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Do You Want to Be a Professional? Act Like One!

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

I had some interesting thoughts this morning that I wanted to share with you. I’m what you’d call a “professional voiceover talent”, meaning I make my living by recording myself speaking. I do audiobooks, commercials, narrations, even a podcast or two. But that sort of raises the question of how you define a “professional” in this business.

Who Is a Professional?

There’s a lot of navel-gazing in the industry about what it means to be a professional. Are you a professional if you have a “day job”, but do voice work on the side? Are you a professional if you’re working but living off your spouse’s income while you get your business going? I have met established pros that I wouldn’t trust to take out my garbage. I’ve also run into people who have done less than ten hours of voice work in their career that I would trust implicitly with any job I might send their way, knowing it’s going to be done right.

Allow me to explain what makes one a pro:

Behaving professionally. Take yourself seriously, take your customers seriously, and conduct your business like a professional.

Corey in the Booth

Does a shot of me behind an expensive mic mean I’m a professional?

That’s it. No rules, no messy creams or gels. Taking yourself seriously and behaving as a professional makes you one. But it’s surprising to me how many don’t understand this simple precept. This isn’t a lemonade stand or a paper route you’re running here. This is a business, and if you want to be taken seriously, it starts with taking your customers seriously. They’re in business to make money just like you are and make no mistake, you are replaceable.

Think about your interactions with your clients and those who would consider you their client. When you work with someone to obtain a product or service, who do you go back to time and again? The ones you can trust and know will take care of you. Cost is not as much of a factor for most of us as is service and value. Give your customers good service, good value and remember that they’re paying you to do something for them. Do it right!

Now, am I suggesting that you “fake it until you make it”? Absolutely not. You should never misrepresent yourself- that in and of itself is unprofessional! But you don’t have to be a full-time voice talent working with a U87 in a $200,000 studio every day to be a professional.

Professionals honor their commitments, own their mistakes, take care of their customers, take their customer’s needs seriously, and operate their business like they expect to be taken seriously, no matter where they are in their career arc. Just starting out and auditioning on P2P sites, getting a couple of $50 jobs every few weeks? Recording IVR prompts for the local dentist? Maybe even doing pro bono work for Librivox? It does not matter what you’re doing, or whether it pays well (or even at all!). Take it seriously, respect your customers, set a goal and work toward it.

Professionals keep working and growing, amateurs quit when it gets hard.


Working With Professionals Is Its Own Reward

Part of what started this train of thought was an interaction I had this morning with a client I’ve had a relationship with for some time now. It was a simple thing, just sorting out some paperwork. It was routine, but what struck me was that it had been routine since the very first interaction I had with this client. There was never any confusion about what expectations were, deadlines were clearly communicated, they have always been responsive and helpful- in short, they’re professionals, in every sense of the word.

I realized that I enjoyed working with this client, not merely because they send me money- which, of course is necessary and good- but for its own sake, just because it’s nice to work with them. I like to hear from this client, because my day gets better every time I get an email from them- and that’s not a joke or an exaggeration. They are fun to work with because when I get something from them, it’s on point, concise and tells me exactly what they need from me.

There was a lesson to be learned for me in that- when I work with other people, I want them to look forward to hearing from me. I want them to be happy when they see my name in their inbox, and I work hard to make sure that when I work with my customers, they get what they need. I’m not trying to be their friend, I’m trying to be their professional service provider. Look at your customer interactions through that lens, and I believe it will serve you well.


Crescent Lake is Available!

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Cover of the book Crescent Lake, with the text "A Supernatural Thriller" and author's name David SakmysterActually, it has been for some time, but I haven’t mentioned it here just yet. Well, I’m rectifying THAT little oversight!

This book was a LOT of fun to read. I truly enjoyed creating the characters and I hope you will enjoy hearing it. David Sakmyster is a very accomplished author and I’m proud to have been chosen as the voice for Crescent Lake.

The novel is a horror thriller, featuring a main character trying to atone for the sins of his past faced with an evil beyond human imagining and an entire town that seems to be consumed by it.

You can get a copy of Crescent Lake from Crossroad Press. As of the time of this writing, it’s on sale for a great price. If you do get a copy, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.


Sunday, February 27th, 2011

As I discussed in a previous post, I recently did the booth work for a brand new demo reel. The producer for the reel is Scott Burns and he sent the edited and mixed reel yesterday! I’m very pleased to have it completed and able to showcase it.

Give it a listen!


Also, see my Demos page for a longer version and complete versions of each of the pieces on the reel- along with a link to just download all of them in one archive.

Still here!

Monday, December 20th, 2010

The holidays have had me busy, busy busy with my family and my “real” job. When everyone else goes on vacation, I kind of have to step up. However, I’m still doing something every day. I just haven’t had the time in the evenings for recording my voice blog. Rest assured, I’m still around. 🙂

Resetting and Taking Stock

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

My introduction to voiceover class concluded last week. It actually went quite well, and I recommend that anyone interested in voice work who is in the Puget Sound region contact Scott Burns and/or Barbara Rey; working together they provide a great experience for a neophyte voice actor and a good path forward.

Lessons Learned

So, what have I learned? First, that I’m not as good as I thought I was. Which isn’t surprising; we’re always our own worst judge and biggest cheerleader. My takeaway from the class is that I have good physical talent, a nice voice and the beginnings of what it takes to be where I want to be in the professional voice world.

But only the beginnings. In real terms, I’m just not all that good (yet). The things I’ve noted myself that need work:

  • Natural delivery. I sound stilted or awkward. I also sometimes (often) sound like I’m trying to do a radio voice instead of doing a natural voice. I need to learn to relax and ignore the mic. You would be amazed at how hard this is to do.
  • Character and voice range. I have pretty much a couple of voice sounds I can do consistently; my natural speaking voice and some very basic characters, which often aren’t differentiated from my normal voice enough for someone to pick up on it consistently.
  • Self-Consciousness. When you get up on a mic, you’re supposed to be many things, some of which are mutually exclusive at first glance- you have to be relaxed yet you have to say things that are in a lot of cases difficult to say without cringing. You have to be natural and yet bigger than life. You have to sound normal, but also be distinctive.

What it comes down to is, I think, two things: Improving my acting ability and no longer being selfconscious. These things go hand in hand- consider that acting means getting up in front of people and doing things no one would normally do, in order to entertain.

Next Steps

Before you can act, you have to be totally unselfconscious. Not feeling awkward or embarrased about the things you’re doing or saying is a really hard thing to do- it doesn’t matter if you’re on a stage or behind a mic. In both cases you have an audience and the totally natural impulse is to be worried about what they think. “Was I too loud? Did that last line work? Did they believe it? Do they hate me?”

I have to work on losing that self-conscious aspect, to simply throw myself into the moment and not care about what people think until after I’m done.

Taking it Up a Notch

I think a lot of people explore the world of voice work, get about to where I am now and simply walk away because it isn’t easy. Well, nothing worth doing is, and you’re not going to see me give up on what has essentially been my dream for the last 25 years. The challenge is that I have to make a living in the meantime, and I’m the sole wage-earner in my household. I can’t just run off and do whatever, so I have to make sure I work toward my goals without breaking the bank, losing my job, or hurting my family.

So first, I’ve taken down my demos. They were terrible and I shouldn’t have had them up, but I simply didn’t realize how bad they were until I got into some training. I’m now at a stage where I realize that yeah, I’m no great shakes, but I know where I need to go in order to get to my goal.

Second, I’m going to do a daily voice blog. This will be short, raw and will focus on developing my improvisational skills and learning how to be relaxed and natural behind the mic. I get up at 5 AM and get home at 8 PM every day. I simply can’t go take an improv acting course easily. I have to pick and choose the classes I attend to fit in the budget and time constraints at hand, but that doesn’t mean I have to just do nothing in the meantime.

The first voice blog will be tonight. I hope you enjoy it!

Voice Coach Appointment

Monday, August 9th, 2010

I’ve got an appointment in a few hours to see a voice coach. He’s going to put me in front of a mic, give me some copy to cold read and (I assume) we’ll talk about my sound, what I need to do in order to improve my voice and delivery, and maybe come up with a strategy for same. I’ll follow up with my experience and thoughts on the process later.

Oddly enough, I’m not really nervous. I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or a bad one.