Voice Over Education Blog

October 2013

Losing a Voice-Over Job – Making the Proverbial Lemonade Out of a Sour Experience


Job Loss Gumbo

Ingredients:

  • 1 Project
  • 1 Director
  • 5 Clients
  • 1 Talent
  • 1 Engineer
  • 1 Amateur script

The results of this recipe always change – so you must prepare yourself and be willing to accept the outcome. Luckily, the outcome of a job loss can actually be successful. (Which is good, because I much prefer writing recipes for success.)

At the time it may be hard to see how job growth can emerge from a voice actor’s worst nightmare, but really there is no other good way to take on this experience.

Let me assure you that it’s not a matter of “if” you lose a job; it’s a matter of “when.” How you handle the outcome either makes you or breaks you. I can give you story after story of talent, from newbies to pros, losing projects. Some people let it get the better of them. I’m hoping to help you get through this experience. The most important thing is to realize you are not alone.

The bottom line is that we CAN’T please everyone. We never will. We are not perfect, and as hard as you may try, you never will be. If you enter this craft, you enter it with the need to either please or be appreciated, so when you are not able to accomplish this, it can really make you second guess whether you are cut out for this industry or not.

Filling the Void: 5 Tips for Taking Advantage of Downtime


What happened?

Every freelancer hits that wall. The work…just…stops. Nothing’s coming in. Leads are long gone, and clients are clamming up. Hopefully it’s just a day or two … a week or two at the most.

You’d go crazy trying to figure out why. Sure, there may be some legitimate reasons: you’ve been slacking in your marketing, or your lead-generation, or in asking for referrals. But sometimes you’re doing all that stuff – diligently – and still the work stops.

These moments are actually opportunities. Remember all the things you put on the back burner when you were crazy-busy with that big narration project and six auditions a day? Well, now’s the time to drag it out … now you have the time.

Since 80% of your VO business is marketing, and 20% is voicing anyway, this should not be a big surprise. In fact this may be one of the reasons the work stopped coming in – while you were busy voicing projects, the lead-generating activity stopped. It’s a nice predicament to be in, but the key is to be able to find the time to do both.

Take Advantage of the “Free” Time

Here’s a quick list of suggestions that will keep you “working” while you prepare for the next wave of paid gigs:

1) Practice. In VO terms: audition. Pick up what leads you can from pay-to-play sites, your agents, and web-searches. That’s right, do a Google search for VO jobs or voiceover needed. You’ll be surprised what comes up. When those Voices.com or other sources dry up, just read. Practice on copy from Edge Studio. They have reams of legitimate copy for practicing. Record it. Edit it. Listen to it. Send it to someone for a critique. Play like it’s real, because it is.

That is the Question


How do we get inside a text? How do we find the best way to communicate its message? Just as listening is half of communicating, questioning can be the better half of finding answers. Here are only a few questions voice over artists might want to ask themselves when analyzing copy.

Who is your audience?

I’m sure you have heard this question repeatedly in your voice over training and career. Every piece of copy that you are asked to do, whether commercial, animation, audiobook, narration or beyond, asks this essential question. Of course, our job is not merely to identify the audience, but to deliver our message directly to him or her. I use singular pronouns here because in the context of VO, the defined audience is best considered to be one person. This brings a level of specificity, intimacy and focus to our work. The audience is our “customer,” and the audience is always right. The audience wants a certain something in his/her life: a product, a service, an escape into a story, a better understanding of a particular topic, etc.

Producers, advertisers, writers, publishers and casting directors look to us to bring that certain something to that certain person. This process requires imagination, the distillation of facts and, often, research into the target market.

When working on your script, ask yourself, “Who is the single perfect audience member whom this piece will effectively relate to, engage, inspire and compel?” Begin to answer this question by looking at the direction you’ve been given, the subject of the piece, and its writing style. If the direction calls for an “urban edge,” you can probably rule out a Midwest farmer as your audience. If the piece is a commercial for enhancing one’s investment portfolio, you can fairly confidently dismiss the under-18 demographic. If a text contains the word, “dude,” it’s likely you’ll not be speaking to a senior citizen.

Using Highlighting and Spaces to Pronounce Challenging Words


Ever come to a complex, seemingly hard-to-say word, and the first pronunciation that comes to mind is “homina-homina-homina”?

Here’s how to make those words and phrases easy. Well, easier. Your ability to breeze authoritatively through tough copy will impress your clients, help enable you to offer medical or other technical VO narration, make you more money, and (or at least) make life more fun.

You can pronounce challenging passages if you know how.

PART 1: THREE CHALLENGES, ONE TECHNIQUE

Problematic passages break down into three categories:

  • Unfamiliar words
  • Words that are often mangled
  • Awkward phrases

How to pronounce unfamiliar words

First, you need to know the correct pronunciation. Take a minute to look up the pronunciation of any word you aren’t absolutely sure of.

Focus on the dictionary’s pronunciation guide. But IGNORE THE SPELLING, because you’re going to change that. Instead, you’ll do this:

  • Spell each syllable as something more straightforward.
  • Insert a few blank spaces between syllables.
  • Add a few blank spaces before and after the word.
  • Then highlight the word to “group” it as one.

Example:

Rather than suffer through this:

Neuroendocrine tumors are defined as those that produce biogenic amines. Next we’ll discuss a positive argyrophil and argentaffin stain.

Voice Over - The Lost Art of Listening


While out on a hiking trip this past weekend, I took the time to simply listen to nature. For several minutes, not a single device of modern technology could be heard. It was truly music to the ears. Listening, truly listening, seems to be a lost art. When was the last time you sat down and listened to an album? I don’t mean casually, with the music playing in the background as you perform other tasks. I mean sitting down in front of some speakers, or putting on headphones, and simply listening.

I’ve been around many younger people lately, high school and college age, and they just don’t listen. I’m not talking about, “Hey, pick those clothes up off the floor and put them away”... and they don’t do it, kind of listening (although that is certainly an issue as well). I’m talking about truly using their ears and hearing the world around them.

This isn’t limited to young people. When teaching home studio classes (mostly to adults), I’m often asked, “How do you know which (whatever piece of gear) sounds better?” The answer is, “In order to know, you have to listen and compare.”

This isn’t entirely the fault of today’s typical listener. Tiny and inefficient speakers have become common place, whether they be in earbuds, computers or television. These are all truly terrible devices for critical listening and are barely good enough for simple enjoyment of listening. Then of course, there is the MP3 format. Listening to an MP3 of a song and then listening to that same song on a record or CD (on decent speakers and in a decent environment) is a truly ear-opening experience. Again, if you haven’t listened and compared them, you can’t know.

It’s like the old aphorism: You have two ears and one mouth to remind you to use your ears twice as much.

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