The Ups and Downs of VO Bookings

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

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

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

I Never Really Know What’s Coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thought

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

When  People Just show Up

As a full-time working mom, I have a pretty rigid routine from day to day. On Sunday mornings, I typically relish my quiet time with my kids, and although I am home alone with them because my husband is usually playing basketball, I am usually working. On a Sunday morning, I tend not to be in my recording studio, but instead tend to be comfortably seated at the kitchen island and I usually maximize my time between 9am and 12 pm writing my weekly blog post and working on that weeks marketing goals. So this Sunday, when my very loved and very welcome in-laws walked-in unexpectedly and unannounced at around 9:15 am, I had a quick choice. And really, it was no choice. I needed to abandon my work plan and go with the flow. The work would be there when I came back to it but my opportunity to make my family feel welcome and appreciated would be fleeting.

In order to understand this scenario, you need to understand a few key details. First, members of our immediate family, both on my side and on my husband’s, all have our garage code. So, they tend to just enter the house, much like on a sitcom. We often have no idea who is coming when or how long they are staying. They just show up. Luckily they all get along really well. Next, this may give you the mis-impression that I am in some way relaxed. Quite to the contrary, I am wrapped very tight. When my twins were born, my husband and I agreed that an open-door policy was more fair to all grandparents. We didn’t want them to miss out, and so all of this craziness, is the result of said policy. So, I have had to change my behavior and learn to “go with the flow” a bit. What does that mean. Well, according to zenhabits.com, “What is going with the flow? It’s rolling with the punches. It’s accepting change without getting angry or frustrated. It’s taking what life gives you, rather than trying to mold life to be exactly as you want it to be.” So yesterday, it meant holding off for a better time to write and just enjoying my family. And you know what, I did!

There is another issue at play. I think people get a vibe when they are greeted. Do you want the people you love most in the world to feel welcome and like there is a red carpet for them, or do you want them to be unsure if they should be there? I want my family to want to come over. According to hospitality.net, “the spirit of welcome is so important in creating a strong foundation for the guest experience. Each person, each point of contact, can add so much to the ‘welcoming’ experience for guests! A welcome goes beyond words, it creates a feeling of caring and gives a sense of pleasure. A sincere welcome reaches out and positively pulls guests in to the hospitality environment they have chosen and makes guests feel like they have made a good choice. A cordial and courteous welcome gives guest the feeling they have been invited to join the setting even though they chose to go on their own. The power of welcome is to affirm the guest made the right choice and is further welcome to enjoy.” I think we only get one shot at this feeling, and if I had excused myself to go do work, it just would have been all wrong.

It takes a Village so In turn we need to be part of the Village

When I think about how families connect, I often think about this video I once saw of a family singing Les Mis karaoke:


It’s amazing, right? I find this incredible because my family will come together to watch Seinfeld or a movie, and we really come together to eat, but this is well-beyond our skill set. But what I think we do best as a family is raise mensches, and I couldn’t do that alone. I think that the reason my kids are so sweet is because they have the attention not just of their parents, both of whom work, but of their grandparents, their aunts, and their uncles, and I think it does take a village. When that village is fragmented, the kids are the ones who suffer. When you wonder how these characters end up on Jerry Springer or Dr. Phil, maybe it was those moments of choice and instead of sticking together and just being together they chose wrong over and over again. My daughter has been watching a lot of Dr. Phil recently, and when I see clips where he admonishes family like this I gather that they made one mistake after another until they stopped supporting each other.

The Time Goes way to Fast

I feel like just yesterday my  twins were tiny babies coming home from the hospital. We were worried that the pot holes would hurt their heads because they were so small.  Now they will be driving in a month. I spend many hours every day alone in a padded foam booth. So, when family comes over unexpectedly, I have decided to look at it as a gift. I think sometimes it is life telling us to slow down and take it in. I do feel like hitting pause is ok. I am blogging 24 hours after I planned. I am not sure when I will work on my instagram posts. Will I get them done? Yes.

How did our day end up yesterday? We had a wonderful lunch as a family at our mall. We took my little niece with us too. We then went to Target and the grocery store. My family come out from NYC and we grilled for dinner. We were all together and it was wonderful. At the end of the day, it was more important to me that my family feel important and loved.

It happens to be a beautiful sunny day, so I may want to take my kids out for lunch, but I think that will be okay too.