Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Talent of the Month: An Interview with Natalie Donegan

"Last week I completed my 65th voice over project, the latest that I'm working on is a 70 minute (80 page) educational video for a German university."


Despite studying theater and drama in college (and always having an interest in the arts), Natalie never had any desire to be in front of a camera or on stage. At 20 years old, she discovered that voiceovers existed, but didn't have any space in her busy schedule (she was single, had a mortgage and a very demanding job as a sales manager of a daily newspaper) to pursue a possible career shift into voiceovers. 12 years later, Natalie was married and a stay-at-home mom and she was looking for an outlet that would challenge her creatively. That was when she searched out SuchA Voice.

Natalie's training program focused on technique, visualization, pitch, inflection and lateral reading. "My training combined with the resources that Such A Voice offers in the Members Only Area has all aspects of the industry. It helped me work on developing my voice style, setting up my marketing, a business plan and more! I felt like I had an entire spectrum of knowledge from Such A Voice, I had a plan and knew what I needed to do to get started. I also joined in on the live bi-weekly training sessions, which I found extremely useful in helping guide me as a new voiceover talent".

When Natalie was ready to step into the voiceover booth, she was happy to have a trained producer from Such A Voice by her side "In an area that I knew nothing about I was happy to have someone so well-versed in recording demos. You need to make sure you get the best demo you can, that is what you'll be selling at the beginning!" From there, Natalie often referred back to the resources provided by the Such A Voice program to set up her website and market herself on various social media and pay-to-play sites. She takes full advantage of web marketing between Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Voices.com and Voice123.com!

Being a stay-at-home mom in the voiceover industry, Natalie probably appreciates the flexibility in her schedule most. However, she does say that lack of time is probably her biggest downfall. She loves having the ability to fit her work in around her very busy schedule instead of having a set of strict office hours. "Sometimes I get a big job that my day schedule doesn't work with, so I stay up late to get the tracks recorded instead. My family will always come first, but with voiceovers I don't have to choose between the two, there can be a happy balance".

Natalie did a great job marketing herself, she attributes this to the fact that she was in advertising sales for 9 years when she entered the voiceover industry. "I am determined and I know how to sell, I'm just selling my voice now instead of a product. When I first started in the business I created lists of local potential clients: advertising agencies, marketing agencies, TV stations, radio stations, producers, telephone on-hold companies and more! I had no problem picking up the phone and calling them to sell myself and get my demo's out to as many people as I could."

 
Voiceovers have kept Natalie VERY busy since she completed her training with Such A Voice! "Last week I completed my 65th voice over project, the latest that I'm working on is a 70 minute (80 page) educational video for a German university." Her first job came from Voice123.com, it was a two-minute telephone on-hold recording. "I felt like I had won the lottery when I booked that job!"

You may recognize Natalie's beautiful British accent being used as the voice of such companies as: 45 Degrees Latitude Film and Production, 371 Digital Films, Bandwidth.com, Beam Audio, Cherry Creek Radio, Digital Media Communications, Go On Hold, Griffin Wink Advertising, Legwork Creative, MotionFoundry Inc. and many more!

When we asked Natalie what her advice was for aspiring voiceover artists, we couldn't help but nod emphatically as we listened to her answer: "If you are getting into the industry, get a professional demo cut! Use every avenue you have to promote your name. Don't be afraid to offer free work at the beginning, as long as you then have their permission to reference that work on your voiceover resume (and use a recording of it on your website). I found that it was hard to have NO experience and a demo, so I offered a few freebies. I then took those freebies and used them as examples of my work. I requested testimonials from every client I worked with and asked permission to quote their company name. Within a short period of time I had an impressive resume for voiceovers!"

We're so proud of your many successes, Natalie! We can't wait to see (or hear) what you do next!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tip of the Month: Stay Hydrated!


As we approach the colder months in the year, it's time for most of us to break out the scarves, mittens, hats and heavy jackets. The heat dial gets turned up and, if we're lucky enough, we fire up that fireplace or wood stove and enjoy it's warm glow. Unfortunately, something many of us don't remember to do is to also increase our hydration to make up for our drying atmosphere. As voiceover artists, we need to make sure we stay hydrated so the mucous cushions in the vocal cords stay lubricated. Think of it like getting an oil change for your car on a regular basis. You need to make sure the pistons are running smoothly to keep the engine at top performance!

It's very easy to remember to keep hydrated when exercising or when in a dry and hot climate, but many of us forget that just sitting in our homes, offices or studios with the heat on is drying itself. Most of us don't worry about hydration until we feel very thirsty, which is a sign that we aren't drinking until our body is starting to become dehydrated.

Why is it that so many of us can remember to water even the most delicate house plants on a regular basis, but we can't remember to keep ourselves well hydrated?! Being surrounded by beverages that don't actually help us stay hydrated certainly doesn't help. To make sure you're keeping your vocal cords in their best shape possible, stay away from caffeinated, alcoholic and/or sweetened beverages when focusing on hydration.

Water is the most obvious choice that people reach for. Is water too bland for you? If you're anything like me, you may have trouble getting in your suggested daily intake for fluids if you can't seem to get excited about it. I am definitely a big offender when it comes to gravitating towards the three things listed above that people should avoid when trying to stay hydrated (caffeine, alcohol and sweetened beverages). Do you want to know what works for me? Adding a little squeeze of fresh lemon, lime or orange juice to your water really helps brighten up the flavor! Herbal tea is another great way to get some flavor to your hydration regimen. Many people swear by sports beverages when they get dehydrated, but you need to really be careful about the added sugar in many of the most popular brands.

The next thing to consider is the intake quantity. There are so many different views and opinions as to how much you should actually drink. The standard last time I checked was a flat 64 ounces across the board, which always struck me as odd. I always thought this number would fluctuate based on activity level, body weight, climate and other extenuating circumstances. Turns out I wasn't alone! The International Sports-Medicine Institute has had a more specific formula in place for over 30 years. They predict that you need approximately 1/2 ounce of water per pound of body weight. So, although it doesn't take all of the factors into consideration, it certainly is more specific than one number for everyone. Very easy, you just take your body weight and split it in half and get the amount of ounces you should drink each day. Do you want something more specific that gives you a more detailed estimation? About.com offers a calculator that takes other factors into account that will help you pinpoint the correct amount even better.


Staying hydrated is probably the easiest and least expensive way to keep your throat healthy and your voice in top performing condition; not to mention it's a great healthy habit to have in general! Always keep a glass or cup nearby to encourage yourself to keep sipping throughout the day!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

Friday, December 9, 2011

Voices for a Great Cause!

For the first time ever in the history of voiceovers, 31 voiceover artists joined forces to raise money for children. The group gathered last week to record “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The recording has been released this week and has been picked up by radio stations across the nation. All sales and donations to Voices For Children will benefit Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.  

To listen to the production, click here.
To make a donation, clickhere.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wrap Up Tax Details Now!

As we close in on the end of the year, it's a very busy time for most of us. Holidays with the family, religious celebrations, company parties and seasonal voiceover work keeps us very busy this time of year! It's so easy to forget the most important task of the month, which is closing out our tax year!




As a voiceover artist (and small business owner), there are quite a few things that you should have available to make your tax filing as seamless as possible. December 31st is ideally YOUR deadline to get organized for your tax filing. By taking a little time and getting yourself organized now, you can save yourself loads of money! We've put together this article to try to help make your tax filing as easy as possible.



If you have your very own CPA, this makes things much easier, as they can advise you on all things tax related. For some of us, we don't have a CPA to rely on throughout the year and are left to our own devices to muddle through and learn from our mistakes. It may be worth it to you to have an accountant on hand just for year-end advice, particularly when it comes to your business operations. You need to have a good understanding of your financial situation when it comes to your business. An accountant can be particularly helpful with this, especially around this time of year. It can be a great asset to have when planning your strategy for the new year.


Everyone has different opinions on this, but we recommend to collect on your outstanding accounts before the end of the year, purely for organizational purposes. It's fairly common knowledge by all business owners that companies want to collect on their accounts by end of year to balance their books and prepare for tax season. We all have those clients (you know the ones I'm talking about) that drag their feet paying you. Chances are if they typically drag their feet, they will this time of year as well. So make sure you give your clients a few weeks to get their past due invoices caught up. Feel free to send them a reminder every week if necessary. Some people recommend collecting past due payments during the first week of January, to defer that income to the new year. However, once you begin this habit, it's a hard habit to break. You'll always be rolling over income from the previous year into the new year and that can be a logistical nightmare when trying to keep your books organized.



You should get all of your deductions organized and categorized. The general guideline is to try to spend whatever profit you made for the entire year. You should have been saving all of your receipts and categorizing all of your deductions throughout the entire year. Business deductions include such items as: new headphones, software, client luncheons, training seminars and much, much more!



Have you just been stuffing all of your receipts in a file folder hoping that inevitable day will never come? Well, my friend, the day has come to take them all out and get them organized, so get to it! Also, if you know that you'll be needing goods or services in the first quarter of the new year, now is the time to buy them (if cash flow permits, of course). Stock up on office supplies, pay your bills early, purchase that new office chair you've been eyeing!



Plan for your distant future while helping your immediate future with retirement plans! You can also reduce your claimed income by either setting up or contributing to a retirement fund. Check the contribution limits for your type of plan. In the U.S.: 401(k), KEOGH plan, Roth IRA, or SEP's. (For SIMPLE IRA's the deadline is set in October, too late for year-end tax planning.) This is another topic that would be great to discuss with an accountant.



Taking the time to get organized now will give you time at the end of the month to wrap up any loose ends and focus on more important things this time of year (like enjoying the holidays with your children and family)!



NOTE: This article was not written by a certified CPA or tax preparer. Please check with your personal accountant or tax preparer on all rules and regulations when making all decisions for the tax season.

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tip of the Month: Combat Congestion!


Tis the season; the season for sickness, that is! As we all know, congestion is practically doomsday for voiceover artists. Being that I recently got over a pretty bad cold myself, I decided to write an article on a few methods to combat congestion to help you record on the tougher days. We would love to hear your miracle-cures as well, so feel free to leave us a comment!



Hot shower: A hot shower is a great way to loosen congestion. Bonus points if you use a minty soap to try to help ease congestion as well. Unfortunately, staying in a hot shower for too long can also be drying to your skin, so my hint would be to take a shower and then turn up the water heat and step out of the shower to enjoy the steam. Turn off any vents or fans and let the bathroom really fill up with steam and enjoy it for a few minutes.

Herbal tea with honey and lemon: Many people would recommend drinking an herbal tea, typically with spearmint or chamomile. Personally, this works wonders for me. Many voiceover artists swear by 'Throat Coat' tea, which I use in dire situations but really can't stand the taste of. Lesser known is to drink ginger tea. Ginger is a natural antihistamine, so it will help any inflammation you are suffering from due to congestion. The less inflamed things are, the less congested you'll feel. Try to avoid any tea that contains caffeine (even green tea contains caffeine), stick with herbal.

OTC decongestant: For the most part, I try to avoid taking medicine unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes you just have to so you can function in your daily schedule. Make sure that if you're planning on working, to choose a non-drowsy formula!

Avoid dairy: As many of you know, dairy products can cause your body to produce more mucous than it normally does. In fact, we recommend that our students stay away from dairy products 24-48 hours before recording their demo to cut down on mouth noise produced when dairy is consumed. When you're congested, your body is already producing PLENTY of mucous, so avoiding dairy will help keep your body from producing even more! As an alternative, try soy or almond milk.

Indulge in a spicy, brothy soup: The combination of the steam and the spices really helps open up the sinuses and ease chest congestion. Bonus points on this one if you lean in close to your bowl of soup and breathe deeply to get the full steam-effect!

Metholatum Ointment: Depending on where your congestion is, this can work wonders either below your nostrils or on your chest. It's a temporary relief, but it's a great addition to your congestion combatants.

Gargling with warm water & salt: The salt helps dry out post-nasal drip and the warm water eases a sore throat.

Use a humidifier: Many people complain that bedtime is the worst time when they're suffering from congestion. Most times this is because when we lay down and can't breathe through our nose, we sleep with our mouth open which dries out our throat and causes us to cough. Having a humidifier in your bedroom for when you are ill will help a bit to keep your throat a little more moist.

Keep hydrated: Not only is keeping hydrated good in general for voiceover artists, it's particularly important when you're suffering from congestion. Making sure you have plenty of liquids will help thin out mucous, which will make it easier to pass any mucous you have lingering.

Neti-pot: I'm sure may of you have heard of this contraption already. Personally, I can admit I was a little freaked out by the concept. You get this little teapot-looking thing, add in a solution (provided by the makers of the neti-pot) that contains 2 ingredients, mix with warm water and pour it into one nostril, which it then goes up into the sinuses and out the other nostril. Sounds weird, right?! I thought so, too! After numerous friends of mine gave me rave-reviews of their dealings with this thing, I decided to give it a shot. I have to admit, the thing worked! It takes a bit to get the angle right and you feel really silly while doing it, but for the first time in a week I was able to take a deep breath through my nose without being all stuffed up. I won't hesitate to use this thing again next time I get sick!

Saline nasal spray: This is a great thing to add in between uses with the Neti-pot, or if you don't have a neti-pot or don't want to try using it. It does a great job of clearing up nasal congestion temporarily. Perfect for using right before bed and when you wake up in the morning!



Until the days when scientists find a cure for those pesky viruses, we just have to try to make ourselves as comfortable and functional as possible while our bodies fight off the sickness. Hopefully the hints above will provide you with a few new ideas on how to help with congestion and make you able to record that urgent voiceover job for your favorite client!

Written by:  Bethany Baker      Such A Voice Marketing Director