The Compassionate Voice
by Leesha on April 18th, 2018

Many voiceover actors enjoy the convenience of working from the privacy of his or her home studio.  No long commute just the trip from bed to the booth can be the weekly routine. Still, if you’re working at home alone, there can be unforeseen drawbacks.  In the event of an emergency or crisis, the voice talent who is unable to reach out to someone near may be faced with serious or even life-threatening challenges. Here are some steps to meeting the challenges of being home alone as a voice talent.  

Tackle Isolation and Loneliness

“Human beings are inherently social creatures,” says Christopher Bergland in his article, “Loneliness: Perceived Social Isolation Is Public Enemy No. 1. “Research continues to grow that each of us must maintain social connectivity… .”

Make time to interact with others during the week to help maintain the connection to the outside world.  Bergland further notes, “… research shows that we need face-to-face contact and intimate human connections to engage biological systems that have evolved for millennia to preserve our mental and physical well-being.”  

You don’t have to leave home to reach out to others.  In “7 Ways to Overcome Social Isolation When You Work From Home,” Ali Wenzke says, “Even a quick phone call with a friend can lift your spirits.”

Get an Accountability Buddy

If you live alone consider partnering with another voice talent or at home worker and commit to a daily check-in.  This is a way of letting someone know you’re okay.  If an emergency occurred and you could not contact help, your daily check-in could save your life.

Last March, a voice talent that I have admired for many years suffered a stroke in his home studio.  Had it not been for his neighbors noticing the talent’s “SOS” taps for help, he may have lost his life.  “Always get to know your neighbors,” says Sarah Brown, a security expert at Safewise. “The more people invested in your lives, the more likely they are to report an incident they see, to call the police if you need help, to watch your house while you are on vacation, or even to let you back into your home if you ever get locked out.”

Take the edge off Emergencies 

Life happens no matter what so work to lessen some of the negative side effects.  Let your family or a trusted neighbor know where to find your lists of medications, allergies, and personal information.  If you cannot speak, others will need to know this information.  You may want to keep such information in your wallet or purse.

If you have a specific condition, wear a medical ID bracelet. OneCallAlert notes in 10 Safety Tips for Seniors Living Alone indicates, “This information can be invaluable to emergency medical personnel when they come to your home, especially if you’re unconscious or unable to communicate.”  

Lastly, even if you are usually surrounded by others, consider sharing with trusted individuals your insurance, bank accounts, and medical directives.  If you must be hospitalized, your bills will still need to be paid.  If you need extended care, others will need to know about any Long-Term Care or Disability Insurance policies.  Let others know about your medical directive.  The only way your wishes can be honored is that they are known by others.  

This is just a short list of possible things you can do to be better prepared for a lifestyle as a voice talent working from home. Taking some precautions now can give you peace of mind as you voice your best all day long.


by Leesha on April 10th, 2018







 
A voiceover talent has a unique responsibility in establishing a reputation for excellence.  In such a competitive field, excellence has a way of narrowing down the number of talents who rise to the top and are constantly working.  The best way to stand out from other voiceover talents is to establish and maintain excellence always.  

It’s All In the Details

You must prepare for success.  A voiceover’s proper business preparation includes demos, a website presence, and active social media. Operating a voiceover business on the side is not the same as running a successful voiceover business.  A part-time business can be run successfully if the proper emphasis is placed on maintaining its parts so that they function for the activity around the clock.  

Excellence also means good overall communication.  For instance, make sure the texts on your website and other social media sites are as error-free as possible.  In her book “The Brand Mapping Strategy,” Karen Leland says, “The words on your website need to be clear, concise and accurate when describing your business and brand.” Consider hiring an editor or using sources like Grammarly to help you edit your writing and other information representing you. Take time to carefully set up and review your online presence to make sure your site communicates the best about you.   

Focus your Time and Talent

When speaking with promising voice talent, I hear a lot of “I want to do audiobooks, commercials, eLearning, …I think I can do it all.”  While that sounds great, failing to focus on one’s best skill can lead to a lot of running around and getting nowhere.  Focus on what you want to perform in your voice over business.  There is no shame in just doing one or two genres.  

Find and build on what you’re good at as a voice actor.  For example, are you a compassionate person, who can quickly feel empathy for others?  Perhaps you project an anthem style in your vocal delivery and may be good at fictional reads or eLearning projects. Find your style and what you do best. As your business grows, you can branch out into other genres.  Start small and build.

Follow Your Plan

Developing and sticking to a business operation plan takes time and discipline.  This is also the foundation of excellence.  Such habits like delivering on time plus keeping good records and up with the trends related to your voiceover business solidify your position as one of the best.  

Hard Work Required

Voiceover excellence means keeping your business strong by developing and maintaining good practices.  This may be the hardest part of excellence.  The daily work of reaching out to clients, managing your web presence, posting to social media, and delivering quality products to your clients on time is a must.  

Remember, procrastination and excuses can kill the tender roots of your excellence. Work hard to build and keep your good name and brand foremost with your voiceover clients.  Excellence can only be achieved by practice.  But, that’s what voiceover talent do anyway!

by Leesha on April 3rd, 2018

You're published! Your book, or “baby,” is for sale to the multitudes. 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, most good narrators are quoting rates upward of $350 per finished hour (PFH). Do you look for a cheaper voiceover narrator? Should you offer a lower PFH? You may think it’s time to panic but don’t. With a few creative steps, you can finance your book project for that quality voiceover narration.
 
Before discussing funding, let’s examine the logic behind that near $400. PFH rate. What does it cost to produce your book? While you have a deep connection with your project, your voiceover narrator and producer are in business with supporting expenses. I'm not saying that your book is less than excellent. A good production team will make a substantial investment of time and talents to make sure your book become a marketable audio product.  
 
Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) notes that it takes the average voice talent at least two hours to narrate one hour of printed text. But that's just the beginning. It takes two to three additional hours to proofread, edit, mix, and master one complete hour of audiobook recording. So, while rates ranging from $250-$400 PFH may seem high, with all the work involved in developing your “baby” into an audiobook, the average PFH voice production rates make fiscal sense.
 
Now that we've examined the rationale behind audiobook recording 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 a 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, especially from the online community. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.com are two favorite personal online fundraising websites. IndieGoGo is a live crowdfunding campaign platform. The Kickstarter funding platform is specifically for artistic and creative projects through direct external support. 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 partial payments. You can develop a contract and set up regularly scheduled payments through PayPal or other sources that allow you to pay your vendor in increments. Be sure to pay the audiobook producer timely to maintain a good relationship.
 
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 an excellent way to cover the PFH rate.
 
Royalty Shares. Most producers like to have royalty shares in their recording deals. This method gives you the option to pay for a portion of your project over time and negotiate a smaller budget for the initial PFH rate.

Friends and Family Funding. You've got to ask. Friends and family may give or loan you the money. Your close supporters may provide all the funds you need.
 
Local Support. 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.
 
In “5 Clever Ways to Raise Money for Your Startup Without Making an Investor Pitch,” CEO and author Tom Walker writes, “Sign up strategic partners early on. There's nothing sweeter than finding a supplier, distributor, or especially a customer who stands to gain so much from your solution that they are willing and able to help foot the bill.”       

Investor Money: Backstage offers “6 Ways to Fund Your Independent Projects” by KC Wright and notes “investors provide funding with the expectation of returns—their initial investment plus a cut of the project’s earnings.” Once your project's revenues and royalties start coming in, you can return the invested money.

Once you’ve secured your funding, reach out 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 quality voice narrator will give you excellent service at a fair price. Remember, the voice talent and producer have a business reputation and want to do a good job. It’s better to budget for the best narrator you can afford than to end up with a disappointing final project. 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 that you can be proud.

by Leesha on March 28th, 2018

Life springs from our human soul.  From that soul, we as voiceover talent bring the written word to life. But when we find that compassion has emptied and seeped away from us, our creativity weans.  No matter how talented you are or how long you have been in the voiceover business, creativity is not guaranteed nor is it nurtured by the world surrounding most of us.  Here are some approaches to recharging your creativity. 
 
It’s not New, but the Change Starts with You
 
Creativity is in short supply.  The findings in a major study using the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, led by Dr. Kyung-Hee Kim, Associate Professor of Creativity and Innovation at The College of William and Mary, found that since 1990, while IQ scores have increased, creativity scores have been in a significant decline.
 
Prior to Dr. Kim’s study, a 1968 government-sponsored study by George Land and Beth Jarman (educators) had similar results.  Some 1,600 children were tested and retested on creativity over a period of years. The study revealed that the children’s creativity decreased over time with the most creativity expressed at age 5 of 98 percent to a decreased creativity at age15 of only 12 percent.  When only adults were tested for creativity, the result was at 2 percent.
 
The time is now to reclaim your inventiveness. Barnet Bain writes in "Reclaiming Your Creative Self, The key to finding resilience, courage, and wonder in a changing world,” that “The tension we feel—the chronic stress and weariness experienced individually and collectively—comes from attempting to meet life’s challenges with limited resources.” 
 
Find a Creative Outlet or Inlet

In the infographic, “40 Little Things You Can Do to Break Your Creative Block” by Kate England, creative inspiration can include daydreaming, journaling, and even doodling.  England writes, “Take up doodling as a daily practice. Brilliant ideas often start as a scribble on a cocktail napkin or envelope.”
 
Take a Recess

Never underestimate the power of play. Let your mind run free while you walk, exercise, or watch a funny movie.  Give your mind a break from your voiceover routine. You can meditate, sing a song, take a voiceover sick day. The point is to find what feeds your creative spirit to rekindle itself, so you feel fresh and able to put a new spin on all your VO projects. 
 
Touch Base with a Friend

Having friends in voiceovers is not a marketing ploy.  I highly encourage friendships in the industry. Friends can help you think out loud and sort out your feelings. You, in turn, can help another and give advice or listen. Take time to listen and give a friend time to speak and express how he or she feels.  Connecting with others will also allow you to explore empathy and compassion for others, which can fuel the spirit.
 
There are many more ways to recharge your voice acting creativity, but most center around getting out of your drying creativity well by pouring yourself into life and the world around you outside of your booth.
 
Don’t be a statistic.  Creativity is how voice talents effectively serve clients, so always strive to be the most creative you can always be. 


by Leesha on March 21st, 2018

My voiceover career has been one of the most exciting times of my life. For talents like me, voice acting is an expression of the innermost creative self. But, no matter how much we love our chosen profession, a day will come when we'll have to move on.  As a voiceover professional, you don’t want to suddenly fall off the radar screen. No matter the state of your career, give consideration and plan your voiceover endgame.
 
Build a network of succession.  Many seasoned talents become coaches and mentors to novice voiceover talents.  If you are a coach, note your students who have similar vocal styles and temperament, then consider including them in your succession plan. Let your clients know you are connected to other talented voice actors that you have nurtured.  As you get to know a person you have coached and or worked with, you come to know his or her work ethic and what your clients can expect from the talent.  This is a great way of passing along your business to other skilled persons. Even in your end game, credibility is still important.
 
Publicize your other skills.  Before becoming a full-time voice talent, I worked as a communication manager for a scientific agency.  The essence of my position was to break down complicated subject matters into everyday language for internal and external customers.  Such “translation skills” (as I call writing, designing, project managing, etc.) are skills I acquired aside from voice acting.
 
Think about what skills you have that may come in handy during your post voiceover period.  Let others know now about your skills in areas such as writing, designing, public speaking, etc. By letting your clients know about your other talents, you’re opening the door for options you may want to pursue after you have passed on the voiceover mantle.
 
Plan for financial changes.  Start managing your finances and save for your future. If you haven't already, consider an individual retirement account (IRA), Money Market Fund, Certificate of Deposit (CD) or other saving vehicles to prepare for changes to your regular income.  The reality of money is our needs change with time. Your VO endgame should include some sound methods to keep your lights on and a roof over your head.  Benjamin Franklin said, “There are three faithful friends - an old wife (or husband), an old dog, and ready money."
 
Maintain good health.  It's important that you maintain good vocal and personal health throughout your life (See suggestions in my blog, “Voiceover Success: Your Mouth Matters”). No matter how long you choose to pursue voice acting or other pursuits, you’ll need good health to keep going. Take time to rest and address any changes in your voice or personal health. I recommend getting regular yearly check-ups from head to toe.
 
To the best of your ability, be ready for whatever "new game" is beyond your voice over career.  The time is now to prepare for your voiceover endgame. 


by Leesha on March 14th, 2018

A few days ago, I made a drive to my client’s studio.  This trip was special because it took almost an hour by car (especially with East Coast traffic) to reach the location for the two-minute narration.  Because the client is a new voiceover contact, I accepted the offer to visit their studio to help build a new relationship.  While I could have recorded the short script in my professional home studio, going into the client’s studio gave me an opportunity to meet the team and to lay the foundation for our working relationship. Yes, voiceover success includes building relationships.

As a voice talent, the business is more than just auditioning. The voice actor needs to reach out and touch those they work with and for.  Placing a face with a name can help you make a long-term connection.  In my case, the numerous home repairs in my community provided an excellent opportunity to get away from my voiceover studio and take time to understand the needs of a first-time client personally.

Relationships with voiceover talents are important. Moreover, developing relationships, in general, is good because it’s the human thing to do.  Voice talents are the audio ambassadors for their clients’ thoughts, products, and purpose. Through good working relationships, you as a voice actor can let your clients know that his or her projects are in good hands (and voice).  

Don’t forget the relationship building side of the voiceover business.  Little things like following up with thank you cards and remembering your clients during holidays and special anniversaries not only keep you in mind but can also keep you in the heart.  Most folks do business with those whom they like.  Look for opportunities to do and be nice because it’s the kind thing to do. 

In a culture that is becoming more and more polarized, developing your human side as a voice talent and a person is usually unexpected yet welcomed.  If your client or clients are near, take the time to visit the studio if possible. Bring some cookies or something to encourage the friendship. Who knows, you may return often.  

by Leesha on February 28th, 2018

With the advent of the automated digital assistant, we are becoming accustomed to instance voiceover services. But if you’re producing eLearning, blogs, industrial, or commercial materials, the right voice can make or break the success
of your project.  Before you reach out to that person in your office with the “great voice,” I would say go for the professional voiceover.  Hiring a voice talent is the best and most cost-effective path to a successful audio project.

Pros are Pros
While your colleague may have a great speaking voice, this does not mean he or she is a voice actor or is the right voice for the project.  Most credible talents have spent time (lots of money) and sometimes years learning to communicate vocally with the skill of a stage actor.  Also, voiceover talents are professional business people. The voiceover’s business is to deliver what you need when you need it to the best of his or her ability.   

In her blog, The Benefits of Using Professional Voice Talent, Marie Hoffman noted that “The professional voice talent is a trained actor, who communicates, not just reads, your story.” Why go amateur when you can go pro the first time?

Business of Caring
Voiceover professionals are concerned about your project.  That may seem odd, but voiceover talents want to see their clients' succeed.  As such, the success of a well-performed project gives the actor a sense of satisfaction especially when he or she knows that you are pleased with the outcome.  

Relationships for Repeat Help
If you have ongoing projects or even occasional ones, time and money can be lost looking for an in-house voice or new talent for each project.  When you work with a professional voiceover, you have a go-to expert. In many cases, your expert can refer you to other reliable talents for your various voiceover needs. Building relationships can lead to helpers in the voiceover industry reducing your overall project cost and time expenditures.

Would you ask your Dentist to lay carpet in your home? Probably not. So, let the voiceover professionals do their job for your business: to voice your project with passion and expertise.



by Leesha on February 20th, 2018

(Revised repost from 1/2016)

With a new year comes a new look at one’s long-held hopes, dreams, and goals.  If voice acting or voiceover is a part of your 2018 goals, you may be rummaging the internet for voiceover conferences and training. You’ll have a LOT of choices. But how do you choose the right voiceover conference for you? I offer you this list of tips to help you narrow down the best use of your time and money (if even under development).

Support Your VO Goals

 
Outline what you need to learn about voiceovers.  While many new talents want to do everything voice related, that is just not realistic.  Focus on what you want to do in voiceovers.  For example, are you interested in audiobooks? What skills do you need (i.e., audio, engineering, or acting)?  Note one to two primary voiceover goals and then develop a sub-list of your specific needs.

Don't forget to consider how the conference will help your career.  Your primary goal should be to connect and build relationships with those who need your services as a voice talent. Prioritize your pursuits to help you develop and sustain a good client base and then to connect with colleagues for support and comradery.
 
Shop for the Right Fit
 
Look at each voiceover conference's agenda. See if you like the topics and if they are the subjects relevant to your goals.  Will the discussion areas further your career progress and do they relate to what you want to learn (the specifics in your list)?  Your takeaways should be viewed as part of your roadmap for the coming months or years.
 
Also, read reviews from earlier conferences and look for endorsements.  Ask your VO colleagues where they have attended.  Look at voiceover social media chatter on upcoming events.
 
Learn from the Voiceover Superstars

 
Read each presenter's bio and visit their website. What are their specialties and how long have the speakers been in the voiceover industry? What projects are to speakers' credit?  Note the projects they’ve worked on and if they are inline with the area or areas that you want to work on in the voiceover market.    
 
Pace your Budget
 
Is the event near you so you can commute?  If not, how much travel can you afford?  As a voiceover professional, you should budget for one to two conferences per year. Choose wisely. If you do travel, consider sharing the expenses with another VO talent (room, board, drive, etc.).  Some of these costs are a part of doing business, so your voiceover business should pay its expenses.  If your budget is not there yet, you may need to get creative on financing your conference attendance.
 
Make sure that the conference or conferences you choose enable you to network effectively with the voice acting community  Take advantage of these times as you build relationships and learn from the novice to the seasoned voice-over actors. Make each event a productive voiceover conference experience, and have fun!

by Leesha on February 13th, 2018

There are very few real shortcuts to voiceover success.  When I first started attending voiceover conferences, I noticed my appearance was not like most of the well-established talent.  Still, I knew voiceover is a career field that needs many types of voices and attitudes; it’s just a matter of finding the right clients. So, when I asked a colleague how he or she became a successful voice actor, I was a little discouraged by those who told me that it was "Luck."  I thought, "How do I get this Luck to work for me?" Over time, I found that Luck is not the final determiner of success.  For real lasting success as a voice talent, there is no substitute for hard work, persistence, and practice. 

In reading online articles and replies to comments, there seem to be a lot of people that believe voice acting is a quick, profitable path to success. With the advent of home digital audio recording and editing software plus the subsequent smartphone apps, becoming a successful voice talent overnight seems like a no-brainer.  The thinking for many entering the industry is you just need an agent and the voiceover work will come rolling in.  But things are not always as they appear.  Paul Strikwerda, 30+ years, seasoned voice talent, gives his thoughts on the blog, “Entitled Wannabees Need Not Reply.  “Take it from me: if doing voice-overs were that easy, everyone would be famous making a fortune from home because they have such a glorious voice… .”

On the other hand, I see many ads from companies and coaches promising voiceover success if you only buy their product, pay their coaches, or purchase their teachings.  New and or struggling talent become fodder for the constant barrage of “you’re not quite there yet” excuses that lead to more money spent and success eluded.  Like with any another business area, the desire to learn and train for this very particular creative arts field has its share of unscrupulous companies.  It’s discouraging to have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on voiceover equipment and training only to be no closer to your dream.

Is this your Waterloo? At the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon met his final defeat. Your quest for voiceover success need not end in such a devasting way.  Decide the boundaries on your pursuit of voiceover success.

Decide the lifespan of your voiceover career. How much time and money will you commit to your voiceover success?  In his book, The Dip, Seth Godwin recommends "Quitting the things that don’t work for your carrier can be powerful.  You need to know when enough is enough, so when you’re at the point of distress, you quit for the right reasons.

Let’s go. Let’s say you’ve decided you are destined to be a voice actor.  Note, I did not type “fated.” If voiceover success is your destiny, it’s time to learn to run your business like a business, commit to finding and working with the best coaches you can afford, market like your next meal depends upon it (which it might), and don’t let go until you have reached your level of success.  You will have many down times and good times.  Your life is worth being its best, and you can indeed be a successful voiceover talent.

Break that lip!

by Leesha on February 6th, 2018

As many enter the voiceover and voice acting arena, there is an area not usually addressed in blogs, at conferences, or during training sessions.  The mouth and vocal cords play an essential role in the success of anyone who speaks for a living.  Moreover, dental and vocal care can affect how a voice talent speaks, breaths, and feels. Your teeth, breathing, and the way you form and express words are so crucial that such items can break or make your voiceover career.  Here's how you can practice healthy vocal and dental care for voiceover success.  

Start with your Pearly Whites. Human teeth nicknamed “Pearly Whites” are the first item of note in our mouth matters.  The Mayo Clinics’ Healthy Lifestyle, Adult health article provides steps to promote oral health.  Consider these brushing basics from the American Dental Association:
  • Brush your teeth twice a day. When you brush, don't rush. Take time to do a thorough job.

  • Use the proper equipment. Use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably. Consider using an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, which can reduce plaque and a mild form of gum disease (gingivitis) more than does manual brushing. These devices are also helpful if you have arthritis or other problems that make it difficult to brush effectively.

  •  Practice good technique. Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle — aiming the bristles toward the area where your tooth meets your gum. Gently brush with short back-and-forth motions. Remember to brush the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue.

  • Keep your equipment clean. Always rinse your toothbrush with water after brushing. Store your toothbrush in an upright position and allow it to air-dry until using it again. Try to keep it separate from other toothbrushes in the same holder to prevent cross-contamination. Don't routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers, which can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast.

  •  Know when to replace your toothbrush. Invest in a new toothbrush or a replacement head for your electric or battery-operated toothbrush every three to four months — or sooner if the bristles become irregular or frayed.
From the Teeth to the Voice. Good mouth care also includes monitoring the voice. Overuse of the voice can negatively affect the healthiest mouth. The National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) provides information on protecting your voice. 
  • Try not to overuse your voice. Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse or tired.

  • Rest your voice when you are sick. Illness puts extra stress on your voice.

  • Avoid using the extremes of your vocal range, such as screaming or whispering. Talking too loudly and too softly can both stress your voice.

  • Practice good breathing techniques when singing or talking. Support your voice with deep breaths from the chest, and don't rely on your throat alone. Singers and speakers are often taught exercises that improve this kind of breath control. Talking from the throat, without supporting breath, puts a great strain on the voice.

  • Avoid cradling the phone when talking. Cradling the phone between the head and shoulder for extended periods of time can cause muscle tension in the neck.

  • Consider using a microphone when appropriate (and correct placement for the voiceover). In relatively static environments such as exhibit areas, classrooms, or exercise rooms, a lightweight microphone and an amplifier-speaker system can be of great help.

  • Avoid talking in noisy places. Trying to talk above noise causes strain on the voice.

  • Consider voice therapy. A speech-language pathologist who is experienced in treating voice problems can teach you how to use your voice in a healthy way.
A little care and attention to the mouth can lead to a long and successful voiceover career.  

Break a lip!