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Friday, February 19, 2016

4 Tips for Better Communication with Clients

Communication is key in any relationship, and this couldn’t be more true when working with clients on a voice over project. When the lines of communication break down, then Houston, we have a problem. Good news, though - you can avoid that issue by following these 4 tips for better communication with your clients.

1.    Speak the same language. When talking with clients, your ultimate goal is to be understood. The same goes for them; they want you to understand where they are coming from, too. To accomplish this, you’ve got to speak to one another in terms you can both relate to. This may mean breaking down some of the reasons why you chose to voice a project a certain way, or giving a quick summary of your interpretation of a script if they ask. Whatever the situation, make sure that you’re communicating in a way where both parties have the same understanding of whatever it is you’re discussing.
2.    Ask the right questions. Assumptions are a dangerous thing, and making them can lead to disaster. When working with clients - especially new ones - make sure to ask the right questions about them and their project. Find out who they are and what they’re about (some of this can be done with a little background research beforehand), ask who their audience is, if they’ve got a particular style in mind, and anything else you think will help you work more effectively. Don’t leave it to guesswork, and avoid surprises that could come back to bite you later on.
3.    Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind or push back if the situation calls for it - just make sure you’re coming from the right place if you do. If you don’t agree with something the client wants and feel it warrants a bit of discussion, then speak up. This isn’t a situation where “the customer is always right.”  Besides, you’re an expert in your field (right?), and your opinion counts too. Just be sure to keep it polite, and don’t cross any lines that you may regret later. 
4.    Be responsive. Another key to solid communication lies in simply being responsive. When the client wants to talk, be available to talk. You can also make yourself available on a variety of platforms, such as email, phone, text, video chat, Google Hangouts. Find a medium that works for both of you, and then use it! Try to avoid delayed communication, and be sure to respond to whatever the client is asking. If they’ve got 3 questions in an email, your reply should include 3 answers; not 1 or 2. Doing this assures them you’re listening, and that their project is very important, which is exactly how you want your clients to feel!

Friday Fitness Tip #11 From a 32 year Fitness Novice

To follow up with you on my last Friday Fitness Tip #10 regarding Statin drugs and the harmful side effects they may bring over extended use, I am weening myself off of my Crestor over the next several weeks. And I am replacing that effort to maintain my currently low LDL Cholesterol level through an adjusted diet program and a supplement called Choleslo. 

A WARNING to you if you should decide to do the same. As medically advised in my research, DO NOT simply STOP taking your Statins abruptly! As this can cause kidney problems, stomach problems and a shock to the system with the Insulin/sugar level balance being thrown off kilter. As I’ve said earlier and in my disclaimer, I am NOT a medical professional… just a guy trying to stay healthy and keep my healthy Voice Acting career going strong.

Now, having said that, there is a NEW concern out there regarding drugs (prescription or non-prescription) that you may be taking for relief of Heartburn, Acid Reflux or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD being the more serious of these conditions. Which are all caused by stomach acid coming up from the stomach into the Esophagus causing pain, cramping and bloating. Popular drugs being used to control these conditions are called Proton Pump Inhibitors or PPIs. Sold under brand names such as Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec and others.

There are now current medical studies revealing that “long term use” (18 months + ) may be causing dementia, increased risk of kidney disease, bone fracture, low magnesium levels, gastrointestinal infections and pneumonia. There is not as yet a proven link to these conditions, however, these studies have shown very high risks when taken for long periods of time. And there are many people out there taking these drugs regularly. Even causing a dependence on these drugs.  http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-dementia-reflux-idUSKCN0VO27I

As usual, these drugs that become so popular being used in our busy culture are real money-makers for our pharmaceutical companies, So it is often difficult to get to the real truth about drug side effects. Fortunately, I’m personally not on these drugs but have taken the over-the-counter type for short periods of time in the past. Or the lesser effective, but safer, H2 blockers like Tagamet, Pepcid and Zantac. If you are a chronic consumer of PPIs, see your doctor or nutritionist for advice on alternative medicine.  

I believe that the fewer drugs you are taking the better off you are. Alternative medicine is looking much more interesting these days. No doubt that medical science has introduced us to many “miracle” drugs (and expanded the pharmaceutical industry) over the past many years; but I have to say… at what cost? The Mayo Clinic has suggested some alternatives to these drugs here:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/alternative-medicine/con-20025201 

Some simple things you can do to curb the incidence of heartburn are: Take herbal remedies
such as licorice, slippery elm, chamomile and others. Maintain a healthy body weight. Avoid foods you know cause you heartburn. ( Yeah… now THERE’S a great idea!) … fatty, fried foods, tomato sauce, garlic, onions, etc. Don’t lie down after a meal… take a walk! Don’t smoke! 

So much of what we eat can help us without the use of drugs OR hurt us without realizing it for a while. Everything we eat has an affect on our body’s. When it comes right down to it… it’s really an individual study! What works best for YOU!? It can take quite a while to determine what foods you have a sensitivity to but that may be the best way to create a drug-free life and more natural way of living. But HEY…  I’m getting into another area completely! One that I’m learning more about and should write about at a different time.

So be careful out there! Until next time... with a new Friday Fitness Tip!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is Voice Over Work Really Easy Money?

There seems to be this myth floating around out there that voice over is “easy money” work. Well, I am here to officially debunk that myth. I hate to break it to all the people out there who were planning on getting into VO to score some easy dough, but this line of work is anything but easy, and if you want to get paid, you’re going to have to work for it.

Of course, there are plenty of folks who dabble in voice over, or who do it on the side for extra money, or who do it because it’s a hobby that occasionally pays off. The difference with these people, though, is that they’re not doing it as a career. And guess what? They’re probably not making a whole lot of money just dabbling in it, either.

If you really want to get into voice over, the first thing you need to do is banish the notion that it’s an easy way to get a paycheck. It’s not. Here’s what you need to consider:

     What’s your skill level? If you’re unfamiliar with VO work, you may think it involves speaking into a microphone. Technically, you’re right, but there’s also a LOT more that goes into it. You have to learn how to speak into the mic, how to avoid unwanted sounds, how to create just the right sound for your client, how to interpret a script, how to act, how to pace yourself, when to enunciate, and that’s just the beginning. None of these things can be learned in a day, a week, or even a month, so you’ve got to be willing to put in time, and you’ve got to have the motivation and discipline to learn the trade.
     How much effort are you willing to put in? If you’re not willing to give it 110%, you may as well find another job - if you want to make voice over your career, that is. Most clients expect to deal with a professional, which means they will expect a lot. Your level of effort will factor in big time here, because no one wants to hire someone who’s not willing to give it their all. The same goes for the behind-the-scenes work that will be required. When you do VO, you’re running your own business, and you’ve got to run it right if you want to succeed. You'll need to learn the day-to-day basics of running a business in a professional manner. If you are to be taken seriously as a talent and business owner. Again, it’s all about effort here, and how much you’re going to put into building something that people will want.
     Can you handle a drought? The truth is that the majority of people doing voice over aren’t able to make it their full-time job, largely because it’s difficult to keep steady work in this industry. If you plan on making your career in voice over, you need to plan for the times when the work just isn’t coming in, because chances are, that will happen at some point.

So, back to the initial question I posed - is voice over really easy money work? Heck no! To succeed in this field, your only option is to work, and work hard. Are you willing to do that? 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Can you Handle the Competition?

There’s no denying that competition in the voice over industry has reached unprecedented levels. Right now, casting directors and talent agents have hundreds of thousands of voice actors in their databases, all competing for the same jobs. It begs an interesting question - has supply finally outweighed demand in voice over? And more importantly, what can YOU do as an actor to be in demand and keep landing gigs?

Let’s start with the first question, about whether or not the supply of voice over actors has outweighed demand for this kind of work. There’s no simple answer here. Yes, there are LOTS of actors out there looking for VO jobs, and no, they’re not all going to get them. So I suppose, in a sense, one could postulate that, yes, supply has outpaced demand in this industry.

HOWEVER...the demand for voice over work is still very high. More and more folks are turning to voice actors for help with video game scripts, audiobooks, e-learning, marketing videos, etc. There is a lot of work out there to be found! The trick is in not only locating those jobs, but in making yourself the top candidate for them. So here’s Question #2 - how does one do that and become an “in demand” voice talent?

There are a few different ways to get your name and voice out there above the competition, and the key is in finding just the right mix of strategies. The ones I recommended are:

     Marketing through technology - Having a strong web presence is one of the best ways to get noticed. You need a good website, along with active social media accounts. Interact with people as much as possible, as having a large following or lots of “likes” on your posts looks good to potential clients. But try to aim for "high quality" LIKES.
     Old school marketing - We may be fully in the digital age now, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t employee some old school marketing tactics. Set up face to face meetings with potential clients, make a few cold calls, heck - take out an ad in your local paper! Send out postcards and thank you notes.You never know what may come of these strategies.
     Good old fashioned networking - In this industry, it’s a lot about who you know, so much of your marketing plan should be focused on networking. Get to know as many people in the industry as you can, and at all different levels and positions. The more people you know, the more likely you’ll be to hear about interesting gigs or even be recommended for them.
     Stand out and be different - Don’t be afraid to be unique. Your personality is what people are really going to remember, so be yourself, be confident, and remember that you have a unique gift. Spend less time worrying about the overall competition out there and more time developing your "signature" sound... your "money voice." And adjust your marketing to target only those areas that are receptive to your sound.

Friday, February 12, 2016

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pursuing a Career in Voice Over

Voice over may be one of the best careers out there (I’m not at all biased, I promise <wink, wink>), but it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering pursuing a career in this field, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before you get started. Here are the top 5:

1.    Can you handle running your own business? Most VO actors work for themselves, so they do much more than just voice over readings. They handle their own branding and marketing, they close deals, they run their own sound booth, make their own edits, they negotiate payments, and on and on. It’s not easy, and it takes lots of time, effort, and dedication.
2.    Are you open to criticism? If you want to get into voice over, you need to be, because you’re going to hear it. Not everyone is going to love your sound, and they’re going to let you know about it. To be successful in this field, you have to be open to criticism, and then be willing to take steps to improve yourself. And be willing to handle rejection, learn from it and not take it personally. Rather deal with it as a professional quirk and move on unscathed.
3.    Are you willing to learn? Things are always changing in this industry, and you’ve got to be willing to learn and adapt if you want to make it. You can learn through classes and workshops that focus on improving your talent, or learning new tech and sound skills that will advance your career. Learning can take place in many arenas, and you must be open to them.
4.    Are you good with not being paid regularly or immediately? It’s not uncommon for clients to wait 30 days to submit payment, and some will go even longer. If you need a more steady flow of cash, this may not be the career for you.
5.    Are you patient and disciplined? The most successful voice over actors are the ones who know that success doesn’t come overnight, and who are focused and willing to put in the work. It can take years to build up a steady client base to justify a full time voice over career. Are you willing and able to put in the time?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Where to Look for Local Voice Over Work

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago - these are the biggest areas for finding voice over work. But guess what? They’re not the only areas, and you can still find gigs if you don’t live in one of these major cities. Whether you’re new to the industry or simply looking to expand your voice over presence locally, there are several places you should look. Here are 4 of them:

1.    Small businesses - Take some time to drop into some small businesses in your area, and ask about their marketing plan and if it includes voice over work. Many businesses have advertising needs for television or radio commercials, but no one who can give them the experienced sound they want. Pass along a business card, and offer to send a sample of your work so they know what you’re capable of.
2.    Craigslist and other online marketplaces - Craigslist may have a reputation that risk will be involved with any transaction made through the site, but there’s going to be risk no matter where you look for work. You can advertise your services with your own ad, or you can scroll through posted gigs to see if any suit you.
3.    Advertise in local listings - Both online and in newspapers, there are opportunities for you to advertise your voice over services locally. Online directories like Google and Yahoo are obvious choices, but you can take it step further by verifying your physical location on Google+ Local. Another option is to take out an ad in the newspaper or other local paper, because yes, people do still read them!
4.    Network within local groups - Check to see if there are any voice over groups in your community, or broaden this search by adding acting and radio groups to your list. Attend meetings or events and use the opportunity to network with folks in your area - you may be surprised what you can find through these face-to-face meetings. Attend a few local Chamber of Commerce meetings to meet key members of your local businesses.

Monday, February 8, 2016

4 Qualities of a Good Audiobook Narrator

One of the biggest areas in the voice over industry right now is in audiobooks. Audiobooks have grown tremendously in popularity over the years, with more and more people enjoying the convenience of listening to books in their car, on the subway, or, really, anywhere they like.  It makes sense, then, that more voice over actors are being tasked with this kind of work. However, not every actor is suited for audiobooks, as narrators are expected to have a particular sound and style. Here are 4 qualities that the best audiobook narrators have in common:

1.    Authentic - Narrators must possess a certain level of authenticity so that readers can be truly immersed in the book. The sound must match the genre, the setting, time period, character, accents, etc. Without a match in these areas, the narration won’t be believable for listeners.
2.    Consistent - Consistency is key for audiobook narration. From the opening sentence to the final word, voice over actors narrating a book must maintain the same sound throughout. If different voices are used for different characters (and they usually are), those particular voices must remain the same for the length of the book.
3.    Engaging - What happens when you start a book and you just can’t get into it? You put it down, don’t you? The same is true for audiobook - if a listener isn’t engaged with the story, they’re going to turn off the sound and stop listening. The best audiobook narrators are the ones who can capture the attention of the listener at the very beginning, and then keep them engaged throughout the story.
4.    Articulate and intuitive - Like other voice over projects, audiobook work requires an actor to know when to pause, when to raise or lower their volume, which words to emphasize, and so on. Pacing is very important in an audiobook, as is tone, so having an intuitive understanding of what the story’s sound should be leads to the best audiobooks.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Voice Over Trends - What to Watch for in 2016

New year, new trends. That’s the way of the world, and the same is true in the voice over industry. Past years have shown an increase in VO entrepreneurs, e-learning, and video game voice over - so what does 2016 have in store for us? Here are the trends to watch for:

     Guy/Girl Next Door - The “announcer” voice used to be the “it” sound in voice over. In recent years, however, this has shifted into something decidedly less authoritative, and what is sometimes referred to as the “guy next door” sound. And while this isn’t necessarily a new trend, it’s one that is expected to grow exponentially in the coming year. People like the easy relatability of this sound, and it will undoubtedly remain extremely popular.
     Storytelling - What better way to get a message across than through a storytelling format that engages the listener from beginning to end? That’s what marketers have asked themselves, and the answer they keep coming back to is through storytelling. It’s proven to be an effective branding tool that comes across as conversational and authentic, and ultimately helps to make a connection between brand and consumer.
     Brand Voice - Speaking of branding, many companies are looking for just the right voice to represent their brand. In 2016, this trend will certainly continue, as businesses realize the unique advantages that result when designating a single voice or sound to their products and services. That sound then becomes familiar and recognizable, which can translate into significant consumer conversions. 
     Accessibility - With more and more focus on the digital world, and more people than ever having access to computers and the internet, we’ll see a push by businesses to create websites that are accessible for all. Including read-aloud features on websites can expand their presence to include people who are visually-impaired or for those who just plain don’t want to read. And who will take on the job of converting the written words into an audio feature? Voice over actors.

These are just a few of the trends that many experts say we’ll see in 2016. Voice over is an industry that’s always changing, always evolving, and I’m confident that we’ll see even more in the way of trends for this year. 

Friday Fitness Tip #10 From a 32 Year Fitness Novice

Today I’d like to share with you something a bit personal. Something I’m considering changing regarding my basic health. Although I enjoy a trusting, long standing relationship with my primary care doctor, I’m thinking about making a change he may NOT approve of. Under his guidance and with my overall health being above average for my age, (confirmed by my latest annual physical exam this past month) I’ve been prescribed and have been taking a statin drug… Crestor… for several years now. Frankly, I think my doctor may have been making a lab rat out of me. But always with the best of intentions, being a friend and former workout buddy too. Now, as written in my disclaimer below, I am not a doctor, health care professional nor evangelistic snake oil salesman of any kind! I’m simply a healthy guy who plans on staying that way by making all the adjustments needed for a life of wellness.

Several years ago, before Crestor, my LDL (the BAD cholesterol) was over 130. My HDL (GOOD cholesterol) was and still is, over 60. Exercise being a large contributing factor to this. Currently my LDL is in the 70s. The medically acceptable LDL level is now below 80. So, yes, my LDL level is quite low and apparently the Crestor I’ve been on for so long has been the main contributing factor for my good low cholesterol level. However, there has been a lot of information out there piling up regarding the side effects of long and short term statin drug use. Now, I won’t get too technical here but basically, what I’m reading in my research about statin drugs is this. Among the most common side effects are headaches, hoarseness, muscle pain and cramping, stuffy or runny nose, painful or difficult urination, lower back pain and tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones. But the really alarming side effects involve stunted cell growth effecting the nervous system leading to memory loss and even Alzheimers’s disease. And an increased risk of type 2 Diabetes and muscle damage. 
Here’s one link regarding the side effects:  http://statins.mercola.com

Here’s the FDA take on it:  http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm293330.htm

Now, of course, as a Voice Actor, none of these side effects involving possible damage to my “instrument” is desirable; but certainly neither are the major problems that statin drugs seem to be creating… and that many in the medical community are ignoring. After all, statin drug sales are a multi million dollar industry… 1 in 4 Americans are taking them. There are some doctors out there advocating that almost ALL adults should be on a statin drug as a preventative measure.  

Well, I am considering whether I want to continue taking my statin drug or begin adapting a more “natural” way of controlling my LDL and Triglyceride levels. Just as my approach to Voice Acting, my approach to raising my horses, dogs and cats on my ranch, and my overall approach to health and LIFE, for that matter, has been “natural”, I believe I may stop taking Crestor and add more dietary initiatives. I’ve always believed that whole foods, not heavily processed foods, are much healthier to consume. Fiber rich foods such as oats, bran, nuts, brown rice, and barley, legumes and vegetables such as carrots, brussels sprouts, beets, okra, and eggplant… and fruits… berries, oranges, apples, pears and nectarines, paired with a low salted foods and exercise have proven to lower LDL levels. Here’s a link regarding to this:

While foods like avocado, legumes, oatmeal, tomatoes, halibut and salmon have been proven to raise and/or maintain high HDL levels.  

I’m also considering these supplements for reducing my LDL level in lieu of continuing on Crestor.  Check out these products if you’re also interested in replacing your statin drugs. Or if you are concerned about someone you love who does take these drugs. See links below.

*I’m still researching these products but wanted to share this info with you.
*WARNING: Before making any changes make sure that nothing you begin to take interferes with or causes undesirable side effects with any current medications you may be taking. Even better if you can work with your doctor on gradually replacing your statins.

So I hope you’ve found this information helpful.

See ya' next time for another Friday Fitness Tip!

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a fitness expert in any way. I’m not a certified trainer, dietician, or medical doctor… nor do I hold a degree in physical education, dietary science, sports medicine or any other field related to today’s fitness. I am just a normal guy who’s been working out regularly at a gym, 3 - 4 days per week for the last 32 years. I take my health seriously. I figure, I do no service to my profession as a Voice Actor/Voiceover Talent (sometimes on camera) nor to anyone else if I don’t try and maintain good health. And I’ve learned a few things along the way that I’d like to share with you. These ideas work for me and just might work for you. Please consult with your physician before starting an exercise program. Stay tuned for many more tips!   

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Don’t Make these Voice Over Mistakes in 2016

Big or small, mistakes can have a serious impact on your voice over career. Something as minor as a mispronunciation can quickly turn off a potential client, and more major offenses can cost you work, money, and possibly even your reputation. So let’s talk about what some of these mistakes are, and what you need to do to avoid making them in this new year.

     Not spending adequate time preparing. Sometimes winging it with a cold reading can pay off, but for the most part, it’s better to spend a bit of time preparing. Whether you’re auditioning for a new role or you’ve already landed it, do your homework. Get to know the client, and familiarize yourself with the demographic that you’ll be speaking to. Read over the script, make notes, and ask for clarification when necessary.
     Not being yourself. Sure, when you’re doing voice over, you’re taking on a role and essentially becoming someone else. This should never be at the total expense of your individuality, however. Be sure to infuse some of your unique personality into your readings, because that’s what people want after all, and that’s why they hired YOU.
     Not treating your VO gigs as acting jobs. This is one of the biggest mistakes that beginning talent makes - they don’t act. Instead, they read a script, and even if they are careful with their volume and timing and other aspects that most people don’t think about, they’re not acting. Don’t be afraid to move around (just watch how this may affect your sound)keep your proper mic proximity, or make facial expressions that convey whatever you’re reading. Doing this helps you get into character and deliver a more powerful performance.
     Not acting like a professional. When you’re working for yourself as a voice over artist, it can be easy to slip into a “hey, I don’t have to answer to anyone!” kind of attitude. And while this may be true, technically speaking, just remember that it is imperative that you maintain professionalism with your clients at all times. Be polite, responsive, and able to answer whatever questions they may have. If you must meet with them, dress for the occasion. Just because 80% of your work is done in the comfort of your home studio, doesn’t mean your clients don’t expect the same level of professionalism that they would get when working through an agency. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

3 New Year’s Resolutions a Voice Actor Should Make

Now that 2015 is officially over, it’s time to move full-speed ahead in 2016. It’s a new year, and that means a new start for most people - that’s why people make resolutions, after all! With that in mind, here are 3 resolutions that I think every voice actor should make for 2016.

1.    Find a good work-life balance. Focusing on your career is important, definitely. But so is focusing on your family and friends and other things in life that bring you joy. When you’re solely focused on just one aspect of life, whether it be work or personal life, the other one is compromised. Don’t do that to yourself. Find a way to divide your time more equally between the two, as both are important elements of a happy, balanced life.
2.    Devote some time to professional development. Everyone has room for improvement, so spend some time working on developing your skills this year. Personal and professional growth is the key to advancing your career, so do some research to find classes, workshops, or conferences that you believe will help you. Be open to learning new things, and practice this in your daily life - you may be surprised at the positive impact it can have on your voice over career.
3.    Take better care of your body. This is a resolution that is so common, it’s almost cliche. Eat right, hit the gym, etc. And while most of the folks making this resolution aren’t voice over actors and are doing it mainly for aesthetic reasons (achieving a six-pack is pretty important, right?), taking proper care of your body can do wonders for your voice over work. For instance, increasing your water intake and avoiding tobacco and alcohol can dramatically impact your sound. Expanding your lung capacity and improving breathe control. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating nutritious foods can have the same physical effects, too. And this is nothing to say of the mental boost that feeling good physically can create.

These are the resolutions that I believe would benefit every VO actor, as well as people working in other professions. What do you think? What are your New Year’s resolutions?