Fred Frees

So, Why Another One?

Recently I was Facebook Messaging back and forth with the brilliant and talented Tracy Lindley, voice over talent and creator of the amazing LinkedIn Edge https://www.thelinkedinedge.com/home, and she said blogging is one of those things on her list.  As a working mom, I think this is so common! I never intended to blog when I became a voice over actor years ago. I did it because my website guy Joe Davis https://www.voiceactorwebsites.com/ said it would help with my SEO, and since I can’t work if no one can find me, that was good motivation. Even though I recently posted https://www.lauraschreibervoice.com/blog/top-tips-for-the-vo-blogger/, believe it or not I still have more to say on the matter when it comes to actually getting it done!

Make it a Routine

Try to have a set time that you always blog and post. Then, try to have a rain date/makeup time already scheduled. For me, my set time is Sunday mornings around 8 am. My kids are typically asleep, and my husband is typically at basketball.  I love sitting at my kitchen island with my dog Violet on my lap and enjoying the quiet time to write and research. If we have plans on a Sunday, are traveling, or have unexpected guests, I typically blog Monday or Tuesday morning.

My blog routine is not just about having a set time to blog. I actually have a very set routine:

  • I have a set time to blog.
  • I have two specific places I prefer to sit when writing blogs.
  • After writing, I then have a specific order for researching art work and photos for my blog.
  • I then either record or post a video to the blog.
  • Once all is gathered and in my blog dropbox, I then post the blog.

It’s Actually a Ritual

Even though I never set out to blog, now that I have found a system that works for me, I am very “into it.” There is definitely a flow to blogging that takes on a life of it’s own. For me, there are some other specifics that represent me and my brand:

  • I have a lot to say to be part of the professional discourse.
  • It is important to stay positive.
  • I want my clients and industry friends to get to know me.
  • I am willing to share without crossing a line of personal information about my family.
  • I love to write and research so this gives me a little outlet.

Tricks About Topics

One of my beloved coaches, Fred Frees, told me many years ago to always keep a notebook near by to jot down inspirations. For years I did so. Unfortunately my back is bad and I have had to downsize my purse many times, but I have found that I can text myself ideas that come to mind and it works just as well!  A lot of times during the week ideas for blog posts come to me. I always jot them down. Sometimes as I write them I feel that they are too personal or that they cross a professional line, so those do not get posted, but the point is to make sure you do not miss an opportunity to express your ideas!

Photos and Videos for Blogs

It is apparently also important for blogs to be enhanced with related photos, videos, and links. For those of us not of the generation where we take selfies throughout the day and photograph everything we do, I actually find it helpful to set reminders to take pictures. I also try to write about topics about something that I want to talk about and then I will have an easier time making a related YouTube Video. When posting these related materials within the blog, I try to always tag them with relevant words that relate to the topic and also make me more findable.

Key Words

This is an interesting one. It has been advised to me to come up with a list of key words to target and write a blog post about it. So, if you have specific SEO goals, That would be great, but my creative juices just don’t work that way. In fact, if almost seems like if I have to write about a specific topic nothing comes to mind. I find that instead, writing about what seems germane to current industry trends, or what is on my mind, and then making a list of key words, is a much better approach for me because it actually results in a completed blog.

Where Am I Going With This….

Even though I work full time, as a mom of teenage twins, I am in the car A LOT. My SUV has a great sound system, and I confess I enjoy belting it out. The other night I had a realization though: unless my four year old niece is in the car, I am typically belting it out alone. And it is not that I am not playing great music, because I can assure you that it is always a party when I drive. I think it has more to do with the personalities of my husband and kids.

I asked  my son Jack why he didn’t want to belt it out? Perhaps the music should be even louder? His response: it’s just not him. He, and they, are just not wired up that way. In contrast, I can’t keep it in. I dance. I rap. I pour my heart and soul into it. ACDC. Snoop Dogg. Gladys Knight. Jonas Brothers. It doesn’t matter, I’m into it! So what on earth does this have to do with voiceovers? Well, people often ask me how I got into voice over or how I started booking work. It’s a tricky question. There are a lot of talented people who do what I do. There are also a lot of people who have had access to the training that I have had. They may even have the demos that I have. So, what sets us apart? Our schtick. Our unique personality and spark. The ability to put my dignity, airs, “whatever” in the metaphorical back seat and whoop it up for the clients, is essentially what I have been practicing for years. One of my beloved coaches, Fred Frees, used to tell me if I was going to “make it” I had to be fearless in front of the microphone. This singing in the car is exactly the same thing. When you have the reckless abandon to belt it out in front of everyone, odds are you will also be fearless in front of the mic.

Are there personality traits of Voice Over Actors?

So here’s an interesting question that I get. Just like in every field, all types come to voice over. I do find that the industry friends that I have are kind, supportive, and an overall super friendly bunch. We all have to wear our emotions on our sleeve, because if you can’t hear them, no one will hire us! So, I do find that in voice over people are typically willing to share, and that openness makes everything better.

Do We Actually Sing In Our Work?

Yes!  I have had to sing for Indie Video Games, Toys, and Commercial Jingles. I have also sung for mobile apps with Nursery rhymes.  Some people who have had a lot of musical training have singing demos. I do not, folks just ask me to do it and I send them my best. A lot of the voice over talents that work in animation sing a lot. As that has never been my bread and butter, I do not do that.

What If We Don’t Sing or Sing Terribly?

Don’t worry! Our job is not musicians. There was a spec on a job I was sent last week that specifically said that they wanted someone who was not perfectly on tune so that it sounded natural and not overly polished. I think a more commonly sought after skill is the ability to sing in character, which has a lot more to do with staying in character, and less to do with hitting each note perfectly. That being said, when I have sung for toy demos, I have to do scales and have to hit each note in the middle and it takes a lot of work and concentration for someone who did not grew up singing!

My Thoughts

I did not go into voiceover because I wanted to sing. To the contrary, the jobs that involve that component are typically my hardest.  The point of this is that the silly abandon that we have when playfully, often gleefully belting it out in the car whether we are alone or have an audience of 3, that is what we need to bring with us into the booth for every job. The ability to switch gears as quickly as a song changes on the radio is priceless. The ability to reinvent ourselves every two minutes is also priceless. All the professional training in the world cannot change the feeling that you have in your gut. I have been told by another coach that I “dive in” rather fast. I believe that, too, is one of my greatest assets! Whether it is a new station I am imaging for and each take on a line needs to be fresh, or a 15 second holiday spot, or an eLearning module, be the talent who is willing to shake things up and delight your client at every turn!

This is,  after all, the foundation of your career!

Recently another local mom who I am connected with on LinkedIn reached out and asked me if I could “point her son in the right direction” so that he can consider pursuing voiceover. After 5 plus years as a full time, professional voice over talent, I know better than to name names, but I can give you some pointers to think about when you are considering which voiceover coach to work with. It is a big decision, one that will hopefully shape the trajectory of your career, so you should think about these points.

  1. Is there a demo on the horizon?

Whether you are a newbie or an established talent, you will likely be coming at this from different angles. You may just be honing your skills, so a demo is not in play. If a demo is on the horizon, that changes things. I find it helpful to find other talents who worked with that coach. Listen to their demos. Are they booking? Do they have agents? Who are their clients? Do you actually like their demos? Do they sound current? Is this the sound you want for yourself? I have some demos that I am very very proud of and others that I am not happy with. I was not happy with the coach and for a multitude of reasons I still moved forward with the demo. I very much regret both the money that I spent, the time that I spent, and my own inability to see this coming, especially because it did not happen at the start of my career, but instead when I was a seasoned professional. It is what it is but I will not make that mistake ever again.

2. Does this coach give feedback in a way that you respond to feedback?  Do you actually know how you learn? I am sensitive and while I wish that I could say business is business, I do best with positive reinforcement and constructive guidence. In my career I have worked with a few coaches who are harsh. One of them I could not tolerate and had to stop after several sessions. Another one I did persevere. The result is possibly my best demo. That coach was not mean, he was just also not sweet, and every session was very hard for me. Some coaches use a lot of acting techniques. Others have their own inventive, creative approaches. See what works for you and what you enjoy. Since you invest a lot of time and money in this, I actually believe it should be pleasant.

3. Is the cost within reason? The reality is that this is a business and you need to earn money. often we hire coaches either while we are still working in other jobs and segueing in to voiceover. We all want to avoid demo mills that promise a demo after 5 lessons; but, at the same time,  we don’t want to be on the hook forever. I once worked with an amazing coach who said a “demo is a reflection of where you are now.”  So in a few years when your work changes you make a new demo, right? I like that, especially

I have been fortunate to work with the best of the best. When you have the luxury of working with top coaches, if you are like me you hear their voices in your head when you work all day every day. Anne Ganguzza, J. Michael Collins, and Fred Frees are amongst the dream team that I have assembled, but I have worked with others who continue to inspire me!

when I was starting out. But we all have room to learn and to grow, so at some point we can pull the trigger and move on. I have also supplemented coaching with classes. I have attended online classes through groups like GVAA and VO Peeps that are amazing. I have taken live classes at our local theaters in advanced acting and improv. I have gotten a lot out of these classes and just like with coaching, the classes are only as good as the teacher. 

4. Think outside the box- there are known coaches and then are new folks and are plusses and minuses to both!  I have worked with the biggest names in the industry and I have worked with folks just starting out. When you work with a proven coach who has a curriculum, you benefit from years of experience. You hope that they see your potential and that they correct your flaws. But this does not mean that if someone is new to coaching you should run for the hills. I have had coaches that I think are brilliant and they have had very few students. As long as they are committed to the process and to your success it can work very well.  Their success as a coach is inextricably linked to your success after having been their student, so they typically want to the best for you.

5.  Think about who is choosing the scripts- you or the coach.

I have had this work both ways for lessons as well as for demos. I have had to come up with scripts and write scripts. I have also had to work on scripts that I have never seen before, just like in real life. I think ultimately, for me, I prefer to have the scripts given to me. As a working talent, we don’t pick our scripts. And when they are well written, it seems like a miracle. An absolute miracle. So why would we write scripts that are brilliant, witty, pithy, and not at all like the majority of our actual day to day work? It’s practically a farce. I also think when the coach here’s our raw read it helps with audition technique too.

Conclusions:

When you are  working with a coach, the question you have to ask yourself is are you continuing to learn and grow or have you plateau? Once you have plateaued, you either stop, or if the goal is the demo, you do the demo….