I Saw It in The Sound Wave First

Late Friday afternoon I was in my booth recoding a bunch of agent auditions that had come in. Initially I felt fine. I had completed all of my booked work and I wanted to submit a few more reads before I called it a day. I typically don’t have a lot Laura's wave form showing mouth clicksof mouth clicks when I record. I do run Izotope RX7 as part of my effects stack, which takes care of whatever clicks there are, but I tend to stay hydrated and am not so clicky, especially since I gave up caffeine. I noticed that even though my noise floor was the same as it always is, I had a crazy amount of spikes and clicks present that I do not typically see. This was 3 to 5 minutes before I became violently ill and had to run from the booth, I could see what I had no idea was about the be a horrible case of food poisoning, in my audio!

Within minutes, I had gut wrenching pain, could not stand, and was horrible nauseous. I almost fell over my puppy Daisy trying to run from my studio. It was brutal. I did make it upstairs in time, but had gone from functioning and working to completely ill and a total mess in moments. It was terrible.

The Nutrition Challenge

The food poisoning came on in the middle of a nutrition challenge I have been doing. After all, in the midst of a global pandemic, what could be more important that putting my health first? And as a working mom, staying healthy and cooking good food, and presenting an over-all healthy lifestyle for my family, is always a priority. I also find that there is a direct correlation between my food choices and the way that I sound, so this nutrition challenge was right up my alley.

Since I typically try to eat well, why was this challenge unique? Well, I had been eating a lot more raw vegetables than usual and avoiding any processed carbohydrates. I still eat carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and squash, I just have been avoiding gluten free breads, cereals, and pastas. I had also been eating A LOT of salad. When a say a lot, I mean consider a normal amount, and then for me, the past two weeks had been more than double the amount of salad eating I ever do. It had been an insane amount.

In the midst of a nationwide romaine recall in 19 states, I believe that I got profoundly ill either from romaine lettuce or from an autumn lettuce blend, the latter more likely being the culprit. Whatever the cause, after epic vomiting, I was left dizzy and with a fever that hovered around 100 for 48 hours and alternating between chills and sweats.

A Forced Rest

Laura Schreiber on Sofa with Her DogsAs a small business owner, I work all the time. Typically on the weekends I work less, but I still work at points every day. This food poisoning forced me to pause. I was not even sure on Saturday if I would be ok for my like sessions on Monday, but I know realize I will be. Talking is hard, sitting up is hard. Sometimes the forced rest is essential to get back to where we were. I guess it is an opportunity to reset- to restart. In truth I have no other option, when one is so dizzy that going up and down the stairs feels unsafe, the rest is the only option. In lieu of any work, I laid on the sofa in my den surrounded by my dogs and tried not o move at all.

The Implications

As a voice over actor, our business is our baby and it is hard to set it aside for even a moment. When you have such a profound passion, even some intense vomiting does not dampen the passion. But the vomiting makes it virtually impossible to work and to work well. To act well, we have to meaningfully engage with our copy and easily switch from role to role, whether it’s the millennial commercial voice or an engaging professional in an eLearning narration. When you cannot sit up straight and you are burping a lot, it is pretty impossible to connect with the copy and be present in the moment as your stomach is really calling all the shots. Unless you have a great character gig as a burping child, this is really not the time to be in the booth.

The opportunities that arise here are ones for communications. If any work needs to be rescheduled, it should be done right away. I was fortunate, if ever there was a time to get sick, Friday afternoon was a good one. I had time to recover. I did not miss any booked work, I did not need to move any sessions, I did not need to notify anyone of my convalesced state.  Believe me, I have had to do all of those things in the past, and you feel terrible to let a client down, so being able to work is a good feeling. I was lucky that considering how sick I got, it happened over the weekend and I will be ok.

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.


It’s a Two Way Street

As a full time, professional voice over actor, I can go on and on about how wonderful most of my clients are. Over my years in the voiceover industry, I have worked really hard to build and maintain relationships with my clients. With every new job that I book, I am not just looking to meet my monthly financial goals, and I am looking to do my very best work for that new client so that they come back again and again.  I try to get to know them. I want to know, in addition to pristine audio, what their unique needs

With an eLearning client at DevLearn last fall and visiting a client in Orlando last Spring:)

are. I love to learn about the specifics of their business. When I also learn personal details about pets and hobbies, well that is even better. The better I connect with I client, the better I can serve their specific needs.

Likewise, I try hard to be easy to work with:) In addition to being responsive and doing the job I am hired to do, I am upbeat and bend over backwards. What do I expect in return? Well…. You would think it would not be so complicated. I am hired to record audio. I record and deliver the audio as per the specs… The best ways I have learned over the years to be a good voiceover client to the folks I work with, whether they are video production teams, talent agents or their clients, ad agencies, marketing executives, include:

1. Confirm the Terms

I am always happy to be cast in every job, so when the initial booking email comes, I immediately follow up with a “Seal the Deal” Letter. Some of my voiceover friends, like Carin Glifrey, call this their “Welcome Letter.” Mine literally begins with the word “Yay” to express both my joy and grattitude. Years ago in a helpful and thorough session with J. Michael Collins he detailed the importance of confirming all of the terms of work upfront. This email has many important components. It:

              • confirms the actual booking
              • confirms the fee
              • confirms the turnaround time on my end
              • asks the client what they need in the finished audio (i.e. WAV or MP3, raw or sweetened)
              • confirmed my policy on revisions and my charge for pickups

I want to serve my clients well, and I think that in order to do so I need to be very clear upfront.

2. Deliver the Audio Exactly as Stated

Next, I take great joy in actually recording the voiceovers that I am hired for. I pay close attention to the specs and the requests of my clients. About 80% of my bookings are commercials, which means I am providing them with multiple versions of the recordings. When I do long form narration or eLearning, I am meticulous with my editing so that I save both of us time moving forward. I take a lot of pride in the audio that I send out, and I know that to be a good client I need to deliver outstanding quality every single time.

3. Be Available for Pickups

To keep my clients happy, I make myself very available for pickups. For my bookings over $250, I include one round of revisions in my quote. For jobs lower than that, I charge $75 per 30 minute session. As I am in my booth full time, and I understand that my clients are on a deadline, I make myself available for these revisions so that my clients have what they need as soon as they need them! Often they have a quick line change or just need one more take, and it is never an issue. I just want my clients to have what they need as soon as possible.

4. Hold them to the Initial Terms

In a business where we often bend over backwards to be a good client and to make our clients happy, we have to remember that it is actually ok to hold them to the terms they initially agreed to. So, if in the “Seal the Deal” email we offer one round of revisions, we should not hesitate to charge for the next round that they ask for. Hugh Edwards just posted a really important article about VO rates and our overhead costs that can be found at

Voiceover Rates – The Biggest Threat To Our Industry

We must continue to maintain our industry standards and hold our clients to the same standards they hold us to. Just as we have to provide them with the audio they need, they must pay for it, and we should not bat an eye at adding to our invoice and sending the update.

5. Follow Through

Ideally, follow through on a great job means sending a thank you note and thanking your client for the opportunity. And when you are lucky and the voiceover gods are smiling down on you, that is the end of it and payment comes anywhere in the 30-90 day window. Sometimes, though, follow through means having to more aggressively pursue payment even when you have bent over backwards to provide outstanding quality and service. How do I go about this?  I have a multi-pronged approach:

              • The thank you note is actual a great reminder of the work that you did.
              • At 30 days and at 60 days my billing software sends an automatic reminder.
              • After 60 days, I send a more direct “friendly reminder” and ask them how everything is going.
              • If I still have not received payment, I cc my husband aka manager who is an attorney at an NYC law firm and he sends a follow up note as my representative. In 5 years this has happened less than 10 times, but every time he has collected in full immediately. Sometimes he has to contact the clients council. Sometimes he has to speak with a CEO. But he always gets paid.

It should not come to that. On the two way street, if we provide the audio, we should be paid, regardless of whether or not it ultimately makes its way to where it is supposed to, that is not part of our deal. We record. We deliver. We are an absolute delight to work with. That makes a voiceover talent a good client. The rest is up to our client to do right by us, and most of the time they do:)

Consult an Expert

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

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

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

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

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

Studio Set up

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

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

On the Go

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

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

Concluding Thoughts

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