Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Voice Over Mum

While many argue that pursuing voice over work is a full-time job in itself, it's high time we heard from real people who successfully tackle the full-time job of being a mother, a father, or full-time professional in addition to being a busy voice actor.

Natalie Donegan is one such busy voice talent and active mum who was happy to share a snippet of her life with us.

My desk is covered in sticky-notes and lists, for which I am very grateful and without which I would be lost! I am first, and foremost, a mother of an energetic toddler, but I am also a Voice Over Talent who decided to start my own home business when my daughter was one year old.

This may seem an odd time to choose to get into the industry and start a business, but for me it was perfect and came down to two words. Nap-time!

Before I became a mother I worked for over ten years in advertising; long hours, targets, deadlines, pressure etc. I went from this to being a stay-at-home Mum, a whole new type of pressure! Thankfully my daughter naps very well, every day like clock-work, and I had time on my hands every day during this period and when she went to bed at night.

I needed something to fill that time and I needed a challenge for my brain. I had the opportunity to try something that I had always wanted to do, but;
1. I had never had the time to dedicate to it; and,
2. I previously had to rely on a steady day job to receive a pay-check.

I had my plan in place, if it failed, nothing would be lost except for the price of recording my demos and the equipment I bought, which could be re-sold if necessary. It has been one of the best things I have ever chosen to attempt and has been a huge success.... but it takes a LOT of organization!

When I started out in the business I had zero client base and there weren't enough auditions available to keep me busy all day every day, so a number of hours each day was perfect. Now, as time has moved on and my client base has grown, things have had to change slightly.

I start each day before my daughter gets up with checking last nights e-mails, due to the market being international you have to think about the time zones -- for example, yesterday I received an urgent message from India and had to act quickly, as I knew even though it was the early morning for me, their office would be closing in one hour.

I update my social networks, which are all linked so it's only necessary to make one update (Twitter, Linked In, Facebook etc), and I check to see if any of the voice over jobs on the voice networks don't require a personal audition that can be applied to immediately. If any jobs require a personal audition to be recorded, scripts are printed off and are ready for my recording time later in the day. I check back on my e-mails as America arrives at work, 7am - 9am, for any urgent requests and I keep my e-mail logged on all morning with the volume set to the highest, so I can hear if any messages arrive.

On days when I have a lot of recordings I have to plan my days from start to finish. I may be busy with my voice work, but things still need to be taken care of, as to the rest of the family I am Mum, Wife, military spouse, cook, cleaner, grocery shopper, laundry-mat, etc. Food can be an issue, but this is alleviated by planning meals for the week or even using the trusty crock-pot. On days when recordings take longer than nap-times, recording time carries on after family time, but I make sure that once my daughter is in bed my husband and I have a little us-time before I go to work.

My husband is very understanding, and as a student he has plenty of books that he can pop his nose into when I need quiet time into the evenings to record. It is always good to have a back-up plan in place should the larger recording projects arrive. My back-up plans are my friends and relatives, where I know that my daughter can go and have fun when I need extra time to work. Or the weekends, as a stay-at-home Mum there are no weekends really as Monday - Sunday merge and your daily tasks don't change just because the day starts with an 'S'.

I try to take the weekends off from searching for new job opportunities and any of my marketing, but if I have to record, my husband takes our daughter out for the day, she loves it when I have to record as it means she get's some one-on-one Daddy time -- normally meaning a trip to the zoo or Chucky Cheese!

So, the long and short of it is that if you want to balance bringing up a toddler at the same time as starting in this business, you can do it! Your house won't be spotless, television will never be watched, you will be on the go constantly and your days will not be the same as any of your other stay-at-home Mum friends ... but you can do it and keep your family happy at the same time. Just buy a BIG wad of sticky notes and start planning!

Visit Natalie Donegan's website at:

Are you another voice actor who wears many hats? Share with us how you manage to balance your time and your energies!

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