Studio Fortification, Post #1

Here it is! Our forever home. We love it a lot.


In the basement, we have the studio! The place where all the magic happens. It is under construction currently. 

 Roxul + 703 Owens Corning panels = a very nice, quiet space. 

Roxul + 703 Owens Corning panels = a very nice, quiet space. 

Back wall gets another wall. Next to it will go another wall. Behind those walls will be this damn water pipe that makes noise every time water runs in the house. 

 This used to be a doorway. Now it is not.

This used to be a doorway. Now it is not.

I'm kicking around the idea of adding a second layer of drywall once everything's boxed in, attaching it with green glue. Some plywood may be making its way into some of the new walls. I don't currently need to record drums down here, but who knows what the future holds? 


The wall in front of me has shoulder to shoulder 703 OC panels in the walls, and a bass trap that will likely be relegated to the back wall once it's done.

The window is getting a ClimateSeal Acoustic Series insert, just need to find my errant tin snips. They've been missing for, oh, about three months now, so I guess I'm actually gonna have to go buy another pair. After that though, hoo boy, there will be a much quieter window with actual sunlight coming through it in my workspace for the first time. Can't wait to soak up that badly-needed vitamin D.

It's been weird having this space in a pretty much constant state of flux since I moved in. I look forward to finishing all of this up in the next month or so. I'll be back with fresh pics of the newest studio, Mk. I-Totally-Gave-Up-Numbering-Studio-Mks-In-2017, AKA FINAL MK. Stay tuned. 




Circlin' The Wagons Back to Those Old Freelance Sites

Fiverr. Upwork. Mandy. Guru. I've been revisiting my entire structure lately, figuring out how to make something more sustainable and consistent, and less reliant on commercial work. Which is fantastic, of course, but not the most...well, consistent. Or reliable.

I freaked out earlier this year, worrying that I needed an IVR demo, politics demo, an industrials demo, and an e-Learning demo and finish that demo Singing demo that I'm terrified of so I can enter five more markets at once...which I'm two minds of as well. Should I take a step down five different paths, or try to take five steps down one? Is it that simple? Do I even have a choice?

Having a baby has made me considerably more introspective than I expected from a creature that needs constant care and attention. 

So, I guess I'm starting over in a sense. I'm retracing my steps, fixing stuff along the way, and hopefully sooner than later will have sorted everything out. Standing on mud instead of quicksand. 

I'm listening to the last episode of Scyther Audio's X-Men Podcast. It was awesome. It makes me happy, which isn't something I can say of a lot of my work. It might be the closest to the perfect project I've had so far in my career. I hope we get to do more someday. 

So. Freelance sites. They ALL have voiceover specific profiles now. And they're all free and have leads and can up your SEO and are all worth looking into. So I formally rescind any old post in which I said this or that wasn't worth futzing with.

Except VoiceBunny. Haven't gone back to that one yet, but I'm working up to it. Stay tuned. 

There's a lot of potential out there, and it feels like the competition has really stepped up. Or maybe I'm finally conscious incompetent and the transition from that to competence is scary and hard. Hoo boy.

Did I mention I had a baby? 

Hoo boy.


PS - I'm pretty sure I do need all those demos. But it's also time to not do my own demos. Which means training. Which means time and work. It's gonna be a long, good year of transformation. Deep breathing. Here we go.


So the Five in Fiverr Means....

Evidently you can charge pretty much whatever you want on Fiverr nowadays. I've heard enough hullabaloo around the internet about people making most of their VO income from tons of short, sweet, low-paying gigs from Fiverr, and from looking at some of the profiles on there, it definitely looks to be working for some folk. I've had difficulty developing a consistent income stream, which I blame on my lust for commercial and video game gigs at the cost of other, less competitive types of work. Back when the default rate was $5, I turned my nose up at Fiverr, but you know what? I have a daughter to feed now. I have a mortgage. Maintaining my pride and sticking to my rates has had great effects in my career, but something big's been missing. I think it's time to really re-evaluate what I consider valuable leads and potential streams of work. Hell, what do I have to lose? 



Giving VoiceZam the ole College Try

After doing what little research I could, it being a new device aimed for a very small number of people overall, I decided to give VoiceZam a try. If you hear from me over the next few days/weeks/decades, you may get a VoiceZam link in addition to/instead of a website link. It will be keyed up to the appropriate demo for you, all broken out by spot so you can find the voice you like quickly. At least, that's the hope. I'll check in after testing it out for a few weeks. 




UPDATE 1 - Here's my ZamLink. It promises to make life better. I love that I can update the player and anything with the link will be automatically updated as well. 

Five Random VO Tips and Tricks

In no particular order, here's some stuff that might be good to know:

1. Source-Connect Standard has a map feature that can show you everyone in the world who has or has had an account. These people are mostly all studios, production houses, and fellow VO actors. 

2. aggregates all of Craig's List to make it searchable in its entirety at once. People occasionally post things other than LOOKING TO BE THE NEXT BEYONCE READY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD?! 

3. Don't close your mouth while performing. It makes this little noise every time you open it back up that must be removed. (You'd think after five and half years I'd break this habit, but..)

4. If you're making a decent amount of money as a sole proprietor, look at incorporating so you don't spend all your money on taxes. It's more complicated and can be a pain, but CPA's are inexpensive, so don't be timid about reaching out to one for help. 

5. Profile picture of a microphone instead of you or your logo: STOP. I know what a microphone looks like, and it doesn't look like you. It's so lame. Stop it. Stop.



I Bet You Thought This Would Be All Fun and Games

It's just talking, you said. It's the easiest job in the world, you assured yourself. You love talking in goofy voices, and look, you even own a microphone! Easy peasy.

Not so fast there, buddy. There's a lot more to consider.

Do you know how to make an invoice? How about creating an invoicing system that can track client names, pull up anything from any year you've been in business in a couple clicks? Do you like tracking all of your expenses and keeping reports on them? How about marketing and advertising, writing your own blogs, building your own web site (with samples, client list, rate sheet, a call to action, effective layout......), or developing the engineering skills to make demo after demo after demo as needed? Do you have enough liquid cash on hand to be an exhibitor at a convention, or to build a soundproof booth in your house, or to buy the equipment and software you need to be competitive? Does dealing with delinquent clients, renegotiating/auditioning/arguing with longtime clients every time they have a new project, or creating an LLC or corporation complete with accounts, books, payroll, and quarterly taxes sound fun?

This doesn't scratch the surface of what your actual job is as a voice actor. That bit behind the mic is icing on the cake. Hell, I barely mentioned auditioning, which you'll be doing a ton. If you're lucky enough to suss out all the various sources of auditions, convincing them to put you on their rolls, so you can START trying to get actual 'work'. 

If you've ever been unemployed, looking on jobs boards, filling out online resumes and writing cover letters ad nauseum, know that looking for voiceover work is basically a cooler version of that, but forever. You get all the freedom and anxiety and night terrors that come with unemployment, but you're actually working the whole time. There are peaks and valleys, and it can really screw with you mentally and emotionally. Plus, you know, you're going to be isolated often.

That said, I'm over five years in, and I keep hearing that I have to starve for ten years before this thing really busts wide open. I guess I'll report back in five years and see if there's validity to that statement. And it's not to say I'm starving, exactly. I wouldn't call this the most stable job I've ever had, but I've never been as invested in anything I've ever done before in my life. And it's the most rewarding job I could ever do. And so far, somehow, my house is still standing and my daughter is still well-fed and happy, so I guess I'm doing my job. My wife pointed out that I am a voice actor. Not someone trying to break into voiceover, not a guy looking to do something...I am a voice actor. That feels really good. 

So no, it's not all fun and games, but is it worth it? Only you can answer that for yourself. I say it every few posts, but I'll say it again - this isn't a part time gig you flit in and out of. This is a lifestyle. It's got to be part of who you are, not just one of the things you do. You have to put up with a mountain of BS, then shove it all aside to perform. Otherwise, what good are you to your client?



Five Voice-Over Books You Need to Read

Got eyes, a few bucks, and a way to read e-books? Good! Educate yourself!


1. There's Money Where Your Mouth Is by Elaine A Clark

The Bible according to Elaine. This book is one I come back to every year or so because it's just that damn good. It's your trusty all-in-one handbook on the world of voiceover. It's great coming back to see what information I've actually digested and what behaviors I've developed as a result. How to breathe, how to interpret copy, how to identify and fix everything wrong about your delivery and how you use a mic; the differences between stage and studio acting; breakdowns of every type and style of VO and how to do them. If you're just getting into VO, or need a guiding light once in a while, get this book immediately. I cannot recommend it enough.


2. How to Build a Six-Figure Voice Over Business by BIll DeWees

Bill is a fantastic wellspring of information. Look him up on YouTube and you'll see a treasure trove of tidbits that lead to real breakthroughs. He's a very down-to-earth teacher with a lot of great stuff to impart. His book helped me build a daily routine of finding work in unlikely places. He also has a starkly different mindset when it comes to voiceover rates and work in general. I appreciate his grittier, survive at all costs approach, which helps to put the obsession with rates and fairness into perspective. 


3. Sound Advice: Voiceover From an Audio Engineer's Perspective by Dan Friedman

A man after my own heart. I love me some gear, and so does Dan. This book's all about the gear you'll use to bring your voice to the masses. If you don't know your condensers from your dynamic mics, or have any clue about compression/limiting, EQ, or other technical aspects of the job, YOU NEED TO LEARN. There is no way you're getting away with not having at least some technical know-how anymore, and this is a great resource that keeps the focus squarely on the needs and wants of the voice actor.   


4. VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor by Harlan Hogan

This book is enjoyable to re-read largely due to its narrative emphasis. Every other chapter is an anecdote about an average (or not-so-average) day on the job, with an interstitial chapter hammering home the points. It's a unique perspective told in an entertaining way. It's even got a wealth of old and new school marketing techniques, some of which I've still been too chicken to implement (sending your clients a humorous daily calendar takes the cake). 


5. Making Money in Your PJs by Paul Strikwerda

Mr. Strikwerda doesn't mince words. I like his work, as he's very realistic about VO as a business, and he doesn't mind being gruff about it. If you dislike Bill DeWees' survival at any price point model of soaking up work, consider the steadfast resolution of Paul Strikwerda's ironclad rate sheet. He is one of the most vocal proponents of the dignity of the job - a fair rate for good work. It's simple, elegant, and he cuts a lot of the bullshit to the quick. Definitely a must-have in any solopreneur's collection.

There are a ton of other great resources out there. Get ye down the rabbit hole!



Tips on Where to Find Work, 2018 Edition

Boy howdy did the voiceover landscape change since I got started! Voicebank was swallowed whole by, curated audio became all the rage, more and more (and more and more) P2P sites cropped up, and it seems like everyone and their brother wants to get in on the action. I recently started cutting proto demos with a couple of friends getting into the field, when the question on my mind all day every day popped up: "Where do you find work?" 

It's a complicated question, and frankly there are more qualified people out there you should be asking. But since you're here, I'll give you a few quick tips on things I did to establish myself. In fact, I shall give you three of them.

#1 - Internet Presence is Key

To get in the game, you need a website. And I don't mean a profile on masquerading as your "website". Get a Squarespace account and build a real site. Then maybe get a professional to build you a real real site, once you know you're in this to win it. Along with that, find every P2P that will let you have a free profile and make one. Google VO casting sites and have a ball. You'll learn a lot about what's expected of you across a broad spectrum of places, which range from....I'm not gonna lie to you, most casting sites out there look kinda crummy. Some don't; I actually really like a couple systems out there, but they're pretty few and far between. Not to say they're not effective; I mean, the jury's gonna be out on that regardless. But! Every site helps to grow your name, your demos' presence, and your overall online searchability. So get your name there everywhere you can stick it.

Same goes for making content and posting it. Blogs, videos, podcasts, anything you can create within the purview of your brand, help boost your visibility. Also, social media yadda yadda yadda. You probably don't need me to tell you how Twitter works. Hell, I don't even have a Twitter account anymore. Maybe I'm a curmudgeonly old man, but operating pretty much any social media account as a business felt really forced for me. Maybe I'll get back into it one day. 

I suppose this falls more into letting work find you than you finding work, but to that effect, lemme tell ya...getting work to find you is far more preferable.


#2 - Hit the Pavement

Beyond the P2P's and the casting databases are the folks you'll be working for. And the folks they work for. And sometimes, the folks they work for. There's a pretty layered infrastructure out there, and a lot of your time will be spent navigating the various production houses, b2b marketing companies, advertising and marketing firms, and all the other various levels you can try to penetrate. Direct-to-client is the best, but a lot of work ends up coming my way via third party studios as well. Google around, poke through the internet, get numbers and email addresses, and suss out the truffles of leads that may or may not be there.

#3 - Word of Mouth is Best

The internet is great and all, but your community is the best place to build your business. Fidn friends, friends of friends, associates of friends of friends, anyone who has a position that may be need voiceover work, and hook up with them. Once your reputation grows and people know you for what you do, you'll be off to the races.

Hope this helps!