Gravy for the Brain

The Talk Began with Armin at One Voice

Yesterday I spent much of the day online in my den enjoying different workshops from the One Voice 2020 conference. I had not planned to fly to London to attend before the pandemic, but since virtual attendance became an option I was excited to participate.  I got so much out of the sessions, from thinking about craft and marketing, to thinking about my feelings about auditions and the work that I book. So, from the start, thanks to Hugh Edwards and the entire team at Gravy for the Brain for this amazing conference!

Each session got my wheels turning for different reasons, but during Armin’s session that was around 11 AM EST, when he spoke of defining quality in the industry. My head was bursting with ideas. If you don’t know Armin Hierstetter, he is the founder and CEO of the online casting platform Bodalgo. Unlike some platforms where you can simply sign up, Bodalgo stands apart because Armin has a screening process to begin with, setting a bar for “quality” from the start. In his talk, Armin spent a bit of time talking about what is going on industry wide in terms of quality, what quality looks like, and how quality could be achieved.

Why does Armin’s chat matter so much? Well, if you recall last week I blogged about Casting Director MaryLynn Wissner and what happens if we take Coaching out of the mix when defining a professional. Yesterday, Armin made a strong argument for why coaching and training matter when defining quality in voiceover. Armin was not alone when he spoke about the importance of coaching, I heard this message from Kay Bess as well. I think any well-established talent in the industry will tell you with pride how much they have invested in working on their craft. Next, Armin also spoke about the importance of audio quality. Again, in order to book work competitively at the moment in the industry, a professional talent must have the “right” equipment in a sound treated space and know how to edit it. But simply having training and buying equipment alone is not enough, these need to combine with an ethical underpinning on platforms that are out to foster the growth of the industry, and all of that together creates a synergy to provide quality work for out clients.

So, inspired by Armin, let’s examine more in depth how we can work together at this unique moment in history to provide outstanding VO quality for our clients:

Training:

It is imperative that in order to be competitive in the voice over industry today a talent must have coaches and continue to work on their craft. When I started I did a combination of one on one coaching in specific genres, online classes, acting and improv. Whether or not you are working towards a demo, a good coach will help you develop your strengths and identify your weaknesses. They will also help you identify next steps and encourage you with other genres of voice over that would likely be a good fit. As MaryLynn mentioned in her blog post, good coaches ideally have a responsibility to give talents both a push in the right direction and a heads up if they are sub parr.

Attending conferences is essential to understanding industry trends. What is current and booking changes. If you are not in touch with other voice actors and involved in current training, how do you know what is booking at the moment? There are also differences by region. For example, I was told at WoVo Con 2019, this year, that when submitting west coast auditions I should add touches of improv but never to do that on auditions being submitted in NYC. Working out and doing line reads in the presence of other voice actors, while humbling, also helps you see where you fit in in the community and if you are in fact up to snuff. It is really important to push yourself to these challenges and participate in such community activities.

Audio Quality:

Audio quality matters. Clients can hear the difference when listening to auditions. I have always been a big proponent of getting WoVo studio approval and when I cast jobs for clients will only cast with talents who have been vetted through this process.

For those wanting to learn as much as possible about studio setups and audio standards, there are lots of great ways to go about it. The VOBS weekly show is really helpful. If you started watching today, you would be busy for a while! Both Dan Leonard and George Whittam are also available to help teach anything related to audio processing and studio set up, as is Tim Tippets, and Roy Yokelson. There are others out there too, but if you want to have competitive audio, the quality of your raw audio needs to be outstanding and then you need to know how to edit it. It’s that simple. Those of use who have been in the business for a while typically attend workshops at conferences on DAW upgrades. For example, I love learning more about Twisted Wav. We also typically make improvements to our travel rigs. If your audio is not pristine, all the coaching in the world won’t save you.

Conclusions

If you want to succeed in voiceover, there are not short cuts to creating quality work. There is an industry standard and the bar is high. That is what books. If you are aware of those of us who continue to book at this time, the answer to what sets them apart is one word: quality.

 

It’s a Two Way Street

As a full time, professional voice over actor, I can go on and on about how wonderful most of my clients are. Over my years in the voiceover industry, I have worked really hard to build and maintain relationships with my clients. With every new job that I book, I am not just looking to meet my monthly financial goals, and I am looking to do my very best work for that new client so that they come back again and again.  I try to get to know them. I want to know, in addition to pristine audio, what their unique needs

With an eLearning client at DevLearn last fall and visiting a client in Orlando last Spring:)

are. I love to learn about the specifics of their business. When I also learn personal details about pets and hobbies, well that is even better. The better I connect with I client, the better I can serve their specific needs.

Likewise, I try hard to be easy to work with:) In addition to being responsive and doing the job I am hired to do, I am upbeat and bend over backwards. What do I expect in return? Well…. You would think it would not be so complicated. I am hired to record audio. I record and deliver the audio as per the specs… The best ways I have learned over the years to be a good voiceover client to the folks I work with, whether they are video production teams, talent agents or their clients, ad agencies, marketing executives, include:

1. Confirm the Terms

I am always happy to be cast in every job, so when the initial booking email comes, I immediately follow up with a “Seal the Deal” Letter. Some of my voiceover friends, like Carin Glifrey, call this their “Welcome Letter.” Mine literally begins with the word “Yay” to express both my joy and grattitude. Years ago in a helpful and thorough session with J. Michael Collins he detailed the importance of confirming all of the terms of work upfront. This email has many important components. It:

              • confirms the actual booking
              • confirms the fee
              • confirms the turnaround time on my end
              • asks the client what they need in the finished audio (i.e. WAV or MP3, raw or sweetened)
              • confirmed my policy on revisions and my charge for pickups

I want to serve my clients well, and I think that in order to do so I need to be very clear upfront.

2. Deliver the Audio Exactly as Stated

Next, I take great joy in actually recording the voiceovers that I am hired for. I pay close attention to the specs and the requests of my clients. About 80% of my bookings are commercials, which means I am providing them with multiple versions of the recordings. When I do long form narration or eLearning, I am meticulous with my editing so that I save both of us time moving forward. I take a lot of pride in the audio that I send out, and I know that to be a good client I need to deliver outstanding quality every single time.

3. Be Available for Pickups

To keep my clients happy, I make myself very available for pickups. For my bookings over $250, I include one round of revisions in my quote. For jobs lower than that, I charge $75 per 30 minute session. As I am in my booth full time, and I understand that my clients are on a deadline, I make myself available for these revisions so that my clients have what they need as soon as they need them! Often they have a quick line change or just need one more take, and it is never an issue. I just want my clients to have what they need as soon as possible.

4. Hold them to the Initial Terms

In a business where we often bend over backwards to be a good client and to make our clients happy, we have to remember that it is actually ok to hold them to the terms they initially agreed to. So, if in the “Seal the Deal” email we offer one round of revisions, we should not hesitate to charge for the next round that they ask for. Hugh Edwards just posted a really important article about VO rates and our overhead costs that can be found at

Voiceover Rates – The Biggest Threat To Our Industry

We must continue to maintain our industry standards and hold our clients to the same standards they hold us to. Just as we have to provide them with the audio they need, they must pay for it, and we should not bat an eye at adding to our invoice and sending the update.

5. Follow Through

Ideally, follow through on a great job means sending a thank you note and thanking your client for the opportunity. And when you are lucky and the voiceover gods are smiling down on you, that is the end of it and payment comes anywhere in the 30-90 day window. Sometimes, though, follow through means having to more aggressively pursue payment even when you have bent over backwards to provide outstanding quality and service. How do I go about this?  I have a multi-pronged approach:

              • The thank you note is actual a great reminder of the work that you did.
              • At 30 days and at 60 days my billing software sends an automatic reminder.
              • After 60 days, I send a more direct “friendly reminder” and ask them how everything is going.
              • If I still have not received payment, I cc my husband aka manager who is an attorney at an NYC law firm and he sends a follow up note as my representative. In 5 years this has happened less than 10 times, but every time he has collected in full immediately. Sometimes he has to contact the clients council. Sometimes he has to speak with a CEO. But he always gets paid.

It should not come to that. On the two way street, if we provide the audio, we should be paid, regardless of whether or not it ultimately makes its way to where it is supposed to, that is not part of our deal. We record. We deliver. We are an absolute delight to work with. That makes a voiceover talent a good client. The rest is up to our client to do right by us, and most of the time they do:)