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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Be Open To Possibilities

If you're like me, you enjoy acting. We've chosen to focus our acting energy on doing voice-overs, but let's face it - acting is acting - and acting can take many forms.

As an actor, I try to remain open to any other possibilities that may arise. I try to force myself to take the extra step to try something different. If it's a little out of your comfort zone, it's probably worth doing, or at the very least trying. When we stretch ourselves artistically, we grow as actors.

One of my voice-over contacts suggested I audition for a role in a locally directed independent film. The role was that of a radio show host, and much of the movie was being filmed in a radio studio - a place I'm pretty familiar with. Even though I'd never acted on camera before, I figured I'd give it a shot. Fortunately I got the role and had an incredible experience filming. I will admit that having to memorize lines and not being able to look at the script while filming was challenging. As a voice actor, I hadn't realized how different it was not having the copy right in front of me. That piece of paper is almost like a security blanket.

I haven't quit my day job, and voice-overs are still my preferred method of acting, but I'm really glad that I took the chance and expanded my acting horizons. Now, if other on-camera roles come up, you better believe I'm going to take a shot at auditioning. One of my favorite quotes is "you never fail unless you fail to try." Words to live by for those of us in the acting profession.

If you've had any experiences that have led you out of your acting comfort zone, let me know.

Happy Holidays everyone - - and keep talking!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Key To A Successful VO Job - Be Prepared

Over the past few years, I've been fortunate to have gotten work on a fairly consistent basis. People tend to ask me what it is that I do that leads me to get work. As we all know, the world of voice acting is pretty competitive, but there are a few things you can do that will hopefully set you apart from the pack.

#1. BE PREPARED: I can't emphasize enough that being prepared can make all the difference in the world. Recently I was hired to voice an audio project involving a business project for salons and spas. The job was booked for a full day - 9am to 5pm. When I received the copy, I did what I always do - I read through it completely to make sure I was prepared. As I read through it, I thought to myself "this shouldn't take eight hours."

When I arrived at the studio for the job, I was ready to go. I had my water, my pencil, a snack if I got hungry. I was wearing professional but comfortable clothes. I had the copy with me all organized by section. As we began the recording, things were going very well. The producer complimented me several times. At some point after we had been recording for a few hours, we took a break. The producer came in to the recording booth and told me that if we kept up this pace, we would be done by lunch!

Now remember that this job had been booked for a full day - and better yet, I was getting paid for the job - not by the hour. The result of the recording session was that we did get done before lunch. The total time in the recording booth was four hours. As the producer brought me into see the project manager (so I could give her my invoice) he told her that he wanted me put on the short list of voice talent for future projects.

#2. BE PROFESSIONAL: As we talked later, the producer told me that several years ago they had brought in an actual salon/spa owner to voice a similar project. This person had no VO experience and was not a trained voice actor. They thought he would be good because he "knew" the industry. He ended up recording all day with this person, and not being satisfied with the end result. I had made quite an impression and the producer was convinced of the value of using a proffesional. Think about it - for a producer, time is money. He now had half of a day to go back and complete the editing on the project. I'm sure he appreciated that, and will think of me the next time he has a big project that he knows has to be done quickly and done well. I made sure to give him my card and asked him to keep me in mind for future projects.

If I had not read through the script beforehand, I may have stumbled more and taken more time. If I had arrived without water, or a pencil, and had to ask for these things, it would have taken more time. If I had dressed sloppily, it would have given an impression that I was lazy. Remember, you are the talent. You are selling you. You need to look the part and you need to be able to deliver. Always be prepared and always be professional and word will spread quickly - and you will get more jobs!

Keep Talking!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How I Built My Home Studio Cheaply (Inexpensively)

In my last post I talked about the technical part of a home studio and what you will need to actually record. Today I'd like to discuss the physical layout of my studio and how I was able to create a space for very little money - which is good because the bulk of your money should be invested in the hardware and recording software.

First, it's important to find a space that is quiet - or as quiet as you can find in your home. This could be as simple as a closet in your bedroom. The main thing is to find and area that has minimum sound. Windows are a definite no-no. In my home, we have three children ranging in age from 11 to 5, so you can imagine my challenge in finding that special quiet place!

I chose a small area in my basement to build my humble studio. The space is at the bottom of the stairs and measures about 6 feet by 15 feet. No windows, and it was enclosed on three sides by sheet rocked walls. I framed out the fourth wall and put a door in, thereby enclosing the space and making it a room. The ceiling in our basement is low, which is a good thing for a recording studio. The less room there is to have sound bounce around the better. The ceiling was not sheet rocked which was another good thing because it allowed me to properly insulate for sound.

When shopping for insulation, I came upon a type that was not fiberglass and was actually considered soundproofing insulation. This was a great find because I didn't have to worry about inhaling fiberglass during installation and could literally use my bare hands to rip the insulation and shove into all the small spaces.

After loading up the ceiling and the newly framed wall with insulation, I made another cost saving and labor saving decision. Instead of sheet rocking the ceiling (holding up heavy sheet rock over my head didn't appeal to me one bit), I bought drop ceiling panels - that's right, just the panels - and screwed them right into the beams of the ceiling. This provided another layer of sound absorbing material and saved on head room (remember, my ceiling was low to begin with).

The last step was to throw down an area rug on the cement floor and presto, my home studio was complete. A nicely sound minimizing room that is small and extremely functional. Don't get me wrong, I still have to tell the kids to be quiet when I'm recording, but the space is about as soundproof as I could have ever hoped for when I started out.

In my next post I'll talk about how I created an inexpensive surround for my microphone.

Until then, keep talking!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting The Right Equipment for Recording

About a month ago, I made the decision to build a small home recording studio. I had set aside the money from my various local voice-over jobs, and this seemed to be the next logical step in my journey.

Making the decision was a critical first step - and probably the easiest step as it turns out. If you're not computer savvy (I'm not), it's important to reach out to experienced professionals to help you in selecting the proper equipment for your studio. It's true that you don't need a lot of gadgets to record your voice, but getting the right gadgets for what you want to do, will make all the difference in the world.

I worked with a company called Sweetwater,, out of Fort Wayne Indiana. They are arguably the top company when it comes to recording equipment. They have a home recording package that provides everything you need to get started. It's not inexpensive, but it's also not terribly unreasonable. After all, this is a business you're starting, and most businesses have start up costs, right?

I can tell you that it's very important to make sure you select a computer that is compatible with the recording software you're using. I purchased a pc, only to find out that the software (Protools) is much more compatible with a Mac. I ended up purchasing a refurbished Macbook and the software runs perfectly.

The essential equipment you will need to get started is:

1. A computer (make sure it's compatible with your software)
2. Recording software (I use Protools)
3. An external hard drive (Voice recordings can take up a lot of space)
4. A microphone (I use a Bluebird)
5. A device to connect your mic to your computer (I use an M-Box mini)

You can purchase all of the necessary equipment separately online. E-Bay or Craigs List are two places to check out. I have a producer friend who did this. He had his engineer check all the specs and make sure everything was compatible. He was able to save quite a bit of money by buying the equipment individually.

If you're like me though, using a company like Sweetwater will eliminate all the worry of making sure the various components work together properly. They've figured all that out for you ahead of time. All you have to do is take the equipment out of the boxes and plug them in, download the software, and you're ready to start recording!

In my next post, I'll talk more about the physical layout of the studio. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Keep talking!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Creating A Home Recording Studio

So, at this point in my journey through the world of voice acting I figure it's a good time to recap. So far I have:

1. Completed my training with one of the best voice training organizations in the country, Voice Coaches,

2. Created my demo CD's, with both commercial and narrative samples .

3. Created business cards and letterhead.

4. Sent out letters and demo's to all of the local producers and radio stations.

5. Started booking local and regional voice-over jobs.

6. Accumulated some money from the work I've done.

The logical next step was to create a small home recording studio. Why, you might ask would I do that? Well, the reason is that having the ability to record in your own studio opens up an entire other realm of possible voice-over work.

In today's fast-paced world, companies are looking to turn their projects around very quickly. In many cases, companies need the voice-over portion of the project done within a 24 to 48 hour time frame. Finding a producer, and a studio to record in, and scheduling time to have the voice talent come in and record can be very time consuming. This process also limits a company to only utilizing talent that is within a certain geographic proximity.

With the internet, companies can now go out and seek talent from anywhere in the world, and that is exactly what they do. Companies such as,, created by my friend Stephanie Ciccarelli and her husband David, have tapped into the power of the internet to bring companies seeking voice talent together with voice actors seeking work. Having a home recording studio enables voice actors to audition online for jobs they would otherwise never have an opportunity to try out for.

So, once you've established yourself in your local market (or before if you have the cash to invest in equipment), and started making some money, a great next step is to expand your market by creating for yourself the ability to record in your own studio. Once you've done that, the possibilities are literally endless.

In my next post, I'll talk more about the details of actually building my home recording studio, and point out some of the mistakes I made so you won't have to. Any of you out there who have built a studio, give me your thoughts as well.

In the meantime...keep talking!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Social Networking

This may be not so amazing to many of you out there, but I've recently become aware of a great way to stay connected with others in the field of voice acting - social networking.

Yeah, I know what you're saying - where have you been for the last few years? You have to realize that I tend to be a little behind the times, but since this blog is about my journey, I figure I have to be completely honest about the progress I'm making.

For those of you who haven't yet discovered social networking, check out sites like Facebook and Twitter. At these sites you can create a personal profile and post information about yourself. It's a great way to stay in touch with friends you might not otherwise communicate with. It's also a fantastic way to let your network of friends know what you're up to.

Just the other day, I posted a comment about my home recording studio that I just built. The day after I posted this comment on Facebook, I happened to get a friend request from someone who I hadn't seen in a while. I accepted her request and she was then able to go to my account and see what I was up to. That day she sent me a message telling me that she hadn't known I was a voice actor, had checked out my website (which was posted on my account) and said she might like to use my services for some ads she was going to be producing soon.

And the best thing about social networking is that it's free! When your starting out in the voice acting business, free is a good thing. Geurilla marketing, and thinking outside of the box are essential to getting the word out about the services you provide.

One word of advice - keep your postings short and sweet. No one really wants to hear every detail about your life. If one of your friends wants more information about your post, they can send you a message. Don't take too much advantage of these sites or you'll annoy people. Just keep your freinds in the loop on what you're up to.

I've really enjoyed using these social networking sites to stay in touch with old friends,and make a bunch of new friends who are passionate about the things that I'm passionate about. The world is truly getting smaller and smaller, and we all have so much to share.

So get out there and make some new friends. You never know who may need your services or who may have a great idea for you on how to learn more about your passion.

Keep Talking!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

What To Do If That First Job Hasn't Come Yet

Getting your first voice-over job is pretty exciting, and something to be proud of. It's a good feeling to have your hard work and financial investment pay off. If you haven't gotten a job yet, please don't get discouraged. Like anything in life worth achieving, you have to be willing to hang in there until you meet up with success.

Oprah once said that "luck is preparation meeting opportunity." I strongly believe that. You can be prepared and never get an opportunity (bummer), and you can get an opportunity and not be prepared for it (real bummer). But when you work hard and prepare yourself AND that opportunity comes along, then you're ready to take advantage of that "luck" that came your way.

As I said in an earlier post, my first professional voice-over job was the result of "luck." When I met the producer who had handled the media for my first Mayoral campaign, I was in a position to hand him by new business card and ask him to keep me in mind for future work. If I hadn't done the "preparation" part by getting trained, creating my demo, and printing business cards, I wouldn't have been in a position to take advantage of the "opportunity" presented to me by talking with a person who hired voice-over artists. In this case, preparation met opportunity and I received a call a few weeks later from this producer, asking me to do the voice-over for a local car commercial.

In the meantime, there are other things you can do to network and hone your skills while working toward your first job. Drum roll please.

Words of Wisdom #5: Stay busy, even if it means volunteering your voice. Now I know there are some voice-over artists who don't agree with me. Your voice is valuable, and you shouldn't lessen its value by doing anything for free, they say. I respectfully disagree. Early in your voice-over career, you need to get your name out into the community, and a great way to do that, and to help out a good cause, is to volunteer.

One of the things I did was to contact my local PBS station and volunteer for a wonderful program they offered for the blind a print disabled. Volunteers would go into a recording studio and read local newspapers and magazines live over the air. It was a great way to practice, and to participate in a very worthwhile program.

Another thing I did was join a local film makers group. If there's one in your area, this is a great way to meet other artists and to make connections that could help in the future. I met a man who was producing a stellar documentary that will soon be seen across the country. He and his partners were still in the filming stages and looking for further funding. I helped out with some fund raising and volunteered my services to voice a short trailer they were using to promote the documentary (I even got a small on camera role!)

One more example - a fellow voice over artist, Sharon Feingold, started a volunteer program in which voice actors go into hospitals and read stories to children. What a fantastic way to give back to your community and increase your network of friends in the voice-over business.

So remember - stay busy, volunteer, expand your network, and always be prepared for that opportunity that's just around the corner.

Keep Talking!

- Michael

Monday, August 17, 2009

You Got A Job!

Congratulations - you just landed your first voice-over job. Now all you have to do is show up at the studio and deliver the perfect pressure....really.... how hard could it be?

No matter how well you were trained, no matter how much you've practiced the script, your first job will probably be nerve-wracking. There are a few things that will help you though:

1. It's ok to be a little nervous. Even star athletes at the top of their game - Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods - admit to being nervous before they're about to perform. Great stage actors admit to being nervous before the big show. Being nervous is normal. What professionally trained athletes, and actors have in common, though, is that when the time comes to perform, they kick into gear and do what has come to be natural for them, due to their training. The same is true for you.

2. Listen to your producer. You are being paid to voice the copy the way the client and producer direct you to. Your specific job is to listen to their direction and give them what they want. Don't offer your opinion unless asked. My trainer and several producers I've worked with have told me that the most important quality they look for in a voice actor is his or her ability to take direction.

3. Be prepared. It sounds almost too simple to mention, but it's important to have read the copy (if possible) before you do your read. Most producers will provide you with the copy prior to the recording session. But don't be surprised if many changes are made on the fly while you're in the booth. That's why part of being prepared means bringing a pencil....that's right, you will need to mark up the copy as direction comes flying at you. If you try to do it from memory, you're asking for trouble. Being professional means coming prepared - a pencil and water are essential in the recording booth.

4. Don't get discouraged. Many times you will go into the recording booth and give a read that you think is pretty darn good, only to be bombarded with changes from the producer's booth. As you go through take after take, your confidence level begins to drop. I can tell you from personal experience that many of my best reads came on the take after I had just about completely given up on myself. That voice in your head starts telling you that you stink...but don't listen. A producer that I've frequently worked with, gave me advice early on. He told me that he knows what read he wants - - he can hear it in his head. He just doesn't have the ability to read it. That's why he hires voice talent. "Never take direction personally", he told me. Even the best voice-actors get worked over by producers. Our job is to stay focused and concentrate on delivering what the producer wants.

If you can embrace your nervousness, know that you are prepared, take direction well, and not get discouraged in the booth, you'll come out of your first voice-over job in great shape....and you'll have started apositive relationship with a producer that hopefully will lead to more work.

Keep talking!

- Michael

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Playing To Your Strengths

We've been talking about how to land your first voice-over job. As I said in an earlier post, it often takes some time to accomplish this, but the key is to not give up.

I love to talk to people about what they do. The truth is, everyone has an interesting story to tell, and we all like to talk about ourselves don't we? When I talk to other part time voice actors, one of my first questions is "what do you do when you're not voice acting?" The answer to this question may be the key to your voice-over niche. You know what's next.

Words of Wisdom #4: Play to your strength. What do I mean by this? Well, I'll use myself as an example, because as I just wrote, we all like to talk about ourselves ,right? I am a pharmacist in my other life. Being in the medical field, I deal with drug names and medical terminology all day long. When you start to think about it, there are many applications for this type of background in the voice-over world.

In order to distinguish myself, I always include this information in all of my correspondence with producers, and it has led to a number of jobs. For example, I was hired by a publishing company to voice 300 generic and brand name drugs for an audio glossary in a nursing handbook that they were producing. Most recently I voiced the part of a Doctor doing dictation for the CD insert in a textbook on Medical Transcription.

In both cases, I was hired specifically because I have knowledge of medical terminology. These jobs have led to even more work with this company because once I did the first job, and did it very professionally (because I was trained), they knew I was reliable.

So take a little time and think about what it is that you do in your current job, and what applications there may be for your skills in the voice-over world. A voice actor I know is a former State Trooper. He used his experience in the law enforcement field to pitch a training module concept to his State organization. They thought it was a great idea and funded the project. He is in charge of the project and does all the voice-over work on the modules.

Whatever your particular knowledge base is, use it to set yourself apart from the competition, and create a marketing niche for yourself. This is a great way to land that first job.

In my next post we'll talk about how important that first job is and what you need to do to leave a great impression...and get more work in the process.

Keep talking.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting Your First Voice-Over Job

Getting through all the preparation for launching your voice-over career can be a long process. After all, as we've talked about, you go through all the training, wait for your demo to be made, create a logo, cd cover, business cards, letterhead...maybe even a website. It all takes time, but the fun thing about it is that it's all really tangible stuff. I remember when I finally had my finished demo and cover in my hand. It was extremely satisfying.

The next step is taking the plunge to go out and market yourself and land that first job.

Now, you may be one of the lucky few who get a job right way. If so, congratulations! If you're like the rest of us though, it will take time...sometimes a long time. This is a critical point in your journey. Uh oh, here it comes again. Yep, some more incredibly insightful words of wisdom.

Words of Wisdom # 3: Don't get discouraged if you don't get a paid voice-over job right away. The average time it takes to get your first job is about seven months. That is almost exactly the amount of time it took me. But here's the thing. The majority of people who get trained to be voice actors give up within the first year. In fact, my teacher told me the number is around 75%! That means if you just hang in there for a year, you'll be way ahead of most of your competition.

So what do you do to promote yourself? There are many ways to market your services.In this post, I'll share with you a couple things I did, more to follow in future posts:

1. I found all the production companies in my area who might need voice actors. Ask your friends if they know of anyone who might need your services. You'll be amazed who might know someone or some company. Your friends will think it's really neat that you are a voice actor. After all, it's not very common and let's face it - it is pretty cool! Check the yellow pages, read the local business journals, talk to your local chamber of commerce. I did all of these things and created a list of companies. I then called and introduced myself, told them I was a voice actor, and asked if I could send them my demo. The goal should be to get rid of all of your demos as quickly as possible. And about a week after you send out your demo, give the company another call to make sure they got it.

2. I gave my business cards out to everyone I saw. This was in fact the way I got my very first paid job. I attended a luncheon one day and a man walked up and introduced himself. He was the person who had produced the media for my first Mayoral race. I had never met him before, but he knew who I was. He handed me his card, and I took the opportunity to tell him about my new voice-over career. I gave him my card and told him to please call if he ever needed my help. As it turned out he called me several weeks later and asked if I could do a "hard read." Not knowing what a "hard read" meant, I immediately answered "of course!" A week later I was in a studio recording a radio ad for a local car dealership. So you never know what will come of giving someone your business card. Give them out all day long!

That's enough for now. If you have a story of how you landed your first job, please share it with us. There are so many different ways to get into the voice-over business, and all of us are always looking for innovative ideas.

Keep talking!


Monday, August 10, 2009

So I Got Trained - Now What??

So let's say you invest in training and learn all about becoming a professional voice what?

Well, that's the beginning of perhaps the most difficult part of the journey.

The next step is to create your demo CD. This is your calling card. It's the one thing, in many cases, that will make or break your chances of voice-over success. So make sure it's done well! The company that I trained with provided as part of the training, the creation of 50 demo CD's. Any training company worth its weight should include these.

So my training was over and I was fired up and ready to go, but I had to wait...and wait...and wait for my demo CD's to be done. Now, it only took about three weeks mind you, but it seemed like an eternity.

Once my CD's arrived, the next step was to get CD cases and a kick butt cover. Well actually, the next step was to invite my whole family over to listen to my demo CD. My heart was pounding as I placed the CD in the stereo and pushed "Play." I knew I'd done something right when my mother asked "was that you?" after the CD was done playing. Anyway, back to our story...CD case and cover...oh yeah, here come some more words of wisdom.

Words of Wisdom #2: There are very basic things that need to be on the spine of your CD cover - like your name and contact info. Sounds simple, but I've been told that some actors forget to do this. It's important to put your information on the spine because CD's are usually stacked with the spine pointed out. A producer can quickly scan the stack and see which talent he or she wants at a glance. Also, don't put your face on your CD cover - remember you're a VOICE actor. I was told by one of the top voice talent agents in the country that he hates to know what a voice talent looks like. He wants it to be all about the voice, and if you think about it, he's right. You've been trained to act with your voice, not your face.

So back to my journey... To save money, I was able to work with a friend who's a graphic artist and web designer who was branching out into audio and video production. I made a deal with him to trade some future voice work for a CD cover and business card design, logo, and letterhead. That's about all you really need to get started promoting yourself. I was pretty psyched when my CD cover was done, and the best part was that I had secured a future voice acting job in the process!

So at this point I had gone through three months of voice training, gotten my demo CD's made, and now had a CD cover, a cool logo, business cards, and some letterhead. Now all I had to do was go get a job...easy enough...or so I thought.

More on that next time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

How I Got Started

I figure the best way to generate conversation is to write like I talk. So I thought I'd explain the start of my journey by answering the way I would if I was asked the question "what do you do?"

First let me tell you that I don't do voice acting full time. I own my own business that occupies the bulk of my time. I really like being a small-business owner, but I've never been one of those people who can only do one thing to the exclusion of everything else. I have to do other things - I like diversity, and I love to create.

One of the "other things" I used to do was serve in public office. I was on the City Council in my home town and served as Mayor for one term. I was defeated about five years ago and at that time my life took a completely different turn.

I now had a lot of free time to spend exploring other interests in my life. I knew that I enjoyed communicating when in public office - using my voice making speeches, talking on the radio and television. I also began exploring my other interest of screenwriting (that's for another blog). That interest led me to a local filmmakers group. At one of the meetings, a marketing rep for a local voice training company handed out post cards telling about the business. I was blown away by the possibility of getting paid to talk! I had some idea about what voice acting was, but had never seriously looked into it. I was presented with a way to continue to do what I'd most enjoyed about politics - to use my voice to communicate - but I didn't have to get elected to do it!

I made the decision to invest a pretty hefty sum of money into getting trained - -which brings me to some important words of wisdom:

Important Words of Wisdom #1: Get trained. Especially if you have no previous acting experience, the most important step you can take is to get trained by a reputable voice training company. Getting paid to talk may sound easy, but it's actually very competitive, and producers can spot an amateur from a mile away. There are very basic things you'll learn in training that will separate you from those who aren't prepared. I was told by one producer about a man he had met at a party who was not a professional voice actor, but had what the producer believed was the perfect voice for a project. He brought the man in for a read and.....he was awful. He had a wonderful tone to his voice in conversation, but hand him a piece of paper with copy on it and his tone and pacing changed completely. He was stiff and sounded, well, like he was reading off a piece of paper. Guess who got the job instead - you guessed it. The producer called me in for a read and asked if I could voice the part in a particular tone and pacing that was different than my usual voice. Being a professionally trained voice actor, I voiced the copy as directed and he was very happy. After the session, he recounted the story to me, and told me he would never again use anyone other than a professional for voice jobs.

It costs money to get trained, but it's worth the investment. If you'd like more info on the company I used, drop me a line and I'll get you in touch with them.

That's it for now. More to follow.


The Beginning

Well, here I am with my first post on my new blog about my journey into the world of voice acting.

The first question - I suppose - is why blog about this?

Good question.

The answer is that I've been on this journey for about two years now and have learned a lot. I often times would go on the internet to see if I could get information about voice acting. While I was able to get some info, more often than not, I was disappointed.

So I thought I would would write about my journey.

Along the way, I hope that by sharing what I've learned, I'll not only help other people who are passionate about voice acting, but also help myself by talking with other people who feel the same way I do and are on their own personal journey.

So let's get started and see where things lead us...if you have any advice, input, or interesting stories of your own about voice acting, please weigh in. In my next post I'll start to bring you up to speed on the last two years. There's a lot to talk about so I'll try to space it out. Looking forward to talking with all of you and helping out when I can.

In the meantime, feel free to visit my website at: , and check out this great video about the battles that go on in the recording booth.