The Compassionate Voice
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!  

by Leesha on January 31st, 2018

There are searchers and there searches.  Searching and finding the right voiceover VO leads on the Web is more of a careful combination of creativity and skill.  When you want to find companies, you must think of possible combinations that can lead you to your goal.  As a voice talent, marketing to the right leads is key to your business success. But first, you must find your preferred VO clients. Careful web sleuthing can target those voiceover prospects needing your specific skills and talents. 

Start your VO client search with the below tips:

Decide on your Preferred Voiceover Clients.  Audio production comes in many forms and it a broad net. Narrow down your search to the type of clients you want to assist in voice production.  Do you have names or companies' URL?  Do you know of a business but don’t have a way of contacting the right office?  Start looking for the URL using the name and city if you have it.  

Brainstorm by Location

Come up with a list of possible words associated with audio, voiceover, and voice acting, etc.  List as many words that you can think of and use the list to start your search for potential clients.  You may also want to search locally, nationally, and internationally.  This type of search will give you a micro view, but you can narrow your findings as you review each search result.

Narrow the Field

Review each of the possible companies in your search results. Make sure you are looking at several pages of your search. Your ideal client may not show up on the first page or two.  Review and see if any of your results are potential voice clients in your niche.  This first search can take time, so you want to narrow your companies to 10, so you can do a more detailed review of each company.

Close Up Review
Using your top 10 list, review the sites to see if you’ve come across a possible match.  Review voice projects produced, recent projects, awards, company members, and the personnel.  I like to know how diverse the company is and the quality of their productions arm.  Determine if they produce their audio in-house and if not, who does their audio production.  You may want to add their partners to your list as potential clients, you never know.

Reach Out

Once you’ve developed your list of 10 excellent potential clients, email or call to see if the company is accepting new talent or other opening questions to begin establishing a relationship.  There are no shortcuts to finding and maintain good voice over clients.  It’s a good practice in the VO business, and the time you are spend searching for the right fit and reaching out to potential new clients (and friends) will garner many rewards in the future.  

Reward and Repeat

You may have to repeat this process a time or two, so carve out a specific time to develop your marketing list.  Take a break and even reward yourself for sticking to it then repeat the process.  Your goal is to find those voiceover clients needing your specific skills and talents. You're looking to provide a service with the best fits for you both. Your efforts are well worth it.

Break a lip! 

by Leesha-Compassionate Voiceovers on January 8th, 2018

And as professional voice actors, we want to be on top of our game and get every auditioned job.  However, you may feel pressure to be the best right out of the starting gate or feel stress if you are not getting the jobs and bookings at the rate of your VO colleagues. With all this desire for success, you may feel pressure not just from competing in the industry but also from yourself.  For lasting success, learn to pace yourself throughout the year and see your progress grow over time.

Be realistic about where you are. As we start 2018, this is a perfect time to assess where you are as a voice actor.  Did you meet your 2017 goals? Great. If not, where can you improve in 2018? Do you need training, practice, …or a vacation?!  Start out right by asking the hard questions and taking time to appreciate how far you have come and what you need to get to your next level in the voiceover field. In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says, “Put first things first.” Decide on what’s most important by priority and then act.

Give you a break, it will happen.  There are many talented and not so talented working voice actors all around us.  Don’t compare your performance as a VO actor to others.  Give you a break and grow at your own pace.  Continue developing your skills in performing, marketing, web presenting, and audio editing.  Work systematically and pace your time to build in each area of your voiceover career and business.  Remember...

        “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live
       the life he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”   
       Henry David Thoreau

Have fun. Voiceover and voice acting can be a fun career. If you find that all your efforts are not garnering you any enjoyment, you may want to think if voiceover work is your calling.  Life is short, and voiceover success takes a lot of time and effort.  If you enjoy the profession, pace yourself so you will not burn out at any point. Voice actor Bill DeWees’ has some great tips in his YouTube video, “Set YOUR pace in 2018.”

Break a lip!

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.