Make Working from Home, Work for You – by Marilena Gant

Make Working from Home, Work for You – by Marilena Gant

May 14, 2021

When I was studying for my University exams I found every excuse under the sun to procrastinate. I would clean, cook, re-watch Friends for the 85th time and facetime every distant relative I could think of, to avoid opening my books. This desire to procrastinate has never left and I’m sure I’m not the only one. However, now that I run my own freelance voiceover business, procrastination isn’t really an option. With many of us now working from home in the voiceover community and beyond, productivity and procrastination are the buzz words of 2021. 

Over the years I’ve come up with a couple of tricks and tips to fight the urge to clean my windowsills to avoid doing my expenses. Here are 6 ways to boost your productivity and make working from home, work for you.

Ready, set, go…
 I came across this tip on social media and it has changed the way I work. If there’s a task you’ve been dreading, grab a cup of tea and set a timer. See how many emails you can send or how many invoices you can get done before the timer runs out. By treating it as a challenge or game, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish and how much easier it is to stay on task.

Disconnect to reconnect…
No one can concentrate for an entire working day without taking a break. When working from home, it’s easy to work through lunch or skip breaks altogether. Now more than ever, it’s so important to give your brain some much needed rest during the day. Try to move away from your workspace or studio for at least fifteen minutes and get some fresh air, eat some lunch or grab a coffee. Disconnect from your work for a little while and you’ll feel refreshed and focused afterwards. 

Your schedule is your new best friend…
As voiceover artists, we don’t always know what our workday will look like ahead of time. For a long time, I avoided creating a schedule for this reason, however I found myself feeling a bit aimless during the quiet moments of the day. When I finally decided to create a flexible schedule, ready to be adapted at the drop of a hat, I noticed I was ten times more productive! Thanks to the internet, there are hundreds of tools and apps that can help you create a flexible schedule that works for you. 

Lists aren’t just for shopping…                                                                               

Who would have thought that in 2021 there would be entire websites, blogs and products dedicated to the art of list making! If you think a more traditional schedule is not for you, why not try making a list every evening of the tasks you need to complete the next day instead. Decide how urgent each task is and how much time each will take to complete. You’ll be able to mentally prepare for the day ahead and keep track of what needs to be done. 


A biscuit or two…
A little self-bribery goes a long way. I love chocolate biscuits. A lot. So once I’ve completed a task I’ve really been avoiding, I like to reward myself with a little bit of the sweet stuff. It keeps me motivated and on task, knowing that a biscuit or two is waiting for me at the other side. Whatever your vice, allow yourself a little reward after completing something you’ve been avoiding like the plague. 

Chunk it up…
Trying to tackle a big project in one go can feel hopeless. Instead break your work down into bite sized chunks. You’ll feel like you are making progress when you are able to tick off each chunk you’ve completed. 

Above all, be kind to yourself. Some days might be more productive than others and that’s totally okay. Social media seems to be awash with productive people who are unaffected by procrastination or self-doubt. In reality, no one can be productive 100% of the time. Remember also that every individual is different, what might work for one person, might not work for another. Hopefully some of these tips will give you some ideas on how to make working from home, work for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Marilena Gant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IN CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN – By Joel Lewin of Marginalia

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IN CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN – By Joel Lewin of Marginalia

May 6, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is driving levels of disruption, change and uncertainty that are utterly unfamiliar. Few people have experienced such upheaval before. Isolation and uncertainty can erode mental health. It’s crucial to take care of your mind right now. This is particularly challenging when many of the things that have underpinned your mental wellbeing are no longer an option.

Regulating anxiety

Anxiety is a normal evolutionary response to threat. It is designed to protect us. However, our anxiety mechanisms evolved at a time when the threats we faced were typically immediate, physical danger, such as bears or snakes. Our body responds to perceived threats with the fight-or-flight response- by pumping adrenaline to prepare us for action. Although the threats we face today- infectious disease and economic uncertainty etc.- do not call for an immediate physical response, our body still responds as if they do. 

As such you may be suffering from persistent high levels of stress hormones and tension, which can have debilitating effects on mental and physical health. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of simple and effective ways to diminish anxiety and maintain a healthy mind during these difficult times.

Stop inadvertently fuelling your own anxiety

People often engage in safety behaviours that offer short-term relief from anxiety but intensify it over time. You might be compulsively checking the news and social media to keep track of things. But when you’re feeling anxious your mind naturally hones in on perceived threats, and by gorging on alarming news you are fuelling further anxiety and reinforcing this vicious cycle. Limit your news consumption to 30 minutes or less. For important information stick to reliable, rational resources, such as John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center.

Tweak your social media exposure. Unfollow accounts and friends who post alarmist content, and focus more on interesting and uplifting sources.

Humans crave certainty and right now that’s just not possible. (Is it ever?). By accepting uncertainty you don’t have to generate unnecessary suffering.

Put the breaks on

In fight-or-flight, our sympathetic nervous system is activated. The parasympathetic nervous system restores our body to a calm and balanced state. It is like a parachute that brings us down for a soft landing.

Breathing techniques are a quick and easy way to activate that parachute.

Our breathing is quicker and shallower when we’re tense. By taking deep breaths into your belly, and lengthening the outbreath, you can quickly restore balance to your nervous system and soothe anxiety. Try this a few times throughout the day.

Healthier thinking

Thoughts are not facts.

It’s not outside events that drive our feelings and behaviours, but rather our interpretations of those events. We can’t always change what’s happening, but we can change the way we think about it.

At times like this, we might fall into a number of thinking traps. We catastrophise, predicting the worst case scenario and ignoring other, more likely possibilities. We think in black-and-white terms, seeing things as completely terrible rather than in shades of gray. We get tunnel vision, honing in on specific details and neglecting to see the bigger picture. These all fuel fear and misery.

But it’s possible to become aware of your thinking, evaluate it and reframe it.

You can ask yourself:

  • What’s a different way of looking at this situation?
  • Is this all bad or could I see some good in this?
  • What’s the worst case scenario? What’s the best case scenario? What’s the most likely scenario?
  • What would I tell a friend in this situation?

You can reframe your thoughts like this:

“This is a horrible situation and I can’t take it.” → “This is a difficult time but there are plenty of things I can do to make it more manageable, such as supporting friends and family and practicing self-care.”

Ground yourself with the senses

Anxiety is all about the future, and the future only exists in your mind. As such mindfully grounding yourself in the present is a powerful antidote.

Use the senses to do this.

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is quick and effective.

Take a moment to notice:

5 things you can see

4 things you can touch

3 things you can hear

2 things you can smell

1 thing you can taste (if you can’t taste anything use your imagination to create something)

Take a moment to appreciate each of these senses as deeply as you can. This can take you out of compulsive thinking and give you a moment of stillness.

Remind yourself that right here right now, you are OK.

You could take this as an opportunity to give meditation a try. Even just ten minutes a day can make a difference to levels of stress and wellbeing. Headspace and Insight Timer are good places to get started.

Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters which help diminish anxiety, insulate you from stress and generate a sense of wellbeing.

With many countries in lockdown, you might need to get creative.

Bodyweight exercise offers an endless array of interesting progressions to challenge yourself.

(Read the full article here: https://futureofearth.online/how-to-take-care-of-your-mental-health-in-coronavirus-lockdown/ 

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Creating Leads (Pt.2) – By Rich O’Donoghue

Creating Leads (Pt.2) – By Rich O’Donoghue

May 4, 2020

What you don’t want to do at this point is bombard them
with information and I would suggest no showreel at this
point as well. It’s just a general welcome, letting them know
where you had their email address from “Hi John, my name’s
Rich, Jane suggested I contact you regarding voice work” etc.
A great way to get a response is to ask a question, and what
better question to end your short and snappy email with
than “I wandered if I may send you my showreel for your
reference?” this is the engaging part, if you were to just send
the email with no question then you would potentially get no response.

It gives the potential client the option to engage in
business with you and strike up a working relationship. If you
get that response then great, this is where you show them
your shop window and let them know the door is open
(alright Rich calm down on the metaphors!!) so what’s next?
The response email arrives “Hi there, thanks for getting in
touch, great to hear from you and yes, sure, please do send
me your showreel”. Again, you don’t want to respond leaving your life story so, short, snappy, and get straight to the point.

Include details like, you are based at
your own studio with ISDN, source connect etc and you can
turn around MP3s same day or include your availability.
Include some sort of offer like, you can provide a few
auditions for their clients to choose from and try to
accommodate some of their needs from the off, after all you
may end up working with these people for years to come.


Negotiating rates at this point is subjective, you don’t want to
pigeon hole yourself and so perhaps say your rates apply on a
job by job basis but you work to equity rates for radio work
etc. As long as this email contains just the right amount of
information to get across what you can offer, along with your
showreel, then you’re ready to go.


If you don’t get a response from the second email I would
just take it as they have all your details on file now and they
will contact, you when something suitable arises. In regard to
making contact with them a second time, perhaps leave it a
month or two and make contact to let them know you’re
around or if you have a new showreel etc. I wouldn’t add
them to a weekly availability email at this point, maybe once you have worked together and they have said it’s ok. The
above is not from the bible and some people may have
alternative ways but it’s something I have crafted since my
first email as a freelancer when I sent the same email out to
300 contacts with absolutely no effort or thought into what I
was doing.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,
sometimes the work just isn’t there! so don’t get
downhearted if it doesn’t work. The above method has
proved to work for me on a lot of occasions and I have
managed to form working relationships through just a few
emails. 

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Creating Leads (Pt.1) – By Rich O’Donoghue

Creating Leads (Pt.1) – By Rich O’Donoghue

May 3, 2020

As a producer I have been contacted in a variety of ways for work, some more colourful than others. I’ve had the referred email from another voice over which was just a couple of lines to say “hello, I’m a friend of ‘voice over’ and I’m around for voicing, if you would like a showreel let me know” to a phone call that went something like “Hello! is that Rich?” “Yes who’s this please?” “I’m a voice over, just wandered if you had got any work for me” “Erm! . . .perhaps giving me your name first might be a good start mate” (I’m not joking either). Since starting my own business I too have had to learn how to approach people via email, phone or in person and it seems we as a species are a fickle bunch sometimes, the smallest of discrepancy and the ‘fish swims away from the bait’. So, what techniques could you try to start the ball rolling gaining potential clients. Lets start from scratch. First you need to decide who you want to contact, what area you want to target first, be that a radio station, production house or video production company etc.

Once you have that target look at their website for information i.e telephone, staff members etc. Let’s say you have no email address or contact name. The first port of call (excuse the pun) is to pick up the phone. You will most likely be greeted with a friendly receptionist so introduce yourself and ask kindly “who would be the best person to contact regarding voice over bookings”. If you are provided with a name then write that down but you may have to ask for an email address or, if you are lucky enough, you might be put through to that person. If you aren’t so lucky then take down the email address but be sure to ask the receptionist for their name and bid them a good day. From this phone call you have 3 bits of vital information, contact name, address and a referral, you are well on your way to creating an inviting email.

So you have your information, which I would suggest storing in an Excel spreadsheet or similar. What you need to do now is to create an email that your potential client is going to acknowledge and actually open. So we use our information like this. Your email header, which is the first thing they will see, should read something like “Hi John, Jane from reception suggested I contact you” this also applies to contacts you receive via other contacts in the industry and have permission to, make contact with their contacts! it shows you know somebody that they know and are trust worthy enough to hand out their email to. They will see this and think “Jane knows this person, I think I’ll take a look at this email” rather than if the email header said “I’m a voice over, give me some work”. So your potential client has decided to open your email, what next.

Check back soon for the final part of this article.

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The Lotus Awards 2019

The Lotus Awards 2019

August 10, 2019

Woohoo!! On Thursday 27th June 2019 we won our 2nd Lotus Award!! 

The Lotus Awards recognise businesses from all across the world for their innovation, culture and creativity, and we are thrilled to win again this year alongside many other great companies.

Over 350 companies globally were considered for the award and so, to get through to the final few and win is a great achievement.

We would like to thank all of The Voice Finder voices and all the production companies for your support.

To see the full list of winners check out:

The Lotus Award 2019 – Winners

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Interview – Niki & Aishah at Red Apple Creative

Interview – Niki & Aishah at Red Apple Creative

February 18, 2019

When the weather is cold like it has been recently The Voice Finder team wants nothing more than to sit down with a lovely hot cup of hot chocolate and chat with some top notch creatives.

This month we talked with two awesome ladies – Niki & Aishah at Red Apple Creative.


What roles do you play at Red Apple?

Niki – I’m the Audio Production Manager

Aishah – I’m the Integrated Producer – we’re project managers.

What is day to day life like at Red Apple?

Niki – We look after casting, music selection, studio bookings and managing creatives schedules. It’s great fun and we get to work on varying projects from commercials to podcasts and sometimes the odd audio drama.

What types of production are you project managing?

Aishah – At the moment mostly commercials on radio and Spotify

What do you enjoy most when working with a voice over artist?

Niki – A voice over who is friendly, understanding and accommodating when it comes to client requests or potential changes that arise out of our control.

Aishah – Someone that takes direction well and listens and is able to adapt.

What bugs you about working with a voice over artist?

Aishah – A voice over that is rude or late without explanation / apology and unwilling to cooperate i.e. refusing to do another take in a recording session.

Whats your most embarrassing moment as a project manager?

Niki – We once played an ad to a voiceover, thinking it was them from the previous year, only to be told it was not them voicing the ad.

Can you share any big plans/news Red Apple has?

Niki – The revolution is coming – follow up on Twitter for regular updates.

Do you use The Voice Finder?

Aishah – Yes we’ve used it a couple of times now.

Do you think The Voice Finder is good or bad for the industry?

Niki – It’s good because we have direct contact with the voice over, as opposed to an agency, which hopefully will get them more work.

Whats your tip for a voice over artist?

Aishah – To be as flexible and accommodating as you can be – if you do us a favour, we’ll do you a favour and be in our good books / one of our go-to people for upcoming projects / campaigns.

 

 

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Visualisation (Pt.2) – By Rich O’Donoghue

Visualisation (Pt.2) – By Rich O’Donoghue

August 29, 2018

The knowledge I gained from this study help me with my work as a commercial producer as I use visualisation techniques to bring scripts to life. As a voice director, I describe these visuals to help bring the voice over into the character and setting of the script. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of my work as it really opens the creative experience of radio as a medium and is a lot of fun expressing my interpretation of a script, especially when the voice over provides their own input. I have found this technique to be useful not only in a professional setting but also teaching new voice artists whom have never experienced direction before.

The study for my dissertation has played a great part in my work as a guest lecturer at Huddersfield University. The lecture I deliver covers commercial radio production but has a separate workshop in which I play this soundscape and have the students discuss their experiences in an open forum. The workshop has ignited some interesting discussions and the difference between each listeners experience varies, massively, in some cases. The lecture was also adapted as part of a training module for both sales and creative staff at UTV Media, which helped to evolve my study to be relevant within a commercial setting. How we can create more effective radio campaigns using visualisation techniques to bring commercials to life.

I have often wandered where ‘sound creating visualisations’ has stemmed from in evolution, and I have a theory (hold onto your hats!!):

A caveman sits outside of his cave overlooking the forest and every now and again he hears a loud sound but has no clue what it is. One day he ventures into the forest, into an opening where he sees a beast, which lets out the same loud sound. The caveman now has a visual representation of the sound he hears and disappears back to his cave. The next day he hears the same sound and his mind presents him with the image of the beast, so he returns to the forest. The man is presented with an image of the beast attacking an animal of prey, but how does he know the beast is a threat to him!? His mind uses a memory of what ‘caveman’ looks like and replaces the pray with the image of him (Imagination = memory manipulation) ultimately providing him with an image of what it would be liked to be attacked by the beast (survival instinct) The caveman disappears quickly never to return, at least never when that sound is heard, and lives to carry forth man’s evolution.

How does the caveman know what he looks like if there are no mirrors in the forest I hear you ask? They say never trust a thought that arises at 3 in the morning, so take what you will from my theory! As the great Andrew Sachs said when playing Manuel in Faulty Towers, “I know nothing”.

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Visualisation (Pt.1) – By Rich O’Donoghue

Visualisation (Pt.1) – By Rich O’Donoghue

August 21, 2018

My work as an audio engineer has stemmed from my 20-year career as a DJ/Sound Engineer in bars and clubs around the UK and abroad. Since 1998 I have completed 2 college courses in audio production and a 4-year university degree in Popular Music Production, which included radio production, live sound recording and sound design. During this period, I worked as a sound engineer for live acts and as an on-location sound engineer for a TV station in Spain. After my graduation, I worked for UTV Media as a commercial producer for 7 years and won awards both locally and nationally for my production work. In February 2016, I went freelance with my production work and have not looked back.

 

 

For my dissertation at University I covered the subject of ‘How sound creates visualisations within a listener’s mind’. The subject fascinated me as at the time I was studying Buddhism and practising visualisation techniques for meditation. I wanted to incorporate this practice with audio and so came up with the idea of the dissertation. I re-created part of a radio drama play called ‘The Revenge’ by the late great Andrew Sachs, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for my studies. The play is produced using sound effects only with no dialogue and is recorded using Bin-aural techniques.

My study found that, after playing the same soundscape to several listener’s, the experience was subjective and provoked different visualisations and emotions for each listener. When I delved deeper into the listener experience I found that certain sounds provoked a mixture of memory and imagination, which helped to build their visual and emotional experience. Since then I ask myself the question “Is imagination a manipulation of existing memories that we have forgotten mixed with more prominent memories?”…

 

(Part 2 coming soon, stay tuned)

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Interview – David Woollatt, Head of Production

Interview – David Woollatt, Head of Production

July 27, 2018
 
In a month full of tennis, footy and of course amazing sunshine, we sat down with producer extraordinaire David Woollatt.
 

 

Tell us about David?

 
I started working as a radio presenter in the late 90s and by the age of 21 in 2001 I was presenting at stations across the South of the UK and doing a syndicated entertainment news for a national radio group.
Production was the natural step for me as I absolutely loved the radio imaging and creative production world.
Inspired by legendary producers at stations from Atlantic 252, Z100 and Radio 1. Presenting gave me a great understanding of what sounds good on air and helped me to develop my ‘sound’.
 
 
 
 

Tell us about your work with Immedia?

 
While working as Head of Production for Immedia I have been lucky enough to head up creatives for brands such as O2, HSBC, IKEA and JD Sports. Some of the work I looked after were world firsts, for example producing a takeover show for Rockstar Games for the GAME brand across the UK, this was a Grand Theft Auto takeover show that included the sound of the stations from the game. It was so convincing that the staff called up head office as they thought the normal in-store radio station had been taken over!!
I have also produced national campaigns for terrestrial radio for JD Sports and O2 and been behind the UK’s first corporate radio station for Openreach on-the-road staff. 
 
 

What is your process for finding a voiceover?

 
For me it is all about the sound and texture of a voice, I instinctively know the kind of style I’m looking for when choosing a voice.
I’ll check in with The Voice Finder and do a keyword search, something like ‘urban,’ ‘relaxed’ or ‘experienced’.
This brings up a great choice which I’ll have a listen to an then start to make a list of options for the client.
Sometimes I’ll hear the exact style of voice as I read the script, after years of production experience, you just know how you want the final production to sound.
 
 

What puts you off using a voiceover?

 
99% of voices are absolutely amazing and I love them! You do, however, get the occasional time when you think the experience could have been better.
As a producer, a pet hate of mine is when a voice sends you an mp3 and there is only one take on there any usually heavily edited with all the breath taken out! I would far rather have a rough cut with a few versions to choose from so I can get the edit I hear in my head.
That’s it really everything else is cool, If we do an ISDN/Source Connect it also helps if we can have a laugh in the session!
 
 

With the new GDPR law, how do you feel about VO’s you do not know emailing you for work?

 
This one really splits opinion in the producer world but I’m a guy that really doesn’t mind, I like it, and actually having had weeks where I’m so busy I can hardly remember my name so it’s really good to get emails from voices whether it’s someone you don’t know or you do.
It is really good to get yourself in front of a producer as they might say ‘oh crikey, like the sound of them/ forgot about them, I’ve got a script here that’s perfect – I’ll email them now’.
 
 

What do you think about The Voice Finder?

 
The Voice Finder is an absolutely fantastic site which is a go-to library of excellent voices that I know will give me the sound I’m looking for. I love the way it’s set out and the ease of listening to the VOs demos. The team have not only understood what the production world needs but delivered the perfect experience for us!
 

Do you feel The Voice Finder is becoming a trusted place to source voices?

 
Absolutely! I’m seeing more and more production houses using The Voice Finder, they like me have a need for fast and effective voice booking and know they can rely on the talent. I always refer both voices and producers to the site as it is what the industry was crying out for.
 
 

Give us an interesting fact about David?

 
I did get fed up with radio a few times along the way and kept going back to Uni eventually passing my PhD in 2015! I’m also a massive radio anorak, I have a collection of radio jingles and imaging from the 1980s – now, all great for inspiration, Ha 🙂
 
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Creating Your Showreel (Pt.2) – By Rich O’Donoghue

Creating Your Showreel (Pt.2) – By Rich O’Donoghue

June 29, 2018

Your showreel may vary in length, anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds. There’s no point making a showreel to 90 seconds just for the sake of it! If you have material that showcases everything you can do within 3 or 4 edits, then just use these. On the flip side I also don’t like leaving material out just for the sake of it. If I hear an edit that stands out from your usual work and I think it might gain you work in another area, then it stays in. How long the edits are is also important. You don’t want to bore the listener but also you don’t want to rush through edits so that we don’t hear them properly.

You also don’t have to cram everything into one showreel! Have as many showreels as you need to show what you can do. You could have a character or commercial and then a showreel that highlights the fact you do college work or that you are a native brummie! I always suggest keeping your work separate. The reason being is that if I go onto a voice website and type into the search bar ‘corporate’ and your ‘corporate’ work is hidden in your e-learning reel, then I’m going to miss it and you are going to potentially miss out on work.

“Shall I use branded names in my showreel?” A question I often get asked. Personally, I don’t write scripts with branded names as I want to be truthful to my clients and it’s not on the top of my list anyway. Some voices ask to have branded names and so I negotiate on this. In my honest opinion, from a producer’s perspective, it wouldn’t make much difference if I heard ‘Virgin Media’ in your showreel. I’m listening to hear that you believe in what you’re voicing, be it ‘virgin media’ or ‘Freddie’s Fish Shop’. I’m also listening for variety, diversity and if you are someone that can be directed as I may be able to use you for something you haven’t voiced before.

To recap, explore the possibility of coaching and spend time thinking about where your voice suits best. Try not to create your own showreels, this is your business so invest wisely, the benefits you will gain from being directed will be priceless. Entertain and inform with your showreel, show them what you’ve got. Be open to guidance and direction from your coach/producer, they will bring the out the best of you. Update your reels on a regular basis and compare work from 6 month ago to track your progress. Remember to use your voice, your body and the microphone as your instruments, learn how to play them properly as this is what we hear/feel as listeners.

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