elearning

The Scenario: Two Weekends in a Row

As a working mom, I try to only work on weekends under specific scenarios: if booked work comes in that the client specifically Laura Thinking about itneeds over the weekend, if I get a direct audition for the weekend, or if it is something like my blog which I generally do while my kids are asleep. Otherwise, the weekend is cherished family time. So, if a client tells me they need something over the weekend, I am generally pretty sympathetic that they have someone on the other side who needs something and has a deadline. It happens that both last weekend and this weekend I had bookings come in over the weekends. While I was delighted about both bookings, the one this weekend was much more pleasant.  I think the two bookings lend themselves very well to case studies on what makes an ideal voice over client to work with and what makes a client a little more challenging.

Client A

Earlier in the month a client I have worked with before reached out to me with a small budget for a local TV and Media campaign.  After a lot of back and forth, we came to a price we could both live with. It took quite a while for the scripts to come in. Of course I When you really want to say somethingfinally heard from them Friday evening. I confirmed receipt of the script and asked Client A if Monday by midday was okay and they said it was needed over the weekend. Normally I would add either a “RUSH” fee or a weekend fee, but we had negotiated and the budget was low so I could not do that here. The other snag was that the client only sent one script. We had negotiated a bulk rate assuming that I was recording at once, and sending everything piecemeal was not a great start.

Client A is in a different time zone. The client is quite slow to respond to questions I have or to give any feedback when audio is sent. I sent all audio Saturday and did not hear anything back until Thursday. Typically when I deliver finished audio I invoice, but as this was just one of four deliverables, I could not invoice for the first TV spot until the entire slow moving project is complete.

Client B

My experience with Client B has been very different than my experience with Client A. I met Client B when I presented at an eLearning conference in June online. We had a follow up Zoom and the work that came in on Friday evening was also a long time coming. Like Client A, Client B also sent this booking in the evening on Friday. Also like client A, Client B was in a different time zone but in the other direction, so their workday would start before ours on Monday. In this case, Client B did not specify that they needed the work by Monday. In contrast, I was excited to get the ball rolling.

Like Client A, Client B sent clear specs and a sample. Unlike Client A, Client B, was very easy to communicate with. They answered all questions promptly and were extremely clear and direct. Client B is an international client who also needed copy writing services. Again, the ease of communication made this go extremely smoothly. I invoiced when I delivered the finished audio as I typically do and Client B paid within an hour of delivery. They also sent three follow up emails the team reviewed the files that I sent. I felt as though I were in Italy listening with them. It was great to be part of the team like that.

What Made All the Difference?

As I think about it, working on Saturday was not the problem. Subtle contrasts between Client A and Client B made the experiences quite different. I made this chart to help make the nuances more clear. Please see below:

Client A Client B
Asked for work on weekend    X   X
Sent Sample     X    X
Sent Specific Specs    X    X
Easy to Correspond With      X
Needed Copy Writing To    X
Gave Specific and Timely Feedback      X
Self Directed     X    X
Paid Promptly     X
Overall Felt Like were on the Same Team      X

It is much easier to work with responsive people. It is also much easier to work when you feel that your work is valued. Everyone works at their own pace, and as the voice over actor, I cannot control the pace at which the scripts are sent to me. Even though I ask that revisions come in within 48 hours in my terms at the start, I try to work with all clients, even if they pace the projects differently. While it does not feel good to have it dragged out, when I saw the first cut of the first commercial, it turned out great. The client was really nice and was working with a large team.  I understand that the client cannot always control pace.

So, in the final analysis, what steps can I come up with as a business owner to have more interactions be like those with client B?

  • Be clear about my terms at the start.
  • Always maintain a professional demeanor.
  • Maintain industry standard rates and never devalue myself.

When those are in balance I am doing my part to protect my interests, and I have to have hope that the clients will do their part as well. If all is in balance, then yes, it is worth making the effort to accommodate clients over the weekend!

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!

An Opportunity for Jack

I’ll start out by saying that neither of my twins dream of becoming full time voice over actors like me. And though they do not share my dream, they support me in every way possible and are actually part of my small business team in integral ways this summer. In the past few weeks, one of my VO besties reached out and said that one of her regular clients needed 14-16 year old voices to do some eLearning narration, and my twins happen to be 16. So, they submitted demo reads. Again, it is not their life’s ambition, but in the summer of Covid-19 they realize that this is a great opportunity to learn and to do something that most kids never get a chance to do.

A script came in for Jack first. He was delighted. He booked his first paying eLearning voiceover gig, and he just needed a little coaching. I will point out a few things. Anyone who works in voice over knows that it is not really about the voice, although I happen to think he has a really nice one. My twins are both dyslexic. Reading fluently is not an easy thing for them. Jack also lacks the extensive coaching that I had that gave and continues to give me so much confidence every time I step up to the microphone. And that’s another thing, if you have never worked with a coach, you need to learn basic mic technique and basic Twisted Wave skills. I am pleased to say all of this came very naturally for Jack. I think much more than doing the actual voiceover, there are many life skills that kids get from having an opportunity to have a voice over gig.

Following Multi-Step Directions

Following multi-step directions is hard for many adults, and there are very specific directions unique to every voice over job. This booking was for sure an exercise in following multi-step directions for Jack. For Jack’s first booking:

  • He had a pace guide that he had to match.
  • He had a pronunciation guide for Mandarin names.
  • He was told to keep an upbeat, happy tone.

Jack also had a lengthy, four page script to narrate while keeping all this in mind for his first time in front of the mic. It’s a lot of balls to juggle for a seasoned pro, let alone a newbie.

How to Take Feedback

Taking feedback well is something important in many aspects of life, and as a working voice talent, taking feedback in a professional manner is part of the job. After Jack submitted his audio, within 48 hours we received a spreadsheet from the client with minor feedback. Jack had done great work. For four pages of audio, he had only four minor corrections. This is pretty incredible for anyone, and especially considering he is so untrained. I explained to Jack how feedback from client works and how important it is that they have what they need. I also explained that we, as talents, cannot get emotional about it, we simply record and send. As a student who is used to the writing process, this is familiar to him. He was able to go back in the booth and re-record. There was one line that was quite long and needed to be read with more fluidity and different intonation. I gave him direction on the line and instructed him on how to break it down. It sounded great. Learning to take feedback well is a really valuable lesson for kids in voice over.

Interacting Professionally

Maintaining a professional demeanor in the professional world is important. I remember meeting Michelle Sundholm’s sons Ashton and Everett at VO Atlanta in 2018.They were so polite and they were so composed. It is this exact behavior that I am talking about. For Jack, since his interaction was online, it meant several details. First, it meant performing his work in a timely manor. It meant taking pride in his performance and doing his best. It meant sending follow-ups and  hand written thank you notes, both to the client and to the friend who referred the opportunity to him. Jack had to carry himself the way the rest of us do, and he took pride in doing so.

How to Be Part of the Team

Doing all of the above is no small thing, and in doing so Jack took pride in being a part of this client’s team and of being part of the other VO’s team. He understood that they had a choice and that there were other kids who could have booked the gig. He did his best. He was kind and he let them know he was appreciative.

My Reflections

I think it is great that my son got this glimpse of what it is like to be in front of the microphone, to live in my world. As the kids have been working for me doing marketing and social media this summer, doing the actual voice work only helps to better understand what it is they are actually marketing. I also think that the tech skills are great for anyone. Lastly, we are living in an unusual time. Kids had to regroup and reshuffle their summer plans this year. Some people who are pursuing in voiceover audition and audition and never book. It is really great that in this odd time Jack got such an exciting opportunity and he is very thankful.

Why Did I Want to Present

Last fall, which seems like a lifetime ago given how much the world has changed during the current pandemic, I began researching upcoming eLearning conferences. I was actually hoping to find more conferences in my region. As a working mom with high school aged twins, flying across the country can sometimes be a challenge. I was overjoyed when I discovered the  ICELW conference was to be held at Columbia University in the city of New York, my beloved alma mater. I submitted a proposal to speak about “Best Practices to Bring Your eLearning Module To Life” from the perspective that academics and HR people who never thought they would have to work with professional voice actors like me suddenly find themselves in the position to cast and work with voice talents as professional narrators for their eLearning modules and projects. I addressed questions that they should ask every time they have a project, VO tech and why it matters, and pricing for voiceover, including where it should be and what the price indicates. My presentation went nicely and it meant a lot to be a part of the dialogue. I am very excited, however, to share some of the larger takeaways from the more scholarly presentations during the conference as I reflect on how they will shape both my work, my voice over bookings, and client interactions as the eLearning industry continues to progress.

Reimagining Learning

With an international audience and an enthusiastic crowd, there was a lot of discussion at the conference about how the advancing technology would enable content creators to re-imagine learning. David Guralnick from Kaleidoscope Learning and Columbia University talked about opportunities to use “technology to humanize learning” and went on to present a thrilling example combining AI and interactive technology. In this example, the student asked questions about Ancient Greece and the Acropolis and was able to create a scene where he was present in Ancient Greece having his questions answered. Particularly at a moment when students around the world are relying so heavily on on-line learning, this was thrilling and wonderful to see. The advantages of this were how realistic the scenario is and how clear the examples are. Clearly the new technology enables better communication of content. As a narrator, I have been working with more companies that create K-12 content in the last year, and I am sure such technology would be a huge asset to them.

Critical Thinking

As the technology available continues to improve and emerge, teaching and discussing critical thinking becomes more and more essential.  Antonella Poce from Rome Tre University presented about critical thinking and digital learning. This is an issue I discuss with my own children often. Dr. Poce spoke of the importance of discerning true from false. She talked about knowing what questions to ask. My ears lit up when she said this, as a major section of my presentation was dedicated to this as well. My experience in hearing clients’ pain points is that they often did not ask the right questions at the beginning of work and consequently hired the wrong voice over actor. In her session, Dr. Poce spoke of how many tweets during the recent pandemic have been propaganda from bots. She spoke of the importance of being “correctly informed” so that we have time to do deep readings and reflect on what we learn. In that sense, we should use technology, according to Dr. Poce, towards critical and deep thinking. She also spoke of cooperation, collaboration, and creativity. When I think about my role in this creative process, as both an academic who is now a narrator of this content, I think truly understanding the character we are voicing, and the roles we are playing, opens up the opportunity to really help the end user to engage with critical content.

Interactive and New Technologies

There were multiple sessions during the ICELW conference that addressed new technologies like AI, VR, and enhanced/mixed reality. I was riveted by these sessions as well. Someone brought up that when Steve Jobs designed the first iPod, he did not do a focus group, he just knew it would be a better device and he was creating the technology to drive a potential future experience. That is what a lot of the new experiential learning technology does. There is vast potential, the sky is the limit so to speak. Michelle Cortese, a VR Product Designer at Facebook and Professor at NYU gave a thrilling demonstration of work her students are doing. I was fascinated as a former educator, as a parent, and as a working creative. I could not help but see the intersection between technology and improv, something that so many of us in voice over spend so much of our time training in. The social behaviors that occur were fascinating, and unpredictable, and again as a working creative this made me think of improv which is not something that I typically connect to my eLearning work. Although, under further analysis, the point of studying improv, is that we are supposed to bring it with us into the booth so that our reads and takes on characters are fresh and exciting. What I found so fascinating about the sample that Michelle shared is that all of the content in the VR chat was user generated and is in the moment art. It is a vision and content that comes from the user. When so much of the learning content that we work with is contrived, this opens up a world of creative possibilities for end users. Fernando Salvetti also demonstrated work with enhanced/mixed reality and I was riveted. The possibilities that are simple and user friendly are true game changers. Having worked in eLearning for years, being exposed to such projects is eye opening.

The Bottom Line

As in so many projects I am a part of, the bottom line matters. Dr. Tim Brock of the ROI Institute talked about creating  a framework that balances needs and feasibility. The needs need to be defined at the beginning. This resonated with me a lot. Often voiceover is left off of the budget entirely, it’s an after thought. This was another area that I was addressing in my talk, the price of the voice over. When a company is looking at the ROI, the return on investment in the overall project, the voice over, and typically in eLearning we are talking about a narrator, needs to be a part of that calculation, from the start. As the technology continues to progress and is better and better, the voice over needs to be a part of the initial plan, not a lost minute add on. In Dr. Brock’s talk, he spoke of feasibility, and as the technology becomes more and more advanced, having an overall understanding for the get go of the feasibility certainly makes sense!

What Did I Love Most?

The ICELW conference was fantastic. This blog could have been much, much longer and I could have written about each session! I loved the sharing, enthusiastic vibe! I most loved that it was such a scholarly, international crowd. I have attended numerous eLearning conferences around the country and the talks at this conference really resonated with me. I very much look forward to keeping in touch with the others that I “met” and I hope to attend in person next year! Fingers crossed!

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.