Agents Part 3: Working with them

Posted on December 9, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments

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This is Part 3 of my 3 Part Series on Voiceover Agents. If you missed them, here’s Part 1 and Part 2. I’m so pleased to announce that the series has been picked up by VoiceoverXtra, as well. VoiceoverXtra is the industry’s leading online Voiceover publication. I’ve been reading it since I started in VO, so it’s been lovely to become a contributor this year! Click here to check it out. 

Congratulations on getting a Voiceover Agent (or being in the position to start looking for one…!) This is a huge step. It’s very important to acknowledge and celebrate our victories! That’s number one. But the actual “work” doesn’t end there. This is just the beginning!

Having an agent is a partnership and each side has responsibilities, just like a marriage or any other business partnership. I know a lot of people who start with an agent and then it kind of fizzles out and never goes anywhere. The actor is left feeling confused, frustrated and embarrassed, scratching their heads and asking themselves: Am I even still with them?  Don’t let this happen to you!

The key to avoiding this is to establish a personal relationship from the get-go. Let yourself be known! Establish a good rapport and keep the communication flowing. Do your job and do it to the very best of your ability, consistently. Be someone they grow to count on and expect great things out of. I know it’s hard but DON’T BE AFRAID OF YOUR AGENT! REFRAME the relationship if you need to: They work for you, even though at the beginning it doesn’t feel like that at all. Practically speaking, in actuality, it sort of isn’t that way at the beginning…the dynamic definitely feels like you are working for them. But somewhere along the line, that will start to change. Here are some thoughts on how to embark upon this new journey.

The first several months of working with an agent is definitely the “dating phase”. You are testing each other out to see if it is a good fit. It’s also like starting a new job, in that you want to put your very best foot forward. What does that look like?

Communication: It’s up to you to ask questions at the beginning if you are unsure about procedure or what to expect. Agents are busy people; lots of times they are on overdrive and will just start sending you auditions without giving you any details about what they expect. If they don’t tell you, ASK how they want the files labeled, do they mind more than one take – and if so, is two the limit, etc. and anything else that comes up. The time to ask these questions is now. Find out how they want things submitted and do it right, every time.

Timeliness: Get things in ahead of the deadline. It makes their life easier and they will love you for it.  It also makes you more likely to book a job! With so many people competing these days, you want to be one of the first to be submitted, not one of the last. If you wait, the job might already be booked before you even send yours in!

Be a Pro: Follow directions and do excellent auditions. Every time. Make sure both the acting and the sound quality of your auditions are competitive. If you include more than one take, be sure the takes are different – some sort of different style, approach, tone or feel. If you can’t make them different, just send one take.

Keep in touch: Stay in touch regularly with your agent if you don’t hear from them. Be on the conservative side in terms of frequency and definitely don’t bother them with random nonsense, but  do drop a line now and then with a friendly hello. Keep it brief, light & polite and offer up something fun or (even better) let them know what you’ve been doing on your end. Agents like clients who are pro-active. For example, if you take a workshop, particularly if the teacher is a working industry pro (Producer/Director/CD), tell them about it!  I always let my agents know who I’m working with. It gives me an excuse to drop them a line and it’s also practical – if their paths cross, my agent knows we’ve just seen each other and can mention me!

Keep records: Take note of all the auditions they are sending you. I always keep a file with all of my auditions for a couple of reasons. This allows me to track of how many auditions they are giving me and what types. It will be important a few months down the road when you are assessing the relationship. Instead of “feeling like” you’re not getting a lot of auditions, you will have a record of exactly how many and what type you are getting per week and per month. Likewise, if they seem to be out of your wheel house, or if there’s a particular type of copy or genre that you’re not getting, but would like to be reading on, you can discuss this with them with specificity. Note: Make sure you do this within the “trial” period of a few months; in other words, don’t wait six months or a year to bring up an issue if it has been on your mind! Finally, by keeping good records, you can also refer back to them easily if you book a job, and you can keep a tally on your booking ratio, auditions to jobs booked with this particular agent.

If you impress your agent out of the gate by being a complete professional who consistently submits above average takes, they will grow to love you. That is your job: to do great work always. In the beginning they are feeling you out, so PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD. DO NOT MISS AUDITIONS. DO NOT TURN THEM IN LATE. DO NOT ACT WEIRD. Do your job: be courteous, polite, grateful, graceful, impressive and fun to work with. That’s our side of the street.

Now, what should you expect from them? Join me next week for: How do I know if my agent is good?  If you haven’t yet, sign up for my blog on the top right hand corner of the blog page so you don’t miss it…and if you liked this article, please share it… Cheers and happy voicing!

Agents – Part 2: How To Get One

Posted on November 21, 2014 by rfulginiti 2 Comments

How to Welcome to Part 2 of my 3 Part Series on Agents for Voiceover: How to Get One. If you missed Part 1, click here.

Once you’ve determined that you’re ready to look for an agent, the obvious question becomes, how do I do that? There are a bunch of different ways and they all require acumen on your part, as well as good luck and good timing.  The important thing to remember is that it is a process. Try to make peace with and enjoy the process, rather than despairing or despising it! Believe in yourself and stick to it; graceful persistence is key. Know that it will happen eventually.

Get a referral: Like anything else in life, having a personal contact refer you is usually the most effective way to get someone’s attention. The very best way to get an agent is through a referral. A referral from a well-respected casting director, director or producer (rather than another actor) is a wonderful thing because it carries a lot of weight. Having that person offer to refer you, rather than having to ask, would be best, of course, but that rarely happens. We can’t sit around hoping people are mind readers. Sometimes you have ask for what you want; you just have to make sure you approach the topic with sensitivity and class.

Let’s say you have a great relationship with someone in the business; you’ve worked with them (or have been studying with them) consistently and they respect your work. You might consider letting them know you’re looking for an agent. Ask them in a professional, no pressure way, if there is anyone they think might be a good fit. If they take the initiative and offer to contact the agent on your behalf, you’ve struck gold. However if they don’t offer, or if they don’t feel comfortable doing that, perhaps they would be willing to allow you to use their name when contacting the agent yourself. “So and so recommended I contact you…” If they say yes to this, be sure to put the referral’s name in the subject line of the email to grab the recipient’s attention!

Note: DO NOT USE SOMEONE’S NAME IF THEY DID NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO DO SO. That would be the height of bad form and totally uncool. Likewise, please be prudent with whom you ask and how you ask. Be sure the person is very familiar with and likes your work. Be polite and sympathetic to the fact that they might get asked to do this ALL THE TIME. Some folks have a policy of “absolutely no referrals, no matter what” because if they were to refer everyone that asked, they’d be doing it every day and exhaust their contacts. And by all means, if you ask and they decline, please don’t make it personal. You have a right to ask and they have a right to refuse. If they say no, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or believe in you.  Don’t hold it against them. Be graceful and move on.

Take a workshop: In Los Angeles (and possibly other cities), there are opportunities to take workshops in person, directly with agents or agent assistants. This is an excellent way to get in front of someone you normally wouldn’t have access to and show them what you can do. Be ready and definitely bring your A game. It takes a lot to truly blow an agent away, but it does happen; I got my first big agent this way! Mary Lynn Wissner runs an excellent “Meet the Agents” program (as well as lots of other cool casting director/producer/director workshops). If you’re outside of Los Angeles, you can also sign up for Voice Registry workouts; they host many great agents from all over the country as guest directors. Even if you don’t get signed, it’s a wonderful chance to get feedback from these professionals and begin an on-going relationship. Keep in touch and let them in on the progression of your career. Remember, “no” rarely means “never“, it means “not right now“.

“Cold” Submit: Ahhh, the cold submission…not the optimal choice, but probably the most common. Although the scales are tipped in favor of luck and timing with this approach, it does work sometimes and there are some ways to make it more effective. Firstly, you’ll need to find a list of exactly whom to submit to.  DO YOUR RESEARCH and be careful to follow submission guidelines, otherwise you will be spinning your wheels and wasting time & energy. The VoiceOver Resource Guide lists agents in New York and LA. You can also do a Google search for regional agents/agents in your area, check out Voicebank.net, visit successful voice actors’ websites and see who they’re with, or contact your local SAG-AFTRA office.

When reaching out, KEEP it BRIEF, professional and courteous; don’t tell them your life story; agents are busy people and anything too long will almost certainly be disregarded. Be sure to send a link to your website (directly to the demo page – don’t make them click around!) and let them know you have a home studio (you do have a home studio, right??). Also be sure to mention what work you have booked - the best (and arguably the only!) way to get an agent’s attention. Keep a spreadsheet or some kind of record of who you submitted to and when. This will be crucial when following up.

About following up…I’d give them at least a week, probably two weeks before following up. Keep it light and polite, and try to add something new – “Since writing to you I’ve booked X“. Just a sidebar: it’s been my experience that if an agent is interested, they will contact you right away. If you don’t hear back from them initially, give it the two weeks, then follow up. If you still don’t hear, I’d wait another few months and again, add in what you’ve been doing since the last time you wrote. Keep it friendly, personalized and positive! You might end up pursuing them for a while, so make sure your emails are ones you wouldn’t mind receiving. It’s ok to be persistent, but not needy, demanding or annoying.

A few words about strategy: A lot of people wonder if they should submit to all agents at once or if they should hold out for their top choice (s) first. I say, go ahead and cover a lot of ground all at once. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen: you have multiple offers? That’s a good problem to have. Getting an agent can be tricky; to me it’s a waste of time to hold out for your number one pick. There are so many factors that go into whether or not someone wants to represent you. They might love your work but already have enough people in your category. Blanket submit and keep excellent records about who and when you sent out and what response you got, if any. If you’re lucky enough to get an offer, even from someone you see as a “lower level” agent, I’d probably go for it – assuming you’ve checked them out and they are REPUTABLE. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as the saying goes. If necessary, you can always “trade up” as you become more experienced and outgrow that agency. That’s not mean, it’s business. Folks rarely stay with their first agent. Here’s a quick preview of next week’s post: The best agent for you is the one that’s working for you. What works for you may change over time, during the course of your career.

A final piece of advice: Stay committed to your goal of getting an agent, but know that you don’t really need them to survive and make it as a VO. They actually need you!  Keep the focus on your work and develop as an artist. Getting an agent (or multiple agents) will be a natural outgrowth of that, if you stick to your path.

This is a big topic. If you have any questions, please ask away in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them. Join me next week for Part 3 on Voiceover Agents: What to do once you have one!

…and if you enjoyed this article, please share it! 

 

Agents – Part 1: The low-down

Posted on November 6, 2014 by rfulginiti 1 Comment

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Today kicks off the first in a new three part series, inspired by one of my readers (thank you Britt Dyer!). Over the next several weeks I’ll be talking about agents: what they do, how to get one and how to work with one once you’re in partnership. It’s a subject that can often feel mysterious or frustrating. Sometimes it’s a challenging part of getting “to the next level” in your career, but it doesn’t have to be confusing!

What exactly does an Agent do? Well, the short and sweet is: they negotiate contracts. Legend has it, there was once a day when they sought out budding young talent with potential and cultivated it…but that doesn’t happen much anymore. Basically, you and your agent are part of a team. You come to the table a completely formed product, and then your agent (hopefully) helps to sell it. Ideally, they find lots of opportunities for you, they talk you up, push for you and go to bat for you, and when you book jobs, they get you the very best deal they can, which will be mutually beneficial for both of you, as they earn 10% of what you make. With union jobs, that 10% is typically added to the top of your rate, so the agent’s cut doesn’t actually take away from what you’re making on the gig.

Wait, how are Agents different from Managers? Technically, to call themselves an agent (at least in the state of California), they have to have a license, adhere to certain guidelines and practices, and they can only take 10%. There are no requirements for someone calling themselves a “Manager”. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some great managers out there, and typically they get more involved in the day to day career of the talent (or at least, they used to), but beware, there are tons of unscrupulous ones out there, as well. Most managers take between 15- 20%. A lot of times they will add an additional percentage onto the client’s bill and still (also) take 15-20% out of your cut. That being said, if they are getting you work that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, then it’s probably still worth it.

So, do I need one? It used to be that if you didn’t have an agent, you couldn’t really be in the game. Before the internet era, it was a pretty closed circuit; there were no other ways to get auditions (and hence, jobs). These days, with the explosion of online casting and home studios, you don’t really need one to be a full time voice actor anymore. But you probably want one. Or more than one. Yes, probably many more than one. For example, I work with my main agent here in Los Angeles but I also have agents in Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco. The thing about having agents is they get you access to jobs you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Union jobs. Higher paying jobs. Higher profile jobs. So it depends on what you want. If you are content to hustle all your own work, you might not need one. I know lots of great talent throughout the country that don’t have an agent and they do really well. But for me personally, it’s a crucial part of an overall strategy. While I’m out generating my own work, I also appreciate having someone looking out for and delivering me opportunities as well. And I want a shot at the Cadillac jobs.

When should I start looking for one? As I mentioned before, you need to come to the table as a complete package. You should have at least a commercial demo – professionally produced, not home made! You should have a web presence – or at least a web page –  with your contact info and demos/samples of your work. You should be sufficiently trained as a voice actor and ideally, working already. One of the best ways to attract an agent is to let them know that you’re a booker! There is absolutely no incentive for them to take you on unless they think they can make money by working with you. The way you prove that to them is by telling them about the work you are already doing.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Agents next week! If you liked this post, please share it….and if you’re not already subscribed, go ahead and subscribe at the top right of the blog page so you don’t miss anything. Cheers!

Getting Paid

Posted on October 1, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments

Paid StThis week I received a delightful and unexpected gift. I got paid for a job I thought I’d gotten burned on. Let me backtrack. My business is divided into two parts. There’s the agented side of things: I audition for jobs with my agent (s) either at home, in their office or at casting places and when I book a job they send me to the studio. These are the “Cadillac Jobs”. Kushy and smooth. I am just a voice for hire. I go into an awesome studio, record for a half hour and then get a check sent to me a while later. No engineering, no invoicing, no call for pickups, (unless there’s another paycheck attached!); it’s pretty sweet.

But to make it as a VO in this day and age, you pretty much also have to have a home-based business, as well. On this side of things, I am not only the “talent”, but also the engineer, as well as the accountant and office manager. Most times, I am also the director and sometimes the producer. Jobs come to me through referrals from past clients, online sites, or by people finding my website.  Someone contacts me about a project, I provide a quote and tell them my policies, they send me a finalized script and I record it, either with them on the line or on my own depending on their preference. Then they may come back to me with one round of pickups. After that the job is usually (hopefully) just another good memory. Next. I fondly refer to these jobs (privately!) as “turn and burn”. No disrespect, they’re great. I get paid, complete the job quickly and it’s wrapped up nice and tidy with no unnecessary time and energy lingering. Everyone’s happy.

To this end, I always ask for payment up front, especially the first time I work with a client. I didn’t always do that, but I learned the hard way. Many times, clients seem to magically disappear after they get what they need, and understandably so; they are typically on tight deadlines and still have post production ahead of them. A few times I was stiffed completely. More often, I would eventually get paid, but it might take months and months…and that meant months and months of me following up with them, sending gentle reminders, more terse reminders…you get the idea. The whole process was a hassle, uncomfortable for me, a time suck and just plain not fun. So, I decided to adopt a policy that was in place at a corporate job I had years ago.

Before starting in voiceover I worked for a short time as a customer service rep at a business that sold news clips to PR companies. At that job, it was the company policy to ALWAYS get the first payment up front with a credit card. After that, we would give the option of “establishing terms”, which involved checking at least three references, to make sure that they paid their bills and did so on time. Only then would we set up a payment arrangement of either NET 14 (they pay within 14 days of receiving the bill) or NET 30 (they pay within thirty days of receiving the bill). There were no exceptions, not even if they insisted on “speaking with a manager”. If they wanted the clip, they paid in advance.

Taking a page out of that playbook, I started requiring payment up front, unless it’s a client I know and have worked with before. I send the file within 24 hours of receipt of payment, usually less. Most of the time people don’t have a problem with it. If they want to work with me, that’s my policy. Occasionally, someone does have a problem with it. They plead their case and there are extenuating circumstances. And sometimes, being an understanding and flexible person, on a case-by-case basis, I decide to take them at face value and go ahead and do the job first, without being paid. Usually this works out just fine.

But sometimes, it doesn’t. And then I ask myself why did I just do that again?? What is it that makes me cave? Why and when do I do this? Well, sometimes…I just…I dunno, trust them… It’s more of a sixth sense, really, than anything else…This person seems honest or seems legit…But sometimes, they’re not!

I guess that’s why I am a voiceover person and not a psychic! Every time this happens to me, I learn the lesson over again. YOU CANNOT TELL IF SOMEONE IS HONEST, HONORABLE OR IF THEIR BUSINESS IS SOLVENT BY TALKING TO THEM OR EMAILING WITH THEM. You just can’t.

So, back to this week. In May, a client I had worked for last year contacted me with a new job. I had done a similar project with him a year before and had gotten paid, no problem…Although I realized (later) that I had worked with him through Voices.com, not one-on-one, whoops! I should have checked on that. Of course I got paid, no problem. Voices.com requires payment up front!

Anyway, he calls me and says he needs the voiceover for this awards ceremony and he needs it right away (a red flag, by the way – the times I’ve gotten burned, it’s usually from a client who is “on fire” about getting the VO right NOW!). So I say sure, and give him a quote. He says great. I say I require payment up front. He says, Oh…I can’t do that, blah blah, I don’t get paid right away from the company, etcetera…I stand firm. He persists and asks, can we just do NET 14? I can pay you within two weeks, not a problem. I cave and say ok, figuring what the heck- I’ve worked with him before, we’ve been talking for twenty minutes and he seems so nice. Ha. My country girl naivety still sometimes shocks me in retrospect.

So I agree to NET 14, executing the job quickly and professionally, and deliver, as promised, right away. I send over an invoice. I never hear from him again.

I will save you the prosaic details of how I followed up numerous times, first by email and then by phone.  I end up talking to a colleague whom I happen to know provided the male portion of the VO for the same job; he too confirms he was never paid. We both did some digging and came to the same conclusion: the company he worked for is now closed. The website is down and it looks like the company is defunct.

Months go by. I could really use that money. In a last ditch effort, I decide to contact the head of PR and Marketing for the company I actually did the video for. A long shot, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I write a short, congenial and professional email to this person, explaining who I am and that I have never been paid. I cc the guy who hired me and state he has been unresponsive. I’m hoping she can be of some assistance in settling this matter. I throw in that the use of my voice without being paid is illegal. I never hear anything back.

Oh well. In the meantime, I notice this guy who stiffed me is now on Linked In with a brand new job – Director of Marketing at Progressive in the Cleveland/Acron, Ohio area…! How bold to be out there, with your swanky new position, potentially hiring and screwing over more VO’s! I am livid…but don’t really know what to do, so I do nothing.

Then this past Monday morning, about a month after writing the email to the PR person, I wake up to an email out of the blue from the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, who apologizes profusely. She states they had paid this guy right after the job was completed and had of course assumed we had been paid. The next email is a payment confirmation from Paypal…she paid the invoice in full! Yipee. Vindication! There is justice in the world! I, of course, write her back to immediately thank her and I tell her that she should be aware that he did the same thing to my colleague. I ask if I can pass along her contact info to him and she says yes, of course.

SO, why am I going through this whole big huge long scenario? Well, to share the happy ending, yes. But more importantly, to share what I’ve learned.

1. Business is business and policies are policies. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be flexible, of course it is, and everyone needs to make that call for themselves…but know your policies and stick to them! And be willing to accept the consequences if you get burned.

2. There are red flags that show up over and over again in these situations: the “barn burning” urgency to get the voiceover RIGHT NOW. The fast talking-ness. You know what? If someone needs the voiceover immediately, then they can pay immediately. They wouldn’t walk into Costco saying they needed an air conditioner immediately and then ask if they can pay for it in two weeks. If they can’t do it because they haven’t been paid yet, I understand, it’s a common problem for producers, but it’s not my problem, it’s theirs. When I’m firm, they can usually figure it out.

3.The no mailing address/no phone number situation is also a red flag. Ask for these things when you are first opening up the job. Many times I’m busy, things are moving fast and I’m so eager to get down to the task at hand, that I forget to even ask for this information. Then when and if I need to follow up later, I realize I don’t have any information besides an email address and maybe a website. What was I thinking?? If I was at that job I used to work at, that would never happen. I would not be able to fulfill a customer order without basic information – so why would I allow that to occur in my own business? The time to get the client’s information is right at the beginning, before you do the job.

4. If you do get into a situation with an overdue invoice long after you’ve completed the job, try contacting the company that the job was for (if different than the producer of the job). Start with the PR/Marketing department, if there is one. Keep your communication brief, unemotional, polite and professional. Ask if they can please be of any assistance in the matter. (Throwing in the line about using your voice without being paid is illegal is always good too – thank you Golden Nugget of Faffcon 2012, Ventura!)

5. If you’re unsure about someone, look them up online and check in with your online communities, the Better Business Bureau and other consumer advocacy groups to see if there are complaints about the person or the business in question.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it – thanks… and good luck out there, fellow travelers! 

Preparing for an audiobook

Posted on August 27, 2014 by rfulginiti No Comments

AreuPrepared

Recording an audiobook at home is quite a project. The scope is much bigger than anything else you will do as a voice actor. I remember when I first started, I would become a slave to my internal anxiety. I didn’t even realize how secretly freaked out I was under the surface; it was this low-grade anxiety that would follow me around and be under my skin for days. Recording an entire book by myself felt like such a huge responsibility: I want it to be great and there’s no director or anyone giving feedback and it’s taking so long and I have to juggle all my other work and…it’s TAKING SO LONG and…ai yai yai…a recipe for a not so fun time. I would end up working every waking hour, pulling all-nighters, eating junk food and getting no sleep or exercise. My mindset was kind of like: Let’s just hunker down and get through this!

Thankfully, after two years I’ve figured out some coping strategies to quell that anxiety and make the entire experience more sane and enjoyable! There’s lots of great articles on how to actually prep an audiobook for record, but lately I’ve been thinking about how I’ve learned to prep myself for the task at hand. Here are five things I do to set the stage for success.

Give myself time.  I used to think I had to rush into the actual recording almost as soon as I got the book. I would race through reading it so that I could start recording – potentially missing things and making myself crazy in the process. Now I always check in with the publisher to find out how much time I actually have. Is there a hard deadline? Maybe I have more time than I think! Based on the word count of the book and how difficult is it (how many accents/dialects, for example), I estimate how long both the reading and recording will take. Then I try to give myself a few days wiggle room just in case something comes up to throw off my schedule or slow me down. I try for at least 3 days to prep a book. The more time and focus I put into prepping the book, the easier recording is. It also makes the work deeper and more resonant…and you don’t miss those pesky details, like finding out the main character has a Southern twang- which is mentioned only once- in Chapter 11!

Stock up. The day before I start recording, I go to the store and buy healthy prepared foods for the week. I need nutritious grab and go food available for my breaks…and for anytime the hunger monster strikes. It’s too much to have to think about meal prep while I’m recording an audiobook and I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t have good food ready, I eat crappy. And that makes me feel crappy. I also make sure I have plenty of beverages on hand. Coffee is a no-brainer, but I also like Kombucha, ginger tea and/or Kefir, to help keep my energy up. One well placed Ginger Kombucha can keep me going for the rest of a session without having to eat again and again!  And my secret weapon is to have some type of raw vegan cacao energy treats in the freezer. I keep them in the freezer so I won’t eat too many at once! They can really help me push through if I start fading, providing hours of sustained energy…and they just make me happy!

Clear the decks. I tell my family and friends I’ll be working on a book and therefore somewhat MIA, so they know if I don’t pick up the phone not to worry or be offended. It’s not the week for doing extra things, like lunch with a friend or coffee with an aspiring VO. I need to focus my time and attention on getting the job done well and efficiently. I’m also sure to stock the kitchen with easy meals and snacks for my family so I know they won’t suffer while I’m working…and I don’t have to feel guilty!

Plan my schedule. As someone who juggles voice over and audiobook narration, this is crucial. Ditto that for someone who works from home. I schedule myself in 6 hour increments and make a commitment to those times. Inevitably, things come up – an audition or a booking – and I might need to make changes, but at least I have a plan that I can try to stick to. This frees me up to know that for that block of time, I’m working and after that, I’m done – so my whole life doesn’t become about the book. I’m also careful to choose my yoga classes and dog walk breaks for the week, so I know I’ll be getting exercise. There are few things worse for my body than sitting in a chair for days on end with no movement!

Be good. I try to get lots of sleep and to stay hydrated for a few nights before recording. No tequila benders for me, and no loud bars or clubs where I have to shout to be heard. Recording an audiobook is a marathon. I need to be energetic, healthy and at the top of my game from the start.

If you’re new to narrating audiobooks, trying some of these tips might help the entire process become a bit more manageable. Good luck and as always, I’m curious to hear what works for you!

Staying Alive

Posted on August 13, 2014 by rfulginiti

John Travolta

If you’ve been in the VO industry for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years, you will have noticed massive changes.  I’ve noticed changes just in the past five years!  Jobs used to pay more. There were more campaigns and long-term contracts. There were less voice actors and hardly anyone had a home studio. If you did have one, you had a serious advantage. And if it sounded good, even doubly or triply so!

It’s not dissimilar to the music industry, which went through huge shifts (and bottomed out) about ten years ago. Budgets are shrinking and clients are expecting much more, for far less. With the prevalence of home studios, the playing field has vastly expanded and while there are many more opportunities for voice actors, there is much more competition than ever before. Couple this with the fact that stars now think it’s cool to do voiceover and the reality of a union that hasn’t been willing or able to adapt quickly enough with the times, and the future can seem a little bleak, for those of us who make our living in this way. Don’t get me wrong. I think talented voice actors with a great work ethic and a savvy business sense will always have work, I truly do. I believe if you market yourself, cultivate your clients and keep them around, you’re probably fine. But I still think it’s important to have your eyes open. And I’m interested in doing much more than just surviving.

The more I ponder this situation, the more I am convinced that the answer, or at least a “safety valve”, if you will, for those of us who are still interested in maintaining an awesome living doing this thing we love, boils down to two things:

Alternate streams of income (diversifying) and content creation.

Diversifying: I remember first hearing about this concept with regards to investing. The philosophy was: you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket – what if that basket drops? And it makes sense because I am actually talking about investing…in yourself. I believe it’s more important than ever these days to have multiple streams of income, not just one. This means diversifying yourself within genres of performance. I have a lot of friends, for instance, who only do one type of VO. I’m encouraging them to expand their skill sets and explore other potential income streams. The more streams you have flowing, the less you feel it when one or two of them dry up. I’m actually toying with the idea of dipping my toe back in the on-camera world for this very reason, if not theatrically, at least commercially. More coals in the fire, so to speak.

This not only goes for diversifying within genres in performance, but also expanding my earning potential outside of that realm entirely. I just might finally be doing that yoga teacher training that I’ve always been interested in! Not that I’m not doing great in the industry; my business is actually thriving! My income has continued to climb over the past four years and I’m doing better than ever. But it’s good to be prepared and to be (at least!) one step ahead; it’s good to be AWAKE. There will always be lean times and the beauty about our profession is that there really is time to do other things*. (*Unless you’re you make your living solely as an audiobook narrator, in which case, no, you do not have time to do other things….but you need to make time, friends!). Pick your own brain. What other things have you been wanting to do but haven’t pulled the trigger on yet?  Take stock of all the things you love doing and find a way to monetize them if possible!

Content Creation:  With the birth of new media, there are tons of opportunities springing up every day: new channels, new networks, new shows, new opportunities…One major thing we artists have to our advantage is our creativity. They need content. We need jobs. There are a million actors out there who want jobs. They don’t need more actors, they need content.  I believe if we have something more to offer and build it ourselves, “they” will come knocking. Self-promotion has never been easier; it’s one of the truly empowering things for an artist about social media. The name of the game, however, is discipline; are you willing to contribute regularly to something you can grow?  Whatever it may be.  A blog, a podcast, an animated series…what makes your heart sing?

There’s no longer one path, or a set of prescribed set of steps you can take to become successful (Well, I’m not sure there ever was one, but…) The people I see really breaking out of the pack and flourishing are “doing” themselves. They’re not doing what everyone else is doing. They are taking a passion or something they’re knowledgeable about (hopefully it’s both) and using that as a vehicle to catapult themselves. Consider my friend Tess Masters.  A fellow actor and VO, she also had an incredible love and expertise in the field of vegan food. She started with a website and was diligent, building it steadily over three or four years, and now she’s touring the world with her new best selling cookbook. It’s one of the best selling cookbooks on Amazon! My friend Liz Loza, another talented VO, has a passion for fantasy football. Three or four years ago she christened herself  “Fantasy Football Girl”, and now she’s successfully leveraging what she created and her career is blossoming in a totally unique way, that is perfect for her…because it is her!

I’m enthusiastically trying to think out of the box here. I believe in leading with equal parts passion and intelligence. Prepare and make way for the magic. Because I’m interested in being a thriving artist, not a starving one. I gave that up in my twenties. Over rated.

What to do when there’s nothing to do

Posted on July 14, 2014 by rfulginiti

TodaySummer can be a little slow for voiceover. Particularly the month of July! Like all good over-achievers, I start to feel a bit lost if I’m not generally accomplishing things or doing something constructive. To that end, I offer up a list of 10 things you can do while it’s “dead”:

1. Organize your computer. Look at your systems! Is everything filed properly? How’s your inbox? Probably lots of emails to delete, right? It seems like usually I never have time to do things like this – but it makes such a difference! Organizing now, when you have the time, pays dividends later! It expedites your workflow and helps you feel in control when things are moving quickly.

2. Reach out to your clients.  I use Mailchimp, which is free (yay!) and relatively straight-forward (although in my opinion a little less than intuitive sometimes…!) I am always kind of astounded at how time consuming the process (still) is for me, but it’s always worth the time and effort. I usually see direct results right away, getting at least a couple of emails back saying “Oh, Rachel! I was just thinking of you…” or “I have a project coming up for you soon!

3. Connect with a VO pal. There’s nothing like connecting with someone in your industry. It can be inspiring, revitalizing and reassuring. Be sure to choose someone who makes you feel good! Grab coffee or lunch or even meet up for a walk or a movie. Try branching out and taking a chance on someone you don’t know very well but always thought you’d like to get to know better.

4. Practice. Just because you’re not working, it doesn’t mean you can’t work! Practice your craft. Is there an area of VO that you’d like to explore more but haven’t had the opportunity to work in yet? If you’re interested in animation, for example, play around with developing some new characters. If you want to break into audiobooks, work on a new five minute demo.  Record yourself and listen back. Ask a trusted colleague for feedback. Really dig in and commit to doing the work. Sometimes it’s hard to commit to it when it’s “just practice” as opposed to paying work…but I always feel so good once I do it! Every ounce of work you put in will most certainly come back to you. Practice really does make “perfect“.

5. Give back. What comes around goes around! Consider “giving back” by writing a blog post or article, contributing to a podcast or even just offering to help a newbie. Volunteer to read for Book Pals or a similar organization. Donate your voice for a PSA. Record some stories for your friend’s kid. You get what you give – give big!

6. Read, watch or listen. There are so many wonderful blogs, podcasts and video shows dedicated to the craft. I sometimes get overwhelmed because I feel like I can’t keep up! When things are slow, it’s the perfect time to catch up on old favorites and discover new ones. A quick internet search will reveal many. You could also engage people on social media with a question like “What VO blogs should I be reading?” or “What’s your favorite source for VO news and inspiration?

7. Clean and clear your space! Here’s another thing I rarely feel like I have time to do, and it makes such an impact. Cleaning and organizing not only your studio, but your home, is a wonderful, spiritual thing to do. For me, it really helps to rejuvenate things. When we hold on to the old, we’re creating stagnant energy, and that’s not good for anything. Let it flow! Give things away that you don’t use. Make room for new things to come in.

8. Update your marketing materials. This includes your website, your Youtube and/or Soundcloud pages, your twitter, all online profiles, etc. Make sure your demos and work samples are up to date and that all the links are working and that your collateral supports your brand. Refresh and revive your online presence!

9. Take a look at your stats! When I have time, I love to look at stats. I’m not a mathematician by any means but I find it interesting and enlightening to take notice. How many outstanding invoices do I have? What was July like for me last year? The year before? What’s been my best month so far this year? Who are my top five clients? Where am I this year compared to last year in terms of total revenue earned? (Sidebar: I’m actually up 11k- woohoo!) Every successful business looks at stats. Knowledge is power. With specificity, you can set goals, measure progress, formulate predictions and make informed decisions. Don’t have easy access to stats like this? Consider using an invoicing system like Freshbooks. It was a total game changer for me!

10. Do something else…or do nothing at all!  Often times we’re so busy, either running around or stuck in the booth for hours on end, that we miss out on opportunities to just chill and enjoy our lives. Appreciate that down time is a natural part of this awesome career you’ve chosen. See: “The Ballad of the Self-Employed“. If you find it difficult to “do nothing”, then as Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) says: “Fill up the well!” Take yourself for an Artist Date or do something with family or friends, completely unrelated to the industry. I guarantee you that it will do much more for you than sitting around wishing you were busy… And as the rule goes, as soon as you get out there to do something (especially if you plan a trip!), the phone will ring!

This isn’t about VO

Posted on July 2, 2014 by rfulginiti

This post isn’t about VO. It isn’t about freelancing or artistry or anything like that. This post is about love and the absolute need to defend it, in all it’s forms.

For the last ten days I’ve been travelling. I went back East yet again (2 trips in 2 months!) for the wedding of my best friend from home. My husband and I were able to sneak in 5 days at Martha’s Vineyard, as our trip coincided with my brother and sister-in-law’s annual week on the Vineyard. It was so wonderful to spend time with my family in such a relaxed atmosphere, something we haven’t done in such a long time. Lots of beach time, reading (oh, reading…how I’ve missed you!), long walks, fresh seafood, shopping, and ice cream. And laughter. Always lots of laughter when I’m with the family and for that I’m grateful.

Beautiful day at Gayhead with the family

Beautiful day at Gayhead with the family

The second half of the trip found me back in my hometown. I had a surprise session from a regular client who needed ISDN and after putting it out there on a VO group I belong to on FB, I was supremely hooked up by delightful VO Liz de Nesnera who welcomed me into her lovely country home in the middle of nowhere, unreservedly, for a quick ISDN session. (Proving once again that voiceover folks are the kindest and coolest folks in the world)! A big shout out to Melissa Exelberth, too, for connecting us!

With Liz de Nesnera at her gorgeous home studio

With Liz de Nesnera at her gorgeous home studio

Soon it was time for the wedding. The rehearsal was held the night before at my friend’s mom’s house in her backyard, where the wedding would be. The wedding itself was the next day. The weather couldn’t have been better: sunny skies, not too hot, not too cold, a perfect early summer day in New York. The ceremony was heartfelt and touching; the reception was all about delicious food, beautiful speeches and lots and lots of getting down on the dance floor. A wedding just like any other. Hearts were full, both families in so much joy to see these two people join each others families and become one.

 There was just one tiny difference between this and every other wedding I’ve been to. It was a same sex wedding. Julie and Eva were the lovely bride and bride. Everything else was exactly the same. Happy families, beautiful people, joy and love.

The Newlyweds

The Newlyweds

 

It got me thinking and I haven’t been able to put it from my mind (hence this post!). How can anyone be against this?? I just don’t get it. Of all the things in this world to be against – how could anyone be against this? AGAINST LOVE? Against joy and happiness and delight? Against families? I kept thinking if all those who are against “gay marriage” could be here at this celebration right now, they would change their minds – they would have to. They would see that love is love is love and there is absolutely nothing wrong with love in any of it’s myriad forms. It’s the very thing that heals the world.

It is maddening to think that if Eva and Julie lived in one of the 31 states where same sex marriage is illegal, this day would not have been allowed to happen. It wouldn’t be recognized or honored under the law. What?  What about all the other people in those states? It is cruel, it is unfair, it is DISCRIMINATION and that’s what needs to be illegal. Isn’t it supposed to be?

It’s the civil rights issue of our time. I’m probably preaching to the choir; chances are most of my readers agree with me whole heartedly. Most people in the country do, I suspect. In fact, I firmly believe that soon it will be legal across all states. But that tiny minority is so loud. We need to be, too. We must demand it. All our brothers and sisters deserve basic human rights and those rights include equality and the pursuit of happiness.

Eva and Julie, I was so honored to be a part of your celebration and I don’t mean to turn it political! But unfortunately we know it is still political. EVERYONE deserves to love and be loved out loud. And everyone deserves the same protection, rights and privileges under the law.

Deyan Institute

Posted on June 19, 2014 by rfulginiti

JMoretellaro_class

Many of you know that over the past few months I’ve been honored to be involved with the launch of Deyan Institute. For those unfamiliar, the Deyan Institute is a brand new School for Voice Artistry and Technology in Northridge, CA – teaching audiobook narration and voice over, as well as production classes and classes for authors looking to publish and/or read their work. To read more about the Institute, it’s mission and and how it came about, there are tons of great articles out there! Try this one written up by Publishers Weekly or this one from Audiofile Magazine.

My involvement in the Institute grows out of my love for it’s founders Bob and Debra Deyan. I first met Bob and Deb through audiobooks several years ago. They cast me in my first commercial title. They were so kind to me and my newbie friends, welcoming us into the audiobook community with open arms.  Our professional relationship quickly blossomed into a beautiful friendship.

Last year, tragically, Bob was diagnosed with ALS. He had always had a dream of creating a school, so Debra set out to fulfill that dream for him in his lifetime. This Spring the Institute was launched. Contributing in some way was so important to me. They have given so much to others; I wanted to give back in any way that I could. After some serious brainstorming, we came up with the idea for the VO Pro Series, a professional development series for working voice actors.

It’s pretty awesome; we’ve been having a lot of fun! This picture is from our first class, with Video Game Director and Casting Director Jamie Mortellaro. You can read more about the VO Pro Series and my “take” on it here.

A word about the requirements: The qualifications for participation state that you must be a working voice actor for at least two years, and have agent representation. This is for everyone’s protection. You don’t want to see these high profile decision makers unless you’re ready! We also want to keep the level of the class advanced, so everyone’s on the same page and things run smoothly.  On the other other hand, I’ve realized that you might actually be ready, but don’t happen to have an agent at the moment, or perhaps you’ve been an on-camera actor or audiobook narrator for years, but haven’t been working in voiceover  for two years. If you’re interested in attending one or some of the sessions, please feel free to contact me and we’ll talk it through. Exceptions can (and have) been made on a case by case basis!

I’m also happy to announce I’ll be a guest contributor to the brand new Deyan Institute blog on a monthly basis. You can read my latest post for them here: employing strategy in your career. I might re-post it later on my blog, but why not visit the Deyan site and check it out? There’s also some other great posts on there, and it will be building steadily in the coming months.

Thanks guys and hope to see you all at the Institute, online or on the circuit!

PS…Don’t forget to check out ALL the wonderful classes at Deyan Institute!

Summer Shorts ’14

Posted on June 8, 2014 by rfulginiti
Artwork designed by my husband! http://fpowerink.com/

Artwork designed by my husband! http://fpowerink.com/

June is “Audiobook Month” (#audiomonth), a month to celebrate the art form and for those of us in the industry, an opportunity to give back. To that end, I’m happy to be involved again this year with the Spoken Freely Summer Shorts project to benefit Pro Literacy, a natonal outreach and literacy organization! Over 40 top notch narrators have joined in and donated their voices to the cause.

Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and/or essays will be released online each day  via Going Public and on other author/blogger sites. As a “thank you” to all listeners, the pieces are available to listen to for free on the day of release, and subsequently available for purchase as a donation to benefit ProLiteracy.  As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Audio,  20 additional tracks are included. You can find the full release schedule on Going Public Blog

My piece, released today, along with an interview, is hosted by author M.V. Freeman. We  had a blast talking getting to know each other, discussing audiobooks, Rumi, yoga and lots other things we have in common. Click here to check it out! And consider buying the full collection from Tantor Media here. It’s only $9.99 and it’s for a great cause! You will be amazed at the quality of the work contributed!