branding

Daring to Dream

Santa's Nice List’Tis the season, and this season, after another year of really hard work, I’m sure hoping that I made Santa’s nice list! Anyone who is an established professional in voice over will tell you that at some point we were bold enough to chase a dream. I would not be where I am in voiceover today if I didn’t have confidence in myself and passion for voiceover, but ultimately, it all came from a big dream of a career in voice over. Having dreams, or visions of where my career will go has served me well, and what better time of year to think about what I want for myself in 2021 then the week that Santa is getting on his sled!  So Santa, please stuff this VO Mama’s stocking with:

Commercial Campaigns

For the past two years, I have been focussing on booking more campaigns and fewer one-offs. Slowly but surely, it is happening. My hope is that in the coming year, these campaigns continue to bring a blend of tv, radio, and social media. Usage has been a big part of the conversation in most of my bookings recently, so my hope is that as more campaigns come in, the usage for clients is more clear and they are prepared to pay industry standard rates for it! I enjoy working with my clients on these repeat spots, so I sure hope Santa sends some my way! Here is one from a campaign I did in the last few months:

Rosters

Santa, please help me join more rosters this year! Whether they are for eLearning content providers, explainer companies, or commercial producers, here I am! I am already on the rosters for Pandora, Spotify, and iHeart Media, and I love working with their teams and look forward to the repeat business. For my eLearning clients, when the work comes in, it is really exciting to hear from the instructional designers and know that they had my voice in mind specifically. I look forward to building my roster of rosters in 2021!

Website Updates

Photo of Website Homepage Mobile VersionSanta, a website package would be great this holiday! It’s been a while, and I sure need to shake things up! I love working on my website. I look at it as my storefront, and I try to add new content regularly. This year, I think it is time to freshen up my branding. A lot has changed in my business since it was done five years ago, and I would like my website to reflect that. I love the team that I work with, and I want to come up with something that still reflects my brand but also works better with how I want my clients to see me. I want them to know how hard I will work for them and to have confidence when casting me. I still want my bubbly personality to shine through. My dilemma, because of the pandemic, is whether or not to keep my headshots and work with them or to get new ones, so let’s see that Santa suggests!

New Demos

Santa, it is time for some new demos!  In 2020, the only new demo that I did was a Covid-19 demo. I also did a refresh of my commercial demo and added in real, booked work that reflected trends in what I am typically asked for. While I have some demos that are still pretty solid, I think it is time to enhance my sweet of demos at this point. I think in 2021, I will focus on narration. I want to have demos that display the current, bookable reads and show my range. I think my basic narration demo is a little old and could be updated. I also have a medical narration demo in the works.

Demos

Let’s Get Real

Santa's sled and reindeerDo I actually expect Santa to stuff my stocking with all of these treats? In truth, Christmas is not a holiday that my family observes, but as an American I have always LOVED this season. From the decorations to the cookies, I savor this time of year with my family. I enjoy thinking about the idea of Christmas magic. In truth, I have seen many hard working talents on the verge of giving up. A little holiday magic could help us all. What I believe most is that success takes vision, hard work, commitment, talent, and yes, a little luck. So this Christmas, as we eat cookies, drink eggnog lattes, and enjoy time at home, my dream is also for a little holiday luck for all my VO besties.

 

The Casting

Pink PhoneMy recent commercial booking for JP Morgan makes for a great case study in voice over bookings. As a professional voice actor, every booking makes us happy, but when the producer emailed me about these radio spots, his explanation was interesting. I was cast directly without auditioning. He did not mention my voice. Nor did he mention my demos. In this instance, it was a matter of scheduling and availability. As I work full-time, they needed someone who could accommodate a live session at a specific time, which turned out to be 11 a.m. on a Friday morning, and he needed to confirm that I was available. The timing, in this scenario, was the most important question I was asked. The producer got back to me and confirmed that I had indeed booked two spots and it was a go. I was delighted.

The Tech

I asked the producer if we would be using Source Connect or Zoom, the most common ways I connect for live sessions. Initially he gave me a phone patch dial-in and password. This would have been fine. Then, at dinnertime the night before the session, the producer said that the clients preferred Zoom and the team at Spotify sent a link. That was also fine. I recently worked with the VO Tech Guru, and he showed me how to do audio playback during zoom sessions, so I was really excited to test it out during my session.

The Pre-Session Prep

I prepare for every single session, whether I am self-directing or in a live session. Part of my prep is administrative. I take some time to log the job in my CRM and create the invoice. I then print a large print version of the script using my preferred font. Then, prior to marking up the script, I spend a bit of time researching the brand and their other ads. Interestingly, JP Morgan and Chase are linked. As a client, when I log in for my JP morgan account I also log into my chase account. Well, at the moment, the  below Chase spot is the most sought after read in a long time. Clients often request this as the benchmark for tone, style, and pacing, so I had this in mind going into my session for sure.

The Start of the Call

I think the start of a live session is really important. There happened to be a lot of people on this call. In addition to the producer, there were several people from the Spotify team and several people from the JP Morgan Team, including the scrip writer. In my mind looking back here were at least eight people on the session. It is my job to make them happy and to make them comfortable. I try to use the time at the start of the session to let them know that my feelings are not a factor, and that the only thing that would upset me would be for them to know have exactly what they need at the end of the call. I try to have friendly banter, but I want them to know and to be comfortable that I will give them whatever they need, and that it is not about me, it is about them. I think there are a few precious moments to establish this rapport and set the tone.

Working Through the Spots

With so many on the call, there can be a lot of side chats during a directed session to make sure everybody has the takes pink headphonesthat they want. This team was fantastic. They gave very clear direction and it was easy to take their feedback and run with it. They also all remembered to mute themselves while I was recording, which makes everything seamless. In this session, I read the first script all the way through three times. They gave me feedback. I again did three takes, and then we did some variations of the lines. Then, after the line reads, we did the whole script again. It really came together nicely. It was also super exciting to use Zoom’s audio share feature to play back the audio for the clients during the session so that they could mark the takes that they liked and we could also check the timing of the spots. Then we moved on to the next script, and worked through it the same way. The second one went a little faster as I understood what they were looking for from the first spot. All in all, the group was great to work with. For me, because JP Morgan is my bank and I use the app, it was easy to see the product and be enthusiastic about it because I actually enjoy the very features I was describing.

The Aftermath

After the session, I simply sent the drop box link to the producer. I had been deleting outtakes and pausing while we chatted during the session. As I’ve been doing this for years, I am now accustomed to marking the spots and deleting what is not needed during the session. It makes it so much easier to do it in the moment! It is a moment of great joy when I attach he link knowing that the producer now has what they want!

Final Thoughts

I am often asked whether I prefer live sessions or self directing. The answer is really that it depends. I love self directing Two pink hands shakingbecause it gives me a chance to be creative and a freedom to interpret the texts in front of me. I can explore my imagination and see where it goes. The downside, of course, is that there is always a chance of missing the mark and not giving the client what they need. With live sessions, I love the creative collaboration. I love working with other people. When I have the opportunity to work with the people who created the product or the people who wrote the script, I get a higher level of understanding and can often bring more nuance to the read. So, the answer is still: I depends.

If My Job is to Voice Other Brands, Why Does my Brand Matter?

As a voice over artist, I have the privilege of voicing projects for the brands we know, love, and use in our daily lives! While every single job is exciting, when a brand name that my family uses all the time, like Dove or Gap or Kind Bar, books me I am ecstatic because those brand names have such huge brand recognition. Why, then, does it matter if I, as a voiceover actor, have a brand associated with my name? What I learned as soon as I began my VO journey years ago is that I am not just voicing projects for these brands. Instead, I myself am also a small business owner and need to create and maintain a brand that my clients can identify with and connect to in order to understand the service that I provide. Branding is essential to success in voiceover.

When Did My Own Branding Journey Begin?

My very first coach in voice over was the amazing Anne Ganguzza. When we started working together years ago  on my commercial demo, I immediately had lots of questions about her website. Anne explained to me that we could have separate sessions to work on my branding as we got closer to my recording date. We scheduled everything so that my website would be ready to launch when I had my demo.  Even though I was new to the industry, Anne’s website stood out to me because there was a grandiose impression to it that others simply lacked. I had considered doing my commercial demos with other coaches. Frankly, Anne’s website and the brilliance of Anne’s virtual store front was so impressive and resonated with me so much so that I just had to work with her. Over the years I have continued to follow Anne on all fronts and I continue to learn from her. Her marketing is seamless. Everything ties together. She is  sets the bar high for us all.

So what was our approach? Well to really understand it you would have to work with Anne, but we did have a session where there was a lot of question and answer. To be clear, I think that Anne is able to help with branding so well because she works so hard to get to know her students on multiple levels. Anne then worked with creative genius Sarah Waters. They came up with the concept that is on my website and all of my marketing content today. It represents my personality, my hope, my dreams, and my vision for my small business. My branding concept was the result of a collaborative effort of a lot of creative people.

Your Website as Your Store Front

Now let’s enter the folks at https://www.voiceactorwebsites.com/, Joe Davis and Karin Barth, absolute geniuses!! At some point years ago Sara stepped away and Joe took over. Joe is so amazing and the transition was so seamless that I actually had no idea it happened.  I have been working with Joe for so long that he has become a close and cherished friend. I value his advice and feedback as there is frankly no one who understands a voice actor’s SEO better than he does. I also work closely with Karin to make constant changes and updates and she has been a true blessing. She is wonderful. At some point, I think around 2018, I upgraded my website between the initial scrolling page that I had done with Anne and Sarah to the mega multi-page format that is alive today. This was a huge undertaking and a tremendous investment in my brand.

In voiceover, your website is your store front. If a client can’t find you, they can’t hire you. If they come to your store front and they don’t like what they see, or they can’t find what they need quickly and easily, you will lose the sale. Like all brands, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you are in voice over, your demos should be obvious and easy to find, as well as your contact information. Everything else is gravy. How you dress it up is your branding. My web page is super pink and super bubbly. Just like me.  Perhaps looking at some samples of other successful solopreneurs to find common trends makes sense, as there is certainly a pattern here:

Cast Study:

Let’s look at some women who are thriving in voiceover today and setting the bar high. I am throwing myself into the mix because I work really hard every single day on my brand and I try to follow the rule and trends that I observe. Here is a chart that I have created and from these examples there is a lot that we can extrapolate:

What Can We Learn From these Samples?

  1. All of these websites have a real brand that is obvious as soon as you open the page. The branding set the tone or vibe about the voice over actor and is maintained through out the fresh content.
  2. All of these women solopreneurs are active on at least one form of social media, and most are on multiple forms of social media. They consistently carry out the branding from their website in their posts.
  3. Many of these women either have their own podcast or are regular guests on others’ podcasts.
  4. These women are often teaching voice over or giving workshops either on their craft, marketing, branding, or something related to some aspect of their business.
  5. These women all have a logo or theme from there website that is unique to their brand and has become recognizable in the industry from their postings.

Those Shindigs Where You Really Need Them

So about two weeks ago I found myself in Burbank, CA for the WWRS 2019. The event was held on top of what, as an East Coaster, I can only describe as a mountain with amazing views of the Los Angeles area. It was the perfect setting for the radio world schmooz fest that was three days of enrichment, professional development, and networking at every turn. To say that for professional voiceover actors (and my guess is that there were about 50 of us there) business cards were essential is an understatement. The whole point of going was to put ourselves in front of the production managers and creative directors who make the decisions about which voiceover talents to use. And aside from our amazing in-person impression, all we leave them with, in the end, is our tiny little card. I found my self extremely curious about the cards that other voiceover talents were giving out and it made me re-evaluate the ways in which I was using the precious space on my own card. I was standing there in gorgeous Burbank at this conference looking at the card in my hand and questioning, is my card sufficient for the major purpose it serves in life?

Breaking Down Current Trends

According to The Balance Small Business, even in the digital world there is still a cultural precedent to the exchange of business cards around the world: “The ritual exchange of business cards is central to establishing business relationships in many countries. In Hong Kong, for instance, if you are given a business card and don’t offer one in return, you can basically close up business then and there, says Rory Boland in Hong Kong Business Card Etiquette.  In Japan, too, the quality and condition of your business card speaks much about how you intend to conduct yourself and business.” Most professional voiceover actors like myself use their business card as an extension of their branding. It matches their website and other marketing materials in both font and colors. Everything ties together and it is what a client familiar with your brand would expect to see.  Another current trend a lot of my voiceover friends, including me, had been encouraged to follow is to only have our name and maybe a tagline if anything else on the back of the card so that folks that we meet have a place to write down notes when they meet us. Here are some examples of this.  Accomplished voiceover talent  Dervla Trainor has beautiful cards that match her site in color, font, and follow the trend of leaving space on the back side:

 

 

In another example, accomplished voiceover actor, coach, and director Shelley Avellino follows this branding trend as well. Shelley had the clever idea of only having the front of her card glossy and leaving the back matte so that folks have an easier time writing on it:

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s VOA unicorn award recipient Michele Blenker has a little more information on the back of her card while still tying in her branding and leaving space:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what my card looks like at the conference:

 

 

 

 

What Am I Trying to Accomplish

What I realized at the WWRS 2019 was that there were a lot of voiceover talents who were thinking outside the box. Some had a list of top stations they were doing imaging for. Some had a list of major brands they voiced.  I could do this! Bells started to go off in my head because I suddenly felt concerned that this side of the card was my bill board and I was leaving it blank. Yes, there are a lot of well-established successful voiceover talents doing the same thing I have been doing and their cards look beautiful. But after seeing these other cards, instead of leaving it to the folks that we network with to write down the information that resonates with them, it occurred to me that I can take control of the dialogue and use the space in a way to make sure that potential clients and current clients have essential information that I want them to have. Yes, I realize this goes against a trend. And yes, I realize it looks cluttered. And yes, I realize it is not as pretty. But, once I saw these other cards, I had this real conflict as I could not unsee them. 

My Bold Move

I should note in my passionate tirade about the cards that I have different cards for different genres of voiceover. So, I have one set of cards for eLearning. I have another set of cards for government contracting.  So this set I am all fixated on is for my radio imaging, commercial, telephony sort of work. I decided to do an experiment and actually ask for feedback. This week upon my return I did ask for a revised design from the team at voiceactor websites for the back of my card. This is what they came up with:

I chose this because I wanted to clearly state which genres I work in most. I wanted to remind clients about the studio I have worked so hard to build. And I do actually do RUSH jobs all of the time, so I felt that it was essential to put that on the card. Am I certain that this is the right move? No. I am pleased that it is clean and easy to read. I am pleased that I can be sure clients will have the information they need. But when I look at my friends’ cards, they sure do look pretty.