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Thursday, September 29, 2016

4 Ways to Improve Your Sound Quality that You May Not Have Considered

Most of you probably already know that some things will just kill your voice - smoking or lots of shouting, for instance. But did you know that the prescription your doctor wrote for you last week may be altering your sound quality? Or that reading from a paper script may have a negative impact on your performance?

It’s true, and there are lots of other little things that could be affecting your sound quality - and not in a good way, either. Here are 5 ways you can improve your sound that you probably haven’t considered:

1.    Brush your teeth. Having an unclean mouth not only feels gross, but it can also impact how you sound! Certain foods and beverages can have a drying effect on the mouth and throat, but a thorough brushing can help clear those bad tastes away and restore moisture. Plus, you don’t want to be smelling your own garlic breath all afternoon, do you?

2.    Wake up. Although it sounds crazy to me, there are people that like to roll out of bed and get right to work. While this “go get ‘em” attitude is certainly admirable, your voice isn’t at it’s best immediately after you wake up. It needs time to shake off sleep and warm up, just like most people do. So drink some hot tea, eat a good breakfast, and do a quick vocal warm-up and some facial stretches before hitting the mic.

3.    Watch your posture. If you’re getting a little too comfy in your desk chair, or you’re slouching while standing at a mic, then your voice isn’t sounding its best. When your posture is straight, though, your voice sounds clearer and stronger. So shoulders back and spine straight, people!

4.    Reduce your fatty food intake. Fattening foods can compromise your sound quality, so just say no! Bonus food tips: avoid spicy foods, caffeinated drinks, and dairy products too before recording. 

5. Get plenty of exercise daily. Walk, play with your kids, join a sports team or a gym. Staying in shape is an obvious way to good health and a long voice acting career. As well as a good experience for the brain to keep it sharp and focused.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Who You Need on Your VO Team

Even if you’re a voice over actor who’s working for him/herself, you still need a team. You can’t do everything on your own, and some things are better left to other people (who are better at it than you) anyway. When you’re starting out in this industry, here are some of the people you may want to connect with to help you along the way:

1.    Voice coach - This person will help you develop your unique sound by building on your vocal strengths and working through weaknesses.

2.    Acting teacher - Just because you’re not on a stage or screen, it doesn’t mean you’re not acting. In fact, that’s exactly what you’re doing! An acting teacher can help you hone those skills, tapping into your emotions and helping you get into character. This is very important, because even though your audience can’t see you, they’ll know if you’re being authentic or not.

3.    Agent - Not everyone uses an agent, but many actors couldn’t survive without theirs. An agent is sort of like your partner; they work to get you jobs that are suited to your skills as an actor, but you also benefit them as well by granting them more exposure in the industry.

4.    Web designer - You need a stellar website. This isn’t something to compromise on either, because your web presence and brand development online are two of the biggest ways you’ll land work. Unless you have experience developing websites, you need to work with a pro to get your site up and running and looking great.

5.    Mentor - Working with an experienced voice actor is one of the best connections you can make. You’ll learn firsthand how the industry works, and you can get a closer look at both the creatives and business processes that are in place when you’re running your own voice over business. If you know a fellow VO actor, reach out to them - it just might be the best thing you do for your own career. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How to Stay Sane When You’re Working from Home

Ask anyone who’s stuck in a cubicle all day what their #1 dream is, and no doubt a significant percentage of them will tell you it would be the ability to work from home. Of course, this makes sense, because working from home is AWESOME. You set your own hours, you make your own rules, and you can wear your PJs if you want.

However, working from home isn’t for everyone. For some, the isolation proves more than they can handle, and they crave the professional and social interactions you find working in a non-home environment. Others struggle with the lack of structure and supervision.

If you fall into this second category and have found that working from home is slowly taking a toll on you as a professional, don’t worry. There are things you can do to help keep you stay on track, motivated, and most importantly, sane. Here’s what works for me:

     Allocate time for different tasks during the day. If you are a person who likes structure, and let’s be honest, most of us need some sort of framework in which to work, then divvy up your day. Figure out what your goals/tasks are, then assign them to their own timeslots.

     Don’t forget to include breaks. Regular breaks help you stay motivated, on-task, and more productive, so be sure to allot time for breaks. I like to shoot for 5 to 10 minutes per hour, where I get up and walk around, or play with my dog, or even just sit quietly with my eyes closed.

     Build a community. No, I’m not talking about starting your own city. I’m talking about a community of other voice over entrepreneurs like yourself! There are plenty of other people in this business who are in the same situation you are, so seek them out. Once you find them, you can organize meetups or group chats online to break the monotony of the day and learn from others in the biz.

     Don’t make yourself available 24/7. Technology has enabled us to be reachable whenever and wherever, so the boundaries of work time/personal time have blurred. To be sure you’re putting enough separation between the two, set specific work hours for yourself, and make sure others know about them. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

4 Computer Shortcuts Every VO Actor Can Use

I was one of those guys who used to resist technology. I liked things the way they were, and that meant NO COMPUTERS. Or at least, very limited use of computers. But it’s 2016 now, and I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that computers aren’t going anywhere, so I better just figure out how to use the darn things. I had to make the changeover a while back!

And if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I’m no tech guru or anything, but I get by.

In my quest to better understand computers and associated technology, I’ve learned a few things that I thought might be helpful to my fellow voice actors.

1.    Keyboard shortcuts. This one’s pretty basic, but still extremely useful. Ctrl + x for cut, Ctrl + c for copy, and Ctrl + v for paste. Ctrl + s will save what you’re working on, while Ctrl + f will open a search tool that allows you search for whatever you type in the box. Oh, and Ctrl + Shift + T will restore a closed tab on your internet browser.  Boom. I just saved you a lot of unnecessary mouse clicking.
2.    Repeat your last command in Excel. Hit F4 to do that thing you just did in your spreadsheet.
3.    Clear your cache. Ctrl + Shift + R will quickly clear your cache and speed up your computer and conserve bandwidth.
4.    Move open windows wherever you want. If you've got multiple windows open, like email, a spreadsheet, internet, and editing software, you can move them around your screen or even onto another monitor simply by holding the Windows key and using the arrows (up, down, left, right).

Even though these aren’t specifically geared to VO, they’re still helpful tools to have in your arsenal. Anything that will save you time or make your relationship with  your computer just a little bit better, is worth knowing, in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Self Discovery: Know Yourself to be a Better Voice Actor

When we think of acting, and this includes voice acting, we usually think of “getting into character.” Because that’s an important part of any acting job, right? Right. But, there’s another aspect that’s just as important, and it’s one that’s often overlooked.  It’s knowing yourself. Getting in touch with your own character, and tapping into what makes you YOU.

Now, you may think, “Why does this really matter when I really am just playing a role?”  Well, it matters because regardless of how committed to that role you’re playing, you’re still you, and that’s going to shine through no matter what. Which is what makes you special!

Getting to know yourself and who you really are will also help you be a better actor. When you’re in touch with yourself, you’re more confident, more motivated, and just a better version of yourself, honestly.

If you’re not sure what I mean, or how to really get into touch with yourself - and not just as an actor, but as a person - ask yourself these 3 questions:

Who are you? Yes, you’re a voice actor, but what other labels can you give yourself. Are you a mom? A dad? Sibling? Skilled carpenter? Environmentalist? Recovering alcoholic? Whatever these labels are, all them combine to make you the person you are today, and celebrating the “good” labels and challenging the “bad” ones will help shape you even more. Find your identity, explore it, and grow it.

What do you value? Everyone has values, and everyone assigns different levels of importance to them. Maybe you value innovation and efficiency, while another actor you know places more importance on creativity and skillful communication. Figure out what your core values are, and you’ll better understand what drives you as an actor.

What won’t you compromise on? There are some things we all must draw the line on, because all of us have boundaries. These are the things that we’re unwilling to compromise on, both in our personal and professional lives. Determining what these boundaries are is another piece of the identity puzzle, and it’ll help you decide when to accept something or whether to just move on.

Today, take the time to ponder some of these questions, even if it’s only 10 minutes. Self-reflection is never a bad thing, and you may be surprised at what you discover about yourself as both an actor AND a person. And by the way, listen to those keywords your clients use to describe you. If you're not sure what they think...  ask them!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

3 Guaranteed Ways to Kill Productivity

Know what one of the top ways to kill a business is? Lack of productivity. Know what one of the biggest challenges for self-employed people, like voice actors, is? Maintaining productivity.


In today’s home-work environment, there are a million distractions. In addition to the hundred things around the house you need to get done, there are also endless alerts about emails, social media “likes”, text messages, and so on. There also are phone calls to make, colleagues to connect with, grocery lists to draft, laundry to fold, kids to shuttle….this list literally never ends, and it’s basically the same for every working adult.

I think these things are amplified when you’re self-employed and working out of your home, though, simply because you’re in your own, personal environment - your comfort zone. There’s no boss looking over your shoulder to see how much you’ve accomplished, and no one (save for clients) to report to. You’re on your own. And it’s solely up to you to maintain productivity and motivation.

Of course, complicating all of this are all those pesky distractions, lurking and just waiting to kill your productivity. However, if you can isolate what your biggest interferences are, you can stop them before they start and maintain an efficient level of productivity.

Here are my big 3 productivity killers:

1.    Facebook. This one is probably going to top the list for a lot of folks, because it’s one of the biggest time-sucks out there. When you log onto Facebook, time seems to move faster, and the deeper you go down the FB rabbit hole, the more time you lose.

The fix: I don’t log onto Facebook until I’ve accomplished everything on my list for the day. It’s that simple. I just don’t do it.

2.    Multitasking. I know there are a lot of people out there who can knock a ton of work out by doing multiple jobs at the same time. I am not of them. When I try to do too much at once, I get overwhelmed and frustrated, which negatively impacts my efficiency and productivity.

The fix: I make a list each morning of what I want to get done each day, and then I do those things one at a time. I don’t try to crowd them together and do things like compose emails while I’m on the phone or even on hold. I focus on each task individually until completion.

3.    Overscheduling. In a similar vein of multitasking, I’ve found that if I try to cram too much into one day, the same feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed occur. I look at my list and think “I can’t do all this!” and then I feel kind of awful and hopeless, which is extremely counterproductive.

The fix: I don’t overschedule myself. I make my lists specific and realistic, allotting reasonable timeframes for each task. I try to keep it fairly flexible, too, so I can move things around if I need to.

So what about you? What kills your productivity and how do you deal with it? 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ready to Start a Career in Voice Over? Get Your Partner on Board First

Congratulations on deciding to become a voice over actor! Truly, it’s the best job in the world, and there is so much to love about it. But before you get started, there is one very important thing you need to do, if you haven’t already.

You need to convince your husband, wife, mom, dad, significant other or whomever, that this is a worthwhile career.

Why is this important? Because you will need their support as you go along. Everyone needs a good support group, but in this highly competitive industry, knowing you’ve got someone in your corner can keep you going when times get tough. And they will. And you’ll want the support.

So how do you get them on board? You tell them all the wonderful things about voice over, that are completely and absolutely true. Here are a few of them:

1.    There are literally tons of VO opportunities. This is no joke. There are radio spots, commercials, ebooks, corporate training videos, and the list goes on and on. Yes, it’s competitive, but there’s no denying that the opportunities are virtually limitless.
2.    You get to enjoy an extremely flexible schedule. Need to work the opposite schedule from your spouse to handle child care duties? VO will allow it. Still in school and have a crazy class schedule? VO will enable you to work around it. Whatever your other responsibilities are, with voice over, you can record whenever you like.
3.    You get to choose your projects. Schedule flexibility isn’t the only area you get to call the shots on. You also can pick and choose which projects you work on, which means that you may actually (gasp!) love what you do! How many people can say that about their job?
4.    You get to learn new stuff every day. Some jobs are so tediously boring and mundane, that people become trapped in that dull reality. Learning and personal growth are stunted, and your spirit pays the price. This isn’t the case with voice over, where you are constantly being challenged and educated.

5.    You’ll be happy. If voice over is something you truly love, and it’s something you know you can succeed at, you’ll be a happy person. And that alone is worth more than any other reason you could possible give.