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Typically I Love Live Sessions

Normally when client tells me they need a live or directed session, which happens multiple times a week if not daily, I am delighted. I love the creative back and forth. I love connecting and getting to work directly with the client. And I love the feeling when the session ends knowing that the client has exactly what they want and need. My clients typically want to connect via Source Connect or Zoom, and usually it is pretty easy and there is no drama. But not this Wednesday. Not at all:(

The Session That Went Awry

Doubt is not goodSo on Wednesday a client emailed asking if I had availability for a live session for 4 spots, to 30 second spots and 2 60 second spots. Time was not the issue, I was happy to make time. Before even scheduling the session, which we planned to do via zoom, I had two hiccups. First, I had learned the day before that my son has to have emergency surgery tomorrow (not the day after the session, the day after I am writing the blog.) Jack has a rare problem called an intussusception which basically means his intestines are looped and it is quite dangerous, so that was weighing on me. Next, we were hit very hard by Tropical Storm Issias and still running on generator power. When I turned by iMac on in the booth it flickered constantly and I had a legitimate concern it would cut out during the session. I did not mention Jack to my client but I did tell her about our power issues. She told me she was having internet issues, but we decided to give it ago as she had a time crunch.

The Live Session

At the start of the session the client could not connect via zoom. It just would not go through. We decided to connect via mobile phone. On a normal day, my mobile phone is not great in my booth because of all the insulation, so on this day it kept cutting out. I have had sessions where for no apparent reason we are cut off. On Wednesday we were cut off FOUR times. Yes, that’s right, FOUR TIMES. I kept clicking save, in fear that I would also lose my computer, which thankfully didn’t happen.

Ultimately the client sent another zoom link and we connected on zoom. The first 3 scripts were fine. Not amazing, not brilliant performance, but they were fine and she was great to work with. On the last 60 second script I was flustered and tongue tied. I became acutely aware of how long our session was, and I am always quick and efficient. I was feeling insecure and I was beginning to panic about the computer going off. I was convinced it could not possible last much longer. I was also worried about my sick child upstairs. In order to turn the computer on, I turned the air conditioner off, and I knew the family was suffering. I was not concentrating on the script, my mind was elsewhere.

It was so embarrassing. I can’t tell you exactly how many takes we had to do to get a usable one, But it was not good. The more we did the worse I was. I wanted to crawl under a rock. It is a miracle she did not fire me mid session. She was kind and she did not give up. I felt like a f—cking idiot. To be clear, this session was a problem both because of tech issues and because of performance issues. Either would have been problematic. The combination is something I have never faced and was devastating. When we finished I was so embarrassed I did share what was going on with Jack because by that point I wanted to save face.

Emotionally Distracted, No Shutoff

I was terribly emotionally distracted. I should have meditated and prepared before going into the session. As a working mom, I always want to work because I have financial goals that I need to meet to help provide for my family. The thing is, I don’t have a shut off switch. I did not leave my feelings outside my booth. I have always felt that bringing all of them with me into the booth has helped with my reads, but in this case I needed to cope better. I needed to be honest about my ability to function and I needed to prepare differently. I also needed to realize sooner how frazzled I was and get it under control. I was having a real time melt down and just needed to stop and re-set.

I Would Have Regretted Not Trying

Would Regret not tryingWhen the client emailed me with the booking, in truth it did not even cross my mind not to take the gig. I always think of how I can best meet a client’s needs. In retrospect, I am positive that I would have deeply regretted not trying. I would have seen it as a missed opportunity. That would have been so upsetting too. My hope is that they see me as someone willing to work hard even with this going on and that they do not write me off. I am well aware that this is a competitive industry, so it is possible I won’t hear from them again, but I sure hope not. The other take away is that I have not been spending a lot of time practicing my craft and working on my read rate. This was a great reminder that those skills always need work. My hope as I reflect on this session is that I am defined from my ability to work through this and not by the worse session I have ever had.

Watching Kramer negotiate this deal with Mr. Seinfeld is quite humorous, particularly if you are a working voice over actor and have to frequently negotiate your own rates directly with clients. Here, Kramer, like voice talents, understands the market. Mr. Seinfeld has the product but little knowledge of the market, which can often happen with our clients. The nuances of the value that each bring to the table complicate matters, as George points out. Of course it is much easier when our agents can negotiate on our behalf, but as this is not always possible, this clip has a lot of relevance. This week I had to negotiate a TV and Web commercial campaign with a client I have worked with before. They wanted a buyout in perpetuity which is never great for voice over actors, and they came in with a very low ball offer. Luckily, I was not in uncharted waters. So let’s flesh out my experience negotiating through the much more fun lens of Seinfeld. In Kramer’s behavior we see a lot of mistakes that lead people down a bad path when negotiating.

Don’t Jump the Gun

Kramer is so excited to make a deal that he doesn’t hesitate to jump at 25%.  I think this happens a lot in voiceover, Don't Rushespecially with newbies, and especially when times are slow. You have to know your value and you have to know and more importantly understand industry standard rates. First the client asked me for a quote. We had a back and forth that went like this:

  • I countered by asking if they had a budget they were trying to stay within.
  • They said no and asked for a quote with a range.
  • I provided the range and they said they wanted a buyout in perpetuity. This was based on a known industry rates guide.
  • I did not have a problem in this instance given the end user I was dealing with here. I sent the revised quote.
  • They came back with a budget at about a third of my quote.

That is the moment you begin a dialogue with industry friends on where to go and how to proceed. I also did suggest to the client that they may want to speak with one of my agents. Notice that unlike Kramer, none of my actions were immediate. They were calm, deliberate, and provided detailed explanations to the client. It was a process. A detailed process.

You Often Need to Show Your Value to Your Client

Here, Mr. Seinfeld did not appreciate the value that Kramer was bringing to the table. His perspective was very one-sided. Often clients need to be educated. When Mr. Seinfeld is in the kitchen talking to Mrs. Seinfeld, they only see the value of their product, they show little understanding of the service that Kramer is providing them with his knowledge of the marketplace. In voice over, some clients do not understand why usage matters. This is why it is always important to invoice for both usage and your session fee on your invoice Every. Single. Time. I have other clients who understand perfectly why it matters and what they are paying for but think that if they are in a very small local area or if their client has a smaller budget then none of that matters. In some instances, for folks who are new to casting voice over actors, they do not understand that they are casting professionals with thousands of dollars in equipment, years of coaching, broadcast ready home studios, and all that we have invested in our businesses.  So, as a voice talent, you have to decide what you can live with and what you can’t.

You Need the Right Sounding Board

Kramer got good, solid feedback from George. Kramer listened to George. He was inspired by George to go back to Mr. Seinfeld and talk about the terms again. In George, he had a friend he could count on. Who are your industry friends? This is extremely important in voice over. This is no small thing. This is why conferences, holiday parties, and Uncle Roy’s annual BBQ all matter! When I have these negotiation issues I can talk to my accountability group, the ladies of the “VO Powerhouse” as we call ourselves or I reach out to Maria Pendolino and you can actually schedule consultations with Maria to help you bid. I like talking it through with friends because sometimes I need the right words so that I don’t seem like a crazy person. After all, do you want to seem like Kramer when you go back to your clients to “educate”them? I don’t think so.

If you prefer to brave it on your own, there are other industry resources  available including the GVAA Rate Guide, Gravy for the Brain Rate Guide, and the SAG Rate Guide. All of this should give you a strong sense of where your rate should be.

Don’t be Afraid to Go Back to the Table…In the Right Way

Both Kramer and Mr. Seinfeld wanted to renegotiate. But there is a right way to say something and a wrong way, and these two, well…they do not really exemplify a way that a successful small business owner typically will build a meaningful relationship with a client.  More than getting the rate that is best for you and best for the voice over industry, you also want a client and not a single gig. If you carry yourself like Kramer, or George, you are not likely to build lasting and meaningful client relationships. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to work through something. This week I was able to get my clients to double their offer. While it was lower than my initial quote, it was much higher than their initial offer, and it is a number I am comfortable stepping up to the mic for. Be positive, polite, and straightforward. Know what you are willing to do and be firm about your boundaries. And then book, book, book!

The Year of The Guided Session

There are a lot of things that will make 2020 memorable for the rest of our lives: living through a pandemic, the national election, the state of our country in general. As a long-time professional voice over actor, one of the trends I have noticed in the past few months as bookings have picked up again is that so many of them involve live sessions also referred to as guided sessions. Prior to Covid-19, I would say that I self directed 80% of my work, and the rest were live sessions. Now I have live sessions almost daily. Interestingly most of my clients prefer zoom, although often I am asked if I have Source Connect and specifically which version I have. I do happen to have the highly sought after standard version, but interestingly that is not what is most often requested by my average client when they want or need a guided sessions. How do I feel about this rise in live sessions? I love them!

Genres Using Them

I see this rise in live sessions occurring across genres, but in particular in commercials, in explainers, and in eLearning. I also have been booking a lot more work with NDAs for these sessions, and that seems much more common this year. Across the genres, I am booking a blend of covid specific and good, old-fashioned brand relevant content. I think the clients love the live sessions because they can really get the read they want when they want it.

Trends I Have Noticed

The major trend I have noticed is how many participants are in on the call. It used to just be one or two except when I was doing video games or mobile apps, then I typically had more. Recently, on almost all of my sessions except for a tv spot last week that was just one producer, there are huge teams of 7 or 8. They seem to like to bring on everyone from the person who cast me to the person who wrote the script to the folks from the brand to the creatives putting the content together. The teams are big. And what seems to happen now is that one person will give directions. Then they will tweak the directions. Then when they are satisfied they will ask for feedback from everyone else on the team. This can go on an on and it can be very amazing, depending on how patient you are. As I have been fortunate to have a lot of well-written scripts, it is typically easy to provide alternative reads, but that is not always the case. Most of the time the teams are on the same page and most of the people keep themselves on mute. I have been on a few calls where someone forgets to mute themselves and we have some issues later.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my clients ultimately ask for zoom even though I have Source Connect. I actually think this is related to the trend of included everyone in the live session. It is much easier to loop everyone in via zoom, when with Source Connect only the ones with the subscription can join.

Why They Are Great

Guided sessions are wonderful. Put simply, clients finish with what they need! It does not end until the client has what they need. If it does, they have to pay for a new sessions. I also happen to love the creative energy and the back and forth that happens in a live session. If you are lucky enough to get a good rhythm going, then you can really make something special together. Most of the time I too feel that the work that came out of a live session is different than what I would have submitted had I self directed. You just end up going in different directions based on where the client and the production team takes you. They have a specific vision in their head and you have this amazing opportunity to bring that sound to life. The collaborative process is incredible. Providing instant gratification, knowing that your client will end the session with the pristine audio they need to complete the spot is a really good feeling. There is no back and forth. There are no more takes. And working together as part of the creative team is so much more fun than doing it alone.

Just be Mindful of Time Zones

One quick note, as the voiceover industry is typically quite an international one, do mind your time zone conversions! It can be trickier than it seems! Years ago I had a session with a client in the South of France. I was coming back from the beach myself, and little did I realize I asked them to record at 10 PM their time. I felt terrible. More recently I had a new client in Mountain Time! I was so confused by this. I don’t know why, but it twisted my head in a pretzel. So, especially if you have multiple bookings in one day, try not to overlap them! The zoom calendar is super helpful that way!

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.

It’s Not all Movie Nights and Puppy Snuggles

For those of us solopreneurs who have worked from home for years, some aspects of social distancing surrounding Covid-19 are not new. We are working from home. Well, as a full-time voice over actor I was already doing that. The new challenge is that my entire family is now here. While I am thrilled that we now have the option of spending all of this quality time together, I still am eager to provide the best possible customer service to both my present, existing clients and to folks now in need of voiceover services. To that end, so that you can fully understand the range of what is out there, I have put together this brand new Covid-19 demo for you. It is a multi-genre demo, thematically linked by our present situation. I hope that it supports your present needs. Here is how else I can help you:

New, Informative Phone Messages

Your phone messages are a great way to update all callers of the new changes. Hours, new policies, current procedures all can be added to both greetings, after hours messages, and on hold messages. I have always done a lot of telephony and IVR work and can help with script writing if need-be. It is very important to reassure all clients that business goes on, even if there are changes at the moment. Great phone messages are a huge help, and rush options are certainly available if you need them!

Engaging, Sincere PSAs

After years of doing commercials and PSAs, never did I anticipate voicing them for such a time of need. But maternal emotion aside, our moment has come. I will work with you and your team to bring the nuanced script to life and make your PSA stand out from the rest. Are you looking to emphasize hope right now? Perhaps you want to reassure your base? Maybe you have a solution to the problems your clients are having. I get it and I have the sincere, relatable voice to calm your customers right now.

Helpful Explainers

Explainer videos have always been fundamental to letting customers know what services you provide and how things work. In these uncertain times, now more than ever, updating explainers to make them relevant to today’s current corona virus situation makes sound business sense. Bulk pricing is available if you have a lot of content that needs updated.

In Store Announcements

Does your store have in-store announcements? Some play over the entire store. Some play at checkout. If so, they are likely to change now with the new and constantly evolving virus news. Further, you likely need a full time talent who is in the studio a lot and is available to keep up with the rate of change. I am there to support you in these endeavors.

Updated eLearning

Often companies have spent years creating content libraries that represent their strategy and business practices. In light of current virus concerns, this content is not irrelevant, it just needs tweaking, updates, and revisions to reflect new corporate procedures. With so many working from home, everything from time sheets to pay role to team check-ins is now different. I am here for all of your content needs and can get them to you as soon as you need them. For large eLearning projects, if there is a bulk of work, I offer retainer agreements.

Full Service Production with Industry Partners

This can be an overwhelming time when so much needs to be recorded all at once! Don’t worry, I have you back! Over the years I have built fantastic relationships with industry partners. If you know what you need, your budget, and when you need it, I have a fantastic team who can offer full production. From script writing to video and audio, I can coordinate the entire project for you on time and within budget.

Live Sessions in Broadcast Ready Home Studio

As always, I record everything in my broadcast ready home study on my Neumann TLM 103, Avalon M5 preamp, Steinberg UR12 Interface, and Macbook Air with Twisted Wav. I offer live sessions with flexible hours as I am always in the studio full time via Source Connect, Zoom, and Skype. I am always happy to self direct too, but for jobs over $250, I always offer the option of a live session, so that you have what you want when you want it. Audio recorded in live sessions is final delivery, as is industry standard. I never end a live session into my clients are thrilled with the audio.

 

Making Lemonade

This time of social isolation is hard for everyone, even those of us that work in padded foam booths. It is not easy to stay apart from those that we love, to avoid our favorite people and our favorite places. Most of us have never been told to do something like this before and that our lives depend on it. It is in this most unusual setting that as a working creative I still see meaning in my work, usefulness, and purpose. As a working mom, I am often juggling my home life and my professional life. My son asked my for help with an essay he has to write about Kate Chopin The Awakening. Jack had to read some articles of commentary and react. The articles talked about how Chopin creates a reality that is both a utopia and a dystopia at once. This resonated with me and had so much meaning in light of our present pandemic. I can still do what I love. I am surrounded by the people I love. I have these to precious dogs who I love. Everything looks the same, but everything is different. In the face of this, I prefer to make lemonade.

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!

Living The Dream Means You have to Actually Let Yourself Live It

Yes, if cauliflower can be pizza, then even the dreams of a 40 year old suburban mom can come true! One day I’m out marketing at Whole Foods, the next day I am one of their voices! But when I started going after my voice over career with gusto it did not mean I was in any way less passionate about my life as a mother to Emma and Jack. Being a working mom often means spending a lot of time at the intersection of our personal and professional aspirations. For most, motherhood is not something we just fell into. Rather, like my voiceover career, I spent years dreaming of the children I am now proud to have. For some of us, myself included, conceiving these children was not easy, and not a day goes by that I don’t look at them as a miracle. I was also told countless times that if I was very lucky I might have one baby, and could never have twins. So I find myself looking at my twins, and cannot imagine a world without an Emma or a Jack in it.

That said, when I built my career as a voice over actor around my twins, I still intended then and intend just as much now to be present for my family while pursuing my work full-time. Is it a juggling act some days? Yes! I find inspiration in places I never knew I would look. I knew a girl growing up, now Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, and we went to school together through high school. I find myself always looking forward to Jaime’s instagram posts. In a time when people carefully craft these perfect scenario’s on social media, I find Jaime is keeping it real and I am so thankful for her content! She leaves me feeling inspired and I enjoy seeing what this working mom of three has to reveal. When I find working moms like this on line I see that I am not alone and we are all in this together!

The point is that if you build a career like voiceover so that you can be available to your family, it is then okay to choose to prioritize your family and schedule your bookings around what your kids need. It is possible to do both, but that will only happen if you actually schedule it that way. Here are some tips that I have found make this ride a little less bumpy:

Plan Ahead

This goes for both voice over and family. I maintain a huge calendar and as I do not exist separately neither does my calendar. At first I did have two calendars and suddenly we were missing things like the dentist! They were nice about it but I was horrified. So, I find one calendar helps. I do as much as I can in advance. Before writing this blog I planned all my dinners for the next week and did my grocery shopping for the week. After I post this blog I will prepare lunches through Wednesday.  I have set laundry days and set days to do social media posts. Planning ahead is not only provides comfort, it gives a sense of rhythm in what can otherwise be a chaotic daily schedule. Some clients will send work with a far off deadline, particularly in eLearning, but as I do mostly commercial work it is a rare luxury that I can schedule my work beyond a 12 hour window.

Delegate

I delegate as much as possible, both in my home life and in the studio. Here are areas I suggested delegating:

  • Chores-  Everyone in my house has responsibilities with the exception of Violet, the dog. She is just a mush who looks happy. From doing the dishes, to making the beds, cleaning bedrooms, holiday prep… the list goes on and on… but everyone helps. I feel very strongly that it is not my home, it is our home and my kids are quite capable. I appreciate very much all that they do, and I am happy to wait for them to help, but we all chip in.
  • Marketing- Since the twins were born, my husband has helped with grocery shopping. Now the kids love to do it too, so it often is a family affair, but it does not fall to me to do alone. We often market at off-peak hours like Saturday nights and can get in and out quickly.
  • Homework Help- My kids have learning differences. Both twins are dyslexic and need help with different aspects of their work. My husband and I do what we can, as we have different strengths, but we also welcome help from family members! My sister is amazing with Math. My mother-in-law handles Latin and Spanish. We have a tutor for Chemistry. This is a huge help as VO work from the West coast often comes in after dinner and I need to be able to go down to my booth a lot in the evening.
  • Editing-  Outsourcing voiceover work is important. As the voice, you can’t outsource that. Sometimes some clients have clauses in the contract that limit subcontractors. Often, though, you can higher an editor and it is a huge help.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

It is not easy to work and to take care of your family. Ask yourself, did your expectations of how you parent or run your home change when you started your business? At first mine did not. I will confess that there are days I go down to the kitchen at 5:20 in the morning to get my kids ready, and I don’t go back upstairs until after 8:30 at night. The bed was never made. What can I do? I worked hard.  I did my best. I got a lot done. If I weren’t so busy, the bed might look like a display in a department store, but that is not my reality, and that is okay. As my role has changed, my expectations have changed. I think back to my old school friend Jaime and I just keep plugging.

How Have 5 Years Gone By?

In the blink of an eye, it is the end of 2019 and time to set goals for 2020. But this year also marks my fifth year pursuing voice over full time. The foam in my booth has literally turned from bright white to a funky yellow! Five years ago so many things were unknown: how would I juggle being a working mom, how would I find VO clients, how would I run a business as a solopreneur? Now all of those things are still part of my daily life, but I am confidently figuring it out. There is a good rhythm to my voiceover practice. So looking ahead to 2020, I am optimistic that I am on the verge of more good things. and I have always believed that if I don’t say it aloud, or in writing, then the universe doesn’t hear it… so, here are my goals for 2020:

More Radio Imaging

I have worked hard, every single day for the past few years, to grow this side of my business. I hope that in 2020 I can add more CHR and Adult Hits stations to my roster. I continue to reach out to station managers and program directors. I love doing liners, sweepers, and station promos. I am no longer with my manager and my hope is that stations are happier to make arrangements with me directly.

More Commercial Campaigns, Fewer One-Offs

My hope is that in 2020 I book more commercial campaigns and fewer on-offs. Like the work that I did for Anytime Fitness, I hope to book more of this. I love helping a brand emerge and I love being associated with certain brands. I also love working with ad teams continuously and building the rapport that comes with it.

Grow My Repeat Client Base

I lot of my business, about 60%, comes direct from clients. Most of that is from clients that come back over and over again. This year I hope to add five or six more solid clients to my repeat client roster, folks I can work with over and over again and count on for steady work.  Again, like my campaign work, this will enable me to really get to know them. This will also help my continue to build on my sustainable, consistent family income.

More eLearning

I love doing eLearning work. I have some steady clients that I do work with almost every week. This year my hope is to have a few more clients that I do work with regularly. I enjoy all aspects of this work, whether I am playing a character in a training module or a traditional narrator. I love working with the instructional designers to bring these roles to life and make them authentic.

Political Spots

My hope for 2020 is that I can help bring about some much needed change by voicing many blue political spots. I have so many hopes and prayers for our country, and the world, and it is my hope that if a some more liberal folks are elected we will be in a better place next year. I was a political science major in college and I have very strong feelings about what is going on at present. To literally be the voice of change would mean a lot to me. I am very proud of the political demo that I did with Brandon Perry from Adrenaline Studios and I hope that I book a lot from it.

Speak at Conferences and Build relationships with Exhibitors

Since I got into voice over I have been fortunate to attend conferences, many conferences, including WoVo Con, VO Atlanta, VOCation, VO North, and more. I love them for so many reasons, and that is really a separate blog. I am at a point in my career where I want to start giving back to the voice over community that is so very important to me and sharing what I have learned. I have sat in on so many valuable sessions, and now I would be so excited to contribute.

I also love going to the expos at these conferences. I always post about my gear and everything that makes my studio great on my social media. Now I want to start building relationships with the folks who represent at these conferences. Since I represent brands for a living, I would like to build a bridge between the products I use to represent other brands and myself.

Wishing All the Best for 2020

I have noticed on social media that there is a tremendous generosity of spirit in the voiceover community now more than ever. From folks like Bev Standing, Mark Scott, J. Michael Collins, and Kim Handysides to name a few. I am thinking of my fellow voice talents this week and always. I share this joy in our community and am so proud to be a part of these great VO tribe. I wish everyone much success in 2020. I think back to what I learned from Anthony Gettig in the beginning of my career: The rising tide lifts all the ships in the harbor.

Why are live sessions a Great Opportunity for Clients and Talent alike…

Out of the gate, I’ll say it: live sessions, also known as guided sessions, are awesome! If you are not familiar with the term, it is when your client live directs you. You hear them in the ear of you head phone while you record. I usually do one ear on, one ear off, and they direct you through the recording of the script. This is typically done for commercials, YouTube pre-rolls, and character work, but now I am even having some eLearning sessions live directed. When there are so many ways that a script can be interpreted, this guarantees that the client has exactly what they want at the end of the session. You can blow their minds with your amazing voiceover performance, they walk away confident that they have the exact audio that they need. The live/guided session is a win/win for all involved. So, the specifics. What is my favorite way to connect? Without being coy, I am happy to connect in whatever way is easiest for my clients and I offer a wide variety of options to accommodate everyone:

Different Methods

There are so many great ways to run a live session. Do I actually have a favorite and a least favorite? Sure, but really as long as the client is comfortable I am happy to oblige.

ipDTL/ISDN Bridge

IpDTL was the first method I ever used to connect. My very first coach, Anne Ganguzza, used ipDTL for all of her sessions. So, I was very comfortable with this when I launched my business and proud to offer this to my clients. Around the time that I opened shop, I had two agents who said they would sign me if I had an ISDN line. I learned that it was no longer possible to get regular ISDN lines in my part of New Jersey. So, I use an ipDTL bridge to ISDN. I have my own direct number. Initially I was thrilled. I always test connect before a session. I have had more than one snafu. To his credit, the creator of ipDTL is very available via facebook and tries to address all issues. There is, however, a considerable time lag as he is across the pond and he never figured our why my hiccups happened. I have been fine with my regular ipDTL service but I am less than confident in my ISDN service. I will say that when I send my clients an ipDTL link and they have never used it before, they are always very impressed with how clear the connection is.

Source Connect

I have been very pleased with my Source Connect service. The funny-not-so-funny story is that I had to sign up for it when I had a session scheduled and my ISDN line would not connect! The producer was very kind and said it happens often and that we should try this. I work with a lot of producers now who love Source Connect and it is easy.  Last week, I had a commercial session for a TV spot. There were four talents on the line at the same time. The producer had the clients in the studio with him. He actually sent as a Source Connect Now line. It was great. If you have never used this before, just don’t be shocked that if the others are not muted you will hear a slight echo. Once they mute the echo goes away and it does not effect the recording. There are also not typically latency issues with Source Connect which I really like.

Skype/Zoom

I have some clients who love to use Skype and Zoom. I link them together, I suppose, because anyone could use them for anything, even outside of VO. If you are using them for voice over, be mindful to check your settings and be sure that you are coming through your pre-amp. Both of these are easy to use and for zoom if your session is under 45 minutes they are free. Skype is free as well. I find that my clients in Europe and Asia LOVE Skype and love to message on Skype! So, if you work with folks on Skype, remember to check your messages from time to time.

Phone

Funny as it sounds, I have some older Baby Boomer aged clients who just want to be on speaker phone! They do not like anything “high tech” and they want to keep it easy. If you are like me, your mobile phone may not work in your booth. That’s ok. I have a Magic Jack line for my office and that gives me a landline phone that I can bring in my booth. It is inexpensive and reliable.

Case Study: eLearning Session

So, I mentioned earlier that my live sessions used to be primarily for commercials and now I am even doing them for eLearning. This is fantastic! I’ll share a great example. I have an opportunity to work with a new eLearning company. To clarify, they are not new, jut new for me.  Unlike most, they record all audio by guided session. I connected with Shelley, the director, via Skype. Her feedback was fantastic- very specific in terms of tone, pacing, which words to hit, and how to change whatever the last line was. We moved through the demo script and developed a wonderful rhythm and flow. I cherish the feedback as often when we self direct we miss things or hear them differently. The session was a true joy

Final Thoughts:

Remember, regardless of what your revision policy may be for self-directed work, when you give a live session, all audio is final delivery. This is industry standard. The session should not end until the client has what they want. If their needs change, then they need to pay you for another booking.

If  You are a Professional Voice Over Actor, Be Professional

As a full time professional voice over actor, I am well-aware that my clients have options, so I want to make it really easy for my VO clients to work with me! I consider my business model to be client centered, I put their needs first, and try to put myself in their shoes always. Whether they are video production companies, eLearning content providers, or agents, I want them to trust when they book me that the experience will be seamless because I want to make this as easy for them as possible. Why? I want them to come back over and over again, so I want to be their go to voice in my vocal range.  Outstanding service is what sets the bar higher. Pristine audio is a given. It is assumed that the sound matches either our demos or the audition we have sent in, so the way to stand out and have clients keep coming back is to give them what they need and make the experience a delight! Here’s what I offer every time:

Rush Jobs and Fast Turn Arounds

I assume when you hire me that you need your audio back as quickly as possible. Typically when you cast me in a project, you will immediately (my average response time is 9 to 11 minutes) get my “Seal the Deal” email that confirms all the details. This will confirm the rate, the turn around time, and any questions that I may have about the booking. Unless you tell me when you send me the booking that you don’t need it for several days, I assume you want it as soon as I can get it to you. I often have people contact me about RUSH jobs and tell me that they need it “right away.” To me, that implies they need me to stop what I am working on and record their project. For that I add a $50 RUSH fee. Otherwise, I typically will have your job back to you in four to six hours.  If it will be longer, the exceptions are if I am on location somewhere and I let you know. Always. Right away.

Weekend Hours

I am happy to work on the weekends if you need something. I also have clients in different time zones around the world, so sometimes they send me something on a Friday but it does not get to me until Saturday and for them to have it on Monday it needs to be done on the weekend. No problem! I understand that you have a client on the other end who needs what they need, and I want to provide you with the finished audio. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me on the weekend if you need something. I am very passionate about my work and happy to do it!

Live Sessions at their Convenience

As a professional voiceover talent and gal who loves playing with gadgets, I am happy to provide my clients with multiple options for guided or live sessions! I offer Source Connect, ipDTL, ISDN, Skype, and Zoom. I have even had clients just ask me to put them on speaker phone. Whatever is easiest for the client is fine with me! I want my clients to feel at ease so that they can simply communicate what they want and have the finished audio that they need. That’s it. If you ask me if I have a favorite? Sure, but at the end of the day, the client has to be at ease and feel that they had the session they wanted.

Invoice Their Way

After I deliver the finished audio, whether I have self-directed or had a live session, I send an invoice immediately. I know some folks wait until Fridays. That is not my practice. I send an email delivering the finished audio, typically via drop box, with a summery of the audio, and in that email I describe the multiple ways I happily accept payment because I want to make it easy for my clients. I take credit cards, paypal, Zelle, checks, wire transfer, and more. Now, I have more and more eLearning clients that have specific invoicing protocol. This is fine! I simply send their invoice their way! The point is to make it easy for the client as I can adapt.

Be Client Friendly

In an industry where clients have choices, customer service matters! I want my clients to know how much I appreciate every opportunity, and I want to make it as easy as possible for them to work with me. I think back to times I have had to buy a gift for someone and  hesitated because of the wait at the store or how long it took the clerk to wrap the gift. At the end of the day, I want my service to match the quality of my audio: outstanding is the only option.