Entries Tagged as 'voiceover advice'

female voice talent natasha marchewka published in backstage magazine

It is always nice to be invited to a party.

It means people enjoy your company, you usually have interesting or funny things to say and people generally like having you around.

Voice Talent Natasha Marchewka published in Backstage MagazineSo I was honored yet surprised when I got an email from my friend, fellow Faffer and female voiceover talent Natasha Marchewka a few weeks ago. She was writing an article for Backstage Magazine about the best ways for voiceover talents to secure new business and she wanted to interview me.

Naturally, I requested a private plane to NYC, a suite at a 5-star hotel in mid-town Manhattan for 7 days, 24-hour chauffeur, clothing and food allowance (no more than $5,000 per day, as I am not greedy). I also said the 10 tickets I would need for Hamilton on Broadway could be within the theatre’s  first 10 rows. Only divas demand front row. I am hardly a diva.

Plus sometimes the actor’s spit when they talk and if you’re in the front row…ewww!

So Natasha emailed me the questions and said IF (and only if) my answers were any good, she might include them in the article.

Oh well, you miss 100% of the shots you never take. 🙂

Somehow I made the cut. Natasha was very kind to include me at all and the editors of Backstage were also kind not to hit the delete key after seeing my name in the article….sometimes my life can feel like one long edit with a dull blade (old time radio people will get that reference).

Here is the link to the Backstage article HERE.

karen commins creates narrator’s roadmap

Karen Commins Voiceover Talent Narrator AudiobookMy talented voiceover friend Karen Commins was nice enough send a very detailed email response to a marketing query I had posted to a social media voiceover page. As usual, she answered the questions I had perfectly and I was/am very appreciative.

She also told me of a new website she has started, in addition to her audiobook narration work. New voiceover talent and audiobook narrators (of any experience level) take note.

Narrators Roadmap Karen Commins

The informative site for new voiceover narrators is called Narrators Roadmap. Karen’s web site is devoted to the needs of audiobook narrators at all levels. It includes tips, resources and many stress relieving insights for voiceover narrators.

Karen has been helping new and experienced voiceover talent in their journeys for many years. This is just one more example of both her kindness and the generosity of so many folks in the voiceover industry.

proof that following your voiceover instincts can work

Trust Your Instinct audioconnellOne of the biggest challenges to ANY small business owner (in voiceover or elsewhere) is knowing when to make an important decision.

Sometimes circumstances are clear and the business decision seems easy. Most times it’s not. That’s when business owners need to look at as many facts as possible and make the call, decision time.

Often, when circumstances and facts don’t seem as clear cut, a decision comes down to the business owner’s instincts. Their gut feeling.

So it was some years ago when I was reviewing the voiceover agents I work with.

I had many of them but more than a few were agents in name only. I never saw a lead for a new voiceover job from these few, never got a phone call from these few nor had I had my phone calls to these few returned. Most of my agents did all these things. Not these few.

Looking back it on my emails from these few, it had been multiple years since I received any communication from them. Any. That should have been reason enough.

Yet, I was hesitant…could this hurt my career if I decided to cut ties with these unproductive voiceover agents? Even though it seemed like they were not doing anything on my behalf, that they weren’t responsive to my communication, maybe (I briefly thought) they had a big job in the offing…maybe I should keep them on for just a little while longer.

My gut said no. My instincts told me I had reached out to them enough (and got little to no response) and also that if I met them in person they would not be able to pick me out of an audio or video lineup.

So I sent them a professional letter and advised them their “services” were no longer required.

I hadn’t thought about that time for a while until I received this advisement email from the Lori Lins Ltd. Talent Agency in Milwaukee, one of the few.

It read:

To: Kalah Spaude
Subject: New political commercial demo for Peter O’Connell
Sent: Monday, June 4, 2007 10:21:42 PM (UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada)

was deleted without being read on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 12:13:55 PM (UTC-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada).

I had sent the agency a political voiceover demo in 2007. TWELVE years later, the agency deleted the demo email WITHOUT IT BEING READ.

Now maybe there is a technical reason for this…maybe a legitimate email went into a spam folder or maybe it got rerouted to a computer that went unused and they just cleared the system. Maybe somebody read it and forwarded it on to a technical person to post on a web site who ignored the email – with the person who emailed it not following up.

Or maybe no agent at my agency read the email. Maybe they just ignored it. Based on the service I experienced there (and with the other few), I tend to believe it was the latter.

In my opinion, my gut was right to part ways with this agent (and I cut the cord with them after 2007). This recent email notice was one of those “signs” we get in life. I have little doubt they even noticed my departure.

I’ve been successful without those few, and hopefully they have been successful without me. It’s not personal, it’s strictly business. I bear them no ill will.

But I am reminded by this email notice: go with your gut. Trust your instinct.

in praise of recording studio rental

Voice Talent Peter K. O'Connell visits the historic Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, TX

The historic – especially if you’re a ZZ Top fan – Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, TX

Certainly if you look at any social media pages for voiceover (they are SO hard to find as there are SO few of them *sigh*) you’ll likely come across a discussion on voiceover travel rigs.

You know, which are the best travel microphones, mixers, mic stands, pillow forts, blah, blah, whatever.

Yes, travel rigs come in handy and certainly you want the best microphone for un-ideal conditions (hotel rooms and friend’s houses) or tricks for a quick studio fix (try a newer model car – sedan or higher for a really quiet environment).

Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell enjoys his 2015 traveling mic stand

But as one of the better-traveled voice talents in the business, I would like to present (or remind in the case of those I have spoken with about this) an old idea that works well for more than just one reason.

The idea is the renting of a local studio for recording of your unexpected VO job or vital audition.

You say: whoa, whoa, whoa, crazy man; I am not made of “the money”!!!!

I understand you are not made of “the money” but if a little homework is done in advance, you can get your recordings done, make a new business contact, possibly get on a studio roster and get some new business. This will make your studio rental more “the investment” than “the expense”.

Here’s what I do.

When I go to a city, I research recording studios and those that (hopefully) focus on or at least include voiceover as part of their business (versus just music recording). I make some calls to these folks to see about availability, general pricing, technical specs (ISDN, Source Connect et al), while also getting the correct contact person’s name at the studio.

If they seem like a legit studio (i.e., they actually answer the phone and the studio is not in the basement of their Mother’s home, etc.), whether I end up using them or not, their info goes into my database (ding!)

I let them know I am “on hold” for a VO recording or must record an audition and we settle on price, date and time.

At the appointed time, I get there, introduce myself and commence to audition, er, record.

Well actually, I am auditioning for the studio in a way, because engineers may pay attention to the meters but they are also listening to the performance and watching for professionalism. Most times I record at studios, I receive unsolicited and what appears to be sincere compliments. I have made positive impressions (ding!).

Before leaving the booth, I leave behind one of my logoed pencils I use to mark-up scripts. This is an idea I stole from a woman in Athens GA. Her name (Kelley Buttrick) escapes me at the moment. A semi-permanent marketing reminder has been left behind (ding!). I have also marked my territory. Check it! (ding!)

A post recording session conversation usually takes place with the engineer and/or the office manager-front desk receptionist about my work and my clients and my VO history. All very casual, all very conversation, nothing salesy about it. I ask about the studio’s roster and am (usually) enthusiastically invited to be added to said roster (ding!). I pay my studio fee (which may or may not impress them that I make enough money as an independent VO to rent a studio) and I leave behind a card at the front desk (ding!). Someone usually compliments me on the design and quality of my card (ding!).

My client or agents are happy with the professional sound I’ve surrounded my voice with on the job or audition (ding!).

I follow up with the studio via a hand written thank you note for their time and effort….it’s on my branded stationery (ding!).

If they remember me…I could get a new job. If they never call me again or remember me, I gave it a good shot. But we miss 100% of the shots we never take.

We are our best advertising for what we do.

That’s marketing.

Your mileage may vary.

free answers on “how-to” voiceover

No Voiceover Demo MillsSo I was on Facebook today and I saw that voiceover coaching/demo mill Voice Coaches is coming to Raleigh to present their seminar “Get Paid To Talk”.

The first thing I thought to myself was: ‘Oh great, try and make money off the voiceover industry by insulting said industry with one of the great slurs against it!” (That slur being: ‘how hard can voiceover be, it’s just talking!’).

However, the ad that I was presented with was kind enough to include the topics this $40+ seminar will cover over at some area hotel.

I don’t begrudge people teaching others about VO. There are maybe 10 really talented voiceover coaches out there who I have studied with or about whom I have heard raves that I would easily recommend to folks at any level. These folks will teach you AND inspire you.

My personal bias is that, except in very certain circumstances, I generally don’t like the idea of coaches also producing demos. Voiceover coaches should coach and demo producers should produce. The grey area is when coaches direct the recording talent, sometimes that works. Sometimes.

And coaching companies – companies that have a bigger staff, don’t make their money on coaching – they make their big money on producing demos…many times whether or not the person is actually ready to make a voiceover demo (sometimes they really are not ready).

It should be noted that Voice Coaches isn’t the only company that does this…they are just the only ones who (by now, regrettably, in their minds) advertised on my social media feed this morning.

I will save you the forty bucks and possible half-truths about your VO future as well as the 4-5 mortgage payments this company might like you to replace with their demo production fee and answer all those burning VO questions this seminar will cover right here in this blog.

So ignore the hype of “this workshop tends to sell out” or getting a “behind-the-scenes look at how people make money every day with their voices” or receiving the “opportunity to record a short script under the direction of your instructor” let’s go right to the MEAT of the hotel presentation (which will take place in the meeting room right next to the Starving Artists Painting Show – another “don’t miss event”).

“What a voice-over is…”

Voiceover is an acting or performance career specifically involving the human voice.

A voiceover talent is a person who spends about 80-90% running a business and the balance recording auditions and VO jobs…unless you’re doing audiobooks which keep you recording a lot but not often getting paid as much as other VO work.

People who record audiobooks love it. Personally, I like money better. But there is a true art to recording audiobooks and if you can read to me like Edward Herrmann, I will listen to everything you record.

I digress.

Voiceover involves running a small business more than it’s recording with your voice. It’s sales, marketing, accounting, training and taxes. If running a small business is something you would loathe or makes you break out in hives, do not start a voiceover business.

You know what it is not? Voiceover is not getting paid to talk. Pithy title, bullshit message. If a company has that much disrespect for the industry it’s introducing you too, that to me is a RED flag.

“What it is like on the job…”

This is where a seminar like this I believe would sell the sizzle. I’ve not been to the seminar so I don’t know for sure.  I’m thinking this is where one talks about walking into a recording studio, seeing the big mixing board, meeting the engineer, talking with producers or directors and then heading into the booth. What the voiceover booth sounds like, what it smells like, what kind of microphones they use, headphones too. Squuuueeeeeal!!!! Thrilling!

“Which voice types are most in demand…”

They say in their promotion “sincerity wins the job”.

Um, no.

I hear many sincere voice talents every single day who don’t get the job. Good, hard working voice talents who go days without recording.

Everything that makes any small business successful: business plans, marketing plans, networking, hard work – all that and more gets you the opportunity in most cases to compete for the job, get an audition and maybe win it. Harder work will allow you to establish multiple client relationships directly that you nurture and foster and result in repeat clients or even retainer clients.

You better be able to produce more than one voice “type”, by the way. The more versatile you are, the better.

“What a professional voice demo sounds like… “

“You get one chance to make a first impression”, their ad says.

Their ad doesn’t say “so pay us scads of money and we will make your demo sound passable but you personally may or may not have the real voice over talent to perform in a studio the way we made you sound for 7 seconds on the demo we produced for you.”

Here’s a nasty, sad voiceover truth: even the most untalented voiceover talent can be made to sound ok, even good for sixty seconds among 7-8 different cuts on a commercial voiceover demo. BUT (and this is a big, enormous but) once that talent gets on mic in a new studio for a job, they likely won’t remember how to recreate and hold that sound they had on the demo nor will they be able to show any versatility in their voice because they haven’t developed any.

How’s THAT for a first impression?

The problem demo mills often set these unsuspecting voiceover newbies up for is either they haven’t given them an honest voiceover assessment (like maybe some shouldn’t pursue their VO dream) or that the newbies haven’t received the best possible training.

Sometimes it’s both.

There is a difference between training someone new to record a voiceover demo and training someone new to be a professional voiceover talent.

Training to a demo is quick…you only need 7 seconds of good audio per track. Training to be a voiceover talent can easily take months…assuming the coach is honest enough early on to tell a person who sucks at VO that they suck at VO and not to follow that career path and keep their money.

“Where to look for work opportunities…”

It’s only a guess, but I’m picturing a power point slide (just one) that lists places that might use voiceover. Wowee! A real voiceover MBA there.

Suffice it to say there is a lot of work that goes into prospecting, marketing and developing business relationships. I hope some hard truths are shared here but I am skeptical.

“How to avoid common mistakes…”

 One might be to not spend $40 for an introduction to voiceover class.

you are here – voiceover geography

where are you_audioconnellSo where are you?

Geographically, where do you land on the map?

Sure, you know the answer to that but the next question is: do your voiceover customers know?

The next question after that is: do you want them to know.

For some folks the answer may be a cut and dried yes or no.

For others it’s not so clear.

I came to this thought by looking, as we all do and should, at other voice talents’ web sites and in some cases trying to figure out where they are located.

Before cell phones and internet phone numbers, one could guess location by area code with a posted phone number. That doesn’t work any more.

For example, I kept my Buffalo, NY 716 area code phone number even though I’m in Raleigh. I have a LOT of contacts to who have that number, it’s a good number and I’m keeping it. I could get a 919 number and maybe someday I will.

So while one can question, because of the internet and phones, whether it matters that one makes clear their geographic location on their web site, I think a discussion is worth while.

What would be the questions in such a discussion?

1. What’s wrong with local or regional work

I’ll start out with my bias – I let people know where I am geographically. I made a point of featuring my Buffalo geography in the past and I am clear that I am now living in Raleigh/Durham.

My reason is simple, the opportunity for regional work is attractive enough for me that I want those local agencies and producers to know that I am available. Part of my marketing plan focuses on those regional folks.

My feeling is that if you like regional work and positioning yourself as a leading talent in your region, you need to be pretty clear where you are located.

Not everyone thinks that way.

2. ‘I don’t want to be pigeon holed by geography’

I’ve heard a couple of schools of thought on this one.

Live in Des Moines, IA but get a Google phone number with a 212 (NY) area code ‘so agents and producers will think I’m….(insert some amazing adjective here).’

But don’t talk about Des Moines.

I’ve always questioned this as setting yourself up to be caught in a lie. If producers like you and then think you’re in their big city market (where they will want to work and meet with you!) but you’re not physically there, they might feel cheated. That seems like a bad way to begin a (likely very short) business relationship. Some people do it…it must work for them, I guess.

The other thought is: I do work around the country and locally without telling people where I am…those that need to know my location, know.

Certainly, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And if you are absolutely sure that every viable regional producer and advertising agency around your actual location knows where you are, then carry on.

But if you aren’t absolutely sure…then you have a task to add to your marketing to-do list. Quickly. And yearly.

3. ‘My area is not geographically sexy’

That’s my way of addressing people who say they live in the middle of nowhere. It’s not that they live at the end of the world, but they can see it from their porch.

I respect the challenge. Some folks may live in paradise but on a map, it’s a long ways from even a big village. Many voice talents do and they still work.

A couple of ideas on this and, not surprisingly, they require some marketing efforts.

One idea is to make your geographic area seem sexy to a reader.

Now I understand you may be looking it outside your window and thinking that there is no way in h-e-double hockey sticks…

But hear me out.

Just grab a pencil and write down positive words that might describe your area: peaceful, natural or picturesque, maybe? What are some features of the area: lush forests, clear lakes and streams, imposing mountains? What about friendly neighbors and a strong sense of community? Certainly you can think of more.

Now how might the attributes you think of possibly tie into your voiceover branding?

Trust me when I note that big city producers sometimes dream of getting out of the city so your descriptions may entice them to read more about you just based on a well written description.

Plus if you can tie in the positive attributes of your remote location with your VO styles – that works. Just reiterate in that same branding that, technologically, you are an A+. You may live in Mayberry but let media producers you’ve got all the voiceover bells and whistles. Don’t fib on that.

The other idea if you’re living more remotely is borrow the some ideas from regional marketing development organizations.

Your local government may be like bumpkinville, but know that someone in regional or state government is marketing even your remote region, in someway, to developers. You just have to surf some websites to see what they are saying and HOW they are saying it. Don’t worry about using their regional names and information…that’s what it’s there for!

Quick example, in Buffalo (when it was less successful) it was hard to get the attention of regional site developers. Buffalo may have been New York State’s Queen City before the St. Lawrence Seaway opened but from the 50’s through the turn of the century, it was depressed.

Then somebody did the math and thought if they tied in the world renowned Niagara Falls area (only 30 minutes away for the New York and Ontario, Canada sides of the Falls) into the regional branding, the city could gain some traction.

Hence, Buffalo has been marketed as the Buffalo-Niagara region. The airport, as an example, is called the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Your area may have some regional branding tricks too…check it out.

Look at regionally within your state and also at other surrounding states.

4. Safety

This is not last because it is least important.

I totally get the safety issue.

Some people not only don’t want to publish their home address (where their studio is located), they would prefer not even to talk about a city…possibly even state.

If that is a true concern, then keep yourself geographically anonymous. And don’t give it a second thought. Seriously. Period. End of story. Market yourself in other ways.

If your safety concern maybe isn’t as severe but it is still a bit of an issue, I have some ideas.

Focus your geographic branding only on your state, if you’re comfortable with that. Again, focus on the positive marketing attributes of your state and stop there.

I could easily talk about so many positive benefits of being in “The Carolinas” (two states for the price of one!), or living in Central North Carolina. Both give producers a general sense of whether or not I might be close enough to work with them without saying I’m a voice talent in Raleigh/Durham or Raleigh, NC or Cary, NC.

Otherwise, and this is something I do, just feature a P.O. Box as your address. If somebody you trust needs to come to your studio, you can talk on the phone (or via email) and give them your studio address.

That’s all I’ve got for now on this one.

Hopefully this discussion and the ideas I’ve presented can help you a bit.

If you have other ideas, please feel free to share in the comments below.

Hope this helped.