professional voiceover

Why are live sessions a Great Opportunity for Clients and Talent alike…

Out of the gate, I’ll say it: live sessions, also known as guided sessions, are awesome! If you are not familiar with the term, it is when your client live directs you. You hear them in the ear of you head phone while you record. I usually do one ear on, one ear off, and they direct you through the recording of the script. This is typically done for commercials, YouTube pre-rolls, and character work, but now I am even having some eLearning sessions live directed. When there are so many ways that a script can be interpreted, this guarantees that the client has exactly what they want at the end of the session. You can blow their minds with your amazing voiceover performance, they walk away confident that they have the exact audio that they need. The live/guided session is a win/win for all involved. So, the specifics. What is my favorite way to connect? Without being coy, I am happy to connect in whatever way is easiest for my clients and I offer a wide variety of options to accommodate everyone:

Different Methods

There are so many great ways to run a live session. Do I actually have a favorite and a least favorite? Sure, but really as long as the client is comfortable I am happy to oblige.

ipDTL/ISDN Bridge

IpDTL was the first method I ever used to connect. My very first coach, Anne Ganguzza, used ipDTL for all of her sessions. So, I was very comfortable with this when I launched my business and proud to offer this to my clients. Around the time that I opened shop, I had two agents who said they would sign me if I had an ISDN line. I learned that it was no longer possible to get regular ISDN lines in my part of New Jersey. So, I use an ipDTL bridge to ISDN. I have my own direct number. Initially I was thrilled. I always test connect before a session. I have had more than one snafu. To his credit, the creator of ipDTL is very available via facebook and tries to address all issues. There is, however, a considerable time lag as he is across the pond and he never figured our why my hiccups happened. I have been fine with my regular ipDTL service but I am less than confident in my ISDN service. I will say that when I send my clients an ipDTL link and they have never used it before, they are always very impressed with how clear the connection is.

Source Connect

I have been very pleased with my Source Connect service. The funny-not-so-funny story is that I had to sign up for it when I had a session scheduled and my ISDN line would not connect! The producer was very kind and said it happens often and that we should try this. I work with a lot of producers now who love Source Connect and it is easy.  Last week, I had a commercial session for a TV spot. There were four talents on the line at the same time. The producer had the clients in the studio with him. He actually sent as a Source Connect Now line. It was great. If you have never used this before, just don’t be shocked that if the others are not muted you will hear a slight echo. Once they mute the echo goes away and it does not effect the recording. There are also not typically latency issues with Source Connect which I really like.

Skype/Zoom

I have some clients who love to use Skype and Zoom. I link them together, I suppose, because anyone could use them for anything, even outside of VO. If you are using them for voice over, be mindful to check your settings and be sure that you are coming through your pre-amp. Both of these are easy to use and for zoom if your session is under 45 minutes they are free. Skype is free as well. I find that my clients in Europe and Asia LOVE Skype and love to message on Skype! So, if you work with folks on Skype, remember to check your messages from time to time.

Phone

Funny as it sounds, I have some older Baby Boomer aged clients who just want to be on speaker phone! They do not like anything “high tech” and they want to keep it easy. If you are like me, your mobile phone may not work in your booth. That’s ok. I have a Magic Jack line for my office and that gives me a landline phone that I can bring in my booth. It is inexpensive and reliable.

Case Study: eLearning Session

So, I mentioned earlier that my live sessions used to be primarily for commercials and now I am even doing them for eLearning. This is fantastic! I’ll share a great example. I have an opportunity to work with a new eLearning company. To clarify, they are not new, jut new for me.  Unlike most, they record all audio by guided session. I connected with Shelley, the director, via Skype. Her feedback was fantastic- very specific in terms of tone, pacing, which words to hit, and how to change whatever the last line was. We moved through the demo script and developed a wonderful rhythm and flow. I cherish the feedback as often when we self direct we miss things or hear them differently. The session was a true joy

Final Thoughts:

Remember, regardless of what your revision policy may be for self-directed work, when you give a live session, all audio is final delivery. This is industry standard. The session should not end until the client has what they want. If their needs change, then they need to pay you for another booking.

 

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:)

How a Night in NYC Reading for 5 Top Voice Over Agents Went South Real Fast

The Potential for Life Changing Awesomeness

You have to understand that I am a huge optimist. I always think everything will be great and that every single thing I do has the potential to not just succeed but to be life changing. I mean, it’s worked out pretty well, right? I have two ivy league diplomas, married the man of my dreams, I have pretty fantastic kids, and the cutest dog on the planet, so this attitude of hope and optimism has worked out thus far. How could it not? If you’re super smart and you work hard and you try your best what could possibly go wrong?? You see where this is headed….

So like many voice over actors I am in tons of facebook groups. Honestly I can’t even count them all but I really enjoy them both for the useful information and the meaningful social interaction. One night, I think in the Actors in NYC group or something to that effect, someone mentioned the Actors’ Connection. I was excited to see the variety of programs they offered and was super excited to see one that had big agents from top agencies coming to the program. My perception, or rather mis-perception, of the event that I rather enthusiastically signed up for was that it was like speed dating with agents. They were there. We were there. We would schmooze.

My hope was to chat it up. I just got new business cards so I gathered a ton of those. I also printed a list of my top 10 clients of all time followed by my top 5 clients of the month, both of which I am rather proud of. We had to send in our head shots and resume in advance and I was really proud of that as well. I felt prepared and hopeful on the big night.

The working mom in me planned ahead on the home front too. I had my mom coming to give the twins dinner and my mother-in-law was coming to do Latin homework with Jack, so I had all the bases covered. I was prepared for greatness. All I had to do was show up, right?

The Great Debacle: A Fantastic Event For Which I was not Prepared

Did I mention in addition to being an optimist that I am also very type A? I have read for top agents in LA before. Both times I was extremely well prepared and I thought I nailed it. I got very positive feedback and left feeling like a did my best. Was I signed? No. Did my life change in any way from those events other than feeling relieved that I did not f—- up? No. But the key thing is that I showed up prepared.

So last Thursday I also thought I showed up prepared. The thing is, the Actors’ Connection sends A LOT of emails. I do not mean this as a criticism. But I happen to have had a lot of bookings last week, and as a full-time working mom, I do not always read all of my emails. Well, I realized pretty quickly that this was a huge problem. This was NOT speed dating with agents. Not at all. I showed up prepared for an event that was not happening and was totally unprepared for the actual event. You have to understand that I am never, ever unprepared and I was having a silent stroke in my seat.

Every one else had scripts prepared as we were going to read for the agents. Which makes sense, after all, because why would they care just to chat with us?  I did not have a script in hand. I pulled one up on my phone but I did this as the agents were speaking

and of course I was in the front row so I was not at all subtle. I felt like an ass. I found a script for a Culligan Water spot I booked months ago and I thought it was cute and showed my range.

The Epic Fail

As if I had never read live before, and in part because I did not have a paper script and was reading from my tiny phone which I never ever would have done, I began my first read. I raced through. Everything I have been trained to do went out the window. I will not recount all the ways in which I sucked, but let’s say that any charm, finesse, and charisma that my actual audition may have had to book the read was entirely missing on Thursday night. I was both petrified and horrified at once.

On the director’s cue I came out from the booth and got feedback from the agents before the second take. The agent from CESD spoke for the group. I held it together and went back in. The second take was not beyond horrible and at least I was not ashamed to make eye contact when I left. Before I departed the building, I was giving “report cards” with scores and comments from each agent. They showed a range of opinions and feedback from good to excellent and I took everything in me not to cry from the stress of it all. Oh how I longed to be in the security of my own booth!

The Aftermath

I walked in the pouring rain back to Penn Station. I felt both crushed and defeated. I left my children on a school night to go into the city and instead of doing something to benefit my family I crashed and burned in front of an audience of folks I wished I had dazzled and charmed.

What did I learn from all of this? First, I need to read ALL of my emails! Next, even though it felt like disaster to me, the comments were actually somewhat encouraging and they were all pleased with my second read, so I suppose I was able to show flexibility and resilience even though I did not enjoy it. Lastly, even if I had been signed by any of those agents, which I would have loved, it likely would have opened more doors but would not have lead to some sort of instant and dramatic change in the trajectory if my life or career.

So what now? I just get up every day and keep plugging. I have a lot of auditions this morning and a live session for radio commercial at 1:30 so I just keep doing my thing. I am thankful that I get to work full-time in the field I am passionate about.

 

Those Shindigs Where You Really Need Them

So about two weeks ago I found myself in Burbank, CA for the WWRS 2019. The event was held on top of what, as an East Coaster, I can only describe as a mountain with amazing views of the Los Angeles area. It was the perfect setting for the radio world schmooz fest that was three days of enrichment, professional development, and networking at every turn. To say that for professional voiceover actors (and my guess is that there were about 50 of us there) business cards were essential is an understatement. The whole point of going was to put ourselves in front of the production managers and creative directors who make the decisions about which voiceover talents to use. And aside from our amazing in-person impression, all we leave them with, in the end, is our tiny little card. I found my self extremely curious about the cards that other voiceover talents were giving out and it made me re-evaluate the ways in which I was using the precious space on my own card. I was standing there in gorgeous Burbank at this conference looking at the card in my hand and questioning, is my card sufficient for the major purpose it serves in life?

Breaking Down Current Trends

According to The Balance Small Business, even in the digital world there is still a cultural precedent to the exchange of business cards around the world: “The ritual exchange of business cards is central to establishing business relationships in many countries. In Hong Kong, for instance, if you are given a business card and don’t offer one in return, you can basically close up business then and there, says Rory Boland in Hong Kong Business Card Etiquette.  In Japan, too, the quality and condition of your business card speaks much about how you intend to conduct yourself and business.” Most professional voiceover actors like myself use their business card as an extension of their branding. It matches their website and other marketing materials in both font and colors. Everything ties together and it is what a client familiar with your brand would expect to see.  Another current trend a lot of my voiceover friends, including me, had been encouraged to follow is to only have our name and maybe a tagline if anything else on the back of the card so that folks that we meet have a place to write down notes when they meet us. Here are some examples of this.  Accomplished voiceover talent  Dervla Trainor has beautiful cards that match her site in color, font, and follow the trend of leaving space on the back side:

 

 

In another example, accomplished voiceover actor, coach, and director Shelley Avellino follows this branding trend as well. Shelley had the clever idea of only having the front of her card glossy and leaving the back matte so that folks have an easier time writing on it:

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s VOA unicorn award recipient Michele Blenker has a little more information on the back of her card while still tying in her branding and leaving space:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what my card looks like at the conference:

 

 

 

 

What Am I Trying to Accomplish

What I realized at the WWRS 2019 was that there were a lot of voiceover talents who were thinking outside the box. Some had a list of top stations they were doing imaging for. Some had a list of major brands they voiced.  I could do this! Bells started to go off in my head because I suddenly felt concerned that this side of the card was my bill board and I was leaving it blank. Yes, there are a lot of well-established successful voiceover talents doing the same thing I have been doing and their cards look beautiful. But after seeing these other cards, instead of leaving it to the folks that we network with to write down the information that resonates with them, it occurred to me that I can take control of the dialogue and use the space in a way to make sure that potential clients and current clients have essential information that I want them to have. Yes, I realize this goes against a trend. And yes, I realize it looks cluttered. And yes, I realize it is not as pretty. But, once I saw these other cards, I had this real conflict as I could not unsee them. 

My Bold Move

I should note in my passionate tirade about the cards that I have different cards for different genres of voiceover. So, I have one set of cards for eLearning. I have another set of cards for government contracting.  So this set I am all fixated on is for my radio imaging, commercial, telephony sort of work. I decided to do an experiment and actually ask for feedback. This week upon my return I did ask for a revised design from the team at voiceactor websites for the back of my card. This is what they came up with:

I chose this because I wanted to clearly state which genres I work in most. I wanted to remind clients about the studio I have worked so hard to build. And I do actually do RUSH jobs all of the time, so I felt that it was essential to put that on the card. Am I certain that this is the right move? No. I am pleased that it is clean and easy to read. I am pleased that I can be sure clients will have the information they need. But when I look at my friends’ cards, they sure do look pretty.

Ever feel like you are doing 20 things at once ?!

Any working mom can tell you that there are not enough hours in the day, so social media serves multiple purposes in our life depending on what form you are talking about. And any working mom can tell you that often when we are doing one thing we are thinking about the other 10 things we have to get done at the same time. From enabling a small business owner like me to let potential clients know about my business to staying connected with friends and voiceover industry friends from all over, to staying on top of current trends and hot tips, social media across the board is really important. If you were to ask me how social media directly effects my voiceover business, I would tell you that it depends on the specific genre, so here is a point by point break down of how the most relevant genres relate to my voiceover business. 

Twitter

A few years ago a prominent voiceover talent was offering a class with another industry insider on Twitter marketing. You’ll see as I go on why I leave their names out. I loved the class. I revamped my twitter strategy based on what I learned and was determined that I, too, would make upwards of $20,000.00 after the class. I did every single thing that we learning with gusto. I posted a minimum of 3 times a day every day for 2 years. I never gained more than 1200 followers and I did not book one single job from twitter. I also hired a marketing person to help with my twitter endeavor. Again, we yielded no results. As I book mostly commercial voiceovers, I do not think that folks are looking to hire talents like me on twitter.

Instagram

I love Instagram for personal use but I have also never booked work from Instagram. My Instagram account is a business one. All of my postings are “brand” relevant. I have tried for several years to post here and to connect with industry folks that I am curious about. I also hired a hot young intern who had a pulse on Instagram. Nothing. Then I hired a marketing consultant. These so called experts did not generate any better results than I did. So, I have a lot of fun at night before bed looking at pictures of jewelry and cute dogs but I do not believe that the people who want to hire me directly are looking for me on Instagram.

Facebook

I love Facebook and always have. I love it both as a way to keep in touch as so, so many voiceover talents and production people seem to hang out here. I also love to post and share projects and blogs on Facebook. While I have never booked an actual job from Facebook, I have formed the foundation of some amazing friendships that exist off line. I have met so many fantastic people. I also love the groups that I am in. Especially because we use so much audio equipment in voiceover, I find that the support of these Facebook groups is key to my success. For example, if I am having questions about ipDTL or Source Connect, I just hop onto the group and ask. Also, I love the Voice Peddler’s Tech Tuesdays. Others are always so genuinely helpful and insightful.

LinkedIn

Working side by side with my Dad while on vacation… a real plus of life as a solopreneur!

Now this is a platform where I have gotten quite a few clients! I love connecting with folks from all over the world in all different industries. Perhaps it is because we are all definitely talking about work on LinkedIn, I have made professional friends and booked solid jobs in genres from Radio Imaging to eLearning and everything in between. I am certain that because LinkedIn’s platform make’s it so easy to post samples of voiceover work and connect to our website, potential clients can get a real feel for the service that I provide. I find that the time that I spend on LinkedIn is extremely valuable. For years I had the professional membership but now, with almost 5,000 contacts, I have the basic membership and I am very pleased with it. 

Summary

So across the board the different forms of social media platforms play a different role for me as a solopreneur. In truth a love Pinterest, and spend a lot of time making pages for my house or my nails, but I have not found a way to make it relevant for my business as of yet. I also do use YouTube a lot, but it is typically either to repost work that I have completed or to create videos that will enhance my blogs and help clients and potential clients get to know me. And at the end of the day, that is really what it is all about. Even when I am not directly booking work on genres like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, if it is helping the community get to know me as a person and as a creative that it is worth the time and the energy. I’m not so complicated, I’m a working mom who loves my kids, jewelry, getting my nails done, and walking my dog; so if folks take that away from my post than they get it. And if they understand that I put my heart into everything that I do then the really get it:)

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.

Just a Philly Girl…

Everyone knows there is only one type of Eagles fan. Growing up in Philadelphia, I remember dreading the ride home from Sunday school every week. It did not matter whose dad was driving carpool, we would be listening to the Buddy Ryan Show the entire ride which was upwards of 30 minutes. My friend Candace can tell you those rides felt like an eternity. Football was a major part of my childhood, but I do not recall in those years ever hearing women voices as part of the dialogue. I also was not taken to games or included in the pre-or post-game banter. It all kind of happened around me. Still, I felt and continue to feel tremendous pride and spirit for our teams. How can you not when there are so many game day rituals?

Now, years later, I am married to a New Yorker (gasp) who is such a sports aficionado that he will have sports on the computer while he has sports on tv on mute while listening to sports on the radio. Harlan seems to love to watch videos on youtube and ESPN footage of old great plays talking about why they were amazing. Again, All. Male. Voices. So…. Let’s spice things up and try this…

Connected Female Narrator

The music is the same. The footage is the same. The content remains EXACTLY the same. The vocal quality is attached, connected, emotive, strong, confident, proud. But there is one major contrast. The voice of the professional voiceover is now a conversational, millennial narrator. Tradition aside, with more women who audition, the more women are likely to get these roles. But it is not just about numbers. When voiceover jobs are posted, often male narrators are sought for specific roles. Or, when both male and female voices are considered, if there is one female voice and ten male voices, the odds still favor a male narrator. As Britni de la Critiz from the Ringer explains, “women need to have champions in order to succeed in these roles.” With women like Randy Thomas announcing ABC news Nightline for the first time, hope for professional voiceover actors is on the horizon. For the first time ever, Amazon rolled out some all-female football casters.  This is certainly a step in the right direction.

The Winds of Change

Still, it is clear that multiple changes need to happen for women to be considered for these typically male dominated roles. First, those doing casting need to be willing to cast a broad net and listen to auditions from a wider range.  Next, voiceover talents have to be bold and be willing to shake things up when submitting their reads. We cannot be afraid to standout, we must be eager to shine and be heard so that our addition stands apart from the others. Our vocal quality can be nothing short of outstanding so that those castings are just choosing the best read. Perhaps if the casting agent hears 100 reads one way and you zag you get cast.

The Main Event:  Super Bowl Sunday

As a professional voiceover actor, some of us are lucky enough to have a super bowl spot air. There are also related spots on the radio, as YouTube bumpers, and in the days following the big game. But, we all know that across America, come came day, in homes across the country family not only watch the came with eager anticipation, they watch the much anticipated Super Bowl commercials!  What is the viewing audience looking for? Often we want a pang of emotion. A shocking plot twist. A good laugh. A thrill.  Is this beginning to make you think of what we go after in our voiceover demos? Hmmm… See, for a professional voiceover actor, every single day we try to bring out the best in the scripts that we are given, but on this day, the day of all days, these commercial spots are truly incredible. And for the voiceover talents who have been smiled upon by the casting gods and are lucky enough to have some part in the quintessential American holiday we all love, their creativity can flourish.

I don’t know where you will be this Super Bowl Sunday, but I will be in my house surrounded by my family and wonderful neighbors. Even though my beloved birds did not make it this year, every year we host a great party. We have lots of delicious food, a lot of our friends, and our family. And as a girl whose Sundays have revolved around football for more winter’s than I’d like to admit, I can say with certainty that as much attention will be paid to the commercial viewing as to the game next Sunday.

It is my hope that if I revisit this topic in a few years there are a lot more women involved in all levels of sports casting and narrating such videos on a regular basis! If the Eagles can make it to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t seem like such a long shot…

You get an audition and you think wow, I would be perfect, just perfect for this project! You spend time analyzing the role and marking up the script. You record your best take and edit it beautifully. Then you send it off, hoping that the voiceover gods shine down on you and today is your day, your turn to announce the booking. Unfortunately, no matter how much time you spend on putting your best self out there, very little time will likely be spent listening to your voiceover submission. Whether it’s a commercial, a narration, or a video game audition, when a casting agent or a video production team is listening to your read, you only have a few seconds- sometimes three and sometimes 8 to catch their attention. If they like what they hear they keep listening, and if they don’t it’s on to the next one in the pile. As a professional voiceover actor, it is so important to use the audition to catch their attention at the beginning of the read.

The Professional Demo

I often get complimented on my demos, and people say things like, “Wow, did you put that together yourself?” I try not to gasp in horror before I respond that no, my professional commercial demo is my calling card and a professional voiceover actor should NEVER produce their own demo. As we only have precious seconds to seal the deal, we need to make that initial investment so that our best work is heard. Now, when the time comes, we need to be able to perform just as we did on every single demo or we will crash and burn very quickly, but that demo should represent where our ability is at the moment we submit. So if that is what a casting agent or production team has to go by, then they should be confident in their choice based on our demo.

Making the Audition Stand Out

Even though I have talent agents all over the country, the majority of my daily auditions come from pay to play sites. While  try to submit in the first 10 or so auditions and have a very solid booking ration, sometimes upwards of 70 people submit for the same job. So, how do you make your read standout? How do you get on the short list and even get noticed? Self direction is really important. When I analyze a script I have to make a choice about the character I am playing, and whether it is a voiceover for a phone message or an eLearning module, I am someone and the person choosing the talent better identify with that character right away.

I think understanding music and notes also helps a bit. Sometimes I listen back and I hear that I started too high or too low. I can hear when the pace needs to be varied and when it is just right. I think the ability to self-access is extremely important in this scenario.

Make Them Want to Keep Listening

If you had to listen to the same script read 80 times, how would you feel? Give them something juicy, interesting, different, enjoyable. Something that makes them stop and say wow, this is awesome. I have friends who are such successful voiceover talents that they have crossed over into casting. They have shared that while they thought the would always listen all the way through, they confess that if the first 5 seconds are bad they are on to the next read. So that’s it, that’s really what you get.

And it Always Comes Back To The Booth…

In the end, you are only as good as you sounds. As most of our jobs are recorded from home, having pristine audio quality is paramount and if you deliver a brilliant read and your studio is clearly not broadcast ready then you will go nowhere. Imagine. these people are not just listening to your audition for your booking. They are looking for voiceovers all day long every day. They know the difference. You need good equipment. A USB mic will never sound like a Neumann TLM 103. It just won’t.

We ALL Keep Training

When our careers hang on split second decisions, this is why ongoing professional development and coaching is so crucial. The best in the business, folks making multiple 6 figures, continue going to conferences and having private coaches for a reason. We need to stand out. Our auditions are the job. They are everything. And if we cannot hear honest assessments of their strengths and weaknesses and then work on improving them, then we have no where to go and become stagnant. The hope for voiceover talent lies in the potential for development. We are never finished and are always evolving and that is why even in 5 seconds we can shine!