Here at The Voice Finder, we like to bring you interesting things from interesting people.
And none come more interesting than Elisa Cañas.
Elisa has been juggling her VO work with travelling the world, recording as she goes. We asked her to tell us a bit about how she got there, and how she was finding the experience, and she dutifully delivered the following guest blog for your eyes and mids to digest.
So grab the popcorn, sit back, and enjoy!
Hello, from The Butterfly Space, Malawi!
On entering my 11th year as a full-time voiceover artist, I decided to make a small idea that had been tinkling away in the back of my mind into a reality. I had my ISDN line disconnected, I put my Neumann, Prima LT Codec and all the rest of the studio bells and whistles into storage, I invested in some kit well suited for the challenge I was about to face and I headed to Africa on a one way ticket to put the VO in Volunteer!
I’ve always loved my job and appreciated the benefits of being my own boss and being able to grow as a voiceover artist while working with some great producers and learning from fellow VO friends in the industry. The only downside was the isolation that working from home could sometimes cause, and more recently, a strong desire to use my spare time more productively when not in the booth or attending to VO related matters. I have volunteered over the years on small projects in my local community as well as a trip to Mumbai with a like-minded VO friend, but after spending big chunks of 2016 working abroad for personal reasons, it dawned on me that I could take the portable studio idea one step further and embark on a full blown volunteering expedition.
There were many things to consider. I knew that work would alter due to not being at the end of an ISDN line nor near Central London studios. I knew that I would need to be selective about the volunteering projects and the locations as I would need access to electricity, wifi and quiet… 3 requirements that aren’t always that easy to come by in this part of the world! I knew that I would need to have a different mindset about work. I would have to shift my focus and use my voice over opportunities as a means to sustain and enable me to invest my time in the charities I was committing to, rather than the development of my career for personal gains.
Since reliability and availability are so important in business, I expected a change in my workload once the mail shot to my clients about my plans left my outbox but I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to fit the same amount of VO’s into my day when volunteering full-time anyway. The type of work would change too. Long form corporate projects wouldn’t be feasible due to cramped, sweltering ’studios’ with potentially slow upload speeds, meaning big WAV files would be a challenge and my turnaround time would adjust from within a few hours to within 24 hours. Not a huge shift, but sizeable enough to mean certain work would fall away. Before leaving, I considered the option of not working at all during this trip. I wondered whether I would feel conflicted. Volunteering by day with potentially some of the poorest communities on the continent, then slipping away at night to earn the sort of money that the people here would probably never see in their lives. One local radio commercial script of £25 for example is equivalent to 25,000 Malawian Kwacha, more than the monthly wage for the majority of the people here.
I decided that the only way I would be able to balance the two would be to donate a percentage of each script fee to the current charity. Donating time helps a lot here. Donating money to worthy projects and seeing it being used so effectively while knowing it’s from supportive colleagues back home is amazing.
Now I’m into the swing of things, it’s pretty simple. When I change country, I buy a local sim and load up on data bundles so that if there are power outages or dodgy WIFI where I am, I have a back up. This has worked really well so far. I also make sure that I don’t commit to things I can’t deliver. I make sure I check my emails regularly and reply swiftly so that the client knows when they can expect the audio. Out Of Office is a really great tool too. If I’m travelling or just know that I can’t work for whatever reason, I set it up so that no one is left in the dark wondering if I’ll be able to help or not. Although I’m backpacking, I opt for private chalets wherever I go rather than tents or dorms so that I always have my own space to work from and can make contraptions out of pillows, blankets, mattresses and whatever else I might need to get the space sounding right, without pissing off a load of other travellers!
Equipment wise, I’m using my Macbook Pro, a Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface and a Sennheiser MKH 50 mic which I have fallen in love with. It all fits neatly in my cabin sized backpack so I have everything close for peace of mind.
Each day, I get up before sunrise to make the most of the quietest part of the day. This is easier where I am currently in Malawi than it was in Zanzibar because in Zanzibar the call to prayer at the local mosque would mean an even earlier start! I would get up at around 4am, snort a line of coffee and get down to it in the ‘booth!’ In Malawi, it’s more like 5.30am that I start work but actually, it’s very quiet here in my cabin by the lakeshore so I can work at any time of the day as the volunteering projects are on site and I can nip back to the pillow fortress whenever I’m needed! There’s also only an hour’s time difference between here and home so that’s nice and easy too.
My main project here at Butterfly Space is assisting in setting up a community radio station. They have been granted a license and lovely premises up on the hillside with spectacular views over Lake Malawi. This is ready to be converted, so it’s all hands on deck to make it happen. I’ve always loved radio but I see it through more appreciative eyes now. In a community with little to no TV or Internet, radio here is precious and an incredibly useful tool to help inform and educate. I’m excited to be helping to promote this and to have the opportunity to bring to the project some previous experience. Funding is a big challenge and this particular one isn’t cheap so that will be high on the agenda.
Would I recommend this to other VO’s? HELL, YES!!!! Come and join me! There’s a studio (of sorts!), a lake to swim in, and a radio station that needs all the help it can get. Becoming a travelling VO was an exciting prospect from my home in London but change is scary and I wasn’t sure how it would go.
Thankfully, it’s proving to be the best adventure ever!
Thanks to Elisa for her fantastic post! It’s got us here all inspired to grab our laptops and jump on a plane…