Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking Back...

It started with a post from my pal Peter O'Connell on his blog. Then Philip Banks brought it up on the message boards. That's when I knew it was time...

It was time to open up the books and take a serious look at my first year as a full-time voice actor.

First, I went through my 2007 earnings (no, I am not planning to share the numbers here...sorry) Turns out 30% of my earnings were on camera (commercials, infomercials, etc) and 70% was VO. Then, I took a hard look at my VO work.

Where did it come from?

I broke this down into type of job (commercial, animation, radio imaging, video games, narrations, etc), origin of job (word of mouth, website hits, local studios, agents, online casting sites, etc), and finally by client (repeat versus one time only).

The results were fascinating. I discovered that much of my time had been spent pursuing work in places that netted me the least work! I also realized my marketing efforts over the year were not always spot on for the type of work I am most likely to book.

After breaking down my earnings, I turned my sites to my spending. Where was my money going? Most of it obviously went to equipment for my home studio and website maintenance. Next in line was money spent towards classes, coaching, and conferences. Last in line was money put towards marketing.

I felt my spending was just as it should be. Without great equipment, my clients can't rely on my product. Without proper coaching (which I believe should never end!) I won't be up to date on the latest VO trends. Without great will future clients find me?

Philip Banks said to me on the phone the other day that we, as voice talent, are really just selling our time. Is the amount of time spent on a project equal to the total earnings? If you continue to audition for the same type of jobs and aren't booking anything, is it time to pursue a different type of work?

My voice coach (and friend!), Nancy Wolfson, recently shared some incredible ideas about business with me in one of our sessions. I asked her permission to share a small part of it with you (I want to add...if you ever have the opportunity to study with Nancy, it would be a wise investment in your business. As you will read, she really knows her stuff!):


Every company is obliged, first and foremost, to return profit and value to shareholders. Are you returning profit to yourself?
It is wise to run the year-end metrics of your business to define and evaluate profits, losses, investments, and returns.

Evaluate the time and money and energies you expend and in what areas against the returns, having a look at what created value for you and what did not.

Do not limit the concept of "value" only to tangible dollar income. A few examples of non-monetary positive value:
- improved skills - they are like upgraded machinery in your factory.
- an improved demo (or your first one!) is like stocking your shelves with better inventory.
- perhaps you met people in your business pursuits who opened doorways to auditions or perhaps you met a friend who created publicity for you.

How much of one's day is spent on the boards versus pursuing skills, pursuing work, actually doing jobs? How much of one's sweat goes into jobs in one piece of your business's pie chart and not another...Sometimes we realize we've spent lots of energy gossiping and commiserating when that time could have been more positively spent making valuable business connections.
Has the marketing been more busywork than targeted?
Is what is being marketed up to top competition standards deserving of that energy and worth risking that "first impression"?

I'm excited to support those who work hard about working smart in '08 and beyond!-- Nancy Wolfson

With only a few days left in 2007, and with tax season looming is the time to take a serious look at your own business. What changes can you make to ensure 2008 is even more profitable than 2007? What are your overall goals? Are they centered more around your earnings or more around the types of jobs you do? Are you in need of better equipment, or a great voice coach? What are the people and things you spend your time and money on really doing to further your dreams?

I am confident I am headed in the right direction, and with the right people by my side...are you?

Here's to an incredible 2008, may you be Blessed with health, love, friendship, and much success!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Surfing The 'Net...

I hope you each had a wonderful Christmas (or whichever Holiday you celebrate)! As we look towards the New Year...I discovered there is quite a bit of activity online today! Perusing my favorite blogs and message boards, I came across some fun things, and some wise advice!

First, my dear friend Peter O'Connell had a wonderful idea on his blog. After all the discussion regarding Brian Williams hiring Michael Douglas to intro NBC's Nightly News, Peter put out his own casting call for voices. Of course, you would never hear someone with my voice type intro the evening news...but I still gave it a shot! You can hear all the 'auditions' on his blog. It's a good reminder of the kind of talent one can find in this country (and beyond)!

Second, I was reading some very wise words from Philip Banks on one of the VO message boards. I wanted to share his thoughts, because I think we could all learn something from them:

The Year Of The Spine, by Philip Banks

“Hello. My name is Marv’. I’m a voice talent and a victim of bullying”. So go the introductions around the room at the most recent meeting of Bullying Victims Anonymous or BVA.
In LA there are groups specifically for voice over artists. Believe me? Of course it’s untrue but it ought to be true because the number of victims in the voice over world is huge. Combine insecurity, ego, desperation with a sprinkling of sycophancy and cowardice and you have the perfect target for a bully.

Make it your goal not to be a victim or a bully and watch yourself for declining standards of behaviour.

Here’s an example. An agency sends you an audition for a job but you notice that the fee is neither here nor there and that it’s a cattle call. You delete the audition and contact the agent requesting that they only contact you with jobs or when a client has specifically requested that you audition. Now, how many of you as you read the example started saying “ah but it doesn’t work like that” or “I don’t want to upset the agent” or “an audition is good practice”? Take a black marker pen and write VICTIM on your forehead, it’ll save people time. To quote Julia Robert’s character in Pretty Woman “I decide who, I decide when, I decide how much!” Look in the mirror and say it out loud.

The pay to play (audition) voice over web sites tell talent how much, when, where, how to but they pay talent NOTHING! Talent pays a site and then allows it to set the agenda. For $100, $200, $300 or more the site works for the voice NOT the other way around.

“I’m a voice over professional and I understand the way things are done”. No you don’t, you’ve just fallen into line. Try this line in the mirror “Oh no, I’ve become a coward” can you bear to repeat it? I hope not.

I’m certainly not saying become an arrogant, pompous moron but I am asking you to think about the way you behave and the way you are perceived. It is possible to stand your ground, let people see things from your point of view, don’t let people waste your time, money or talent ALL with a smile on your face and with an agreeable manner.

It's worth mentioning that this was written to be read as a sort of "pause for thought" and the comments made are based on some tough lessons I had to learn a few years ago.

Good luck for 2008

Finally, (and thank you for sticking with me this long!), a voice over hopeful posted some wonderful questions on VoiceOverSavvy. If you are considering voice over, or are just beginning your career, I highly recommend you read this post!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Christmas Family

My friend, Philip Banks, had a splendid idea yesterday. Start a voice over chain letter that would be passed from man to woman to man to woman and on...

It would be a reading of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas and would feature a few of our friends from the VO-BB.

It started with an idea...and now it is posted for all to hear.

Many thanks to Philip for not only the idea, but the fantastic production of the entire project!

Edit: Here is now the COMPLETE list of contributors on this project (in order of appearance):

1. Philip Banks
2. DB Cooper
3. Peter O'Connell
4. Kara Edwards
5. Bob Souer
6. Diane Maggipinto
7. Todd Ellis
8. Connie Terwilliger
9. Brian Hart
10. Moe Egan
11. Greg Littlefield
12. Mary McKitrick
13. Michael Rhys
14. Liz de Nesnera
15. Frank Frederick
16. Tammy McDaniel
17. Greg Phelps
18. Caryn Clark
19. Greg Allen
20. Marcy Worthington
21. Frank Frederick
22. Liz de Nesnera
23. Michael Rhys
24. Mary McKitrick
25. Todd Ellis
26. Liz de Nesnera
27. David Monteath
28. Mary McKitrick
29. Philip Banks
30. Kara Edwards

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Get Well Soon!


Don LaFontaine had a recent health scare we could all learn something from. You can read his personal account of the story at

Metting Don was the highlight for many of us at VOICE 2007 in Las Vegas. He is a generous, funny, and charismatic man. Even my mom loved him!

I would like to add my well wishes to the thousands I know are headed his way. May you have a swift and pain free recovery Don!

[above photo taken at VOICE 2007]

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Power of Thank You

In my last post, I talked about the importance of humility, respect, and manners in all aspects of our business and personal lives. The only thing that could possibly be more important than these three things is the value of appreciation.

The holidays are a wonderful excuse to share your gratitude with those that make a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly impact on your life. It is, in fact, what the holidays are all about.

While it may seem this is a great time to market your business for next year, I believe it is a better time to say 'thank you' for the year that has past.

There are a wide variety of ways you can say 'thank you'. Write it in an e-mail, send a card, or give a gift. I honestly don't think one of these is better than the other, as long as the final message is the same.

I appreciate you for who you are, for how you have helped me, and for the difference you make in my life.

In this time of giving, don't forget those who impact your business the most. Not just your clients...but your agents, your coach, your colleagues, your favorite equipment supplier, your technician, your local studios, your friends and family who continue to support you and cheer you on. Each deserves all the thanks you can give!

Showing appreciation is less about the money you spend and much more about the thought you put into it. So spend a moment really thinking about those that matter, and how to best say 'thank you for all you do'.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Gift of Humility

When the decision is made to pursue voice over, there are many steps that must be taken to get from point A to point B. Demos, coaches, websites, branding, weekend seminars, etc, etc. Along the way, it is easy to forget our manners!

Bob Souer recently wrote a blog about the importance of editing ourselves in cyberspace. The things we write on message boards, the pictures we post, the reviews we write are all searchable by our current and potential clients. Bob reminds us that our image online needs to reflect the image we want to uphold in all aspects of our lives. It is in fact, our branding at stake.

I want to take it one step further. On several of the voice over message boards, there are sections where we can post demos for critique by our peers. More than once I have been astounded by the behavior of a very few individuals. When their colleagues take the time to offer advice, these few folks will actually argue and insult those they asked for help! It leaves me wondering, if they already know it all, why ask for advice?

The same can be said about the e-mails you send. I receive somewhere between 10-30 e-mails per month from folks asking how to break into the voice over business. 99% of the time these e-mails are very polite and to the point. On a rare occasion, however, these e-mails have been quite insulting. I've had my website made fun of, my demos trashed, my past work put down...all by folks wanting to do what I do for a living!

Typically, these e-mails simply become something my family and I joke about over a glass of wine...but occasionally they can be quite upsetting! I often think how fortunate it is for the e-mailer that those words were sent to me and not to someone who could potentially ruin their career before it even began!

When sending e-mails, making calls, writing critiques, asking for help, and a thousand more areas of your life...stop and remember humility is a gift. Our imperfections are what make us human...and I for one know I have a long way to go in this life...and much left to learn!