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 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 Comments…

A beautiful spot in the middle of Barnard's campus that I loved so much.As a full-time voice over actor, I have the joy of working as a creative all day every day in an industry that I love. You have no idea how many times people have said to me, in my family and in passing, “It’s a shame you aren’t using your degrees.” This always leaves me scratching my head. I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to go to attend Barnard College, the undergraduate women’s college at Columbia University if you don’t know it, and to go to graduate school at Columbia University. As a small business owner I use all that I learned in my years at Columbia throughout the day every single day. When something becomes part of the fiber of your soul, part of your identity, and shapes the way you approach all that you do, it’s sort of hard to think of how you could exist without it. But still, because this has come up A LOT, let me try to flesh this out a little more specifically.

Writing the Business Plan and Analyzing the Data

Here I am in my suite over Ollie’s on 116th street my junior year. The one thing not part of the Barnard curriculum was how to keep a clean room!

From the moment I thought I decided to pursue voice over, the research skills that I crafted at Barnard were used. Before I began actually working in voice over, and well before I began working with coaches and studying the craft of voice over, I spent months researching other industry talents. I was listening to demos and making spreadsheets. I was curious who was booking what. I listened to see where others with voices like mine were booking work-wise. I tracked where certain demos lead certain talents. I had spreadsheet upon spread sheet. This was research that I generated for what I needed to know to ensure that this was a business that would make sense for my family. Where did I learn this creative approach to research? Barnard. Where did I learn how to analyze data? Barnard. And where did I learn how to use the data that I collected in Excel to make a compelling argument in one way or another? You guessed it, Barnard.

But just gathering and analyzing data was only the beginning. I was setting out not to just be a voice over actor, but to be a solopreneur. In order run my own business I needed a working business plan. I remember thinking all those years ago that the business plan would be fluid and would change, but that I needed it to guide the choices I made early on and to make projections about my income. I used a strategy that I learned in graduate school called “Planning Backwards.” Anyone who has ever taught is probably very familiar with this, but I set short term and long term goals for myself and then I wrote a business plan around them. Again, everything that I did in terms of my business was all based on the way I was trained to do in my years at Columbia.

Researching Brands

I loved meeting friends at the steps in between classes. I had so much fun setting here and socializing. This was quite a hot spot!

Brand research is necessary when auditioning, when booking work, and when determining which companies to reach out to when direct marketing. When auditioning, it is important to understand the brand that I am reading for. I research their current add campaigns and try to understand the overall gestalt of what they are trying to put out. If whatever I have been sent is a departure from previous work, I try to figure out how that fits in too. When I book work, again, I strive to understand where it fits into the big picture of the brand. I immediately go to the brand’s website and social media pages. When I direct market to companies, I spend a lot of time getting to know a brand so that I can individualize my outreach. Again, all of this thorough research and these strong investigative skills come from my years at Columbia.


Understanding the Jargon

I loved my time in the Theta Psi chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. The women in our sorority were campus leaders. My AXO sisters are brilliant and incredible and I am lucky to call them sisters, including my actual sister Julie! Here we are at the Revlon Run Walk for Women in Times Square in 1999.

In addition to my commercial work, I do a lot of eLearning. There is a lot of complicated jargon in these training modules.Sometimes I feel like a kids back in school, because for me understanding the text is very important to my delivery. Because I read so much in school and spent so much time in academia, I am thrilled by this part of the job. In addition, I have also taken professional voiceover training to improve my read rate and this has helped with some of the complicated reading. The amazing Kim Handysides has created a curriculum for this, as I confess that in all my years at Columbia we did not do much reading aloud. In fact I can only recall one History seminar taught by the great, late Professor Yerushalmi where he had us read primary source documents aloud in class. Typically, we read on our own and analyzed together, so I find that on-going professional development is still essential in this area.




Running a Business

Here I am In Low Library for the Senior Awards ceremony in 1999 at at Commencement. On the top I’m with my sister Julie. In the bottom I’m with my husband Harlan (GS 96′). On the left I am with Professor Peter Juviler of blessed memory who was my thesis advisor. I am so grateful to have worked with him.

As a full-time working mom, I think credit my years at Barnard and Columbia with my ability to run my own business. In school we had a very challenging course load every semester, were involved in on-campus activities, and had off campus internships. I was juggling a lot of balls at a young age and I was not alone, I was surrounded by a campus of high-achievers and this was the norm. Those years of scheduling not just my classes, but carefully planning when I would write my papers, study for exams, work, volunteer, etc, well-prepared me for life as a working mom. I did not expect to sit on the steps eating burgers from the law school barbecues without a care in the world forever, I had a sense of urgency that I always had to be somewhere and that my time was limited. I feel that sense of urgency every day now and I am so thankful for the years I had inside the gates on 116th street. They are a part of who I am and I know that I am better for it.

How do you get the ball rolling?

In the past few days I have had a few different buyers or clients reach out to me to inquire about my services. One called from a block number. Another sent me a message on LinkedIn asking me to email their client with my rates and samples. Another emailed through the contact form on my site. I can tell you that all get greeted with the same enthusiastic response and all, whether the job is $200 or $2000, are treated the same.

If you are hiring a voice over actor for your first time, the ease of booking them and the booking process in general gives you a glimpse into how easy this talent is to work with. I have a set process that I use every time that includes quick responses, quotes, turnarounds, pickup/and revision policies, and more. If a talent is difficult to track down for the initial booking, it should be a red flag.

So, this is what my process is like:

The initial contact:

I typically respond as soon as I here from a client. If I get a phone call I respond by phone. Often if I get an email I will even respond by phone. According to voice123, my average response time is 11 minutes, but I typically respond as soon as I see a client correspondance as I understand that you need your work quickly. I take notes on the call so that everything that you tell me about what you want happens in the audio you are delivered. I also need details about the job itself including the usage and run of the job. That will now be addressed below.

Quoting the Job:

Many important details go into quoting a voiceover booking. I typically offer several options to my clients and let them choose the option that best represents their needs, but this is what I need to give a client a quote for their job:

  • The Script: I simply must see the script to give a quote. What you think of as an explainer my actually be employee training or an industrial. We need to also confirm the word count. The script is essential.
  • the Usage_ I need the client to confirm with the team what the usage is. For example, is it internal or will it run on social media? If it runs on social media, will it be organic or paid placement? For how long?
  • How long is the run? They are typically from 6 weeks to a year. I generally quote jobs up to a year and add a calendar reminder at that point in case a client wants to renew their media buy. I do not do buyouts in perpetuity.
  • Revisions. For jobs over $250, I include one round of minor revisions. If clients need more than that I scaffold that into the pricing.
  • Pickups: I also price out my pickup policy and always give the courtesy of delivering them as promptly as the initial audio was delivered.
  • Live of guided sessions: For live sessions I have Source Connect, ipDTL, ISDN, and skype and am happy to use whatever the client prefers! I literally use that line in my “Seal the Deal” email, and for any job over $250 I am happy to do I live session. I always record backup audio and the audio from a live session is considered final delivery, which is industry standard.

All of the above is factored into the quote.

Confirming the Booking

Once a client emails that they have cast me in a spot or booking, I send what I call me “Seal the Deal” email. This goes over all of the details thus far.

  • It confirms in writing that I have the job.
  • It confirms what they want for the booking.
  • It confirms what they need and when it will be delivered.
  • It finalizes any and all requests about the audio in terms of tone, pacing, whether the client needs a WAV or an MP3 or both.
  • If there is a live session it confirms those details as well.
  • It confirms that the script that I have is the final script.

Making it as Easy as Possible

In the end, it should be as easy as possible for the client to have what they need. It should be clear and prompt. The client should be overjoyed that they have found you and instilled with confidence in your capabilities because you are clearly on top of it. If you drop the ball at the beginning, how can they ever trust you.  I want every first job to be the first of many jobs, so I take this system very seriously and want my clients to know that every single project matters.