millenial voice

Between Generations…

When I was in high school, a movie that was supposed to epitomize our generation, Generation X, came out. “Reality Bites” was supposed to be about us. The problem, which my sister and I have discussed at length, is that we just miss being Gen-xers and we just miss being millennials. How much of a problem this is I’m not sure, but I loved the drama of reality bites and wondered why my life was so lacking of such problems. As a teen, I thought this was clearly because I was really not a Gen- xer, not understanding at the time that it was Gen-X in Hollywood.

But what I now appreciate is that being born in between periods gives me an advantage, I hope. I easily identify with and relate to people a little older and a little younger, finding a lot in common with both, and this is essential in helping be the voice of a brand. As a full time, professional voiceover actor who does a lot of commercial work on tv, radio, and internet, I want to make sure that I deliver what my client wants: an advertising package that is memorable!

Get their attention

When my sister and I used to get in and out of taxis in college in NYC, somehow we often said hello and greeted our driver in unison. This in turn would call attention to our high and youthful voices which were then typically commented on. I never minded, especially since it has now turned into a career. That was the beginning of getting their attention. You want to pick a voice to represent your brand that people associate with it in a positive way.  When I do youtube videos for the New Jersey lottery, and I get to say the famous tag line “Anything can happen in Jersey,” this is my chance to give my spin on the brand. I imagine being the girl at the party or in the casino that is so fabulous that everyone wants to be with her, the life of the party that no one can resist, and that is the sound I project. As the voiceover talent, it is our job to self direct and coordinate with our clients to create the right image for that brand.

Keep their attention

Casting the right voiceover actor allows you to get brand recognition.  Using the same voice for a campaign instead of hiring talents for one-offs allows them to get to know the brand. This brand recognition helps you carefully define the relationship you want your clients to have. This can happen very commonly with on-camera talents, but it happens quite a lot in voiceover as well. For example, I have been working on an on going campaign for a hospital in Florida. It is very important that all of the reads for these local tv spots be the same: warm, comforting, trust worthy, and reliable. That voice is now associated with the brand. When I work with the producer, the only direction he needs t give me at this point is how to pronounce the different names in the spots, because we need to maintain consistency for each commercial. The viewers in that area recognize what the ad is for as soon as they hear my voice, and that is brand recognition.

Stay Current

Choosing the right voice will not only enable you to draw in your dream clients, but it will help you reach across generations from millennials to baby boomers. Why have major brands like Cadillac chosen a millennial female voice for their national tv campaigns recently? Because they know this voice reaches across generations and has universal appeal. The millennial, conversational read is the sought after commercial read of the moment, where it sounds like you are the girl-next-door talking to a friend. If you want to reach your dream clients and keep them listening this is who you need to cast for voiceovers.

Maintaining Relationships

If you want to maintain a lasting relationship with your clients, then you need to cast a voiceover talent who will work hard to maintain a relationship with you! In order to have brand continuity, a professional voiceover talent who can truly deliver will work hard to get to know what you are looking for during the duration of a campaign to bring out all of the nuances of your brand. She will work hard to deliver the best quality audio and let you know that you can rely on her repeatedly. And in the end you will be proud that you chose so well. You want new. You want fresh. But at the end of the day you also want reliable.

It’s not about the voice…

The voiceover is never about the voice. There are so many of us out there who can do the same job, and there are a lot of talented folks. And it is not even about the studio, because we do all have different studios that give you different finished audio. It is about the result of the voiceover that we leave you with, the impact it has on your brand and on your marketing. You need a talent who understands that!

The Unfathomable

On Friday morning I sat next to my son, in the midst of our grief stricken community, at a friend’s funeral. Tragically our friend had what is believed to be a sudden heart attack while traveling for work in Asia. Everyone was devastated, most of all his wife, his two beautiful daughters, his two brothers, his parents, and his grandmother who is a Holocaust survivor. Taken from his family at just 43, and listening to their tearful tributes, one after the next, the theme that came through is that there is no promise of tomorrow. If today is all that we have, are we making the most of today?

In voiceover, the rhythm of our days varies. Voiceover talents typically talk about our field being feast or famine. But sitting at this funeral, and thinking about the totality of how we live our life, forced me to take a step back and look at my career as a whole and not in microbursts. If today is all I have, then these are some of the reflections I am grappling with.

The Relationships We Build Mean Everything

While voiceover can certainly start to feel like a numbers game in terms of how many auditions an actor submits or how many marketing emails we send out, the building of real, inter personal relationships is far more important. Getting to know our clients and the producers who work with us means so much more than whether we submitted 10 or twenty auditions on Thursday.  Remembering to ask how someone’s son’s asthma is or checking in on how the toy fair went out of genuine concern, and letting these folks get to know you, is far more meaningful then submitting into the abyss.

Relationships with our fellow voiceover talents is also so important. I will never forget the first time I heard another talent say “the rising tide in the harbor lifts us all.” The sense of camaraderie in voiceover is incredible. I have blogged before about my womens’ accountability group. In addition to daily contact with these women, I look forward to our weekly meeting and that our is one of the most important hours of my week. It gives me a support, stability, and confidence. I am so thankful for the close relationships that I have built with other professional voiceover actors. I particularly love the women that I have met and am so thankful for this bond in my post sorority years.

Stand Tall and Be Proud

If today were all that I had, I would want my children to know that every single day, all the work that I do is for them. That every single booking, each commercial and phone message, each narration,  they all add up and they were all for them. As a momtrepreneur, I have done my best to show them that as a family we stick together and we take care of each other. That I am proud of all of my projects. I am proud of both the actual work that I have done and I am proud of what it represents. I am proud that I figured out how to work full time and get the laundry done and cook dinner, because believe me when I say that was not easy to learn and I still wish that fairies would come into my house and do it all. But nothing means more to me than having dinner with my husband and kids and talking about our day, and I guard that time like a hawk. So I am trying my best and somedays I juggle better than others, but when I look back I am so proud that I have at least figured this out for them. And as far as jobs go, working as a professional voiceover actor is a pretty cool one!

Leaving the Bubble

One of the biggest challenges for me when I went back to work was leaving the bubble which I pleasantly inhabited for the prior part of my married life. In that bubble, even though we live in a fairly diverse area relative to where I grew up in Pennsylvania, most people are from the same socio economic background, lived in NYC at one point, and are quite well-educated. Having attended an Ivy League University in the North East, when I first left the bubble, it was a bit shocking for me, meeting people from different parts of the country with very different lives. I very quickly learned that you could not make any assumptions about peoples’ backgrounds based on their last names, and that despite where we were from and where people went to college, I loved being around other creatives and meeting people who were so different than those around me every day was a joy and an inspiration. It opened my eyes to a new world and I have met so many amazing folks. Leaving my comfort zone was far from easy, but in my travels and at all sorts of industry events I am so thankful to have pushed myself to engage. This is an aspect of voiceover that a lot of folks don’t talk about but has been a big deal for me.

A Last Glimpse of Studio Life

Lastly, but certainly not least, I am so thankful that I spend my days in my professional studio with my dog Violet. Violet, a lovely and sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is the light of my life. She is the best companion a girl could ask for. If I had all the money in the world I would clone her like Barbra Streisand did with her dog. If tragedy struck today, I would be so thankful that Violet was on my lap or by my feet and brought me the greatest joy.

Laura Schreiber Voiceover Actor walking her dog! Come On, Just One Line

I was walking my dog and ran into one of my friendly neighbors working on her flowers. She asked me how my “whole voiceover thing” was going. Then she did what commonly happens. Krista said, “Can you just do one of your lines from a recent job?” This actually happens all the time, at dinner parties, doctor’s appointments, temple- folks ask to hear my work. They want it live, unscripted, in the moment. This is funny for several reasons. While I have been trained in improv, that is not typically part of what I do, especially in most of my commercial work. A very small percentage of both my auditions and my actual bookings ask for a voiceover actor who can improv. Next, all of my work is done with a script. I seldom memorize the script. There are often in-session script changes that require me to mark the script with the new lines as I go. So these impromptu performances? Well, they do not represent my actual work. But, it does get at the heart of what is really being asked: that folks I run into understand that I have found my passion in an exciting industry and I have the fortune of booking a lot of commercial work as a full-time, professional voiceover actor. I have found such joy in the 15, 30, and 60 second commercial spots full of emotional twists and plot turns and voiceover for commercial are my thang.

On the radio, ohhh on the radio

Since I started in voiceover, I have booked a lot of voiceover commercials. Perhaps this is because I am super expressive and radio is so different than tv. Without the visual for the listener to understand, as the commercial voiceover actor, all of the story is in the voice. The change for discontent to the solution to one’s problem, the shift from happy to vulnerable, it all has to be audible, and I eat those scripts up. From Am to FM to satellite to Pandora to Spotify, I enjoy all sort of commercial spots. Even the tags are fulfilling to me! I particularly love those fast-paced disclaimers that come at the end of ads. Whether it is a 15 second spot or a 60 second spot, I very much enjoy working on the script and figuring out what I am saying and why I am saying it. I get so much out of these commercial reads.

My Uncle Heard Me…..

Whether it is a one off or a campaign, local, regional, or national, I still get so excited to book television commercials at all levels! I have had the fortune to book a few campaigns in Florida where my Aunt Jody and Uncle Mark live, and they have seen the spots run which is extremely fulfilling to me. Often friends and family will comment that I don’t sound like myslef, or that they did not recognize me when I am on tv. I’m not sure if that is a compliment or not, but I am super happy and bubbly in my daily life, and not all scripts are written that way, so as a voiceover actor it is my job to play the role that I am playing in each commercial. I typically have a warm, conversational tone and I try to make each spot sound believable and sincere. As a professional voiceover actor in commercials, it is my job to bring the client their vision for the script and offer different options for the read. There are typically so many right ways to do it each time. I am so happy to be cast in each commercial, as long as the client is happy in the end that is all that matters.

Hello Again:)

In both radio and tv commercials, my greatest joy as a voiceover actor is the opportunity to work with clients again. Whether it is a producer or casting director, I love working with the same folks again and again. This does not mean I assume what they want or need on a project. But, I am always delighted that they are pleased enough with my work to use my voice for another commercial. Whether these clients needed guided sessions via ipDTL, Source Connect, or ISDN; or, they had me record and submit the work independently, their repeat use of me means they were happy and I more than met their needs. I am going for over joyed every single time I deliver the audio.

Staying in the Game

So, in this ever changing industry, with so many great talents going after the same gigs every day, how do I keep up? I believe the answer lies with on-going professional development. Just as doctors and lawyers must, so do professional voiceover actors.  I work with private coaches and I go to conferences. Often some of the rosters that I am on also bring in coaches who are top in our field to train us. I take advantage of all of these opportunities so that I have the confidence to know that every day I am bringing the best I can into my commercial reads.

It’s funny that I spend so much energy to be careful to mask my natural Philadelphia accent, which just seems to flow from within. Just imagine the horror if I had recorded the commercial for Culligan Water as Culligan Wooder as I grew up saying. But regional dialect aside, I do accents in my work quite regularly.

I have family in London so I find doing a generic British accent comes quite easily. I am one of the voices on the UK Tampax channel, https://www.lauraschreibervoice.com/commercial/, and just get my nephews  in my head and out it comes, which sounds really funny when talking about Tampons. I can differentiate between central London and South London, but the way my family sounds is my go to British accent.

I have also worked in a hispanic accent. I had to do a spot for Pandora radio as a Latina girl speaking English.  Although Pandora has quite an accomplished bi-lingual roster, they needed someone who sounded solidly 13, and that was me. So, I went with somewhere in between Sophia Vergara and Selma Hayek and I gave them a few versions. As the producer himself was Latino I was so nervous to be accurate and not make it charactery. I gave them my standard three takes and it worked!

I have also worked in an array of regional American accents, from generic Southern to New York.  What do I enjoy the most? When my family listens to the spot and is waiting for me to come and then they figure out they have been listening to me all along! Sometimes they say that my voice sounds deeper or that they were confused. I love it. I love that just a subtle change can throw even the people who know me best.

So you’re a newbie. You’ve found your passion! Wonderful. The problem is, the pursuit of your dream doesn’t come easy and you want to work with the best in the business to get your foot in the door. Here are some ideas until you earn or save enough money to finance your private coaching sessions:

  1. Listen to podcasts of known coaches.
  2. Watch youtube videos.
  3. Organize a group of talents and create a class with a coach.
  4. Look for actual voiceover classes- there are so many of them and they are outstanding!
  5. Find a practice partner who is at least at your level or slightly better and work with them often.

Ultimately, if voiceover is the only thing in the entire world that you can imagine spending your life doing, than you will not let anything prevent you from achieving these goals. If having a coach and doing a demo is essential, then you will come up with the money. If your dream had been to buy a franchise of Dunkin Donuts and you wanted to make donuts, you would have found a way to invest. Well, in voiceover we need to invest in ourselves. There is no better way to build a strong foundation than with good coaching, and  if you do any of the above suggestions as preparation, any coach will appreciate that.

  1. Did your voiceover talent have coaching?
  2. Do they pursue on-going professional development?
  3. What is their studio setup/equipment?
  4. What it their policy on revisions/pickups?
  5. What is their turnaround time?

 Put simply, the answers to these questions will tell you a lot about a potential voice over actor! If you take the time to answer these questions before hiring a voice over talent for your next project, you will avoid a good deal of stress and uncertainty!

Why does it matter whether or not a voice over talent ever worked with a coach? Just as teachers have on-going professional development workshops, doctors go to medical conferences, lawyers must take CLCs, voiceover actors must continually work on their craft. This is in part because the needs and expectations of our industry are constantly changing and in part because we can always improve on our skills. Professional feedback and working with others is the only way to bring out the best in our performances. Voiceover talents who are willing to invest in their training are worth your investment. Voiceover actors who have not committed to their own practice are likely not worth your time either.

Does this voiceover talent pursue ongoing professional development? In a fast-paced, evolving industry that has so many new niches, it is so important for a voiceover coach to take advantage of professional development opportunities. In addition to coaching, there are on-line webinars, accountability partners, voiceover conferences, professional groups, podcasts… the list goes on and on. There are also professional organizations like the eLearning Guild and the Children’s Media Association that voiceover talents often belong to in order to enrich their learning and their networking opportunities. All of this matters very much!

The studio set up of your voiceover talent matters A LOT! While there is not one right microphone or or one go to interface, there are some guidelines that are important. It does matter that your talent have a microphone with an interface and not a USB mic. This all pre-supposes that the voiceover artist has their own studio in the first place which is, of course, essential. Rule out and talent who does not have their own studio. The easiest criteria is to look for WoVo approval of the studio.  WoVo is the professional association for voice actors. If the voiceover actor or voice over actress has gone to the trouble of getting WoVo certified, then audio engineers have vetted that talent and their booth is ok to use for your project.

All talents have a policy on pickups and revisions. There is not an industry wide policy, so if it is not made clear in your initial email or phone exchange, simply ask them what their policy is. It is very important that the voice over actress or actor be accessible if you have a last minute script change or if you need a pickup and you need to find out in advance what is included in your initial price and what is not. I cover all performance errors.  The cost for revisions varies depending on how much was paid for the job upfront and the size of the revision. It is also always only considered a revision BEFORE the work has aired. Once the work has aired it is a new job. Still, all of this needs to be fleshed out at the start of the job so that you know whether or not you are within budget.  The GVAA rate guide is a great way to understand industry standard rates, and from there the talents’ policy should make more sense.

Lastly, you should find out what the voiceover talent’s turn around time is. Some voice over actors accommodate RUSH jobs. That means you will have your finished audio delivered within four hours. Typically, unless you are doing a large eLearning module, a 24 hour turn-around is standard. Still, you should never assume anything. When sending out a job, it is best to tell the talent what you need and ask the talent specifically if they can accommodate that.

The best recipe for success is open communications! While there are no guarantees, voiceover actors are typically friendly, outgoing folks, so the more specific you are from the start, the better your project will be!

While some of us for sure have more comfort in front of the mic than others right from the get go, and some people for sure have natural abilities that come out in one genre of voiceover or another, coaching- or professional lessons in the technique of voiceover, are essential to becoming a professional working voiceover talent.

Professional coaching covers many aspects of voiceover. First, coaching covers acting and performance technique. While the hot buzzword in voiceover right now seems to be the conversational read, a lot goes into the perfect conversational read. From understanding subtext to highlighting the right words, these are all skills that we work on as we build characters for each scrip. Whether practicing for commercial, eLearning, character work, etc… we need to learn how to mark up a script and self- direct.

Mic technique is also taught by our coaches. Learning how to stand in relation to our equipment, how to record, and how to edit properly is all part of what is learned when working with a good coach. Particularly for new talent, the coach should critique all recorded homework assignments and give feedback on all aspects of the recording, from the read itself to the EQ, compression, breaths, mouth clicks, etc. Sending out pristine recordings has to start somewhere.

Coaches should also set the standard for voiceover best practices. From teaching you how to use programs like ipDTL and source connect to  talking about client/talent relations, coaches should cover all of this.  While many best practices can be learned by some of the industry books, when you are working with the pros you can learn so many tips first hand from their years in the business. From policies on revisions and pickups to basic etiquette, working with a top notch coach is an essential foundation for a voiceover business.

It’s one of those new buzz words like snap chat and LOL, you hear the term “millennial” everywhere – but just who are we talking about?  According to the Pew Center for Research, millennials are defined as people born between 1981-1996, so they are presently between the ages of 22-37.Typically, when advertisers think of this core age group, they think of young, fresh, hip- everything that is au courant. So, what better way to describe my vocal sense than millennial and conversational?

Whether we’re talking about commercials on tv or radio, eLearning, or a YouTube narration, what better way to establish your product or company as relevant than to use the millennial sound? Consumers are looking for lots of qualities in advertising, but a huge piece of the puzzle is when it is relatable. Millennials relate quite well to other millennials, so across the board it works well to cast a millennial sounding voiceover actor or actress.

According to a Forbes article from September 2017, there are over 80 million millennials in the United States alone with a combined purchasing power of over $200 billion per year. People like relate to voices that represent them, so with the millennials comprising such a huge market force, it makes good business sense to cast millennials in projects, from 6 second YouYube bumpers to 30 second tv spots- the conversational  read epitomizes this trend. 

As a voiceover talent, it is my job to make every word come alive and bring the script to life the way its creator intended. So I have been exposed to some pretty sensational writing, and I can tell you that as of recent sometimes the only word to describe a client who is all kinds of wrong is not even found in the English language. The word we need, instead, is the Hebrew word hutzpah.

If you are not familiar with hutzpah, let me share this mornings hutzpadic story and you will get the gist right away. A new and potential client from another country wrote to me overnight. “Sam” offered me $50 and said that was per role for an explainer video, and for those not in the know standard rates for explainers average from $175-$300 depending on the length. He then went on to explain that $50 was for a 3-4 minute script! Yes, I kept reading, mouth open, in shock. Sam then said that as this script was shorter than usual, he would be willing to offer me $50 for two scripts! This is what I call hutzpah!  If you’re thinking I was unreasonable, read my blog on how long a short recording really takes! 

So, how did I respond? I did actually respond. I thanked him for his interest and sent him a link to the GVAA rate guide, an amazing reference if you don’t know it.

I told Sam that I always maintain industry standards in every single booking, and that when he can afford to pay me a standard rate he should feel free to reach out again. I then wished him all the best in his future endeavors. No need to show hutzpah on my end.

There are a few problems with this situation. In order to send Sam walking, I had to have the confidence in myself and my work that I am worth what I know my work to be worth. I am not afraid to maintain my rates. Sadly, in recent weeks, I have gotten responses from these undesirable clients that they have multiple voiceover actors willing to submit at their rates. As long as folks new to the industry are willing to accept these low rates, they undermine the pay for the rest of us. If you are in this category, you might want to check out https://www.mikecoopervoiceover.com/. Mike often presents about this very topic at voiceover conferences!

Imagine calling a tutor for your child. The tutor is an expert in their field and that is why you trust them to begin with. They have an education in their area, and in the time that you pay them, they are going to share some skills and pass on a specific benefit to your child. You would never have the hutzpah to bargain with them or try to negotiate a different rate. As voiceover talents, we have had countless hours of training, have expensive studios to maintain, and have demos that have cost thousands of dollars. Our rates not only take this into account, but also pay for the session fee and the license for the use of our voice for a given amount of time. Attempting to undermine our rates is just hutzpah and we should never be afraid to maintain our standards.

10. A talent who is well connected in the voiceover community will be an asset to you, particularly if you need to cast other voices for your project in a pinch.

9. A talent who takes feedback well.

8. Someone who takes direction well.

7. Someone who is responsive to calls/emails.

6. Someone with guided session capabilities like ipDTL, source connect, or ISDN.

5. Talent with a clearly stated turn-around time

4. A clear and honest policy on pickups and revisions

3. A pleasant personality that will be a delight to work with.

2. High end equipment in the studio that will enable pristine sound

1. Top notch talent who can do the job you need!