I’ve been in the voiceover business for much more than 12 years, but I got an email the other day from an occasional client and noticed that the earliest email I have from him is dated 2000. And then after looking at my current client list, I see a couple of others on-going since then, some with monthly (even weekly) work. My records for much earlier than that have either been lost for good on some dead hard drive, or packed away in boxes.
But I would put my first paid voiceover work doing some TV Staff Announcing in 1975, when I was working part-time at WTIU-TV during graduate school at Indiana University. Prior to that in 1972, I wrote, voiced and produced public service announcements on KCOE-FM while at Coe College in Cedar Rapids Iowa. So if I do the math, the number of years doing something related to voiceovers is far more than my brain even allows me to count.
After landing in San Diego in the early summer of 1977, I was immediately hired at KFMB-TV, Channel 8 as a Relief Director/Floor Director. I quickly discovered that this was not what I wanted to do and by early 1978, I moved into a 2 day a week live TV staff announcing job at Channel 8.
Because I didn’t sound like your typical announcer, the radio and TV station’s production departments kept me busy doing commercials. I got my first agent that year – Nanci Washburn at Artist Management in San Diego/Orange County. She is still my agent here in southern California.
But voiceover work was not my passion. While I was getting quite well known in town as a top female voice talent, I still wanted to write and produce, so I spent the other 3 days a week free lancing as a producer/writer/on and off-camera spokesperson. I still did a lot of voiceover work and did weekend DJ work at KJQY, KYXY and Sunny 103.7.
I kept this up through some very hard times – with some solid lessons learned – until 1986 when I was hired full-time at the Hidden Film Factory in the basement of the now bulldozed Bldg 4 at General Dynamics in San Diego. It was a shock to me to see how quickly my voiceover work fell off when I wasn’t able to market myself. Travel prevented me from keeping the weekend radio shift. And while I really wasn’t aware of it at first, technology was changing the face of the voiceover business.
For nearly 9 years I had probably the best job ever – it was at the peak of GD’s business with business units across the country making everything from tanks to jets to submarines to missiles. We made videos and shot film for all of the divisions and products. And I had a chance to work with everything and everyone – people on the factory floor to engineers to Managers to the President of the company. It was a job that prepared me well for where I am today – making my living doing voiceover work.
But while the job was great, I missed free lancing. Not everyone adapts to a life style of not knowing when your next paycheck will show up, but for me I knew I wanted to go back to being my own boss.
So, when GD (I was actually wearing a Lockheed Martin badge by then) closed the doors in 1995, I was more than ready. And boy howdy had things changed. For a while, I kept up the producing and writing, but suddenly I had more passion for the performance side of things.
I will be ever grateful for the influences I had in my life back in the 90’s when it came to understanding the power of the Internet. I got some domains. Put up a couple of (hand coded) websites. Built a studio in my home. Got a great deal on an ISDN codec. All paving the way to where I am today.
So the work has been ongoing far far longer than a dozen years. And I don’t see it ending anytime soon.
Is there a lesson here? Lots of lessons. Keep your eyes open. Ask the right questions. Be honest with yourself and your abilities. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Use your critical thinking. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Know when to ask for help.
One lesson I probably still need to learn is when and how to say “no.” So, I guess that just means I’ll have to stick around this business for another dozen or so years!