Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

July 7, 2014

June Came and June Went…

What the heck just happened? The month of June just sort of disappeared in a vortex of VO work. Which is a good thing, but makes it hard to find the time to compose something interesting, relevant or amusing as a blog post.

And that is the goal of keeping a blog – at least as I understand it.

My class blog is easier to keep up to date, but can become a tad boring and even repetitive for people who are not active students in the class. If there was a way to filter OUT the homework assignments, and only keep the interesting videos and articles that would be different, but I haven’t figured out a way to do that yet.

One of the things I talk to my introduction to voice acting students is that just because you are hired to record something for someone, you don’t have to put it on your demo. Especially when you are first starting out in the biz and your first client is a hard sell local radio spot written by the sales exec on the back of napkin during lunch. It is hard NOT to crow about the fact that someone paid you to do something that you have been wanting to do for a long time, but at a certain point, you have to start using your common sense about what to promote.

As a performer, there are many times when the take you thought was the best was not the take that ended up on the project. Shrug it off and if you really don’t like the take that made the cut – then you don’t have to put it on your demo, or showcase it on your website.

Promote the heck out of projects that have it all – great script, great visuals and music, and that great VO – if you can get copies. Periodically I do a search on YouTube for finished versions of projects that I have recorded. Marketing pieces will almost always end up on YouTube. eLearning or small audience proprietary informational pieces will not. Other projects come with NDAs, so even if you did get a copy, you couldn’t talk about it.

So, to finish this blog post with something interesting, relevant or amusing…hmmmm…I know, how about a small collection of videos that may live forever on YouTube. (I hope. I suppose I need to download them for safekeeping.)

Let’s start with a joke. “A Swede, a Canadian and a South African walk into a bar…”

OK, that wasn’t really a joke. Maybe something interesting then…about soybeans…

Now, relevant…well, I guess the soybean video could cover both interesting and relevant…how about this cartoon then. It is from a few years back, but still feels relevant to me…

Now, I just found out that a documentary I did a narration for won a Silver Reel at the Nevada Film Festival in 2011. That one is not on YouTube, so no clip to see!

April 11, 2014

Success is all in your head – and maybe in the ear of the listener

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.

Blue Grass Airport: An American Aviation Story from Michael Breeding MEDIA on Vimeo.


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.


June 18, 2013

Software – One of the Great Money Monsters

Filed under: Business, Marketing — Tags: , , , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 11:35 am

How much money have you spent on software that ends up gathering dust (anyone have a good computer reference?) because it just didn’t really work the way you wanted it to work? I can’t pinpoint the $ exactly (they told me there wouldn’t be any math in voiceovers), but I know that I have purchased lots of software that I stopped using in frustration.

As an aside, because I have always been an early adopter of technology, I have been asking software to do more than it was designed to do since about 1987. I spent hours on the phone with the developer of a piece of writing software working with him to make it possible to write a dual column script and keep the video and audio tracking together. When Word came along and with it the table function, all was right with the world, but it simply wasn’t possible back in the late 80’s.

But back to this abandoned software. Most of it has to do with bookkeeping, marketing and CRM. For example, for invoicing, I have gone back and forth between Quicken and QuickBooks a couple of times. It just so happens that there IS math in voiceovers, so it is important to have some sort of easy and streamlined method of keeping track of invoices and receipts. Makes things easier when tax time rolls around.

My brain shut down after a year or so using QuickBooks (which isn’t cheap) and I went back to Quicken Home & Business. Again, not cheap, but hey – shrugging my shoulders – these are business expenses. But two issues were bugging me about Quicken. The first was that some of my clients couldn’t see any data on the pdf invoices generated in Quicken. After 3 chat sessions with 4 people in India regarding this issue (with each one of them telling me that this wasn’t Quicken’s fault), plus an email response to an irritated Tweet I posted, it turns out that the PDF’s are being generated by an off-brand PDF maker with a license date 4 years earlier than the version of Quicken that I was using. So people with new Adobe reader upgrades were unable to see the content. The Quicken solution! Generate the Invoice in Quicken. Save it to my desktop. Open it again on my computer using the latest version of Adobe Reader and resave the file. It should now be readable. Uh-huh. Several more steps. Un-uh. Not acceptable.

The second issue was that if I deposited more than one check at a time, I couldn’t figure out how to allocate the funds to separate jobs. After a phone call to to Quicken support I discovered that Quicken can’t do this. Sigh. QuickBooks could do that, but – like I said – QuickBooks and I had a misunderstanding in the accounting department.

They did refund the support fee I paid, I’ll give them that much. So now I am trying Freshbooks and facing the fact that it really isn’t imperative that my bank account and my invoicing are connected.

Then there is the CRM. Outlook Business Contact Manager. (Buzzer sound) ACT! (Buzzer sound). Trying ZOHO right now.

Both of these are cloud based and have free versions to try out before deciding to purchase the upgraded software. Starting to love the cloud. Once I get these two things figured out, my next project will be Email Marketing.

So, now instead of the Great Money Monster, I am dealing with the Great Time-Suck Monster!

August 21, 2012

The Value of a Voiceover

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Musings, Negotiating — Tags: , — connieterwilliger @ 11:17 am

Just what does it take to be successful as a voice talent in 2012? Treat it like a business. (This of course, assumes that you have some talent to start with.)

The Internet has changed what we do in many significant ways. It has 1) increased the number of people offering their services as voice talent (whether they should be or not), 2) cut out the middle man in casting (the people who know the value of voiceover), and because of a lack of truly understanding that this is a business like any other business it has 3) driven rates down down down.

Many people just getting started fail to see the big picture. Sure, the come on for so many of the endless voiceover classes screams “make $300 an hour,” but … can you live on one hour every few months?

One recent discussion centered on whether $25 per hour was a “good rate.”

Hey, if you are doing something 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, 50 weeks a year with a 2-week vacation and paid holidays, then $25 an hour will pay the mortgage and put food on the table – depending on where you live, it could buy you a bass boat too. But the reality of the voiceover business is that you will not be recording 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, etc., etc.

If you are a working voiceover professional, you are more likely actually voicing (and possibly editing) for an hour or two a day, but that $25 you will make for that hour must also cover the initial rate negotiation, the subsequent invoicing, the  maintenance of your equipment, that new software, the marketing plan and execution, etc., etc., etc. (There are a lot of etcetera’s in this business!)

There will be weeks where you will voice many more hours and simply not have time to do the bookkeeping and then there will be the weeks where you will not voice a single project and spend hours troubleshooting a corrupted driver issue, sorting through your email folders and catching up on marketing (or the laundry). This is not a job for people who must have a steady pay check. It is your own business.

And as it becomes easier and cheaper to acquire opportunities and tools, there is an ever increasing group of people who have simply skipped over the business part and fail to see that what they do actually has value.

August 12, 2012

No complaints…

Filed under: Musings — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 2:38 pm

I am not complaining.

Sure it’s hot. But we haven’ t had the heat that the rest of the country has had this summer. And sure it gets even hotter when I have to turn off the little AC in my studio to actually do some work.

Sure there has been a small plane buzzing over my general neighborhood for the past month or so that interferes with my recording when it is in the Western most part of its loop or grid (it varies from day to day). Since it is a “special” little plane, no one can tell me how long it will be doing whatever it is doing.

Sure my recording tower is acting wonky – and Audition and W2W refuse to work with the Gina card or the onboard sound card – but WILL work with my MicPortPro, so until I can find the right tech to troubleshoot, I am still able to record.

Sure ACT! doesn’t export data as expected and I’ll need to find another database program to keep track of the people who provide discounts to MCA-I members so that it can be easily shared with the Benefits Committee.

Sure we don’t currently HAVE a Benefits Committee, but one can hope!

Sure there is one long time client who is very late paying on his latest project, but I just deposited a big check from another long time client that pays the mortgage for the next couple of months.

Sure I am late for dinner because I am writing this blog. Oh, wait, I’m late for dinner at a friend’s place with a POOL!

See ya!

January 15, 2012

Nurturing the Garden

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Musings — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 3:11 pm

In my part of the world, the climate allows me to have a garden all year long. Right now I have lettuce, an eggplant, some tomatoes and a perpetual red Swiss Chard that has been growing for about 2 years now.

But a winter garden requires more attention than a summer garden. In fact, it is a mess right now! The lettuce is starting to get a little nibbled and brown at the edges and has never really grown to expectations. For some reason the little purple flowers on the eggplant have not produced anything. It is sturdy, but barren. The tomato vine is brown and the actual fruit gets to a certain redness and then stops. The Swiss Chard seems to bounce back with just a little water…but the size of the leaves get smaller and smaller. Don’t even look at my banana trees, it is simply not banana tree time.

I spent some time this morning watering, pruning and pulling weeds. Not a lot of time, but enough to know that most of the plantings need to be cut back or just uprooted and turned into mulch.

There are times during the year when the growing cycle is right and you can’t hardly do anything to stop the bounty – a little water and everything is fine. But when the climate just isn’t quite right, or the plant isn’t quite right, it takes a lot of effort and the end results are never quite as good.

Just because we CAN grow veggies all year here in California, doesn’t mean that we HAVE to!

In many ways, the lessons of the garden can be applied to my business – to any business.

Just because someone wants me to do a job for them, doesn’t mean I have to.

In fact, I was able to use this lesson last night. The phone rang well after business hours. (Probably a reminder right there – set some hours and check my voice mail on a regular basis.)

After a couple of minutes of listening – to accented English with drop outs from mobile technology combined with the sound of a small child in the background – I still wasn’t sure what the caller wanted. I couldn’t tell if the person was asking me for advice about how to get into voiceovers, or was a potential client.

Turns out it was someone “starting” a marketing company who found my name through a circuitous path that began with another potential client from several years ago with whom I had tried to establish a business relationship, but had had similar incomprehensible conversations (what ends up on the Internet STAYS on the Internet).

After being directed to a video posted on YouTube, that was using a text to speech program for the voiceover, I finally understood what was being asked and was able to direct the client in another direction for their needs.

To tie it back to the garden, the amount of work required to bear fruit in this particular case would have been far more than the fruit was worth.

So, a couple of reminders…

– plant when the time is right

– select good plants to start with

When you nurture this kind of garden, prepare to reap the bounty.

December 20, 2011

Priorities – Fun!

Filed under: Business, Musings — Tags: — connieterwilliger @ 8:41 pm

My niece (German-American) moved in with me in October. She wanted to see what life is like in the States. And life as I know it has changed forever. Well, OK that is probably a bit more dramatic than it really is, but things sure have changed around here.

The past couple of years I have been watching the balance of personal time and work time change as my mother’s needs have changed. And despite a dramatic uptick in personal time things are going pretty well with things on the work side.

Now, with a wonderfully wacky and semi-wild adult child living with me, my fun time has increased as well. It could be that the fall is filled with opportunities to party. Opportunities that I simply have not taken advantage of for a while.

Has all of this fun time impacted my business?

Yes. New clients every week. Repeat clients coming back with new work. And referrals from friends and clients.

Why didn’t I try this earlier?

Lesson learned. Life is too short to spend it working 24/7.

Of course my paperwork is stacking up and my email is – well, there is nothing I can say about that.

October 24, 2011

In the Online World, Context is King…

It is hard to get any work done these days because you follow links which lead to more links and suddenly you have forgotten what you went online to do in the first place, but it is almost always an interesting distraction. Sometimes pure silliness, sometimes thought provoking, sometimes good for business. I’m always looking for interesting tidbits that will help the bottom line.

One of the mantras of video has been “Content is King.” With the emergence and tsunami of online video, it may be that the context will be driving the dollars.

Today, I was reading a post from MediaPost and it led me to an article called “Context is King: How Videos are Found and Consumed Online” packed with information from a November 2006 study by Bear Stearns Cable and Satellite analyst Spencer Wang called “Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are King in Entertainment”.

The author of this article,  Ashkan Karbasfrooshan includes some great facts, charts and graphs to help illustrate the switch to context over content as a primary search function.

When I was born more than 30% of American households watched NBC during prime time. Check the article for all the attributions. You really could “reach everyone” if you bought ads on the major networks, but today, NBC’s prime time reach is 5% – behind CBS and ABC. None of the other networks are doing any better.

The same thing is happening online! More and more fragmentation. And more and more we are online on our phones or tablets or laptops.

So how to you reach everyone? Can you reach everyone? Can we effectively quantify the people we are reaching so that we can try to stabilize the money part of this equation?

I don’t know the answers, that’s why I spend time following links to other links. My goal is to keep providing my voice for media where ever it ends up and hoping to continue to pay my mortgage without having to take a second job at a fast food joint. So far, so good!


February 6, 2011

The MacGyver Approach to VO?

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Musings — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 4:40 pm

A post on a Facebook thread* this morning got me thinking about what you need to start a business. Can you make it in the voiceover business with “duct tape” and creative thinking? Well, not eveyone can be MacGyver. There is a bit more to it than that.

David Cross, a man with natural talent in voiceover and a deep background in marketing and business stated:

…for anyone “starting a business – don’t think you need any investment. It’s easy to get your first sales in through duct tape and creative thinking and use that money to put back into building the business. “Never a borrower nor a lender be.”

To which I too quickly replied in a lame attempt at humor…

I know duct tape is wonderful, but I tried to make a mic with it and failed utterly.

David followed up…

Duct tape is a “metaphor for getting things achieved even though apparent obstacles exist.

Certainly some with the right natural tools and marketing skills can be in the right place at the right time and start their business on little more than a roll of duct tape. But “easy?” Therein lies the rub. What is easy for some is Mt. Everest for others.

The business of voiceover has changed so much over the years, but the bottom line still remains – you must know that you have something to offer, and find the people who want to buy what you have to sell.

For some, understanding what you bring to the table may involve classes, coaching, studying. For others, this knowledge may have been present from birth.

For some, figuring out who wants to buy what they have to sell may forever be a mystery – or the steepest hill they have ever climbed. Others may understand marketing 101 and are able to match up their skills with the people with the $$.

Do you need to invest $$ in order to make this happen? Or will the duct tape metaphor carry you to success? Everyone’s path to making the business of voiceover pay off as a career is different. There are no bread crumbs. And certainly, given just how hard it is to make a living doing voiceover work, if you are just getting started, you shouldn’t mortgage your house while waiting for the sacks of money to arrive. In that I do not disagree with David.

But, let’s get back to getting “your first sales in.” And then the next and the one after that until you know that they will keep coming. It really takes something special to reach that point where you know you can pay the bills on what you earn doing voiceover work – some unique combination of talent and marketing skills that cannot be bottled. For most people, it will not be “easy” to bring in those first gigs using duct tape and creative thinking.

* The thread was started by Nancy Wolfson – she had posted a quote from The Social Network about inventing a job, not finding a job.

July 16, 2010

Head’s You Win – Tail’s You Win

Filed under: Business — Tags: , — connieterwilliger @ 12:14 pm

I have missed a bunch of Paul Strikwerda’s blogs recently, but this one caught my eye in an email update on one of my LinkedIn groups.

He postulates that you have to be many things to be a freelancer. Some things are diametric opposites and yet it is often best to do them both. He uses the Ying and the Yang concept.

His first question – should you Specialize or Generalize – big debate about this actually – but his advice – “find your own voice and be flexible” – works for me. Too narrow a focus and you limit yourself and end up doing the same thing over and over. Too broad and you risk being just another nameless faceless cog.

He ended the article with a nice long list of other “contradictions.” My favorites…

  • Be personable and keep things strictly business.
  • Be proud of your accomplishments and stay humble.
  • Be confident, but doubt yourself enough to evaluate your performance.
  • Sell yourself, but don’t make it look like you’re selling yourself.
  • Be able to multi task and stay completely focused.
  • Be in the moment and plan for the future.
  • Admire without feeling threatened.

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