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Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Makes a Great Video Script Great?

We have all seen or heard the commercials that are uncomfortable, awkward, and obviously lack natural conversation skills.  That is, most definitely, what you want to avoid as an advertising professional.  As in most things, the best way to figure out what works for video scripts and what doesn’t, is simply to consider the competition.  In this case, maybe not the work of direct competitors, but rather just the body of videos and commercials that you come across. 

Make a List As you watch and listen, write down what you like and what you don’t.  You’ll be amazed at how clearly you can define what you want from your script by doing this.

Consider Everyday Conversation If you would not converse on this topic, and, more importantly, your customer wouldn’t converse on this topic in the course of a normal day, then chances are it will come across as awkward in the video.  So, you might have to change your approach, creating a monologue, as opposed to trying to pass it off as normal dialogue.  If it is a discussed, topic, then really consider how it is discussed.  In what setting?  Using what sort of language and by whom?  If you can write a script that is very closely based to real life interaction, then you will be far more successful with it.

Hire a Professional Am I biased?  Of course I am.  I work in the voiceover industry and I have the utmost faith that I can create a more believable voice for the dialog than the untrained individual can.  However, to take it one step further, you really should avoid using friends and family members for the voice acting in your video.  Just as people can be camera shy, they can be microphone shy, which can cause them to alter the tone, tempo, and inflection of their speech, resulting in an awkward form of speech that is far from convincing.  This is exactly why we see and hear so many ‘awkward’ commercials.  Avoid the discomfort and allocate some money for professional voice services.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Why Voiceover Artists Love Editors

If you have a manuscript or novel that you are considering passing off to a voiceover actor, you may want to consider seeking the help of an editor first.  Because of the self-publish movement, many writers have found that they can simply write, review, and publish, skipping right past the professional editing phase.  For a few, it works out fine, but for most, the lack of editing is immediately evident.  So, when these pieces of writing reach the voiceover artist, there can be frustration on both ends.  Why?  Because, voiceover artist rely heavily on proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Spelling The beauty of spelling is that many forms of software, such as Microsoft Word, have built in spell check programs, so it is much more difficult to misspell a word in a manuscript than it once was.  However, it is important to note that the spell check will not catch every word.  If you meant to type ‘off’, but mistyped, forgetting the final ‘f’, the spell check might not pick up on it, because ‘of’ is a recognized word in the dictionary. This is just one example.  Our brains do odd things at times, causing our fingers to type a word that we hear someone speak, instead of the word that we intended to write, or just a random word that is spelled similarly to what we wanted to type.  This is not uncommon, and one can see how it would cause some frustration when doing voiceover, because it would be read as it was written, unless it was caught ahead of time.

Grammar There are many grammar mistakes that are commonly made and not easily detected, unless by the trained eye of an editor. These issues can cause added editing time for the voiceover artist, if they are not caught before the reading.  That means you spend more money, and it can be much more time consuming to fix audio than it would be to simply have the text edited in advance.

Punctuation This is, arguably, the most important reason to seek editing before voiceover.  Punctuation tells a person a lot, and when reading such text aloud, the punctuation can make a big difference in the tempo and volume of the reading.  An exclamation point versus a period, for instance, would change the volume in which the voiceover actor reads.  And, a comma, can change the tempo of a sentence, causing a pause midway.

These are just a few of the reasons why edited texts are preferred in the voiceover community.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What Do You Need to Get Started as a Voiceover Artist?

If you are trying to break into the voiceover industry, then you very likely have a lot of questions.  Some of those answers will simply come to you naturally, over time, and as you gain experience, but before you can get to that point, you have to make a start.  That means that the first question to answer is what you will need to do so.

Microphone Obviously, if you are going to record yourself, you need some sort of device capable of capturing your voice.  That means that you will need a microphone.  Please be aware that they come in a wide range of prices, but you may just get what you pay for.  A lot of beginners will attempt to cut costs when buying the microphone, and this isn’t the best idea, especially if you don’t have a soundproof studio to record in.  Some of these have the capability of automatically filtering out the background noises, while detecting the finer nuances of your voice, and that can ultimately mean a much better product to send off to clients. Take the time to match the right mic to your vocal qualities. Visit you local music store and comparison test several of them.

Headphones There are many reasons why you will want headphones.  The primary one is for playback of your recording.  It will allow you to really hear what the client is going to hear.  This is important for the playback, but also for any editing that you may do.  Of course, headphones can also be noise cancelling, which means that you are less apt to be distracted while working. Make sure they are studio monitor type and not those meant for music listening.

Mic Stand Some of the microphones are designed to rest on table tops, in which case the stand won’t be necessary, but if you intend to be standing during recording, or you need a place to store the mic while not in use, you’ll need to consider a stand.

Software You will need software for recording and also editing.  There are several options, so it is a good idea to do some research to discern what the best fit is for you.

A Steady Voice None of the above matters if you don’t have a clear, crisp voice, and the ability to enunciate and moderate your tempo.  Not everyone is cut out to do this job.  If you are easily winded, tend to lose your voice after speaking for a long period of time, or have a voice that regularly ‘cracks’, then this might not be the right fit for you.

Business Know-How It’s not all about the voice, however.  You can have the best voice, the best equipment, but none of it matters if you can’t sell yourself, manage your finances and run a day-to-day business professionally.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Creating Your Own Voiceover Ad for Social Media

I recently read an article in a newspaper servicing a small local population, but the story contained within was really powerful.  A young voiceover professional was highlighted in the piece for her work.  It was stated that she has worked on many audiobooks, commercials, and even in film.  However, what was far more interesting about the story was the way that her talent was portrayed.  Far more emphasis was placed on her ability to mimic accents.  This got me thinking about the unique talents that we all have and how we can use them to spread the message about our intended career paths.

Remember, that the purpose of social media marketing is to spread word of your brand far and wide.  As a voice over talent, you generally opt for audio content as your source of letting your voice be heard (literally). However, it could be possible to use other media with just as great (or, perhaps, greater) success.  This article, for instance, didn’t feature any audio, but by the end of the article, I wanted to meet the young women, and here I am, writing about what I read.  That is the point – to encourage others to share your story, to share your content.

So, should you follow her lead and get an interview in a paper, or write your own piece about your talents?  Perhaps. Sure, if you have the opportunity to interview with the paper, do so, but that is not exactly the point I am trying to make.  What I am trying to say is that you should consider the various forms of media that are available to you, and think about how they might be used to highlight what you do well. 

In the past, I have also seen a fabulous advertisement for a voice over talent on my social media feed.  The advertisement was an animated short with several crudely drawn characters.  They didn’t have to be well drawn, because the real appeal was how the voices used for each brought the characters to life.  In this case, the voice actor called on his ability to do impressions of famous, widely-recognized individuals.  No direct reference was made to those individuals, but it was clear, nevertheless, exactly who he was mimicking. The effect was brilliant and, I am willing to bet, extremely beneficial to his career. It is yet another example of how you can use unexpected media to build your brand.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Understanding the Voice Actors’ Strike

If you are working in the voiceover industry, and art practicing your due diligence, then you have likely read the headlines about the strike taking place in the video game sector right now.  Many voiceover talents are involved in the strike, which was organized by SAG-AFTRA – the union formed as the result of the joining of the Screenplay Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. 

This union also represents voice actors, and that means that they formed this strike in an effort to secure better working advantages for the talents involved.  All union members involved in the making of video games on- or after February 17, 2015 will be impacted by the outcome of this strike.  So, what do they stand to gain?

The union is seeking better performance bonuses, better treatment of the artists’ instruments, and more project transparency prior to contractual agreement.  Additionally, any voiceover actors required to perform physical stunts, according to the union, should be provided proper training and assistance for the shooting of those scenes.

The vast success of so many video games has left many voiceover talents feeling as though they profited hardly at all from a vast empire.  The union agreed, so it has been requested that the voice talents receive a cut of the proceeds of successful video game launches, in the form of performance bonuses.  They have defined success as 2 million purchases, downloads or online subscribers.
As far as care of their instruments, the union refers to the protection of the professional’s voice.  They have requested that challenging vocal scenes be shot in 2- hour increments, as opposed to the typical four hour segments.

Finally, transparency is a very important aspect of the negotiations.  Currently, some voiceover talents sign contracts for video game deals before receiving any real information about the game being created. In some cases, they may not even be told the title of the game.  The union is fighting for improved transparency, so the voice actors can have a better understanding of what they are signing on for.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Getting Your Feet Wet in Voice Over

If you are new to the voice over industry, then you likely have countless questions swirling round in your head.  The answers to many of those will have significance in your career as a voice over talent.  However, not all of those questions have to be answered right this minute.  There are a few that you should allow to take precedence, and the majority of those that are most important can be answered by you.

What Do You Hope to Accomplish? Is this a bucket list item and something that you only want to try once or twice, so you can say that you’ve done it?  Or, as with most voice over professionals, do you hope to make a career of this?  You have to know what you are hoping to accomplish as you set out, because the answer to the question will help you choose the right paths along the way.  Many decisions will be based on the amount of time, energy, and dedication you have to offer.

How Will You Measure Your Success? Assuming that you do want to make this into a career, you will want to gauge your success along the way.  For some, that means, simply, a steady income.  For others, it means the building of a voice over empire, so to speak, that allows you to build an entourage of talented voice over professionals so you can bid more jobs as a company of talent.  For some, success is measured by the caliber of the projects signed.  Again, your measure of success will often dictate how-, where-, and when you seek new work.

Can You Handle Rejection? No?  Then quit now.  You cannot do this type of work expecting that you will never be rejected, criticized, or put down.

Can I Afford to Put a Lot of Time in Before the Money Starts Flowing?  As a general rule, when starting any sort of company, it will take time and investment up front to build a clientele, a reputation, a brand.  That often means putting a good amount of time into non-paying tasks in order to get the business where it needs to be to attract new jobs.  If you can’t afford to do that, you might want to consider other avenues.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Why Being Multilingual Will Be Beneficial as a Voice Over Talent

Decider.com recently ran an article that was very intriguing.  Included in the piece was a mini-documentary about the voice over actors and actresses that speak for some of the biggest names in Hollywood.  Remember, just because a film is made in America does not mean that the viewership is limited to this country.  Many of the box office hits here are just as well received in other nations.  And, many of those nations have a primary language that is not English.

Speaking French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and any other of the world’s languages really can open doors for you in the voice over business.  This video is certainly proof of that.  The lines, translated into the intended language are handed to the voice over talent, with the understanding that the timing of the spoken words must be made to match the movements (particularly those of the mouth and face) of the actors and actresses being dubbed over. It’s not an easy task, but one that is accomplished with the efforts of the voice over talent, in conjunction with the production crew, so that audiences all of the world can enjoy the films made here, in America, and, in turn, so we can watch films made elsewhere.

The Being George Clooney documentary touches on only one example of where the ability to speak multiple languages can be beneficial to your career.  There are voice over spots for the dubbing of commercials, educational materials, training films and much more.  Anytime you can arm yourself with something that will help you stand out against the competition, you are doing well.  This particular ability will also open many more doors for you as you start your career win the field of voice over.  If you are fortunate enough to be selected to speak for an entertainment phenomenon, you may just find that you are hired over and over again, as your voice becomes part of that actor or actresses brand in various corners of the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Changing Demographics of the Voice Over Industry

This is something I have read about, heard about, and even chatted about recently.  It occurred to me that if there is enough interest to justify all of that, then it certainly deserves mention on my blog.  This is an exciting time for the voice over industry.  I don’t say that simply because of the advancements in technology and communication.  There is also a major shift in demographics that is occurring, which is a very good thing for the industry.

For many years, this profession had the stigma of being male-dominated.  Don’t get me wrong.  The stigma was deserved.  Up until a couple of decades ago, men did nearly ninety percent of the voice over work annually.  However, this is changing, and that is wonderful news for the young women who are looking to break into the field. No longer are women claiming just 10% of the work.  Instead, more recent statistics suggest that they are quickly approaching the 50% mark, hovering, currently, at an average close to 4 out of every 10 jobs. It isn’t just that they are winning more of the jobs, but that there are more women competing for them.  Once upon a time, for every dozen men in the industry, there were just three women.  Now, they make up 40% of the voice over talent being marketed. And it's alo true that the industry itself has become a bit more realistic and reflective of the consumer.

You might wonder why, as a man, I would be happy to see this transition, but this is a wonderful thing for our industry.  Equality is always a good thing.  Furthermore, it is one more indication of how healthy and thriving this industry is.  Not to mention, I will never be competing directly with a female talent's voice. If we were not seeing this sort of progression in these modern times, I would certainly be concerned that the industry was becoming stagnant.  That is not the case.  The field is growing and evolving to represent the modern culture, and that is exactly what should be taking place.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Making the Most of Your Voice Over Demo

If you are trying to get work in the voice over industry, and you continue to miss out on the various projects that you apply for, then you might want to consider taking a closer look at (or rather, listen to) your demo tape. 

The demo tape is almost everything!  The hiring company wants to know that you have had training, that you have experience, and are equipped with the proper equipment to perform the job.  But, the demo tape is easily among the greatest tools in your arsenal, and you can be sure that every single potential employer is going to listen to it, before making the decision of whether or not to hire you.  Anyone who has listened to audio books, or even radio advertisements, knows that the voice can really make or break the project.  So, even with all of the experience and education in the world, you aren’t likely to be hired if you have an off-putting voice when recorded.

We all know that you don’t. You wouldn’t be putting yourself out there, in this industry, if you thought that your voice wouldn’t hold up to the job.  That said, you may want to consider how you can make yourself sound better in your demo tape, so those prospective jobs turn into real moneymakers.

Your demos should include the voices used in previous works, especially if you have experience working for well-known brands.  These voices may be recognizable to the person hiring, which would make you stand out.  Of course, not all of your work is going to be widely recognized, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give a taste of it.  Make sure all of your personal voice traits are showcased in your demo. These were jobs that you were hired for, which means that someone saw something of value in your voice talents.  And, ultimately, your voice will become your brand, so it is nice to maintain some level of consistency.

Now, forget, for a moment, that last sentence, because as much as you want to establish your voice as a brand, you will have to step outside your comfort zone a bit if you hope to present a wider range of option for the prospective employer.  Can you do voice impression?  Can you speak in different accents or inflections?  These are things to play with a bit, and if they are convincing enough, then you will likely want to include them on your demo tape.

The last tip I offer is that you get some help putting it all together.  Spend the money to have a professional blend the audio, remove any background sound, and ensure a seamless transition from one bit to the next.  This demo tape could be the one thing that stands between you and that paying work, so the investment is certainly worthwhile.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

5 Things All Voiceover Talents should be Doing

There are, of course, many tasks that you will have to complete when you go into work as a voiceover talent.  You’ll need to know how to market your brand, how to set up your microphone and recording software.  You’ll have to try to build connections with producers, audition, and bid on jobs.  And, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  However, aside from all of this, there are a few things that you can do each and every day that will greatly increase the chances that you are hired in the future.

Read, Watch, or Listen to the News! It is amazing how many connections are formed because of an ability to speak about current topics.  Your teachers were not kidding when they said that reading the newspaper would add real value to your life.  It can, and it will.  These topics are excellent conversation starters that can greatly amplify your efforts to network, particularly when the topics have something (even the most miniscule thing) to do with the voiceover industry.

Check Out Twitter Moments Don’t stop at the general news on television or in the paper.  Go to social media and see what people are talking about.  Some of the biggest, hottest topics are already laid out for you under the moments tab in Twitter, so take advantage of it, even if you haven’t found your stride on that platform.

Follow, Like, and Friend More People While you are visiting a social media platform, move on to others, and take the time to follow, like, or befriend more people.  The more connections that you have, the further word will spread about your experience and your talents.  Focus your efforts on people related to this industry and those closely linked to it. 

Search Keywords on Google News  For industry-related news and hot topics, Google News is among the best places to visit.  You can search keywords related to what you do – voiceover, animated, audiobooks – and learn a great deal about what is happening in the world related to the industry.  Take the time to read the stories, comment, and share them to demonstrate the fact that you are an expert at what you do.  This might even cause you to happen upon new, valuable leads.

Tell Someone What You Do Finally, take the time, every day, to tell at least one person about what you do for a living.  It is amazing how many people have friends and family members who can’t even answer the question about what you do for a living.  These are the people who are most likely to recommend you to others, so be sure they know what to recommend you for!

WARNING: It's advisable these days to NOT depend on social media for hard core news reportage. Given that we now are aware that false news is indeed a new reality for us all to deal with. Use discretion and caution.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Choosing a Voiceover Niche

Starting out in the voiceover business can be very intimidating these days.  There is a great deal of competition, and the number of voiceover talents is forever growing.  You could, of course, sign up for one of the voiceover sites and hope to secure some poorly paying work to build up your resume.  But, it might be better to just carefully consider the niche that you intend to serve.  Don’t say audiobooks!

I know, I know… the growth of the audiobook market has been tremendous, and all of that growth has led to more paying voiceover jobs in that niche.  But, it also happens to be one of the most competitive areas in the voiceover industry, mostly because everyone starts with the intention of breaking into that market.  You don’t have to rule out audiobooks all together, but you should narrow your intentions a bit, so you can make the most of your marketing efforts.  And, you should also consider other fields seeking voiceover artists.

There are many to choose from – commercials, cartoons, radio advertising, how-to video scripts, video games, and much, much more.

Audiobooks, while they sound like the terrific place to start as a voiceover actor, can turn into nightmare jobs, if you don’t know what you are doing.  They are very time consuming projects, and many new voiceover talents wind up boxing themselves in with poorly worded contracts, or underestimated timelines. So, it might be a good idea to focus on shorter spots.

So, choose your niche and then focus your marketing efforts on just that.  Sure, it’s fine to field questions or requests from other channels, but when you are deciding who to aim your advertising efforts at, who to follow on social media, and who will be listening to your demo tape, be sure you have only your niche in mind.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Bringing Your Voice Over Talents to Social Media

Social media has impacted the voice over industry just as it has nearly every other industry known to this country.  And, while it has, in some ways, increased the workload of the average voice over actor or actress, it has also made it easier to create a credible and professional image for yourself.  However, you have to know how to approach the wide world of social media, or else you will simply find yourself spending hours per day with no real added value.

The first rule of thumb, of course, is knowing who your audience is and where to find them.  Keep in mind that, as a voice over talent, you may be able to find your niche on multiple platforms, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to attempt to balance all of those right off the block.  Instead, consider first which platforms cater to your audience already, and then weigh those options by comparing the capabilities of each.  For instance, you would likely find potential customers on Twitter and Facebook, but if you don’t have adequate time in your schedule to balance the upkeep of both accounts, then you might opt for Facebook over Twitter.  Why?  Because Facebook has a wider array of available tools.  It is more image friendly and it now features the live feed tools, or instance, and the latter, especially, can really work well for folks in this line of business.

Do not mistake the laid back environment on social media as an unprofessional setting.  Though people may be chatting with friends, sharing photos taken in their own living rooms, and liking cat videos, when they seek out voice over actors and actresses, they expect to find a professional profile.  So, be sure that yours is something to be proud of.  Part of this comes from having attractive photos and a well-written description of what you do.  But, there is also a lot to be said for establishing numbers.  Do not buy followers.  It is not worth the investment.  You will only have a large number of followers who care nothing about what you do, and likely aren’t even humans.  Instead, take the time to forge relationships.  Reach out to people in the real world and ask that they take the time to like, friend or follow you online.

Finally, you must continue to engage your intended audience.  A dormant social media account is a worthless social media account.  But an active one really can bring paying jobs to a talented and devoted voice over professional.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

According to Cornell Law, intellectual property is “any product of the human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use by others.  Intellectual property is traditionally comprised of four categories: patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secrets.”

Your work is your intellectual property.  It’s not just your actual recordings that you have to be careful to protect, but also the blog posts, white papers, and articles that you write about industry-related topics.  Immoral persons will attempt to steal this material and pass it off as their own.  There are some that will go so far as to copy everything on your website, which you have taken so long to craft and care for.

There are several ways that you help to defend against the theft of your intellectual property.  For instance, there are plug-ins for website builders that will prevent people from right-clicking on a photo to copy and paste it elsewhere.  You can also employ watermarks in high-quality images to prevent theft.

Watermarking is an effective tool for protecting audio files as well.  Though it differs slightly than that seen in photography, the principle is the same.  It is possible to embed an audio signal so that it cannot be easily removed by those intending to claim your work as their own.  It is also possible to prevent your audio from being downloaded, if you fear intellectual theft.

Disclaimers are also surprisingly powerful.  Adding disclaimers that state that the posted material – photo, audio, or text – is the intellectual property of the website host and that all attempt to steal that content will result in legal action can drastically reduce the likelihood of someone attempting to pass it off as his or her own.  Follow up with appropriate actions if someone does attempt to do so.  If you discover that someone has stolen your intellectual property, ask your attorney to draft a cease and desist letter, requesting that the material be removed and suggesting further legal action will be taken if the request is not abided by. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Getting the Most Out of Every Busy Day

Working as a voice over artist can be a lot crazier than people would likely expect.  Sure, there are plenty of benefits that come with the job.  Many talents are able to work from home, create their own schedules, and do something they love day in and day out.  But, there are headaches, as well, just as there are in any profession.

One of the biggest stresses is time management.  There are many responsibilities and roles that must be taken on by a voice over professional.  Wearing so many hats can be taxing, and can make it seem as though the hands of the clock have sped up. 

You can ease your frustrations by setting up a schedule, blocking out times for each and every task that must be completed throughout the day.  Break down these chores by the time of day, and you will find that it is much easier to get everything done, while still giving yourself time to unwind in the evening.

Let’s look at the day as four blocks of time, with the fourth block being your time to spend with family and friends, and to, perhaps, check in on your social networks for the fun of it.

Block One The first block of the day, just after breakfast, should be only about an hour to ninety minutes long.  This is the time for reading and responding to emails, looking through new openings on voice casting sites and auditioning, and responding to any comments or questions on social media that you hadn’t answered the night before.

Block Two For the last three hours of the morning, before taking a quick lunch break, it’s time to do the meat of your work.  That is to say, this is the time to sit in front of your mic and get the voice over projects underway.  Be sure you have a bottle of water close at hand, a comfortable chair, and a very quiet studio.  The three hours of late morning are often when a person is most productive and when the voice sounds the best.

Block Three After lunch, return to your computer and figure out what you need to do to audition for those jobs you discovered earlier in the day.  Get everything together to get those applications out there, so you can be sure to bring in more work.  Also, use this time to read and respond to industry-related articles and blog posts, write your own pieces to update your blog, invoice for completed jobs.  And, take care of the other business odds and ends to bring your day to a clean close.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tips to Improve Your Voice

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, your voice is not the biggest aspect of your job as a voice over artist.  Though marketing, accounting, and networking will claim far more of your time than you might guess initially, your voice is important.  You have to be good at all aspects of running a business, but your voice is your instrument, so you do have to take the time to care for it as well.
There are several things that you can do to improve your speaking voice, thereby making yourself more appealing to potential clients.  In this blog post, I will provide a few tips that will make you sound better in any recording.

Set Aside the Nerves I understand.  I really do.  It is always a bit nerve-racking to audition for a new job, to kick off a new project, or to face a very tight deadline.  Anxiety, though, is not your friend in this business. The more anxious you are feeling, the faster and higher your speech will be.  That can result in muddled sentences and a less attractive voice.  Always, always take the time to calm yourself, to “find your center”, and to settle into the routine of speaking into the mic.

Have Confidence in Your Voice You, for all intents and purposes, are now a salesman (or saleswoman).  Once you enter the voice over arena, you must be able to sell your product.  That product is your voice.  And, as will all salespeople, the first rule is to believe in your product, because if you don’t believe in it, no one else will.  So, be confident as you approach the mic, approach a new client, or approach a new project.  I assure you that the confidence will come through in your speech.

Care For Your Voice As I said above, your voice is your instrument.  You can be certain that musicians take the time to clean, restring, and repair their tools of the trade on a very regular basis.  The process might differ, but your instrument must be cared for as well. Practice breathing techniques to avoid gasping or hard breaths on tape.  Try not to shout, yell, or scream in your day-to-day life as this can strain your vocal chords and make it very difficult to do your job.  Get plenty of sleep, because the rest properly restores your voice for the next day.  Take the time to warm up before you start recording.  There are many vocal exercises that can prepare you for a long day of recording.
And make sure you're eating the right foods to maintain a healthy voice box. As well as staying away from foods that may cause throat or mouth problems... such as dairy, coffee, etc. Research foods that may affect your voice and determine which ones cause you problems. 

In short, be sure that you are taking care of your money maker, so that you can have confidence in it.  That will reduce your anxiety and help you sound great in every recording.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Making of an Animated Film with Voice Over

Animated movies provide entertainment for millions of people, young and old alike, these days. In fact, animated films, since their creation, have been much beloved by the American public. However, few people are aware of how much time and effort it really takes to create something worthy of the big screen, worthy of a large audience, worthy of a child's adoration.

To create such a piece there must first be a story. In some cases the story is written long before there's any intention to create a film. In other instances the story is written purely for movie goers.  Regardless, the story must then be adapted for use by storyboard artists, animators, and voice over actors.These individuals are selected based on their skills, their resumes, and their past performances.  With a strong team assembled, it is time for the next phase of work to begin. 

Scripts are created, edited, and handed to voiceover actors along with sketches of frames.  In some instances, full scenes are crafted and recorded with the voiceover temporarily done by the animators.  This is meant to give direction to the true voiceover artist.  Sometimes with the help of the voice talents, and sometimes on their own, artists and product teams work through the film, scene by scene, ensuring that the artwork and the audio coincide perfectly.  This could take months or even years.  Long after the voice actor’s job is done, animating studios continue round after round of editing to ensure that the production will be flawless.  In many instances, this also means bringing in musical talents to create music loops or full-fledged theme songs for the film.

All of this, which takes so much talent and time is done so that you, the viewer, can buy a ticket and enjoy a couple hours of light-hearted entertainment with family or friends.  And, that, in the end, is the true beauty of animated films.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Don’t Undervalue Yourself as a Voice Over Professional

There are too many professional talents making poor choices early in their careers these days.  It’s not that they are picking the wrong career paths or that they aren’t dedicating themselves fully to the job.  Generally, the biggest mistake that new voice over actors and actresses make is to charge too little for their services.  It can be very tempting to undervalue your services, even after being in the business for a while during a slow period.  However, there is a lot of danger in charging too little for your work.

We understand that you are concerned about bringing work, any work, in the door to ensure that bills are paid and you can feel good about what you are doing.  But, you will no longer feel good about the decision to undervalue yourself when you find that you are making so little money per hour on a job that is more challenging than you thought it would be.  You won’t love yourself for bidding so little when more and more jobs are coming through the door, higher paying jobs, and you have to turn them away because you have already committed yourself to this low paying contract.

It’s not just about the price that you charge, but also about the extra services that you agree to.  Voice over actors or actresses aren’t producers, for example, so production should not be part of your contract.    Rather than asking you to multitask and to perform a task that a producer or production engineer would be better suited for, you should agree only to those services that are directly related to your title of voice over artist.

So, how much should you charge?  One piece of advice offered by many sources is to look into the prices offered on voice over websites (there are several of them these days) and to add 20-30% to those prices.  Remember, the artists on those sites are sacrificing better profit-making potential in order to have their audition videos posted on a high-traffic website.  They make less but have greater exposure.  If you are bringing in your own clients, don’t make the same sacrifice.  Tell yourself you are worth it and mean it.  Because real voice over talent is valuable.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

So You Want to Be a Better Voiceover Artist? Part II

In the last blog post, I wrote a bit about getting started as a voiceover actor.  There are many things that must be considered as one breaks into this industry.  And, because there are so many aspects to doing the job well, there are many tips that can be offered to those who are just getting started.  I only touched on a small portion of the job in the last post, so I thought it might be appropriate to continue the conversation here.  In the last post, I spoke at length about being a marketing-minded, well-trained, business professional in order to secure the jobs.  However, once you have the job, there are things that can be done to help ensure that the project is a success.

Read Through it Before You Read Through it We all know what it is like to be under a time crunch, and it can be very tempting to just run through a job as quickly as possible, but you will be more consistent, less likely to make mistakes, and more impressive to the producer (who could be a great source of future referrals) if you are comfortable with the text before you start the narration.

Have a Routine It is very helpful for most voiceover professionals to take a few minutes to get into the right frame of mind before the recording begins.  Do some vocal exercises, stretch, meditate, focus on your breathing, set up your studio exactly how you like it, have a long drink of water, or just adjust your mic a bit.  Do whatever you feel most comfortable with, but get into a routine of doing just that each and every time you walk into the studio.  This will help you establish a sort of consistency in the rest of your work, and set you on the path toward success with each project.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

So You Want to Be a Better Voiceover Artist?

If you are relatively new to the voiceover industry, then you likely realize the challenge that you are up against, but you also likely have a lot of questions that you would love to ask the pros.  There is a lot of competition in the market today and that often means that those who have been successful in the business don’t want to help out the newbies.  That said, you don’t have to operate in the dark.  There is a lot of information to be had online, and several general tips that can make the transition into the business much easier.

The biggest thing is to understand that working as a voiceover talent is about much more than your ability to read something with feeling and a pleasant cadence.  Voice over professionals must be marketers and businesspeople.

You Must Have a Brand Even if you are running your business under your own name, there is a brand to sell.  It just shares your name.  You have to consider what you want your brand to represent and then do your best to always portray that image and that message everywhere and to everyone.

Spread Your Reach Be sure that you are networking – online and off. Even time spent speaking with someone completely unrelated to the industry could ultimately lead to a referral one day.  Spread your brand as far as you can, and understand that, even if you work out of your home, you may have to do some travel for this job, if clients want you to audition in person.

Take Classes Yes, they are out there! Sign up for voice over workshops and acting classes. They can be extremely beneficial for many types of narration.  And will help clarify your expectations as a talent. The character is important in everything from novels to video games, commercials to cartoons.  The classes aren’t going to be a replacement for experience, but they can help you be better prepared for auditions, and help you come up with new techniques for tackling challenging projects.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Does a Voice Over Artist Really Need a Recording Studio?

The short answer to this question is ‘yes’.  There must be a booth that will block out other sounds – cars driving by, fans running, dogs barking, etcetera. However, the term “studio” can be defined in many ways.  There are those who work out of professional isolation booths that are leased out by the hour for the very best possible audio production.  Of course, those professionals must charge much more for their services, because they have to cover the cost of the booth.  On the other hand, there are voice over artist who work out of their own homes, set up in basements, bedrooms, or other spaces within the home where they can find the necessary level of silence. 

If you are new to voice over, and you want to do it professionally, then you must consider what environment is going to provide you the necessary peace and quiet needed to do the job right.  If you are going to create a studio in your own home, be sure that you choose a place not frequented by other members of the family, and a place that will allow you to shut out pets and other distractions.  Soundproofing is ideal, because it really will provide the best product for the customer.

There are companies that sell products designed for those who are creating music or voice over in their own homes.  These products range from simple sound proof panels to full-size, free-standing sound booths that can simply be treated as a new room in the house.  There are even portable versions that can be set up and taken down at a moment’s notice, so you can do your work from wherever you’d like.

Of course, it’s not just about the sound proofing, but also about the recording of sound.  The right microphone and recording software can make or break any ‘recording studio’.  So, yes, you do need a studio of some sort, where you can lock yourself away to record narration.  Included in this is a high quality microphone and digital recording software.

Also, given the speed and frequency of auditions coming around each day, you will need to jump on these opportunities as quickly as possible. Using an outside studio for this is simply a "way too slow" approach to securing work through the auditioning process.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How an Audio Book is Made

If you are an author considering transitioning into the audio book market, then you most certainly have a lot of questions related to the topic.  Though I certainly can’t answer them all here, I will provide some of the basic information to get you started on the journey – a worthwhile trip, considering the soaring popularity of audio books these days.

The most frequently asked question is generally regarding the length of time required to have the book transferred into an audio format.  You will, of course, need to hire a voice over professional and, very likely, a producer as well.  The process of finding, vetting, and securing your audio team can claim several days, weeks, or even months, depending on your connections in the industry.  Once those contracts are signed, the recording process can begin.  Typically, the reading speed for narration is 120-200 words per minute, with 160 wpm being the average.  That means that a novel of 80,000 words (a common length) would equate to 500 minutes of audio.  That is nearly 8.5 hours. That is the finished audio length.  As a general rule, for every one hour of audio, there are 2 hours spent in the recording booth.  So, that is 17 hours of recording time, before production editing and formatting can take place.  This can take even longer, as all other sound must be removed from the track.  This could include deep breaths, a cough, the scratch of a chair leg against the floor, etcetera.

The finished audio will be formatted to fit your needs, whether it is intended for CD or digital download. As you can see, the length of your book, the schedule of the audio talent, and the degree of editing necessary can greatly impact the amount of time to create the audio book.  Some can be created in a few weeks’ time, while others will require a much longer span.

The cost of this process is also often questioned, with good reason.  There is a lot more competition in the voice over industry, which is great news for you.  Competitive pricing, after all, works in your favor.  However, be sure that you are choosing someone truly equipped and experienced enough to handle the project.  You should certainly consider the tone, pitch, cadence of the voice, but also the professional nature and former projects of the person to be hired.  For good audio quality and a truly finished product, you can expect to spend $200- $700, depending, in large part, on the length and content of the book.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Does The Money Play a Role in VO Work?

People who love their careers don't do it for the money, right? They do it for the satisfaction of a job well done, or at least that's what everyone tells you. If you end up doing VO work for a measure of satisfaction, though, you're probably going to have to at least bag groceries on the side for the cash to pay your bills. Does that mean money actually plays a role in VO work? In short, absolutely. While many of us don't just do it for the money, it's not an aspect of the job you can ignore either.

What About the Adage "Money Isn't Everything"?

There are lots of articles online today that will tell you that when starting your own business, money shouldn't be everything. They're absolutely right. If you're trying to break into the world of VO, money isn't everything. The reality, though, is that it's an important part of the success of your company because it means you're not living paycheck to paycheck. When you can't make ends meet, you can't focus on your VO career because you're too worried about paying the bills. You need money. it may not be everything, but without it, you're never going to establish the VO career you want.

VO Can Easily Turn Into a Pricey Hobby

Unlike some other kinds of businesses, VO can get pricey. You have to buy the equipment so your work sounds good. You also have to have a space in your home solely devoted to your work. What's more, though, is that you have to learn quite a bit about running your own business, and there are many coaches, courses, and people out there who want to take advantage of that. VO can quickly become more of an expensive hobby than the start to a new life, and making sure you're turning a profit in the face of what you need is difficult, but an absolute must. You have to treat it as a business, and businesses have to make money to survive.

At the outset, it may not seem like the potential for big roles will play a role in your VO career, but the bottom line is that if you want to be a good VO artist, money has to be part of the goals list to give you the freedom you need to do just that. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It May Be Healthier To Slow Down!

In the previous post, we wrote a bit about how to tell if you're overwhelmed. In some cases, once you get there, you absolutely need to rest and refresh. When you hit that crunch time, you're going to find yourself no longer productive, so slowing down is an absolute must. Think you should keep moving at the faster pace? Here are a few reasons to reconsider.

  • You Might Be Gaining Weight: One British study suggested that if the body can't predict the timing of the next meal, it's likely to store calories as fat. Often when you get buried in work, it's tough to find a time to eat, and that can lead to some serious weight gain.
  •  You're Putting Your Heart At Risk: People who continually work without an extended break have a 50% higher risk of developing high blood pressure over the course of their lives than those who don't according to a study by Northwestern University. That high blood pressure could damage your heart and give you far fewer working hours in this life than you'd ever imagined.
  • You're Killing Your Creativity: Creativity is part of what makes the best VO actors so good, but if you can't slow down, you may actually be hurting that well of inspiration. Fast-moving activity allows little time for reflection, which according to one study by the Harvard Business Review, is the source of creative solutions. That means that you're not going to be able to offer your clients as much as they bargained for.

See! It is actually worth it to take a step back from work occasionally and slow down. Replenish your well, then keep moving forward!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Do You Have Too Much On Your Plate?

VO work can be the greatest job in the world. Given that I'm my own employer, though, it also comes with some real drawbacks. There isn't a boss somewhere out there assigning me work. I have to go find it myself, and that can sometimes lead to too much of a good thing. More often than not, I've found myself with far too many jobs to handle. When I reach that point, I get overwhelmed and frustrated pretty easily.

Fortunately, I know I'm not alone in this situation. Many entrepreneurs across industry lines find themselves in the same position. Not sure if you're there yet? Here are a few of the most common symptoms.

·         You're not sure where to begin. If you have so many tasks on your to-do list that you're not even sure where to start, you probably have too much on your plate. Feeling overwhelmed is the key sign of a burnout.

·         You can't turn it off. If you're waking up in the middle of the night and all you can think about is work, you have far too much going. Constantly working late or getting up early means you can't separate your home life from your work life, and it's really just best to slow down if you're in that situation.

·         You begin making simple mistakes. If your VO work isn't what it should be or you're missing important deadlines, you're probably trying to do too much.

So, what can you do? Start by turning a few projects away. If they won't go away, that's a pretty good sign that you're the VO artist for them, but let them know how long it's going to take before you can begin to approach their project. They may even be willing to wait. You can also triage your projects. Decide which ones need your attention immediately, then work with those. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

4 of the Best Apps That Can Enhance Your Business

When you're trying to get amazing clients, handle the billing, make time for your VO work, and deal with the day to day tasks involved in running your own business, it's easy to get overwhelmed. One of the most valuable tools involved? Your smartphone. Here are five of the best apps you can get to help you do more with your time.
  • Fuze: Looking for a videoconferencing app that can host all of your meetings no matter what device you're using? Fuze is it. You get some of the best video in the business as well as great audio, so you never have to ask your next new client to repeat themselves.
  • Clear: If you're having trouble with time management issues, this is a great app to add to your smartphone. It's easy to use, and you can decide where items go in your to do list, swipe them off when you're done, and even create and manage separate lists for every aspect of your VO operation. The best part? You can sync it with your other devices.
  • TripIt: If you end up traveling quite a bit, this may be the best app you ever download. It can consolidate your travel plans into a single itinerary that you can access on any device no matter where you've made reservations. It's simple to use too. You just forward your travel emails, and it organizes them for you. It checks departure delays and weather forecasts too!
  • Evernote: This has been the most popular choice for years, and for good reason. If you make lots of notes, it will sync them across your devices. It even allows you to access notes when you're offline and save emails to the app. Evernote has personal and business accounts, so you'll have to decide which features are best for you. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Are You Destroying Your Own Productivity?

In the last post, we briefly discussed how to deal with the stress of running your own company, so I thought it might be a good idea to talk about productivity with this post. Getting more out of every moment you spend in your workspace is absolutely essential, and these tips can help you do it.
·         Dump the Social Media: Unless you're using something like Hoot Suite to schedule posts for your business account or you're responding to requests for work, you probably don't need to be wasting your time. What's more, though, is that social media is one of the easiest parts of your business to outsource fairly cheaply, so if you can, stop spending time advertising on social media because it's easy to get sucked in.

·         Limit Your Email Time: I always turn my email off after I've finished responding to messages because if they keep popping up while I'm trying to get something done, I find it easy to get distracted. Set aside pieces of your day specifically to respond to email, and outside of those scheduled times, keep your email off.

·         Stop Multitasking: It may seem counterintuitive, but multitasking actually hurts your productivity. Studies have shown that multitasking can not only slow you down, but it can also actually lower your IQ. There's a cost to constantly trying to switch between tasks, so leave it out of your workspace and your life.

Enhancing your productivity will change the way you look at your work day after day, and finding new ways to be more focused every time you head for your workspace is an absolute must. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Three Ways to Deal With the Stress of Running Your Own VO Business

Running your own VO business is a lot like running any other business. There are lots of great days, but there are some real down days as well. Dealing with the stress isn't always the easiest thing to do, but there are ways around it. Here are a few of the ones I've found most helpful.

·         Look Toward The Positives: It takes an optimistic person to run any kind of business, and the world of VO is little different. Often stress can make you frustrated with absolutely every part of the process, but the reality is that people are typically stressed about just one or two aspects of the business. Do some brainstorming about what's going well, then put that list in your office where you handle most of your work. Your perspective will change about things pretty quickly.

·         Create a Clean Workspace: American philosopher Wayne Dwyer has often said that you can tell more about a person's state of mind by their local environments (their offices, their cars, their homes) than anything else. This is absolutely true. If you're overwhelmed, creating some type of order in your office or workspace is the best way to handle the stress.

·         Decide What You Can Actually Tackle: Understanding what you can do in a reasonable timeframe is a must. It may mean outsourcing certain parts of your work, but if you let someone else handle your bookings or bring an accountant into the mix because you hate dealing with the finances, you're far more likely to be happy with what you're doing.

Stress is a very normal part of VO work, but dealing with it in a healthy manner is a must. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

6 Reasons Why Voice Acting is the BEST Type of Acting

Film, television, stage, and voice actors - we all have something in common. Acting, of course! But we’re all different, too, and not just because we’re all unique individuals. I’m talking about the work we do, and how it can certainly be categorized under the same “acting” umbrella, but when you take a closer look, each area is vastly different from the others.

Now, I might be a tad biased when I say this, but I wholeheartedly believe that voice acting is the best of the various acting branches. Want to know why? Here are 6 reasons for you:

1.    I don’t have to follow a dress code. While I don’t just roll out of bed and hit the mic looking like a tired slob, I certainly don’t get dressed up for the occasion either. And that is NICE.
2.    I don’t have to go anywhere if I don’t want to. Because I have everything I need in my home studio, I get to be a hermit if I feel like it.
3.    I only have to worry about my voice. While other actors may have to do things to physically prepare for a role, like lose or gain weight, or grow out a beard or shave their head, none of these apply to me. All I care about is how I sound.
4.    Stage fright is not really a factor. Unless I’m doing a reading at a studio somewhere and all the sound techs are staring at me, I never get that sweaty-palmed, shaky-breathing, awful feeling of stage fright.
5.    I get to make my own schedule. For the most part, I’m working on my own schedule. There’s nobody depending on me to be somewhere at a certain time, so I just work whenever I want to as long as I'm meeting my deadlines.
6.    The paparazzi don’t follow me around. They don’t know what I look like, so how can they?!

What about you guys? What are YOUR reasons for why being a voice over actor is the best type of actor to be?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How Much Money Can You REALLY Make Doing Voice Over?

Here’s the million dollar question: how much money does a voice actor make? I really wish I could say, with absolute certainty, “As a voice over actor, you will be guaranteed a minimum salary of $xxxxxx per year!”

Unfortunately, I can’t do that, because there is no set salary for voice over actors.

What I can tell you, however, is what you can hope to expect as you gain experience, as well as what you might earn when you’re first starting out. As a general overview:

First, some facts. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that voice actors made, on average, about $34 per hour. TV and radio announcers clocked in at about $40,500 per year. Not too shabby, but maybe not what you were hoping for, right?

Well, consider this: it’s not uncommon for experienced actors to earn anywhere from $100-$300 for a 15 or 30-second ad spot. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the additional work that goes into creating that ad spot, such as time spent preparing, editing, or doing re-reads. Still, that’s not bad for a single ad, is it?

Here are a few other possible scenarios for you:  (non-celebrity voice)

     Movie trailer - $2,000 - $3000.00
     Cartoons - $250-$500/hour
     Corporate video - $500-$850 for a 15-30 minute reading
     Podcast commercial - $100-$250 for 15-30 second reading
     Audiobook - $200-$500 per finished hour

Keep in mind that your rates will vary depending on a number of factors, including your experience level, the type of project, the client, and lots more.

But let me conclude by saying this: for me personally, I can’t put a value on the freedom that comes with running my own voice over business. My time is mine to decide what to do with, and I get to decide which projects I work on, who I work with, how I spend my day, etc. etc.  Basically, I’m a free man. And that, my friends, is something you can’t put a price tag on. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

3 Reasons Why Your Marketing Strategy Should Include Voice Over

Voice over is one of the most instrumental methods for delivering messages to audiences. While stunning visuals and solid content are also highly effective, the sound of the human voice is something that everyone can relate to, and it’s also highly influential. If these reasons aren’t enough to convince you that your marketing strategy needs to include voice over, here are 3 more:

1.    Voice over appeals to another sense and contributes to a more complete marketing strategy. Maybe you’ve got incredible graphics, video or animation for your ad. Maybe you have written content that hits everything you need to drive home your message. And maybe, in spite of having these stellar components, you’re still left with an ad that is lacking something. That something is voice over. Why? Because without it, there is nothing to appeal to auditory sense. A complete marketing project should include both visual and auditory stimulation for the audience, otherwise you’re missing out on a key method for connecting with your target market.
2.    Voice over paints a picture of your brand. Personality is huge in any marketing strategy, and it’s one of the main elements of an ad campaign that an audience will remember. It’s also closely tied to your brand, so including the right voice over will help your target audience better understand what you’re about. Think about the voice overs that are used for different brands - you’ve got George Clooney’s mid-range “every man” rumble behind Budweiser ads, and the ASPCA partnering with Sarah McLachlan and her emotionally compelling voice that makes you want to rescue all the sad dogs and cats of the world. See how these companies have wisely chosen the right voice to reflect their brand?
3.    It’s just plain old more effective.  More often than not, an ad devoid of voice over is going to be less effective than one that includes VO.  There are lots of reasons why, but here are two: 1) most people want to be spoken to, and 2) sound, including voices,  makes people sit up and take notice. Regarding #1, deep down, people want to be told. And quite frankly, they need to be told to get the complete message. If you’re relying just on words on a page or a screen, you’re going to lose a significant portion of your market, simply because people don’t want to read it. They want to be told it jn a compelling way. As for #2? People respond to sound. When a voice over begins, people listen. It’s that simple.

Very few marketing strategies are successful without involving any sort of voice over. If you want your project to be the most effective - and reach its full potential - it’s absolutely vital that you include great-sounding voice over.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Which Voice Over Genre is Right for You?

Over the last few decades, voice over has expanded to include so much more than radio and television spots. You can find it just about anything now, whether you’re browsing the internet or cruising down the highway. But which area is right for you? Before you can answer this question, let’s go over some of the options available to voice actors.

     Films and documentaries
     Animation and cartoons
     Television commercials
     Radio and TV ads
     Audio books
     Video games
     Training videos
     Promo materials for businesses

This list is definitely not exhaustive, and there are plenty of other types of projects out there requiring the expertise of a VO actor. While it’s great that there are so many options, finding ones that best suite you can be challenging when you’re first getting started. That’s why I give 2 pieces of advice to anyone I know who’s interested in the business:

1.    Experiment. It’s smart to try a little bit of everything when you’re first starting out. Don’t lock yourself into one genre because you think that’s what you’re good at, or because that’s what you like. Play the field, so to speak, so you can get a taste for a variety of projects. You never know when you’ll find something that just clicks. Most VO actors niche themselves, and this is fine (and even smart to do), but when you’re new, take the opportunity to explore and experiment!
2.    Understand your strengths and weaknesses. We all have things that we’re really great at, as well as ones that we’re not so great at. For instance, I’m pretty good at television commercials and narration, but please don’t ask me to supply the voice over for a medical training video. I learned this by following my own advice (Tip #1 above), and I’m glad I did because now I know where to put my focus. I concentrate on my strengths instead of wasting my time (and my clients’ time) on things I know I’m weaker on. Of course, there’s something to be said for focusing on those weaknesses and remediating them, and this is fine too. The point, though, is to develop a good understanding of what areas you’re strong in, and accepting those you’re weak in.

So what about you? What's your tips for new actors trying to find a genre that’s right for them?