Today’s 5 Questions for a Professional Voice-Over Talent are answered by Caryn Clark, a professional voice over talent based in Fort Myers, Florida.
1. The beginning: When did you know you wanted to be a voiceover talent; how did your career begin (please include what year it started) and then when did your passion for voiceover develop into something professional?
I don’t have a background in radio or broadcast. I was an English major in college (Go Gators!), with the intent of going to law school. But my undergraduate grades were not so great, so I decided to move to NYC after college and landed a job in marketing/writing for the financial industry.
When I was in high school and college, I sang in choirs… you know, like Women’s Chorus, and like the one in the show “Glee.” But I really wasn’t THAT good – certainly not good enough to make a living. When I started working in the “real” world, I missed singing. It had always been a relaxing and cathartic pass time. But there really wasn’t a choir I could join, so at a loss, one of my brothers suggested I look into voiceover as a way to use my voice. In 1995, I took my first voiceover classes, and made a demo. (By the way, I was NOT a natural. The class was full of actors and artsy types) Once the demo was produced, I did absolutely nothing with the demo. Those were the days when you had to get the “Ross Reports” booklet of agents, write letters, mail cassette tapes. I had a job, I wanted to be a good corporate soldier, and I guess I was just too lazy. And I think, intimidated. I knew from the class I had taken that I wasn’t like everyone else in the business.
Fast forward 10 years, to 2005. I had moved to Fort Myers in 1999, and had been working from home for the same company I worked for in NYC, doing the same job. Over time, I realized I was not really a good corporate solider, and I desperately needed to find another job. But, having worked from home for 6+ years, I knew I couldn’t work in an office again. I needed to create my own business. And do something fun, exciting, that used my talents, since corporate life had been ANYTHING but all of that.
I had toted around those 60 cassette tape demos, and my original DAT, though every move since 1995. They were in a brown grocery bag, deep in my office closet. I thought, “Hmmmm… maybe there’s a way to do this?” I started Googling voice over and coaches, and found the esteemed Randy Thomas (she’s voiced The Oscars, The Tonys, and is the voice of “Entertainment Tonight”) lived right in Fort Myers!!!
Serendipity. Fate. Whatever you want to call it. It was meant to be.
Randy happened to offer a group class a couple of months later. I went, and I did EVERYTHING she suggested. I joined the online vo marketplaces. I bought a cheap mic I could plug into my corporate-issued laptop. I would throw a comforter over my head, sweat my bootay off, and audition for EVERYTHING I could.
Eventually, I landed a gig! It was a narration of a TV show a production company was pitching to the Travel Channel, about Halloween in New Orleans. I booked a studio in town, and recorded the session. and got paid. Granted, I didn’t make much, but I didn’t care.
Two hours later, the client called. They wanted to re-record. And coach me beforehand. They were going to pay me an additional fee. I agreed.
The next day, they called again.
They decided to hire another talent.
I was fired from my first gig. And I was devastated. I called the guy who engineered the session that day (he became a friend) and sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed to my husband. I was so defeated.
But, honestly, I sucked. I really was NOT very good. At all.
Yet, I still wanted to be a voice over actress. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was being rejected. Maybe it was trying to improve myself. Maybe it was because there just seemed to be so much to aspire to. It was probably a combination of all of those things. And, I’m stubborn.
So, I auditioned… and auditioned… and auditioned. And found a coach so I could take private lessons. I booked, little by little. and eventually, created a resume for myself.
Then, I landed a series of commercials for Hannah Montana dolls and other products.
That was my big break. I marketed the HECK out of those commercials. Postcards, emails, on my web site… to anyone who would listen.
In the summer of 2007, I quit my corporate job to pursue voice over full time. Not that I had any business quitting my day job. I was making very, VERY little money with voice over. But I was also very stressed out by my corporate job, and just wanted to be happy, no matter how hard I had to work to make voice over happen.
In 2010, I left my husband. I’ll use that phrase again – “not that I had any business” leaving my husband since I still wasn’t making much money in voice over. Certainly not enough to be comfortable like I had been, and honestly, not really enough to sustain myself. It takes time to build a business, especially a voiceover business, because it IS so competitive. And you have to make an investment of both time and money, only to have a long shot at making a living. But I told myself, I’m a smart girl, I’ll figure it out.
And somehow, someway, I did. By the grace of God, I make a very decent living as a full-time voice over actress. I am very, very blessed, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t recognize that.
2. What is the one thing you know now that you wish someone had told you when you first started out in voiceover?
Hmmmm… that’s a tough one. I don’t really know that I’ve been surprised by anything. I can say that what I’ve realized lately is that this career is an open door of opportunity. There’s always something to aspire to be better at. And as life has handed me different situations, experiences, and life challenges, I’ve noticed my voice changing… well, expanding its range… and I’m booking different types of reads (along with the old ones that are my “wheelhouse.”) It’s really cool to make this observation, and makes me totally excited for what’s next in my career.
3. What do you see as the biggest professional or personal obstacle you face that impacts your voiceover business and how are youworking to overcome it?
Quoting rates for freelance jobs. That can be challenging. You have to know to ask the exact right questions in order to assess the scope of the project and set a rate that’s fair to both the client and you.
4. What personal trait or professional tool has helped you succeed the most in your career so far?
I think I would say, not taking things personally. We audition for jobs constantly, and we don’t land most of them. I used to be so afraid of rejection (and well, getting fired from my first vo gig didn’t help), but I’ve learned it’s not personal. The client has a certain sound for their project in their head, and, despite what the specs might say, they just know the voice when they hear it. One of my bestest friends in the whole wide world is a voice over talent, and we sound very much alike. We audition for the same gigs constantly. But we’re not at all threatened by each other. It’s not up to us. It’s up to the client. We just do the best we can.
Also, I’d say that not having an ego is a big trait. Be humble.
5. In your development as a voice over performer, who has been the one particular individual or what has been the one piece of performance advice (maybe a key performance trick, etc.) that you felt has had the most impact on your actual voice over performance and why?
Randy Thomas was a great mentor. I spent a lot of time just watching her work, and when I was getting started, I was just amazed by her ability to knock out a script with what seemed like was little effort. I mean, if you talk to me, I can barely spit out a sentence without stumbling a lot of times, but her energy and rich tones just lift the words off the page… she can make them dance.
As for performance advice, I think it’s just being yourself. You’re portraying you, but in different situations. But be just be you. No one does you like you do.