s on the menu and I’m even happier when folks come back for seconds. Bon Appetite!

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.

No one wants to get sick…

It’s winter time and colds are inevitable. I remember the first time I got sick after becoming a full-time voiceover actor. I was actually working on my first tv credit, a documentary that ultimately ran on Canadian television called “No Running.” I got sick, which is both unusual for me and unusual over the summer. But, working moms know it happens. When you have young kids, they bring us these treats.  It wasn’t just a slight cold, I had a hacking cough and a brutal sore throat. I didn’t sound a little raspy, my voice became unrecognizable overnight.  Besides that I felt terrible, I was panicked about the job that I was so proud to have booked. I immediately reached out to the producer. He was so kind and understanding. I was fortunate that their production schedule gave them the flexibility to wait until I was better, which incidentally was more than a week. Any working mom can tell you that just doing the minimum to feed your kids and have clean laundry is difficult when you have a fever, but keeping a new business going is even more stressful.  I was very relieved and learned a lot from this lesson early on. If you are a voiceover actor and you get sick, it is very important to be honest with your clients while pursuing a path to wellness.

Be Up Front with Those Who Cast Us

Maintaining client relationships is essential to a sustainable voiceover business. So, if you intend to make your clients happy, and you happen to be a little sick, or worse, really sick, you must tell them before accepting a booking. Transparency is essential in all business dealings and video production companies, casting agents, etc. expect us to sound like our demos and auditions. If we sound like someone else, this is a bate and switch. If you test drive a car, you expect to purchase that car. If you pick out a slab of marble, you expect the quarry to give you the exact slab. We are booked based on our read, and if we don’t sound as expected, we should assume they will either recast the spot or wait for us to recover. I lost a radio spot once about two years ago. It was an adorable spot that I would have been perfect for. But such is life and it is far more important that my client had what he needed when he needed it. Don’t try to hide a cold, it never works out.

Healthy Cold Remedies Specifically Voiceover Actors

Assuming that we all maintain a healthy lifestyle regularly, it is still likely that we will get sick every now and then. I am gluten free and dairy free and try to avoid foods that cause inflammation. Still, I do not live in a bubble and especially since both my children and my husband commute by train, if they get sick I am like a sitting duck. So, as soon as I get congested here are my go to tricks:

  • I gargle with warm water and sea salt. My late grandmother told me to do this and I actually find it quite helpful. The salt cleans out bacteria in your mouth and throat.
  • I use Neil Med Sinus rinse. I prefer the squirt bottle to the nettie pot. It is always important to use this with either boiled or distilled water.
  • I drink Golden Voice Tea. I buy this in amazon. I am not typically a tea drinker but find this really opens me up and it is very soothing. I learned about it from Randy Thomas at her conference and have been drinking it ever since.
  • I am obsessed with my Vicks personal steamer. It is the only way to get into your bronchial vessels and really open them up. I suppose you could just boil water, but this directs it to your face and it feels amazing. Just a heads up, don’t walk around with it once it has started boiling, you can get burned. It does warn you of this but in case you are like me and you ignore such labels, now you have been warned twice!

Making Good Use of The Time…

I don’t know about you, but as a small business owner there is never enough time in the day to finish everything I want to pursue. When I do have a cold, I try to audition less and instead focus my energies on marketing and client out reach. This is helpful for two reasons. First, if bookings do come in, my voice is in it’s best possible shape (assuming I am well enough to work). Next, I can do meaningful outreach that often yields results as good as auditioning. The key is that if you do indeed get sick, do not wait, take action on your path to wellness and while you are pursuing intelligent solutions also have faith that your business will continue to flourish.