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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.