I have had a bunch of cool things happen in the past year or so. It hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine, but that is what makes life interesting.
Business has been good. I found that balance of marketing, work and another word that starts with “f” – Facebook. No, fun! (OK, maybe both Facebook and fun.) And I think my work has improved too.
A Free-lance Life for Me
For someone who is and always has been risk averse, you might wonder why I chose to be an independent business person where there is no steady paycheck.
Actually, because most of the people who read this blog are voiceover people too – or independent business people – you probably know the answer.
I don’t think I chose it, actually. My first real job was at a TV station in Iowa. I was a part-time graphic artist in the days just before computers and character generators. That part-time job evolved into a full-time production job, briefly – until I decided to go back to school to learn about the business I suddenly found myself in. That full-time work was less than a year.
From there I wound up in a TV station in San Diego as a director/floor director – and for three months I directed public affairs shows, floor directed, did some on-air switching and some news directing. And for another three months or so – after deciding that news directing was NOT what I wanted to do – I edited film for time. This was when Star Trek would arrive on film and I would have to take out your favorite two minutes to add the extra commercials and then put the film back together again when it had been fed through the telecine. It was a nightmare job, not because it was hard, but because it was so boring. I had nightmares about movie projectors wrenching themselves from the bolts in the floor and chasing me down the hallway.
Luckily, a part-time job opened up as a live Staff Announcer at the station and I started my life as a free-lancer. Well, a free-lancer with a security blanket. I worked Thursdays and Fridays at the TV station from 4 to midnight – keeping the station log and talking when I was supposed to talk. In between those infrequent times when I was needed live, I recorded radio and TV spots, wrote articles, hooked a rug, twiddled my thumbs and did pre-production on the projects I was working on Monday through Thursday afternoon.
Evolve and Fly
So, free-lancing sort of evolved for me. I learned lessons about not counting on one main client, how to network, how to save for the lean times, how to be spontaneous when it came to doing things for fun, and how to think fast when it came to solving problems. I never sat still. Didn’t want to. I’m never bored, because I knew I would hate being bored.
I did take a full-time job for about 9 years – but despite having a steady pay check and a 401K with employee matching, this particular job was ideal for my personality – at least for most of that time. When I got to my job at the Hidden Film Factory in General Dynamics Convair, GD was one of the biggest defense contractors in America. They had their hands in just about every weapon system being made in every service – or at least it felt that way as I traveled across the country to see submarines, tanks, jets, rockets and missiles. Here, I was certainly never bored.
But as the years wore on, and General Dynamics started selling off their technology, part of me wanted away from the corporate clothes and the little pumps. Eventually, I wasn’t working on projects around the country, my department was absorbed by the Space Division and ultimately we became Martin Marietta and finally Lockheed Martin by the time I got laid off in 1994.
I was amazed at how free I felt – despite the fact that I didn’t have a real job. That was 20 years ago now. I didn’t go immediately into full-time voiceover work. My old voiceover work had evaporated with the 9 years I worked in-house. And by the time I started to jump start that part of my life, the industry had changed and I needed to figure out how to fit into the new paradigm. So, for a few years, I wore all my hats – producer/writer/talent – and worked for all the companies in town who had hired all the people who had gotten laid off at the old General Dynamics. Picking back up those old free-lance skills of networking and saving. But eventually, I stopped producing and writing when the voiceover work started to pay the bills.
Fast forward to 2014.
In the past couple of years, I have had the opportunity to have my name connected in some small way to some pretty heavy hitters in the business. I’m still a working class voiceover girl, but our technological advances have opened a lot of doors to connect with producers all around the world. And maybe, I have finally figured out what this voiceover stuff is all about!
I think one of the turning points was when I was told that a documentary I voiced was likely just a temporary track for the first festival showing while they tried to secure Morgan Freeman for the job. That didn’t happen, so my voice remained and is now in international distribution. That led to an amazing project produced by the same company now on permanent installation in the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. That piece won a Golden Reel in the 45th Annual MCA-I Media Festival in the Craft-Talent category. I wouldn’t have entered it if it had not been a super script and a fabulous production.
Found out that a couple of different TV spots I voiced won some awards. Again, back to good scripts and creative production values. Another project I did the scratch for was ultimately voiced by Diane Sawyer for the initial airing on PBS. An ongoing fun project is a voice match for a very popular children’s show. And most recently I had the chance to voice an update to a video promoting a new book on the Blue Grass Airport. The last update of this video was done by the legendary Peter Thomas. I sort of channeled Peter a bit as I recorded because most of the words and video stayed the same.
So, what is the point of all of this horn-tooting? Well, because despite my years of “making a living” as a voice talent, I know that some of the work I have done – perhaps a lot of the work I have done – isn’t special. But it paid the bills and each project taught me a little something. So, eventually, I found my voice. (Well, my voices, because I do a lot of different kinds of things.) And with it I have been lucky to find some great clients.
So, the risks of being a free-lancer are paying off. With the smile that comes to your face when you hear your voice as part of a total production that works.