Voiceover

A Case Study in Fixing A Tech Issue

On Thursday I got the email that a professional voice over actor never wants to get from an agent. One of my most Houston We Have a Problem Memeattentive agents took the time to email me that something was wonky with my audio. She said it sounded off, and in addition she could hear clicks and plosives that she could not normally hear.  This is odd because I used isotope RX7 in my effects stack, so that never happens. She also said that my “Fs” did not sound like they usually do. While I was profoundly thankful for the feedback, my heart sank. In voice over, we are only as good as we sound, and I had recently made a ton of studio upgrades. So my mind was racing. When did these issues start? What had I submitted that sounded this way? I knew I had to fix it, and fast. I had a live commercial session the next morning with a producer I work with regularly but the client was new, and this had to be fixed prior to the session. I only had a few hours and the clock was ticking.

Quick Response

I immediately reached out to Tim Tippets, aka the VO Tech Guru. I had worked with Tim on the recent upgrades I Time is of the Essencemade and he had created my new effects stack. I was not sure where the problem began, but I was confident Tim could fix it. I must confess, I stalked Tim. I emailed him sound to compare our baseline audio from when we had worked together several months ago and my audio from Thursday. I also texted him to see when he was around and to let him know my availability with a desperate hope that he was able to fit me in. Tim answered my prayers and made time in his super busy schedule for me later that evening. I was profoundly thankful.

Fixing The Glitch

Tim and I had a zoom session. I gave Tim control of my computer.  Tim right away determined I was having a UAD Don't Change the Settingssoftware issue with my Apollo MK II Thunderbolt preamp. Somehow, at some point, I had checked a box that for my settings should never be checked. In this case, it is the preamp box. Once that box was checked, it changed all of the settings, the gain, the input, basically all the levels were completely different.  We quickly realized that the baseline for the Manley Voxbox that I use was not saved on my iMac. Rather, it was still on my MacBook Air that I had used before my recent upgrade. So, I needed to send it to my new computer. Tim was amazing. He was patient and confident and in very little time he had my preamp settings restored. Further, he made sure that I was now able to restore them on my own in the future. He also took the time to tell me how to do audio play back in zoom to make my live sessions with clients better.

Why It Matters

Put simply, in voice over, we are only as good as we sound. If we want our base of clients to keep coming back, we must offer nothing less than consistently pristine audio. If my agent could hear sibilance and plosive, then it is likely it was

Quality Mattersheard in auditions and work submitted around that time as well. Part of being a professional working voice actor means having broadcast ready audio, and broadcast ready audio is perfect. Broadcast ready audio sounds as good as our demos.. It matters because our clients depend on us to provide them with great audio. It matters because our agents need us to have bookable, quality work. It matters because there is a difference between professionals and amateurs and sounding broadcast ready is one of those defining qualities.

Reflections on the Situation

If we can’t sound as good as we sound on our best day every day then we need to know how to fix it. I was fortunate, since the start of my small business, I have made a habit of surrounding myself with people that I can trust. As a working professional, I can tell you that every day is not perfect. Here is why this situation is something to write about: I had a problem, I took action, I knew whew to call, and the problem was resolved within hours, before it effected client work. As a working voice over actor, it is essential to have go-to industry partners that you trust. In this scenario, my agent was my alarm. She had my back. We always need others who will fix our crowns when they get knocked off. Then I had Tim. He had my back too. He scheduled me right away when I let me know how urgent my need was. So in the end, my audio problem was fixed because I have meaningful relationships with people in my industry. Our success may be about the sound, but it is also built upon the relationships with other people in voiceover and without that my sound would likely still be a mess.

Taking Daisy to New Skete

Daisy at New Skete Training CenterI have been blessed to have three precious dogs in my life, and each of them has brought me immeasurable joy. I had no idea, however, that when we got our Labrador Retriever Daisy, in addition to being super sweet and super smart, she would also be super challenging to walk without the right training. A neighbor with two Great Dane pups introduced me to the dog training books by the Monks of New Skete, who have been training dogs since the 1970s. We made the choice to send Daisy for a board and stay training program, and I learned from the brothers that there were a few keys essential to Daisy’s success. We needed to be consistent with her obedience every day and maintain her routine. She would need structured daily exercise. We needed to plan everything- even her walks, to set her up for success. As a small business owner, I realized that in voice over all the lessons that would lead to success for Daisy also hold true to maintaining a successful professional voiceover career.

Doing What’s Right, Not What’s Easy

Just like in Daisy’s dog training, doing what’s right in my voice over business instead of what is easy is essential to success. One of the most challenging aspects of running a VO business is determining rates with clients. Even though it can be awkward and is not fun to talk about money, it is really important to always maintain industry standard rates and hold your ground.

Another area that demands a good deal of time and attention, and I have put countless hours into, is audio quality. Again, like dog training, it is far from easy to sound pristine. I have worked with top sound engineers to perfect my setup and effects stacks. Even for my travel rig, I have made sure it sounds just like the audio in my booth. None of this is easy. None of these are quick fixes. Just like the dog training, this takes a lot of dedication, time, and work. In the end, though, I could never send out anything less.

Maintaining a Consistent Routine

Daisy and Violet sitting nicelyNow back from New Skete, every day Daisy has to run through her exercises, from leave it and heal to place. Similarly, working on my craft is essential every day. From warm up exercises to practicing cold reading, this is part of my daily routine. I recently reflected on this in my blog about the class that I am taking with Kim Handysides, but in order to stay strong in the reads that I submit both as auditions and as booked work, this daily work is essential to my success.

I have health rituals that are also essential to my voice over success. I steam with a personal steamer. I am also on a gluten free and dairy free diet. This consistency matters in how I sound.

Daily Exercises

Just as Daisy needs her purposeful walk, I need a certain amount of daily exercise to stay in shape for Daisy playing with toy in the grassvoice over, I walk four to five miles a day. I do pilates three times a week. All of that is in addition to my vocal warm ups. When your body is your instrument, you have to maintain your instrument every single day.

It’s All Building A Strong Relationship

The intent behind Daisy’s obedience training is to strengthen the relationship between the dog and her humans. Well, the most important thing that we do in voice over is build lasting relationships with our clients. Every single choice we make feeds and fuels that relationship. If we make the wrong choice, it can damage that relationship. If we stay out too late with friends and are at a loud restaurant with a live session the next morning, how will our client feel when we show up to the booking sounding like a much raspier version of ourselves? The answer is you do not want to find out. In voice over, we make choices in anticipation of the outcome they will have on our body and our voice. Being able to show up and perform Laura Schreiber with Daisy and Violet on Couchis the biggest part of the deal, and being honest and up front about it when we can’t is also essential. Being able to foster a strong relationship is really important to building a client base.

In the same way that communicating well with Daisy strengthens our family bonds, doing all of the above plus communicating well with clients strengthens our connections with them. As they can rely on our work being consistently good and being there when they need it, they will be able to trust us for their clients, and in the end that trust is what matters most. As a professional talent, a new booking is great, but when that new booking comes back, it’s almost as good as when Daisy comes galloping towards me.

When Each Day in VO Feels Like a Time Loop

I happened to marry a huge Bill Murray fan, and from Quick Change to Groundhog Day, I think I’ve seen all of his top hits, but Groundhog Day is my favorite. As a working mom, having a system to maintain efficiency is really important but What if nothing you did mattered?unfortunately that same system often makes every single day feel the same. I go into my booth and warm up. I do my most pressing auditions first. Next I tend to all booked work. I submit more auditions. I stop and walk the dogs. I typically eat an early lunch then work on client outreach. Then I go back in the booth for more work and to submit more auditions. Every day is pretty much the same. I meet with my accountability group on Thursdays and I blog on Sundays. Days are the same and weeks blend together. So, as a full-time voice over professional who is booking work, you might be asking what is wrong with this? The problem is the rut the I feel like I fall in. With no room for self-checks and no room to make sure that I am submitting the best possible reads, the Groundhog day scenario perpetuates itself. The best way to break this cycle and for a voice over professional to submit bookable auditions is to work on their craft regularly and to work with top coaches who give solid feedback! In voice over we are constantly being asked why we are different than other talents and those of us who book work know that the answer is seldom our voice but rather that we need to work on our craft to stand out!

Why “The Voice Over Study” Class with Kim and Lisa

The First step is a doozy It’s important to pick the right coaches and I’ve been blessed to work with many excellent ones in the years that I’ve been in voice over. Sometimes you want private lessons and sometimes  group classes can meet your training needs. Right now I wanted to shake things up. Kim Handysides and her daughter Lisa Suliteanu book a lot of  work. They understand what is au courant and have created a curriculum across genres to target bookable reads. Kim has been an industry leader for 30 plus years and her talented daughter Lisa has been working steadily since she was 7 years old and has been full-time since finishing university. In case you’re wondering what the vibe of their class is like, it is upbeat, inspirational, clever, and fun. With so many coaches in the industry at the moment, this class is designed to put voice actors on the path to success and enrolling was a great step for me, even so many years into my career!

A Fresh Look at Scripts

Bill Murray playing the piano In Groundhog Day, we see Phill Conners taking piano lessons and becoming an amazing pianist. This did not happen over night. It took lots and lots of practice. Right now in The Voice Over Study, we work on different scripts and then can use those tools to go back and really work on a script. The more we learn to unravel it, the better our reads become. For me, having fresh feedback on my reads is helpful. It is also just as helpful to pay attention to the reads of the other voice actors in the class, listen to how they approach the scripts, and think about the feedback that they are given. I try to incorporate this approach into both my auditions and my booked work and bring some freshness to it all.

Interact with Others

Bill Murray With Andie MacDowellIn Groundhog Day, we see Phil’s relationship with others in the town blossom and develop throughout the film as he gets to relive each day. For me, having an opportunity to meet other voice over actors is really valuable. The other talents in the class are from different parts of the United States and Canada. We are at different points in our careers and we all aspire to focus on different genres of voice over. Still, I think knowing other voice actors is essential to our success, and I am so thankful to be getting to know the other actors in this class as we all learn together.

What’s Current and What is Booking NOW

Phil Conners with News Team Just as we see Phil repeatedly attempting to cover the story about Punxsutawney Phil, there are countless ways each script can be approached, so wouldn’t it save a lot of time and energy to understand which reads are actually booking right now? That is the point of “The Voice Over Study,” the nuances of the bookable read are not necessarily my go to read, so I am so thankful for the first few sessions already! For example, the words to emphasize or blend may not be what I had thought of, so this valuable feedback, and the reinforcement of it, makes Kim and Lisa’s class outstanding. In class last week, Kim directed me to hit words I never word have that to enunciate, and the overall gestalt of the read was just a million times better. Her instincts are amazing. Kim and Lisa book A LOT of work on their own, and my goal is to be as busy as they are!

Read Rate/HW keeps As Honest

Bill Murray reading poetry In class we have homework. We have scripts to prepare and we are also supposed to work on cold reading. I also love this, as both make me more efficient and more effective in my daily work.  These tasks are something that I look forward to, as I feel like I am taking control of my career and determining my own path.

If you have a passion for voice over and you want to make your work stand out, do something different, be bold, and take this class! Unlike Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, in the voice over industry what you do each day does matter so get coaching, do the work, and make your career better!

…. When We Are the Voice Of the Brands Everyone Knows and Loves

Brand Identity

When I started working with my first voice over coach, Anne Ganguzza, I loved her website. It made her standout not just from other voice over actors but from other coaches. It was bold, it was easy to navigate, and it established Anne as a professional. In large part, because of the brand that Anne created on her website before ever speaking with her I trusted that Anne was a voice over professional and if I worked with her I would be successful. This is no accident. If you met Anne Ganguzza, then you know that she is a branding genius.

brand key wordsAs voice over actors, daily we play both the role of the talent and the role of the small business owner. Immediately in 2015 I decided that not only would I coach with Anne but I would hire her to help build my brand, as I needed to learn all that I could from her. She hit the nail on the head, working hard to get to know me so that the brand that we built for Laura Schreiber Voice is truly a reflection of the work that I do and what I bring to my clients. As a working creative, we are in a unique role because we ultimately get hired by other brands to represent them, but it is in solidly establishing our own unique brand that we can distinguish ourselves from others in our industry. According to Forbes article from March 2018,  “your brand often acts as a function of your reputation and visibility.” As a professional voice over actor, it is essential to establish your brand so that your clients will get to know you as an individual and will trust you as a professional.

Your Website

As a solopreneur, your brand begins with your website. It is your store front. Clients can listen to your demos, see Screenshot of www.lauraschreibervoice.comsamples of your booked work, and find out how to contact you. Those are the basics, but the fun begins when you use your website to do two things: show clients how you are different than other voice over actors and how you will best meet their needs. Kristin Wendys of The SelfEmployed.com advises “Think first with the eyes of a client and analyze what he is looking for, what are his biggest concerns, and what problems he needs to solve.” Some voice actors have brief summaries so that clients can quickly learn about their services, but much in the way that I am very chatty, my website is overflowing with long narrative explanations that I hope will help my clients connect with me.

Your Logo

Visual images help create your brand and your logo is very much a part of this. I have both an avatar that I love and a Laura Schreiber Voice Logologo. I use them both differently. My logo is on official correspondences like invoices with my avatar is on my business cards, thank you notes, return address labels, stickers… all marketing materials essential to establishing my business brand. According to Entrepreneur, “Simple branding is best, especially if you can make an association in people’s minds that helps them remember you.” My hope is that the feeling that people get when they see my logo and avatar will help build our connection. Everything associated with my brand is very pink and matches.

Why Clients Need To Understand Your Brand to Relate to You

The more clients feel that the know you, the more they will trust you and want to work with you. They want to know not just that you can do the job, but that you will make their life easier because they trusted you to do the job over someone with similar abilities and qualifications. It is wonderful to meet clients in person, but now more than ever this is not often possible, so your brand helps clients get to know you!

What Your Brand Enables you to Do When Marketing

As small business owners, building a brand that clients recognize enables them to hire us directly in lieu of going through a casting site or a talent agency. This direct rapport, booking through our website without our middleman, is the goal of our branding. If we are savvy enough to create a unique brand, we have an opportunity to book voice work directly.  According to Forbes in October 2019, “By definition, brand familiarity is the process of creating brand presence by providing awareness, emotional connection, value, accessibility and relevant differentiation for your audience. Building strong brand familiarity is one of the most significant hurdles companies face.” If you are getting direct bookings, this is a great sign you are doing a good job with your brand and if you are not you likely need to keep working on it.

 

Here are some useful links if you want to research more about branding for solopreneurs:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/349667

https://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2018/03/15/how-to-build-your-brand-as-a-solopreneur-in-2018/#3ce49ef69631

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/223070

https://www.theselfemployed.com/10-branding-hacks-for-solopreneurs/https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2019/10/22/to-convert-more-customers-focus-on-brand-awareness/#f5d566d20759

 

They Keep Asking for that Chase Spot

I think I actually know it by heart by know “Your bank could be here, or here.” I hear the words over and over again, and in truth I can’t tell you if it’s because I’ve seen this well placed and clever add so many times on tv or if it’s because it seems to be the go to spec of the summer when I book tv spots. That Chase ad seems to be the trend. I book a spot and the clients sends me this Chase ad and wants me to match it in tone, pace, vibe-basically every way possible. Now, if the script is written in a way that lends itself to that- great. But the catch is that not every script is written to the formula of the Chase script. So let’s look at this formula and talk about what they are asking for in current television commercial voiceovers and what is the current trend during the covid pandemic. And if the client wants this but can’t have it, there are some similar millennial, conversational commercial reads that are out there.

Impact of the Pandemic

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room: why the sudden shift to animation? While everyone is quarantining in place, and stock footage or footage filmed before the pandemic can only go so far, people can create unlimited amounts of new animation. This trend of increasing amounts of animated commercial content will be with us throughout the pandemic. My old friend from home and brilliant award-winning producer Ira Rosensweig has created a product called Crew in a Box  which is “the world’s first plug-and-play, remote production solution,” but until this is more universally adopted or the studios reopen, we are looking at a lot more animation content on television.

Dissecting the Chase Spot

The voice over in the Chase spot is as au currant as it gets. This is the quintessential millennial read. First of all, she (the voice over actor) is talking directly to the viewer. It’s very intimate. She is clear and concise and to the point. She has great energy and she is relatable. As the Chase VO gal explains that when down loading the app “here’s  my bank or here’s my bank” we are right there with her because we feel like we know her. It’s youthful and believable and the ease with which she does demonstrates it all instills us with the confidence that we too can use the app on the go. The upbeat, conversational, relatable, authentic pace is what producers want when they ask for this read. This read draws viewers in. This read helps viewers connect to the voice and more importantly connect to the product.

Recent TV Spot Like the Chase Spot

This month I was sent a television campaign for a retirement community and they wanted the read to be like the Chase spot. The scripts were all well-written and could easily be adapted in tone and cadence. Unlike the Chase commercial, my audience was different. My audience was the children and family members of the retirement community who would choose to place their loved ones in this residence. I needed the same upbeat, relatable, trustworthy tone. I needed to draw folks in and make them feel comfortable and like they knew me. I needed to make them feel like this home was their home. I needed them to trust that their parents would be happy. For me, this message hit home as my beloved grandparents had to live in a place like this when my parents could no longer support their needs, so I understood on every level what I was being asked to convey. Like the Chase spot, because of Covid, this spot is also an animation. Here is one of the four recent commercials I did for this client:

Variations On This Read

Last month I was cast in a TV campaign for a bank in Montana that wanted a different variation on the millennial, conversational read. Even though this was done during the pandemic, these spots used video footage! This producer wanted a sound that fit the video and the music, and it was less upbeat, and more every day real. Sometimes in real life we are not bubbling over with enthusiasm, we just need something that meets our needs, and this is conversational in a different tone. It is more detached and less intimate, casting a broader net. You still trust this voice to be your voice, but the scrip is a different kind of script and it elicits a very different read.

Current Trends in TV Commercial VO Reads

In sum, I am cast in projects because clients still want that very millennial, conversational voice over read. Some reads are more intimate and connected than others. Some reads are more authentic. Some are more personal. Some are to video footage while others are set to animation at present. The trend, though, is to sound conversational and I think always, always believable.

My Breakthrough This Week When Walking my Dog

Some days I wake up with a burst of energy and ready to get to work. Other days I am less energetic, but regardless, the outcome is the same: I do my thang in the booth. I’ll explain. I am pretty regimented when it comes to sticking to my voice over routine, Laura walking her dogsand that routine enables me to balance both my mom tasks and my business tasks in a way that I am comfortable with. Most days follow the same pattern, with slight variation by day of the week. But some days, I am less “into it” than others. I was thinking it through the other morning and I thought this was a matter of inspiration. I was walking my dogs one day this week with my friend Melanie and she was telling me she felt the same way, that feeling when you just can’t get started. Melanie is a successful New York attorney who works extremely long days. While her career path is decidedly different than mine is as a working creative, this got my wheels turning. Both of us are working moms. Both of us work long days every day. And both of us build our household responsibilities into our professional goals. What, then, is the secret sauce? It came to me that while I often think of things only in terms of the presence and lack of inspiration, it is actually the ability to sustain the magic of the intersection of motivation and inspiration that makes success happen.

Common Challenges All Working Moms Face

So, let’s take a step back. It’s not just me as a voice actor who has a business to run that also has to think about how to feed my kids dinner at the end of a long work day. There are common challenges that every single working mom has to face regardless of our chosen profession and these challenges impact our work performance. Sure, these challenges vary depending on the age of our kids and the level of involvement of our life partner if we have one, but for the most part working moms still:

  • feed their families
  • manage household responsibilities including cleaning and home maintenance and repairs
  • have appointments like doctors visits
  • have errands like marketing, grocery shopping, household supplies, etc.
  • need to interact with school teachers

Just to list a few of these, and all of these responsibilities take time, energy, and emotional strength away from our professional responsibility. We can’t split ourselves in half. We have to be present for all of it, and there are only so many hours in the day.

Motivation vs. Inspiration

So, with so much on our plates as working moms, what keeps as working towards our end goals? Let’s consider the definitions of motivation and inspiration:

Definition of inspiration

 

Definition of motivationFor me, I could blog endlessly about my VO goals. I try to break them down and focus on immediate, short term, 6 month, 12 month, and long term goals. That is how I start to frame out the motivation. The inspiration has always been clear: it starts and ends with my children. They are my why. I was inspired to start my business for them. Everything I do is for them. Thinking of them and wanting them to be able to study abroad or open up their business helps me define solid financial goals that I am very motivated to reach. On a daily basis, I hold myself accountable with a google spreadsheet. On a weekly basis, I am accountable to my amazing VO Powerhouse Accountability Group. All of this is essential to spending time at this junction of motivation and inspiration and not floundering in between the two.

My Working Mom Interviews

A few years ago I also started doing a series of “Got Your Back” working mom interviews on YouTube. It occurred to me that I was just one of many and that maybe a lot of women had figured out this work life balance better than I had. I wanted to know what they struggled with and how they addressed those struggles to get it all done. These women were both inside the voiceover industry and beyond. One of them, Rebecca Gelman, has since evolved beyond her architecture business and now also owns an outdoor gear shop that boasts the largest collection of black bear collectables in our area which you can find at https://bigbeargearnj.com/. Talk about a gal who doesn’t waste a moment and somehow gets it all done, she is extremely motivated and Rebecca inspires me daily. All of the videos do! But if you are like me, you look to your tribe on those days when you are lacking, and, well, my tribe rocks.

 

What Needs to Line Up for me to Meet me Goals

Life as a full time voice actor is not as simple as being found and just sent bookings. Yes, it’s great when a repeat client does that, but if I were to sit back and rely on that every day my business would cease to exist. I recall hearing Dave Fennoy speak in 2016, and he talked about a time when he was so successful he stopped working to grow his business. Do you know what happened? He lost his business. He lost everything and Dave Fennoy, one of the biggest names in voice over, had to rebuild from the beginning. He told us at this conference that we needed to work every single day as if it were our first day. That is what I try to remember. I never sit back and count on the work pouring in. Every day matters and I will continue to work my hardest.

I will still also take care of myself too. I want to teach my children that is well. I will blow out my hair, put on some make up, do my nails, and do pilates. If I fall apart, how can I take care of the needs of so many others? Worse, what kind of example am I setting as a mother. So here I am, hanging out at this intersection I realized I love being at but only just named. And now that I’ve found it, I’m not going anywhere!!

The Scenario: Two Weekends in a Row

As a working mom, I try to only work on weekends under specific scenarios: if booked work comes in that the client specifically Laura Thinking about itneeds over the weekend, if I get a direct audition for the weekend, or if it is something like my blog which I generally do while my kids are asleep. Otherwise, the weekend is cherished family time. So, if a client tells me they need something over the weekend, I am generally pretty sympathetic that they have someone on the other side who needs something and has a deadline. It happens that both last weekend and this weekend I had bookings come in over the weekends. While I was delighted about both bookings, the one this weekend was much more pleasant.  I think the two bookings lend themselves very well to case studies on what makes an ideal voice over client to work with and what makes a client a little more challenging.

Client A

Earlier in the month a client I have worked with before reached out to me with a small budget for a local TV and Media campaign.  After a lot of back and forth, we came to a price we could both live with. It took quite a while for the scripts to come in. Of course I When you really want to say somethingfinally heard from them Friday evening. I confirmed receipt of the script and asked Client A if Monday by midday was okay and they said it was needed over the weekend. Normally I would add either a “RUSH” fee or a weekend fee, but we had negotiated and the budget was low so I could not do that here. The other snag was that the client only sent one script. We had negotiated a bulk rate assuming that I was recording at once, and sending everything piecemeal was not a great start.

Client A is in a different time zone. The client is quite slow to respond to questions I have or to give any feedback when audio is sent. I sent all audio Saturday and did not hear anything back until Thursday. Typically when I deliver finished audio I invoice, but as this was just one of four deliverables, I could not invoice for the first TV spot until the entire slow moving project is complete.

Client B

My experience with Client B has been very different than my experience with Client A. I met Client B when I presented at an eLearning conference in June online. We had a follow up Zoom and the work that came in on Friday evening was also a long time coming. Like Client A, Client B also sent this booking in the evening on Friday. Also like client A, Client B was in a different time zone but in the other direction, so their workday would start before ours on Monday. In this case, Client B did not specify that they needed the work by Monday. In contrast, I was excited to get the ball rolling.

Like Client A, Client B sent clear specs and a sample. Unlike Client A, Client B, was very easy to communicate with. They answered all questions promptly and were extremely clear and direct. Client B is an international client who also needed copy writing services. Again, the ease of communication made this go extremely smoothly. I invoiced when I delivered the finished audio as I typically do and Client B paid within an hour of delivery. They also sent three follow up emails the team reviewed the files that I sent. I felt as though I were in Italy listening with them. It was great to be part of the team like that.

What Made All the Difference?

As I think about it, working on Saturday was not the problem. Subtle contrasts between Client A and Client B made the experiences quite different. I made this chart to help make the nuances more clear. Please see below:

Client A Client B
Asked for work on weekend    X   X
Sent Sample     X    X
Sent Specific Specs    X    X
Easy to Correspond With      X
Needed Copy Writing To    X
Gave Specific and Timely Feedback      X
Self Directed     X    X
Paid Promptly     X
Overall Felt Like were on the Same Team      X

It is much easier to work with responsive people. It is also much easier to work when you feel that your work is valued. Everyone works at their own pace, and as the voice over actor, I cannot control the pace at which the scripts are sent to me. Even though I ask that revisions come in within 48 hours in my terms at the start, I try to work with all clients, even if they pace the projects differently. While it does not feel good to have it dragged out, when I saw the first cut of the first commercial, it turned out great. The client was really nice and was working with a large team.  I understand that the client cannot always control pace.

So, in the final analysis, what steps can I come up with as a business owner to have more interactions be like those with client B?

  • Be clear about my terms at the start.
  • Always maintain a professional demeanor.
  • Maintain industry standard rates and never devalue myself.

When those are in balance I am doing my part to protect my interests, and I have to have hope that the clients will do their part as well. If all is in balance, then yes, it is worth making the effort to accommodate clients over the weekend!

What this Week Was Like

This week was one of those weeks that all moms dread. Jack, the younger of my twins, had to have emergency GI surgery that involved an over night hospital stay. He had a rare intestinal problem that he was born with but was not an issue until now, at age 17. The suffering that led up to the surgery was great, and the surgery was pretty major. In truth the surgery was a bit of a relief as it made all of us feel that Jack was now on a path to wellness, including Jack.

Last week I blogged about how I was distracted because of the surgery and it effected me in a live session. Well, in truth our role both as mother and wife and as solopreneur and small business owner does not stop. Even if we set time aside to be present when our kids are convalescing, no one else will run our business or our home in our place. My husband is amazing in every way. We coordinate about every thing. Those industry friends who have met Harlan know that he is always happy to help. But any working mom will tell you but we all have our roles and when something comes up in life to change our routine, it often just means that our routine as a working mom is temporarily more challenging. When I saw the feature image posted, it really resonated with me. Sometimes those of us who succeed in voice over are the do so because we have tremendous ambition, so under normal circumstances the idea of letting go of any thing is absurd. When you have a member of your family who is sick or recovering, this is essential to maintaining what you have worked so hard to build.

Our Job Doesn’t Stop

The Struggle has meaningWhen Jack went in the hospital I went back and forth about whether or not to put an “out of office” reply on my email or to continue responding to clients email by email. The day of his procedure, I had two voice over bookings come in that could wait until the next day, so I waited. I was fortunate that the bookings were both from long-standing clients that I felt comfortable telling I needed to delay recording. While in the hospital, I was able to do busy work tasks like web site updates that I had already made lists about and organized. I was not able to do marketing and correspondence. Creative work that required thought and patience just wasn’t going to happen while waiting for a doctor to come out and talk to me. My heart just was not in it. So, in some respects I was able to maintain business functions while Jack was in the hospital and with other tasks I was not.

When Jack came home, I was able to maintain somewhat of a “normal” work flow and rhythm. Instead of staying down in my studio for a good part of the day as I typically do, I would record for 30-40 minutes at a time and email the audio to myself so that I could edit while sitting by Jack’s side. I was able to then continue to audition and record booked work while he recovers at home. While it sounds great, the up and down was exhausting and the week has been challenging.

Our Household chores Don’t Stop

Household Chores Don't stop: Laura Schreiber in the kitchen and with school booksWhile I may have figured out how to manage my business responsibilities while Jack has been recuperating, doing that while also managing my home life has been tricky. I typically cook for my family. They fend for themselves for breakfast and lunch, and I prepare dinners. I now have to take care of Jack all day every day, and frankly I don’t feel like cooking. I did make quiche one night, but the rest of the nights we have gotten takeout. It’s the sum total of managing everything that is tricky, including: laundry, cleaning, homework help, bills, putting everything away, the dishes, and the list just keeps going. And I often feel that as soon as I finish one thing around the house, there are ten others waiting for me. I have a daily regimen chopping vegetables and filling kongs to freeze for my dogs, and all these little things add up. With Jack recovering and work, it’s a lot.

We Juggle

as moms we juggleAs a full-time working mom, we juggle. That is what we have always done and I know that I will get through, but when you have a routine, and that routine changes, it is hard. I am profoundly thankful that my daughter and my husband are helpful, but if all of this happened and it were not a pandemic, I know my mom and sister would be here for added support too. I really miss that. So I will continue to do what working moms all over do, juggle. I will find new ways of getting it all done, of making it all work, of getting my work work done, my house work done, and making sure my family feels loved and secure.

Why VO is Amazing

So as a working mom, I will say that working in the voiceover industry is amazing for many reasons, and this week has been no exception. Friday I woke up exhausted. Between sleeping in the hospital and sleeping in the sofa in my den since Jack could not go up the steps, I was quite low energy on Friday. At the end of the day I had two new commercial campaigns come in. One needed to be submitted on Monday, and one needed to be in over the weekend, so I decided to record on Saturday. When I was in my booth yesterday, I was thinking bout how blessed I was to set my own schedule. I was so thankful to have the ability to determine what made the most sense of me and for my family. I was so thankful to be able to not record on Friday when I was exhausted and to savor my time in the booth on Saturday. It was also great to know that I was leaving my son sitting with his sister who loves him at a time that was good for everyone when I did go to record. I am so thankful as a working mom to have this flexibility that so few women in this world ever have. And again, as Jack gets better and I can pick up what I had to let go of in the past week to make everything work, I look forward to working at full capacity with gusto.

Typically I Love Live Sessions

Normally when client tells me they need a live or directed session, which happens multiple times a week if not daily, I am delighted. I love the creative back and forth. I love connecting and getting to work directly with the client. And I love the feeling when the session ends knowing that the client has exactly what they want and need. My clients typically want to connect via Source Connect or Zoom, and usually it is pretty easy and there is no drama. But not this Wednesday. Not at all:(

The Session That Went Awry

Doubt is not goodSo on Wednesday a client emailed asking if I had availability for a live session for 4 spots, to 30 second spots and 2 60 second spots. Time was not the issue, I was happy to make time. Before even scheduling the session, which we planned to do via zoom, I had two hiccups. First, I had learned the day before that my son has to have emergency surgery tomorrow (not the day after the session, the day after I am writing the blog.) Jack has a rare problem called an intussusception which basically means his intestines are looped and it is quite dangerous, so that was weighing on me. Next, we were hit very hard by Tropical Storm Issias and still running on generator power. When I turned by iMac on in the booth it flickered constantly and I had a legitimate concern it would cut out during the session. I did not mention Jack to my client but I did tell her about our power issues. She told me she was having internet issues, but we decided to give it ago as she had a time crunch.

The Live Session

At the start of the session the client could not connect via zoom. It just would not go through. We decided to connect via mobile phone. On a normal day, my mobile phone is not great in my booth because of all the insulation, so on this day it kept cutting out. I have had sessions where for no apparent reason we are cut off. On Wednesday we were cut off FOUR times. Yes, that’s right, FOUR TIMES. I kept clicking save, in fear that I would also lose my computer, which thankfully didn’t happen.

Ultimately the client sent another zoom link and we connected on zoom. The first 3 scripts were fine. Not amazing, not brilliant performance, but they were fine and she was great to work with. On the last 60 second script I was flustered and tongue tied. I became acutely aware of how long our session was, and I am always quick and efficient. I was feeling insecure and I was beginning to panic about the computer going off. I was convinced it could not possible last much longer. I was also worried about my sick child upstairs. In order to turn the computer on, I turned the air conditioner off, and I knew the family was suffering. I was not concentrating on the script, my mind was elsewhere.

It was so embarrassing. I can’t tell you exactly how many takes we had to do to get a usable one, But it was not good. The more we did the worse I was. I wanted to crawl under a rock. It is a miracle she did not fire me mid session. She was kind and she did not give up. I felt like a f—cking idiot. To be clear, this session was a problem both because of tech issues and because of performance issues. Either would have been problematic. The combination is something I have never faced and was devastating. When we finished I was so embarrassed I did share what was going on with Jack because by that point I wanted to save face.

Emotionally Distracted, No Shutoff

I was terribly emotionally distracted. I should have meditated and prepared before going into the session. As a working mom, I always want to work because I have financial goals that I need to meet to help provide for my family. The thing is, I don’t have a shut off switch. I did not leave my feelings outside my booth. I have always felt that bringing all of them with me into the booth has helped with my reads, but in this case I needed to cope better. I needed to be honest about my ability to function and I needed to prepare differently. I also needed to realize sooner how frazzled I was and get it under control. I was having a real time melt down and just needed to stop and re-set.

I Would Have Regretted Not Trying

Would Regret not tryingWhen the client emailed me with the booking, in truth it did not even cross my mind not to take the gig. I always think of how I can best meet a client’s needs. In retrospect, I am positive that I would have deeply regretted not trying. I would have seen it as a missed opportunity. That would have been so upsetting too. My hope is that they see me as someone willing to work hard even with this going on and that they do not write me off. I am well aware that this is a competitive industry, so it is possible I won’t hear from them again, but I sure hope not. The other take away is that I have not been spending a lot of time practicing my craft and working on my read rate. This was a great reminder that those skills always need work. My hope as I reflect on this session is that I am defined from my ability to work through this and not by the worse session I have ever had.

Watching Kramer negotiate this deal with Mr. Seinfeld is quite humorous, particularly if you are a working voice over actor and have to frequently negotiate your own rates directly with clients. Here, Kramer, like voice talents, understands the market. Mr. Seinfeld has the product but little knowledge of the market, which can often happen with our clients. The nuances of the value that each bring to the table complicate matters, as George points out. Of course it is much easier when our agents can negotiate on our behalf, but as this is not always possible, this clip has a lot of relevance. This week I had to negotiate a TV and Web commercial campaign with a client I have worked with before. They wanted a buyout in perpetuity which is never great for voice over actors, and they came in with a very low ball offer. Luckily, I was not in uncharted waters. So let’s flesh out my experience negotiating through the much more fun lens of Seinfeld. In Kramer’s behavior we see a lot of mistakes that lead people down a bad path when negotiating.

Don’t Jump the Gun

Kramer is so excited to make a deal that he doesn’t hesitate to jump at 25%.  I think this happens a lot in voiceover, Don't Rushespecially with newbies, and especially when times are slow. You have to know your value and you have to know and more importantly understand industry standard rates. First the client asked me for a quote. We had a back and forth that went like this:

  • I countered by asking if they had a budget they were trying to stay within.
  • They said no and asked for a quote with a range.
  • I provided the range and they said they wanted a buyout in perpetuity. This was based on a known industry rates guide.
  • I did not have a problem in this instance given the end user I was dealing with here. I sent the revised quote.
  • They came back with a budget at about a third of my quote.

That is the moment you begin a dialogue with industry friends on where to go and how to proceed. I also did suggest to the client that they may want to speak with one of my agents. Notice that unlike Kramer, none of my actions were immediate. They were calm, deliberate, and provided detailed explanations to the client. It was a process. A detailed process.

You Often Need to Show Your Value to Your Client

Here, Mr. Seinfeld did not appreciate the value that Kramer was bringing to the table. His perspective was very one-sided. Often clients need to be educated. When Mr. Seinfeld is in the kitchen talking to Mrs. Seinfeld, they only see the value of their product, they show little understanding of the service that Kramer is providing them with his knowledge of the marketplace. In voice over, some clients do not understand why usage matters. This is why it is always important to invoice for both usage and your session fee on your invoice Every. Single. Time. I have other clients who understand perfectly why it matters and what they are paying for but think that if they are in a very small local area or if their client has a smaller budget then none of that matters. In some instances, for folks who are new to casting voice over actors, they do not understand that they are casting professionals with thousands of dollars in equipment, years of coaching, broadcast ready home studios, and all that we have invested in our businesses.  So, as a voice talent, you have to decide what you can live with and what you can’t.

You Need the Right Sounding Board

Kramer got good, solid feedback from George. Kramer listened to George. He was inspired by George to go back to Mr. Seinfeld and talk about the terms again. In George, he had a friend he could count on. Who are your industry friends? This is extremely important in voice over. This is no small thing. This is why conferences, holiday parties, and Uncle Roy’s annual BBQ all matter! When I have these negotiation issues I can talk to my accountability group, the ladies of the “VO Powerhouse” as we call ourselves or I reach out to Maria Pendolino and you can actually schedule consultations with Maria to help you bid. I like talking it through with friends because sometimes I need the right words so that I don’t seem like a crazy person. After all, do you want to seem like Kramer when you go back to your clients to “educate”them? I don’t think so.

If you prefer to brave it on your own, there are other industry resources  available including the GVAA Rate Guide, Gravy for the Brain Rate Guide, and the SAG Rate Guide. All of this should give you a strong sense of where your rate should be.

Don’t be Afraid to Go Back to the Table…In the Right Way

Both Kramer and Mr. Seinfeld wanted to renegotiate. But there is a right way to say something and a wrong way, and these two, well…they do not really exemplify a way that a successful small business owner typically will build a meaningful relationship with a client.  More than getting the rate that is best for you and best for the voice over industry, you also want a client and not a single gig. If you carry yourself like Kramer, or George, you are not likely to build lasting and meaningful client relationships. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to work through something. This week I was able to get my clients to double their offer. While it was lower than my initial quote, it was much higher than their initial offer, and it is a number I am comfortable stepping up to the mic for. Be positive, polite, and straightforward. Know what you are willing to do and be firm about your boundaries. And then book, book, book!