Voice Over Education Blog

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Don't have a Commercial Demo? We can help!

Don’t have a Commercial demo? Whatever VO genre you specialize in, you probably should.

Commercials offers a wide range of opportunity. In comparison, if you want to work in, say, video games, there are only so many producers to pitch. But commercials are widely produced, in many forms – with clients ranging from local radio/TV stations and cable providers, to ad agencies of all sorts and sizes, marketing departments and individual retailers. Plus, the vast majority of commercials are voiced by regular VO professionals, as opposed to celebrities.

When you do land one, it can be very lucrative through ongoing residuals, repeat projects, or both. And who wouldn’t like to to be heard by friends and clients on a national spot, getting paid well, to boot?

Almost no other genre spans such a wide range of topics, styles, and types of scripts. Even if you don’t specialize in commercials, your demo portfolio will greatly benefit by showcasing your ability to do them.  

Your first priority should be an effective delivery. It is important for clients to know that you understand their goal is selling. Your ability to understand the mission suggests that you have a businesslike attitude. That’s valued by producers in every genre.

When to choose an acting teacher. And how. Part 1 of 2.

NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

As we’ve written before, much of voice-over involves acting. Feeling at ease as a voice actor helps with all sorts of things in a voice-over performance — from sounding genuine, to widening your range of voicing techniques. So, when and how should you find yourself an acting teacher or class?

When? If you’ve just gotta act, you’ll know when the time is right.

Otherwise, if you’re aiming at a voice-over career, first focus on that.

Learn and hone VO skills. That will help assure you won’t later have to unlearn acting habits that may be wrong for voice-over. It will also leave you more time for creating your demo and building your business. And it will give you the perspective necessary for choosing the sort of acting course you want to follow.

But let’s assume you’re well along in that, and the time is right — you want to learn more about acting, or maybe your VO coach has suggested it. What now?

Some types of acting relate more directly to voice-over. In particular, screen acting is more like working at the mic than stage acting is. But even more important – as far as actor training is concerned – is how you relate to the acting course, and how the teacher’s approach to acting relates to you. Furthermore, acting experience provides you with more than "just" a performance technique. Acting also teaches you confidence, range, and powers of observation. All these things are important in voice acting.

So, for the rest of this article, we’re talking about Acting with a capital A, not just acting for VO.

The world is full of real characters. How many are in your VO toolkit?

You’re at the mic, and the Director says, “Do this as someone else – weird but likable.” Or whatever. What do you do? We’ve written previously about the value of developing characters ahead of time, and this situation is one reason to do that.

But where do you find fresh, interesting character voices? The answer is, “all around you!” Here are a few suggestions:


Here’s a great excuse to take time away from your busy day. Sample reality and news shows. Hopefully you’ll even enjoy them. The subject matter maybe mundane, but these are a great source of real voices from around the country and around the world. With so many programs these days being about life in the back country, you’ll hear a lot of prototypes of that sort. But don’t focus only there. Check out more “typical” people, too. Listen for how one person in the same scene differs from another. How are they similar?

Beware that some reality shows are actually more or less scripted, and, regardless, some of the “characters” you encounter might not actually be from the area depicted. But even if what they say is scripted, their accent probably isn’t. And even if their accent is a hodge-podge of various locales, it’s a character, and that’s what you’re looking for.

Should you remove some telemarketers from your list? How to identify scripts you might want no part of - PART TWO

NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one!

“This is Rachel at Cardholder Services” or “Bob from Home Security.” Don’t you just love jumping out of the shower or leaving the dinner table to answer calls like that? The recordings may have been innocently voiced years ago, but due to changes in phone technology, the illegal use of such come-ons has mushroomed in the past several years. Maybe there are only a few companies or individuals behind these billions of calls, but clearly they have spawned imitators, and we wouldn’t be surprised if some naive legitimate companies figure, “Hey, let’s try this ourselves.”

Last week we gave background on this subject. Now here are some questions to ask if you are offered what might be a telephony script.

Some robocalling is legal, depending on the type of call, type of caller, type of recipient, and so on.

When the rules are followed, telemarketing is an honorable and even valuable practice. But if you have qualms about your voice being possibly unappreciated by consumers, these yellow flags might be at least reason to ask some preliminary questions ...

What do the watchdogs say? As standard procedure whenever you’re concerned about a prospective client’s reputation, check for actions against them on the FTC.gov website, the BBB, and other state and local consumer protection agencies.

Is it a “broadcast” phone script? That is, does the script speak to a random listener , with no hint of an existing relationship? For example, if it starts, “Attention, seniors ...” or “Are you a business owner?” you might conclude that it’s not directed to a specific customer with whom the caller has an existing relationship, or even knows much about, if anything.

What’s your image of Imaging?

In a world where “real” voices are paramount, where being “vocally free” is prized, what does a VO pro make of promo, trailers and imaging work? Isn’t it the domain of the big voice, the DJ sound, and distinctive affectation?

It was. Not so much anymore. Even in imaging.

First, let’s all get up to speed with some definitions.

• Promos are the “commercials” that broadcast stations and networks (TV, radio, cable, satellite, web, etc.) run to advertise their own programming.
• Imaging is what the advertising community calls “branding.” It refers to a station or network IDs, audio billboards, logos, and other productions that identify the station or network and define its “position” in the programming marketplace. (For example, “This is CNN,” or “All hits on the Big 102!”)
• Affiliate promos are related to both imaging and promos, in that they are promotions produced by networks for their affiliated stations’ use. Each station receives a localized version (e.g., with a specific channel number and names of local newscasters).
• Trailers promote movies. Even when a movie promotion is run on television or included on a DVD, etc., it’s still called a trailer, even when it’s more like an ad or commercial. (No matter -- the word is an anachronism anyway.) Increasingly, in theaters trailers don’t have a voice over at all. In other media, voice is necessary.

Clear enough, right? But how does, say, an imaging job differ from a promo job?

How Many Types of eLearning Are There?

One of the first things to learn about elearning (aka “eLearning” or “e-learning”) is that there is no such thing. Or rather, there’s no one such thing as “elearning.”

People apply the term to all sorts of video and audio recordings (any electronic media) where
education or training, or even selling, is involved. So when you say you specialize in “eLearning,” it’s a bit like saying you do “voice over” -- first you need to be sure the person you’re talking to knows what it is … then you need to say what kind. Which means you should know the same!

This understanding will influence how and where you prospect for job leads.

Again, it’s similar to saying you do voice-overs: That’s not the most effective opener with the average prospective client (who may or may not have hired VO talent before). A better introduction is along the lines of, “I help you communicate more effectively.” By understanding the various elearning types, audiences and objectives, you’ll be better able to speak convincingly about the benefits of your VO services.

First, be aware that eLearning spans a wide variety of subjects. In fact, it could involve any subject. For example:

    To Documentaries, Bring Truth

    “The events shown in this program depict authenticated facts.”

    “Everything in this story is true. Only the names and locations are changed.”

    “Scenes have been re-created by actors, based on the actual events.”

    “Bunnies are cute.”

    Truth is powerful, and seldom needs much elaboration. Lies are more typically embellished.

    The documentary industry has long struggled to define what actually constitutes truth in showing a non-fiction story. Meanwhile as a documentary narrator, you have your own truth-handling issues. Whether a documentary is objective or pushing an agenda, above all, it needs to be credible. The quality of its narration plays an important role in that perception. Your narration should generate trust. Often, the less obtrusive your performance, the more truthful it will seem to the viewer.

    Here’s a Truth in Documentaries pledge to consider as you work in this genre.

    I will be genuine. Love to over-act? Maybe animation is the genre for you. Like flamboyance and improvisation? Consider certain types of commercials. Want to be the focus of storytelling? Audiobooks. But in a documentary, stick to the script, understand what you’re saying, and trust in the subtle power of thoughtful understatement. Know what’s in the script, and simply tell what you know. Most documentary producers will love you for it.

    I will let the visuals do the shouting. Pictures are powerful. Unlike some other genres, there’s seldom any need to artificially pump things up with false emotion, aka over-acting. In fact, documentary producers and propagandists have long known that the perceived truth often is found between the words.

    Got your demo?

    Tell someone in the entertainment or production business that you’re a voice artist, and the next words you’ll hear are, “Got your demo?” Among knowledgeable people in a position to hire you, it happens close to 100% of the time.

    This scenario used to be sort of frustrating for talent. After all, few voice artists could carry a tape, cassette or CD everywhere they went, let alone afford to hand them out like Halloween candy.

    How lucky we are nowadays. You can simply give someone your business card, which should have a simple URL for reaching your demo(s) online.

    That’s if you have a demo. If you don’t, the request for one can feel more frustrating than ever. But fight the urge to produce a demo before you’re ready.

    Buck up, suck it up and stick to your plan to record a professional grade demo. Instead of hearing demo requests as a frustration, hear them as an opportunity to aim for. Now.

    The window of opportunity is a fairly narrow one, because when you are ready to produce your demo, that’s the time to do it. Releasing a not-ready-for-prime-time demo can kill a budding career, but not producing it when you are ready is obviously also not career enhancing.

    Industrial and Corporate Videos - Part Two: How to make yourself more interesting.

    NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. To read part one, click here.

    Last week, we began listing some tips for voicing corporate and industrial videos. Most of them were functional. This week’s tip is a bit more subtle, but just as important:

    Don’t bore the viewer!

    Use emotion.

    Why is that so important in Industrial and Corporate? This genre is a challenging mix of documentary narration on the one hand, and e-learning or commercials on the other. That is, a person might assume that the viewer has chosen to watch a TV program about sea turtles, and in a sea turtle documentary the video provides drama. So the narrator should be relatively subdued and refrain from over-acting. In contrast, who knows if a student wants to watch an e-learning video about economics? Hopefully the e-learning program has been well designed to capture the student’s interest, and its narrator can work with that. And at the low-interest extreme, there are most commercials -- we all know how disinterested people are in most of them. So sometimes in a commercial you’re even supposed to go over the top!

    Industrial and Corporate Videos - Part One: How to make yourself more valuable.

    NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click for Part Two

    When you tell someone what you do -- that is, once they understand what “voice over” means -- does it go something like this?

    “So, was that you in the _______ commercial?”

    “No, that was Benjamin Bratt. Anyway, I don’t do commercials. That’s only 5% of the voice over market. I’m a narrator.”

    “I see. Like last week on Nature?”

    “No, that was F. Murray Abraham.”

    “Then what do you narrate?”

    “Maybe you caught my video on the importance of choosing the correct plastic beads for an industrial extrusion process?”

    “Was that the one with John Cleese?”

    “No, although he does do corporate training videos.”

    Sigh. Industrial and Corporate Videos are one (or two) of the biggest, most active genres.

    Consider: worldwide, people view 1.12 billion hours of live (and recorded live) business online video content yearly, a number that’s expected to double by 2016. Most or all of that is probably “unproduced” video (like filming a stage play, not like producing a movie), so it has little to do with voice over. But the number gives you the sense of scale. Produced video is expanding, too, and as companies become more experienced in video use, their practices get more sophisticated.

    Industrial and Corporate are also among the most interesting genres -- you’re almost always learning something. But they are relatively unsung, and your friends are unlikely to hear your work.

    How do you read for Commercials? (Part Two)

    NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. To read Part One, click here.

    In Part One, I observed that there is no one way to read a commercial, because there is no one type of commercial. And if there were a “standard way,” that would make commercials pretty boring, wouldn’t it?

    But there are some standards that talent in this genre should understand, and generally adhere to. Among them is the recognition that a commercial’s ultimate goal is to sell something. Add to that the probability that the listener doesn’t want to be sold; in fact, the listener probably doesn’t even want to hear the commercial and may be listening with half an ear at best.

    As we continue our list from last week, that’s where your special skills come in.

    Clients know what they want. And they don’t. When casting a commercial, there will usually have been some discussion of what sort of voice to use. Male, female, younger, older, gruff, sweet, resemblance to a celebrity, English accent, whatever. Despite the now long established trend to casting “real person” voices, sometimes the client will expect a goldenthroat. Everybody involved in the casting decision will have an sound in their head. Thing is, they haven’t yet heard you. Often the talent who gets the job is the one who shows them a quality they hadn’t anticipated, one that will enhance the message, flatter the product, and help make the commercial stand out. Good producers and successful talent recognize this fact.

    How Do You Read Commercials? (Part 1)

    NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click for Part Two!

    About Randall Rensch: Randy once aspired to be a personality DJ ... but that radio genre had gone out of style. So he became a radio copywriter, acting in many of the spots he wrote and produced. That led to his becoming a marketing copywriter in the full range of media, and over the years Randy has worked at many of New York ad agencies, large and small. Randy has served marketers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to home-based businesses, including IBM, Sony, Raymond James, SiteSell, Inc., United Technologies, Coca-Cola, Anso nylon, IHOP, and hundreds of other consumer and B2B companies. Now a freelancer, Randy also enjoys time to return to his roots as a voice actor and narrator. His advice, samples and insights into the nature of advertising are found at Rensch.com.

    Once upon a time when I was finishing a day of freelance copywriting at a major ad agency, one of the Creative Directors popped into my office and asked, “How do you write for radio?”

    Bear in mind that this was a head honcho, so you’d think he’d know. But his bailiwick was mainly print advertising. He was right to ask, because commercials are different. And as I told him, there is no one way to write for them.

    There’s no one right way to read them, either. There are all sorts of commercials, all sorts of objectives, and all sorts of clients. The only common denominator is this: the client’s objective is to always to sell something. It might be a product, or a service, or an idea. It might be simply to make the listener feel good about the brand, or it might be to generate a phone order as you speak. But ultimately, as one venerable ad agency has put it, “It’s not creative unless it sells.”

    Have You Toured the Audio Tours Genre Lately

    The Audio Tours genre is a very interesting subject and a potentially rewarding specialty, especially considering that it’s a bigger field than many people realize.

    Many people think of it only in terms of museum tours. That’s obviously a huge segment, but there are many other kinds of audio tours, too. All the following settings, and more, have audio tour potential:

    * Museums and other exhibitions -- Might as well start with the obvious. Like Audiobooks, this genre, too, can be tremendously satisfying. If you have special or extensive knowledge in the subject that’s on exhibit, here is a great way to apply what you know, while providing extra value to your client. Or, if like most curious people you’re a “knowledge generalist,” voicing audio tours gives you an opportunity to learn while you earn. In either case, it’s also satisfying to know that you’re providing a meaningful service to people who take the tour. And while the articles you describe will be the star of the show, the overall goal of any audio tour is to be entertaining. You will be an important contributor to that.

    * Tourist locations -- Not every museum has walls. Historic sites feature “progressive tours” that the visitor listens to while moving from place to place. The site could be a group of historic structures, a battlefield, an archaeological dig, anything. In these situations, an audio tour is more convenient and more personal than a guidebook. And you will help make it more interesting.

    * Campus tours -- How many prospective students and their families visit college campuses every year? There are only so many administrators and/or student guides to show them around. Recorded audio tours fill this major gap. Life decisions may be affected by the quality of your work.

    Why is Audiobook Narration So Popular?

    In some countries, much more than maybe in the US, it’s considered gauche at a social occasion to ask a stranger, “What do you do?” But at a meet-and-greet of voice over professionals, it’s understandably standard procedure.

    Very often among emerging talent these days, the answer is, “Audiobooks.”

    Why is Audiobook narration so popular among new voice over talent?

    After all, it’s a very unusual genre. Sessions are long, requiring vocal stamina and consistency. Pay is usually by the finished hour, meaning if you don’t work efficiently (or have a poor client), the hourly pay can wind up kind of low. And if you’re working at home, it requires long periods of suitable recording conditions. Depending on your client’s needs, it might also require some special audio editing and even processing skills. That’s all in addition to requiring performance skills specific to the genre.

    So why is Audiobook narration popular?

    That’s like asking why the New York and Boston marathons are so popular. Some things in life inspire tremendous enthusiasm and dedication in a huge number of people, while other people are happy to spectate.

    And to admire.

    That is part of the answer. Each of the 30 or so VO genres requires commendable qualities in a voice artist, but imagine how it must feel to do an admirable job as the voice of Ishmael in Moby Dick. As rewarding as it may be to make money by saying, “To continue in English, press 1,” or “Now on sale at BigBox,” there is some extra social reward in performing a book. It has the power to make your voice ... well ... immortal.

    10 Ways To Animate Your Animation Pitch or What Animation Voice Over Is Really About

    In the recent Edge Studio Weekly Script Reading Contest that ended on Friday, April 18, we were surprised to hear a lot of entrants making sound effects with their mouth. For example, the sound of hitting the ground when falling, or the noise of footsteps. That, of course, is not what voice over work in the Animation genre is about. Unless you’re directed otherwise, sound effects should be left to the engineer.

    It is about screaming “Yipes” (or whatever) when you are falling, or the huffing and puffing while making those footsteps. An animation pro (like Edge Studio coaches Jay Snyder and Noelle Romano) can integrate a series of such verbalizations as if they actually were running into a hippopotamus, reversing course, scampering up a tree and falling from its tippy-est branch into the hippo’s mouth. And out again.

    But knowing a vocally-produced sound effect from a character’s vocalization is a relatively little thing. Once you’re hip to the difference, you know it for a lifetime. Other animation skills, such as dubbing a foreign-language cartoon (Automated Dialogue Replacement or ADR) are also relatively easy to learn. And while becoming skilled at making those incidental vocalizations (the huffing, puffing, etc., which often are not specifically scripted) takes some practice, with experience, practice and planning you’ll be doing that, too, like an old pro.

    But to become that Old Pro, you need to land some animation jobs, right? What’s the key to landing them?

    Stand out.

    4 Tips to Improve Your Practicing

    Practicing. We all know it’s important (even for working pros!). But sometimes it can feel like a chore… and it’s all too easy to let yourself get lost in a sea of cat videos on Youtube instead of hunkering down with a few knotty scripts.

    Why is it so hard to focus on practicing? Well, often you’re doing it wrong. Poor practice habits lead to frustration, because you never seem to see the results you want. We all need to know we’re achieving something, right?

    Here are a few tips to make sure you’re practicing correctly – and keeping it fun!

    1. Record each take and immediately listen back to it. This serves a dual purpose: it helps you get over that “Ugh, is that really what I sound like?” gut response, and it allows you to hear how your interpretation is landing on the listener. Many times you’ll discover that the way it felt in your head is totally different from how it sounded to everyone else! (Confession: this is still true for me. I’ll listen to a take that felt awesome – in control, carefully crafted, etc. – and discover that it sounds horribly over-acted. Meanwhile, the “tossed away/just for fun” take I did earlier and dismissed? Yup, that’s the one I send to the client.) The bonus of recording each take is that at the end of a practice session you can compare your first and last versions and hear the awesome progress.

    Getting the EDGE in Voice Overs

    “Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.”

    “They’re taking advantage of newbies.”

    “They’re just interested in your money.”

    “I wasted more than $1000 on a demo and nobody wants to hire me.”

    Spend a day on social media, and you’ll discover that talking about voice over coaching can make certain people a bit … edgy. Usually, they’ve had a bad experience or they know someone who was ripped off.

    One aspiring voice talent had studied with the same teacher for years. This coach was supposedly an authority in his field and he acted like one. He was of the “break ‘em-down-and-build-them-up” school. Unfortunately, he was great at the first part and never got to the second.

    The day she dared to ask him when she would be ready to audition, he said: “Voice acting is harder than you think. I’ll let you know when you are ready.” He never did. Thousands of dollars and three years later, she still had no demo, no experience and she had lost her confidence and enthusiasm.

    Those types of horror stories make me cringe.

    Being a coach myself, I don’t shy away from a bit of tough love. Some students believe they’re the best thing since sliced bread, and they deserve a playful kick in the pants. However, students don’t hire a coach to be verbally abused. They want to learn something new.

    So, how can you tell a good coach from a rotten apple?

    We all know people who have made it in this business and all they can talk about is themselves. While that may be entertaining, I don’t think you should spend your hard-earned money on a narcissist.

    A good coach focuses on you.

    Defining your Voice Over “Type” and Finding your Niche

    Over the past year, a friend of mine has been investing in the stock market. He’s been doing quite well – because he has a pretty simple rule: he only buys stock when he understands exactly what the company does, and how their product is useful in the real world. If the company’s product description is vague (what is “consulting,” really?), he stays away.

    This got me thinking about the relationship between voice actors and potential clients. Are we losing clients by being too vague with our own “product description”?

    Successful marketing is all about convincing a client that what you offer is a perfect match for what they need. Yet, in fear of missing out on opportunities, we try to be all things to all people. We present ourselves as generic “all-purpose” voices. The result is that our marketing is equally generic … and clients can’t easily tell that we have the specific skills they want.

    Consider, for example, how the audition sites Voice123.com and Voices.com have been fine-tuning their search parameters: actors who upload genre-specific demos and tag them with client-friendly keywords are rewarded with more auditions and higher rankings in client searches. In other words, if your narration demo is simply tagged “narration,” it won’t show up in as many search results as a demo that is tagged “corporate, warm, trustworthy.” If the system can’t tell what you offer, it won’t know what auditions to put in your inbox! Beef up your profile with specifics on your vocal age range, styles (perky mom, corporate trainer, casual best friend), and tones (friendly, sympathetic, wry, sincere, etc.). These same descriptors need to be on your website, and ideally will be reflected in the overall look of your logo and website design.

    Details Define Da Game

    I recently had my eyes opened -- to roughly the size of a high-quality porcelain 6½-inch diameter Micasa Infinity Band saucer.

    This socket-popping moment came after a lunch meeting with the senior sound designer at a major game developer in the Seattle area.

    Our discussion involved putting on a workshop for students interested in performing characters for Animation/Games. We figured it should also describe how casting for these projects have evolved over time.

    It’s become a challenging field for all involved, including its voice actors. For starters, this particular company hires only union talent, which right there narrows the field to actors with a certain degree of experience, training and skill.

    Add to THAT the trend of using famous names and celebrities to voice high-profile games, and the competition gets kicked up yet another notch.

    Today’s goal in game casting? It’s to convincingly portray “reality” in fantasy … be it the way game players interact with each other, or the characters’ cinematic dialogue, or shredding your larynx to emit battle cries, exertion sounds, and death by falling, explosion and the ever popular incineration.

    The degree to which game developers go in achieving such realism is staggering. In just ONE weapon alone, there can be as many as a thousand individual sounds. Each bullet fired needs to sound different from the one before it. Sound designers also manipulate how that particular gun sounds from three feet away, after you’ve handed it to your buddy in the game. And how it sounds in various sized rooms, and outdoors.

    That’s just for ONE weapon.

    I also learned there’s an approach called the “Super Session” -- where a talent spends up to six hours in the booth, rather than two separate four-hour sessions.

    Know Your Voice

    In a recent ”Talk Time” discussion, one of the participants asked, "I keep hearing 'know your voice.' What does that mean?” I thought it was a terrific question, so I'd like to offer some thoughts on it. ”Know your voice” can be interpreted several ways, and they’re all valid.

    For me, the most obvious interpretation involves being familiar with your range across the different vocal components (such as volume, tempo and pitch), and being able to control it.

    Another take on it could be that of identifying where in the industry your voice and delivery have the most natural fit.

    A third interpretation could include having an understanding of how your voice typically affects listeners; what others sense in your voice when you speak.

    In any case, our ultimate goal in voice over is to connect with the audience by delivering memorable, meaningful reads with natural personality, conversational ease, and appropriate emotion and energy. We tend to achieve this -- with the least effort -- when we are confident and comfortable.

    So where do consistent confidence and comfort come from? Knowing your voice.

    To start getting acquainted with your vocal range, there are some basic exercises and activities that you can do. For example, with volume, tempo, and pitch, most people can pretty easily identify three different levels they have:

    VOLUME: 1-quiet, 2-normal, 3-loud

    TEMPO: 1-slow, 2-normal, 3-fast

    PITCH (that is, the contrast between the low and high pitches you use): 1-little change (monotone), 2-normal, 3-a lot of change

    Getting Rid of the Ghosts of Christmas Past

    It seems that each year it’s hard to believe that Christmas has come and gone. Whether you celebrate or not, this time of year is a turning event for many. It is the time we create goals and reflect on the past.

    Instead of talking about the future today, I’d like to reflect on the past. My incredible assistant, and fellow voice talent, John Harris, suggested this topic, and I think it is most fitting. Many of us dwell on what isn’t, instead of focusing on what could be. It’s so easy for us as a society to blame, make excuses and focus on the negatives that set us back. I tend to focus on the positive, and this isn’t always easy. There is always something or someone getting in the way of your success. Most importantly, you!

    I encourage you to reflect on what you’ve done this year to create success for yourself, and to flesh out what has held you back. Many of us hold finances accountable for slow progression. Whether it’s investing in coaching, demos, equipment, marketing or branding, we are all forced to put significant money and a ton of time into our craft. There are many out there who truly can’t afford to invest further to obtain more productive results, and so they stop investing. But isn’t that the same as saying, “I can’t afford the schooling to be a lawyer, so I’m just gonna wing it?” It’s interesting that if we pursue a conventional career or trade, we make whatever efforts are needed, so we can accomplish the degree or certification that allows us to draw an income from that profession ... yet with Voice Acting, people assume that all they need is a voice and some equipment, and they will just make it work.

    A Holiday Message

    Happy Holidays!

    It’s been an exciting year. With the voice over industry booming, will you find time to enjoy the holiday season? Probably yes, because the end of December and early January are normally (or shall we say “traditionally”?) a little slower.

    But just because incoming work slows down a little bit, there is no reason your work should slow down. Use this time to build your VO business in so many ways:

    * Work on training

    * Practice, practice, practice (and listen, listen, listen)

    * Evaluate/update your demos

    * Learn more about your software and enhance your editing skills

    * Improve your studio’s sound quality

    * Train your ears by listening to other voice over performers

    * Develop your self-promotion

    So enjoy the season, and if incoming auditions and projects slow down, consider it a good thing. Don’t be concerned – the VO industry picks up in mid-January.

    We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season, and terrific success in 2014!

    Season’s Greetings,

    David Goldberg

    Chief Edge Officer

    For more information about David Goldberg or any other Edge Studio instructor, please call our office at 888-321-3343 or click here.

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

    Job Loss Gumbo


    • 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.

    Improve Your Daily Practice Right Now

    One of the favorite parts of my work as a voice over coach at Edge Studio is teaching the popular Technique 101 course. Although I've been teaching it for awhile now, it remains new as I continue to learn from our students. Every call has a unique group dynamic. Each new collaboration creates a vital Q&A session, but one question is common to all groups: “I can't wait to try these techniques -- what's the best way to practice? How should I start?”

    It's a terrific question, and the answers to it are as varied as the voice talent themselves. No two voices are alike, and talent come to the challenge from many different backgrounds.

    No matter what our path to practice, doing it daily is essential. Many students find it helpful to assign their daily practice exercises to specific categories, breaking the work down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

    In my upcoming book, 365 Tools, Tips and Tricks for Voice Over Excellence, I divide training into five sections. Detailed exercises in each section comprise a useful structure for personalizing your daily practice.

    • Vocal Development
    • Voice Over Technique
    • Ear Training
    • Voice Acting
    • Literary Analysis

    In the Vocal Development category, we put things like breath awareness and support, creating a daily warm-up, and learning about and practicing vocal health. We work on the quality of our unique instruments.

    How to Keep Your Sanity as a Freelancer (Part 2) by Kristin Price

    Part 2: Once you’re busy, stay in control

    Depending on where you are in your career, you might be amused by the concept of being “too busy.” Maybe your response is, “Bring it on!”

    Good for you. But in taking on clients, don’t fall into a trap similar to the one I’ve described above. Beware of several stress-causing, time-wasting scenarios that are very common.

    Scenario 1: Overly-Demanding Low-Budget Jobs. Sometimes lower-budget clients are less organized, which can lead to unanticipated re-records due to script changes or indecision about the delivery style. These lower-budget jobs can still be a great way to get experience and build your confidence. And to be fair: there are also lower-budget clients who are quite lovely to work with. But make sure they aren’t crowding out the market-rate ones! Having five $50 jobs in a day is much more stressful than one $300 job … and makes you less money. If those $50 jobs hurt your ability to land the $300+ jobs, it’s time to re-focus your marketing. You may need to (ahem) “break up with” (some would say “fire”) a client or two. There’s no need to trot out the “it’s not you, it’s me” spiel. Simply thank them profusely for the work and explain that you need to raise your rates. Perhaps you’ll share a digital handshake and part ways … or maybe they’ll offer to pay you more!

    Scenario 2: Time-Zone Confusion. Suppose you’ve promised to deliver audio by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. At 2:05, the client sends a furious email wondering why you missed the deadline. Oops! You forgot to specify that you meant 5 p.m. in your time zone! To prevent this embarrassment, be sure that your location and time zone are easy to see on your website, and don’t depend on your client having seen or remembered it. Always double-confirm deadlines, specifically.

    How to Keep Your Sanity as a Freelancer by Kristin Price

    What’s the #1 issue that will hold you back from launching your awesome voice over career? Time management. Well, you can manage to do better.

    Whether your delay is for valid reasons (your current job got super-busy, or an unexpected family event), or whether it’s just from procrastination, excuses, a subconscious fear, whatever -- without time management, putting your new career on the back burner can kill it before you even get started.

    And even if that’s not your #1 issue, it’s important to understand. Because time management is also the #1 issue that will drive you crazy once you have that awesome voice over career.

    Your voice over clients will ask if you can complete a lengthy project by tomorrow, clients in other time zones wonder why you aren’t answering their e-mails immediately (not realizing it’s 3 a.m. your time), home-studio editing can take three times as long as you estimated. And you’ll still have conflicting demands on your time, like going to the gym, or your kid’s recital, or a rush job that you planned on being an all-nighter.

    This isn’t to say you should avoid a voice over career. It is to say that running your voice over business will require a certain level of time management skills.

    Learn these skills, and you, your clients, your family, everyone will be happier.

    Part 1: Keeping your start-up plan on track

    How do you make your Jingle Jangle? by Carolee Goodgold

    “O-O-O-O, Only Cheerios. The One and Only Cheerios.”

    Oh, oh, oh, I was lucky to sing on that jingle! I remember the producer joking, “Well, there’s your mortgage payment for the year!”

    Yes, the wacky world of jingles was once enormously lucrative. I have friends who used to be so busy singing jingles that they had a car service waiting downstairs to hustle them to their next booking! Sometimes it’s still like that.

    But not so much. Other than local jingles, there isn’t that much singing being done anymore. All the more reason to be prepared for any good opportunity.

    The jingle business has changed drastically over the past 10 years. Advertisers don’t spend money like they once did, and they cut corners whenever they can. Previously, you were paid on a sliding scale every time a spot ran until the 13 week cycle ran out and then started again. Now you are frequently offered something called a “wild spot,” where they pay a fixed fee for 13 weeks, or (even more insulting) you are offered a buyout, which was previously unheard of for a national spot!

    In addition, musical trends have changed. Instead of hiring a jingle house to write an original jingle specifically for the product, advertisers now use popular songs, paying a large licensing fee upfront, but ultimately saving money on singers and musicians -- or even avoiding the need to re-record. They also spend a lot of time trolling on YouTube and iTunes, looking for unsigned bands with cool sounds, and pay them a relatively low buyout fee.

    Still, as we can all hear, there are still singers being recorded, somewhere, every day.

    An Essential for Every VO Talent Tool Kit by Scott Burns

    On any voice over forum, you’ll find all sorts of discussions about what’s the best microphone, processing gear, soundproofing material and whatever. These are obviously important tools for a voice talent to have. But to really succeed in this business, there’s another item, seldom mentioned, that should be on your must-have list – a thick stack of Thank-You cards!

    “What?” you ask. “Thank-you cards? What century are YOU from?”

    As antiquated as this may appear in today’s digitally instant-messaged world, I’ve found thank-you cards to be a very effective means of marketing.

    But I can hear you now, “Wait, how crass! Thank-you cards are supposed to be expressions of genuine gratitude with no ulterior motive.””

    Well, of course, they are. They should convey a truly heart-felt thanks! But if you’ll quit interrupting me, I’ll share an a-ha moment with you, where such a note did that and much more.

    One of the fun duties of my day job as audio production manager for Destination Marketing is to cast and hire voice talent for our clients’ radio commercials. I often need to turn the spots around “yesterday,” which means I have to scramble to find a talent NOW. So just the other day, I was again scanning my brain for tried-and-true talent, whom I knew, who have home studios, and who were probably in their studios now.

    Enter the thank-you note.

    Slay ‘em on the first line (or “Have them at Hello”, for you mild-mannered folk) by Lesley Bailey

    The people listening to your audition takes ... are not really listening. That’s right, the secret is out. In my many, many years as a casting director, I got to be a fly on the wall, and I can confirm this. The decision making for the voice picks is usually the copywriter’s privilege. And many copywriters came of age in the post-MTV generation where things are not faster, they’re instantaneous. Gone are the days of waiting for a reply to your letter, your phone call, your email. Now it’s texting, tweeting, and stuff that I myself can’t comprehend without it making my head spin. Back to the point – in auditioning, these young people are your audience.

    For years I would have these writers attend the post-casting session in my office, where I would play things back for them. In between texting and sushi-menu-purveying, they would listen, a little, usually in the beginning. If they weren’t convinced, or captivated, it was, “go to the next one….” So now you know. And now you can take action.

    To master the two skills I’ve just mentioned (convincing and captivating), here’s what you need to do:

    First, to convince. This will be the most important part. Here’s where you show the writer that not only can you sound like you’re just “talking”, but that you get his POINT.

    Look at this sentence:

    • Sometimes you just want a great latte.

    I have had countless students tell me the “point words” here might be “sometimes” or “want”. But sometimes what? Want what? A LATTE. What kind? A GREAT one.

    • Sometimes you just want a GREAT LATTE.

    Right? Doesn’t it make sense to “pop” those words? This tells the writer you GET IT. You get him or her. Boom.

    Now what else? What if everyone GETS the copywriter’s point? Now you have to captivate.

    Take a look at this sentence:

    8 Ways to Make Dealing with Foreign Clients Easier by Paul Strikwerda

    Whether you realize it or not, if you have an online presence, your business has gone global. That means you'll be dealing with people who are different. You'll encounter time differences and language barriers along with a few other challenges you should be prepared for. Here are some guidelines.

    1. Don't expect people to meet your expectations.
    Your assumptions are often colored by cultural stereotypes that reveal a lot about you. In a business relationship, it's your job to meet your client's expectations. Not the other way around. Do your homework, so you'll understand before you start communicating.

    2. Timing is crucial.
    Be aware of the time difference when contacting a client and when committing to deadlines. Right now, my day on the East Coast just started, but it's nearly over in Canberra. Half an hour ago, my agent in Paris finished her lunch. Respect business hours (and beware of lunch hours), wherever your contact may be.

    3. Never assume. Always ask.
    Misunderstandings, especially between people from different countries and cultures, often happen when one or both parties believe something to be a given. What's common sense in one country may not be taken for granted in another. When in doubt, check it out.

    4. The devil is in the details.
    Be clear on the details of the job and create a working agreement before you begin, especially with new foreign clients. Imagine this. You just recorded a huge e-Learning project and you're ready to email an invoice. Now your client is asking why you didn't record in WAVE-format, and why you forgot to edit and separate the files. Because the MP3 file you sent cannot be upgraded to WAVE, you have to start from scratch. Editing and file separation is going to take hours, which you did not build into your fee. "If only I had known," you mutter in frustration. Don't blame the client. It's your responsibility to know (see point 3).

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