Dave Fennoy

My Breakthrough This Week When Walking my Dog

Some days I wake up with a burst of energy and ready to get to work. Other days I am less energetic, but regardless, the outcome is the same: I do my thang in the booth. I’ll explain. I am pretty regimented when it comes to sticking to my voice over routine, Laura walking her dogsand that routine enables me to balance both my mom tasks and my business tasks in a way that I am comfortable with. Most days follow the same pattern, with slight variation by day of the week. But some days, I am less “into it” than others. I was thinking it through the other morning and I thought this was a matter of inspiration. I was walking my dogs one day this week with my friend Melanie and she was telling me she felt the same way, that feeling when you just can’t get started. Melanie is a successful New York attorney who works extremely long days. While her career path is decidedly different than mine is as a working creative, this got my wheels turning. Both of us are working moms. Both of us work long days every day. And both of us build our household responsibilities into our professional goals. What, then, is the secret sauce? It came to me that while I often think of things only in terms of the presence and lack of inspiration, it is actually the ability to sustain the magic of the intersection of motivation and inspiration that makes success happen.

Common Challenges All Working Moms Face

So, let’s take a step back. It’s not just me as a voice actor who has a business to run that also has to think about how to feed my kids dinner at the end of a long work day. There are common challenges that every single working mom has to face regardless of our chosen profession and these challenges impact our work performance. Sure, these challenges vary depending on the age of our kids and the level of involvement of our life partner if we have one, but for the most part working moms still:

  • feed their families
  • manage household responsibilities including cleaning and home maintenance and repairs
  • have appointments like doctors visits
  • have errands like marketing, grocery shopping, household supplies, etc.
  • need to interact with school teachers

Just to list a few of these, and all of these responsibilities take time, energy, and emotional strength away from our professional responsibility. We can’t split ourselves in half. We have to be present for all of it, and there are only so many hours in the day.

Motivation vs. Inspiration

So, with so much on our plates as working moms, what keeps as working towards our end goals? Let’s consider the definitions of motivation and inspiration:

Definition of inspiration

 

Definition of motivationFor me, I could blog endlessly about my VO goals. I try to break them down and focus on immediate, short term, 6 month, 12 month, and long term goals. That is how I start to frame out the motivation. The inspiration has always been clear: it starts and ends with my children. They are my why. I was inspired to start my business for them. Everything I do is for them. Thinking of them and wanting them to be able to study abroad or open up their business helps me define solid financial goals that I am very motivated to reach. On a daily basis, I hold myself accountable with a google spreadsheet. On a weekly basis, I am accountable to my amazing VO Powerhouse Accountability Group. All of this is essential to spending time at this junction of motivation and inspiration and not floundering in between the two.

My Working Mom Interviews

A few years ago I also started doing a series of “Got Your Back” working mom interviews on YouTube. It occurred to me that I was just one of many and that maybe a lot of women had figured out this work life balance better than I had. I wanted to know what they struggled with and how they addressed those struggles to get it all done. These women were both inside the voiceover industry and beyond. One of them, Rebecca Gelman, has since evolved beyond her architecture business and now also owns an outdoor gear shop that boasts the largest collection of black bear collectables in our area which you can find at https://bigbeargearnj.com/. Talk about a gal who doesn’t waste a moment and somehow gets it all done, she is extremely motivated and Rebecca inspires me daily. All of the videos do! But if you are like me, you look to your tribe on those days when you are lacking, and, well, my tribe rocks.

 

What Needs to Line Up for me to Meet me Goals

Life as a full time voice actor is not as simple as being found and just sent bookings. Yes, it’s great when a repeat client does that, but if I were to sit back and rely on that every day my business would cease to exist. I recall hearing Dave Fennoy speak in 2016, and he talked about a time when he was so successful he stopped working to grow his business. Do you know what happened? He lost his business. He lost everything and Dave Fennoy, one of the biggest names in voice over, had to rebuild from the beginning. He told us at this conference that we needed to work every single day as if it were our first day. That is what I try to remember. I never sit back and count on the work pouring in. Every day matters and I will continue to work my hardest.

I will still also take care of myself too. I want to teach my children that is well. I will blow out my hair, put on some make up, do my nails, and do pilates. If I fall apart, how can I take care of the needs of so many others? Worse, what kind of example am I setting as a mother. So here I am, hanging out at this intersection I realized I love being at but only just named. And now that I’ve found it, I’m not going anywhere!!

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:

I’m Starting to see a Pattern

When I actually stop working and venture out of my padded foam booth, I have found that a lot of folks are super inquisitive about what it is like to be a professional voice over actor. Yesterday my husband and I went to Philly, about an hour and a half from where we live to pick up a new car because we got a great deal. Sitting in the dealership waiting to sign the papers, I realized that almost every weekend I have the same conversations. So, in case you too are curious, in the form of a self interview I will address these burning questions:) Here goes:

Q: I’ve Always wanted to get into voiceover. Is it hard to get started?

A: YES! Like all professions, it takes training, years of commitment, and a financial investment. For each genre that you

I am so fortunate to have trained with the best! Bill DeWees, Dave Fennoy, Anne Ganguzza, and Fred Frees. I worked with Anne for so long that I her her voice in my head every single day. I actually found Fred on Bill’s website and working with him was a blessing!

endeavor to work in, you need separate coaching and a demo. When I decided to pursue voiceover, I made my training my full-time job and I did the work that my coaches gave me 5-6 hours a day every day. I also took acting and improv classes. I have had coaching for many genres, but have spent the most time working with coaches for commercials, character work, radio imaging, and narration. It is really important to find a coach who understand your goals and helps you reach them. They are the foundation of your career!

Q: So, do you have your own studio or something?

A: Yes!! In the United States, particularly for non-union talents like myself, it is expected that voice over talents have their own professional studios. My studio is as good as any professional studio in New York or LA. It was set up by professional audio engineers and I have thousands of dollars of equipment in it. I record on a Neumann TLM 103 and an Avalon M5 preamp. I also had to have a lot of training to learn how to edit my audio as most VOs are our own engineers too. A few folks who are in the top of the field have full time engineers working for them, and I would love to be able to do that in a few years, but for now I record and edit all of my own work. I also got my studio WoVo approved. That means that a team of engineers had to review my raw audio and sign off on it. I have a certification number for my booth.

Q: Do you have a specialty?

A: Yes! Since I started, I have always booked more commercials than anything else. About 80% of my bookings are commercials, and I book more radio than tv, but I do both. In addition to regular broadcasts, I am on Pandora’s roster and this year I have also done quite a lot of work for Spotify. Top clients include Gap, Jersey Mikes, Bobbi Brown, Jet Blue, Walmart… and the list goes on and on. The rest of my work is a split between radio imaging, telephony, narration, eLearning, YouTube bumpers/Social Media campaigns, and podcasts. But when a commercial comes my way, I typically feel right at home. I especially love tags. I also get so excited to do those super fast disclaimers at the end of spots. Perhaps my most favorite thing to do is to be the voice of Christmas cheer in the holiday season.

Q: Is there work you won’t do?

A: Erotica. I’m just not comfortable with it. First, I sound quite young, so it bothers me even more when I am asked because I very much am disturbed by the implications of asking someone who is even sought because they sound like a young girl. Next, twice I have been hired for jobs. The initial script is clean/mainstream. After the booking the script comes in and it is shockingly crude. Of course my husband always thinks I should just take it, but it is a line that I am not comfortable with and I will not do. Not my thing, I’ll save it for my better suited colleagues who can have fun with it!

Q: Is there anything that has surprised you about your voiceover career?

A: Yes!  I have met so many amazing people and made wonderful friends. I have had the opportunity to travel a bit which I did not anticipate. I am continually learning and growing and being challenged, the professional development never ends.  The needs of the field to keep changing. I am learning a lot about marketing. And lost, but not least, I have done so man period spots it is shocking! I will leave you with this British one I did for Tampax.