Voice Over Education Blog

Welcome to the Voice Over Blog

Welcome to the blog designed for anyone investigating, starting, and building their voice over career.

Here you'll find practical articles written to help you skip the "trial and error" often associated with pursuing and building a career, and instead gain a candid look into the voice over industry, where the work is, why some people get it, why some don't, and tips and techniques to help you reach your goals.

Remember that your voice, interests, and potential are unique. For this reason, our articles provide multiple ideas and scenarios so that you can make the right decision for your career.

Feel welcome to share any experiences and comments by posting them below each post. We're always glad to listen to you. After all, listening is what we do best!

What's new in the swinging, swirling world of Income Taxes?

Whatever you think of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that became U.S. Federal law in December (you know, the one officially called "To Provide for Reconciliation Pursuant to Titles II and V of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018"), it's likely to affect you for better or worse. While it provides widely publicized tax cuts, many deductions will be disappearing for the solo entrepreneur and others. We're talking about deductions that will disappear from your next return. Your return due April 17, 2018, might be your last chance to take them.

Their relevance to you depends on your particular situation, such as whether you're paying off a mortgage, but we'll bet there's something on this list that you should learn more about, or discuss with your tax preparer and/or financial advisor.

We're not tax experts or financial advisors ourselves, so in pulling together this information, we've relied a lot on an article published by Freelancer's Union, " Grab these 20 freelance tax deductions before they are gone." Also bear in mind that rules and information change over time, so before making any decision, be sure you're up-to-date with fresh information from authoritative sources. For example, we found some very out of date information at IRS.com. That surprised us, until we remembered that the real IRS site is IRS.gov. You'll also find old documents at IRS.gov, but they are plainly labeled "archival or historical."

Personal Exemptions. What the increased standard deduction giveth, other provisions taketh away. After this year, you won't be able to deduct the $4,050 each in personal and dependency exemptions for your family members.

A voice artists shouldn't just talk. Also listen to yourself.

We can't stress enough the importance of daily practice. Not only does it keep your voice and your work habit in shape, you can learn a lot in as short a practice session as 15 minutes. Part of that session should include listening back to what you've been practicing at. Or listening to some of your past auditions. There are a bunch of reasons – of various sorts -- why this helps you. Let's look at them ...

What should you do in your practice session? See our article, "Up your game: What to include in your daily VO practice" (March 16, 2017).

Several of the above article's exercises involve recording yourself and listening back. So these are among the reasons to listen to yourself:

  • Can you read something repeatedly, even over time, and still sound as natural as you did originally?
  • Did you say everything as clearly as you thought you did? When you listen to a recording after significant time has passed, and without the script in front of you, the occasional mumble or mispronunciation will be more apparent. Maybe even painfully obvious.

Here are yet more reasons to have your recording app ready, even when it's just for practice, and, in general, to listen to yourself objectively.

Are you unintentionally rude or crude to people ... too?

Ours is a people business. Not only do voice actors have to know how to sound friendly at a moment's notice -- in virtually any context, they have to actually be friendly in working with others. Or at least, as the saying goes, be able to fake it convincingly enough that the other person will never know.

Yet, from time to time, we meet and hear from people who say things rudely. We assume it is usually unintentional -- that the person just didn't think about what they said. Probably all of us are like that now and then. In fact, it's an annoyingly easy habit to fall into. So let's think a bit more about it now.

For example, we received an email from someone wanting to be removed from our email list. But rather than simply ask for removal, he mentioned that he'd spent most of his life at a mic, and didn't need to know more. What's more (he asked), how did we get his name?

It wasn't a nasty note. It just didn't show him in his best light, and it did feel like a kind of backhanded put-down. As for him, it doesn't really make us want to hire him as a voice actor. (Keep in mind, we hire tens of thousands of voice actors.) Further, apparently he doesn't agree that in VO and the rest of life, "learning never ends." Maybe he has no interest in getting hired or potentially generating favorable word of mouth. Even so, a much nicer approach would have been to thank us for providing our free information, and respectfully mention that his inbox is overflowing.

As for us, we don't spam. There are only two ways someone gets on our mailing list. Either a) they signed up for it, or b) they registered at our website to use our free voice-actor resources, where addition to our list is clearly disclosed.

The bottom-line lesson: Before speaking, pause for a beat. And during that moment, ask yourself:

The VO Announcer still exists! Should you market it?

Like diners and bowling alleys, some things seem to never need updating. Like the classic VO Announcer style. Yep, it's still used. Just very infrequently. When is the "announcer voice" or its cousin, the "DJ sound" appropriate? And should you include it on your demo? Our answer to that is, "It depends."

By "announcer" voice, we mean the old style of read that was popular into the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Think Laugh-In's Gary Owens (with his finger in his ear), and all the other "voice of God" talent, along with DJs who did voiceovers, such as Dan Ingram and Ted Brown. Also note the distinction between the prototypical "golden-throat announcer" and the stereotypical "DJ." The latter is an artificial voice, often constrained and full of hype, whereas the announcer is simply the deep voice (usually a man, but sometimes a husky-sounding woman, like Sally Kellerman), sounding beautiful, and relatively devoid of emotion.

Where is this called for these days?

Obviously, any script that parodies those days would be a candidate. So would a scene that calls for the voice of authority – especially if things are exaggerated, as they might be in a cartoon. Think William Conrad narrating Rocky and his Friends.

Movie trailers are another genre where a rich, sonorous voice might predominate. In particular, the style of the late Don LaFontaine. On his passing, many in the industry asked, "who will replace him?" As it turned out, the answer has often been "no one." Some movie trailers these days have no narration – just an artful combination of selected scenes, with music. It's unlikely that we'll see a return to the jabbermouth trailer style of the 1960s (where an announcer talked almost incessantly, explaining what the movie was about), but who knows?

Voice-over is a fun business. Listen to these hilarious clips.

We know, we know. Not every voice-over job is fun. 80% of a successful voiceover business is business. And, although some are literally a laugh a minute (e.g., some animation work), many other assignments are mundane standardized work (for example, some tasks in Telephony, or even some types of commercials). And while we might argue that there is "fun" to be found in any job well done, there are variations in that aspect, too – just as there is a difference between manufacturing hundreds of bedroom cabinets vs. handcrafting an elegant dining room table.

But at the end of the day, comes ... the end of the day. Looking back toward morning, and back on your career, isn't it more fun than processing license plate applications at the DMV?

What's more, as promised, are some aspects of the voice-over world that are a LOT more fun than that ...

Voice actors get together. One nice thing about the voice-over industry is that everyone isn't in competition with everyone else. There are so many VO genres (29 or so, depending on how we define them), and so many nuances and specialties within them, that we freely exchange tips and knowledge in good-natured sessions. There are phone-in sessions like Edge Studio's weekly Talk Time!
There are workshops and industry conferences (such as VO Atlanta), and other get-togethers, remotely or in-person. These generally are serious get-togethers where people aim to further their business of VO skills, but there's no denying that they are usually also a lot of fun.

We have audio and video podcasts and blogs. It’s yet another situation where you can indulge in fun conversation. Or at least eavesdrop.

Heck, we even enjoy it when certain voice actors are not so funny. Or didn't mean to be. Ever heard an out-takes reel?

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