If you ask most voice artists how they feel about their VO business, most will tell you that they love what they do, and I am no different. As a career, I feel it's one of the best there is: it allows me to be creative, to collaborate with fantastic artists and (in the case of some video games) to interact with loyal and grateful fans.
It is worth taking a moment, however, to highlight that a typical week is not all about recording national TV commercials and AAA video games. Like most small businesses, there is all the additional work that goes into running it. Marketing, Accounting, Invoicing, PR, Website management, Auditioning, Editing, and Client management make up a large part of what I do. Here's a brief overview of some of the things I try and do on a daily basis that help to keep me focused.
As a full-time business owner, it is important to strive for routine which in turn keeps me disciplined.
I keep regular business hours which, on a business day, typically means opening my studio at 8.00am (with dog at my feet and Tervis full of water in hand) and closing at around 6.00pm. For European clients, I will often establish a live session connection at 7.30am (late morning/early afternoon for Europe) and for US West Coast clients 6.00pm is 3.00pm so I’ll work beyond that if needed. I’ll take care of important auditions (and occasionally support clients) at weekends. Even these are subject to negotiation for an important client! I’ve connected to New Zealand in the late evening, as it is then early morning for them.
I set a target for audition numbers (10 per day). Knowing that my conversion ratio is around 20:1, this means that from auditions alone, I expect to book around 2 new projects per week. Many of these are new clients. Add to that, existing client outreach, regular clients, and walk-ins from the internet all means I target 1 new project per business day, on average around 20-25 per month.
Knowing these numbers is important: it allows me to maintain my focus, to keep me on track and to measure the growth of my business.
It also helps to spot trends in my business and therefore to be more efficient. For example I know that ~40% of my business came from video games in 2020 and that for the first quarter 2021 my business has grown rapidly compared to Q1 2020. That suggests that the VO business, as a whole, is experiencing growth.
My supportive wife, Sandra, is a great asset to the business, and we set aside time weekly to discuss projects (this will generally be early in the week) and lots of smaller 'cup of tea' chats to catch up with progress. I also feel like I am fortunate to have many voice over friends that help with advice and guidance when needed. I also try to take 30 minutes to 1 hour lunch break, which often includes throwing a Frisbee for my Lab, Isla. This takes me away from the screen to get some fresh air and exercise. She is my constant companion and spends much of her day laying at my feet in the studio.
Like many small business owners, my voice over business is a major part of my life. It is an important part of my identity and I am always interested to talk about it. I try and be mindful that it can be all consuming and to keep separate time for my family. Planning my week and setting realistic targets also helps to put parameters around this and maintains a balance with the other aspects of my life.
I have learned in my own time and my own way so many other new computer, audio, and marketing skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned, if I weren’t in the business of voice over. The performance element is also exciting and hugely rewarding. That’s not to say that life as a freelancer is all sweetness and light. My family’s well-being is directly related to my success and that does bring pressure and responsibility along with it. I have found that by sticking to a schedule and maintaining motivation, the freedoms and opportunities that freelancing bring are exceptional. In the voiceover industry doubly so.