professional

A Degree of Trust…

As a professional voice over actor, I can say I interact with industry contacts as just that, as a professional. I get auditions, I submit auditions. It is non-emotional. It’s business. When I connect with people on Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s business. I’m delighted, but still, it’s a business contact. Yet, there is a degree of trust that we must assume when we interact with clients and new contacts alike in the voiceover industry, right? Voice actors like myself often send recorded audio to people, whether they be clients or prospects, that we actually know very little about, and when we do this we trust that the audio we send is being used under the agreed upon terms. We trust that it is not manipulated. We trust them with our contact information. There is a lot of trust going on. For those of us who are working mothers, who have a family at home, we have a lot invested in the businesses we have built, and this trust is no joking matter.

Crossing the Line…

I will be vague as I describe a bizarre and quite disturbing incident that happened in the last week. I need to be vague to protect myself and my family, and unfortunately a friend who was dragged into the mix. The story begins on LinkedIn. Like many voice actors, I spend a lot of time connecting with prospective clients on LinkedIn. I have made some great contacts and gained wonderful clients that way, and only twice before had issues where I felt like lonely guys were a little too friendly. This incident was not that. This week a contact asked for my email so he could send an audition. Perfect, right? That is typically the goal of LinkedIn correspondance, isn’t it? The male clients sent me the “script.” I call it that because it was written as a short story, and from that he wanted me to read for three animation parts. It seemed unusual, but after years in the industry little surprises me and he wanted an improv read, 30 seconds each. No problem, I submitted and moved on and this was just one of the many auditions I was doing. Then he called me. He turned out to also live in the NYC area. He wanted help shopping his script. This is when things got weird.

At first I did not see any red flags. I connected him with an agent and she was not interested. Next I connected him with an industry friend. To protect my friend I will give very little details as she is extremely well known in the voiceover world. I was still assuming that this was completely professional. While my interactions with this guy had been completely professional and he was not flirtatious with me, my friend is single. Their interactions were flirtatious. She asked me if he was for real, and I had no idea, as I really did not know him, as we seldom do when we meet people on the internet. My friend was smart enough to google this man. She found a shocking post about him in the NY Post!  He was a known scammer who served hard time for a sextortion scandal. This was one sketchy guy. While yes it is possible that he is on a path to redemption and yes everyone can change, as a working mom I had no desire to find out where he was/is on this journey and was very shaken to have had any involvement with this guy who had been calling, texting, and emailing by this point. I was further shaken that I had actually made industry contacts and friends vulnerable as well. This did not sit well in any way.

Immediate Response

My immediate response was to block him in every way I could: by phone, his email, his texts, and on social medial. This still felt, though, that it was not enough. Learning to do my research (or different research) also seemed like a step in the right direction, but when the contact was a result of research, I felt like I was spinning in circles. The problem is that when you are a working mom, a solopreneur working from home, there is no security at the front desk keeping anyone away. My dogs are more likely to kiss any one who comes to the house than threaten them. And that points to the next issue, I realized just how findable I am. I am on “google my business,” which is in my home. My home address is on client invoices and newsletters. I use my actual cell phone number.

I posted in the “Voice-Over Mamas” Facebook Group asking other working moms in voice over whether they use PO Boxes and their phone numbers. Their were quite a few established talents who do use PO Boxes, but less for safety and more for making sure that clients who pay by check always get the checks to them. It seems that everyone in the group used their real mobile phone.

I went looking to see what other businesses do to protect themselves. The only other option it so invest in a virtual office space, which a lot of LLCs, which I actually am, are doing. I found this useful article if you want more information about how to do that:

https://www.virtualpostmail.com/blog/5-ways-to-get-a-commercial-business-address-for-your-startup

The Aftermath

Besides feeling shaken, I have not changed my setup yet. I have lots of questions. I think more than changing what how I am set up, this icky feeling (for lack of a better word) will stick with me. This feeling of vulnerability is not a pleasant one and I think that when future contact behave in a way that is outside the norm I will simply pass on the opportunity. I am not desperate for work, I am established in my career. I would rather forgo something that does not seem right than expose myself and my family to potential harm.

How I got Started

Years ago when I was an Upper School History Teacher at a prestigious all girls school on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, a popular question higher-ups used to ask faculty was where we saw ourselves in five years. I always answered in the classroom. It was true. I never had administrative ambitions. At 24, it was hard to imagine myself designing curriculum and assigning faculty their courses . When I got into voice over, much the same happened. I had and have longterm goals for myself and for my business, but they typically involve building and maintaining a consistent sustainable income in an industry I am extremely passionate about.

So how then, without looking to build a coaching career, did I suddenly coach three people last week? As a platinum member of Voice123, they asked me to. In the email they asked if I would be interested in working with talents who are premium members new to the platform. I was delighted and excited at this new opportunity on a platform that has helped me build my business. Without betraying the confidence of those I have worked with so far, I will share some interesting lessons I learned from coaching that I think would be useful for those of us who are working professionals and are a few years in.

We all started somewhere

When you surround yourself with the right industry friends, you can share this journey with them!

It is easy to forget that at some point we built our businesses and had to learn about the industry. Some of the talents I worked with had a better understanding than others, but compared to working pros they were clearly at the beginning of their journey. What they all had in common was that they were bringing valuable skills from their prior life with them into voiceover, whether they knew it or not. They also had a shared passion for voice over and a necessary determination to succeed. Yet, they were on a site to book work before even understanding the genres that are on the site, the criterion for professional demos, and some needed to get educated about how to use audio technology in general. Think about where you were when you went into VO? How much research did you do? Were you even aware of what you needed to learn? It was an exciting moment to connect with these aspiring voiceover actors and help to point them towards success, in hopes that they have the stamina to connect all the many dots necessary to build a career. It also brought back so many memories of what it takes to succeed and build a business.

Another Opportunity for Branded Content

As I corresponded with these aspiring VOs before our sessions, I found immediately that many of their questions overlapped. They wanted to know about:

  • How to improve their profile
  • How to submit competitive auditions
  • If their demos were appropriate
  • What DAWs to use
  • How to Market directly to clients

This touched the teacher in me. I was excited to hear about their goals, and I did not want to assume that what I want is what they want. I also was delighted to have a chance to create some of my own branded content to use with my new voice over students. I spent hours making lessons and creating handouts to use in our sessions. I wanted to create meaningful templates that would help start a solid foundation. I also wanted it to reflect my brand and my business values. I was very proud to put my logo on the worksheets I created. I was also very proud to make referrals to my many industry friends who I have connected with over the years who teach social media and marketing classes and produce demos.

Self-Evaluation

So, how did it go? Well each session went differently but all went well. As all of the talents I worked with thus far are at different points in their voice over journey and needed different levels of support, the sessions took very different paths. For example, only one student wanted to work on script analysis and craft. I loved pulling scripts I thought would be right and working on the reads. Another has built an impressive on-camera career and really is building her studio from scratch at the moment. It was exciting to be talking to her at the start of it all. Another had a wonderful acting background on stage and as a working mom is patiently waiting for her kids to go back to school. I sure can relate to that! I think now that I realize how everyone is in such different points, I will do an introductory survey before the session. It will help me better prepare and best meat their needs. I also think I will have even more support resources readily available if I know about their training, demos, and studio in advance.

On this Sunday morning, lets’s grapple with this question:  if there’s a low barrier to entry in voice over, what defines a pro?

Spending more time in Facebook Groups These Days

Like many in the voice over industry, I have been spending more time than ever on social media these days, especially on FaceBook. I long for human connection and to feel part of our beloved community, and frankly I enjoy the banter more than ever. Yesterday this post from highly esteemed coach and casting director MaryLynn Wissner caught my attention:

There’s a lot to this. We work in an industry where you don’t have to come from a career in theater or on camera work to get started, though many did study performing arts in school, pivoted for a first career, then returned to voiceover.  I, myself, was a History teacher. Christian Lanz was an architect. Maria Pendolino worked in finance. Dana Hurley was a pharmacist. The list goes on and on, and there is nothing wrong with changing careers and bringing all of those skills with you into your business in VO. The question that is being asked here, is what is the difference between a guy who buys a plug in mic and a membership on a pay to play and calls himself a “professional” and then has the credit of having some good coaches, the benefit of being in good company, and an actual working professional? To me, if working with the best of the best in coaches is removed as a criteria in defining a pro, than we need to look to a voice over actor’s website, testimonials, bookings/credentials, and social media standing.

The Website

Put simply, the website is our storefront. More than our business card, our website is our calling card. It not only houses our demos, it is the voice actor’s place to showcase actual booked work. We can display our business philosophy. We can post testimonials. We can make it easy for clients to find us. This is how we create a sense of our brand. And a voiceover professional, unlike an amateur, has all of these things: sample of work across genres, a brand, comments from clients. Joe Davis and Karin Barth were recently interviewed on the “Middle-Class VO Podcast” talking about what sets voice over actor’s websites apart, in terms of what makes them professional and what makes them findable by google. The entire podcast can be found here:

 and Joe’s main words of wisdom are that the “website needs to work on whatever device….making sure that they are mobile compliant of mobile responsive….in today’s world more than half of web traffic is mobile.” A telltale sign of an unprofessional talent is one missing key information on their website, missing demos, with demos named improperly, or with a site that is not mobile responsive.

Testimonials:

A professional talent has an abundance of testimonials. Period. They should have them proudly displayed on their website, on LinkedIn, on whatever Pay to Plays they are on, and likely they share them on social media. Testimonials are not difficult to get. Happy clients who have just received pristine audio are typically delighted to provide them. My very first voice coach, Anne Ganguzza, told me how important it was to get testimonials! She asked for one from me about our work and gave me my very fist one. A voice actor without testimonials is likely not a professional voiceover actor.

 

 

Street Cred

Ok, I am talking about a solid client list with proof. What is proof? Samples of actual work that has aired. If a voiceover actor does not have samples of work in the genre or clients in a specific genre they have not likely worked in that genre even if they have a demo for it. The exception to this is likely eLearning as so much eLearning is proprietary content. Where can you find samples of work voice actors have done? Booked and finished work is typically prominently displayed in places like voice actor’s websites, YouTube pages, facebook, LinkedIn, ispot.tv, sometimes imdb, and more. So, a real, actual working professional has a body of produced work that they can easily share with anyone who wants to see it.

Social Media

Typically actual working professionals are active on social media as networking is really important. We typically post finished jobs, especially when these jobs have been done for large, recognizable brands. We love to share these clients on Facebook and Instagram. Often we have large social media connections and followings as well. YouTube is another sign of a voice over professional. Typically we post samples of work here. Many of us have videos about our professional philosophy, showing our studios, discussing our work, and more. A lack of a professional social media presence is a major red flag.

The Flip Side

While I think it is clear how to differentiate a professional voice talent from a wannabe, there is, of course, a flip side to all of this. As there is a low barrier of entry and many do not depend on agents or entry to the union for job sustainability, there is a chance that amongst the many with a plug in mic and a computer our bookings ratios will go down and our community demographics will shift. One of my favorite talents who I had the privilege of spending a day with at a VO Revolution conference in 2016, Dave Fennoy, speaks to exactly this issue as the final thought that I leave you with:

It’s a Conundrum

I have so many good days, when I am super productive, I have tons of energy, and I get more accomplished than I had ever thought possible. On such days, sometimes a crazy thought creeps through my head: what if they’re gone? What if just as suddenly as they came, I will never get a migraine again? Then, like a load of bricks dropped on my head, I wake from my sleep with the throbbing pain behind my right eye and I hope that I get the medication in me in time so that I can take the lowest dosage possible. So, how can the good days seem so immeasurably good and then the bad days I am just so thankful for each task that is completed. When making toast seems like climbing Mount Everest, the vast contrast between the good days and the bad days of this working mom is mind blowing. But here’s the real kicker: I speak for a living. As a migraine sufferer, on bad days, I don’t want to talk. At all. The sound of my voice seems to echo against the inside of my head and is excruciating. How frustrating that all of the things I am passionate about, including voice over, are not easy on migraine days.

Making it Work

As a working mom I try hard to exhibit good coping for my twins Emma and Jack, so laying curled up in a ball on the sofa all day is not a good longterm strategy for a chronic problem. When I’m “lucky,” and believe me I am using that word loosely, my migraines will come on a weekend and I can sleep them off. Often they come as they like as they are triggered by all sorts of things: stress, lack of sleep, my cycle, the weather, so in short- life triggers them. When they come on a week day I try to take the medicine as early as I can. I tend to be a heavy sleeper and wake up confused, but if I can actually get the medication in me early, that helps. I try to always have both coffee and ginger ale in the house as they help. My strategy then changes. Daily routines will be completed, but anything extra gets pushed to another day. Nothing fun will happen on a migraine day. I try to give myself a break and only do what is essential. Booked work will be recorded. Auditions will likely be skipped. All emails will be replied to. I will likely defer any direct marketing. In terms of mom tasks, if I can ask Harlan to help with anything, I do!

Planning Ahead

My migraines started when I had my twins, almost 17 years ago. It is safe to assume I will have them until the kids go to college, so now, like with everything else, I plan ahead. Here are some tricks that help me a lot, just in case a whopper of a head ache should descend:

              • Pack school lunches the night before. I actually make sandwiches or entrees for a few days at a time so that I just have to grab the sides each night. It really speeds things up!
              • Have set laundry days.
              • Order groceries weekly so your house is always stocked with the basics at minimum.
              • Plan your food for the week. I have a weekly print out so if I am down for the count someone can figure out the food.
              • Make sure to refill the migraine medication regularly. It is terrible to realize that you have run out at 3 am when you really need it. Keep a stock of it on hand.
              • If you cannot drive on your medication, as I often cannot, make sure you have carpool arrangements that are flexible for your kids.

Voice Over Specific Issues and Migraine

There are work related tasks that I will and won’t do on migraine days. I will happily do any self-directed sessions at my leisure. I will happily record short and normal length scripts. A migraine day is not the day to have an ISDN session with new clients and multiple people giving directions. My brain just can’t process the input and it is not a smart, career promoting move. I also wouldn’t promise to deliver 10,000 words of eLearning with a migraine. It doesn’t mean I couldn’t record a few modules, but I pride myself on being a meticulous editor, and nothing is meticulous when you are on such strong headache medicine. The other task I would avoid on migraine days is voice matching. I have a knack for being able to match others’ voices and my own past jobs. But, on a headache day, that is just too tricky and I would wait.

Pros of Working with a Migraine Sufferer

Yes, I wish my migraines would stop and never come back. But, I do think they have changed me. I have so much more understanding of what people with much more serious chronic illnesses go through. I am much more patient. I am genuinely thankful for every non-migraine day. I am very sympathetic when others have to reschedule and are under the weather.

Time to Reflect

At the years’ end, it seems like an additional time to reflect. I’m not sure if it’s the food coma induced by all the latkes and egg-nog lattes, or it is just the natural cycle of things, but it is a great time to look back on the best parts of the year and see how far this career I have worked so hard to build has come. So here is my countdown of top 5 best voiceover moments from 2019:

5. WoVo Con In October

Time with industry friends goes by way too fast!!

Without a doubt, WoVo Con is always worth the trip to Las Vegas! What do I love about this conference? Well, the superior sessions, seeing my VO besties, and an opportunity to build important voice over relationships. Over the years I have gone to some amazing sessions. This year I loved Everett Oliver’s session and I loved Brad Newman’s session. I was so happy to have time with Shelley Avellino and to see others like Dana Hurley, Jodi Krangle, Anne Ganguzza, J. Michael Collins, and the list goes on and on. I also had a chance to meet and get to know potential clients! I even went to dinner one night with an eLearning company that added me to their roster, so I enjoyed my time there and made every moment count.

4.Trip to Toronto adjacent to VO North in September

I had an amazing time in Toronto this fall! I had initially planned to be there for VO North, but instead I was adjacent to the conference and spent time with some my VO besties Dearbhla Trainor, Kim Handysides, and Shelley Avellino. We stayed at Derv’s and helped her get ready for the

From the front left is Kim Handysides, Shelley Avellino, me, and Dearbhla Trainor at a NY style diner in Toronto! We had s much fun.

conference. We got to see about of the city and have time together. Kim and I went on an adventure to the middle of no where together to visit clients. That was interesting. We also saw her family and her home town! It was absolutely amazing to have time with these spectacular women and I loved every moment of being with my friends and being in such a great city! Next year I will definitely stay for the entire conference.

3. Trip to LA for WWRS in March 2019

In March, 2019 I went to Burbank, CA for the World Wide Radio Summit. This was the same week as VO Atlanta, so I had to choose between the two conferences. I have been working so hard to grow the radio imaging side of my business and to be there to here the best in the business speak on amazing panels was so inspirational. In 2019, there were not one but two imaging panels, of both voice talents and program directors. To hear folks like Issa Lopez and Ashley Cavalier was a dream come true. These women are role models for us all and they set the bar really high. Their work is incredible and they have achieved so much. I also met people from all over the world, wether they were from across the pond or across the country. To have entire networks like iHeart and Sirius represented was just amazing and the folks that I met were so nice. I have enjoyed keeping in touch with them.

2. Collections are Complete

As a small business owner, it is a pretty major accomplishment to be totally on top of my collections.  Just because I am able to mark this is a goal that I have met does not mean that this was an easy feat. It has taken diligence, patience, and commitment. Most clients are very kind and well-intentioned. Some of these kind clients pay right away. Some are just busy with work and life and forget to pay and need a friendly reminder. But you know what else I have learned as a business owner? Not everyone is nice. Some people do not want to pay even when they are happy. Why? Because they are not nice. So they make small business owners jump through a million hoops to chase them down for money in hopes that we would rather just disappear. This year my multi-pronged approach, wich combines friendly reminders from me with an attorneys letter at the 90 day mark was the right combination. I am thankful.

1. Amazing New Clients and Stayed on Pandora’s Roster

I am so thankful that my client roster this year and always. I am proud that when I work with a client I typically keep working

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

with a client. Some of the major brands I have had an opportunity to do voiceovers for in 2019 include Dove, Kyvno, CT Lottery, Michigan Lottery, Cleveland Clinic, Quest Diagnostics, Spoke, CosmoProf, Origins, and the list goes on and on. I am also thrilled that my work for both Pandora and Spotify continued. Pandora has extended another contract to me for 2020 and I am so very thankful for their trust in me year ofter year. This year, a lot of the work I did for them was repeat work because the clients specifically requested me. That means the world to me.

How do you get the ball rolling?

In the past few days I have had a few different buyers or clients reach out to me to inquire about my services. One called from a block number. Another sent me a message on LinkedIn asking me to email their client with my rates and samples. Another emailed through the contact form on my site. I can tell you that all get greeted with the same enthusiastic response and all, whether the job is $200 or $2000, are treated the same.

If you are hiring a voice over actor for your first time, the ease of booking them and the booking process in general gives you a glimpse into how easy this talent is to work with. I have a set process that I use every time that includes quick responses, quotes, turnarounds, pickup/and revision policies, and more. If a talent is difficult to track down for the initial booking, it should be a red flag.

So, this is what my process is like:

The initial contact:

I typically respond as soon as I here from a client. If I get a phone call I respond by phone. Often if I get an email I will even respond by phone. According to voice123, my average response time is 11 minutes, but I typically respond as soon as I see a client correspondance as I understand that you need your work quickly. I take notes on the call so that everything that you tell me about what you want happens in the audio you are delivered. I also need details about the job itself including the usage and run of the job. That will now be addressed below.

Quoting the Job:

Many important details go into quoting a voiceover booking. I typically offer several options to my clients and let them choose the option that best represents their needs, but this is what I need to give a client a quote for their job:

  • The Script: I simply must see the script to give a quote. What you think of as an explainer my actually be employee training or an industrial. We need to also confirm the word count. The script is essential.
  • the Usage_ I need the client to confirm with the team what the usage is. For example, is it internal or will it run on social media? If it runs on social media, will it be organic or paid placement? For how long?
  • How long is the run? They are typically from 6 weeks to a year. I generally quote jobs up to a year and add a calendar reminder at that point in case a client wants to renew their media buy. I do not do buyouts in perpetuity.
  • Revisions. For jobs over $250, I include one round of minor revisions. If clients need more than that I scaffold that into the pricing.
  • Pickups: I also price out my pickup policy and always give the courtesy of delivering them as promptly as the initial audio was delivered.
  • Live of guided sessions: For live sessions I have Source Connect, ipDTL, ISDN, and skype and am happy to use whatever the client prefers! I literally use that line in my “Seal the Deal” email, and for any job over $250 I am happy to do I live session. I always record backup audio and the audio from a live session is considered final delivery, which is industry standard.

All of the above is factored into the quote.

Confirming the Booking

Once a client emails that they have cast me in a spot or booking, I send what I call me “Seal the Deal” email. This goes over all of the details thus far.

  • It confirms in writing that I have the job.
  • It confirms what they want for the booking.
  • It confirms what they need and when it will be delivered.
  • It finalizes any and all requests about the audio in terms of tone, pacing, whether the client needs a WAV or an MP3 or both.
  • If there is a live session it confirms those details as well.
  • It confirms that the script that I have is the final script.

Making it as Easy as Possible

In the end, it should be as easy as possible for the client to have what they need. It should be clear and prompt. The client should be overjoyed that they have found you and instilled with confidence in your capabilities because you are clearly on top of it. If you drop the ball at the beginning, how can they ever trust you.  I want every first job to be the first of many jobs, so I take this system very seriously and want my clients to know that every single project matters.

It’s not A Hobby…

What makes a professional voice over actor a professional? Well, besides the years of training, the demos, the home studio, and being a part of the community, a big, big, big characteristic is booking PAYING work at INDUSTRY STANDARD RATES. Not Fiverr. Not bargain basement, but once a voice talent begins earning a consistent, sustainable income they proudly earn the title of professional. If they are booking repeat gigs or lots of gigs, they now have the goods to call them selves a pro. Even in WoVo, our professional organization, once you book five gigs at industry standard rates, you are eligible to apply to be a “Professional” member. Thus, it is the act of being paid for the work that you do that is essential.

So, you wouldn’t think that being paid would be so tricky, right? You book a gig, your record your amazing audio in your professional studio, you deliver your audio, and the client pays you? That’s how it should work. But often, too often, it does not play out that way. This month I was fortunate. Almost all, about 80% of my bookings, were paid within 24 hours if delivery. This is not the norm. This blog post is inspired by a less than kind client who although pleased with the work I did, and cast me in repeat commercials and campaigns in the last two years, acted as though he was giving me some sort of loan when he paid his invoice at about 90 days past due. This is simply not acceptable. His total lack of professionalism is appalling. I should not have to explain myself, and neither should you. So, instead of focussing on the exception, let’s focus on why things typically run smoothly and how to create a system that makes it easy for a working talent and for your clients to pay promptly:

Terms Up Front

When I book a job I send a “Seal the Deal” email. This email is extremely detailed and clear. It has multiple components, all of which are important:

  • It thanks the client for casting me in the “Name of Project.”
  • This confirms the casting.
  • It confirms the details they want including specifics about the recording and any requests for tone, style, etc.
  • It covers details about guided sessions/phone patch.
  • It confirms the rate.
  • It confirms my revision/pickup policy.
  • The end of it also has legal jargon making this email an agreement. This is how all of these emails end:

Warm regards,

Laura

Acceptance and jurisdiction: Acceptance of this proposal constitutes agreement that usage rights are limited to the medium and region listed in the job description, and expansion would require renegotiation of these terms. Your acceptance of the above constitutes a contract which – in case of a dispute – you agree will be adjudicated in, and according to the relevant laws of, NY, USA. If the booking is cancelled, the session fee will still be paid in full to Laura Schreiber.

Stating your terms in the initial email is essential. The bigger the job, meaning the more money it pays, the more essential it is that you state your terms up front as you have more to lose.

Invoicing Made Easy

AKA “Invoicing for Dummies,” I want to make it as easy as possible for my clients to pay me. I actually spent years figuring this out, so the client is not the dummy here, I had about a five year learning curve. I tried multiple different ways of invoicing, and find that this system is much more user friendly. I use Fresh Books for my invoices. They are clear. They state my terms which are Net 30. They allow me to set 30 and 60 day invoice reminders.

When I send  my finished audio, the last paragraph is always all of the invoice information.  Always. It tells them the invoice number, what is due, and the multiple ways they can pay me. Different people prefer to pay in different ways. Do I have a preference? Yes. But it doesn’t matter, I need to make it easy for them. So, in the last paragraph of my invoice I tell them:

Lastly, you will receive a Fresh Books invoice #XXXX for the amount of $XXXX  after this email. If you prefer another means of payment, I also am happy to receive payment by check at XXXX Road, South Orange, NJ 07079; via paypal at laura@lauraschreibervoice.com, or at Zelle and Chase QP at  laura@lauraschreibervoice.com. Thanks so much again for your business and have a great day,

This email is easy to find. The invoice allows them to pay. This allows them to pay. It’s clear. It’s simple. It’s easy to find again. Make things easy for your clients!

Session Vs. Usage in Invoice

This is extremely important: when invoicing, always, always, always differentiate between your session fee and the usage of your voice. Why? Well what if Sally at the ad agency decides after multiple rounds of casting and telling you that you were perfect 24 times that in the end she really wants a more robust male voice? No problem Sally, she just has to pay your session fee. This is industry standard. I repeat, this is industry standard. You have done the work. You have delivered the work. The session fee is  the fee that they are paying for you to get behind the mic and turn on your phantom power and record. If you did a live session? Guess what, they are paying for it. The usage is for the usage of your voice for the run of the spot. Do not book gigs in perpetuity. It is a huge problem. That is a separate blog. Just don’t!!

Some People Are just Nicer than Others

At the end of the day, some people are just nice and intend to pay you and some are not nice or are totally disorganized. Some are both. I had a government job this week that had a low budget but payed within an hour of delivery. I was doing my happy dance. I have had similar jobs that take 90 days to pay. I typically find that some clients just cannot pay on time. Some always will. Try not to let the few who are really unkind ruin your state of mind for the rest who really are good folks.

The Changing Face of Learning

Do you ever spend time around young people? As the parent of teenage twins, I can tell you that they learn and absorb information and academic content VERY differently than I did. I loved going to libraries and digging through stacks. At their age I remember researching on micro film and micro fiche. Everything I read was tactile and had different textures and weight to it but was some kind of paper or scanned version of a paper.

Today, I see my children sprawled across their bed surrounded by multiple devices. They read a lot but they only read books when a teacher gives them an actual book. Instead they read on many devices, seemingly at once. They will have their phone out, their computer out, and an iPad out, and they will be working on multiple screens getting input from all of them. To say that I am both baffled and simultaneously concerned about them getting cancer from all of the electronics is one thing, but the point is, as someone who deals with eLearning content all of the time, that this generation absorbs content differently than Gen-Xers.

As a full-time professional voice over actor who narrates eLearning modules on a regular basis, I am connected with a lot of content creators on LinkedIn and I follow a lot of them on Instagram. I saw this fantastic graphic posted by the instructionaldesignlady pictured here. This graphic fascinates me as I work with content for all platforms, but more and more content is going from mobile learning to Ubiqitious learning, so let’s tear into this a bit.

The Shift From Traditional Learning

Once upon a time, companies used to have to gather all of their employees in one spot to train them. If millennials and xenials don’t like interacting with actual paper, imagine how their heads would explode if they had to do back in they day traditional corporate training, or even get on a plane and fly somewhere to be trained, which used to happen, often!  HR departments began to realize that they could hire folks like me to narrate their training modules, and this training had a great value, because now days of work did not have to stop and large groups of people did not have to be moved to one location to get this training done. I still am hired to do plenty of traditional eLearning on a fixed computer or network, it still happens a lot, and there is still a lot of very creative training like this.

M-Learning Emerged

A few years ago I started to notice a big shift to mobile learning. I attended an eLearning Guild conference in San Diego in June of 2017 and the entire focus of the conference was on everything mobile! Now companies could train the employees anywhere, anytime, and why not have fun in the process. Gamification became a big buzzword. At that point, we went from just being narrators as voiceover actors, to really giving the content creators and instructional designers the characters for the roles that they needed. 

U-Learning is the New Rage

So what is the trend now? As the instructionaldesignlady says, “Ubiquitous learning is the highest form of learning that occurs in a variety of learning environments using a variety of digital learning tools. It’s learning interactions that happen anytime anywhere. This is why perpetual learning is the new normal.” So when she talks about perpetual learning, she is talking about my kids with their multiple stimuli, and at the same time the fact that these devises are glued to them, it can happen any time, any where.

From an employers perspective, if you were trying to reach out to your young, blossoming work force and mold them, now instead of having limited time and boundaries, there are no boundaries in this environment and the possibilities are infinite. If U-Learning transcends the boundaries of eLearning, than the only barriers are imagination and budget.

What are the implications of this?

If we’re connecting the dots, this means that there is a lot more training work and specifically U-Learning work for us to create and brand! There will be plenty to be voiced and narrated, and instructional designers will be busy as can be, because as the landscape changes, the need is only increasing significantly. Further, as the technology improves by leaps and bounds, companies want to have the cutting edge training with the most innovative tech for their teams. I watch with awe as  see the LMS improve, I see more talent in design, so as the overall creative space is improving, there is more and more room for all of is to collaborate and create outstanding eLearning and U-Learning.

Five Years of Passion

As a working mom, I have talked about how working as a full time, professional voice over actor suits me in countless ways. It seems like yesterday I was sitting at my kitchen island and I was watching a GVAA webinar on eLearning. J. Michael Collins, who I think I have mentioned a lot recently, was presenting the outstanding webinar. Everything he talked about resonated with me. It was not just the rates for eLearning that were appealing, it was that I had come to the voice over from the academic world, so for me I felt an instant connection to an industry that I did not know existed!

I decided during that webinar that I would to an eLearning demo with JMC and I can tell you that demo has paid for itself in

Me with talented coach and demo producer J. Michael Collins.

spades. While I have had many conversations with industry friends about how processed eLearning demos should be, and a lot of folks are confident that there should be little production, I am very pleased with my demo for several reasons. First, it showcases my range from warm, millennial to professional, confident, and knowledgeable traitor and will work across the genres of eLearning. Next, I think my personality shines through. Lastly, it is pleasant to listen to! As most of my booked work is proprietary content and cannot be shared on my website, it is really great to have something that I am happy to share!

I have focussed on building and maintaining solid client relationships in the many years that I have been doing eLearning. While I have been full-time in voiceover for five years, I have really developed the eLearning strand of my business since 2016. Some of my best clients, that I continue to do steady work for, I met face to face at conferences like ATD, Dev Learn, and smaller conferences put on by the eLearning Guild.  I also have worked with some wonderful clients that I connected with on LinkedIn. Regardless of the source of the business relationship, my approach s the same, I treat each client as if they are my most important client and all of my

Finding the right conference to meet your business goals can be tricky! I have a lot of success at the smaller conference. There may seem to be a lot of potential at large conferences like ATD and DevLearn, but it is often easier to find content creators at the smaller conferences.

success depends on them. The result has been great, and as a consequence recent eLearning clients include Walmart, PSEG, Ace Hardware, Victoria’s Secret, Sam’s Club, CosmoProf, Sally Beauty, Club Pilates, and more!

More Casting Trends!

So with all of this eLearning work, what trends have I noticed? A lot of clients are writing the scripts for “real” characters with specific voice and tone requests. These are not typical narrators. I am not Suzie from HR, I am playing a role in a scene. as a voice ACTOR, this is actually great fun for me! For example, in a recent project of Sally Beauty, they wanted to voice to be

With an eLearning client Alicia that I get to catch up with at conferences!

conversational, fun, and upbeat! It was no problem, the script was a joy! Last week I was doing a training module for Ace Hardware. I have been doing their work for a while, but this was very different. They really had a specific character in mind. Before recording the entire module, I sent three samples for approval to make sure we were on the same page and that my interpretation matched their vision. I had so much fun putting these samples together. I think that as the technology continues to improve, the content creators will push voiceover actors even further in our roles.

Rates are HIGHER

As a working mom, I am pleased that as the demand for solid voiceover for eLearning increases, the rates that voice actors are paid is also increasing. It is increasing in two ways. First, session fees continue to rise. While I have old clients that still are grandfathered in at their original rate, new clients book at the appropriate industry standard rates. Jobs are typically quoted per finished minute or per word, and there has been a huge jump. When I first started doing eLearning, I was happy to have a minimum session plus $18 per finished minute. Now I quote my session fee plus $35 per finished minute of audio. Frankly, because of the intrinsic value of the content we are providing these clients, I think these rates are right where they should be for corporate clients doing training. 

My Goals

I love doing eLearning projects. Any project is welcomed and makes me happy. As a true Jersey girl who spends a lot of time in my salon getting my hair and nails done, I was thrilled to do so much work for CosmoProf and hope more work in the cosmetic industry comes in. I also love travel, food, and dogs, so if the universe and voiceover gods shine down on me and send me work related to my passions I will be delighted!

Where Am I Going With This….

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

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

Are there personality traits of Voice Over Actors?

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

Do We Actually Sing In Our Work?

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

What If We Don’t Sing or Sing Terribly?

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

My Thoughts

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