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Episode 250: The Business of VO with Mandy Fisher

business tips Sep 20, 2023

About Mandy Fisher:

Mandy Fisher is a NYC-based full-time voiceover actor with over 15 years of experience in the industry. She has worked with brands like Crayola, Disney, Peloton, Coke, Walmart, and Kohls to name a few.

Her passion for voiceover and genuine love of helping people inspire her to work with actors of all stages of their career. 

With a theater background, she brings her training to guide copy analysis and character creation. As an industry vet of 15 years, she has witnessed the changes and understands the ebbs and flows of the business. 

Mandy created her own voiceover business from the ground up and has a successful and replicable model to help actors build their own successful businesses.

All of this adds up to a coach who can provide audition and career advice while helping actors become the best they can be!

Tell me about all the different types of voiceover that are out there today.

There's more than one thing that you can do as a voiceover artist. And so often, I feel like when people ask me about voiceover, they just automatically assume that I'm an animation or like on cartoons.

Or video games. And while that's definitely part of voiceover, a lot of my work is commercial and like what you hear on the radio or on TV and e-learning. Many companies I work with have videos that they need to show their employees, and that's a big part of voiceover that people don't necessarily like even thinking about, but then there's IVR, which is interactive voice response. So, when you call a business and you, they say, "Oh, thank you for calling Ikea, press one for the manager, press two for household goods."

That's part of voice of real people who get hired for those jobs. And do that as voiceover. And I know a couple of people who do that only, and that's their entire career, and they make damn good money doing that.

E-learning is a part of voiceover where a company will hire you for perhaps they want to teach their employees about some new policies at their workplace, or maybe a new product is launching. They want to tell the whole company who's not in product development. They want to educate the salespeople and the marketing people and all other kinds of people within the company; they want to educate them about the product or even sometimes it's. It's how to handle sexual harassment, go to HR with a complaint, or negotiate your salary. A company will want to have all kinds of modules so that their employees can learn, grow, and be better.

And especially with remote working being such a major part of the corporate world these days. They rely heavily on these videos and voiceovers to educate their employees and keep their workforce culture booming so that they don't feel like they're on an island.

There's anime, there's animation, there's commercials, there's radio spots, there's e-learning, and then the next one you were talking about was IVR.

Interactive voice response and IVR and telephony are two different things, but they go hand in hand. Telephony is when you call a business and they have a message; maybe for they're on holiday or vacation. "Thank you for calling the law offices of Dunder and Dunder. we're currently on holiday, and we will get back to you as soon as possible." That's a message. That's part of telephony, and most of the time, if you get a client that wants telephony, you can upsell them on the I V R or vice versa. But they're two different things, but they often go hand in hand.

There's looping, obviously ADR. And dubbing, many actors who are bilingual that's becoming its own vertical is bilingual voiceover because many people want to hire both the English speaker and the other language speakers for the same kinds of jobs.

What's radio imaging? Oh yeah, radio imaging Is the voice of a radio station, not the DJ. So, not the one calling out the music cues, "you're listening to be 93.3." It's the voice that you hear between the DJ and the songs that makes the station recognizable. So, when you hear that be 93.3, that voice, that person calling out the radio station, it's recognizable to you. You're listening to that station and not Z 100.

There's promo, there's medical, there's political.

Let's start with promos. Promos are promotions for TV shows and movies, but not trailers. Trailers is a different kind of voiceover, but promo is like, "Join us this week for a new episode of Family Guy Only on CBS."

Medical is complicated because it's all jargon. And a lot of times, you'll get a copy with all of these very technical terms or medications, and you have no idea how the hell to pronounce them, and you are rigorously googling, and yes, of course, you can ask the person that sent it to you, but nine times out of ten that person doesn't freaking know and then they have to ask the people that sent it to them, and there is this like long chain of response.

Often, it is so specifically timed.

ISI- important safety information, which is just the bottom half of that medical, of that medical promo that you're doing.

IPA is the International Phonetic Alphabet. , once you learn it, you can pretty much look at any word and break it down through these little symbols that help you pronounce words because they stand for the different consonants and fricatives and vowels and all that kind of stuff in a word, and if you use the symbols to write it out. You are then able to read the IPA as it applies to the words.

It's basically just spelling out the word the way that it sounds.

Trailers for movies most of the time. Sometimes short films but big movie trailers always have a VO. "Coming to theaters now, it's Spider-Man."

Video games and mobile fall under the same sort of category, but again, they're two separate things because video games for release on a console are different than a video game released on mobile, only in terms of usage, for performance, they're pretty much the same.

A lot of video games use actors for an entire franchise. I know one video game used 800 different voice actors for one game. So, it's a huge industry.

Toys and games. In the voices that you hear in those little books that have Press the cow. Moo.

A lot of Fisher Price or Mattel or little kid things that have voices.

Non-union and union work for audiobooks, which a lot of people don't realize that you can; if you are a union actor and voiceover, there are union voiceover audiobooks that exist out there to do, but I know a lot of people assume that most of that work is non-union.

So, let's talk about union versus non-union. Seventy percent of voiceover work is non-union.

So, many rules and things you might expect if you're a union actor doing non-union VO don't apply.

And sometimes, you find yourself negotiating a little bit more. It can be an education process, especially if you are getting clients on your own through direct marketing or social or outside of agents.

And I find that when I have to educate a client a little on industry-standard rates, they're receptive. But there is some pushback; that's just not in our budget, but maybe it will be for next year.

So that's something that you should keep in mind as recurring clients are how you keep your business going and how you scale your business is you want to keep them; you don't want just to have one client and then never work with them again.

So, suppose you can be a little compromising in those early stages of that relationship and understand that, okay, for the next time we work together. In that case, we're going to get closer and closer to those industry standard rates. That's one way to keep those clients in and scale.

So, you used a term that I don't know if many actors know, scale your business. Can you please explain what scale your business is? Grow it.

As a voiceover actor, if you are entering into this industry for the first time or if you have been doing it on and off part-time, it's making new connections, meeting new people, and finding out who needs to hire you, that changes the landscape of the industry has changed so much, especially when I first stumbled into it. So, keeping your ear to the ground and understanding how to grow continuously is important.

Guide to Commercial Voiceovers

VO Workout

The guide to commercial VO is for any voiceover actor who wants to learn more about commercial voiceover because there's lots of nuance in every single vertical of voiceover.

All the 15, 20, but they all have their own sort of ways of working, and what works in commercial is not necessarily going to work in video games and how you approach those different things. So, all of the skills behind the performance, as well as the skills behind the business, are in this course, and it's jam-packed with information at the end of it. One of my favorite parts of this is all of the people who participated asked so many amazing questions, and that right there is just, it is worth it to me, like those questions. That's why you want to get the replay.

Get up and work voiceover session; it's 90 minutes and quick and dirty. And it's ten actors we work with. TenI provide or so minutes at a time, and I provide commercial copy that they can use and choose whichever piece they want to work on and read through the copy.

I give them some notes in real-time, and we get to a place where we feel good about the work. Is it ready to send off as an audition? Sometimes it is. And sometimes we get to really great, beautiful places that we weren't in previously, but is it always that way? No, but it's about feeling good about the work, understanding the work, understanding the connections that you make, going through the copy, and being able to say, I know what story this is.

I know what I'm doing. I feel confident about what I'm doing. And that's the goal is to be able to look at commercial copy for the first time. No, history of looking it over for days and days, but seeing it and being able to make strong choices in the moment and then forgetting about it, letting it go, working in the moment, and then you're done and letting it go because that's such a big part of commercials.

And if I sat and stewed and thought so hard about every single audition I get every day, I would never make it through the deck. I would just be sitting here doing two or three instead of the 15 that come across my desk. And I would never get them out.

What keeps coming up when negotiating a non-union contract? In perpetuity.

What we're constantly seeing now in non-union VO specifically are exclusivity and in perpetuity, which again are two very different things, but we're starting to see them go hand in hand.

Now, in perpetuity means forever and ever. Exclusivity means exclusive to a certain category or product.

So, let's say you do a commercial for a toothpaste. And it's like a no-name toothpaste brand startup toothpaste. And they come to you, and they're like, "Oh my goodness. I would love for you to do our voiceover. We would like exclusivity in perpetuity."

This means you can never do any other toothpaste ever again for the rest of your career. So, they better be paying a big sum of money.

And if they're not, then you say, "I'm sorry, I can't work within those within those confines, but I can offer you 13 weeks at this rate or a year at this rate,"

But if it's in perpetuity for any kind of commercial, I stay far away from it. If it's in perpetuity for something like medical, I don't really care. Cause there's no competition there and there, the rates in medical are pretty good, so I don't really care, but in commercial.

Unless they're paying me some six figures for in perpetuity, then then I say no.

If you are trying to have a business, you must have the business mindset at the front and the performance mindset side by side.

What kind of mic do you like to work with, just out of curiosity? Yeah. I have Neuman U 87, which I love. It's beautiful and produces great sound, but I also have a Rode NT1, which is also great, and a DEDS mic, and I think that is just as good as the Sennheiser MK 14.

I use mics for different things for promo or medical. I usually use my shotgun deity for commercial. I'm usually using my Neumann for political and other things; I use my Rode; it just depends on where I'm sitting in my voice that day, what the work is, what I'm going to be doing.

What is direct marketing? Direct marketing is doing research, whether on LinkedIn or Google, or however you like to do research to obtain information about companies and people, and then reaching out to them and saying, "Hi, I'm a voice actor. Here's my shit. Listen to my shit. Do you want to work together?"

You are a salesperson, but are you a good salesperson, or are you a shitty one?

And that comes through trial and error and seeing what works and seeing what people respond to. But I find nine times out of 10, a lot of these people I'm reaching out to have a very good sense of humor. They don't have a lot of time, and they like to be sold to in a snappy way that gets to the point with maybe a little bit of cheek and humor and fun and call it a fucking day.

They don't want to go back and forth nine times about the last episode of Game of Thrones.

Maybe down the line, sure, but right now, they need to do what's best for their business, what's best for their company, their team, whatever. They don't necessarily want to go through a casting site, pay that fee, and then pay these people.

If they can work with you directly and you are good behind the mic, you're a good business person; you can do quick turnaround, you have good sound, they would rather work with you directly than going through all the fucking hoops through an agency or a casting site to find, and then scrolling through hundreds and hundreds of auditions to find the right person that they want to work with.

So, direct marketing is a great way for you to scale your business.

Your thoughts on AI. I think that AI has always been around for a really long time, not always, but for a very long time. And yes, it's getting better, smarter, and more capable, but I don't see it as competition.

I know this will be a controversial thought, but I think there are ways we can work alongside it, learn from it, and utilize it to better ourselves.

I don't think AI will replace voiceover actors in my lifetime.

Every person I've talked to who have at one point hired AI voices for their projects said that they regretted it and they would much rather work with a human being.

My father came up with a brilliant strike slogan, which is human stupidity is better than artificial intelligence.

Working with people in all sorts of stages of their career is not only fun for me, but it is exciting to be able to offer that wide variety of coaching to all walks of life.


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