Voiceover

Why are live sessions a Great Opportunity for Clients and Talent alike…

Out of the gate, I’ll say it: live sessions, also known as guided sessions, are awesome! If you are not familiar with the term, it is when your client live directs you. You hear them in the ear of you head phone while you record. I usually do one ear on, one ear off, and they direct you through the recording of the script. This is typically done for commercials, YouTube pre-rolls, and character work, but now I am even having some eLearning sessions live directed. When there are so many ways that a script can be interpreted, this guarantees that the client has exactly what they want at the end of the session. You can blow their minds with your amazing voiceover performance, they walk away confident that they have the exact audio that they need. The live/guided session is a win/win for all involved. So, the specifics. What is my favorite way to connect? Without being coy, I am happy to connect in whatever way is easiest for my clients and I offer a wide variety of options to accommodate everyone:

Different Methods

There are so many great ways to run a live session. Do I actually have a favorite and a least favorite? Sure, but really as long as the client is comfortable I am happy to oblige.

ipDTL/ISDN Bridge

IpDTL was the first method I ever used to connect. My very first coach, Anne Ganguzza, used ipDTL for all of her sessions. So, I was very comfortable with this when I launched my business and proud to offer this to my clients. Around the time that I opened shop, I had two agents who said they would sign me if I had an ISDN line. I learned that it was no longer possible to get regular ISDN lines in my part of New Jersey. So, I use an ipDTL bridge to ISDN. I have my own direct number. Initially I was thrilled. I always test connect before a session. I have had more than one snafu. To his credit, the creator of ipDTL is very available via facebook and tries to address all issues. There is, however, a considerable time lag as he is across the pond and he never figured our why my hiccups happened. I have been fine with my regular ipDTL service but I am less than confident in my ISDN service. I will say that when I send my clients an ipDTL link and they have never used it before, they are always very impressed with how clear the connection is.

Source Connect

I have been very pleased with my Source Connect service. The funny-not-so-funny story is that I had to sign up for it when I had a session scheduled and my ISDN line would not connect! The producer was very kind and said it happens often and that we should try this. I work with a lot of producers now who love Source Connect and it is easy.  Last week, I had a commercial session for a TV spot. There were four talents on the line at the same time. The producer had the clients in the studio with him. He actually sent as a Source Connect Now line. It was great. If you have never used this before, just don’t be shocked that if the others are not muted you will hear a slight echo. Once they mute the echo goes away and it does not effect the recording. There are also not typically latency issues with Source Connect which I really like.

Skype/Zoom

I have some clients who love to use Skype and Zoom. I link them together, I suppose, because anyone could use them for anything, even outside of VO. If you are using them for voice over, be mindful to check your settings and be sure that you are coming through your pre-amp. Both of these are easy to use and for zoom if your session is under 45 minutes they are free. Skype is free as well. I find that my clients in Europe and Asia LOVE Skype and love to message on Skype! So, if you work with folks on Skype, remember to check your messages from time to time.

Phone

Funny as it sounds, I have some older Baby Boomer aged clients who just want to be on speaker phone! They do not like anything “high tech” and they want to keep it easy. If you are like me, your mobile phone may not work in your booth. That’s ok. I have a Magic Jack line for my office and that gives me a landline phone that I can bring in my booth. It is inexpensive and reliable.

Case Study: eLearning Session

So, I mentioned earlier that my live sessions used to be primarily for commercials and now I am even doing them for eLearning. This is fantastic! I’ll share a great example. I have an opportunity to work with a new eLearning company. To clarify, they are not new, jut new for me.  Unlike most, they record all audio by guided session. I connected with Shelley, the director, via Skype. Her feedback was fantastic- very specific in terms of tone, pacing, which words to hit, and how to change whatever the last line was. We moved through the demo script and developed a wonderful rhythm and flow. I cherish the feedback as often when we self direct we miss things or hear them differently. The session was a true joy

Final Thoughts:

Remember, regardless of what your revision policy may be for self-directed work, when you give a live session, all audio is final delivery. This is industry standard. The session should not end until the client has what they want. If their needs change, then they need to pay you for another booking.

If  You are a Professional Voice Over Actor, Be Professional

As a full time professional voice over actor, I am well-aware that my clients have options, so I want to make it really easy for my VO clients to work with me! I consider my business model to be client centered, I put their needs first, and try to put myself in their shoes always. Whether they are video production companies, eLearning content providers, or agents, I want them to trust when they book me that the experience will be seamless because I want to make this as easy for them as possible. Why? I want them to come back over and over again, so I want to be their go to voice in my vocal range.  Outstanding service is what sets the bar higher. Pristine audio is a given. It is assumed that the sound matches either our demos or the audition we have sent in, so the way to stand out and have clients keep coming back is to give them what they need and make the experience a delight! Here’s what I offer every time:

Rush Jobs and Fast Turn Arounds

I assume when you hire me that you need your audio back as quickly as possible. Typically when you cast me in a project, you will immediately (my average response time is 9 to 11 minutes) get my “Seal the Deal” email that confirms all the details. This will confirm the rate, the turn around time, and any questions that I may have about the booking. Unless you tell me when you send me the booking that you don’t need it for several days, I assume you want it as soon as I can get it to you. I often have people contact me about RUSH jobs and tell me that they need it “right away.” To me, that implies they need me to stop what I am working on and record their project. For that I add a $50 RUSH fee. Otherwise, I typically will have your job back to you in four to six hours.  If it will be longer, the exceptions are if I am on location somewhere and I let you know. Always. Right away.

Weekend Hours

I am happy to work on the weekends if you need something. I also have clients in different time zones around the world, so sometimes they send me something on a Friday but it does not get to me until Saturday and for them to have it on Monday it needs to be done on the weekend. No problem! I understand that you have a client on the other end who needs what they need, and I want to provide you with the finished audio. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me on the weekend if you need something. I am very passionate about my work and happy to do it!

Live Sessions at their Convenience

As a professional voiceover talent and gal who loves playing with gadgets, I am happy to provide my clients with multiple options for guided or live sessions! I offer Source Connect, ipDTL, ISDN, Skype, and Zoom. I have even had clients just ask me to put them on speaker phone. Whatever is easiest for the client is fine with me! I want my clients to feel at ease so that they can simply communicate what they want and have the finished audio that they need. That’s it. If you ask me if I have a favorite? Sure, but at the end of the day, the client has to be at ease and feel that they had the session they wanted.

Invoice Their Way

After I deliver the finished audio, whether I have self-directed or had a live session, I send an invoice immediately. I know some folks wait until Fridays. That is not my practice. I send an email delivering the finished audio, typically via drop box, with a summery of the audio, and in that email I describe the multiple ways I happily accept payment because I want to make it easy for my clients. I take credit cards, paypal, Zelle, checks, wire transfer, and more. Now, I have more and more eLearning clients that have specific invoicing protocol. This is fine! I simply send their invoice their way! The point is to make it easy for the client as I can adapt.

Be Client Friendly

In an industry where clients have choices, customer service matters! I want my clients to know how much I appreciate every opportunity, and I want to make it as easy as possible for them to work with me. I think back to times I have had to buy a gift for someone and  hesitated because of the wait at the store or how long it took the clerk to wrap the gift. At the end of the day, I want my service to match the quality of my audio: outstanding is the only option.

Learning from the Best

I’ve said before that it takes a lot to get me to pack up and fly across the country, leaving my twins and my dog, but boy- going to a conference like WoVoCon VI in Las Vegas, Nevada this past weekend sure made me feel like the trip was worth it! Voice over

Time with industry friends goes by way too fast!!

actors from all over the world, casting directors, eLearning companies, and more gathered at the Tropicana to support each other to better our craft, learn about technology, discuss business trends, talk about marketing ideas and best practices, and of course bond! If you have ever been to a VO industry event, you know that professional voice over actors tend to be a pretty friendly bunch, and when you have found your people, somehow a long weekend goes by in the blink of an eye and you leave feeling like you just did not have enough time and you wish you did not have to pick and choose from the outstanding sessions! I moved between some of them and still did not get to everyone. I got to the airport to return home with mixed feelings of joy over what I had accomplished and a long list of people I never got to connect with. But let’s focus instead on the big take aways:

Philosophical Truths

A lot of what I heard resonated with me, but as I sat next to fellow New Jersey voice talent and all around renaissance man Brad Newman, and I soaked in his presentation, I was in awe of his genius. A lot of what Brad said made an impact on me, but when he talked about recurring work bells and whistles went off in my head. One of my big goals for 2019 has been to do more campaigns and fewer one-offs, so I was on the edge of my seat. Brad talked about how in business when preparing to meet a company or when prepping for an interview, you would do your research, learn about their business model and their goals to try to meet their needs as well as you can. He talked about all that we do to understand the end client, so why on earth would we do all of that to only ever work with them one time? Right? I could have jumped of my seat and spent hours discussing just this one aspect of Brad’s presentation, because this really hit home for me.

It is so important to me to do my very best for clients. I understand that they have unique needs and that every job is different, but I am so excited to build lasting and meaningful relationships and to really get to know what is most helpful to them!

Efficiency/Software Tips

In voiceover, we all know we are only as good as we sound. The software often changes and as there are upgrades to our computers, often the DAW we use changes. I work on Twisted Wave 90% of the time. I sat in on a session on Twisted Wave, and then that session led to side chats where I learned so much that will help me better serve my clients! So, I learned a much more efficient way of splitting files. I already split files by markers. Before this weekend, I would manually type in the names of each file, which could be quite time consuming. Well, now I have learned how to use the markers window and to cut and paste from either a word document or an excel spread sheet. See the video here for a demonstration of what I learned in my session with the great Jim Edgar who can be found at JustAskJimVO.studio/JimEdgarvoices.com:

I was also chatting about this and I learned a great cut and paste trick from Dan Lenard. He showed me how to create uniform space cushions at the beginning and end of each slide! If I were the client, I would love if each cushion were the same length.

Pushing Through

I have blogged before about being a migraine sufferer. I happened to have had a pretty bad headache on the Saturday of this conference. It would not go away. I had to miss some sessions I really wanted to see in the morning. I eventually went down to participate, even though I did not feel 100%. To be honest I did not even feel 30%,  and if I were home I would have stayed in all day. But I flew across the country for so many reasons, and none of them included a day of napping. It was not easy for me, but the biggest challenge, bot physically and mentally, was getting through Everrett Oliver’s session. If you have never coached with Everett, he is truly outstanding. He pushes in all the right ways. He makes you go places you would rather not but as an outstanding booth director he gets it out of you. I LOVE working with Everett. And in truth, as a working professional, when booked work comes in, I have to record, so this was a good exercise. I am not shy but I am much more comfortable in front of my own mic than in a room full of people, even if those people are my tribe. I loved every minute. LOVED. I am glad I participated. I hope to work with this amazing coach again soon.

Final thoughts….

Once you start naming names it gets dangerous…So many wonderful people I love were all there. It filled my heart and made me happy. I wish I lived closer to you all. I am so thankful to work in this industry. I hear music in my head when I think of you. Until the next time, my friends. Thank you. Sending lots of big hugs!!!!

The Audition is the Job

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, we all know that the audition is the job. Whether auditioning for an agent, for a pay to play, or directly for a client, booking is based entirely on how good our audition read is. Sure, people who have connections can get doors to open but, ultimately, voiceover is a tough industry with a lot of really talented actors and your auditions have to be really good to stand out against the crowd. Often, hundreds of people will even submit for jobs with minimal pay, so when you are going after the coveted commercial gigs, you really need to wow your clients.  It’s nice if you ask for feedback; but, ultimately, if the listener does not hear what they want in the first four seconds, you will not book that job. That’s it. As someone who has done more commercials than I can count, you need to nail your audition reads. You have to stand out in the beginning. If there is nothing unique about your read, yoo will not book. So here are some things that I think about for commercial reads:

Who is the Client?

Both the person casting and the end client matter. If the client is a well known luxury brand asking for a sophisticated voice and the person casting is an established ad agency with an abundance of options who has asked for a young adult voice, do not go in with your most sultry Kathleen Turner sound hoping to stand out. They want what they want. And when they want sophisticated luxury, don’t give them bubbly and upbeat. I also DO read the specs. I have had people tell me not to read them. Why on earth would you not read something that the person casting the job has spent time writing? I actually stopped working with a well-respected Los Angeles coach again after that person advised me no to do this. I thought it was not a good idea. In this scenario, they are the boss and we are the potential hire. Sometimes the clients ask for two reads and want very different takes in each read. If you don’t read the specs, you won’t know. Now, we all know that sometimes there is a great disparity between what books a job and the end result, so give them the read that books and do not worry about the end result until after you have booked.

Microphone Technique Matters SO MUCH!

There are so many good microphones, and most good microphones are very sensitive. I have a Neumann TLM 103, and the

In this pic you can really see the back side of my Neumann TLM 103, but the position in my booth matters so much! I cannot move it from that side to the other or the sound and audio quality completely changes. In my reads, proximity to the mic also matters a lot!

placement of my mic in my booth matters a lot. My proximity to the mic matters. I have learned that my proximity can be used to evoke very different moods and create a sense of closeness and intimacy. I also have learned that I have to be careful not to fidget during a read, because shifting from side to side will cause irregularities in sound and my mic with pic it all up! A good coach teaches this technique. A good talent listens to their work before they submit. Make sure you listen to your recording and you can hear these subtleties. It would be such a shame to nail the read but lose out because your audio quality is less than pristine. Audio quality is everything, and you are only as good as you sound in this business. If you want your commercial auditions to book, they must sound excellent.

Sometimes the client Just Wants Good Samples- SO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT!

Four times this week I was emailed for jobs that either wanted very specific demos or samples of work I had done in a specific genre. All were new clients. This is awesome! Either you paid to produce a demo that showcases your best abilities, or you booked a spot because you killed it! Either way it’s a win, so respond immediately before someone else does and show this new client exactly why you are the right one for the job! I keep a lot of such samples accessible via drop box, so that even if I am out and about, I can get them right to a client and they do not have to wait. More importantly, their end person does not have to wait!

Lastly, I want to broaden your thinking of what an audition is. Anytime you put yourself and your voice or samples in front of a client that is an audition opportunity! A phone call, and of course a cold call, gives a client a chance to hear you. A direct email to someone you have met with your demo likewise gives a client a chance to hear you. Meeting someone at a conference or a networking event and talking about why your service is different from that of other voice actors is an in-person audition: you have their undivided attention, they hear your voice, and you are speaking! An audition is not just a read with a script or a demo submitted. Always be prepared with you 30 second elevator shpiel and be proud of who you are and what you do. Sparkle!

Why Now?

If you’re like me, you can’t take your eyes off of the daily news updates. The pundits’ analysis of the state of the state is at once shocking and yet at the same time revealing what we sort of thought was happening. Last night I fell asleep watching Masha Gessen being interviewed by Chris Hayes. She was fascinating, discussing why this whistle blower is so different than past whistle blowers,  because he, unlike others in whistle blowing moments, is reveling the details of something we sort of knew about. She had addressed this in her article in the New Yorker: “Most big whistle-blowing stories involve a revelation: fraud where it may not have been so much as suspected; systematic waste unseen by the public and unnoticed by overseers; abuse of power that we couldn’t have even imagined. The story of abuse of power contained in the whistle-blower complaint released by the acting director of National Intelligence, last week, however, was known in general terms. In fact, it had been covered by the media.” So it is in this context that we are in an election year with minor elections upon us.

At this moment, as a professional voice over actor, how could I not have a political demo? We are in an election year. There will be spots for elections, for organizations, for choices we are all facing. And with the news surrounding us constantly, I want to be a part of the moment of change and lend my voice to these campaigns. The demo was necessary to booking the political spots.

My Background

In voice over, we are often asked why we are different than others in our field. As a kid, I always loved American History. This inspired me to major in Political Science in college. Circling back to voiceover, I am VERY different than other talents because I have not one but TWO degrees from Columbia University, and my undergraduate AB degree from Barnard College was in Political Science. In fact, I graduated with departmental distinction and one the senior prize for the best senior essay (senior thesis) in my field. It was on microcredit loans for women in Bangladesh, and this was in the years before Mohammed Yunis won the Nobel Peace Prize, so at the time it was a hot new topic. A man named Richard Pious was my undergraduate advisor, and he is an expert on the American Presidency. When you are in school and you study whether a president is good, average, or excellent, he is on the committee that rates them. Other famous alumnae from Columbia who share my degree and background include President Obama, Madeline Albright, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. I am quite proud to be in such good company.

I stayed at Columbia and pursued a Masters of Arts in History. I was in a terminal MA program at Teachers’ College. My passion for academia served me well and I loved my years at the university.

Why does this matter? I am a gal who understands the issues. All of them. For me, this is not simply an acting job. This is my passion. I will not only be able to develop the script as a professional in the field, I understand the script in the context of the current situation and in the context of the big picture.  I get the issues.

Why Adrenaline Studios to Produce my Demo?

I love the team at Adrenaline! As a full time working professional, I have an opportunity to travel a bit for my work. In the past, I have been in Las Vegas and gotten to record work that I booked while staying in Vegas at Adrenaline. I was very impressed with the studios at Adrenaline and I really liked working with Brandon Perry. I have some other industry friends who recently did demos with Adrenaline including Jodi Krangle and Liz de Nesnera. They turned out great! I was so impressed not just with Jodi and Liz’s performance on their respective demos, but also with the production quality! I thought the scripts were great and loved the audio. I also wanted the experience of working with a studio that is known for producing so many political spots, and adrenaline does.

My Goals

My goal is too book a lot of blue spots and be a part of the wave of change that I pray sweeps our nation. My goal is to also work with new clients. I love meeting new people, and this will combine my passion for politics and my work in voiceover. I am excited to meet the needs for political spots in the coming year, whether they are warm and positive, hard sell, negative, and anything in between, I look forward to an opportunity to bring the scripts to life and make a difference!

VOcationNYC Year 1- WOW!

Conference for VOs Run by VOs

As a working mom, when I heard that there was a voice over conference with a focus on “the business of the business” right here at home in NYC, I did not hesitate to sign up, especially when I learned that Carin Gilfrey and Jamie Muffett were running it! From the start, VOcation was extremely well conceived. There is something so special about a conference run by voice actors for voice actors. It goes beyond the over all vibe. From the little details like having talents sign up to announce the speakers, to the clever swag they gave away, this dynamic duo thought of everything.

Panel of Working Pros

I can’t tell you how fantastic it was that the kick off panel on the main stage, moderated by Jamie, was three amazing women talents. Two of them, Elissa Zhea and Maria Pendelino, are union talents, and Joey Shaljo is a non-union talent like me. Simply put, these gals are killing it. They addressed all sorts of issues like when to make the jump to full-time, the unique situation of working in New York City and how leaving the city changes your business, and accounting. These women spoke so well. They set the bar high for the rest of us. Not only did they teach us well, they set a standard well for which we should all aspire to. In an industry where 65% of the bookings are male, I applaud Carin and Jamie’s voice to start the weekend with these women. It could not have been better.

Emphasis on marketing

Any solopreneur can tell you that marketing is essential to maintaining client relationships and growth, and the VOcation team sure had this in mind when they planned key sessions as well. I very much enjoyed Tracy Lindley, Joe Davis, Brad Newman, and Tom Dheere.  I have heard Tracy, a LinkedIn expert, speak at other conferences too. To her credit, she always speaks about something different. This time she focussed on strategies for effective messaging. I hung on her every word and ate it up: it’s as if she knew just what I needed and was talking to me! Thank you, Tracy! Joe Davis of voice actor websites spoke about best ways to optimize your website for SEO. Joe’s team has been doing my website since 2015, so I enjoyed getting the most up to date tips from him. Like Tracy, Joe exudes a passion and genuine eagerness to help others, which makes him a true joy to be in the same room with. Good choice again, Carin and Jamie! I confess that I did not get to attend Brad’s break out session but to plan to attend at WoVoCon. I have the slides and they are incredible. Brad is super smart and I trust his business instinct any day of the week. He has been doing my hosting for years and I can’t wait to hear him speak. Last but certainly not least, was Tom Dheere. I was so excited to meet Tom and learn from him. I have a few industry friends who have been coached by Tom. I see why they all like working with him. Tom’s organized approach to Direct marketing would teach any new talent how to build a strong foundation. The marketing components of the conference were great!

The Future of VO

J. Michael Collins delivered the key note address on the future of voice over. JMC as we often call him is dynamic and inspirational. Everyone knows him and everyone loves him in our industry. At one point he remarked that  if you think the sky is falling, move over. His talk was uplifting and optimistic. He gave hope and spoke of current trends. We are lucky to have such a competent talent walking among us. JMC is a good egg and his success brings success to us all. Like the women in the first panel, I believe he also sets the bar high. By keeping his standards high in the demos he produces and the talents he works with, this if good for the industry as a whole.

Overall Takeaways

Like everyone, I had panels that I loved and could sit through over and over again and panels that made me wish I were shopping at Bergdorffs. Maria Pendelino’s panel on negotiations was a home run. It was my favorite panel of the conference and if you don’t know her you should. Maria is a rock star genius and major goddess of voiceover who is making our entire industry better. Both of the panels on casting were not my favorites. There was nothing wrong with them per se, they just lacked the scintillating genius moments that I tend to cling to.

Lastly, I have heard from friends who were not at the conference that they had friends who complained about the venue and the picnic lunches. My response is that they need awareness about NYC. There will never be a shuttle in NYC. It is not that kind of city. I heard someone complained it was near the subway. In New York, it is a luxury to be near the subway, so having the venue directly across from the express subway line was very, very smart of Carin and Jamie. Further, space and food are extremely costly in New York. Options for talent were either to go out to eat on their own as I did or the provided lunch. There is always a choice, you just have to understand your options. For those who are not local, perhaps a better approach might be to reach out to one of us in advance next time, I’d be happy to go out for lunch and go shopping:)

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!