Thursday, 27 December 2012

Inspirational ways for Voiceover success

Like many people post-Christmas-celebrations, for me the end of a year and the start of a new one brings the perfect opportunity to assess the path my business and career focus has taken to date, and to realign my visions for the future, with especial interest for the next 12 months. In this blog I shall talk you through a few of the thought processes, activities and inspirational books I turn to, to ensure I keep my voiceover ambitions and achievements in check for the coming year.

With the day-to-day pressures of business, personal and family life it is easy to forget that each little step and each little job is taking you on a journey with your career. Make sure the steps you take are taking you in the direction you wish to go! I use a huge Vision Board, placed clearly on my fridge door in the kitchen as a daily reminder of what I wish to achieve. This is a technique borrowed from Julia Cameron's, 'The Artist's Way', which I find hugely powerful (her book I cannot recommend highly enough for creative types stuck in a rut). Once upon a time I would randomly rip pictures from magazines that appealed to me on some level, but now I am much more targeted in how I create my collage. I hunt on the web for images and logos of the kind of brands I would like to voice for, of agents I would like to be in engaged by, of animators that inspire me, and audiobook production companies I'd be delighted to narrate for. I add to that pictures of studio equipment that I would like to add to my fine collection, and together with glue and scissors I have a whale of a time putting together my vision of my future career. I get really sucked into it, and then stick it up with a magnet somewhere prominent, and promptly forget all about it. Somehow it works its magic by being a daily reminder of the things I wish to strive for and achieve. Try it. It works. And you can adapt it as you acheive your goals.
I am a huge fan of motivational books, and one that I encountered in 2012 is so inspiring, and better still, Voiceover specific that I intend to dip into it from time to time in 2013. Joan Baker and her colleagues created 'Secrets of Voice-over Success', and it is well worth a look. Another book that found its way to me by recommendation from a stranger-turned-friend (you know who you are!) is 'The Dream giver' by Bruce Wilkinson. It is a beautiful parable of striving for your Dream, and makes sending just one more email, or making just one more cold call, or doing one final edit on an audition demo just that little bit more bearable. It reminds me of why I am doing what I love to do, even on the days I wish I was anywhere but the studio!
Pinboard — Stock Photo #5407180I intend this year to keep a list of my all goals in full view in my office so that I am constantly reminded of them when I settle down to work.  I shall have a similar list right next to it which will grow as the year goes on - it'll contain all the 'good stuff' I have achieved. That could be making a new client, achieving a certain number of Tweets, or attaining a financial goal. It could be compiling a new demo, reaching a certain number of readers for my blog, or receiving positive feedback about my work. This year I shall take stock of all my mini-successes, and celebrate them in some way. It is good to take stock before moving forward.
Working for yourself, it is imperative that you keep motivated, and I have shared with you some daily things that help me. What could you do to make 2013 a year of successes for you? If my ideas help inspire you, let me know. Equally if you have a real gem of a way to stay motivated, please do let me know and I can add it to my New Year's Day repertoire!



Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The business of the VO business

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there is more to this malarkey than just being able to open and close your mouth in front of a microphone. And ultimately, if you are going to make this business work for you, you have to see it as just that - a business. I'm going to let you in on a few areas of my business that are just as important to me attaining my goals as a Voiceover Artist.

Basic business etiquette and understanding of standard procedures such as invoices, balancing the accounts, and all that comes with financial dealings, tax returns, and spreadsheets and forecasts and checking that clients have paid on time, in the right currency, are all vital parts of the VO experience. Suddenly time I spent doing temp jobs in accounts departments to get through Drama School seem to have been useful and helpful on my journey, way beyond getting the immediate wage packet at the end of the week. Plus having been responsible for a large theatre school with over 120 children on my books means that I am accustomed to keeping track of payments, and have developed a thick skin when encouraging late payers to cough up. If you're not good with numbers, find a local course to help you gain confidence- often in the UK you will find that your local council run free business start up sessions on basic accounting. This really is an area that you don't want to get wrong. I mean you aren't doing this VO thing solely fo the kick of hearing your voice on the telly are you?

Letter writing. You remember the good old fashioned postal method? Well, to me that is still a regular experience as I send CD's to land on desk somewhere. (To be honest I enjoy the stroll to the Post Office- gets me out of the studio and I have real social interaction, not on the phone or via email, or on the ISDN line!) Emails and mp3 are great- but you can't get your branding to jump out at someone in quite the same way that you can from an attractive bit of packaging. Plus it is much easier to dump an mp3 in the trash, than it is to put someone's CD demo in the bin without a moments thought. I have quite literally had a job 8 years after I first sent a demo to a producer - he found me on his shelf, getting dusty. You just never know where a demo CD will end up. It may seem a little old fashioned, but if it works, don't knock it.  Every CD needs a good cover letter, and again, basic knowledge of business ettiquette is vital. You are the brand - and everything has to be right with what you present a potential client. And no one likes a badly written email either, by the way.

Branding is crucial. You have to know your product, so that you can attract your market. There is no benefit in trying to be master of all voice styles. Know what you are suited to, and market the hell out of it. Find your niche and work it, baby. Demos, business cards, logos, invoices, letter heads, emails, pretty much anything and everything that leaves the studio from you needs to make an impact, and one that works in your favour. Photographs, also, carry a strong weight. There is debate as to whether VO's should have their pic on their website or not, given that it is their voice they are selling not their ugly mug. My thought is that we live in a media rich world, and we kind of expect to see a face to put to a name. So make sure that pic is a good one, taken by a pro, and not a dreadful snap of you in poor lighting. That photo will end up everywhere as you market like crazy on social media sites. Is that really the image you want for your business?

Which brings me to the world of Twitter, blogging, Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn and more besides. This is possibly the single thing that makes the difference in my career. Networking,constantly.

My quiet spells of work often happen a month of so after I take a break from networking for a week, that's how big an impact it can have. Choose how you represent yourself in every interaction. It comes up in Google rankings! I have developed a fantastic community of Voiceover peers and buddies, who can now help in my time of need, and many producers have booked me after following me for a while. I honestly don't know how people did this for a living before!

So there you go, a few of my tips and pointers on how I do my bit in this business. Chiefly though for me, I never feel that I can sit back and wait for the work to roll in. Even at my most hectic times, with recordings and editing round the clock, I still put in the hours on the admin and networking, I still strive to protect myself against the inevitable quiet periods. So have a look at how you do things on a daily basis for your VO work. Are you presenting yourself in the best light? Are you doing things with your 'business head' on? If not, I suggest you consider a few changes. It'll make all the difference to your career, and your business.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

'Everyone says I've got a nice voice!'

Many people out there have great sounding voices, but how many of those great sounding people can make a successful living out of the gift of the gab? In my experience getting anywhere in the Voiceover world takes a lot more than just being blessed with an interesting, likeable or charismatic voice. 'How hard can it be to talk into a microphone all day?! Surely anyone can do it!', I hear you say...

In theory, yes. Anyone can rock up to a microphone, speak into it and record a demo. But how many aspiring Voiceover Artists are aware of the basics of microphone technique, studio etiquette, the significance of branding, the importance of networking (cyber and in the flesh), and the pressures of coping with auditions and rejections on a daily basis? And what of the significance of vocal care and preparation to enable VO's to consistently provide a quality product? Because like it or not, if you want to work as a Voice, you have to see your voice as your product; a product that requires branding, packaging, marketing and advertising. Constantly.

The Voice world differs greatly from other sections of the performing arts. It is more corporate, often better paid, and must be approached as a business from start to finish if clients are to be won, secured and retained. Agents are of course an asset, but the buck does not stop with them when it comes to expanding and growing the awareness of your voice within the industry.

That brings me to another point - which industry are you targeting with your voice? Commercials, Video gaming, IVR telephone work, elearning, audiobooks, are just a few sectors that Voiceover Artist work in. Each area has different demands for a VO.  For Video gaming, can you effectively and quickly use your acting skills to place yourself in a strange world you have never seen- often without the other characters voices to respond to? For Audiobooks, can you sustain the same style of narration throughout a novel, with up to 16 -20 hours of recorded material? Can you be consistent with character voices that you create in the story, and move swiftly and seamlessly from one to the other, and back to your narrator voice again? Can your vocal cords cope with the stress and demands of speaking for hours on end? For commercials, are you capable of selling a product, of connecting with the audience quickly? Do you understand exactly what it entails to hit the right words in the script copy, in the required time, without sounding rushed, and whilst maintaining clarity, all under the watchful, hopeful eyes of the producer, client and sound engineer? And for all Voice work, do you have enough awareness of your voice to ensure that you aren't making ugly noises with your mouth, or breathing heavily? Are you able to sit or stand still enough to not knock your chair or your script stand to ensure you don't inadvertently ruin an otherwise perfect take? (It happens to everyone at some point!)

So yes, in theory everyone and anyone with access to a micrphone could work as a voice artist. In practice, though, only those with commitment, a desire to learn and improve, and who can run their career as a thriving business are going to see the career highs and financial returns they desire. It is a highly competitive market. Do you have the skills to make a significant entrance into this exciting career?  Something to think about next time someone comments on how great you'd sound as a Voiceover Artist. The skill is in making it all sound easy. Do you have more to offer than just a 'nice voice'?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Home Studio- where to start

This blog is about my experiences in developing my home studio in the early stages. It tells you how I went about making those initial purchases,  and what I learned (sometimes painfully!) along the way.

Setting up as a Voiceover with a Home Studio was a scary business for me. I knew I wanted to do it, I knew I wanted to make that switch to being available to many jobs over the internet rather than solely relying on my Agent to land me a gig in a big studio in London or elsewhere in the country. So I was ready....

Being a total techno-phobe though, made decisions on what equipment to buy almost impossible. I mean, how could I possibly know the in-depth specifications of a particular microphone and pre-amp when I didn't know my USB from my XLR?! I had much experience working a studio where the wonderful, technical engineers took care of all of that. Until now, I had showed up, sounded pretty, never really taking any notice of the impressive gear around me - it just was a whole world away from my knowledge and skill-set.

Plus there was the cost involved. At the time I made my first purchases I was a full-time, stay-at-home, pregnant mum, wheelchair bound to boot. Extra household cash was usually allocated to new clothes, shoes and other stuff for the children, or for our family holiday. However, with me experiencing issues with my health, my husband and I decided that it was imperative that we made an investment in my future. An investment in developing  a 'something positive' outside of the family, and the responsibilities of parenting, and our preoccupation with my health. A 'something' that was a possible step towards expanding my career possibilities. And if all else failed, a 'something' that might just be an interesting thing to learn about whilst I was bed-bound during my difficult pregnancy.

I swotted up on all I could about Voiceover Equipment on the internet, but like I said, I am a technophobe. Also it was in the Dark Ages, when I had not yet discovered Twitter, or LinkedIn, or GooglePlus, or any of the other wonderful Social Network sites which now enhance my career (is it too sad to say 'my life'?!). So in the end, I bottled the decision making process after procrastinating for far too long, and went for a 'Voiceover Starter Pack' recommended by Gary Terzza. Gary is one of the UK's most familiar voices for his TV work on E4, among many others. He also runs, training and recording demo's for newbie's, and sometimes the more experienced VO's too. I'd had a few years out of the business for motherhood, and Gary helped boost my confidence to return to the business - many thanks to Gary.

I bought Gary's Home Recording Kit, which consisted of a USB Alesis Microphone complete with stand (which means you plug it straight into your computer, and therefore you don't need a pre-amp, mixer or audio interface of any description), a pop-shield (to prevent any extra wind getting to your microphone and ruining your recording when you speak, especially on plosives like 'p' and 'b'),  a basic set of headphones, and a disk of Audacity recording software to record and edit with (you can download this for free from the internet too). Plus there was a simple acoustic screen to help with noise levels in the room reaching the microphone. Nothing flash, all perfectly simple, and a great place to start. (I know Gary has updated the equipment now to make it suitable for recording to iPad. Have a look at

The equipment gave me a place to hone my skills, and allowed me to begin auditioning online with the likes of and, without the risk of a huge outlay for technical equipment. I hadn't the foggiest idea how to edit and produce simple audio, how to convert files to mp3 or wav, how to produce effects, how to cut out unpleasant mouth noise. But I quickly picked up some skills, and crucially a few small gigs, and grew in confidence rapidly. I lacked a 'proper' recording booth, but with encouragement from my new online Voiceover Community, I experimented with duvets, blankets, and room positioning to find the 'perfect-spot-for-now-while-I-save-my-pennies-for-better-studio-equipment', and found a great recording spot inside our old airing cupboard at the top of the stairs, which my husband kindly and enthusiastically converted for me.

Since those days I have learned so very much. Long gone is my USB mic, and many other fancy bits of equipment now grace my professional recording booth. But everyone has to start somewhere. Many Voiceover Artists are technical whizz-kids, and are extremely proud of their equipment. Some can even be more than a bit snooty about standards of equipment. Quite rightly so - it can make you sound a million dollars, and it costs a fair whack too. But I am a firm believer that all a client really wants is the voice they imagined in their head. And if you can do that on a basic mic whilst you are learning the ropes, then good for you, in my book. You probably won't book the biggest jobs for the biggest clients, but you may just get a few nice smaller jobs that boost your confidence, and your resume. Having said that, I'll not be making a return to my basic USB microphone any time soon, but I am grateful for the fantastic start it gave me to starting as a Voiceover Artist with a Home Studio!

In this blog, I have shared with you my thoughts and decisions when I was starting out working as a Voiceover from home. I hope it will inspire you to take a step.  How can you reach for the top in the VO world, when you haven't even begun on the bottom rung of the ladder? Make a decision on your first home recording set-up, and go for it. And to all you other established VO's out there - how did you get going in the beginning? None of us became experts overnight. What would you have done differently if you had been 'in the know'? Please share your stories and experiences in the comment section below.

Monday, 20 August 2012

"So what does a Voiceover Artist actually do?!"

How many times a month do I get asked that question?! It seems to be a natural reflexive response whenever I utter the path of my chosen career. I'm sure I'm not the only Voiceover Artist who gets met with a look of surprise, confusion and more than a little bewilderment and bafflement when answering the innocent question, "What do you do for a living?"!! It seems to take intrigued individuals a moment or two to weigh up whether it is too brazen or bold to follow up with, "So what does a Voiceover Artist actually do?"

The funny thing is that with the explosion of new technology in the past decade or so, it is more a question of "What don't we do?!" Gone are the days where the fields of work were almost exclusively television, film and radio, either in the guise of commercials or documentary narration, or even drama. Of course, those wonderful projects still exist in plenty. In fact there are now even more channels to watch, and therefore more opportunity for voice work. Every Voiceover Artist still loves winning a big telly gig, yet heartily appreciates the smaller radio jobs as the 'bread and butter' of their income. However, we now have a plethora of alternative mediums at our disposal, and every one of those needs VOICE.

Take your pick: Computer and Console Games, Websites, Cd-Roms, Interactive DVD's, iPad, iPhone and Android Apps, E-learning courses, Podcasts, Interactive children's storybooks, meditation CD's, toys with embedded sound chips that speak, museum and exhibition guides, pre-recorded announcements on transport, public information services, in-store commercials, theatre shows that require pre-recorded voice, infomercials, shopping centre announcements, film dubbings for foreign film. .... The list goes on.

Joe Public is also often surprised to learn a VO lends his talents to the corporate world in many ways. Answer phone messages, interactive on-hold messages ("press 1 to speak to.. #". Yes. I am that voice!), corporate presentations, promotional updates for websites, YouTube videos and external pitches to clients, to name a few.

And let us not forget Talking Books. With the massive explosion in portable technology, the Audiobook world has gone a bit bonkers! Novels, newspapers, magazines, digests - you name it, someone has probably voiced it. There is a huge appetite for instant access to material, and the likes of Audible and iTunes are ensuring those needs are met. Plus there are the special and vital requirements and needs of blind people to cater for. The RNIB goes a long way to try to meet their needs by recording material for their use. And how many of you are aware that a large percentage of programmes on television, and also movies on DVD, are Audio Described (where quite literally a spoken description of what is on screen is given) to enable and enhance viewing capabilities of blind people?

Then there's the development of Satellite Navigation systems, and more recently Apple's Siri, the newest talking personal assistant facility within a mobile device. So groundbreaking are these Voice systems, that I'm sure we'll see even more advancements within the next few years. Meaning more places where a Voiceover Artist can find work.

So here's a challenge for you. See how many places you begin to notice the Voices around you as you go about your every day. I'm sure I've missed a few. I'll bet that you suddenly realise what an Audio-rich society we live in, and just how many voices you encounter and experience on a daily basis - voices that inspire, entertain, influence and educate. Go on, get counting!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Voiceovers: How it all began - my personal beginning.

I bet there are some quite unique and interesting stories out there about how people began working as Voiceover Artists. I mean, it isn't as if you go to a Career's Advisor at school or college and hey presto, someone recommends your perfect career map leads to you becoming a Voiceover Artist. On the contrary, I bet a Career's Advisor would know very little about our Voiceover Business World.

Back in 2002, I was a recent graduate from drama school in London. My only future (as far as I could see) was on the stage. However, everywhere I went Casting Directors, Directors, Producers and fellow Actors would say how pretty my voice was. How young I sounded. How they could listen to me for hours....Believe me, at 22 years of age the last thing you want to be told is how young you sound! However, it got me thinking, and when I stumbled upon a course at The Actors Centre in London, led by Bernard Shaw, I booked myself a place.

It was a short talk on 'How to Get Started in Voiceovers'. It was incredibly motivating, and refreshing. That Bernard presented Voiceovers as a business, rather than an art, held great appeal to me after the rounds of auditions I was currently attending for my theatre career. His 'no fuss' attitude was direct and to the point, and I admired his ability to get things done. I booked a demo recording session with him promptly (Although Bernard is sadly no longer with us, his book still holds tremendous, relevant advice, 'Voice-overs: A Practical Guide' by Bernard Graham Shaw).

The hours I spent with Bernard were invaluable. He taught me to trust myself, and to just go for it. He was in the process of compiling the first book of Contacts for Voiceovers, and urged me to get on the phone and get posting out my demo. I did just that, and within a few short weeks I landed a massive gig directly with an Advertisting Agency who needed a young girly voice for a toy commercial. When I had first contacted the ad agency, I had asked what they were currently working on, and I had sent off the most relevant material on my demo. My demo landed on the right desk at the right time for someone after an upbeat, young girlie voice, and I landed my first job! I became the voice for Totally Spies Dolls in a series of Commercials for Radio and Television, and walked into the recording studio with my head held high because of the invaluable lessons Bernard Shaw had given me. Chiefly, he gave me courage.

Although it took several years, and various changes in my life's circumstances until I made Voiceovers my main career focus (and that's another story, for another blog, for another day) that was the start of it all for me.

So how about you? What's your Voiceover beginning? And if you haven't been brave enough yet, then trust yourself, book a course, record a demo and get contacting producers. Perhaps you are the perfect voice for a producer's next project. How do you know how good you can be if you don't give it a go? Will you be courageous enough?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Hello World!

This is me and my first blog post!

My name is Anna Parker-Naples and I will be blogging on my experiences and expertise as a professional voiceover artist.

My voice is best described as young, upbeat, enthusiastic, natural, crisp and British. You can hear it for yourself here.