Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Are Your Kitchen Cabinets Stocked?

During a recent teleseminar with Nancy Wolfson and Anna Vocino (Acting For Advertising Part 8), Nancy made a comment that really hit home for me. Nancy and Anna were taking questions, and several people were very curious about ISDN, which Anna had recently added to her studio. Someone mentioned that they heard ISDN was on the way 'out' and asked if it made sense to go through the effort of hooking it up. Nancy made the comment (and forgive me for not having exact quotes, as I'm trying to write this from memory- scary!), "When your kitchen cabinets are fully stocked, you feel more confident about the future."

Nancy really touched on something so valuable here! Those that truly know me best know that I have a fear of not having food in the pantry. For me, food is security. As long as my family can eat- I know we will be ok. To be honest, I've always been a 'be prepared for anything and everything' kind of girl. Which is why I think Nancy's comment made such an impact on me.

Of course, Nancy wasn't talking about food, she was talking about our preparedness as voice actors to be able to handle anything that comes our way. The more prepared we are to meet any challenge, the higher our confidence will be, and ultimately the better job we will do for our clients.

So, how can we prepare? First, by making sure we are up to date on current voice over trends through extensive training with top notch coaches (Nancy is one of my coaches, and I highly recommend her!). Regular practice with a coach and on our own can help develop good habits to be called upon at a moment's notice.

Second, we can prepare by making sure we have the best sounding studio possible. Everyone is different, so the equipment that gives me the best sound isn't what will give you the best sound. Research and explore all the possibilities. I love having ISDN. It's not only helped me maintain the clients I had prior to relocating to FL, it's opened new doors for me as well! It's just one more 'can of food' to add to my 'pantry'. Are you an audio producer? That's something great to add to your resume! Do you have a wide selection of royalty music and sound fx? If not, it may be something for you to look in to!

Next, we can prepare by making sure we are marketing to the right buyers. Is your current marketing campaign working for you? If so- yay! If not- change it! Voice over is often 90% working to get work, and 10% actually doing the work- so make sure your 90% is well spent!

Finally, we can fully stock our 'kitchen' by surrounding ourselves with positive, like-minded people that want us to achieve our goals. These are the folks you turn to after a bad day that pick you up and dust you off. They might be fellow voice actors that send you job leads, or point you in directions that might help your business. As long as you are careful to give as much as you receive, your voice over kitchen will be bursting!

When I e-mailed Nancy to ask her permission to use her wise words, she told me about a great book relating to this very topic. You can find it in her online store...it's called "Talent Is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin. I plan to read it soon!

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm Me, Only Slightly More Reigned In

A couple of years ago I made a decision to change my lifestyle. I decided to eat right, exercise more, and do all the things we are always being told to do. For the most part, I've been very disciplined in this new lifestyle...with a few exceptions. I have two major weaknesses when it comes to food. The first is candy, the second is cheese. I LOVE cheese! I think every meal is better with a big old heaping helping of cheese on top! I don't discriminate between my cheeses, I love each and every one of them the same. The same goes for candy, I love candy! I have my entire life.

So, what to do? I don't want to change who I am, and I certainly don't want to deprive myself of the things I love (a sure fire way to fail at any new diet!). So, I eat fat free cheese and I do an extra set of leg lifts during pilates...I eat some Smarties and add 10 sit ups to my daily work out.

The point is, I allow myself to be me, only slightly more reigned in when needed.

Now, this is a blog about voice over- not diet and lifestyle. I share my eating habits with you to help illustrate a point. I spend a lot of time listening to my fellow voice actors. I visit sites like Video Voice Bank, I listen to the commercials between songs on the radio, I google voice actors and listen to their demos. I do this because I want to make sure I am up with the current trends, that my demos still compete with the best, that I can offer what the best can offer. However, I don't listen to my fellow voice actors so that I can be them.

Truth is, I like me. I like that people giggle when I answer the phone and tell me my voice makes them smile. I like being told I sound like a real life cartoon. I like when a new client's first question is, "how old are you?" I like being told I remind them of a happy young mom.

If you are a fan of American Idol like I am, you know that the one thing the judges look for each and every week is an artist who knows who they are. We've all heard Simon give the criticism that someone was too 'sound-a-like'. It's the same in voice over. You want to be the voice your client thinks of when a project presents itself that fits your sound. You don't want to be so many different things, that the client isn't sure where you best fit in...or worse, forgets who you are completely!

So, be you...only be willing to compromise. Sometimes a producer will hire you because he/she sees your voice going somewhere you haven't thought of yet. I like cheese, but I'm willing to eat fat free cheese. I like doing zany character voices, but I'm also more than happy to play it straight. I bring 100% of me to every session, but sometimes the client prefers me to be sugar free. :)

I am the only me in this world. You are the only you. Figure out what makes you unique...what you have to offer that no one else can. Then, be proud of all the great things that came together to give you your unique sound. Take that into each and every session...just be ready to reign it in when you need to.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pot Holes on Confidence Rd.

When a business is based on creative interpretation, there are bound to be major ups and downs in levels of confidence. Voice over (along with acting, art, etc) would likely make a top 5 list for jobs that truly test your self esteem.

Take the last 6 months for example...I never knew relocating a voice over business would test me to the limits that it did. There were times that I knew everything was going to be just fine, that my clients would stick with me, and that my studio would finally come together. Then there were days I was ready to pack it in and head to Walmart for a people greeter application.

Of course, you don't need to look back over months or years to see the roller coaster of emotion our job can bring. Here is a little of the feedback I've received just over the last 12 hours for a variety of projects: "Very good! I don't know if we could afford you though.", "very nice job", "Thanks! I think it was just written a few words too long but you made it work and sound great!" Not bad, right? Well, here is some feedback I received for a mock audition I recorded for fun for a voice over message board..."Sorry, but the young girl sound may not fly for this purpose", "Perhaps not the right voice for a dramatic read with “bold, driving” music, maybe too young sounding to be the voice of wisdom. But could possibly work well with softer, more Hallmark-type music. " Hm, not so good huh?

I share these examples simply to illustrate my point. Along Confidence Rd, we will all encounter speed bumps and pot holes. It's the way life goes. The important thing is not to ride too high during the good moments, and not to fall too low during the not-so-good moments.

How do you do this? Here are a few of the tricks I like to use. When I'm feeling especially self conscious or nervous, I picture my resume in my head. Seriously! I think back to all of my successes, and all of the projects I've had the great privilege to be a part of. If it's a particularly bad day, I will go back and read my client testimonials. Truth be told- I did this so many times over the past 6 months to help keep my confidence up, I actually had the 'Kudos' section of my website moved to the front page to make it easier for me to get to! Hah!

As for those 'riding too high' moments I find that any time my ego starts to swell, life always has a way of putting me back in my place. When this happens, I like to consider what lesson I can learn from the negative comments, or low moments. How can I use those speed bumps and pot holes to better myself in the long run? For the above negative feedback, I learned that I need to consider not just the message of the script, but what the overall intent for the project is. Instead of doing what I do best, I need to stretch myself in new and different ways.

Voice over is always full of surprises. So, while you want to avoid the dips and peaks- sometimes it's good to head straight for them! Recently I was asked to audition for the role of a mom voice for a TV spot. This was way out of my comfort zone, as I'm known for my young sound- but I decided to face the risk of rejection and just go for it! I was shocked when I was cast, and I had the pleasure of recording the spot last week. I truly surprised myself when a mom emerged right before my eyes! If I hadn't risked falling into the pot hole- I wouldn't have discovered this great little detour in my journey! Now I know I can take that 'mom' road whenever I choose- and I can do so confidently!

So, how do you keep yourself safe on Confidence Rd? What do you do to avoid the obstacles, and how do you handle it when you inevitably find those obstacles in your path?