Thursday, April 24, 2008

VOICE 2008

If you are someone that has followed this blog for a while, then you are likely someone who has visited some of the voice over message boards from time to time. Lately, there have been many threads posted discussing the upcoming VOICE 2008 conference going on in LA in August.

I attended VOICE 2007, and had the time of my life. I had been hesitant to commit to attending VOICE this year for a variety of reasons. The majority of the reasons were personal (my husband and I hope to put our house on the market around that time, but we may push that back). However, I really wanted a confirmation of some sort that VOICE 2008 would be as great as 2007. I wanted to know that I would learn a ton and have an opportunity to connect with some of the best in LA.

While I did pick up some great morsels of information at VOICE 2007, the best part was networking with fellow voice actors and producers. My fear this year was that it would be too tailored to those new to voice over. I also worried that some of my pals from last year might not be there this year.

I'm someone who likes to see a 'sign' that lets me know what I should do. So- I sat back to see if anything would pop up letting me know I should go.

My sign came 2 days ago in the form of an e-mail from Judy Steidl. My pal Bobbin Beam had thrown my name into the hat of folks to join the Advanced Team for VOICE 2008. I recognized the sign, and immediately signed up for VOICE!

Let me say, I am SO glad I did! I just finished my first conference call with the Advanced Team (including James and Penny). I can not express how thrilled I am with some of the items James and Penny are cooking up for the conference.

I'm not allowed to spill the beans just yet, but I want to encourage each of you to sign up for the newsletter at the VOICE 2008 website. Announcements are coming soon that will really put VOICE on a new level. Whether you are just getting into voice over, or are a seasoned professional- this is going to be an amazing event.

Early bird registration ends May 15th, so if you are planning to attend, you'll want to hop to it!

I know I can sometimes be a skeptic, and I believe asking questions and making people think is a good thing. I will say- for me- it has now been confirmed that this event is going to be worth every penny . [Although I'm still amazed at the $20 a day parking, which I'm told is normal in LA! This small town girl has never paid $20 to park a car!]

I'm pumped about VOICE, and I can't wait to see what else James and Penny have up their sleeves. If tonight is any indication- it's going to be a wild weekend!

If you are attending, make sure to say hello!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is a special day for me. Not only because I am passionate about our planet, but also because two years ago today my husband and I were married.

It was a coincidence that our wedding fell on Earth Day, yet it was so appropriate considering he is a meteorologist and I am a supporter of living 'green'.

It's been very exciting to watch as the word 'green' has become something wonderful, something to strive for. No longer are conservationists considered 'tree-huggers', they are looked at in a positive light. It is now hip to be green- YAY!

Even better...and Kermit the Frog would love is easy being green!

New products are popping up all the time...household cleaners made with essential oils in place of dangerous fragrances, energy saving appliances (even light bulbs can now conserve energy!), organic foods, etc.

If each day we all do at least one thing positive for our planet, it not only changes our lives, it changes the Earth for future generations.

Last year I wrote a blog about how voice actors can take small steps to conserve energy and live a greener life. I hope you will take a few minutes to read it.

In addition to the suggestions listed, I have found a few more fantastic items and ideas that can help your business while helping the Earth:

1. Microfiber Electronics Cloth. It is important to keep our equipment free of dust and pet hair. These cloths can be used over and over on computer screens, keyboards, and all audio and video equipment. Plus, they can be washed and used again! No more sprays, and less waste from disposable cloths.

2. Energy Star. Look for vacuums and appliances with this label. Not only do they conserve water and energy, they are tax deductible! (Please speak with your accountant first) Make sure you are using energy saving light bulbs in your lamps and fixtures.

3. Stop printing those scripts! I am guilty of this myself. so many scripts, so much ink, so much paper wasted. After a recent project had me printing 45 full color pages to read, I knew I had to make a change. I added a shelf to my recording booth so I can set up my laptop to read scripts from. Easy!

4. Ebay. Yes, I mentioned this a year ago, but wanted to drive home the point. If you need new equipment, why not buy used? It is unlikely anyone will ever know that mic-pre has a tiny scratch on it's left side...and you'll save money while keeping one more non-biodegradable object out of a landfill.

5. Clean up. I mentioned the microfiber cloths, but did you know how much dust and pet hair can become trapped inside our equipment? Over the weekend, we took the casing off my computer, and in only a few short months since it's last cleaning, it was full of cat hair. Cleaning out the insides of electronics helps prolong their life and overall efficiency.

So, there you go- 5 more easy ways to be a greener voice actor! I'd love to know the many ways you conserve, so feel free to leave a comment!

Finally, a very happy anniversary to my amazing husband. Thank you for your support, love, and mean the world to me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Because I Can

I started this blog a year and a half ago because I missed having an outlet for my thoughts after more than a decade spent on the radio sharing my life. I try to be helpful, and I try to give a glimpse into the life of one voice actor building a business. Lately, there's been something on my mind- and I've decided to write about delicately as possible. As I tend to do, I'll be comparing two opposite thoughts in the hopes that the comparison will sell my point.

I've had my Blue Point Birman cat, Xen, for 9 years now. He is one of those cats with a huge personality that everyone loves because he is so beautiful. One of the things I love most about him, is his ability to constantly push my buttons. He will do anything and everything to get my attention.

Case in point...most mornings I wake up in a very strange position on the bed. My head is not on the pillow, and I am often contorted down near the foot of the bed. Why? Because as soon as my husband leaves for work in the morning, Xen starts slowly pushing me off my pillow. Because I am asleep, I don't even realize it's happening. He will lick my forehead, claw at my hair, lightly bite me...anything to get me to inch by inch move away from my pillow. Once he is successful, he stretches out like a King across my pillow and sleeps the morning away. What makes this so funny, is that we have dozens of pillows in the house that Xen could choose to sleep on. He could even take over my husband's pillow once he is gone. However, Xen has a point to prove- he takes my pillow for the simple reason that he can.

What Xen doesn't understand is that we both lose when he does this. I spend the morning trying to get my pillow back, and both of our sleep is disturbed because of it...nothing is gained by this little competition.

OK- here comes the comparison to voice over. I've noticed some major jobs popping up on the pay to play sites lately with extremely low budgets. EXTREMELY low budgets. They are jobs we would all want to have, but at the rates posted, I am amazed that anyone goes for them.

I believe when one voice actor takes a national job for the price of a local commercial, it hurts all of us- including the actor that accepted the job. Sure, they can promote the fact that they booked a huge gig, but does that tiny perk outweigh the overall damage done?

Those of us with many years under our belt as voice actors have always said the client will get what they pay for. If they offer considerably less money than they should, they will only be able to book a less than stellar voice. Sadly, in the last few weeks I've noticed that isn't the case. Decent actors seem to be taking these jobs to have something to promote. It's a short term gain for them in exchange for a long term loss to the voice acting community.

Much like my cat Xen, once he learned that he could push me off my pillow...he continued to do so. If clients are able to find decent voices for small budgets, then the rest of us will suffer. I do not blame the client for this. If I could build a great house for a fourth the price, I would!

Personally, I refuse to drop my rates for any job. Why? Because I've spent thousands of dollars on great equipment, voice coaches, training, website, etc, etc. Voice actors have a larger overhead than most would expect, and I need to maintain my rates to profit.

Plus, I know I'm worth it. So, I'll continue to fight Xen for my pillow, and I'll continue to audition for jobs that are willing to pay the fair rates. I believe if we all maintain the same integrity, in the end- we will all win.

I'd like to add, I did not write this blog to ruffle any feathers. Nor do I think I am going to change the way anyone operates. However, if one person just getting into the business reads this and decides to stick to the fair rates...then I will have succeeded in my mission.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Student of Success

My pal Stu Gray has tagged me for a recent blog he wrote. It's about being a student of your own success, and he asked several of us voice actors to answer 4 questions.

1. What habits have enabled you to become successful?
Consistency is key to any success. My clients know they can rely on me to deliver a quality product on time (or ahead of schedule). It also pays to be friendly and flexible. Working as a freelance actor/voice actor means I don't have to adhere to staunch corporate rules. I can work with my client to meet their expectations. I have found no better marketing tool than simple word of mouth, therefore I give each project 100%

2. What habits have blocked you from success?
Fear and self doubt. In a profession such as voice over, the 'competition' is staggering. It is easy to doubt my abilities when I am not hired for a job. Fear has prevented me in the past from picking up the phone to market and sell my services. Cold calling is one of my greatest weaknesses. I also suffer from mild stage fright. I've been working very hard to overcome all of these obstacles. There is no room for self doubt in this business. I've been blessed with a thick skin from years in radio, and I work to keep my confidence levels high.

3. What advice would you give a young VO professional?
Keep your day job. Seriously! I receive so many e-mails per month from people ready to quit their jobs and become full time voice actors. I guess it sounds so glamorous. They have no idea the amount of work it will take to build a client base. Many of these folks have only had one or two jobs and think the clients will just appear. I always tell people to keep their day job, and do voice over on the side. When voice work is paying more than their day job salary, then it's time to consider a switch to full time.

The other advice I give is to never stop learning. Continue studying with different voice coaches, taking acting and improv lessons, singing lessons, etc. We must always work to improve our craft and challenge ourselves.

4. Whats the best book(s) you have read to help you become successful at what you do?
This will sound funny, since it's not a book about voice over...but Smart Women Finish Rich is one of the best books I have read. As a freelance non-union actor, it is up to me to put money back for my retirement. I have to keep my earnings and expenses organized, pay taxes, etc. The more business knowledge one possesses (branding, marketing, networking, book keeping, etc), the better the chances of overall success.

Thanks Stu- this was fun! I look forward to reading everyone's response to the questions!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Can I Take Five?

This past Friday morning I had an on-camera session, filming a series of web videos. I was fortunate to work with one of my new favorite production companies, as well as a terrific client and ad agency.

The beautiful and talented make-up artist on set had to actually pin me into my brown wool suit as it was about one size too large. So, there were large clips and invisible tape running all along my spine and across my collar bone. From the front, everything was clean and crisp...from the back, I looked like a giant science experiment!

Because of the time spent locking me into my mark, I didn't want to move around very much- lest I pop any pins or have pieces of my hair fall out of place.

The first hour moved along smoothly. I had a total of ten sections to record via teleprompter (which I was told was the smallest teleprompter in existence, a fact I can attest to!). With only 3 sections left, I started feeling slightly dizzy.

Because of the massive studio lights (the largest I had ever seen) and my dark wool suit (which felt more like a corset than a suit), I was sweating profusely. The beautiful and talented make-up artist was having to 'blot' me between every take. I was slowly beginning to dehydrate, and was in desperate need of some sugar (having filmed through lunch).

But, I wanted to keep going. I didn't want to risk messing up all the pins along my spine, and I wanted to get us back on schedule (the previous production had run long, and I was hoping to help everyone out). So I continued to push through.

With only two sections left to go, I started getting that 'sinking' I might actually pass out. The director was watching me closely and asked if I would like to take a break.

No, no- I'm fine, I said. Then I had a flashback to some reality show I had seen one time (I can't remember which one- something to do with modeling). One of the girls was succumbing to hypothermia but continued with the shoot. In the end, her photos suffered because of it.

So, I re-thought my answer and asked if I could take a few minutes to sit down out of the lights. Of course, it was no problem and the client took those five minutes to discuss some changes to the script.

In the end, the break worked out for everyone. My pins stayed in place. I felt much better, and the client was able to make the necessary changes. The production ended right on time.

Driving home afterward, I thought about why I was so afraid to take a break. What did I have to prove? What if I had passed out...that would have delayed production much longer than my tiny break did! Knowing my limits came across as much more professional than giving a sub-par performance.

It is impossible to give your best if you are running on empty. You suffer, the production staff suffers, and ultimately the client and the product suffer.

From now on, I will never be afraid to take five and recharge. Whether it's a long voice over session or an on camera session, walking away for a minute can help the mind and body refocus. In the end, everyone wins!

Monday, April 7, 2008


It has been a very busy few weeks for me, which I am extremely thankful for. When you work freelance, you never know from day to day what type of projects may land in your lap. In just this last week, I voiced a large e-learning project, an children's audiobook project, several radio commercials...and even managed a couple of on camera jobs.

I don't want to bore you with my day to day happenings (like in my previous blog- hah!), but I thought I would share a few of the items I have found that make my life as a voice actor much easier.

No, I'm not talking mics and pre-amps, we all know how important those items are. I'm speaking of the non-essentials we all have lying around our office that suddenly become oh so essential. Here they are, in no particular order...

1. My calculator. Rarely am I found more than a few feet away from one of my calculators. I love those little solar powered tools! Mine is regularly used to help with invoice totals, tax withholdings, etc. It also came in quite handy recently when quoting for that e-learning job!

2. My stopwatch. I have 2- and they are used all the time. In the U.S., radio commercials are typically :30 or :60 long...which means our voice over needs to be no longer than 28.5 or 58.5. My inner clock is never that precise, that is why a good timer is a major necessity. Plus, if you are ever stressed out and need to check your heart!

3. My scanner. Having discovered some papers I forgot to give to my CPA, and having no time for a trip uptown- that scanner came in mighty handy! It's also great for scanning in checks and pay stubs to keep for your records.

4. The e-learning project contained about 700 medical terms I had never heard of. Thank goodness for pronunciation guides!

5. 100% Whole Grain Fig Newtons. Need I say more?

6. Pilates: 10 Minute Solution. My favorite work out DVD of all time, it contains (among others) a 10 minute set for relaxation and flexibility. I have found no better (or shorter) way to relieve stress and open your chest to help you breathe better.

I'm sure, given time, I can come up with a very long list of essentials for voice over. I'd be interested to hear what non-studio equipment items you find you can't live without!