bookings

On this Sunday morning, lets’s grapple with this question:  if there’s a low barrier to entry in voice over, what defines a pro?

Spending more time in Facebook Groups These Days

Like many in the voice over industry, I have been spending more time than ever on social media these days, especially on FaceBook. I long for human connection and to feel part of our beloved community, and frankly I enjoy the banter more than ever. Yesterday this post from highly esteemed coach and casting director MaryLynn Wissner caught my attention:

There’s a lot to this. We work in an industry where you don’t have to come from a career in theater or on camera work to get started, though many did study performing arts in school, pivoted for a first career, then returned to voiceover.  I, myself, was a History teacher. Christian Lanz was an architect. Maria Pendolino worked in finance. Dana Hurley was a pharmacist. The list goes on and on, and there is nothing wrong with changing careers and bringing all of those skills with you into your business in VO. The question that is being asked here, is what is the difference between a guy who buys a plug in mic and a membership on a pay to play and calls himself a “professional” and then has the credit of having some good coaches, the benefit of being in good company, and an actual working professional? To me, if working with the best of the best in coaches is removed as a criteria in defining a pro, than we need to look to a voice over actor’s website, testimonials, bookings/credentials, and social media standing.

The Website

Put simply, the website is our storefront. More than our business card, our website is our calling card. It not only houses our demos, it is the voice actor’s place to showcase actual booked work. We can display our business philosophy. We can post testimonials. We can make it easy for clients to find us. This is how we create a sense of our brand. And a voiceover professional, unlike an amateur, has all of these things: sample of work across genres, a brand, comments from clients. Joe Davis and Karin Barth were recently interviewed on the “Middle-Class VO Podcast” talking about what sets voice over actor’s websites apart, in terms of what makes them professional and what makes them findable by google. The entire podcast can be found here:

 and Joe’s main words of wisdom are that the “website needs to work on whatever device….making sure that they are mobile compliant of mobile responsive….in today’s world more than half of web traffic is mobile.” A telltale sign of an unprofessional talent is one missing key information on their website, missing demos, with demos named improperly, or with a site that is not mobile responsive.

Testimonials:

A professional talent has an abundance of testimonials. Period. They should have them proudly displayed on their website, on LinkedIn, on whatever Pay to Plays they are on, and likely they share them on social media. Testimonials are not difficult to get. Happy clients who have just received pristine audio are typically delighted to provide them. My very first voice coach, Anne Ganguzza, told me how important it was to get testimonials! She asked for one from me about our work and gave me my very fist one. A voice actor without testimonials is likely not a professional voiceover actor.

 

 

Street Cred

Ok, I am talking about a solid client list with proof. What is proof? Samples of actual work that has aired. If a voiceover actor does not have samples of work in the genre or clients in a specific genre they have not likely worked in that genre even if they have a demo for it. The exception to this is likely eLearning as so much eLearning is proprietary content. Where can you find samples of work voice actors have done? Booked and finished work is typically prominently displayed in places like voice actor’s websites, YouTube pages, facebook, LinkedIn, ispot.tv, sometimes imdb, and more. So, a real, actual working professional has a body of produced work that they can easily share with anyone who wants to see it.

Social Media

Typically actual working professionals are active on social media as networking is really important. We typically post finished jobs, especially when these jobs have been done for large, recognizable brands. We love to share these clients on Facebook and Instagram. Often we have large social media connections and followings as well. YouTube is another sign of a voice over professional. Typically we post samples of work here. Many of us have videos about our professional philosophy, showing our studios, discussing our work, and more. A lack of a professional social media presence is a major red flag.

The Flip Side

While I think it is clear how to differentiate a professional voice talent from a wannabe, there is, of course, a flip side to all of this. As there is a low barrier of entry and many do not depend on agents or entry to the union for job sustainability, there is a chance that amongst the many with a plug in mic and a computer our bookings ratios will go down and our community demographics will shift. One of my favorite talents who I had the privilege of spending a day with at a VO Revolution conference in 2016, Dave Fennoy, speaks to exactly this issue as the final thought that I leave you with:

My Chat With Liz…

So last night I was chatting with one of my besties who is not in voice over, Liz. Liz is one of those amazing geniuses and every conversation could go on forever because she is a goddess of her own life. A phd in chemical engineering, she is one of the most grounded people I have ever met despite her super important job at a pharmaceutical company. We were initially chatting about Unorthodox which I just finished watching on Netflix, and then the conversation shifted to work. She had hoped that my work would be positively impacted by the pandemic, and then I think Liz got an earful that she did not really want about my experience as a working creative during the Covid-19 pandemic.

My Bookings…

What I explained to Liz, and what is interesting, is that during the Pandemic I continue to book what I have always booked, there is just less of it. So what am I still booking? Commercials, eLearning, and telephony/IVR. For me, the amount of jobs I typically have in a day or even half a day on some weeks I am having total in a week. I am thankful for every single booking, but the volume of booked work for me during the pandemic has gone down. Typically, I do a lot of radio commercials. The commercials I have booked this month have been radio commercials. They have been from steady clients who continue to send work. Some are for clients here and some have been for clients abroad, as far as New Zealand. 

In terms of eLearning work, again, this is for clients that I had before the pandemic started. They needed me for specific work and we had live sessions booked via source connect. They were not canceled and I was very thankful.

The IVR work that I have had come in, believe it or not, has not been covid specific! This shocked me. It was just companies that needed messages. I gather some companies do not want to invest in temporary phone systems. I would not have predicted this, but this has been the case in the past two weeks.

My Auditions….

There have been some big differences in auditions so I think I should go point by point:

  • Quantity: On the pay to plays that I am on there are significantly fewer auditions. I continue to get a lot of private invitations and I am thankful for that, but in terms of daily numbers of postings, there is dramatically less. There also seem to be a lot of other talents submitting right away. On Friday, for example, I got an invitation for a job that wanted 10 auditions. My kids were off from school last week. Not remote learning, just on Spring Break, so I was giving them lunch. I waited about 40 minutes to submit, which is not so long. By the time I submitted there were already 32 submissions for the listing that wanted 10!
  • Rush Required: I see a lot of jobs, both from agents and on pay to plays, with RUSH in the specs. The turn arounds are very fast and they need availability to record in a very short window. I do not know if expectations have shifted as they know we cannot go anywhere, but I gather a lot of new content is needed and the clients are genuinely in a hurry to put out relevant content that makes sense in light of all that has changed, and the producers just need to accommodate the clients.
  • Source Connect Required: More than any other time in the past 5 years, I have seen Source Connect required when jobs are posted. I am seeing requests specifically for Source Connect more than Zoom, Skype, ISDN, or ipDTL. A lot of specs tell talent not to audition if they do not have the professional, paid for version of Source Connect up and running already.
  • Agent Specs Are Changing: Agent specs are becoming more specific than ever before and there is a sense of no-messing around. All of the above is true of the listings that agents are sending out, and some agents are sending out job listings before they even know the rates. Listings the previously would have been LA only are now open to those of us with Source Connect. Things are shifting…

Feelings About Supporting the Community…

In general it feels like everyone is being very kind and supportive. It feels like it is a time when a lot of people are looking to reconnect. Still, I have gotten my fair share of inquiries from those new to the industry or those looking to move into voice over now. When I started in VO, I never expected free advice, and this does not seem like the time for free advice. After years of working hard to build my business and coming up with clever and innovative ways to get on rosters, with no shortcuts, I find it frustrating when those who have been curious about voiceover for five minutes feel entitled to what the rest of us came by through hard work. This is not the time to expect the keys to the castle for free. I do feel that there is a profound difference between networking and keeping in touch and crossing a line. Let’s all use this time to lift each other up, make the community stronger, and help those in our network already who need it.

Real Age Vs. Vocal Age

Ok, so I am at the point in my life when I cringe when I have to reveal on print, or anywhere else for that matter, my real age. I feel as energetic as I did years ago, and in my mind I do not age those around me. But to help you place my age, I am old enough to have twins turning 17 this summer. Soooo… I am fortunate to sound younger than I am since millennial voices are highly sought after at the moment. My vocal age, then, differs greatly from my real age. How does this effect me? Greatly! I am sent, audition for, and book work that is NOT based on my real age but is booked on my vocal range.

Here are some examples, an adult voice:

A kid voice:

Auditioning

I pay close attention to the desired vocal range when auditioning. My sweet spot tents to be the 17-22 or 18-35 category. When they ask for the conversational, millennial read little fire works go off in my head as that is my sweet spot. When they want the girl-next-door who sounds like she is on the couch talking to her best friend, that is me. When they want someone with gravitas and rasp, that is not me.  Why does it matter that you know how you sound? Why waste the listeners time? And when you only have precious time to audition and submit, why not maximize your own time submitting for what you are most likely to book.  Although I can do a character granny voice, if there is a commercial casing wanting a senior female I would never submit. They are not looking for me and there are talented folks in the senior vocal range with a more mature voice who will offer the sound they want in those spots. In those moments I simply move on to the next read.

Demos

Your demos need to show your range within your age range. Your demos also need to be tagged in a user friendly way, especially on pay to plays, so that clients can find what they need. If you sound young, and your demo is comprised of demo spots, then make sure that you actually have spots that would hire someone in your vocal range. No one wants my voice selling adult diapers, hemorrhoid cream, or talking about retirement communities, right? There is a reason I do fitness campaigns and brands like Kind Bar and Dove. I sound young and upbeat, and I market myself directly for brands that want this kind of fun, sassy, playful sound. A funeral home is probably not looking for my happy, bright voice. Although, interestingly I did do a narration for a women’s shelter who wanted someone who sounded happy and reassuring.

Bookings

This blog actually came to mind because last week I booked a character job where I played both a mom and a kid in the same job. How? Well with training and years of practice I do a lot of work in kids practice. And the bottom of my voice, and yes I have a bottom, is my mom voice. So if you understand how to use your voice, you can offer this  kind of versatility to your clients. I have had this opportunity, as have many of my industry friends, where we are cast in multiple roles in the same job. It can happen in eLearning, commercials, video games, cartoons…And it is about understanding how to use your voice. It is also about understanding the role you are playing, the nuances of the role, and how the characters relate to each other.

Your vocal age is often not your chronological age. I do a lot of work for Pandora, and typically the range they send me is 17-22.  That is my natural range. When I work out of that range, I have to understand specifically what the client is looking for, and I have to be able to match it for pickups and revisions. It is much easier for me to sound older late in the day. When I book work, I typically note on the script and in my notes in my CRM when I recorded the job, so if there are changes later I am best able to accommodate the vocal age.

Conclusions

You need to understand your voice. You need  to understand how others perceive your voice. Without a strong vocal awareness you will be limited in what you book and what you can provide your clients. In character work you have a chance to shine and to play and to test your limits. While we are acting, to be sure, some genres lend themselves more to being creative and submitting outside the box. Be aware for the sake of your time and of others.’

Hey… What’s the Best….

Last night we were out to dinner with my folks and my husband’s folks. We were at one of our favorite places, Dough, in Caldwell, NJ and it was particularly fun because we were at a big, square table. The kids were asking my dad stories about law school, and it doesn’t take much to get him going. But this is not uncommon, a lot of times people ask my dad about his “craziest case.” Or we’ll be out with a friend who’s a doctor and we’ll ask them about their wild cases and boy, without violating HIPAA, can they tell some unreal stories. So I never feel put on the spot when people ask me about my craziest job or my best recent casting. But in case you’re curious, here are some, and these are not in order of favorites, just how they came to mind:

WWII Foundation Narration

I was so excited when this project came in. I was actually sitting at the Encore hotel and Casino in Las Vegas where I was staying right before WoVo Con 19 started when Brian, the producer called me. Both of my grandfathers served in the Pacific Campaign in World War II. I went to graduate school for History. My son is at present obsessed with World War II History. So, what could be more fun than voicing a project that would help draw high school students in and educate them about such an important period in time? The script was so well-written and Brian was so easy to work with, which always makes projects better! Being cast in this meant so much to me on so many levels.

Climate Change Narration for PBS and Chrysler Museum

PBS WHROI always hate to overtly give away my age, but when I was a kid we did not have cable tv, we had the networks, PBS, and maybe two other channels. So, when they animation project came in for PBS, a channel I grew up glued to, as did my kids, my heart went all-aflutter! I think I was so enthusiastic both because it was PBS and because it addressed climate change, something I am so profoundly concerned about. It means a lot to me to have an opportunity to voice projects with an impact. I have also always loved taking my kids to museums too, so when I learned that this was tied in to the Chrysler Museum it was even better. In this animation, I used a kids voice. Like the WWII project, my goal was to draw kids in and keep them interested. As a working mom and a former educator, I feel like I bring all of this with my into the booth for these projects.  When I have an opportunity like this, I am left feeling instilled with hope that change will come.

UK Tampax Spot

As an American who grew up in a Philly suburb and resides in a New York suburb, I was cast by a London ad agency in a UK tampax spot for their UK tampax channel? How, you may ask? Well, my nephews have grown up in a posh sloan square neighborhood so I just had their little voices in my head when I auditioned and I guess that booked it! I cannot do a range of UK accents, I can specifically do central London as that is what I hear in my head. I can sometimes do slight cochney, but that’s it. Anyway, for this project we had a live session with a European creative team. It was not 10 minutes and done. I remember it going about 40 minutes, which is long for me. But the spot is cute and I am pleased with it. And since we all get out monthly visitor, we not have something that is relevant for girls and women, right? This was a fun one for sure!

 

IMRC Commercials

Well, who doesn’t love a good tv campaign? And when the hospital that you are voicing the campaign for is bought out by Cleveland Clinic, it gets even better! And when your Aunt and Uncle have a home in the viewing area? It feels like a home run! In truth, anytime I have an opportunity to work with clients on a repeat nature I am delighted, but I love doing campaigns because I enjoy the continuity. It is nice to have the project to look forward to, and I am always so sad when they end. I loved these spots and hope there are more down the line. I think these resonated with me so much because the real life stories they used were just so touching. Also, even though the hospital is based in Florida, the Alan, the producer, is a Jersey guy, and that just makes everything better.

Cosmo Prof Training

I may have been born in Philly, but I’ve been here 15 years and I’d say that’s long enough to call myself a Jersey girl- gel nails and supah blond hair and all! So, when an eLearning came my way that was all about training for hair products, let’s just say I didn’t have to act to sound upbeat and enthusiastic! I was so so excited to do this module for CosmoProf and Sally Beaty. From brushes to straighteners to curling irons, it’s like they had me in mind when they wrote the content!

The Ups and Downs of VO Bookings

When I started out in voice over years ago, I was told that the ups and downs of the industry are can be described as “feast or famine.” I was cautioned to always set money aside for the slow times, and I always thought about the ebb and flow in terms of the finances. The flaw in this thinking, sound though it may seem, is that when the feast comes, and the voiceover g-ds shine down, it’s not the money that we have to worry about, it’s having enough hours in a single day as a working solopreneur to get the work to our clients in a timely manor. In fact, it’s more that that. Here are some issues that come up when the work suddenly pours in at once as it often does:

  • What needs to be done first?
  • Will you actually be able to meet all of your deadlines?
  • Will your voice hold up? If your voice fatigues, is there a natural order that makes sense so that your more youthful sounding work is recorded first. This is likely not the order in which the work was sent to you as life is never that simple!
  • Do you have family responsibilities that you can delegate? Did you have to help a child with a project? Were you supposed to pick someone up from a soccer game that is now impossible?
  • Did you have any client calls scheduled that can be reshuffled?

This should get you thinking about how the unexpected is, well, unexpected and you never really know what the day will bring. Planning only gets you so far.

I Never Really Know What’s Coming

Sometimes I have clients tell me with excitement about a great project that never comes. Sometimes without any warning I get a huge eLearning job that may have 20 minutes of finished audio and of course needs to be done as soon as possible. No heads up, no phone call, it’s just there. Yay, except I then have to reshuffle. Sometimes I get the email asking my availability because a script is coming my way “that day.” And of course when they get it to me they need it right away. Even when they tell me it’s coming, often the final script doesn’t come right away. This happened this week. I heard a script was coming Tuesday. I waited much of the day, glued to my desk. It came around 4 pm.  It’s not their fault mind you, if the person sending it knew when it was coming, they would tell you. They have as much control as you do: none. So, we don’t know and life is hard to plan. It’s a great job for a type A person!

Not Just by Financial Goals, But actually A Crazy Amount of Time in the Booth

So, again, there is a difference between meeting your financial goal and a ton of working flooding in on a given day. I am talking about the latter, which makes the former possible, and is an entirely different ball of wax. Sometimes days go by with little work, and then all of the sudden, you might face the scenario that I faced on Wednesday, when as much work as I typically do in an entire week came in one day. I have a system when work comes in which involves entering the job into my CRM, carefully reviewing the script, preparing the invoice, recording the work, and then preparing a thoughtful delivery email, and that system is great when I have unlimited time.

But most of us in voiceover also have families. On Wednesday it happened to be my husband’s 46th birthday. My daughter Emma, 16, also happened to have an orthodontist appointment at 6 pm in a town about 20 minutes away. I had planned that we would go out for dinner that evening at the mall after the appointment. My kids also had Scarlet Letter essays due in English the next day and a History test, so I told them that when we got home I would help with both. I had not planned to be in my booth after dinner, working on of all things a Halloween spot (I can’t even… It’s November…)

So the work came pouring in. I was delighted. I was working as thoroughly as I could to do a beautiful job and get it done promptly so that I was not editing audio from an orthodontist’s waiting room. I finished with moments to spare, but I was far from calm and the horror from my Halloween script seemed to be bleeding out into real life. I felt working mom/wife guilt for my poor husband as his gift was not wrapped and did not even make it into the car when we were meeting for dinner. Again, I did not see this influx coming.

What I would Have Done in Hind Sight If I Saw it Coming..

So, on Friday it occurred to me that I should have had an outside editor who I have worked with in the past edit the eLearning work. Neither of those two jobs had an NDA and I could have outsourced. I honestly did not think of it in the moment because I did not know that the other work was coming. Outsourcing is really important for professional voice over actors. There is only one person who can be in the booth recording. What can be outsourced to lighted our load:

  • editing
  • marketing
  • social media
  • cold calling
  • follow ups/responses
  • lead/prospect development
  • website maintenance
  • SEO

Essentially anything that does not involve your voice can be outsourced. No one ever had an empire of one, and as you get busier it is really important. Another thing I should have done differently is given myself permission to hold some of the work until Friday. The fist job of the day, a PBS spot, actually was not on a time crunch. It may have come in first, but the client was not in a rush to get the audio back. I should have sent an upbeat email for the two commercials and let them know they would be delivered the next day.

Next, I often prepare dinner on my lunch break. Even though it was Harlan’s birthday, we should not have gone out to eat that night. It was frankly too much. We had already gone out twice the weekend before for his birthday, so this was unnecessary. In December I am doing a crockpot challenge! I cannot tell you how excited I am for this. I follow the Budget Mom on Social media and I think she is brilliant. My hope is that in having dinner ready to go in my crockpot several nights a week, I will both stay on budget and alleviate stress on these busy nights.

Final Thought

Everyone should prepare financially for our famine periods, but we need to plan mentally and emotionally for both the famines and the feasts. If we do not have supports in place in our personal lives we will not succeed as working creatives. I am blessed, I have a husband who gets it. We started discussing dinner for Monday night yesterday, Saturday, because I have to be on location much of the day Monday in Philly and the family still needs to eat. We, my husband and I, planned ahead. But a lot of people have to do it alone either because they are single or because their partner doesn’t get it. If your partner doesn’t get it, find friends who do get it and let them help you strategize, because the one thing I will tell you is that on your best days and on your worst you need people to get you through!  And in case you are wondering, Monday night we will be eating chicken drumsticks and sweet potatoes. This momtrepreneur keeps it simple.

What We’re Told

Professional Voice Over Actor Laura Schreiber in her booth

Years ago when I started auditioning, I was told a few things about auditioning that stuck with me. First, I was told that that audition is the job. I have heard this over and over and it’s true. We have precious seconds to set ourselves apart and catch their attention or the gig is lost.  Next, I was told once I submit my audition never to think of it again. Fred Frees, one of my beloved coaches, said it’s like flushing the toilet. We submit, click, and  it’s gone.

The Reality

The reality is that some auditions are easier to forget than others. It also depends on how many auditions a voice over actor is doing in a day. If you only do a handful of reads, each audition could, in theory, weigh on you more. For me, on a typical day, I submit between 20 and 40 auditions. When I’m really ambitious or there is a lot out maybe I’ll do 50. I have a pretty solid booking ratio on pay to plays, so I have gotten pretty good at not fixating on auditions. Like most professional talents, I also track the amount of reads I submit to what I book and this keeps me aware of what I am doing relative to others in the industry.

I will tell you though, that even with all of these reads, some auditions just seem like the were written for me. And those are the ones that I fixate on. Those are the ones that I check to see if they have been listened to. I hope to be short listed for “these” special few. I seem to keep those top of mind even when I know, after all of these years, that I should just be moving forward.

Last week I was called into a studio in New York to read for a project. I was already short listed when I went in. I knew that only a few others had my sound. I made the final cut. I will confess that I have been fixating on this audition. I have discussed it with the gals in my accountability group. They, too, have had this happen. They are short listed for projects, held on avail, and think that they are perfect. Sometimes the casting g-ds shine down on us, sometimes they do not. The fixating cannot make it so. All the meditating in the world has not sent the casting my way yet.

The Other Girl

The other night as I was falling asleep and fixating on this casting, I had a thought that put my mind at ease. My revelation was of the other girl. The other girl who got the email or voicemail or actual call that she got the booking. That she must have had such joy and been so delighted. I know that joy as I have been fortunate enough to experience it so many times over the years. In a job field where we either book or we don’t, the way to survive is not to think about the rejection but to basque in the joy of every single casting. Each booking matters. A lot. And knowing that someone out there got that joy, and in this case we are talking major joy, gave me solace.

Connecting the Dots

In voice over, as our careers progress, we build strong bonds with like minded talents who are also striving to reach similar goals. We typically support each other. One year, I was short listed for several jobs and put on hold for them, and ultimately the casting went to another gal, not once but twice. Well I met the other gal at VO Atlanta! I was delighted to chat with her and she could not

Andi Gibson Stal is lovely and a brilliant talent. Clients chose Andi for a Target campaign we were both up for and she did great work for them!

be more lovely.  I recently had a great Zoom chat with another talent who has a very similar business model to mine. I get the feeling we share more than goals, I think we share a work ethic and clients too.

I find the other women in my business to be a constant source of both motivation and support. Voice over is different that other fields because our network really does become like a family. When we visit each other we stay at each other’s homes. We share holidays and are there in good times and bad. So pulling long and hard on this thread of the casting has made me think about what I am unraveling. I may not get this campaign, and the more time that goes by, that seems to be the case, but knowing that one of these other great gals did, makes me feel better. And in the mean time, I’ll just me taking a long, hot shower, and belting out “Let it Go” over, and over, and over until I really do!

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!

The possibilities are limited only by our imagination and determination, and not by physics.” ~ Mike Duke, PhD, NASA Geologist

THE question:

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, I get a lot of questions; but, the one I seem to get the most, is “So, how many hours would you say you work now?” Somehow saying that it’s a full time job has net been a clue. So, what I gather is that folks can’t imagine is how the work of a creative can fill an entire day, or perhaps weeks and years on end. Given the opportunity, I will happily, and enthusiastically elaborate and tell you what days are like for a working voiceover talent.

The Home Studio

Like most voice over actors, I have a professional home studio. This gives me the ability to accommodate clients in different time zones, not just in the Unites States, but abroad as well. I love getting started early, because I feel like I have gotten a lot done in a day. In truth a lot of my steady clients are on the West Coast, so I often go back down to record jobs that come in late after dinner as well.

Daily Tasks

The amount of booked work I have shapes my day. I typically record all booked work before doing anything else. If a big audition comes in, I will pause a job and record and submit that. While I record, I hydrate continually. I drink water all day long. I limit myself to one coffee a day. Once I am done recording actually bookings, my day is divided between auditions, client outreach emails, LinkIn follow ups, and general marketing tasks. I do try to do 20-40 auditions a day, and they come in from clients, Pay to Plays, and agents around the country. If a booking comes in mid-day, I stop what I am doing and record. For bigger jobs I typically have advance notice. For example, I did 20 videos on Thursday, but I new about them about 2 weeks in advance so that I could book out the day on my calendar. I do I lot of commercials and have a lot of RUSH work as well. I am always happy to do rush jobs. I understand when folks have deadlines, and I never mind getting audio right back to clients. Often when more booked work comes in, time on LinkedIn or for marketing takes a back seat. I tend to keep up with my client correspondence as that is very important to me!

Mom Life

It seems the more I get into a rhythm with my business, the less I feel in control of life at home. When my twins were small, they had all of my focus and attention. I was with them full time and I could spend all of my energy thinking about meals and school and their clothing. Now I worry a lot about their school work since they are in high school. But, our house is not as organized as it was. Our dinners are not planned. I often scramble to make lunches before taking them to the train in the morning. I am so so so thankful that the groceries can be delivered or I am not sure we would ever have any. 

Another issue is that because I am a small business owner, even when I am driving my kids to sports or taking them to the doctor, I am still thinking about my work and checking for client emails. I can’t ever completely detach because there is no one else to man the fort. Since I am the business, if I disconnect, it ends. I find it challenging to find the right balance between savoring this precious time with my children, which goes entirely too fast, and catching the momentum of my business which I have worked so hard to build.

I do remind myself that my kids are learning from see me running a business at home. They see me working not just at nights but on weekends. They hear client calls. They get to hear and see my actual work. This all cushions the blow. So the house may not be perfectly tidy when the family comes for a visit. And we may have to get takeout more than we had planned. And I may often forget to go back out and put the cover on the grill. 

My hope is that while friends that we meet for dinner may have natural questions about what it’s like to be a full-time working creative, my kids, the people who matter most to me in this world, will not have any questions because they see everything. I also try to talk to them about all of the issues that I grapple with and pose thought provoking questions.

So, I can tell you with certainty that a working voice talent has plenty to keep them busy! Odds are their more than 40 hour work week blows by and they have a hard time figuring out where the time has gone!

The first spot in this compilation for Raw Juice is the spot discussed in this blog!

The Excitement of Booking the Job comes with a degree of Trust

As a full-time professional voiceover actor, I book a lot of my jobs on the casting website Voices 123 and have for many years. Every talent, whether they are new to the field or long established working actors is delighted when a booking comes in. When the above video script came in, I was pleased as it was for a large franchise and the story of the script was something that resonated with me on a personal level. I, too, have thyroid issues. I, too, work hard every day to plan healthy meal options for my family. So when this booking came my way I was both happy about the voiceover opportunity and excited about the synergy I felt.

Professional Voice Over Actor Laura Schreiber in her booth

Also, realize that I was not hired directly by the juice chain. While the owners selected my voice, ultimately I was cast for the project by the video production team. So, my actual client was the video production team.

When it came time to record, based on the rate they negotiated, I sent them several takes. Each versionI sent was edited and broadcast-ready. I received positive feedback and was delighted that they were happy. All that was left was the business end. Keep in mind this happened over about 6 hours from start to finish.

Invoicing

I sent off my invoice. As voice actors, we never know if we’ll be paid that day, in 30 days, or in the dreaded but seemingly  acceptable 90 day window. On this particular booking, there was an unusual scenario. I say this is unusual as someone who does several hundred bookings per year, typically multiple bookings per day, and has been full-time since 2015, I think I have a enough of a sample size to say that this was unusual. I am typically paid by the person or company that casts me in the spot. In this case, I was being paid by the end client. This is not standard. Right away the invoice was being passed from person to person, and almost everyone seemed to say “not it.” This was not a good sign.

Collections: What’s Normal and What’s Not

What is standard? Typically whoever hires me pays me. If it is a big job or if they are going to have repeat business I also send them a W-9 form. Most of the time it is that simple.

In the past I have offered multiple ways for clients to pay me. I have sent pdf invoices, PayPal invoices, Square invoices, and have accepted QuickPay by Zelle. It was becoming so complicated with all of the different requests that last month a client could not decide or figure out how to pay. Further, I had to make detailed notes in my CRM to remember which kind of invoice I sent out for each client.

I have now had enough of this. This month, in April 2019, I went back to my initial method of invoicing through FreshBooks. It is simple and straight forward. It is better for my clients and for me.

But back to the story about the Raw Juice debacle…

So after 90 days I was really aggravated. The nice guy who hired me had passed me off to the Juice company and they were non-reponsive. I found the folks who worked there on FaceBook and LinkedIn but how aggressive did I want or need to be? I finally direct messaged the owner who gave me his direct email. When I emailed him I ccd my husband who often acts as a manager of sorts and is an attorney in NYC. I will tell you that I was very upset that it came to this. I did the work. I did a good job. They were happy. I should have been paid.

Was that enough? No! They wanted proof that I did the work! Can you even imagine?! I sent them the invoice again with the above video. It ultimately took about 120 days and a tremendous amount of time and effort to finally get paid. I was not happy. These were not good people.

The Shocking Aftermath 6 months Later

So this week on my CRM, Voiceoverview, which I happen to love, I got a friendly reminder that I had not done a job for a little while for that producer. I decided he was nice and he had done nothing wrong so I might as well drop him a quick note to say hi and learn about what he’s working on. Would you believe after all of that, the juice company had gone back to him and said legal never approved the script and they wanted revisions and more VO! Thankfully the producer had my back and had the sense to tell them no. I took a lot away from this though… First, I was correct to trust my gut that the producer was, in fact, legit and a good guy, and was also in a tough spot. Next, when people seem like  – – -holes they likely treat everyone else that way too. Lastly, since voice over folks are often the last part of the team called in, remember that we often DO NOT know the entire story so it is best to just remain calm and do our job.