Voiceover

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!

This is,  after all, the foundation of your career!

Recently another local mom who I am connected with on LinkedIn reached out and asked me if I could “point her son in the right direction” so that he can consider pursuing voiceover. After 5 plus years as a full time, professional voice over talent, I know better than to name names, but I can give you some pointers to think about when you are considering which voiceover coach to work with. It is a big decision, one that will hopefully shape the trajectory of your career, so you should think about these points.

  1. Is there a demo on the horizon?

Whether you are a newbie or an established talent, you will likely be coming at this from different angles. You may just be honing your skills, so a demo is not in play. If a demo is on the horizon, that changes things. I find it helpful to find other talents who worked with that coach. Listen to their demos. Are they booking? Do they have agents? Who are their clients? Do you actually like their demos? Do they sound current? Is this the sound you want for yourself? I have some demos that I am very very proud of and others that I am not happy with. I was not happy with the coach and for a multitude of reasons I still moved forward with the demo. I very much regret both the money that I spent, the time that I spent, and my own inability to see this coming, especially because it did not happen at the start of my career, but instead when I was a seasoned professional. It is what it is but I will not make that mistake ever again.

2. Does this coach give feedback in a way that you respond to feedback?  Do you actually know how you learn? I am sensitive and while I wish that I could say business is business, I do best with positive reinforcement and constructive guidence. In my career I have worked with a few coaches who are harsh. One of them I could not tolerate and had to stop after several sessions. Another one I did persevere. The result is possibly my best demo. That coach was not mean, he was just also not sweet, and every session was very hard for me. Some coaches use a lot of acting techniques. Others have their own inventive, creative approaches. See what works for you and what you enjoy. Since you invest a lot of time and money in this, I actually believe it should be pleasant.

3. Is the cost within reason? The reality is that this is a business and you need to earn money. often we hire coaches either while we are still working in other jobs and segueing in to voiceover. We all want to avoid demo mills that promise a demo after 5 lessons; but, at the same time,  we don’t want to be on the hook forever. I once worked with an amazing coach who said a “demo is a reflection of where you are now.”  So in a few years when your work changes you make a new demo, right? I like that, especially

I have been fortunate to work with the best of the best. When you have the luxury of working with top coaches, if you are like me you hear their voices in your head when you work all day every day. Anne Ganguzza, J. Michael Collins, and Fred Frees are amongst the dream team that I have assembled, but I have worked with others who continue to inspire me!

when I was starting out. But we all have room to learn and to grow, so at some point we can pull the trigger and move on. I have also supplemented coaching with classes. I have attended online classes through groups like GVAA and VO Peeps that are amazing. I have taken live classes at our local theaters in advanced acting and improv. I have gotten a lot out of these classes and just like with coaching, the classes are only as good as the teacher. 

4. Think outside the box- there are known coaches and then are new folks and are plusses and minuses to both!  I have worked with the biggest names in the industry and I have worked with folks just starting out. When you work with a proven coach who has a curriculum, you benefit from years of experience. You hope that they see your potential and that they correct your flaws. But this does not mean that if someone is new to coaching you should run for the hills. I have had coaches that I think are brilliant and they have had very few students. As long as they are committed to the process and to your success it can work very well.  Their success as a coach is inextricably linked to your success after having been their student, so they typically want to the best for you.

5.  Think about who is choosing the scripts- you or the coach.

I have had this work both ways for lessons as well as for demos. I have had to come up with scripts and write scripts. I have also had to work on scripts that I have never seen before, just like in real life. I think ultimately, for me, I prefer to have the scripts given to me. As a working talent, we don’t pick our scripts. And when they are well written, it seems like a miracle. An absolute miracle. So why would we write scripts that are brilliant, witty, pithy, and not at all like the majority of our actual day to day work? It’s practically a farce. I also think when the coach here’s our raw read it helps with audition technique too.

Conclusions:

When you are  working with a coach, the question you have to ask yourself is are you continuing to learn and grow or have you plateau? Once you have plateaued, you either stop, or if the goal is the demo, you do the demo….

We All Need to Stay on Top of Our Game

As the years go on, in between conferences, a working professional voiceover talent may have a question about our tech or about our recording software from time to time. As a seasoned, full-time professional, sometimes I discuss such issues with my accountability group. Other times I will pay for a session with an audio engineer. But a lot of the time I am plugging away in my booth and I need an answer right away. Another likely scenario is that I am playing around trying to remember how to do something with my audio software that someone has told me about and  go down a rabbit hole trying to figure it out. In those instances, I head to youtube and I have found some pretty fantastic videos done by industry friends to answer my questions. Here are some favorites that you might find helpful too:

Time Saver for Editing Breaths

A few years ago in one of my accountability group chats voice over goddess Shelley Avellino firrst talked about how she handled breaths on Twisted Wav. She talked about using the “Detect Silences” option and replacing it with room tone. If your noise floor is low, this is a great option. I thought it was a brilliant idea, but as I do a lot of commercial work my recordings are typically not long enough to do this. Recently, the one and only Kim Handysides suggested I record my auditions all at once, and now that I am in the habbit of doing that, Shelley’s suggestion seems perfect. The problem was that I could not recall how to do it. I turned to YouTube and found this wonderful tutorial from industry friend Christi Bowen. Here Christi explains step by step how to quickly and efficiently replace your breaths in Twisted Wave. She also addresses issues like clipping letters at ends of words, so this is a must watch for sure!

Productivity tips for Twisted Wav

I was lucky enough to meet Jack de Golia and hear him speak in person at WoVo con in Las Vegas, but if you can’t get there, this video is extremely helpful, especially if you are endeavoring to do long form narration or audio books. Jack talks about so many salient recording issues, including why we should never record in MP3 and he provides valuable tips for editing. I also learned something from Jack when I heard him speak in person. I do a lot of live sessions, and Jack said that if your computer fan goes on, you can put ice packs under it to stop your fan. He later cautioned me to make sure I did not get it wet, but I keep my laptop on a raised metal platform, so thus far it has not been an issue. Jack’s thoughtful approach in this video is wonderful.

Trouble Shooting a Pre-amp

I have had not one, but many sessions with George Whittam, aka George the Tech Guy. I worked with him when initially building my studio. I have had emergency sessions when I’ve had snafus. I have had George build my effects stacks. I have had George build more stacks as I bought more equipment. To say I trust George is an understatement. He is a pleasure to work with and he will never leave you without a solution. This video gives you an idea of what it is like to work through a problem with George. he is calm and full of suggestions. They also happen to be working on an Avalon pre-amp, same as mine. Sometimes you just need to keep trying lots of different approaches and here you get an idea of how George tackles this issue.

Mic Technique

I’ve had a lot of coaching. A lot. For years. From the best in the business. But very little of the work that I have done has been in person, face to face. So, in our business we talk often of mic technique. You, like me, my found it helpful to watch videos about mic technique to learn how other industry professionals perform. I find Gabi’s videos to be both entertaining and insightful and her tips are always on-point. This is extremely specific! I have tried to switch mics and this also often involves adjusting my setup. Gabi looks like she is using the same mic as me now, the Neumann TLM 103, and I can tell you that it is powerful and sensitive so positioning matters a lot.

Conclusions

At the end of the day, we can take what we need from these videos and use them how they apply. I find it a comfort to know that there are so many valuable resources at our fingertips.

I’m Starting to see a Pattern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Do you have a specialty?

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

Q: Is there work you won’t do?

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

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

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

It’s Good to Have People

To There are Ups and Downs

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

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

Tips for Finding People

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

Topics to Discuss with Your People

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

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

    bounce this off of your people.

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

What the Universe Sends You

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

It’s That Time of Year Again…

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

1. Plan Ahead

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

2.  Block Off Time Specifically for Summer Fun

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

3. Keep Kids Stimulated

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

4. Put it All in Perspective

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

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

Consult an Expert

When I started my business years ago I had so much to learn abut every single aspect of voice over. In addition to all of my vocal coaches for each genre of voiceover, and hiring a contractor to build my custom booth, I need serious advice about  which computer to use and why I should make those choices. To understand how I came to a laptop, I also need to explain how I became a Mac user after a lifetime on PCs.

I had actually started my business with a Dell Laptop. My cousin David who is an audio engineer in Philly had advised me that the software I needed to edit my work would not run sufficiently on that computer. David described a scenario where I was working and everything crashed. I assumed David was speaking in hyperbole just because he, like so many younger people I know, prefer Macs.  One humiliating day early on,  I had paid a fortune to work with a coach in Los Angeles and everything that David

I so identified as a PC user that I could not possibly imagine life any other way!

predicted come to fruition! My computer crashed. I could not sign in to ipDTL. I could not get Audacity or Adobe audition to work. Nothing worked. I was in a total crash. I had a session and I was mortified and I was ready to work and knew at that moment that I needed to make a major change.

It was time to consult an expert. I had already been working with a local sound engineer known affectionately by industry insiders as “Uncle” Roy, aka Roy Yokelson of Antland Productions. Uncle Roy is a PC guy and he was teaching me how to do the sound editing I would need when I launched my business. Switching to a Mac meant I would no longer be able to solely rely on Uncle Roy for tech support. I was told to consult with George Whittam and that he would guide me in the right direction on what my next step would be. I scheduled a call with George right away. Even though this was years ago it feels like yesterday and I am still profoundly thankful for his help and support, which is costly but well-worth every penny.

Studio Set up

I had a list of questions for George. If I was making the leap from PC to Mac, did I want a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or Desk Top? George encouraged me to get a souped up MacBook Air for my needs. Again, this is personal and it depends on your needs.  For me, I needed a computer that would support all the audio software, have a large memory, and would be quiet. George explained that with enough RAM, the MacBook Air would meet my needs swimmingly. I also bought a hard drive to back it up so that if I had an unfortunate incident I would be covered!

George did not just make suggestions about the MacBook Air. He also guided me about other specs for the booth I was building to make sure that my audio would be pristine. As my goal was to get WoVo approval, which I did, this was also immensely helpful.

On the Go

I am ultimately very pleased with my purchase of the MacBook Air. I have been using it for almost five years now. I travel for work several times a year and it is light and not bulky. It works well as part of my travel rig set up too. 

There is another element to my specific business needs. I am a working mom. I often have to leave my studio in the late afternoon and drive my twins to after school activities or sports events. The MacBook Air is extremely portable and great for the mom-on-the go.  I bought a Tumi work bag on The Real Real that matches my suit case and I feel very organized when I travel. I am really thankful that I did not purchase the slightly heavier MacBook Pro, which my son has, because I have back and neck issues and for me every pound makes a difference.

Concluding Thoughts

As with so many other changes I have faced in life, the anticipation of the change is worse than the change itself! I am thankful every day for the guidance that I got from my cousin and from George that pushed me in the right direction. I am thankful that the fan on my computer is so quiet. I am thankful that there is an apple store at my mall so I could get started so easily. I also LOVE using Twisted Wave. For me, the shift from Audacity and Audition to Twisted Wave was a huge productivity improvement. It is both my hope and intention that through conferences I will continue my tech education and will stay current with all of the new tech trends in voiceover so that I can best serve my clients.

Can’t Win Em’ All

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

The Potential for Life Changing Awesomeness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Epic Fail

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

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

The Aftermath

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

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

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

 

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.

Those Shindigs Where You Really Need Them

So about two weeks ago I found myself in Burbank, CA for the WWRS 2019. The event was held on top of what, as an East Coaster, I can only describe as a mountain with amazing views of the Los Angeles area. It was the perfect setting for the radio world schmooz fest that was three days of enrichment, professional development, and networking at every turn. To say that for professional voiceover actors (and my guess is that there were about 50 of us there) business cards were essential is an understatement. The whole point of going was to put ourselves in front of the production managers and creative directors who make the decisions about which voiceover talents to use. And aside from our amazing in-person impression, all we leave them with, in the end, is our tiny little card. I found my self extremely curious about the cards that other voiceover talents were giving out and it made me re-evaluate the ways in which I was using the precious space on my own card. I was standing there in gorgeous Burbank at this conference looking at the card in my hand and questioning, is my card sufficient for the major purpose it serves in life?

Breaking Down Current Trends

According to The Balance Small Business, even in the digital world there is still a cultural precedent to the exchange of business cards around the world: “The ritual exchange of business cards is central to establishing business relationships in many countries. In Hong Kong, for instance, if you are given a business card and don’t offer one in return, you can basically close up business then and there, says Rory Boland in Hong Kong Business Card Etiquette.  In Japan, too, the quality and condition of your business card speaks much about how you intend to conduct yourself and business.” Most professional voiceover actors like myself use their business card as an extension of their branding. It matches their website and other marketing materials in both font and colors. Everything ties together and it is what a client familiar with your brand would expect to see.  Another current trend a lot of my voiceover friends, including me, had been encouraged to follow is to only have our name and maybe a tagline if anything else on the back of the card so that folks that we meet have a place to write down notes when they meet us. Here are some examples of this.  Accomplished voiceover talent  Dervla Trainor has beautiful cards that match her site in color, font, and follow the trend of leaving space on the back side:

 

 

In another example, accomplished voiceover actor, coach, and director Shelley Avellino follows this branding trend as well. Shelley had the clever idea of only having the front of her card glossy and leaving the back matte so that folks have an easier time writing on it:

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s VOA unicorn award recipient Michele Blenker has a little more information on the back of her card while still tying in her branding and leaving space:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what my card looks like at the conference:

 

 

 

 

What Am I Trying to Accomplish

What I realized at the WWRS 2019 was that there were a lot of voiceover talents who were thinking outside the box. Some had a list of top stations they were doing imaging for. Some had a list of major brands they voiced.  I could do this! Bells started to go off in my head because I suddenly felt concerned that this side of the card was my bill board and I was leaving it blank. Yes, there are a lot of well-established successful voiceover talents doing the same thing I have been doing and their cards look beautiful. But after seeing these other cards, instead of leaving it to the folks that we network with to write down the information that resonates with them, it occurred to me that I can take control of the dialogue and use the space in a way to make sure that potential clients and current clients have essential information that I want them to have. Yes, I realize this goes against a trend. And yes, I realize it looks cluttered. And yes, I realize it is not as pretty. But, once I saw these other cards, I had this real conflict as I could not unsee them. 

My Bold Move

I should note in my passionate tirade about the cards that I have different cards for different genres of voiceover. So, I have one set of cards for eLearning. I have another set of cards for government contracting.  So this set I am all fixated on is for my radio imaging, commercial, telephony sort of work. I decided to do an experiment and actually ask for feedback. This week upon my return I did ask for a revised design from the team at voiceactor websites for the back of my card. This is what they came up with:

I chose this because I wanted to clearly state which genres I work in most. I wanted to remind clients about the studio I have worked so hard to build. And I do actually do RUSH jobs all of the time, so I felt that it was essential to put that on the card. Am I certain that this is the right move? No. I am pleased that it is clean and easy to read. I am pleased that I can be sure clients will have the information they need. But when I look at my friends’ cards, they sure do look pretty.