The Compassionate Voice
by Leesha on May 16th, 2018

Voiceovers is a great way to express your creative side.  If you take your acting to the next level, voiceovers as a business can be challenging as well as rewarding.  For any company, adding related services can help meet more client needs.  Let your voice acting business be a launch pad for developing a creative suite of services.  

Audio Services

Those new to the business may start with recording and editing the dry voice.  Custom recordings can include being directed in your home studio through Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) or other remote audio monitoring and recording tools. The next logical step is to add music and sound effects to your voice recordings.  Add-on products to your dry voice can help your client and reduce his or her need to find sperate sources to finalize the products.  

Music can be purchased via the web (including licensing etc.) for adding to your project.  Consider Royalty Free Music.  In his blog, What is Royalty Free Music? What does it mean exactly?, Gilles Arbour explains “In a nutshell Royalty Free Music refers to a type of music licensing that allows the purchaser to pay for the music license only once and to use the music for as long as desired.”  You want to make sure that you have the proper license and permission to use music when incorporating into a client’s production or demo.  

Multiple Voice Actors

If you are partnered with other voice actors, you can contract out a portion of your voiceover work to a talent of another sex or talent who has a different sound for client products.  Develop the partnerships and written agreements before you have that large project.  Establish turnaround times and other specifics within your agreements with others to keep your plans on time and on budget.

Additional Services

Consider adding copywriting, editing or other services. If writing is a skill you can offer, consider that as a part of your business’s for-pay service.  Also, add video development to your suite of services.  Review the web-based programs and apps that allow you to develop a video and add your voice to the final product.  Your client can provide the graphics and data, and you can produce a complete product for your voiceover client’s platforms.  If that’s a service you’re not ready to provide, again partner with those with good video skills and develop a process of working together to build your projects.   

Sharing Knowledge

Teaching is an excellent way of giving back and helping others along their way to voiceover and business success.  Consider volunteering or giving a free seminar in your community on getting into voiceovers.  You can develop blogs or papers on voice acting and related skills and post to your website and social media platforms.  Not all your information has to be only about voiceovers. Companies in different genres share the need for sound business practices and keeping abreast of valuable information.  Share what you know to help improve the relationship between you and your current and potential clients.  

Consider writing an eBook of your business knowledge or even a subject you consider yourself an expert.  For example, if you are a cyclist, you may want to write about the basics, equipment maintenance, physical conditioning, accouterments, or other related topics. Let others know that you have interest and knowledge that link back to the excellence of your voiceover services.  You can even voice the audio portion of your eBook and make your final product for sale or a giveaway to those visiting your website.

Keeping Your Clients Up to Date

As you evolve to more and better services, keep your clients in the loop through newsletters and social media postings.  Your clients may have a project on the horizon, and your new company services will help fill the bill.  

Don’t use consumers as your test case.  Make sure your expanded services are tested and tried.  Your clients should receive a seamless final project in the same manner as when you provided voiceover services alone.  

Be Indispensable

The voice acting business can lead to so many creative services.  Possible talents can include storytelling programs, video blogs, audio newsletters, and more.  Take time and research what skills and services you can add to your business.  Network with other voiceover actors, see what other skills they have, and combine the right skills to expand your suite of amenities.  

Lastly, infrequently poll your existing clients and see if they have new service needs.  Your clients may be looking for the know-how you recently added to your enterprise. Look for ways to expand your business to a full suite of creative tools to become your clients’ one stop shop.  



by Leesha on May 1st, 2018

Voice actors in business provide a service.  The Internet and social media are key places for hanging one’s shingle and open for business signs.  In turn, offers for voice jobs can come from many sources.  But what happens when you must turn down a gig?  We all want to be liked (and get paid), so saying “no” may seem like a business killer.  Sometimes, giving bad news is a part of life, but knowing why, when, and how to turn down business can make all the difference in your future.  Here're my why, when, and how for saying “No” to a voiceover job.  

Why Do It

Since the whole point of a for-profit business is to make a profit, turning down business seems like the last thing a working voice actor wants to do.  Still, circumstances will arise in life when turning down a voice job works best.  In "When to Say No to Work" (posted in Backstage, April 7, 2011), Michael Kostroff notes, “It's often said there are only three reasons to accept an acting job: 1) for artistic satisfaction, 2) for money, or 3) for career benefits—contacts, experience, education, film for your reel, a valuable credit, etc. It's a philosophy well worth adopting. You may want to consider passing up jobs that don't meet any of these criteria, leaving that work to someone for whom it might have greater value.”

When It's Best

There is always a cost in running a business.  Voice acting is a creative pursuit, but that does not remove the need to run an efficient business.  When a project is very costly in time, a low return on investment, or needs more than you can provide for a final quality project, you may want to pass.  Passing on a job should be a stepping stone not a bolder in the road.  Look for ways to keep it moving.  

How to Say It

In “The 8 do's and don'ts of delivering bad news” (CNBC Make It) Wed, 5 April 2017,
Rhett Power’s advises, “Don’t burn your bridge – say it nice:  Even though you won’t be working for the organization, it’s in your interests to be polite and professional. You never know when you might want to work for the employer in future, so it pays not to burn bridges.”

If you know you are not able to fulfill the offer, let the client know as soon as possible.  Write or speak your message in a respectful tone and manner.  Give one or two reasons for your decision.  Shy away from giving reasons like such as there is not enough money in the project, you’re taking your kids on vacation, or you want to watch a movie.  While these may be your legitimate reasons, the client may not agree.  If your goal is money, then you may want to negotiate with the client beforehand to try to reach a better payment for the project.  However, if you have another engagement, conflict or many obligations, a personal emergency, etc., express the truth in your information to your client.  It’s better to be professional and upfront with your situation to help keep good working relationships.  There may be a time when you are available and can perform other voice work.  

End with salutations and a request to keep in touch.  Business relationships start with people relationships.  It’s your job as a professional voice talent to be savvy and helpful even if you have to say "No." 



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!