Home Studio

Why Switch from Avalon M5?

When everything is working perfectly in your booth, your bookings are solid, and you are happy with your sound, why shake things up with a gear upgrade? Well, life is not always so cut and dry in the voice over world. While I was really proud when I upgraded to the Avalon M5 preamp, and loved the way it sounds with my Neumann TLM 103 microphone, it is not portable. I’m at a point in my career where if I travel, which happens when there is not a pandemic, I need to sound the way I sound in my booth  when in  my travel rig. With an Avalon preamp and a Neumann mic, I sound pretty awesome. Even with a VOMO, it is hard to emulate that sound without bringing the Avalon, and if you have ever been in the presence of an Avalon then you know it is not portable. Thus, my journey began.

Working with Tim

One of my VO besties, and all around favorite people on the planet, the amazing Kim Handysides, suggested that I work with the VO Tech Guru Tim Tippets. Kim said Tim does amazing stacks and would set up my travel rig. Initially I had not planned to change my in studio set up with the Avalon M5, just the rig. I reached out to Tim. Tim is amazing because he could just set you up and give you the answer, but instead he spends the time to educate you so that you understand the rationale behind his suggestions and why he is guiding you down a certain path.

The Journey- and Boy Was It One

To Start, I was limited because I was working on a 2015 MacBook Air. Even though my MacBook Air is running really well (knock wood), it only has one Thunderbolt 2 connection and the rest are USB ports. This posed some logistical challenges in terms of suggestions Tim wanted to make. Further, at the time, I was set up to mirror in studio on a monitor. So my MacBook Air stays in an office space outside the studio and I have a great monitor in my booth.

Tim suggested I part ways with my M5, as much as I have loved it, and move on to the Apollo Twin MKII Thunderbolt. He explained the advantages of  the Apollo were amazing and that I would sound the same if not better in both my home studio AND I could use it in my travel rig. So, I made the switch.

Tim set up an amazing stack for me on the Apollo and my booth in the house is up and running, almost.

Problem Solving and the Challenges

While I am delighted with the sound of the Apollo and immediately booked a pretty big job in the first round of auditions after being up and running, the big hiccup is that I cannot hookup my monitor in the studio and now my MacBook Air is in the booth, very temporarily. Before an onslaught of well-intentioned notes comes my way, I have purchased and returned multiple adaptors to try to hook up an HDMI to a USB, but to no avail, none will convert a video signal readable by Catalina. And because my MacBookAir is from Early 2015, I do not have a Thunderbolt C port and cannot use an adaptor because my computer could not process the speed. So… I am upgrading and an iMac desktop is on the way! This MacBook Air will be used for my travel rig and for marketing and correspondence, which is fine and I am thrilled with the solution.

The Travel Rig….

So this brings us back to the travel rig set up, which is also pretty exciting. After all, this entire journey started because of the travel rig, right? So, what is my travel rig set up now:

  • VoMo Booth
  • Sennheiser 660 Microphone
  • Apollo Twin MK II Thunderbolt
  • MacBook Air with Twisted Wav

And the great thing about working with Tim is that he set up the presets in the Apollo for this as well. Now when I go away, I can plug this in and go!

The One Note:

When I first started working with Tim to set up the Apollo, the process was not seamless, not because of Tim- sometimes life is just like that. It seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Tim was a patient as can be as he has seen it all, but I felt terrible and was quite frustrated. In the middle of attempting to set up the Apollo, I had to do a long overdue Time Machine backup and then upgrade to Catalina, so had I done those things prior to our chat that would have helped. The last thing was that my MacBook Air was not recognizing the device after all of that. I watched multiple youtube videos as I could not bare the thought of texting Tim and telling him something else was wrong. One video made me wonder if something was wrong with my thunderbolt cable. When I looked at it, I realized the lighting bolt was only on one side. If you have an old model and your are using this kind of cable, even though you can plug it in with either side up, make sure that the end with the lighting bolt is face up. Once I did that, everything worked like magic and Tim could do his thing, but it took about 8 hours in my booth to figure that out!

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.

Why Leaving the Foam Booth is Worthwhile

As a full-time, working mom, working from home is a major perk. I realize often how lucky I am to have my home studio. Whether it’s a day where I can accommodate multiple client sessions and run to m kids’ school to watch a special presentation, or a day when I am feeling exhausted and want to stay in yoga pants and no one knows the difference, working from home is a pretty sweet gig. But I will also be the first to say that in order to be a successful solopreneur, I need to leave to comforts of the home office that I have worked so hard to build in order to broaden my professional network.  I have made amazing connections in both expected and unexpected places because I made the effort to leave the booth!

Connections in expected places

I have blogged in the past about my conference adventures. From voice conferences like WoVo Con and VO Atlanta, to eLearning conferences like DevLearn, I have made very important connections at these conferences. At voice over conferences, I have met

Wonderful industry friends at WoVo Con, a night out with Uncle Roy in China Town the weekend of Sovas, an eLearning Guild conference in Orlando, and the WWRS in Burbank!

industry friends in person that I otherwise only know online from facebook or instagram. The bonds that form are amazing and so meaningful. These folks have become my daily support, my confidants, and my work family. These are the people I trust and confide in. The relationships would never be the same if we were not together in person. We also often refer business to each other, and again, we would not trust each other to share clients if we did not know each other so well, the way you do when you actually spend time together.

I have traveled pretty far for eLearning conferences like DevLearn and other eLearning guild conferences too. These conferences are different because you are putting yourself face to face with the companies who might need your services. Some of my most regular clients are from the smallest conferences I have gone to! The tricky thing about these conferences is that companies often send their sales team, and these are not people who cast voice talent, so as a voice over actor, you have to learn how to access the people that you can work with. You also have to learn the difference between the people who create content and the LMS providers, as they never need our services. It is also important to note that simply meeting these people at a conference and exchanging pleasantries in know way guarantees the connection. Instead, it takes months if not years of consistent follow up to build a rapport and maintain the connection that began at the conference.

Connections in Unexpected Places

I have also made wonderful connections for my business when I was not “on” or in “networking mode.” Once, at an ATD conference in Atlanta, I was totally exhausted. I did not know how I would get through the day in the massive venue with so many booths left to walk through in the expo center. I decided I needed a snack break. I had to take the escalator up four flights, which

This is what the first glimpse looked like. It was an enormous expo and several days there was both a great opportunity and exhausting all at once!

felt like an eternity, and I began chatting with a really nice lady from Boston who is now a client. She also needed a break and like me was desperate for a bottle of water, and being in that snack stand at that moment, seemed meant to be. We chatted and chatted and this instructional designer started venting about talents she had used in the past that had not worked out. The conversation flowed, and the opportunity was natural.  Sometimes it is these genuine, real chats that make the most impact and help people get to know you and then if there is a professional synergy it is that much better!

Recently, I was at the AI conference at NJIT in Newark. To be honest, even though I was only about four miles from my house, I was petrified to be in such a tough part of town and I was seriously questioning the logic in having a potentially great conference at such a venue. Well, there was another young man and woman who also had to walk from the parking garage to the main building around the same time. We just started walking together. I was relieved and started venting immediately. It turns out this woman was a talent agent from Denver and we had so much in common! That first chat has led to multiple phone calls. I am now on their talent roster for voiceover, promotional modeling, and on-camera work:

Laura

So, like my experience at ATD years ago, this wonderful connection came from a genuine, heart-felt conversation and there also happened to be true professional synergy. I did not start out trying to market myself, I just sought out human connection. This is why leaving the booth is so essential!

The possibilities are limited only by our imagination and determination, and not by physics.” ~ Mike Duke, PhD, NASA Geologist

THE question:

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, I get a lot of questions; but, the one I seem to get the most, is “So, how many hours would you say you work now?” Somehow saying that it’s a full time job has net been a clue. So, what I gather is that folks can’t imagine is how the work of a creative can fill an entire day, or perhaps weeks and years on end. Given the opportunity, I will happily, and enthusiastically elaborate and tell you what days are like for a working voiceover talent.

The Home Studio

Like most voice over actors, I have a professional home studio. This gives me the ability to accommodate clients in different time zones, not just in the Unites States, but abroad as well. I love getting started early, because I feel like I have gotten a lot done in a day. In truth a lot of my steady clients are on the West Coast, so I often go back down to record jobs that come in late after dinner as well.

Daily Tasks

The amount of booked work I have shapes my day. I typically record all booked work before doing anything else. If a big audition comes in, I will pause a job and record and submit that. While I record, I hydrate continually. I drink water all day long. I limit myself to one coffee a day. Once I am done recording actually bookings, my day is divided between auditions, client outreach emails, LinkIn follow ups, and general marketing tasks. I do try to do 20-40 auditions a day, and they come in from clients, Pay to Plays, and agents around the country. If a booking comes in mid-day, I stop what I am doing and record. For bigger jobs I typically have advance notice. For example, I did 20 videos on Thursday, but I new about them about 2 weeks in advance so that I could book out the day on my calendar. I do I lot of commercials and have a lot of RUSH work as well. I am always happy to do rush jobs. I understand when folks have deadlines, and I never mind getting audio right back to clients. Often when more booked work comes in, time on LinkedIn or for marketing takes a back seat. I tend to keep up with my client correspondence as that is very important to me!

Mom Life

It seems the more I get into a rhythm with my business, the less I feel in control of life at home. When my twins were small, they had all of my focus and attention. I was with them full time and I could spend all of my energy thinking about meals and school and their clothing. Now I worry a lot about their school work since they are in high school. But, our house is not as organized as it was. Our dinners are not planned. I often scramble to make lunches before taking them to the train in the morning. I am so so so thankful that the groceries can be delivered or I am not sure we would ever have any. 

Another issue is that because I am a small business owner, even when I am driving my kids to sports or taking them to the doctor, I am still thinking about my work and checking for client emails. I can’t ever completely detach because there is no one else to man the fort. Since I am the business, if I disconnect, it ends. I find it challenging to find the right balance between savoring this precious time with my children, which goes entirely too fast, and catching the momentum of my business which I have worked so hard to build.

I do remind myself that my kids are learning from see me running a business at home. They see me working not just at nights but on weekends. They hear client calls. They get to hear and see my actual work. This all cushions the blow. So the house may not be perfectly tidy when the family comes for a visit. And we may have to get takeout more than we had planned. And I may often forget to go back out and put the cover on the grill. 

My hope is that while friends that we meet for dinner may have natural questions about what it’s like to be a full-time working creative, my kids, the people who matter most to me in this world, will not have any questions because they see everything. I also try to talk to them about all of the issues that I grapple with and pose thought provoking questions.

So, I can tell you with certainty that a working voice talent has plenty to keep them busy! Odds are their more than 40 hour work week blows by and they have a hard time figuring out where the time has gone!

The Joys of Working from Home

It’s Sunday Morning. I’m sitting in the kitchen and my high school aged twins are sitting next to me at the kitchen island working on their Social Studies term papers. I have this blog to write and then I have to send two clients quotes for jobs and do some marketing work. To me, this is heaven. I can do every bit of work that I need to do right next to Emma and Jack. I can help them with citations on their paper, chat occasionally, all while plugging away at my work. As a full-time professional voiceover actor, nothing delights me more than time like this. I had dreamt of a pursuing a voiceover career for many years before I was brave enough to build one, and the hope that it would work out this way and I would be available for my children while still working full-time to help support my family is ultimately what game me the confidence to aggressively go after my dreams.

How is this an Asset for my clients?

It’s obvious why working from home is great for a mom, but I have realized over my years in the voiceover industry that working from home is a tremendous asset to my clients as well.  In voiceover we work across time zones, having clients not just in other states but typically in other countries from Canada to Europe. Actually, my very first client years ago was in Islamabad, Pakistan!  I have done repeat work for a client in Vancouver as well as for a client in the south of France. They need their audio when they need it, and as I always accommodate “rush” jobs, this often means working at add hours. One night, I was in bed under the covers watching tv with my husband. It was about 10:30 east coast time. A new client called from LA. He worked at a video production company and needed a sizzle reel. He needed it within the hour. I happily hopped out of bed and popped down to my booth and recorded it for him. I was genuinely delighted to do it. This is why working from home is of great value to clients. They are often given almost impossible deadlines by their clients. If my broadcast ready studio were not in-home, I couldn’t meet such demands. But, whether it’s 5:30 AM before I feed the kids breakfast or 10 PM before I go to sleep, I can meet the needs of clients when they need it and I know this provides added value to my service!

Why I chose this…

In truth, when I went into voiceover, my decision was based on a passion for the industry and on the hope that this would be ideal for my family. My husband commutes daily to work in NYC. He is an attorney at a law firm in mid-town. When my kids were little, it seemed highly impractical for both of us to shlep to the city every day. With neither of our mothers nearby as backups, who would be here if the kids got sick or hurt at school? But it was more than that. I wanted to be the one who got to pick them up. I also wanted very much to be there for science fairs and history days. I didn’t want to miss a single event in my precious twins’ lives. So we had to find a way to reconcile these parental yearnings with our very real financial needs. Out of it came my voiceover career. I work extremely long days. I am typically in my booth recording before my husband wakes up and I am often still at it after dinner. But, I also have the luxury of picking my kids up from the train (they now commute too) and going to every school event. Can I make it to everything? Almost. But as I write this post my Emma is right next to me and my little dog Violet is on my lap. I could not ask for more.

Do I have it all figured Out?

No. I have some things figured out. I order my groceries online and they are delivered. My husband has become increasingly more helpful. I do not finish everything that I have to every day. I wish that I could figure out how to get my work done and see my friends more. I do not like to go out on week nights ever, except to workout.  I tend to only workout with my kids so that I am giving them time. I am quite tired. I often wish that I had auditioned more in a day or I run out of energy and I don’t cook dinner. I have tried to stop drinking coffee. I still drink coffee.  We have been getting A LOT of takeout. Thank heavens for Uber Eats. But I am doing my best for both my clients and my kids and I give my family a lot of love. Somedays I feel like I am not juggling well. Then I look at my client list, which I built from nothing, and I look at my kids, who are really, really sweet, and I try to calm down, just a little.