Lessons Worth Sharing
“It’s much more than just having a good voice.” That’s something I always say to young people when they ask about my life as a voice actor. “You have to be a good reader. You need to understand the intention of the script. Are you trying to get people excited to buy something? Are you informing employees about new company policies? Or are you trying to reassure patients during a challenging time?”
I mentioned all of the above last week during a Zoom presentation to 11th graders at Liguori Academy in Philadelphia. (My Rotary club has a partnership with the school and this is one of many ways we help serve the community.) Students of the workforce class listened to examples of my VoiceOver work. I played some commercials, healthcare and explainer video narrations, and some awards/event announcements I’ve recorded.
Wanting to impart some wisdom during my 45 minute talk, I made sure to mention some important lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Ask questions. That’s how we learn.
Rejection is part of life. Don’t take it personally. Voice actors, like other actors, audition for many more jobs than we book.
Learn to take criticism. I told them about the audio engineer who said, “you sound sleepy like you haven’t had your coffee yet.” Instead of feeling insulted, I just psyched myself up and gave him a more energetic read. Taking feedback is part of the job.
Be open to learning new things. Successful voice actors continue to attend workshops, learn new specialties, and get coaching. What you think you want to do now, may change along the way. And that’s okay!
Have a good attitude and try to brighten peoples’ days. I reminded the students that being kind, professional, and easy to work with are qualities that people remember. And that usually lead to additional opportunities.
What advice about the working world do you like to give to students?
Catching Up and Winding Down
Well, I finally caught COVID. As I’m home isolating, with a reasonably mild case of it, I thought I’d share some random thoughts as we wind down from 2022.
- I’m grateful to have caught the virus during a typically slow period in the voiceover world. And I appreciate the compassion and flexibility of the clients who need me to record but are willing to wait for me to get back to my full voice before doing so.
- I was worried I might have unknowingly spread the virus to some people at a Philly Ad Club and Center City Business Association networking event the day before my symptoms started. After e-mailing everyone I spent time with, and having heard back from all but 2, I’m relieved to report they have been symptom-free. Whew!
- I used to follow COVID rapid test instructions SO carefully, reading and re-reading each line to make sure I was doing everything right. Today? I didn’t even have to look at the printed instructions. It’s true that practice makes perfect and I’ve had lots of testing experience lately.
- How fortunate that I have had people checking in on me, neighbors who delivered cough drops and friends who sent get-well care packages.
- The family Christmas celebration has been postponed and that’s okay. Yes, we’re all disappointed but, again, thanks to experience, we’ve gotten pretty good at the Zoom holiday thing so we’ll make the best of it.
- Though it’s been very cold here in Pennsylvania, I’ve enjoyed breathing in the fresh outdoor air while walking my dog. After being so congested, maybe I’m just noticing and appreciating those inhalations more.
- There really is something healing about chicken soup. And hot tea.
- How did we ever survive without streaming services and on-demand TV? While being sick is a bummer, there have been lots of good shows to help me pass the time. What have you been enjoying lately?
However you are spending this holiday season, I wish you peace and good health. And if you, like many of us, are dealing with an illness, I wish you a speedy and complete recovery and a wonderful start to the new year!
My Thoughts on Giving Tuesday
Today is known as Giving Tuesday. Like you, I’m receiving requests for monetary donations. It’s a huge day for charitable organizations and I hope they all achieve their fundraising goals.
Today’s blog post is not about donations of money, however. It’s about donating time. Sharing talents. Helping where you can.
This was actually the topic of a panel discussion I participated in during the “Global Game Changers Summi,” put on by the ASELxPenn group. Speaking to a worldwide audience over a live stream, some fellow Rotary members and I talked about non-monetary ways of giving.
Some of the questions we were asked:
What does giving back mean to you? How have you given back? How has giving back impacted your life? What recommendations do you have for people who want to give back but don’t know where to start?
No Permission. No Apologies.
I read a post that made me feel better. Wellness expert Kaleana Quibell reminded readers that the re-entry back to normal activities is a very personal experience. And for those who tend to run a little anxious, as I do, this has been a stressful transition period.
Case in point: the 3 days I just spent at a wonderful voiceover conference. While I was so excited to go and learn and have fun with old and new friends, I had a pesky thought running through my head the whole time. “You might catch COVID.”
Having spent almost three years virus-free, I’ve gotten very comfortable in my personal protective bubble. I’m now very used to solitude and masking. So, I was a bit conflicted going into rooms full of, at times, more than 100 people.
I decided to trust my instincts. That meant I allowed myself to give some hugs, and sit near friends during mealtimes. (All of that felt great, by the way!) But I also walked out of a session when I felt too crowded. I sat alone in the back of the room at times to give myself some space. I even skipped a session for a mid-day meditation and nap in my hotel room. Old me would have felt badly about appearing rude or anti-social. But Post-Pandemic Lisa knows I did what I had to do to feel safe and comfortable.
That’s why it was nice to read Kaleana’s post, and all of the comments that followed.
“Whatever barriers you need to put up to protect your physical (or mental) health, just do it. You don’t require anyones permission to take care of your needs.”
How has your transition to socializing and in-person conferencing been? Please share in the Comments section below.
Hitting the Target…or Not
How do you persevere when faced with challenges?
I’ve never been into sports but agreed to go to the archery range with my friends in the Poconos. “It’ll be fun!” they said. In the span of an hour, most of my arrows fell to the ground or stuck to the far corners of the target.
The photo captures my proudest moment when I got two arrows sort of close to the bullseye. Nothing landed right in the center so I certainly didn’t master archery. But I tried. And I improved. And I got more comfortable and confident as time went on.
The whole experience reminded me of most things I find challenging in life. Initially, I am nervous. Will I do it right? Will I get hurt? Will I hurt anyone else? Then I get guidance or coaching. In the Poconos, one archery friend said I would shoot better if I raised my elbow. The other suggested positioning my feet differently. Someone else said I should close my left eye.
My brain struggled to implement all those tips at once so then I missed a bunch of shots in a row. I was overthinking.
But then I took a breath, centered myself, and finally, things clicked. Don’t I look happy in that photo?
I’m glad I stayed in the game, even when things got uncomfortable and difficult. I kept showing up even though I was tempted to put down the bow and arrows. I’m reminded of that old ad slogan on the lottery commercials, “You gotta be in it to win it.”
It’s the same with auditioning. It’s a “necessary evil” of voiceover work even when it takes time away from other things we might rather or might need to do. I know and accept that auditioning IS part of the job of a voice actor. I’ve got to get my voice recorded if I want to be in the running for certain jobs. I keep stepping up to the microphone, wearing my metaphorical Katniss Everdeen pouch, so I can have a shot at work that I love to do.
Isn’t that the way with all careers and any important undertaking? I think about my earliest days doing voiceover work. Ooof, some of my early missteps were cringeworthy but it was all part of the journey that got me to where I am today.
We all get overwhelmed and overloaded sometimes. We focus so much on that big bullseye goal that we don’t always think of the mechanics or the process of what we’re trying to do. We know where we want to end up, but we don’t always stop to think about how we have to adjust our stance, practice our craft, or take care of all of the parts that aren’t as much fun. We forget that we can take a breath, center ourselves, and keep working toward where we want to be.
What’s your best tip for persevering when things get tough or when you get too much “in your head.”
Self-Promotion for Solopreneurs: What’s the Best Way?
Self-promotion can be difficult for solopreneurs, regardless of how critical it is to our business. I know, I know: to run a successful company, one needs to have a strong online presence. I’ve attended webinars, workshops, and Clubhouse conversations with social media experts to learn more about the tips and tools I need to get my voiceover business noticed. I’ve watched YouTube videos on how to stand out in a crowded sea of online content.
And yet, this “tooting my own horn” thing just feels, well, weird.
Like, not natural.
I came face to face with this discomfort last month when I asked two clients if they would please write a few sentences for a testimonial. Having studied Donald Miller’s Storybrand, I know that third-party recommendations are invaluable when it comes to getting your business noticed. I rely on them all the time when seeking a new restaurant or travel destination, don’t you? So it makes sense that recommendations and testimonials could help others find my voiceover business as well.
The clients were happy to oblige and quickly emailed some ringing endorsements.
So why did I just leave them in my inbox?
I’d been feeling conflicted. I knew that to promote and help grow my VO business, I should share those testimonials and let potential clients read about how I’m “a top-notch voiceover pro” who is “passionate about her craft.” Yet I kept resisting because posting testimonials feels like a big ol’ brag. I’m confident in what I do and I’m proud of my reputation for taking direction well and being so easy to work with. Yet, I felt a bit icky the other day when I loaded the high praise into a graphic and then posted it on LinkedIn.
Is self-promotion just a necessary evil that we solopreneurs need to suck up and do? Or is there a better way to encourage potential clients to give us a try? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
19 Years of Lisa Leonard Voiceworks: Looking Back & Ahead
This time next year, I’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of my voiceover company, Lisa Leonard Voiceworks. On May 19, 2003, I became an LLC or Limited Liability Corporation. The piece of paper you see in the photo above was proof that I was going “all in” on my dream to do voiceovers full-time.
So on this 19th Anniversary of my being able to do what I love, I’m feeling nostalgic and full of gratitude!
I’m nostalgic because, at my first professional on-air jobs, my voice was recorded on reel to reel tape. Then later it was “carts.” My earliest “demo tape” was on cassette. Later, some VO snippets were put on CD and that’s what I sent in padded envelopes through the mail to some production houses. I’m amazed at how much the technology has changed within that time. These days, I’m able to send an audio demo, or two, or five, to a prospective client in just seconds! (Speaking of demos, my latest one can be heard HERE.)
Now, some thanks to the people who have helped me along this awesome but sometimes scary path. In the late 1980s, a college classmate introduced me to a producer of cable television commercials. I became his go-to female voice and it became a nice little part-time gig while I was a student. I remember being so excited the first time I heard my voice while watching TV! Then in my early days as a radio broadcaster, I got really good at interpreting copy thanks to the production folks, salespeople, and copywriters who asked me to voice their scripts.
I’m forever grateful to the brilliant tech wizard friend who set up my first home studio. It was in a spare room with comforters staple-gunned to the walls. He set up my M-Audio Firewire 410 interface, plugged in my Sennheiser microphone, and showed me the basics of recording, editing, and file converting. That was the start of my long and happy work from home/WFH VO career.
Thanks to the first group of voice actor friends I made. It helped to know they were only a phone call away when I had questions about rates, contracts, or tech issues.
I’m so grateful to the producers and engineers who booked me for those earliest gigs. My lack of experience and confidence surely slowed things down during our initial sessions but I’m glad I earned their trust. Soon enough I was working efficiently and effectively, getting some pretty complimentary reviews along the way. My favorite is when they say I’m “so easy to work with.” I also love when they say I “help them look good.”
Helping is in my DNA. I’ll write more about that another time. But for now, let me just say THANKS if you have played any role in my voiceover journey to date. If I can help you in any way, please let me know.
And in the meantime, I want to think of a great way to celebrate the big 2-0 next year. Any ideas? Please leave them in the Comments section below.
My Year as a Foster Mom for Dogs: Basset Hound Rescue
“How could you?” “Isn’t it so hard?” These are common things I hear when I tell people I’m a foster for Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue. I foster because there’s a need for fosters. For every foster home found, another dog can be removed from a kill shelter or rescued from an abusive or unsustainable situation. It feels good to know I’m helping save and improve dog lives. I know that foster homes are an important part of the dog rescue mission. My own dog spent several months in a foster home before I found her through Wags Rescue in Pennsylvania.. That foster mom inspired me and now, years later, I’m proud to call myself a foster mom. read more…
I Appreciate You (and “Ted Lasso”)
Happy New Year! Did you make any resolutions? I’m trying to express appreciation more often. I want to let people know that they matter. Not just friends and family, but strangers as well.
This is not a new goal. I’m happy to say I made some good progress on the appreciation front in 2021. On Christmas Eve, my friend and I drove around to look at holiday lights and decorations. One neighborhood was full of luminarias. Streets in every direction were lined with those white bags containing votive candles. I was captivated. And grateful to experience some holiday joy during another challenging year. It was a cold windy night in Southeastern PA, and we saw volunteers in reflective vests lighting hundreds of these candles. I had to say thanks so I rolled down my window and let the teenage boy know his efforts were being appreciated. I’d like to think that made him feel good. (And perhaps provided a bit more motivation to continue doing what might have seemed like a thankless task.)
Then I thanked the worker at the Chinese Restaurant take-out window who prepared orders and checked out a non-stop line of customers. “Thanks for being open, I’m sure this is a hectic night for all of you.” She said, “You’re welcome. Happy Holidays.” That little interaction made both of us smile.
For some friends’ birthdays last year, I recorded video messages from their friends and family. Then I edited them together into 30 minute long outpourings of love and appreciation. One of the video recipients was so touched she said, “it would be great if everyone could get one of these every 10 years.” Another friend said, “thanks for giving me a chance to hear all this nice stuff now. It’s the kind of thing people usually say at a funeral when it’s too late.”
Somehow the art of a good “thank you” or “I appreciate you” has gotten lost lost in our fast-paced society. Perhaps we can all try to be a bit more expressive in this new year.
And on the off chance that Jason Sudeikis might be reading this (or anyone involved in making my favorite show “Ted Lasso,” ) I want to thank YOU for Ted’s character’s oft-spoken phrase, “I appreciate you.” Let’s hope this expression is catching on and we’ll all get more comfortable telling people what they mean to us.
In closing, I want to thank YOU for reading this blog post. I hope you find my words inspiring and/or helpful in some way. And I want to thank everyone who has hired me for voiceovers. I am so grateful I get to do work that I love. Commercials, Medical Narrations, eLearning Modules, Phone Recordings, Awards and Event Announcements…I enjoy it all and feel lucky I get to do it year after year. I appreciate you and the faith you have in me.
It’s Never Too Late
In my 20s I went through a stage in which I thought I had it all figured out. I’d learned what I needed to learn. I was newly and happily married. I thought that was the start of “settling into” life as a full-grown adult. That couldn’t have been further from the truth! read more…