The 3 F-words That Sabotage Your VO Productivity: Fear, Freezing and Facebook

…or why I probably won’t be wishing you happy birthday on Facebook anymore (unless you are family). Apologies in advance. I love you anyway.

Every Monday Morning, and once a month in two other cases,  I log onto google hangouts and meet with my voiceover mastermind peeps. These groups were born at faffcon and WoVO  and are a huge part of my voiceover business (and, yes, now my personal) life.

break it down...

break it down…

I love these voiceover peeps. We inspire, help, and ground one another. How? By sharing what we have accomplished, what’s next to accomplish, and what’s standing in our way. Also, we support each other (and ourselves) when things go awry – or undone.  Accountability, plus forgiveness. Ahhh. There are, indeed, all sorts of obstacles to putting our plans in action. Some are genuine priority changers (e.g. family matters), others are – well, yeah – pure procrastination.

There are tons of reasons we put stuff off: perfectionism, lack of scheduling, shortage of time, decreased desire. Still, along the way, I’ve noticed three recurring themes in my own procrastination patterns that all begin with the letter F. Hmm. So – a few thoughts and tips.

FEAR – Look at your own voiceover to-do list. What’s on it that keeps getting moved from day to day, month to month, even year to year? (um, cold-contacting potential new clients, perhaps?) Ask yourself:

  • did I just not get around to this, or am I afraid to do it? 

Your own answer may lead you to the next questions:

  • what, exactly, scares me?
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • Could I handle that?

For inspiration, and solutions, there’s a terrific Tedx Talk about fear that is guiding me to go from “No, Thanks” to “Let Me Try.” I hope it sparks you too!

 

What do you fear?

What do you fear?

the second F-word here is…..

FREEZINGOh, my gosh, so much to do! so many possibilities! I could contact e-learning clients, or maybe it’s time to update my promos demo, or…oh wow I forgot to send a thank-you note to yesterday’s clinet…actually, all the clients from the last three months…or….

And before you know it, you’re eating cookies and binge-watching Taxi on hulu. Something so satisfying about completing an episode.

Hmm, what’s an entrepreneur to do? How to avoid freezing? Especially when you still haven’t completed that business plan that’s supposed to guide your days?

You can still thaw yourself, at least enough to get some stuff done. How?

  • Prioritize. Ideally, you know what matters most today. A project due at End of Day? EASY! That’s an obvious priority. But those important but not urgent tasks? ….schedule them.
  • Schedule. Freezing happens when we don’t schedule our tasks. Guilty as charged…much of the time. But I gotta tell you, when I do schedule a task – assign a day and TIME to do it – it generally gets done.
  • Activation energy. That’s when you leave a visual reminder around that makes it seem like you’ve already begun the task. The sneakers in your car if you plan to walk that day. The guitar on display instead of in the case if you want to practice. The phone number written down on a post-it note and stuck on your phone. The template/script for cold calls or cold e-mails already opened. This helps a lot!

Another great TED Talk, this one on procrastination:

Freeze - or Do?

Freeze – or Do?

The third F-word?

FACEBOOK. Or the likes. Sorry, but it’s true. Man, it’s such an easy distraction. And, according to the Udemy course on Gmail Productivity I just took (and, ahem, completed, thank you very much!), it takes our brains a full 20 minutes to return to task once we’ve distracted ourselves. Oy. So this year I set out to tame the FB time-sucking monster, and it has helped immensely. Strangely enough, my fragile actor’s ego has benefited too. Here’s what worked for me, after trial and error:

Stop or limit scrolling. Set newsfeeds so your close friends and family show up first. And once the “friend” you don’t recognize shows up, stop!  If you do scroll, only do it for recreation, not procrastination. Choose what matters. I love pix of your cute baby, but will not respond to your political opinion. Others will. Know your own priorities.

Check notifications first. For me, this works the best. I get on and off of FB in under a minute this way.  If nothing sparks your interest, get out of there! Mostly I now click on family and close friend posts. I stay off many groups, especially the humble brag stuff. Not saying it’s bad, just saying it’s not the best use of my time to scroll and click away. I want to run my own race.

Happy Birthday in Advance!

Happy Birthday in Advance!

Don’t feel guilty if you skip the Birthday Thing for acquaintances. Or the Linked-In Anniversary thing.  This was fun the first year of facebook, but (sorry!) I’ve mostly eliminated it from my timesheet. If Facebook told me it’s your birthday, it doesn’t seem so special to post it to your timeline – family and close-to-family excepted. And if you skip my birthday this year, I’ll understand. Let’s assume we love each other anyway.

Time I used to spend on FB per day: probably an hour. Time these days: under 5 minutes a day. And I don’t miss much.

Just my few cents. In social media in general, I try only to post if:

  • it might make someone laugh
  • it might be useful to someone (even a tweeted  tidbit from an audiobook I’m narrating)
  • it connects us somehow (we’ll feel less alone)

So I hope you find this useful! And remember another F-word. A nice one. Forgiveness. We’re all just working on this stuff. Practice makes better, not perfect🙂

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Fall In Love With the Work

Some days in the voiceover business are a real ego boost.  You get nominated for an Audie Award. A friend from high school calls to say he 2528790792_b0ae69df48_thumb.jpg“heard your voice on TV”, or listened to an audiobook you narrated.  You get to work with a celebrity on an animated series (and discover that she is just a regular human being too). Or maybe you call your niece at work and recognize your own voice on the voicemail system.  You land a major ad campaign and want to plaster that fact all over Facebook. Yay.

But there are also days where you audition for 20 gigs and land none of them. Or the project you are voicing is “only” going to be heard by Government workers who are forced to take an online course in anger management. Maybe the explainer video you are narrating has a horribly written script. Or that awesome  gig (!)  that was so much fun, and man you sounded fantastic and did some of your best work ever…it never gets aired and you can’t even find it on YouTube to show it to your Mom.

Sigh. What’s a Voice Talent to do?

Love the WORK, that’s what. NOT the results.

SeinfeldObama

In the latest episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” Jerry Seinfeld talks with President Barack Obama about the problems that come with success and fame.  Keeping politics out of it (yes, please), and seeing it as just two famous people having a conversation, I love what Seinfeld says about his years as a struggling comedian vs. his position now with money, fame, influence, etc.

How does he keep from getting carried away by his own ego, in the past when facing failure, and now when in danger of being carried away by success?

“I’ll give you the the real answer…I fell in love with the work.  And the work was joyful, and difficult, and interesting – and that was my focus.”

And that, too, in the secret to success in the voiceover business. That online training in Global Compliance is fascinating – to the person who needs to learn it. And your fascination makes it better for that listener. You may not win an award, but it’s the work that brings the importance. Sure, maybe your date is more impressed that your voice was heard on an ad during the Superbowl, but if you got into voiceovers to impress people, you should probably rethink your choice. Your ego will take more hits than boosts. But none of that matters if you can pay your bills doing what you love. Don’t love the fame.  Love the work. Value the listener’s need. And
love “bringing words to life.” (yeah, it’s my position liner for what I do).

This way, you can never lose. Being a Voice Talent is indeed joyful. And sometimes difficult. And always interesting. Focus on loving what you DO – not how many people applaud it. Unless, of course, they are signing the check for your services.

Happy 2016!

 

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Are There Too Many Voice Talents?

Reality check, with a question:

Do you find it more difficult than you’d thought it would be to get, and keep getting, work as a voice talent in 2015?

I’m not one to wax poetic about the past.  Change is, at best, exciting; at the very least, it’s inevitable. And certainly the voiceover business has changed drastically since I joined it over 25 years ago.

Too Many Voice Talents?

Too Many Voice Talents?

Back then, it was a fairly local, and more personal world. You trained until you knew you could deliver the performance, made a demo based on your suitability to the market, and started marketing your services to recording studios, advertising agencies and (possibly, eventually) casting directors and agents. Marketing, word of mouth and referrals were your golden keys to that first chance, and then you hoped to continue to get hired based on the awesome job you did (and keeping in gentle touch).

So far, sounds pretty much the same, yes? Only, back then, your marketing was to your general geographical location, there were post offices and telephones involved, and most of the time you knew your clients more personally, often got to shake their hands in person.

And – fanfare for the truth – there was less competition. Once you were in that “stable” of voice talents a studio or agency could rely upon, the phone kept ringing. That’s how I built my business. And that part of the business still exists. Most of my work is from word of mouth and repeat clients. Believe me, it’s easier for the client re re-hire someone they trust than to go out and start a brand new search.

But, as you know, things are also very different. Many potential clients have a huge database of voice talents to choose from – and, thanks to the internet, all they have to do is post a project and hundreds of auditions will show up in their mailbox. The work, for the client, is not on the front end (listening to demos, sending invites to those who suit their requirements, then choosing from the handful of hand-chosen candidates) but on the back end – easy to post the project, but harder (I imagine) to sort through the hundreds of auditions that may vary widely in quality.  Casting this way must seem easier, but I suspect it often is not, for the client. However, in this new virtual and pervasive climate, they might not know there are other ways to find voices. Continue reading

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Getting Your “VOJO” Back: Breaking Though When Inertia Hits

Hi, my name is Randye and I’ve lost my VOJO.

(If you haven’t had your caffeine yet this morning and can’t guess, I will define VOJO for you: Voice Over plus Mojo/motivation.

SONY DSCGot it? Now go to Starbucks, already).  We all need VOJO, and we need to reignite it now and again – or daily.

VOJO is not about the easy stuff: meeting the client’s deadline, getting the work done, depositing the checks. VOJO is about the tasks with less-immediate deadlines and results, such as:

  • planting the marketing seeds,
  • making those cold calls,
  • creating a database,
  • submitting an audition,
  • sending those thank-you cards.

We need VOJO to keep our business fluid, active, and progressing. Problem is, for those of us who thrive on immediate return (umm, slight ADD, anyone?), it’s difficult to get motivated and too easy to procrastinate.

blue brace, cane...but harder to stand than it looks!

blue brace, cane…but harder to stand than it looks!

This has been particularly true for me since October 6th, 2014 – the day I was hit by a car while crossing the street (result: broken wrist, injured leg and shoulder). I’d barely gotten the use of my dominant hand back, when a surgery complication of my left hip resulted in a month-long hospital/rehab stay and an extended period of home and outpatient rehab after that. Right now, until things heal more fully (still using a walker/cane and leg brace to get around), I am working from home (feeling very grateful for my “personal studio”) and have only recently begun to drive again – but only to places that are handicap-accessible. So – yeah – though I am meeting my Voiceover clients’ needs, my VOJO for that additional and necessary work has been cut short. Healing saps energy, but I’m finally ready to use a bit of that energy to reclaim my career.

But – I needed a jump-start. If you get stuck, complacent, or discouraged…how do you reignite the VOJO flame?

So, here’s what I did this week – and how it worked. Not about results, but certainly about action – and ACTION felt really good.

It’s as easy as ABC…DE!

Step One: Admit that you’re stuck, and (but don’t spend too much time here) why you’re stuck. Just like in therapy, often the main value in examining “why” is to see how you can (or can’t) fix it. (for me: this means accepting what I currently can, and cannot do. NYC is out for now – but I can increase my marketing to e-learning and other virtual clients. Physical healing is top priority – but after that, returning to some voiceover marketing tasks outranks binge-watching Mad Men.)

Step Two: Break the pattern by doing one constructive thing. (I went through my billables and sent out statements)

Step Three: Make a “Realistic Plus One” Commitment. specific and attainable. What, When, How? (“Each weekday, I will touch five new potential clients – either by sending an audition, or submitting my demo after researching the prospect”)

Step Four: (Yay, Nike) Just Do It…and until it is done, stay away from facebook and the refrigerator.  And keep a record of it. A “Got Done” List can be very motivating. (“Today I auditioned for projects for___________. CHECK!”) Don’t let yourself indulge in the distracting activity until the task is done! For more, check out Insane Productivity. (Thanks, Bobbin Beam, for the input)

Step Five: Evaluate the list and tasks weekly. (are five touches enough? any results? keep doing it, or increase?)

Thy key here is to be realistic – but to push those boundaries just past the comfort zone (which for me, lately, has been with Don Draper and Peggy Olson. Six seasons of Mad Men got me through a lot of pain. But now it’s time to move on and get my self-esteem back – but being proactive again. One step back into VOJO-land. And it feels great!

 

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The Voice Actor’s “Down Time” – Ha!

In a recent discussion among members and executive board members of the international pro voice actors’ organization WOVO wovo(World Voices), we were sharing the virtues of various technologies to record remotely: ISDN, ip DTL, Source Connect etc. This question then emerged:” isn’t the real issue how do I get enough work to use these technologies?” The response, so beautifully and simply put by our esteemed president Dustin Ebaugh, was this:

My secret to getting the WORK has been doing at least 100 auditions or marketing contacts per week, every week. The work seems to come when I do that.🙂

So, yes, that’s the answer to the myth of “downtime ” for voice talents, i.e. between bookings: there is none.  Other than vacations and “personal days” we give ourselves  (such nice bosses we have!), the hours other than what an attorney would call “billable”  are really the times we must be building our business and our skills

This will help me explain “loss of work hours” to a lawyer soon – and serve as a reminder that all work hours, whether billable or not, are important hours when you run your own small business.

arm

half of the body language immobilized!

I write this post with one hand – my non-dominant one – due to a car (with distracted driver) vs. pedestrian (me) incident last month. Long story, and not the point here.  I will, eventually and gratefully, be able to use both hands again – at least that’s the plan, and I’m going to work hard until it’s true. But, in the meantime, I find myself musing about what we voice actors do, and how we must spend our “down time” so that our futures contain possibilities.

As I am discovering, there is much that is difficult even within those billable hours with only one usable hand — editing, for one. Effective body language, for two.  Not to mention working through the pain and energy-sap as bones heal.  I’m proud to say that I haven’t disappointed my clients, and have met my deadlines so far. But  still.  I have had to turn down projects due to the need for a little extra time. And while my main priority is to not hurt my body right now, (the leg was injured as well), I can’t help but think about how this may hurt my future business.

Why? Well. that is what the inquiring minds will want to know when I say I have lost work hours due to this injury. “After all, your voice still works, right?” But you and I both know there is so much more to this business than voicing in the booth, or editing the files.

So – what the heck do we do when not technically “earning money” , as voiceover entrepreneurs? Bearing in mind that some of us have related skills and income streams, your list may be different, but basically we are preparing and growing our businesses.  This is as necessary to our work as recording and editing are.

arm leg rkHere is my partial list. What’s on yours?

  • research and contact (phone, e-mail etc) new potential clients
  • send handwritten thank-you notes and reminders
  • shop for client gifts, and send them
  • invoice clients, do the bookkeeping, send out statements
  • write blogposts and articles (for some of us, books)  to increase visibility and outreach
  • practice new genres
  • respond to inquiries
  • send out demos
  • travel to outside-studio gigs, in-person auditions and networking opportunities
  • enter info into databases
  • practice new genres and studio skills
  • update demos and reload them to rosters/agents

What’s on your down-time to-do list?

(And, hopefully, you have two hands to use while you do it.  Dictated to Siri, with gratitude for technology advances)

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VoiceOver Copy: Your High School Play, on Speed

There are a lot of surprises for aspiring voice talents who cross my path either as a student via Edge Studio, or just at, say, a party. You know, the ones with “such a nice voice” who need to read Dave Courvoisier’s book ( or any of the other amazing resources I blogged about a few months ago).

The first reality check is, of course, the need to treat this like the business it is. There has been a lot written about that, so again I refer you to those who have busted this myth in their amazing blogs and books. (Derek Chappell, our blog curator, and John Florian, Voiceover Xtra guru, are more great places to start).

The second big myth to bust – and equally as important to know – is that this not a business of “reading in a pretty voice.”  This is a business of communication – and, often (or always), a business of acting.  Maybe there is really no difference – but, whatever you call it, you’ve got to know the story you are telling!

Remember that high school play you were in? Or summer camp? College? Community or Professional Theatre? hs playThink back….whatever role you had, there was a process to follow to get the story from page to stage.  Here’s what probably happened, and what it has to do with voiceover reads.

The Theatre Process, and Voiceovers

1 – Casting. yeah, that.

2 – The cast assembled to do a full read-through of the script. This way, everyone knew the whole story, where it was going, what the overall gestalt and tone of the story was. (Voiceover equivalent: Read through the script – or at least skim the longer ones – before you press record. See what it’s about, where it’s going) Continue reading

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Voice Talents: Go Outside and Play! (and Faffcamp)

Voice Talents spend way too much time indoors. In fact, on certain days (neighbors mowing lawns, airplanes zooming by) we kind of curse the outdoors. Noisy!  Those of us who do this full-time, and primarily from home,  know that when we are not recording and editing we are “supposed” to be still chained to the computer: marketing, researching, attending webinars, adding to databases, flaunting our latest work….and before we know it our brain hurts from activity but our bodies hurt from inactivity.

Plus, unless we’ve been lucky enough to work that day in an outside studio with actual other humans, we are often isolated and mentally locked in. Yes. This has become an occupational hazard.  And while the “Social Media Water Coolers” (facebook groups, video conference calls, blogs, twitter, etc) provide a lovely reminder that we are, indeed, part of a community of others in the same boat (or, rather, booth), they do not take the place of actual physical contact with other real live humans – and the world outside our sound-dampened spaces.

It happens if we want it to happen!

It happens if we want it to happen!

One big fix, of course, is to make room in your budget and schedule to attend some kind of voice over conference. These vary from local meet-up groups to the more national ones like WoVoCon or Faffcon. If you have heard of Faffcon but haven’t been able to get in (attendance is limited) , here is your chance to go to another incredible Faff-event called Faffcamp.  This will happen in March of 2015 but only if enough sign up by tonight! (July 10, 2014)  Newbies, this is your chance. Don’t blow it – take the step now! I can attest that every single time I have attended one of these, my spirit soars and my voiceover business increases. So register today, and if you use this code,  VT9026055 , you’ll get $25 off!

 

Between conferences, however, we need to take care of our mental and physical health as well – every day. So, on a daily basis – what to do?

Voice talents: go outside and play!  It is not something to do “if you have time” – make time. Continue reading

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Parade Magazine – and the Myth of Easy Voiceover Money

So….in page 8 of last week’s Parade magazine, I revealed my almost-6-figure income for all to see:

Parade

Parade

photo (12)

 

This was my 15 seconds of fame for the spring….about how long it takes to turn the page and move on to something else – like, say, how much Beyonce and Sandra Bullock make.

Why did I participate? For fun. For the attention, sure, not gonna lie. But also as another slice in my marketing pie.  As a member of WoVo, (Worldvo.org)  the industry association for international Voice Talents, I want to promote our industry as a field where professional talents are seen – and paid – as the professionals we are.  And my fairly-decent income for 2013 was another way to make that point.

Of course,as you might imagine, I got lots of e-mails, messages, and even a couple of phone calls (one really weird one in the middle of the night from Los Angeles, but he might have had a different, um, agenda) saying “wow! you make so much money just for talking? I have a nice voice!”….well, you get the picture.

How to Get Started in Voice-Overs.

Judy Carter says it beautifully in her book The Comedy Bible (for aspiring comics and comedy writers)The-Comedy-Bible

  • Get good.
  • Get noticed.
  • Get paid.

In that order.

And then, she continues with a terrific book full of chapters with concrete steps to accomplish all that – chapters that most people, sadly, probably don’t read. “Really? I gotta do all that?”

And so it is with Voiceovers.  In the words of Mama Rose (a part which I just auditioned for, and btw, did not get… sad face…but hey that’s show biz. indeed.): “Got the dream, yeah, but not the guts.”  

Got the Guts? Here’s What You Do First:

(In the interest of public service, the contents of the letter I usually send to aspiring talents – tho I do tailor it a bit….

Dear______________ – 

As you might imagine,  I get this question at least 5 times a day!

This is a business that requires you to be self-starter. Get good at it, learn all you can, and then you must build your business.

My best advice is to do the research first – learn what it takes.

Here are some articles to get you started:   http://voiceoverxtra.com/articles.htm?cat=biz%3A+newcomers+to+voice-over

There is also a terrific resource called The Voice-Over Entrance Exam, which spells it all out beautifully

In addition, I highly recommend Edge Studios. They have a 4-hour “Investigate voice-over” class that will answer many of your questions, and it’s a very reasonable rate.  Here is the link to that: http://www.edgestudio.com/voice-over-class

regarding audiobooks, some great info is here: https://www.audiopub.org/faq.asp#narrator

There are also some fabulous blogs from the VO community.

additionally, here are some great books :

There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is : A Complete Insider’s Guide to Earning Income and Building a Career in Voice-Overs  (latest edition)  by Elaine A. Clark. Lots of script examples with detailed discussions.

Art of Voice Acting  by James Fourth edition – an excellent book with CD examples. Complete overview of the business.

Technique Guidebook, available at Edge Studio, www.edgestudio.com-

Sound Advice, by Dan Friedman – clear home studio info from a voice talent/engineer

Voice-Over Garden – Jonathan Tilley (online purchase);

Voices of Experience – Doug Turkel – FREE e-book, how VO superstars got there!

also, look for books by Dave Courvoisier, Paul Strikwerta, Bill DeWees…

That should get you started!

good luck, Randye

 

It is not complete, but it is a place to begin. Feel free to chime in with comments, fellow talents.

Ready, set, go!

Continue reading

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Voiceovers… and The Lure of “Normal”

When I was 17 years old, I made a vow that I would never work a Monday-Friday 9-to-5 job.

It made sense at the time. I’d just finished ten weeks doing just that in Manhattan, the summer before college, to earn tuition money.  It had seemed like a great opportunity, assisting in the publicity department of a book publisher. Unfortunately, the job mostly entailed typing while facing a blank wall. Well – that, and watching the clock for lunchtime and quitting time. Yuck. Plus, my typing sucks (and btw still does). So I figured the “normal” life was just not for me. And I’ve pretty much kept that vow ever since.

That, my friends, like all vows, can be a curse as well as a blessing. Limiting, sure – but any improv actor can confirm that limitations can unleash lots of creativity. And sometimes we really need it.

Being a full-time voice talent means that no day is exactly the same as the day before. I love that! And yet – sometimes I am tempted by the lure of normal. Are you?

The Temptations of an Everyday Gig

This past month, I’ve spent more time on the air at our local NPR radio affiliate, as they are in the process of hiring a new full-time talent and I’m filling the

Today's Morning Gig

Today’s Morning Gig

gaps until then.  Sure, I thought about applying for the job myself.  Ah, the lure of benefits! a 401k! something stable in my schedule! steady salary!

But ultimately, I didn’t even apply. I’m happier being the understudy here, free to say no if I have big voiceover project to finish, or a business trip planned. So I stay, for now, with the eclectic, uncertain  life I lead as a voice talent (plus extra, related, gigs). A small voice is asking why I made that choice…but I know why. And, if you are an addicted voice talent too, I’ll bet you understand the choice – and also the temptation. Continue reading

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Memories…The Way We (Voice Talents) Were

Listen, oh newbies, and you shall hear

of the way things were for the (…um…) voiceketeer…

(ooh! reserving that domain name right now!)

Whether you’re just starting your career as a voice talent, or have been at it for a few years, you’ve probably heard from some more seasoned talents that “the voiceover  business has changed.”

Yep. True that. Honestly, what business hasn’t changed lately?

But what does that really mean? What was it like, back in the days before twitter and blogposts? And – is anything still relevant from back in the “VO olden times”?

Getting a Voice Over Start, Before the Internet

why I kept business local at first

why I kept business local at first

I started in the business over 25 years ago, when I was a fairly new Mom – a son, then a daughter, both at home with me most of the time.  I began my career with a goal of part-time work, to supplement my husband’s income while being there for my kids until they were old enough for school.  I live about an hour from NYC, but chose to focus on local work in Connecticut – with the occasional stroke of luck (or referral) that led to a gig in the Big Apple.

 

 

Here is what I did:

  • Got some VO coaching to supplement my already-existing skills as an actor (made a living, not famous) in theatre, film,
    yeah. that long ago. theatre headshot

    yeah. that long ago. theatre headshot

    and TV.

  • Learned about the business of voiceover.
  • Found demo copy that suited my voice and delivery.
  • This is a cassette tape.

    This is a cassette tape.

    Hired an active production company to produce my demo, another to make copies of it onto cassettes. Both companiesended up hiring me as a voice talent (I chose their services partly because I knew there was a chance they would hire me after I hired them….one way to get someone to hear your work!)

  • Asked for referrals from my two happy clients.
  • Drew a geographical circle that would cover a 90-minute drive from my home, and researched possible clients there (recording studios, mostly, in those days). Called them for info. Sent demos. Followed up. There was postage involved, and the telephone.
  • Networked with other voice talents – I recommended them, they recommended me. Continue reading

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