Avalon M5

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.

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!

Sometimes you realize from the start of a project that you need to hire a professional voiceover  actor. But other times, the voiceover is an after thought and much of the budget for a project is almost gone. Then the production team realizes that they need a voiceover talent. They scramble to find someone who is willing to work within their meager budget. They may have very advanced technology, spent a ton on instructional design or graphics, but now this very essential element is overlooked! Let me flesh out why it is better to go back to your client and re-budget for voiceover than to look for a cheap voiceover actor. You will never be happy if you hire a low budget talent!

1.You want pristine audio quality and a cheap voiceover talent will not deliver that.

Why? Anyone who has invested thousands of dollars in their studio is someone who cares about quality. They understand that the quality of their equipment impacts the quality of the finished audio they produce and consequently would never settle for sub-standard rates. When I decided to work in voiceover full time, I had a custom studio built. I paid my contractor to coordinate with not one but with two audio engineers: George Whittam and Roy Yokelson. This way, the sound in my booth was designed from the start to be outstanding.

Over the years that I have been in business, I have made countless equipment upgrades. I now use a Neumann TLM 103 and an Avalon M5. I am confident that the combination of this microphone and this preamp give my clients pristine audio on every single job that I record. As some of my radio clients like the audio sent RAW, my sound quality is outstanding with these devices. Having made this investment in my business, I would never lower my standards by working with folks who under pay. I am so proud of the audio that I deliver, and as they are receiving audio completed in a broadcast-ready studio, the rates I charge reflect that.

2. You want a well-trained professional voiceover actor, and a well-trained talent will never accept cheap of low rates.

I always wonder if our clients think about this, but it takes a lot of training to go into voiceover successfully and most of us continue training and ongoing professional development. Top coaches start at $150 per hour and charge upwards from there. Imagine that for each demo we likely had upwards of 20 hours of coaching, and think about how many demos we all have on our websites! Those conversational, authentic, relatable reads that sound so natural? Well, believe it or not, we did not just wake up knowing how to do that!  And just like our equipment, after investing so much in coaching, our voiceover rates reflect the level of training we have had.

3.  You hire talents based on excellent demos, so why would someone spend thousands on their demo and then settle for cheap rates?

Our demos are our calling cards. There are trends in demos to be sure. For example, right now our first spot is supposed to be short. We are trying to show a change in emotion. Regardless of genre, the demos show case a variety of reads. This is true across the board. In voiceover, different demo producers are sought after depending on the genre. They typically charge well over $1800 per demo. Again, in order to thrive in voiceover, we all have multiple demos. So, if we are willing to invest that much money in ourselves, we need to book jobs that will enable us to build a sustainable income. We are not looking for a race to the bottom.

4. You want to work with a team player who maintains industry standards, and a cheap voiceover actor undermines the entire system.

Voiceover actors typically work alone, all day, in padded foam booths at home. Most of us are super friendly folks who are eager to be a part of your team! We are looking to build long term relationships and work with you over and over again:) But guess what, we are also part of another team: the voiceover community! And the voiceover world is pretty close knit and supportive! We are in constant contact through social media and we talk about rates all the time. We help each other sort out tricky situations and we share rate guides. Just as you want to hire team players in your office, you want someone with that mentality as your voiceover talent too! You would never want to work with someone who is willing to throw their industry friends under the bus for a quick $50, right? Wouldn’t that make you suspicious? Instead you want the talent who shares the professional rate guide and explains what their standard rates are based on.

Best of luck to you in your voiceover endeavors!