Voiceover

Working From Home

Who doesn’t dream of rolling out of bed, brushing their teeth, staying in their cozy pjs and slippers, and going down to their home office, right? As a full-time working mom, I wanted to work from home to be near my children. I love that I am home when they are off or home from school. I love that I am here when they home sick. I also love that my precious Cavalier, Violet, is with me in the studio much of the day while I work.

When I built my business voice over, I decided early on to build a professional home studio. It was really exciting to make choices that were specifically to my benefit. From the colors to the height of the desk, it was all about me! Everything else in my house is done for the common good. I have done my kids rooms for them. My kitchen is meant to be practical. This was the first time I built something based on my research, preferences, and taste!

Come on In to My Voice Over Studio…

Welcome to my booth… Please check out this tour:

From the Foam to the Mic

Every choice in the booth was made with a lot of thought and careful decisions. My wonderful contractor, Pzermik, worked with both Uncle Roy of Antland Productions and George Whittam to get all of the spec right. The walls are double thick and have special insulation on the inside. The carpet has plush padding and I have a rug of the rug.  I have a special fire door that is both sound proof and insulated. My booth. was built with aurelex foam.  I have great bass traps. While my voice lacks bass tones, they keep my rectangular booth from sounding boxy.  I couldn’t have a whisper room because of the ceiling clearance and studio bricks didn’t exist at the time, but I spent a lot of time looking at the whisper room set ups and that really helped me discern what I needed and wanted.

I am particularly proud of my lights and fan. Both are silent and both work well! It is always bright in the booth.

I have made lots of upgrades to the equipment over the years. Now, I record on a Neumann TLM 103, Avalon M5, and MacBook Air with Twisted Wav. I am really happy with this set up.

What Makes it Professional

The audio quality of the final produced work makes this booth a professional booth. My raw audio is pristine. I am have a very low noise floor. I do a lot of radio and a lot of live sessions. My clients never have issues with the sound.

What Makes it Custom

This booth was built around what is good for me! So if I have friends over they may not find everything the way they have it in their booth, but I love all my little details, from my shelf that holds the pre-amp and interface under my desk to my hooks for my

My hook on the wall is immediately to the left of where I work and is perfectly positioned!

head phones and wires that are at just the right locations. One of my favorite details is that we actually drilled right through the desk so that the music stand is dead center in front of me to place the scripts on. It is perfect.

What I Would Change

There are somethings I would change for sure! I spent a lot of money upgrading to white foam which turned yellow within the year that I bought it. I really do not like the yellow. I was at a conference last week and saw a turquoise and grey booth and I have total booth envy now! I initially wanted the white because I thought it would feel so big and open, but now it just looks awful and I’m upset about the white.

It is cold in the winter! I don’t know how I would make it warmer, but I am going to figure something out, because it gets ridiculously freezing in there!

My booth is in my basement. I didn’t want to take up space in the rest of my house, but I hate being in the basement. I feel far away from everyone.  I also never want to do other work in the workspace I created adjacent to my studio because I don’t want to be in the basement.

I think at some point I would like to add built in storage. At present I have some storage cubes and a file box in the booth. In the long term, I would love something a little neater.

My other major longterm goal is to have my travel rig sound more like my main set up! I use my travel rig enough that I need to have it sound closer to my home studio. Right now there is too much of a disparity between my apogee and my Neumann.

What We’re Told

Professional Voice Over Actor Laura Schreiber in her booth

Years ago when I started auditioning, I was told a few things about auditioning that stuck with me. First, I was told that that audition is the job. I have heard this over and over and it’s true. We have precious seconds to set ourselves apart and catch their attention or the gig is lost.  Next, I was told once I submit my audition never to think of it again. Fred Frees, one of my beloved coaches, said it’s like flushing the toilet. We submit, click, and  it’s gone.

The Reality

The reality is that some auditions are easier to forget than others. It also depends on how many auditions a voice over actor is doing in a day. If you only do a handful of reads, each audition could, in theory, weigh on you more. For me, on a typical day, I submit between 20 and 40 auditions. When I’m really ambitious or there is a lot out maybe I’ll do 50. I have a pretty solid booking ratio on pay to plays, so I have gotten pretty good at not fixating on auditions. Like most professional talents, I also track the amount of reads I submit to what I book and this keeps me aware of what I am doing relative to others in the industry.

I will tell you though, that even with all of these reads, some auditions just seem like the were written for me. And those are the ones that I fixate on. Those are the ones that I check to see if they have been listened to. I hope to be short listed for “these” special few. I seem to keep those top of mind even when I know, after all of these years, that I should just be moving forward.

Last week I was called into a studio in New York to read for a project. I was already short listed when I went in. I knew that only a few others had my sound. I made the final cut. I will confess that I have been fixating on this audition. I have discussed it with the gals in my accountability group. They, too, have had this happen. They are short listed for projects, held on avail, and think that they are perfect. Sometimes the casting g-ds shine down on us, sometimes they do not. The fixating cannot make it so. All the meditating in the world has not sent the casting my way yet.

The Other Girl

The other night as I was falling asleep and fixating on this casting, I had a thought that put my mind at ease. My revelation was of the other girl. The other girl who got the email or voicemail or actual call that she got the booking. That she must have had such joy and been so delighted. I know that joy as I have been fortunate enough to experience it so many times over the years. In a job field where we either book or we don’t, the way to survive is not to think about the rejection but to basque in the joy of every single casting. Each booking matters. A lot. And knowing that someone out there got that joy, and in this case we are talking major joy, gave me solace.

Connecting the Dots

In voice over, as our careers progress, we build strong bonds with like minded talents who are also striving to reach similar goals. We typically support each other. One year, I was short listed for several jobs and put on hold for them, and ultimately the casting went to another gal, not once but twice. Well I met the other gal at VO Atlanta! I was delighted to chat with her and she could not

Andi Gibson Stal is lovely and a brilliant talent. Clients chose Andi for a Target campaign we were both up for and she did great work for them!

be more lovely.  I recently had a great Zoom chat with another talent who has a very similar business model to mine. I get the feeling we share more than goals, I think we share a work ethic and clients too.

I find the other women in my business to be a constant source of both motivation and support. Voice over is different that other fields because our network really does become like a family. When we visit each other we stay at each other’s homes. We share holidays and are there in good times and bad. So pulling long and hard on this thread of the casting has made me think about what I am unraveling. I may not get this campaign, and the more time that goes by, that seems to be the case, but knowing that one of these other great gals did, makes me feel better. And in the mean time, I’ll just me taking a long, hot shower, and belting out “Let it Go” over, and over, and over until I really do!

My Wheels Are Turning….

Perhaps because I have been following The Budget Mom, and I have been spending a lot of time thinking about personal finances and where our money goes, it makes sense that in this time of reflection as a working mom I would also reassess what has worked well and been of value in by business and what I might have done or do differently. As a solopreneur, ever single dollar counts and at least in my perception has even more weight than it would in a large company, so for me my choices in my voiceover business matter a lot. I confess that I lay in bed at night thinking about them and praying that I have put myself on the right path so that I succeed for my children. I am passionate about my voice over work to be sure, but I also have a hunger to continue to build a thriving business and every choice matters.

The Demos

The very first choice most talents make is who to work with for their demo and which demo to do. I am EXTREMELY thankful and proud that Anne Ganguzza and I did such an amazing commercial demo. It is the rock solid foundation that my business has grown upon. It was worth every single penny and I am very glad that I invested in that. I feel the same way about my narration demo that I did with Bill DeWees. I also have booked A LOT with my eLearning demo that I  did with J. Michael Collins. I am extremely proud of all of my demos, but I have brought in substantially more work from these 3 demos than all others combined.

I watch these adorable videos that my friend Heather Foster posts on Facebook called things I’d tell my younger self. Well, I was in a big hurry to do a lot of demos and for better or for worse they sure helped me build a full and diverse website. But, had I realized where my bookings would fall, perhaps I could have saved myself some money early on and not rushed to do so many demos. It is hard to commit to that statement, because I have done quite a lot of telephony and IVR, and gotten some great clients like Whole Foods, from that demo (also produced by J. Michael Collins) but the majority of my bookings continue to be commercials.

Equipment Purchases

I am very happy with my studio. I am very thankful to have high end equipment in a well-treated booth.  I built my studio early in my career and made upgrades as I got big, steady contracts for consistent work. This made sense at the time and it still makes sense. I had lots of industry people make digs about spending money and I had to filter them out. In fact, I probably should have invested in my expensive microphone, my Neumann TLM 103, when I started, instead of spending $500 on a mid-range mic only to upgrade within a few years. I intended to succeed and I did, and my studio, which is acoustically treated to perfection and also has an amazing pre-amp, is a huge piece of the puzzle. I am very happy about these purchases and filtering out the nay-sayers was a good move on my part. If you want to succeed in voice over, that is often a piece of the puzzle.

My Website

Home-NEW

I am VERY pleased with my website and my website team, but I have made some mis-steps- not with them, on my own. In the beginning, I worked with the brilliant Anne Ganguzza to do my branding. She was fabulous and I am pleased with all she helped create. When Joe Davis and Karin Barth at Voiceactor Websites came into the picture, we made some great upgrades. I am happy with everything I have done with them and pleased with all I have invested.

At some point a few years ago I decided to create a separate entity for government bidding. I created a separate webpage for this. I regret spending the money on this page and not just adding another page to my current site.  I took a lot of advise from a government contracting mentor outside of voiceover, and his did not understand the voice over industry well enough. It is not in my best interest having two separate pages. It is often frustrating. I spent a lot of money and time on this and regret these choices.

I also made another mis-step with my main website. When I initially built my page, I first made it a scrolling page instead of a multipage site. Then when I wanted to add pages, I asked a random person to do it. It was a mess. I had to go back to Joe and Karin and ask them to fix everything. I felt terrible to have sidestepped them, which was years ago, and had to do a major website upgrade. It worked out in the end but I wish I had invested in a more elaborate website from the start. I had no idea how much work I would do.

Final Analysis

Don’t be short sited. Make choices that make your life easier. Work with kind people who are helpful. You can always spend money later, but if you are booking from something, you don’t need something else. Just keep doing what you are doing!

How Much Are You Working?

The possibilities are limited only by our imagination and determination, and not by physics.” ~ Mike Duke, PhD, NASA Geologist

THE question:

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, I get a lot of questions; but, the one I seem to get the most, is “So, how many hours would you say you work now?” Somehow saying that it’s a full time job has net been a clue. So, what I gather is that folks can’t imagine is how the work of a creative can fill an entire day, or perhaps weeks and years on end. Given the opportunity, I will happily, and enthusiastically elaborate and tell you what days are like for a working voiceover talent.

The Home Studio

Like most voice over actors, I have a professional home studio. This gives me the ability to accommodate clients in different time zones, not just in the Unites States, but abroad as well. I love getting started early, because I feel like I have gotten a lot done in a day. In truth a lot of my steady clients are on the West Coast, so I often go back down to record jobs that come in late after dinner as well.

Daily Tasks

The amount of booked work I have shapes my day. I typically record all booked work before doing anything else. If a big audition comes in, I will pause a job and record and submit that. While I record, I hydrate continually. I drink water all day long. I limit myself to one coffee a day. Once I am done recording actually bookings, my day is divided between auditions, client outreach emails, LinkIn follow ups, and general marketing tasks. I do try to do 20-40 auditions a day, and they come in from clients, Pay to Plays, and agents around the country. If a booking comes in mid-day, I stop what I am doing and record. For bigger jobs I typically have advance notice. For example, I did 20 videos on Thursday, but I new about them about 2 weeks in advance so that I could book out the day on my calendar. I do I lot of commercials and have a lot of RUSH work as well. I am always happy to do rush jobs. I understand when folks have deadlines, and I never mind getting audio right back to clients. Often when more booked work comes in, time on LinkedIn or for marketing takes a back seat. I tend to keep up with my client correspondence as that is very important to me!

Mom Life

It seems the more I get into a rhythm with my business, the less I feel in control of life at home. When my twins were small, they had all of my focus and attention. I was with them full time and I could spend all of my energy thinking about meals and school and their clothing. Now I worry a lot about their school work since they are in high school. But, our house is not as organized as it was. Our dinners are not planned. I often scramble to make lunches before taking them to the train in the morning. I am so so so thankful that the groceries can be delivered or I am not sure we would ever have any. 

Another issue is that because I am a small business owner, even when I am driving my kids to sports or taking them to the doctor, I am still thinking about my work and checking for client emails. I can’t ever completely detach because there is no one else to man the fort. Since I am the business, if I disconnect, it ends. I find it challenging to find the right balance between savoring this precious time with my children, which goes entirely too fast, and catching the momentum of my business which I have worked so hard to build.

I do remind myself that my kids are learning from see me running a business at home. They see me working not just at nights but on weekends. They hear client calls. They get to hear and see my actual work. This all cushions the blow. So the house may not be perfectly tidy when the family comes for a visit. And we may have to get takeout more than we had planned. And I may often forget to go back out and put the cover on the grill. 

My hope is that while friends that we meet for dinner may have natural questions about what it’s like to be a full-time working creative, my kids, the people who matter most to me in this world, will not have any questions because they see everything. I also try to talk to them about all of the issues that I grapple with and pose thought provoking questions.

So, I can tell you with certainty that a working voice talent has plenty to keep them busy! Odds are their more than 40 hour work week blows by and they have a hard time figuring out where the time has gone!

Where Am I Going With This….

Even though I work full time, as a mom of teenage twins, I am in the car A LOT. My SUV has a great sound system, and I confess I enjoy belting it out. The other night I had a realization though: unless my four year old niece is in the car, I am typically belting it out alone. And it is not that I am not playing great music, because I can assure you that it is always a party when I drive. I think it has more to do with the personalities of my husband and kids.

I asked  my son Jack why he didn’t want to belt it out? Perhaps the music should be even louder? His response: it’s just not him. He, and they, are just not wired up that way. In contrast, I can’t keep it in. I dance. I rap. I pour my heart and soul into it. ACDC. Snoop Dogg. Gladys Knight. Jonas Brothers. It doesn’t matter, I’m into it! So what on earth does this have to do with voiceovers? Well, people often ask me how I got into voice over or how I started booking work. It’s a tricky question. There are a lot of talented people who do what I do. There are also a lot of people who have had access to the training that I have had. They may even have the demos that I have. So, what sets us apart? Our schtick. Our unique personality and spark. The ability to put my dignity, airs, “whatever” in the metaphorical back seat and whoop it up for the clients, is essentially what I have been practicing for years. One of my beloved coaches, Fred Frees, used to tell me if I was going to “make it” I had to be fearless in front of the microphone. This singing in the car is exactly the same thing. When you have the reckless abandon to belt it out in front of everyone, odds are you will also be fearless in front of the mic.

Are there personality traits of Voice Over Actors?

So here’s an interesting question that I get. Just like in every field, all types come to voice over. I do find that the industry friends that I have are kind, supportive, and an overall super friendly bunch. We all have to wear our emotions on our sleeve, because if you can’t hear them, no one will hire us! So, I do find that in voice over people are typically willing to share, and that openness makes everything better.

Do We Actually Sing In Our Work?

Yes!  I have had to sing for Indie Video Games, Toys, and Commercial Jingles. I have also sung for mobile apps with Nursery rhymes.  Some people who have had a lot of musical training have singing demos. I do not, folks just ask me to do it and I send them my best. A lot of the voice over talents that work in animation sing a lot. As that has never been my bread and butter, I do not do that.

What If We Don’t Sing or Sing Terribly?

Don’t worry! Our job is not musicians. There was a spec on a job I was sent last week that specifically said that they wanted someone who was not perfectly on tune so that it sounded natural and not overly polished. I think a more commonly sought after skill is the ability to sing in character, which has a lot more to do with staying in character, and less to do with hitting each note perfectly. That being said, when I have sung for toy demos, I have to do scales and have to hit each note in the middle and it takes a lot of work and concentration for someone who did not grew up singing!

My Thoughts

I did not go into voiceover because I wanted to sing. To the contrary, the jobs that involve that component are typically my hardest.  The point of this is that the silly abandon that we have when playfully, often gleefully belting it out in the car whether we are alone or have an audience of 3, that is what we need to bring with us into the booth for every job. The ability to switch gears as quickly as a song changes on the radio is priceless. The ability to reinvent ourselves every two minutes is also priceless. All the professional training in the world cannot change the feeling that you have in your gut. I have been told by another coach that I “dive in” rather fast. I believe that, too, is one of my greatest assets! Whether it is a new station I am imaging for and each take on a line needs to be fresh, or a 15 second holiday spot, or an eLearning module, be the talent who is willing to shake things up and delight your client at every turn!

A Rare Glimpse

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

Emma and her roommate in their classroom on presentation day!

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

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

The Team

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

Emma and her game design team

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

Roles in Their Organization

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

Places to meet Gamers

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

What Surprised Me?

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

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

 

Top Tips for the VO Blogger

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

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

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

Tip #1: The Blog Helps You Seem More Relatable

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #4 Stay Positive

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

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.