Monthly Archives: May 2012
Despite studying theater and drama in college (and always having an interest in the arts), Natalie never had any desire to be in front of a camera or on stage. At 20 years old, she discovered that voiceovers existed, but didn’t have any space in her busy schedule (she was single, had a mortgage and a very demanding job as a sales manager of a daily newspaper) to pursue a possible career shift into voiceovers. 12 years later, Natalie was married and a stay-at-home mom and she was looking for an outlet that would challenge her creatively. That was when she searched out Such A Voice.
Natalie’s training program focused on technique, visualization, pitch, inflection and lateral reading. "My training combined with the resources that Such A Voice offers in the Members Only Area has all aspects of the industry. It helped me work on developing my voice style, setting up my marketing, a business plan and more! I felt like I had an entire spectrum of knowledge from Such A Voice, I had a plan and knew what I needed to do to get started. I also joined in on the live bi-weekly training sessions, which I found extremely useful in helping guide me as a new voiceover talent".
When Natalie was ready to step into the voiceover booth, she was happy to have a trained producer from Such A Voice by her side "In an area that I knew nothing about I was happy to have someone so well-versed in recording demos. You need to make sure you get the best demo you can, that is what you’ll be selling at the beginning!" From there, Natalie often referred back to the resources provided by the Such A Voice program to set up her website and market herself on various social media and pay-to-play sites. She takes full advantage of web marketing between Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, Voices.com and Voice123.com!
Being a stay-at-home mom in the voiceover industry, Natalie probably appreciates the flexibility in her schedule most. However, she does say that lack of time is probably her biggest downfall. She loves having the ability to fit her work in around her very busy schedule instead of having a set of strict office hours. "Sometimes I get a big job that my day schedule doesn’t work with, so I stay up late to get the tracks recorded instead. My family will always come first, but with voiceovers I don’t have to choose between the two, there can be a happy balance".
Natalie did a great job marketing herself, she attributes this to the fact that she was in advertising sales for 9 years when she entered the voiceover industry. "I am determined and I know how to sell, I’m just selling my voice now instead of a product. When I first started in the business I created lists of local potential clients: advertising agencies, marketing agencies, TV stations, radio stations, producers, telephone on-hold companies and more! I had no problem picking up the phone and calling them to sell myself and get my demo’s out to as many people as I could."
Voiceovers have kept Natalie VERY busy since she completed her training with Such A Voice! "Last week I completed my 65th voice over project, the latest that I’m working on is a 70 minute (80 page) educational video for a German university." Her first job came from Voice123.com, it was a two-minute telephone on-hold recording. "I felt like I had won the lottery when I booked that job!"
You may recognize Natalie’s beautiful British accent being used as the voice of such companies as: 45 Degrees Latitude Film and Production, 371 Digital Films, Bandwidth.com, Beam Audio, Cherry Creek Radio, Digital Media Communications, Go On Hold, Griffin Wink Advertising, Legwork Creative, Motion Foundry Inc. and many more!
When we asked Natalie what her advice was for aspiring voiceover artists, we couldn’t help but nod emphatically as we listened to her answer: "If you are getting into the industry, get a professional demo cut! Use every avenue you have to promote your name. Don’t be afraid to offer free work at the beginning, as long as you then have their permission to reference that work on your voiceover resume (and use a recording of it on your website). I found that it was hard to have NO experience and a demo, so I offered a few freebies. I then took those freebies and used them as examples of my work. I requested testimonials from every client I worked with and asked permission to quote their company name. Within a short period of time I had an impressive resume for voiceovers!"
We’re so proud of your many successes, Natalie! We can’t wait to see (or hear) what you do next!
The advantages of recording at home is that it gives both you and your clients a win/win business relationship. The savings in studio fees for your clients can be phenomenal. It’s no secret that clients want to work with artists who cut great tracks and also save them money. Your clients know that hiring you will meet both their quality and budgeting needs.
Here are a few examples of how your home recording studio greatly benefits you and your clients:
- You: Short commute around the corner to a spare bedroom or down the hall.
- Client: No commute! You’re just a phone call and email away!
- You: Scheduling studio time…anytime you like!
- Client: Pure heaven! Great time flexibility in scheduling! I’m getting a professional quality recording without studio fees!
- You: Working in a relaxed home environment…even in your pajamas!
- Client: This is great! I can do this project on the phone and not leave the office or disrupt my daily schedule!
- You: Location is not a problem. Work with anyone…worldwide!
- Client: What a relief! I can access my favorite V/O artist for my overseas projects!
As you can see, offering home studio recording has quite a few advantages for you and your client. One of the best reasons to offer home recording is the marketing edge it gives you over your competition. Let’s face it; there are a lot of great voices in this industry. When it comes down to picking between you (V/O with home studio) and someone else (V/O only), who do you think your potential client will choose?
Now that you’re aware of the benefits in having a home recording studio, you need to know what professional equipment is necessary to do a quality job:
- A computer running Windows 7 or Mac OS X 10.4 or higher
- Audacity audio editor
- A USB preamp (Focusrite 2i2 is our favorite) – check here for more suggestions
- Microphone designed for professional speaking with a pop screen
- Quality microphone cable
You now have the basics on how home recording will increase your business and benefit your clients. The next thing you need to learn is how to set up your studio and use it!
" …that was the best $150 I have ever earned for a 3 minute job done in the comfort of my own home in my studio that my husband had built." –Anne-Marie Meeks, Professional Voice Over Actor, on her first job after completing the Such A Voice program
All of us have come into voice over work in different ways. Some of us are looking for a change of career, some of us are looking for a supplemental income and some of us are fulfilling a life-long dream much later in life. You always hear stories about artists showing signs of natural talent at a very young age and Anne-Marie Meeks definitely falls into this category.
Anne-Marie partially grew up in Nigeria, with her mother insisting that the children not speak the local lingo. So, she took to watching VHS videos of old movie classics like "My Fair Lady" and learning to mimic "proper English". Soon her family members couldn’t believe how similar she had made her voice sound to the movies and commercials she was listening to. After that a family member, who worked as a TV producer, cast Anne-Marie in her first gig in the 80’s doing a commercial for Star toilet paper. The older she grew, the more drawn into the VO industry she became. The deal was sealed when a classmate did his Engineering thesis on VOIP (Voice-Over-Internet Protocol) and needed a voice to demonstrate his product. He later sold the product with HER voice, and the rest has all been leading up to this point!
Anne-Marie worked with Anne Ganguzza in Dallas, Texas and there was an instant connection. "I loved Anne, she made me feel welcome and relaxed. I felt that we bonded. We first started out with VO in IVR‘s". From there she recorded her demo with Anne, and the first job didn’t take too long to arrive thereafter. "I had done the recording in my pajamas and fluffy slippers, sent it to the client and was really anxious. Within a minute, PayPal alerted me to payment and the client called to say he was pleased. I was so excited. VO Life is sweet!"
Anne-Marie’s advice for people venturing into the world of Voice Overs? "Always be open to constructive criticism, find your niche, everyone’s voice is unique and there is a unique job out there just for you… try your best and STICK WITH IT."
Congratulations Anne-Marie, we can’t wait to hear more of your successes!
"My first paying job came only 3 months after getting my demos!"
Growing up making films since he was a child, Mike Slemmer has always had a creative side to him. He always had this regret that he didn’t pursue an education in the entertainment business. He is very happy that voiceover work enables him to realize his passion for making a mark in entertainment. In fact, since he graduated from the Such A Voice program, he even managed to book on-camera work!
Mike began his journey into voiceovers in the 1980’s in Dallas. Although he loved it from the very beginning, he had to put it on the back burner once his software sales career took off. He always knew that he would want to come back to voiceovers at some point, but didn’t know when he would find the time to perfect his talent. After many years and hearing many people tell him what a great voice he had over and over again, Mike decided to give voiceovers another shot.
The fact that Such A Voice taught the BUSINESS of the voiceover industry is what Mike appreciated the most. While realizing that the technique coaching and the demo recording were crucial to launching his voiceover career, Mike feels that he learned the most in the marketing aspect of his training. "The marketing material provided by Such A Voice on how to market yourself and build a business in this industry is critical to voiceover success. Between the materials in the Members Only Area, the live bi-weekly training series, the coaching sessions and my own sales & marketing experience, I have many great ideas for making my voiceover brand (The Voice of Authority) stand out in this industry!" Mike also received in-depth guidance on the technical side of voiceovers by signing up for Pro Tools training with Such A Voice. "The post-production department’s ongoing support and willingness to help with my recording questions has been super!"
Mike’s strong, resonant voice is definitely his biggest strength. He has a wonderful range and vocal variety. Top that off with strong business management (specifically a sales and marketing background) and you have a wonderful recipe for success. He has constructed a marketing plan and diligently works on that plan to refine and adjust it as necessary to push himself further every day. He realizes that his voice is his career, therefore making sure that he is always working on refining his talent. "My range isn’t where it ultimately needs to be if I’m going to get the big jobs I’m looking for. I’m focusing on vocal variety, phrasing and generally just learning to let go a bit more. I have taken a voice acting class, individual coaching and I’m also reading a variety of books on voice acting to help give me the competitive edge in the industry."
Since graduating from the Such A Voice program in November of 2010, Mike has booked quite a few jobs. The first job he landed was recording a book for a colleague of his, Bev Flaxington. The title of the book is "Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior." Mike was nice enough to offer a discount to Such A Voice students or followers by clicking the title above to place your order! Although Mike wasn’t paid for this job, it helped him practice recording, editing and completing all of the post-production for an audiobook. A blind buyer called to say it was the best audiobook read he’d ever heard. On top of all of that, it ended up leading to paying jobs! Concurrently with working on the audiobook, he was cast to read a book trailer for an internet promotion of the book. "I booked the job by cold calling the president of Trailer to the Stars (which does trailers for TV, movies and books). They had email solicited Beverly to do a trailer on her book, which she forwarded to me. I called the president and asked if she kept a file of VO demos, which she did. I sent over my demo and a few hours later I got a call from her letting me know that she loved my voice and had a script for me!"
Mike was most impressed with the fact that he received a complete education about all things voiceover related while working with Such A Voice. He encourages aspiring voiceover artists to remember the 3 legs of the stool to success "#1-VO practice and submitting auditions. Remember, you cannot win if you do not play. I recommend becoming a premium member of at least one of the voiceover sites (Mike’s personal preference is Voices.com). Even if I don’t get the gig, it’s still great practice to record a script, completing the editing and submitting the audition. #2-Marketing and selling. Cold calling creative directors at production companies and advertisers has worked well for me. I make sure I always follow up. Of course I also advise using all social media avenues and have personally found prospects through social media. I launched a podcast for the business, which is gaining subscribers and lets me showcase my voice work. #3-Technical knowledge. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Have your equipment, learn how to use it and be efficient in doing so." Mike goes on to add another leg to the stool of success "#4-Always be learning. Look for books, classes and additional training. One last thing, don’t think you’re going to be a huge success overnight simply because someone said you have a fantastic voice. Constant learning and improvement, as well as learning how to be a voice actor is the critical component to your success."
Take Care of those Pipes!
Taking proper care of your voice is something you learn early on in the music and entertainment industry. Professional entertainers have known for years the importance of taking proper care of their ‘instrument.’ Those who are successful take great measures to protect their ‘golden throats.’
Many of the vocal techniques or ‘tricks of the trade’ used by entertainers can also be applied to the voice over artist profession. After all, you are performing in front of the microphone too!
- Always breathe using your diaphragm muscles. This not only enables you to take a deeper breath but, it also helps you to stay relaxed in your neck, shoulder and chest area. Tension around your vocal cords can change the tone of your voice, so, breath deep, relax your throat and keep your upper body relaxed.
- If you have to eat before a recording session, make sure you only eat a light meal. A stomach that is too full can temporarily reduce your ability to breathe deeply. Keep your meals light and both your stomach and your producer will be happy! Keep in mind that the foods and beverages you eat and drink can affect your vocal cords. Foods that have a creamy texture can alter how your voice sounds. Good food choices might be a light soup and sandwich or salad with fruit. Try to choose liquids you can easily see through that aren’t overly cold or hot. Actually, room temperature is best, especially when taking a sip to wet your throat during recording.
- You also have to take physical care of your head and throat as well. Do your best to avoid smoky rooms, chemical or exhaust smells. Bundle up and protect your neck and face in cold, blustery weather. Keep a scarf around your neck and over your mouth if necessary to keep cold winter air out of your mouth. Breathing through your nose is how your body naturally warms and moistens the air you breathe. Your vocal cords work best when warm and relaxed. You may enter the studio looking like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer but, at least you won’t sound like him!
- Another cold weather problem is electric heat. If there’s a lot of static in your home or clothes the humidity in the air is not nearly high enough to protect your throat and vocal cords. A small room humidifier will greatly assist in eliminating the dry air problem. The ideal location would be the bedroom. You will wake up with a warm moist throat instead of a dry, scratchy one.
- No matter how diligently you take care of yourself, it’s only a matter of time until you get a cold or sore throat. Drink plenty of fluids and get proper rest. If you have to take an over the counter medication to tame the symptoms, be aware that drying up post nasal drip and congestion will also dry out your voice. Ask your doctor to recommend some natural treatment alternatives to help you deal with your symptoms until the cold has run its course.
You alone are responsible for the quality of your voice. It’s almost impossible to edit out the dry, raspy sound of your voice in a recording. When in doubt, don’t do the job. It’s better to pass on this job now, then to perform at a reduced capacity. Remember, you are being recorded and you don’t know who may get the pleasure (or pain) of listening to you.
I am a classical singer by training. It is common for bulletin boards in the hallways and corridors of conservatories and schools of music to be papered with recital posters, concert listings, and calls for auditions. So, it’s not unusual to find instrument and score-laden students poring over them interestedly. One day, as I was doing just that, I noticed a rather boring-looking flyer on pink paper calling generically for “3 men and 3 women.” A telephone number was listed at the bottom of the sheet. Perhaps someone is trying to assemble an a cappella or early music ensemble, I thought. I called to discover, in fact, it was a company holding auditions for a radio commercial. Having never done voice over jobs before, I thought, What the heck!, and decided to audition.
The copy was sent in advance so I had time to prepare, and I showed up to the studio at the time and date requested. I landed the job after that lone audition and it turned out to be more than the typical, first-time voice over gig. I was selected to be the first and only National Female Voice for what was then dot-com-phenom CollegeStudent.com. (CollegeStudent.com has since merged with Student Advantage.) Such serendipity led to the recording of multiple national spots over a two-year period for this “local, online campus community,” which was not only wonderful in-studio experience, but also contributed to the beginnings of a high-quality demo reel. (As an aside: the first spot we recorded was deemed so risqué that 50% of the markets in the nation wouldn’t play it!)
With this experience under my belt, I used my demo reel to market myself to voice over agents, acquiring my first representation with db Talent. I also contacted recording studios to find out if they maintain their own talent libraries and requested to be placed on file with those that do. Given the types of jobs I began working early on, it became clear to me that my industry niche was quirky, college-cool, but my singing background enabled me to expand that to include foreign languages and accents. Since that initial, unexpected audition, I’ve had the good fortune to record for a variety of corporations, including Time Warner Cable, Reebok, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Gozaic and Adobe, working on varied projects like telephony systems, industrial videos, television commercial demos and, of course, radio spots.
I look back on my entrée into a voice over career in astonishment. Voice over work had certainly never been part of my grand life plan and, truthfully, I had not heard of it when I made that fateful telephone call. However, I cannot deny I am pleased to have been one of those bulletin board-reading students because being so truly changed my life.
Alecia Batson is a professional actress, singer and voice over talent working in Boston, Austin and New York. Visit her web site at www.AleciaBatson.com.
How did YOU land your first voice over gig? Share your story and any advice with us…