But Why Wouldn’t I be Happy All the Time?
Well, professional voiceover actors are real people with real families and real lives. So those voices that you love on cartoons and your favorite video games, they too have mortgages and taxes and bills. Like everyone, we have great days, and we have days that seem like life is out to get us. This May, I was in Hollywood staying at the W Hotel for the World Wide Radio Summit. I do a lot of radio imaging work and there were other professional talents there, agents, and a lot of folks from the radio industry. I was thrilled to be there. On the second day of the trip I got a hysterical call from my cleaning lady Cristina. I had paid her extra to go look in on my precious dog Violet. Thankfully Violet was fine, but an upstairs bathroom had flooded the kitchen. While I was amazed at how much water my light fixtures over the kitchen Island could hold, there was little I could do from across the country. I called my contractor Pzermek (pronounced Shemek) and asked him to go turn the water off. I was so upset at the myriad of unappealing possible outcomes from this scenario. Yet, I had flown across the country and had to make the most of this opportunity in radio imaging. As a professional voiceover actor, no matter how glum our day is, we have to act like everything is just peachy. Like doctors and lawyers and accountants, we have to carry on as the professionals that we are. The difference with voiceover actors is that no matter what is going on in our personal life, we have to SOUND as if everything is just fine.
And then of course — there’s the stress that was caused by the rain and documented in this video!
One technique for managing the stress is breathing. As a professional voiceover actor, breathing from my belly and using my diaphragm is always extremely important. When times are stressful, using this type of breathing can be therapeutic as well. I find that doing pilates several times a week actually really helps me with my breathing. My pilates instructor tells me when to breath with each exercise throughout our session. When I leave, I feel refreshed, refocused, and I feel like I am using my voice as best as I can. I also do not find that I take gasps of air in the middle of scripts, so the pilates really helps to reduce stress.
The Booth as a Refuge
Last week my friend Shelley Avellino, a brilliant voiceover actor in Las Vegas, posted a picture of a cat that she has in her booth on Instagram and asked what people have in their booth that makes them laugh. This really stumped me! I do not have anything in my booth that makes me laugh, but I do have a lot of item that calm me down. First, I have pictures of my family who I love all around me. That makes me smile often. I love that they add color, brightness, and cheer into my space and I love seeing their spaces as they remind me why I work so hard in the first place.
I also have some items that are supposed to be zen, and on a day when your house is caving in, that really helps. I have a salt lamp that gives off a warm and lovely glow. I also have a beautiful shell filled with different stones and each gives off a different energy or vibration. They also happen to be beautiful to look at.
As a professional voiceover actor, you can make a lot of jokes about working in a padded foam booth, but when I step over the threshold I often think of something a former spin instructor used to say: I try to leave all of my worries on the other side and keep that space in my booth free of everything from the outside world.
Rely on the Training
Some days, like when it is pouring rain inside your dining room, are just rough. Those are the days that I dive deep and rely more than ever on my extensive training. I go through the scripts. I try to remove myself from my outside world and really connect with the copy as if there is no Laura, I am just the role that I am playing. Depending on whether I am working on a commercial or telephony or an eLearning job, I will have a different approach with how I engage with the job. Clients often hire me because I sound warm and upbeat. If a client seeks you out because of your happy, reassuring voice and I were to instead sound like a drained, nervous person, that would not work out so well! So, on my worst days, I simply lose myself in my work and try not to think about real life concerns while recording.
It’s All About Relationship Building
Ironically, one of the most important values or ideals for my business is also what helps me survive the stress of all of these home renovations. Since I started my voiceover business, it is extremely important to me to build and maintain relationships with clients. That is why every single week I have so much repeat business. When I was in LA, the reason I was able to get my beloved contractor to come to the house right away is because we have developed such a good working relationship. I very much value his work and his contribution, and we also have a friendly banter that is meaningful to both of us. He is also in my house all the time like Elton, the painter on TV’s “Murphy Brown.” At the end of the day, having meaningful interpersonal relationships is the cornerstone in anything that we hope to build.