Monday, March 29, 2010

Insights from the Mentor Program with Amanda Novak

"Heather Costa is an amazing mentor ... I felt that our styles and interpretations of copy meshed very well, and when I decided to join the Mentor Program there was only one person for me -- Heather Costa."
-- Amanda Novak

Like most students, Amanda Novak found out about the Mentor Program from Such A Voice emails and our website. She decided to join the Mentor Program with Such A Voice Producer & Coach Heather Costa because she was struggling to get voice-over jobs. Amanda felt like she was doing everything possible, like frequently submitting auditions, but she wasn't getting much of a response. She came to the Mentor Program hoping to get some extra guidance and to get the extra boost that her voice-over career needed to get started.

Before Amanda and Heather started working together, Amanda was optimistic that Heather could suggest a couple simple solutions to make the voice-over work flood her in-box. After they got started, she realized that wasn't entirely realistic -- in fact, she was surprised by how much work she had to put into her voice-over work to get things started! Very quickly she realized that she hadn't been doing "everything" to get going as a professional voice-over artist. Heather worked with Amanda on improving her marketing strategy, her vocal technique, and recording and editing demos. Of their time together Amanda says, "All of this has helped to increase my business, and it's been invaluable to my career!"
Amanda appreciated how each mentoring session was catered to meet her needs. Some weeks they worked only on marketing, while other sessions they practiced reading, recording and editing scripts. Working with Heather helped fine-tune her ear, and she is now able to make better edits to her files in Pro Tools.

Recently, Amanda has worked on voice-overs for website animations, phone messages, and introductions to corporate videos. She just finished a project for FertiBella, and she's excited to continue doing commercials, narrations, videos, and web animations. Her goal for 2010 is to continue her marketing plan and eventually get into audio book and video game voice-overs.

Great work, Amanda!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Voice-Over 'Quarterly Statement'

Having completed the first quarter of my voice-over work, my “statement” is…. “Wow!” “Wow,” because since November, I have learned so much…and “Wow!” because I realize how much more I still need to learn. I write this blog in admiration and awe of all those VO vets who are able to make a living and support a family in this industry. Hats off to these creative giants!

I completed the Master Class at Such A Voice in Burlington, VT in November 2009. Going through the training program with a dozen other aspiring voice actors, we all took copious notes from our coach Brian Thon and producer Brendan Coyle and did various exercises, reads and interpretations. Although we had been doing our homework and practicing specific voice-over techniques prior to the Master Class, it was a dynamic (and exhausting!) few days. When we weren’t doing exercises and analyzing scripts, we were all focused on polishing the scripts we would use to record our demos—our voice representation to the world. We gathered marketing information, technical information and smiled more than we had ever smiled before. But once we left behind the energy, the support of the group, the security of having a coach alongside us, we each had to muster our own motivation to succeed. I know my journey is just beginning. I know for myself that I will always be learning more, listening to others, and doing my practice, practice, practice. But I’m feeling great about where I am today. And this is my story.


I have a background in acting, having done several plays, and more recently been involved in an indie film short (2004) and as an “extra” in Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups, to be released June 25, 2010. I am a writer (creative/poetry/academic) and have a BA in Spanish and Sociology, an MBA-Human Services and a PhD in Organizational Systems. Some say these degrees have nothing to do with voice-over jobs, and technically that may be true—you don’t need them to do voice-overs, but because of my BA and a year abroad I am fluent in written/spoken Spanish with no American accent, which does open additional VO doors. My other degrees help me to be a professional, organized, practical thinker and practitioner. Being organized and balanced is crucial to getting a VO business off the ground, especially in the beginning when most of us will have to continue to work “day jobs” until we build up some solid repeat clients and expand our client base. Lastly, if nothing else, surviving the long journey of a doctoral program while having two children and giving birth twice more is testament to my determination to finish what I start, to never give up.

So, what brought me to voice-over work and Such A Voice? A desire to reignite my passion for creative expression! A business colleague of mine took the Master Class about 2 years ago, and I spoke to her a few times before deciding to take the Introductory class at the community college where I work. I got the email inviting me to take the Master Class, but I hedged until I was sure I was going to be serious about a voice-over career before making the investment. I came home after the class with lots of information to digest, with Pro Tools LE, an MBox 2 mini, Rode NGT-2 mic and Shure cans and thought, “How am I ever going to do this while creating a business plan, marketing plan, practicing reads, interpreting copy, discovering my range, designing a logo, branding myself?”

But I did it! With some self-discipline and a thirst to read whatever I can get my hands on and listening to those with more experience, I found I was able set up my home studio to practice my recording and editing on Pro Tools, and hone my skills at dissecting and interpreting copy. I do this, of course, mostly at night after a day of work at the college, and putting my kids to bed. Since November, I have created my website, http://www.geminivoice.com, hired a local designer/printer to create my new logo and print quality business cards, registered with my city as a business, obtained a service mark for my logo, and…. of course, I’ve begun networking. I decided to concentrate on the local market first, getting in touch with contacts I’ve made through my work and volunteer organizations, while also beginning to list potential clients in the regional and state market. Of course, I also maintain a presence on a few casting websites as well as Voice123.

Through my local connections, I quickly lined up a video narration job (pro-bono) with a local nonprofit. It was one of those things that went like this: “Hey, Joan, Did you know I’m starting a voice-over company?” Joan replied that she happens to be working on a video with a local group and they may want to have someone narrate part of it. She wondered if I could send her my demo. I did, and the client and the camera guy liked it! The cool thing was that the videographer is the cameraman for a show some of you may know: This Old House.

I’m thrilled to be meeting new people and expanding my network to those involved in the creative arts! I’m also in process of producing the voice on-hold messages for a regional company (name to be disclosed only once the job is done). More recently, I’ve reached out to a local bilingual newspaper publisher who also produces her own radio shows and I may have some work coming from there. These are all people I’ve known through various jobs, civic organizations or volunteerism, but I figured this was the best place to start!

So where can you find me besides on Such A Voice and Voice 123? I’m on Facebook (as an individual, not a business), Twitter (as a business), LinkedIn (as a business) and BusinessChamber.com. I’ve looked at other VO listing sites and casting companies but have chosen for now only to set up profiles on those that are free. I’ve joined voice-over related list-serves to glean knowledge and insights from those with more experience, and go to sites like Mandy.com to find advertising and production agencies in various states. I’m starting to attend Chamber of Commerce mixers and other networking events while reaching out by phone and email.

I’m really glad our Such A Voice class members have stayed in touch with each other via email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We continue to encourage each other, touch bases on new developments, ask questions, and learn from each other. The same goes for our coaches at Such A Voice—they’re just an email away and always ready to help! I’m glad I pursued this creative outlet that my psyche so badly needed, and I’m excited about honing my skills and building a serious part-time business that may lead to other opportunities that I can only dream about right now. There’s no business like VO business! Onward and upward! Or in Spanish, ¡Adelante!

Dawna M. (Zajac) PĂ©rez
Gemini Voice-Over Productions
http://dawnazajacperez.voice123.com
http://www.geminivoice.com

Dawna@GeminiVoice.com

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cold Calling Confidence


Preparing to make cold calls reminds me of being at a middle school dance. The girls are on one side and the boys are on the other, scared to cross the school gym to ask a girl to dance. Their fears of rejection and ridicule prevent them from asking a girl out of the blue to dance. Some of them don't make a move, sure that they'll find another way to catch their girl's attention. The ones that do risk their egos are thought to be made of different stuff, -- and they're the only ones who get what they're after.

OK, so that was a dramatic analogy! But the truth is, everyone gets nervous when there's a chance they'll get rejected. No one is "made" for cold calling, but it is something all voice-over artists have to face. For some reason, calling for voice-over work exposes a host of insecurities that we may have. Which is why we don't want to do it. There are so many question marks: What if the person is rude? What do I say if they shut me down? What if I get stuck on the phone with a babbler and can't get off? What if I stumble over my words [as a voiceover artist] or sound like an idiot? You also know, as a professional voice-over artist, that your voice will choke up if you're nervous, will be low energy if you're tired, or will be short and pointed if you're annoyed or frustrated. No wonder you don't want to make cold calls!

Becoming comfortable with the cold call is essential to starting, growing, and maintaining your voiceover network. Like other fears you may have, the only way to get over the fear -- or whatever euphemism you call it (e.g., annoyance, discomfort, anxiety, hassle), is to start making cold calls and build up your 'cold calling confidence'.

Here are a few ways to prepare yourself for your cold calls to make them less, well, cold.

1) Make sure you have researched the company: You can get online and find out just about anything these days. Research the company, know where and how they operate, how they do their marketing, and what their products or services are. Being familiar with their image, as well as identifying who their niche is, will certainly make it easier when talking to the person responsible for hiring voice-over talent. If you analyze what type of voice is most appropriate for the job, and whether or not that voice is you, will make things easier on you.

2) Know who you're calling: It sounds really basic, but don't jumble your contacts! Make a clear tracking sheet in Excel to help you keep track of the company, the person you'd like to talk to, and their position at the company. You may need to call the receptionist to get connected to the right person. If so, ask for the person's name that you need to speak with so that you have the name for your follow-up calls.

3) Know what information you'd like to give and get: In fact, write it down! The minute you get on the phone your mind is certainly going to go blank. Have a note pad in front of you with an outline of points to cover. If you do get into a conversation about the voice-over work you can do, offer to email your demo.

4) Follow up, follow up, follow up ... and follow up again: Keep track of when you call in your spreadsheet, and don't take it personally if it feels like they're ignoring you. Returning your phone calls is probably not at the top of their to-do list. Be persistent without sounding entitled to their attention. The more they see and hear your name with good associations to it, the better.

Keep in mind that cold calling takes a while to pick up traction. Just because you called 20 people in your first week with little to no success does not you should give up. It does mean that you should be patient though.

Have other tips on making cold calls? Share them here!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Allergies Are Nothing to Sneeze At

While we are enjoying unseasonably bright and warm March weather here in Vermont, several of us here at Such A Voice are already suffering from spring allergies, migraines, and bouts of sinusitis. Last week's migraine stuck around for a couple days, and even as I write this, my jaw aches from what I'm sure is mild sinusitis. I'm not a masochist -- I don't enjoy the pain, but I can safely say that I hate the drug-induced "balloon head" sensation and the sound of my dry, raspy voice I get after taking allergy medicine.

As voice-over artists, we are always battling the seasonal elements, trying to stay in shape for voice-over jobs. While seasonal allergies are inevitable for many, take a few things into consideration before stocking up on the meds.

If you suffer from nasal allergies, your voice may sound pinched off and your vocal cords might get inflamed from post-nasal drip. While allergies are seasonal, your voice-over work should not be! Try using a neti pot in the morning and evening to clear your nasal passageways instead of using nasal sprays that only dry out your vocal chords even more.


Common medicines that treat allergies actually harm your voice. Anti-histamines dry out the mucus membranes in your body, but your vocal chords need that lubrication! Over the counter anti-histamines and steroids may dry out your throat and actually make you more susceptible to upper respiratory infections. Use them sparingly!

Depending on how serious your allergies are, you might
want to try natural remedies that won't affect the quality of your voice. Eating locally produced raw honey is said to build up your body's resistance to airborne allergens that would normally send you into a fit of sneezes and coughs.

The neti pot, as mentioned above, replaced my nasal spray years ago. Dehumidifiers also purify the air in your home and create an environment that's inhospitable to dust mites and other allergens.

Spicy food will clear your nose and throat out in a jiffy! And your reaction to drink a lot of water afterward will keep you nice and hydrated.

Some general DON'Ts:
  • Don't blow your nose -- dab it instead
  • Don't cough too forcefully
  • Don't push through a voice-over gig if need your rest!
Do you have other solutions for spring allergies? Post 'em here -- I could use some pointers!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stay in Touch with Prospect Newsletters


Have you ever wondered how to stay in touch with clients without pestering them? What do you do if you want to show off an impressive new gig you just did, or politely remind a client that you're available for future voice-over jobs?

If you aren't already sending out prospect newsletters, chances are you're either missing out on repeat business with clients who were happy with your voice-over work (but maybe just forgot about you), wasting time networking or keeping in touch with clients on a one-on-one basis, or both.

A
prospect newsletter is a great way to market to a large group of people without having to individually send out emails, which can be time-consuming and repetitive. Your prospect newsletter should be friendly, inform clients of recent voice-over jobs you've completed and where they can hear them, and let them know you look forward to working with them in the future.

Depending on your workload, you should probably not send out more than one newsletter a quarter, and even just twice a year might be sufficient. Your goal is to maintain your professional working relationship clients, and clients should be happy to hear from you!

Stay tuned for more tips on writing your prospect newsletter with our up-coming e-learning program series!

Do you regularly send clients newsletters? What's your strategy, and how do your clients respond to it?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pro Tools Tutorial for Beginners



"Getting started as a professional voice-over artist is thrilling and confusing at the same time. All of a sudden you have to become a pro at voice-over technique, a marketing expert, and a tech-savvy Pro Tools guru. I trust that you got your professional voice-over training, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of social media marketing tips to help you get started. Pro Tools LE takes a bit more time to get used to, so here are some beginner tips to help you figure out the rest."

Click on the link to go to Taji's VO Emporium and read the full tutorial...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How People React to Male vs. Female Voiceovers

-- By: Mark Dolliver

The results of an AdweekMedia/Harris Poll, conducted last month, give reason to believe gender stereotypes are alive and well in the way many people react to male and female voiceovers in commercials.

On the question of which sort is "more forceful," 48 percent of respondents said a male voiceover is, vs. 2 percent saying a female voiceover is. (The rest said it makes no difference.) The pattern was just the opposite when people were asked to say which is "more soothing," with the female outpointing the male by 46 percent to 8 percent. There was no significant gap, though, on the question of which is "more persuasive." Eighteen percent said a male voiceover is, while 19 percent said a female voiceover is.

Elsewhere in the same survey, respondents were asked to say which sort of voiceover is "more likely to sell me a car." The male was the bigger vote-getter here, 28 percent to 7 percent. The same was true on the question of which is "more likely to sell me a computer," with 23 percent picking the male voiceover and 7 percent the female voiceover.


Are you shocked and appalled? Do you agree with the findings? Leave us your comments and thoughts here!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Congratulations to the Talent of the Month: Natalie Donegan

"With my genuine British accent, I am very lucky to sound different than anyone else I come across living in Tennessee!"

Natalie Donegan has done an amazing job of marketing herself in her local area by capitalizing on her unique voice; in this case, it's her British accent! Since training with Such A Voice, Natalie has worked with MotionFoundry, Inc. doing a voicemail and web commercial. She has also done several telephony recordings for other clients both locally and abroad. Natalie says, "I love the flexibility, the variation in projections I work on, and the fact that I am my own boss!"

Natalie decided to pursue voiceovers because she has always had an interest in the arts, and she studied Drama and Theatre Studies in Cambridge, England. She was always drawn to the off-camera voice-over jobs, but she accepted a desk job as a Sales Manager at a daily newspaper and found that she was unable to dedicate the time to following her dreams. Now, as a stay-at-home mom, she has the time and luxury of pursuing her voice-over dreams, and she admits, "It's nice that now I'm not required to immediately get regular paychecks for my work." She adds, "But so far it's working!"

Natalie dedicates 3-4 hours a day to her voice-over work, and sometimes she works into the evenings. As a member of Voices.com, she is able to audition everyday. She also makes sure to dedicate time to corresponding with clients and recording tracks that she has been hired for. Networking also seems to come naturally to this transplant, Natalie says, "I really enjoy the marketing side of my business and the constant contact with potential clients, too."

In fact she has a business plan that she sticks to, which includes a goal of new contacts to make on a weekly and monthly basis. She constantly works on her web presence, making sure her portfolios are complete on her social media sites, such as Facebook, My Space and Twitter. She also makes sure to update her email contacts every so often to let them know of new projects that she has been involved with.

She shares with us her most recent success story: I took the advice on the Such A Voice marketing CD and recently offered my first free service to a new client, and it has worked out really well! I did a 30-second free web commercial for a company called MotionFoundry, Inc, who added my voice to a video for one of their clients. From this free track, the client has then hired me to record the telephone systems for their office. Then, they called me back again and said they had selected me as one of 16 voice talents to join a new project they have recently launched called Spot24. Spot24 is a new idea in which a client can upload camera, camcorder media and/or stock images, choose a theme music, pick a pro voice-over talent from their pool of artists (of which I am one), tell MotionFoundry what they want to say and MotionFoundry puts it all together. The TV/Web spots are completed and delivered back to the client in 24-48 hours.

Her advice to new grads? Natalie says, "MAKE SURE YOU GO THROUGH THE WHOLE TRAINING PACKAGE SENT FROM SUCH A VOICE! It took me quite a lot of time, but it taught me so many useful things -- especially when it came to marketing myself."

Great job, Natalie, and we look forward to hearing more of you in the near future!

video

To hear more about Natalie's work, go to: www.britishvoiceovertalent.com

Insights from the Mentor Program: Dennis Gimmel


Dennis Gimmel joined the Mentor Program before he completed the Masters Program because he felt like it was the "logical thing to do". Being completely new to voice-over work, he figured he would probably need the extra support and one-on-one guidance. Dennis thought the Mentor Program would bring a slew of challenges and pressures, so made sure that he was the source of his own motivation throughout the program. Although his mentor, Brian Thon, didn't have to "crack the whip" much, he was grateful to feel that Brian would have nudged him if he started to slack off.

Dennis realized that the Masters Program and the Mentor Program prepared him well for the voice-over industry when his first client's response to the voice-over job he did was, "Wow!" His next voice-over job was for a tire ad in Ocala, Florida, and Brian gave him some good pointers on how to squeeze a lot of text into 52 seconds. His next challenge was using Source Connect from his home studio, which allows him to read from home and be directed from Florida. With Brian's suggestions, he was able to set it up, work for about ten minutes, and make another client happy!

During his experiences with Such A Voice, Dennis says, "I found that my strength is that of a 'warm, front-porch storyteller'. Just knowing who I am as a voice talent has to help in my future efforts."

Dennis adds, "During my mentoring session, one of my clients wanted me to provide music on one of my reads. Brian Thon, my mentor, was able to direct me to reliable sights to sample and obtain music. He also gave me advice concerning what that would mean as far as billing the customer. At about this same time, potential clients were asking me about ISDN capabilities and similar questions. Brian was able to give me a better understanding concerning this technology, plus advise on how to deal with such concerns."

Dennis Gimmel is the perfect example of how someone who is motivated to excel in the voice-over industry can make the most of the Mentor Program to get all questions answered -- no matter how basic or complex. To check out Dennis Gimmel's website, go to: http://www.dennisgimmel.com

For more information on the Mentor Program, visit: http://www.suchavoice.com/mentorprogram

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Technique Tip of March: Find Your Diaphragm



Voice-over training requires a lot of talking! If you are not used to projecting your voice for a continuous period of time, your vocal chords may tire easily. [Teachers: you have a leg up on all of us!] Your vocal chords will eventually adapt to the added demand you make on them as you practice controlling your pitch, attitude, volume and energy. If you find that you feel a bit tired or winded after practicing voice-over technique, maybe you are not using your diaphragm. Learning to use your diaphragm will not only increase your stamina, but it will allow you to control your pitch, attitude, volume and energy more adeptly, and put you in the perfect place to get more voice-over work!
Your diaphragm is a smooth muscle that lies beneath your lungs and controls the mechanics of inspiration. You are always using your diaphragm to inhale and exhale because it is a muscle that works automatically, like your heart. When you inhale, your diaphragm actually contracts to allow air to be sucked into your lungs. Your diaphragm then relaxes, which puts more pressure on your lungs so that you exhale. While your diaphragm does this without your conscious awareness, you can deepen your breath, calm your nerves, and control your voice by consciously engaging your diaphragm.
First, you need to find your diaphragm! Do this exercise to learn where your diaphragm is and what it feels like when you consciously control it. Start by lying on your back on the ground. Place a book on your abdomen and breath easily for a few minutes, just like you normally do. The book should rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. Next, watch the book rise on an inhale, and this time when you exhale try to keep the book (and your abdomen) raised like it was at the end of your inhalation. You'll feel like you are pushing down into your stomach when you exhale in order to keep your stomach raised, which is why this exercise is sometimes called "deep belly breathing". Continue to keep the book elevated with your abdomen as you slowly inhale and exhale.

You should feel a definite increase in your lung capacity after doing this exercise for only a few minutes. Try starting each voice-over job or practice with this exercise, and see how you feel after only a couple weeks!

Monday, March 1, 2010

5 Guys in a Limo



In case you haven't seen this before... it will add a smile to your
Monday morning!