The Compassionate Voice
by Leesha on August 22nd, 2017

The summer has been a little slow for many in the voiceover business.  Recent changes in the industry have taken many voice talent a back and have caused concern for many small business owners.  You may be wondering about your next step?  With more than half of 2017 in our rear-view mirror, (along with the historical total US Eclipse), it’s time to up your game.  Below are some ideas on how to finish 2017 strong (and in the black).
 
Review your Position, Now

Are you meeting your financial goals? Are you maintaining your weekly work schedule?  Have you scheduled what you need to keep your business on track to perform like a business and not a hobby?  Honestly look at where you are and what is needed to reach your 2017 VO business goals.
 
Seek Outside Advice

Reach out to others in the VO business like a different coach or social media manager. Let someone you don’t usually work with give you his or her opinion on your demos, social media presence, and website.  Advice from new sources may point out areas and items you may not have considered before and lead to a some needed action.

Review your Social Media Strategy

Social media is still a critical area for any business.  The VO industry is not an exception.  More and more websites display voice acting jobs from eLearning to gaming.  You want to remain fresh, relevant, and ready.  Make sure your platforms are working for and not against your VO business success.   Gravy for the Brain’s blog on Social Media for Voiceovers lists ideas on improving VO social media presence. 
 
Evolve and Reset

Changes occur. Don’t let discouragement steal your future success.  Voice-over Xtra blogger and Voiceover talent manager Celia Siegel’s comments on recent VO industry changes can be applied to your business. Reset and prepare to face the rest of 2017 with optimism and to reach your success goals.  It’s your time to make and finish strong.

by Leesha on July 21st, 2017







Where did you grow up? Do you naturally sound like the members of your home community or have a natural bent to your voice? You may. What is your background, or do you have an accent? Do you herald from a particular region or country? Depending upon the market, your “natural” voice can be your big money voice.
 
When I first started in the business, I worked hard on lessening my Mid-Atlantic sound. I was told that the most sought after (United States) English accent was a Mid-western accent. While I’ve flown over the Midwest many times, the experience did not cause me to pick up the inflection by osmosis. So, I worked hard to change my accent. 
 
Then, one day, I ran across a lady who specializes in an urban-female voice, which is very close to my natural voice or way of speaking. This caught my attention because the lady is Caucasian and grew up in a major mid-Atlantic city. Still, she very successfully portrays urban female voice types. She even has a separate web page just for her urban voiceover demos.

This got me thinking; I can do urban (dah) since I too was raised in a similar locality. While my background is more rooted in the middle class, I can easily mimic the urban city way of speaking and acting.
 
Your Natural Voice
Examine your background. Do you have a specialty sound? Are you fluent in more than one language? Do you have a background in science, math, or other educational pursuits that would give you a unique and compelling bent on particular voiceover work? 
 
Take time to determine your natural bent and try to market it. Look for jobs that need your specialty and become not just the best voiceover talent, but also the go to voice talent for that genre.
 
Articulate to Communicate
Having a specialty sound or area does not negate the need for proper articulation and pronunciation. You must be understood to effectively communicate, but you don't have to give up the natural part of your delivery. Tongue twisters are a good tool to help improve articulation and speaking form.
 
Remember, you don’t have to be a jack of all voice over trades if you can master the right one. 
 
Break a lip.


by Leesha on February 28th, 2017

It’s all about being easy to work with in business. Good communication is a part of every successful voiceover (VO) business. Successful voice actors know the importance of clear communication. Knowing how to take and apply VO directions will lead to satisfied, repeat clients.

Start with an open attitude. Taking direction starts with thinking well of the staff developing the voiceover project. Often these folks are developing the scripts and studying the thinking behind the project. If you think of them as the experts for the subject project, you’ll tend to accept directions with a receptive attitude.

Don’t judge the direction.  You might want to steer clear of giving feedback unless you are asked. If you have to give VO feedback, use language that suggests an idea not demanding a change or demeaning the writing.  Use discretion in giving any unsolicited comments or advice; less is more.

Agree to disagree (in silence). Our society encourages us to hold ground regarding expressing our points or views. But unless you are the producer of a VO project, this hard-line thinking can make you appear hard to work with it or can lead to an early release because you just lost your current VO job.

Repeat the direction in your mind. If needed, repeat given direction out loud just as you think you’ve heard it. You can only apply what you understand. If you are unclear, don’t hesitate to parrot the direction back. There’s no shame in noting the direction to make sure you’ve got it right.  

If you make a mistake, don’t sweat it. Listen again and go forward. An open and receptive demeanor invites camaraderie and can make you the go-to person for your clients. People consistently work with people they like.

Keep happy thoughts and move on. Don’t use your time later to badmouth the VO producers or directors. Complaining will build a mental barrier to future directions. As with the first point, your attitude sets the tone for your thinking.

Voice Actor and Coach Terry Daniel writes in Listen: Pay Attention To Directors' Instructions... Or They'll Stop Paying Attention To You (9/15/15) “Focus on finding effective ways to please your customers. Make sure they are able to come directly to you to get exactly what they need without any headaches, complications or exceptions.”

Whether you’re being directed in your VO booth or a professional studio, taking direction will lead to win-wins.


by Leesha on January 20th, 2017

Encouragement is something we all need. I have written on this subject in the past, but it amazes me how much we need encouragement on a daily bias. If you have found something that you love to do, you probably need little encouragement to regularly practice or participate in your favorite activity. However, if you’re like me and working on perfecting your voiceover (VO) business and performance, encouragement becomes essential to current and continued success. Here are my tips to maintaining your VO support.
 
Network: It Works
 
You may be the only person in your circle that is a VO talent. Members of the VO community live virtually all over the world. But it’s common to feel a sense of isolation in the trials and successes of the business. Spending hours upon hours working in a booth or your home recording area can lead you to wonder if anyone is out there. When that happens, it’s time to get connected.
 
One of the quickest ways to get connected is via the Web. Make it a point to check social media sites daily. Read quality articles or watch YouTube videos from members of the VO community. Once you start reading and viewing the many comments on social media, you'll realize that you are not alone. Many talents have experienced the same performance frustrations, little or no pay gigs, insecurity issues, and other VO challenges. Remember, it can take years to reach your performance goals. All the great ones have been where you are and have lived to tell their story.
 
Think Well
 
Don’t spend too much of your time micro-analyzing your challenges. Encourage yourself by noting your positive strives like practicing, auditioning, goal setting, and other steps you’ve made toward your VO success. Recall and recount your accomplishments often. You are in a business that I relate to becoming a brain surgeon; you're becoming a VO professional!
 
Balance You
 
Take time to exercise and take a walk. Visit friends and new places; participate in other activities that connect you with others. Interactions with the right people, via phone or in person, will fuel your spirit and hope as you return to your VO business refreshed and renewed. No man is an island, so don’t try to be the first VO one.
 
Feel free let me know how you keep going through encouragement and how you encourage others.  Now go “break a lip.”


by Leesha on January 11th, 2017

One of the things that still intrigues me is the stranger inside. You may think, "How can one be a stranger to one’s self?" I’ll give you an example. Have you ever encountered an unexpected event or emergency and you reacted in a way that you didn’t expect? Your behavior was not a surprise to your subconscious just to your conscious mind. As a voice talent, you need to get to know the personalities lurking in your subconscious and put them to work in your voiceover (VO) performances. 
 
We all have the ability to win Audie Awards and other VO accolades. I say that because I think the best actors know themselves so well, that can shape their emotions, experiences, likes, dislikes, dark thoughts, and positive thoughts into effective acting. Getting to know all these things and more about you is also your key to effective voice acting. 
 
I recently listened to a podcast interview of a famous African-American female VO talent. She mentioned that she was shy and had to always work through her shyness to pursue her VO goals. Since I also personally know the lady, I believe she is not overly shy, just reserved and quiet when meeting new people. Around her VO colleagues, she seems friendly, upbeat, and encouraging. My point is she has learned to use parts of her personality to be what she needs to be at the right time and place. The proof is in her VO success. 
 
If you want to find out more about your personality, the Internet has a plethora of personality test tools to help you along the way. Also, the Johari Window is an excellent tool to get to know you on a deeper level. The site Businessballs.com defines the Johari Window model as “… a simple and useful tool for illustrating and improving self-awareness, and mutual understanding between individuals within a group.”
 
Don’t restrict yourself; get to know you and the way you think. Then shape all of the aspects of thoughts and traits into an effective voiceover actor. Find your profound, authentic, personal sides and use these sides of your subconscious and conscious mind to cut your spirit free as your best VO talent.


by Leesha on December 30th, 2016

I like the fervor and excitement generated when I hear the rags to riches stories of motivational speakers. The rousing narratives spark hope and a belief in one’s own possible success. Still, with all the motivational tapes, books, podcasts, conventions, audiobooks, and the like, the listener is still left with the real work and that is to DO the work. Become your own motivator while reaching for your goals every day.

Get ready to work...hard. Listening to motivational speakers will not change your behavior. You are responsible for your own actions. No one will do your marketing or voiceover practice work. Sorry, there’s no magic fairy to pay for your demo, find you scripts, work your business, or improve your life. You have to actively choose and take the actions that can lead to reaching all your goals personally and professionally.

Determine who you are right now. Take time to silence the world around you and think about who you are and what you really want. You may want to free flow your thoughts into a file on your phone or another device. Remember this is for you, so just get it out.

Evaluate what want to accomplish in your life. Make a new file and record thoughts in a tone as speaking to your best friend. You should be your best friend. You don’t need another critic (we all have them in life). Be caring and honest in your thoughts. If you don’t like your career, business choice, or something else, that’s fine. Note what you really want for your life. Don’t forget to include fun goals "just because." 

Motivate you to maximize your life.  Now is the time to develop your plan. Using your recordings, take the time to review your “truth” and develop a plan to reach your goals. Review who you are now and what changes and practices you will need to reach your goals.  For help in developing goals for 2017 and beyond, search the Internet. You'll find a plethora of tools. The point is to make sure you are working on your goals and not those of your parents, spouse, children, bosses, or anyone else outside of your skin.

Get support and accountability. Support and accountability are the most important points of your new or revised life plan. You can always let yourself off the hook for not working toward your daily goals, but your partner should not. Moreover, look for accountability partners that you can trust and who are undergoing the same process.  Motivational messages can help fuel your daily actions toward success.

Celebrate the paths to your goals. Celebrate the steps, victories, and lessons along the paths to your goals. If you apply these steps, you will reach many of your realistic goals. Your overall goal is to have a fulfilling life. No matter what you achieve in life, when it's over, it’s over. Use each day to seek your goals; be thankful for and celebrate your progress.  

Reaching for your goals every day may or may not lead to great riches, but you will be at peace with yourself as you live your best life.

by Leesha on August 2nd, 2016

You’ve had it. Everybody is disrespecting your political candidate and you have had enough. Is it time for you to lash out on Facebook or Twitter? After all, you have a right to express yourself and opinion. But is social media the platform for your personal views? Give care to your actions and what you post on social media.
 
In this politically charged time in America, opinions are being shared everywhere. From billboards to talk shows, everybody has an opinion...and wants to be heard. I’m sure you have seen a running stream of comments on many sites with all manner or retorts. Just read them. 
 
Guard Your Business Soapbox
 
We all have feelings. As a voiceover talent, you are probably a passionate and insightful actor. Moreover, you most likely use social media as an intricate part of your voiceover business. Many businesses do the same thing. Unless your business is directly related to sharing your opinions, consider the consequences before posting your personal beliefs via social media.
 
This advice may save your business and career. I have heard of people losing out on jobs and even relationships because of online postings. If you recall an event some years ago, a voiceover talent lost a major character voice contract because he posted a personal opinion on Twitter. And the list goes on.
 
You would think that personal opinions posted online would not affect a person’s business. Hey, welcome to the digital age. Our society is more connected via the web than through personal relationships. Often, opinions about new relationships start with online searches. Some even do extensive checks into posting histories to decide on new hires, clients, and even marriage partners. So what you say online does matter. 
 
Be Sensitive When Posting 

Carefully consider what you post online regarding personal views and even some family matters. In What Not to Post on Social Media, Rhianna Richards, Head of Marketing at Sysomos, suggests staying clear of posts that are potentially negative or can be perceived in poor taste.
  
Maintain A Positive Online Presence
 
In business, most prefer and choose to do business with people they like and with whom it is easy to work. Any negative or averse comments posted by you may be seen as controversial or a sign of trouble. You don't want to give potential clients the wrong impression of your business because of your online posting. As voice talent, you may be expected to demonstrate warm emotion through voice acting. If you are perceived as divisive, you may not be considered for some jobs in some categories or with some organizations. That big long-term voice gig client may keep searching for talent after reading your postings.
 
Be Business Smart
 

If your values appear to be strong in one direction or another, you may lose potential clients. It's best not to reveal your positions on some subjects. This is not being phony or fake, it's being business smart.  You are not required to reveal your deepest views and personal affiliations via the web. If warranted, let potential clients address you directly and not use your social media profiles to gain insight into your personal preferences.
 
Keep it Light; Keep Getting Paid
 
In a few months, we should have another American president. Nevertheless, you want to continue in business and keep your friends regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. So make a mental note to hold back on some personal online views. With that said, if you are a political figure, strategist, religious leader, commentator or the like, your personal views should be shared. But as a voiceover talent, keep it light and keep getting paid.
 
Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 1, Scene 3 says, “This above all- to thine own self be true,... .” Great advice, but not the best for social media platforms.


Image: Aug. 16, 1961. A bird's eye view of West Germans protesting the division of Berlin. From the booklet "A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall." (https://www.usa.gov/government-works) Credit: U.S. Government Works



by Leesha on July 14th, 2016

You’re published! Your book, or “baby,” is for sale to the masses. You know from your fellow authors that the next step is an audiobook version. You begin to look for a narrator to produce your book, but, when you look at the costs, narrators are quoting rates upward of $400 per finished hour (PFH). Do you look for a cheaper narrator? Should you offer a lower price to a narrator? You may think it’s time to panic, but don’t. With a few creative steps, you can retain and finance a quality narration of your audiobook.
 
Before discussing funding, let’s examine the logic behind that $400. PFH rate. What does it cost the narrator to produce your book? While you have a deep connection with your project, your narrator and/or producer are in business to help you and to feed his or her family. This is not to say that your book is not an excellent project, but also think of your producers. Your production team makes a heavy investment into each title voiced and produced.
 
Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) notes that it takes the average narrator at least two hours to read one hour of a book. But that is just the beginning. It takes two to three additional hours to proof read, edit, mix, and master one complete hour of an audiobook. So while rates ranging from $300-$400 PFH may seem high, with all the work involved in developing your “baby” into a quality audiobook, the average PFH voice production rates makes fiscal sense.
 
Now that you see the rationale behind the voiceover rates, let’s look at a few ways to fund your book project.
 
Online Grants. Foundation Grants to Individuals Online, a service of the Foundation Center, is a subscription-based program that allows you to search for funding sources based upon topic, interest, and other criteria. Subscriptions are available for a variety of time periods depending upon your need.
 
Crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing, as defined by Merriam-Webster.com, is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. GoFundMe.com and IndieGoGo.com are two popular personal online fundraising websites. Crowdsourcing is a great way to reach out to those who have read or know of your work and would support efforts toward your audiobook production. 
 
Deferred Payments. Consider negating a deal with your audiobook producer to take deferred payments. You can develop a contract and set up regularly scheduled payments through PayPal or another source that allows you to pay your vendor in increments. Be sure to pay the audiobook producer timely. Everyone knows everybody on the web.
 
Charge Cards. While not my first suggestion, if you have cash advance capability or can pay your audiobook producer directly by credit card, this could be a good way to cover the PFH rate. 
 
Generous Royalty Shares. Most producers like to have royalty shares in their recording deals. This way, you can pay for your project over time if you can also budget an initial PFH rate for the development of your project. 
 
Borrow from Friends and Family. Sometimes, you just have to ask. Friends and family may give or loan you the money necessary for the audiobook. Your supporters jointly may provide all the funds you need.
 
Support from Your Clubs. Ask for support from your civic group, organizations, clubs, and church especially if the subject of your book is relevant to your group’s purpose and goals.
 
Other Funding Idea SourcesThe American Express Open Forum article, 10 Alternative Ways to Raise Cash Fast for Your Business, notes a couple of funding ideas that could work for your audiobook project. 
  • Microloans. Microloans are a specific category of small loan—usually under $50,000—usually are easier and simpler that traditional loans. The Small Business Administration has a microloan program, which uses 150 approved microlenders. 

  • Loans From Online Loan Sites. You may be able to arrange for a small loan from your bank or you can reach out to a web-based financial institution. A growing number of sites have simplified processes for submitting and applying for a loan, some with expedited processing. 
Once you’ve secured your funding, reach our to the most qualified voice actor/producer to develop your audiobook. You’ve put too much time into your project, so it’s no time for bargain shopping. A good, quality narrator will give you great service at a fair price. Remember, he or she also has a business reputation and wants to do a good job. It’s better to budget for the best narrator for your project than to have a product you’re not happy with and have to start the process all over again. This is your baby (or one of your babies). Treat your little one with the best care so it will be a finely produced audiobook of which you can be proud. 
 


by Leesha on June 30th, 2016

In the voiceover world, they say, "Beware January and June." So, if your June is not what your other colleagues may be experiencing business wise, you need to come up with ways to regroup. Regrouping should lead to more jobs, better auditions, and more revenue doing what you love. Unconventional ways of regrouping can lead to better creativity and a renewed focus for business success.
 
Regrouping does not have to be boring. The more exceptional your activities the better. Consider taking up painting or even finger painting. Try a new hobby. Look up an old friend or make a new one. Volunteer at a summer camp. Visit a church on Sunday instead of sleeping in. Change your hairstyle or change the color. Make something out of papier-mâché. Go to the circus. Make a rule for one day to smile and speak first to everyone you meet.  Don’t stop there. 
 
Take a day trip. Eat breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast. Start your Christmas (what you want) list. Let your kids cook for you one day or break your diet for a meal. Watch family cartoons. Watch good comedies for one weekend and laugh like you mean it. Play in the rain. Think of five things you are thankful for in your life. 
 
When it comes to renewing, think out of the box. Voiceovers should not be arduous, although sometimes it can feel like that way. Change your thinking and regroup your world. 

Need more? Trent Hamm’s The Frugal Introvert: Fifty Ways to Have Fun By Yourself on the Cheap, gives ideas for having fun solo.

Now go out there and be like other folks for a while. Come out of your vocal booth and take a little break in June for a mini-renew time. It will refresh your spirit more than you can imagine.
 
Have fun! 
 

by Leesha on May 4th, 2016

I’ve heard talents comment on the writings of potential clients. Some talents have a vast knowledge of proper English grammar and note the “obvious” mistakes made by some book authors and copywriters. While this may endear a talent as a shrewd and skillful grammar expert, is it a talent’s place to critique his or her client’s writing? Knowing when and when not to comment as a voiceover talent could go a long way toward future success.
 
Talents sometime express their frustration with the writings of clients on the web. As a voiceover talent and while your comments may be correct, you must consider if commenting is appropriate. If you have accepted a voice over job and later find that you “cannot possibly” live with the way the copy or book is written, I suggests the below actions:
  • Politely contact the writer and ask for clarification. The writer/author may have made a mistake and may want to correct the copy in question. If the copy is not an error, continue and read as specified by the client.

  • If you cannot quickly reach the writer, note your comments separately, but still read the copy as written.

  • Forgive the writers; hold off on negative social media or web comments. None of us are perfect, so let’s do our jobs and move on. It’s great that you have knowledge of proper English writing and grammar usage. Perhaps, you can volunteer as a freelance editor in another venue.  Still, give the copy your best voiceover skills as if Shakespeare wrote it!  
Conversely, reading copy is a type of taking direction. As a voiceover talent, we know how important it is to take direction well when doing a job. Knowing what is required in a voice or acting job is important. Voice actor Tom Deere notes this point in his article,  If You Can't Or Won't Listen As A Voice Talent, You Won't Make It.
 
I believe it’s better to seek and respond to jobs that are suited for you and your delivery than to just apply because they are looking for a talent. Both you and the client’s time are valuable; try not to waste what is valuable. You’re a superstar! 
 
(By the way, the image in my above graphic is originally from a well-written book. It’s just an illustration. )