Anatomy of a Voiceover Scam

The Anatomyof aVoiceover Scam

Lately, it seems that people who are convinced that doing voiceovers from home is a quick and easy way to make big money aren’t the only ones who are discovering our fabulous little industry. Scammers want in too.

By all reports, they’ve been hitting the VO community pretty hard over the past few months, so I’m guessing that unfortunately, they might be getting “good” results here. In the interest of helping the community protect itself, this post should give you a pretty good idea of how this scam plays out, from start to finish.

For many years, so-called “Overpayment Scammers” have gone after people selling cars, selling items on Craigslist, looking for roommates, and even people offering services like graphic design and sign painting, for example.

In the last few months, they’ve been targeting us too. I’ve heard from scores of voice talent who’ve all gotten a nearly identical message from a scammer (or scammers) using names including Dean Lucas, Thomas Peters, Gary Brown, Marie Scott, Alex Cotton, Wilfred Anderson, Burke Steele, Dale Ahrens, Jamie Bridge and others.

First of all, know this: There. Is. No. Job.

It’s all part of an overpayment scam that really has nothing to do with voiceovers, and everything to do with getting you to send them money. And the way they set up the scam, they want you to believe that the money you’re sending them is theirs to begin with, and that you’ve got nothing at risk. That, of course, is NOT the case.

Here’s the basic scam: voice talent receive an email letting them know that they’ve been selected for an upcoming job. Once you show interest, they claim to set up a recording session (apparently using Google to find the name of a studio near you), and send you a check that turns out to be fake, and written for much more than they owe you. But it’s good enough that your bank won’t spot it, and they won’t realize it’s fake until it’s sent to the “issuing bank” who, a couple of weeks later, will refuse it. By then, you’ve cashed the check, and sent “the remaining balance to the consulting engineer,” (aka the scammer). Then, your bank finds out that the check is fake and you’re on the hook for the amount that you cashed and sent back to the scammer. Plus, the remaining balance of the fake check is withdrawn from your account.

In hopes of giving you a full understanding of the process so you can spot these scams more easily, what follows has been compiled from a number of reports from fellow talent. I’ll call the composite character in this example “Steven.” And it’s helpful to know that all of the talent whose stories are represented here knew from the beginning that they were dealing with a scammer. (FYI, there is a bit of slightly censored NSFW language from the scammer near the end of this post.)

I’ll be chiming in along the way.

Here’s a typical first email from the scammer. Be on the lookout for red flags as you read:

Hello and how are you doing today? My name is Jamie Bridge. I found your profile while surfing the internet, and found it interesting. We are currently seeking voice over artist for an upcoming audition in your area next month. Kindly respond to this email if you are interested.I look forward to reading from you so we could proceed with further details. Thanks, Jamie

If you respond to that first email, you’ll get something like this next (and there are a ton of red flags here):

Thanks for your response .It is a 850 CAD voice over (Assignment) for you, . A new corporate client of mine wants to create their online website.This assignment is for either professional or non professional voice. You don’t have to worry about your experience, we have specialists,and Contract Studio Engineer who will bring the real perfection to the job. It’s a 1 day job and wouldn’t take more than that least 1 hour each day. I wouldnt be able to send you the script because my client have “copyrighted” it and confidentiality is of utmost importance until we have agreed to terms on the job.The Job cannot be done in your personal studio as it needs directing by a voice coach as well as it must be mastered by our consultant engineer.Job Location: The recording will be held at a rented studio close to your location, so you don’t have to worry about traveling, the name and address of the studio will be forwarded to you before the date of the recording.

Company: TS Media
Job Description:

We are creating an animated marketing video to be distributed through web and social media. The overall video is approximately 10 minute in length with the Game Show host part being about 5 seconds. The Game Show Host voice must be boisterous, fun and entertaining.

Please title the audition file with your name to assist the client in selecting an appropriate candidate.

Sample Script:
(Contestant) Uh, I’m no rocket scientist but I’d say…traffic congestion.
(Contestant) Well, I’m no rocket scientist but that’s a no brainer. Mass Transit is the better option.

Expectations: You need to be in a good mental and emotional state of mind. Basically this is all that is required of you, Kindly, get in touch with me as soon as possible if you will take the job. More details will be provided to you and we can continue from there. Please, no time wasting. Let me know if you will take the job to commence with next arrangement. Please I’d like you to check your email on a regular basis, I might have updates for you.

If you’re still up for it, the scam is on:

Thanks for keeping in touch. I received your email indicating your interest. Your total pay for the job as discussed in my previous email is $850 .You would be paid an initial upfront deposit for $400 to guarantee your participation for the recording and ascertain the job, and your balance of $450 would be paid to you in cash or pay check on the final day of the recording. I will get in touch with our financier,and the part payment will be mailed to you, until you receive and confirm payment before the recording will hold. Once you receive the payment, you are expected to cash and deposit it into your bank account. After which, you deduct your initial payment of $400 to guarantee your participation in this project, and then send the remaining balance to the consultant engineer who will take care of all technical aspect of the job and studio rental with other planning.

That previous sentence is the key to their scam. More on that in a minute. The email continues…

Kindly get back to me with the details below for payment and other info if available upon request

Your Full name to appear on the Check:
Complete Mailing address (No P.O Box) where the payment should be mailed:
Phone numbers (Cell and Home):
Please be informed that we would be making arrangement for your transportation if need be. There is nothing to worry about. Kindly keep in touch with the details requested as soon as you can. The venue for the recording shall be communicated as soon as all the requested details above are confirmed. Concerning the date of the recording, you have the opportunity to choose the two most convenient days for the recording. Kindly indicate that in your next reply.
Warm regards
Jamie
P.S . Please be informed that this is a one time recording. No contracts. All necessary paper work would be signed on the 1st day of recording.

 
Once you’ve sent them your contact information, they let you know when and where the recording session has supposedly been scheduled. Some talent have told me that they called the studio to confirm the session, and of course, the studio had never heard from anyone about the session in question.

One talent pointed out that the “recording studio” the scammers claimed they’d booked the session at, wasn’t a recording studio at all, but a duplication facility which, in fact, never did any recording on site, and didn’t even own a single microphone. Interestingly, that studio’s “Google/My Business” listing includes the designation “Recording Studio,” which must have been enough to have convinced the scammers that it was a believable choice.

Back to the scam:

Hi Steven,

Congratulation on your new job. I want to assure you that everything would work out fine as planned. Kindly get back to me to reconfirm your interest in the job.
 
Venue: Realtime CD, 334 N.E. 89th St. Seattle, WA 98115
Date: 7th of March
Time: 10am-11am
 
As soon as i receive a confirmation from you, i would let you know when to receive the payment. I look forward to your email.

At this point, they overnight you a fake check, following up with a message like this:

I am write to inform you that gig payment has issued and should deliver to you today.You track your payment here atwww.usps.com with tracking numbers 8100574610560484123119 and i also like to remind you that you are paired with the Consultant Engineer, as soon as the payment arrive, I want you to proceed to having it Deposited at your bank for confirmation/verification as soon possible and it will take about 24hours to clear at the bank and once cleared, deduct $400 as your pre-payment for your services and have sent the rest to the Consultant Engineer  who will take care of all technical aspect of the job and studio rental we are going to use for the recording with other planning. Your remaining $450 will be given to you on the day of the recording.
 
Acknowledge receipt of email and understanding of contents
 
Warm regards,
Gary

Acknowledge receipt of that email, and you’ll get this:

Glad you have received payment. i sent you text message. Let me know when you deposit the check at your bank

According to talent I’ve spoken with, the fake checks they’ve received have been written for between $1,600 and $2,700, meaning each one represents a potential profit of between $1,200 and $2,300 to the scammer. (This check was written for $1,870, which would have meant a $1,400+ profit for the scammer.)

ScamCheckBig2

By the way, a close look at the headers from the emails above revealed that they originated from somewhere in the the UTC +0100 time zone. This is the Central European Time Zone, which is in use in Nigeria and other African countries. (Researching this information led me to this interesting and exhaustive report on the lengths to which these scammers will go.)

Anyway, once you confirm that you’ve received their check (which again, is totally fake), all communication switches to texting.

Interestingly, their English skills improve dramatically at this point, making it likely that the original, possibly Nigerian scammers have handed the operation over to someone here in the states. And since they’re hoping to be able to pick up the funds that you send them at a Walmart or CVS near them soon, that would make sense.

The texting begins. (By the way, none of the talent whose stories are represented here as “Steven” ever actually deposited the fraudulent checks they received.) Interestingly, in every case, at this point the conversation completely stopped being about a recording session, and centered only on the transfer of money:

Gary The Scammer: Hi Steven, when did the bank say funds will be available. 1:13 PM

Steven: Hi Gary, the funds are available now. 1:34 PM

Gary The Scammer: You should have told me funds was available so you can send the funds of the consultant engineer today as we do not need any further delay.I am sure you can still get it sent today. Go to any walmart or cvs outlet close to you and get the money sent via MoneyGram to the engineers information below. Name: Bristol Parks. City: Portland State: OR Zipcode: 97205. 1:41 PM
Gary The Scammer: Remember to deduct your $400 initial payment and send the remaining balance to the consultant engineer. Transfer charges should be deducted from the remaining balance. As soon as you send the funds to the engineer i will need you to text me the exact amount sent and the reference number. 1:44 PM
Gary The Scammer: Steven, Have you sent funds to the engineer? 2:41 PM

“Steven” begins to delay things.

Steven: Not yet. I’m waiting to hear from my accountant. He hasn’t called me back yet, but I’m sure I’ll speak with him tomorrow. 2:56 PM
Gary The Scammer: Did you try to cash the check or you deposited it. Kindly forward the excess balance to Bristol. we do not need any further delay on the project. I really do not need any further delay on this project. Funds are available to you, lets continue with the preparation and i look forward to working with you on this project and on other projects as well. 3:21 PM
Gary The Scammer: Did you get my text? 3:58 PM
Steven: Gary, my accountant said that I’ll have to pay tax on the total amount that I deposited. That’s a lot of money! I’ll be losing more than half of the payment for this voiceover project. If you will reimburse me for that expense on the day of our session, I think that would be okay. 9:23 AM
Gary The Scammer: I will speak with the sponsors and you will be reimbursed, i assure you. Kindly go send the $1260 to Bristol so preparations for the project can continue. remember to text me the exact amount sent and the reference number after you have sent the money via MoneyGram at any Walmart or CVS outlet close to you. 9:29 AM
 
Steven ignores Gary for a while. Gary gets anxious.
 
Gary The Scammer: Waiting to hear from you. Have you sent funds to the engineer? 10:34 AM
Gary The Scammer: Steven, did you receive my text? 12:08 PM
Gary The Scammer: as soon as you have it sent the money. get back to me with the necessary information for record purposes. 12:47 PM
Gary The Scammer: waiting to hear from you 1:33 PM
Gary The Scammer: Have you sent the funds to Bristol? 2:19 PM
 
Steven tries a new stall tactic. Gary gets angry, and even plays the sympathy card.
 
Steven: My accountant said that I should not send any money to Bristol, He said that I should bring cash to our session instead. 4:32 PM
Gary The Scammer: Steven, Bristol need the money now to pay for the studio rental and also for the logistics of some equipment needed for the recording. I made this clear to you before you received payment. This delay is making me look incompetent to my boss and my job is on the line, 5:21 PM
Gary The Scammer: i am a single father and i need this job to put food on the table for my three kids. Bristol needs the money to finalise preparations for the recording. Please go and send the money to Bristol without further delay. 5:26 PM
Gary The Scammer: Did you get my text? 5:31 PM
Gary The Scammer: Waiting to hear from you 5:54 PM
Gary The Scammer: Where are you? I told you to always answers your texts! 6:22 PM
Gary The Scammer: You have to get back to me now! 6:48 PM
 
The next morning, Steven offers to help. Gary gets angrier.
 
Steven: I’m really sorry Gary, I don’t mean to make you look incompetent. Please apologize to your boss for me. Also, what extra equipment do you need for the recording? I’ve been to this studio before and they have everything you could possibly need. (I have some equipment I could bring too, just let me know what you need.) 11:12 AM
Gary The Scammer: You want to get me fired? you agreed to the pairing of you and the engineer. This isn’t funny anymore. i have your emails as prove. stop this delay and go send money to the engineer. 11:22 AM
Steven: Of course I don’t want you to get fired! And since our session is on Monday, why don’t I just bring cash with me to pay Bristol? Wouldn’t that be easier? 11:31 AM
Gary The Scammer: She need funds for logistics.Don’t you get 1:01 PM
Gary The Scammer: waiting to hear from you 2:00 PM
Gary The Scammer: Did you get my text 2:15 PM
Gary The Scammer: since you have refused to do as agreed, will you return the check? if you decide to return the check, the recording will be cancelled 3:55 PM
Gary The Scammer: if i don’t hear from you, i will go ahead and cancel the recording and you will have to return the full payment. 4:51 PM
Steven: What do you mean by “logistics”? Won’t all of that be provided by the studio where we’re going to record? 5:12 PM
Steven: Gary, did you get the last text that I sent you? 6:10 PM
Gary The Scammer: Proceed and have funds sent to Bristol as instructed if not the gig will be canceled and you will have to return the money in full.I have tried my best for you.Right now my client is involve in the matter. 3:12 AM
 
The longer this takes, the more anxious the scammers get, since they’ve only got a limited amount of time before the bank lets the talent know that the check they deposited was fake.
 
Gary The Scammer: Did you get my text? 7:06 AM
Gary The Scammer: Did you get my text? 7:43 AM
Gary The Scammer: Did you get my text? 8:02 AM
Gary The Scammer: Why aren’t you answering me? 8:59 AM
Gary The Scammer: Did you get my text? 9:41 AM
Gary The Scammer: Did you get my text? 10:34 AM
Steven: Gary, I will be happy to return the money to you by mail. Where should I send it? 12:02 PM
 
Of course, the scammers aren’t likely to give Steven a mailing address…that would be traceable.
 
Gary The Scammer: The gig is cancelled. Kindly send all the funds with you to Bristol, She will get the funds back to the company. If you refuse to send the funds to her within 24 hours, it will be obvious you don’t intend to let go of the money and we will be force to involve the appropriate authorities. 1:22 PM
 
We have to assume here that Gary hopes that his empty threat will encourage Steven to send “the funds” back to Bristol by MoneyGram. This would also be a successful scam for Gary, since Steven would be sending money that he got when he deposited Gary’s fake check. And Steven would still have to pay that amount back to his bank, once they were told that it was fake. (Remember, Steven never really deposited it.)
 
Gary The Scammer: did you get my message? 1:37 PM
Gary The Scammer: I will report you to the authorities when you don’t communicate with me. 2:12 PM
Gary The Scammer: we will begin to take legal actions from tomorrow. 3:44 PM
Steven: Gary, legal action isn’t necessary. I want to write you a check, to get your money back to you. Where can I mail it? 4:11 PM

Now Steven’s just messing with Gary.

Steven: Did you get my text? 4:19 PM
Steven: Did you get my text? 4:27 PM
Steven: Did you get my text? 4:35 PM
Steven: Did you get my text? 4:46 PM

Now the real fun begins:
 
Gary The Scammer: I am tired of your back and forth. If you know you are serious and you don’t want legal actions taken against you. go send the money via Moneygram to Bristol and send the the exact amount sent and reference number to me immediately. 5:12 PM
Gary The Scammer: This is the last time i will give you an opportunity to make things right 7:14 PM
Steven: I don’t want legal actions taken against me but, my accountant won’t allow me to use Moneygram. I can only send a check via the mail. 8:19 PM
Gary The Scammer: does the money belong to the accountant? 8:21 PM
Steven: No, it’s mine. 8:32 PM
Gary The Scammer: the money neither yours nor his because the gig is off so your opinion or his does not count. i have instructed you on the best way to return the money and if you can go get yourself a lawyer. Am done trying to convince you 8:39 PM
Steven: Yes, the money is YOURS and I’m trying to get it back to you. You don’t need to convince me. I can mail you a check right away. 8:44 PM
Gary The Scammer: go do as instructed. go send it through Moneygram its instant. 8:49 PM
Steven: What don’t you understand? I CAN NOT use Moneygram. 8:57 PM
Gary The Scammer: Ok, you will hear from our team. bye 8:59 PM
Steven: You don’t want your money back? Now I don’t understand. 9:02 PM

Gary is frustrated here because in order to maintain his anonymity, he needs Steven to use MoneyGram, which Steven’s refusing to do. So Gary tries one last (empty) threat:

Gary The Scammer: Since you cant do as instructed for whatever reason thats best known to you and your accountant. you will hear from our legal team and i am sure you will pay damages for holding on to what you arent supposed to hold on to. 9:05 PM
Steven: What are you talking about? I’m trying to get your money back to you!!! 9:07 PM
Gary The Scammer: then DO AS INSTRUCTED OR STOP MESSAGING ME. HOW HARD IS IT…. I DONT CARE WHAT YOUR ACCOUNTANT TOLD YOU 9:11 PM
Steven: And I don’t care what you think about my accountant’s advice. Why can’t you just give me an address where I can send your money? WHAT’S SO HARD ABOUT THAT??? 9:15 PM

At this point, Steven told me that he was really hoping to get a mailing address from Gary just so that he could just return the fraudulent check in an envelope.

Gary The Scammer: Moneygram is instant. are you retarded? i will prefer that to mail that will take days 9:18 PM
Gary The Scammer: go f#@! yourself. stop texting me. 9:20 PM
Steven: Well that’s not very professional. Anyway, I can send you a check via overnight mail and you’ll have it tomorrow. Isn’t that fast enough? 9:25 PM
Gary The Scammer: Moneygram is INSTANT..F#@KING RETARD 9:30 PM
Steven: Yes, it is instant. And overnight mail is ALMOST instant. And that’s the only way I can send your money. Don’t you want it? 9:36 PM
Steven: I still have time to get to the post office today so you can have your money tomorrow. 9:38 PM
Steven: Gary, I’ll need to know within the next two hours if you want me to send it today. 9:41 PM
Steven: Are you getting my texts? 9:53 PM
Steven: Hello? 10:02 PM
Steven: Gary? 10:04 PM
Steven: Are you there? 10:09 PM
Gary The Scammer: If you cant use Moneygram, stop texting me. 4:10 PM
 
And that’s where communication from Gary stopped, at least with that particular talent. Until a few days later, when Steven got this text from Gary:

Gary The Scammer: Steven, did you tell other voice talents about me? Now they are all lying to me and f&@!ng with me like you did.

So hopefully, all of the information that’s been shared in the VO community lately has made things harder for these scammers, at least in our little corner of the world.

————————

Postscript:

Dave Courvoisier recently wrote a fabulous and informative blog post about protecting yourself from VO scammers, Nigerian and otherwise.

If you’ve been contacted by scammers you can always file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Also check your state’s Attorney General site as they often have resources to report these types of things.

Finally, read up on the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s scam page and familiarize yourself with the common characteristics of scams so you aren’t victimized. The biggest red flag: if anyone ever sends you a check, wire transfer, ACH payment, etc., and then asks you to send all or part of the funds to a 3rd party, don’t. It’s a scam.

 

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My Dad. Renaissance Man. An Invitation.

A guest post today. From my brother, about our father, for a great cause.

My dad was a lot of things. High school basketball center. Air Force navigator. Civil rights leader. Developer. Entrepreneur. Musician. Community advocate. Superhero. And of course, husband, brother, son, and father. A true Renaissance man.

As Jeremy Mikolajczak, executive director and chief curator of the MDC Museum & Galleries of Art + Design wrote so beautifully:

“Leonard Turkel was coined the ‘Father of Florida Condominiums’ by The Miami Herald and is noted as the pioneer of the Florida condominium development boom. But behind the exterior of the successful entrepreneur, Leonard Turkel had a social conscience that proved much greater than that of the typical businessman.”

My dad, the Renaissance man, was also an artist. From Jeremy again:

“In addition to leaving behind a legacy for equal rights, proper inner-city housing, mobile health clinics, and midnight basketball for at-risk teenagers, Leonard Turkel was an artist who created hundreds of collages and assemblages that mirror his morals of social justice.”

My dad would visit libraries and photo archives to search for old black and white or sepia prints of mostly groups of people involved in his various interests – usually civil rights, community service, or music. Then he’d have the photos enlarged and mounted onto sheets of foam board. Next he’d hand tint the images, cut them out, and reassemble them in 3D assemblages that brought new attention and meaning to both the pictures and the subjects they presented.

 

Kids-At-School

 

Last January we hosted Following Your Own Sense of Justice – a retrospective of my father’s artworks at the MDC Museum & Galleries. We were absolutely stunned by the outpouring of enthusiasm, appreciation, and love that we all enjoyed that night and across the weeks that the work hung on the gallery walls. What’s more, once we saw the work displayed in the museum we realized just how meaningful and important Dad’s work really is.

The other thing we discovered was just how many people were interested in owning a piece of Dad’s work to enjoy in their own home or collection. The heartfelt requests were so overwhelming that we decided right then and there to figure out how to make that a possibility so that even more people could enjoy his vision and talents.

Thanks to Jeremy’s help again, we’ve opened an online auction that will culminate in a gallery auction at the MDC Museum & Galleries of Art + Design on January 16, 2015. Of course, because this auction was created to honor Dad’s life and work, the proceeds of the sale will go to establishing a scholarship in Leonard Turkel’s name for deserving students who want to make our community – and their lives – better.

 

Sewing-Boys

 

You can visit the online auction HERE and visit the work in person at the gallery at the Freedom Tower, 600 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami. Of course we hope you’ll join us Friday night for the gallery show and auction of a true Renaissance man.

Click HERE for the auction. Click HERE for the save the date announcement. Click HERE for the evite.

As thanks to Jeremy Mikolajczak for all his assistance, let’s hear from him again:

Following Your Own Sense of Justice is a retrospective of Leonard Turkel’s rarely seen artwork and a true testament to the legacy of a man who proved to be one of Miami’s greatest mavericks of civic equality and community building. Auction proceeds will be used to provide scholarships for at-risk youth.”

Please join us.

 

 

Registration Opens for Faff Camp II

Voiceover Talent Doug Turkel's Keynote presentation at Faff Camp 2013

 

Yeah, the campfire might be fake, but rest assured that Faff Camp is the real deal!

While you’ve probably heard of FaffCon, the Voiceover Un-Conference, there’s a chance that you may not know about Faff Camp. Both events are put together by the same impressive group of organizers, and both have gotten nothing but 5-star reviews by attendees.

In order to distinguish it from the Working-Voiceover-Pro-focused FaffCon, Faff Camp has been designed to cater to voice talent across a wide spectrum of experience.

I like to think of it as an event for people who are serious about crafting (or maintaining) a voiceover career, rather than one that’s only for pros.

From the Faff Camp site:

Faff Camp is a peer-to-peer professional development conference for working voiceover pros (not just voice talents, voice actors, and narrators, but all pros who do work related to voice overs). It’s participant driven and highly interactive, just like its sister event FaffCon. But much of the agenda is set in advance, which makes it possible for us to welcome a larger group.

Plus, there are cool things we do only at Faff Camp, like Topic Tables,  Adopt-a-Question, and Lightning Talks! And since we have two tracks, Starting Smart and Working Pro, we welcome voice talents at all career stages. Come learn how to get to the next level, no matter what level you’re on now!

One of the many innovative things about the upcoming Faff Camp is that the registration process has been inspired by Kickstarter.  If enough people sign up by July 11th (not too far away), then Faff Camp is on! If not – which I seriously doubt – everyone who’s registered gets their money back and you have to find something else to do March 19-22, 2015.

But my best guess is that you’ll be at the Omni Colonnade in San Antonio, TX.

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The Voiceover Talent Manifesto©

The Voiceover Talent Manifesto. Words for Voiceover Talent to live by.

Success Breeds Solitude

 

Over the last few years, being a professional voiceover talent has become more and more isolating. And in most cases, the more successful you become, the less time you spend around like-minded people. This can be difficult for just about anyone, but maybe more so for creative, artist-types. We tend to thrive around people who “get” what we do. If you ever go to an in-studio audition, and see the energy among the actors in the waiting room, you’ll see what I mean.

One of my favorite things about Read more…

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The Best SEO for Voiceover Talent

Voiceover Treasure Map

It’s the modern-day version of a treasure hunt; the quest to get your website to the top of the first page of Google’s search results, in hopes of finding more voiceover work.

Trouble is, there’s no map with an X scrawled on it. Never has been.

Even though there are tons of strategies, theories, and even “experts” who’ll gladly take your money while making vague promises about organic results, first page rankings and keyword optimization, there are Read more…

Highlights from The Voiceover Talent Ebook: Harlan Hogan

Professional Voice Over Talent Harlan Hogan

 

Harlan Hogan:

“Focusing on your performance misses the point of voice work…what’s important is how you can make a listener feel.”

What do you love about your job?

What job? I had lots of jobs and they sucked almost as badly as I did at them. THIS is no job – it’s a love affair.

What performance advice do you have for voiceover talent just starting out? (Or for those with a good deal of experience, who are looking to move up to the next level.)

Absolutely zero. Because focusing on your performance misses the point of voice work. It’s really not what YOU sound like or what words you emphasize in your ‘performance.’ What’s important is how you can make a listener feel. So your focus is not on you and your performance, but on using your skills to communicate to THEM.

Similar to the previous question, what business or practical advice do you have for voiceover talent just starting out? (Or for those with a good deal of experience, who are looking to move up to the next level.) Read more…

Welcome Changes at VoiceZam.com

VoiceZamimage003

Visionaries are hard to find in any industry. In the world of voiceover, they seem to be few and far between.

Case in point:

The first studios where I was hired to work had stacks of 5″ reel-to-reel tapes that served as voiceover demos. Those quickly gave way to cassettes, then CDs, and now online audio players. One thing that never changed in all that time was Read more…

Professional Voice Talent, You Are Missing Out

FaffCamp Patch Logo

 

A little more than three weeks from now, professional voiceover talent from all over the country will spend a weekend together in Charlotte, NC at the first-ever Faff Camp conference. Faff Camp is a bit like the wildly successful FaffCon series of events, only with a bit more structure.

The days following the event will be interesting ones for everyone who attends. Their heads will be swimming with new ideas, renewed motivation, and plenty of new friendships and business opportunities. (My Mastermind Group is made up of people I met at FaffCon, and I can’t tell you Read more…

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Voiceover Talent : Ultimate Business Resources

Voiceover Talent : Ultimate Business Resources

These days, “Voiceovers” is big business…from a number of perspectives.

With the technological barriers to entering the field disappearing day by day, more people than ever before are trying their hand at it. So while there are thousands of newly-minted talent looking to drum up some business for themselves, there are also scores of people eager to help those eager newcomers find their way through the wilderness.

Unfortunately, some of these trail guides are more concerned with their own fiscal health than with helping you develop your craft and your career. And that’s all the more reason to make sure that you know Read more…

Professional Voiceover Talent: Scared of Newcomers?

Voiceover Talent Aim for SuccessIt’s becoming a common refrain in all sorts of creative endeavors: some established, experienced talent are complaining about the vast numbers of newcomers to their field. I’ve heard it from web designers, graphic designers, copy writers, and yes, voiceover talent.

In a recent blog post titled True Professionals Don’t Fear Amateurs, entrepreneur, marketer and author Seth Godin wrote something that resonates deeply within the world of professional voiceover talent:

Gifted college professors don’t fear online courses. Talented web designers don’t fear cloud services. Bring them on! When you need something worth paying for, they say, we’ll be here. And what we’ll sell you will be worth more than we charge you.  – Seth Godin

He didn’t specifically mention voiceover talent in the post, but he might as well have. In recent years, I’ve heard scores of fellow talent complain about the influx of so-called wannabes. They’ll bitterly say, “These days, anyone with a laptop and a USB microphone thinks Read more…

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Voiceover Lesson from Dodger Great Vin Scully

Many voiceover talent say that experience is the greatest teacher at the microphone. If that’s true, then there are few better to learn from than Vin Scully. Having spent more than 60 years behind the mic, the L.A. Dodgers broadcaster has called everything from Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, to Hank Aaron’s 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s record in 1974, to Bill Buckner’s series-changing error in the 1986 World Series.

Voiceover from Dodger Great Vin ScullyJust out of Fordham University in 1950, Scully was recruited by legendary announcer Red Barber to work for the CBS Radio Network calling college football games. Just three years later, a 25-year-old Scully became the youngest person to ever call a World Series game. (A record that stands to this day.)

So how does all of this apply to performing voiceovers? Well, in a recent interview, Scully shared some of the advice that Barber gave him in the early days of his career.

And while Barber wasn’t speaking specifically about voiceover talent, his advice is something I think every voice talent can benefit from.

Its brilliance is in its Read more…

Highlights from The Voiceover Talent Ebook: Richard Horvitz

Voiceover Talent Richard Horvitz

 

Richard Horvitz:

We never start with the voice; it always starts with the acting.”

Recently, the fabulously talented voiceover actor and voiceover coach Richard Horvitz was generous enough to answer some questions as part of an ebook project I was putting together. Below are some highlights from Richard’s responses. To read the rest of Richard’s answers, and for insights from nearly 30 other Voiceover Superstars including  Joe Cipriano, Randy Thomas and Bob Bergen, sign up for your free copy of the ebook over on the right side of this page.

What do you love about your job?

Simply that I get to play, and laugh and have fun pretending, which is what I teach…I’m all about playing pretend. And we have a tendency as we get older, to lose that willingness to play pretend, or that joy in playing pretend, because everything becomes about earning money…about validating the choice we’ve made to be an actor. So I like that I still get to play, and remember what it’s like to look through the eyes of a child. Particularly in the character I get to play in animation…if I’m not playing an evil villain, I’m playing a kid. It’s just fun. That’s the best part of my job.

What do you like least about your job, and how do you deal with that?

Things that are really stressful on the voice, like soldier games and army games are really rough on the voice. (To take care of that, I drink a lot of water and a lot of tea during the sessions.) But other than that, there’s not a lot that I don’t like about my job.

What performance advice do you have for voiceover talent just starting out? (Or for those with a good deal of experience, who are looking to move up to the next level.)

Read more…

Is Branding Important for Voiceover Talent?

Is Branding Important for Voiceover Talent?

Is branding important for voice over talent?

Well, it depends.

That’s an unsatisfying answer, I know, but it’s true.

It really depends on what your voiceover goals are and what your target market is.

The easy answer is, “Yes, of course it is.” And since I’m a big fan of good branding (and geeky enough about it to spend time on branding blogs and forums), I’m admittedly biased towards doing everything possible to put your best foot forward.

Maybe Not

In certain cases, though, I think that branding your voiceover services might be a little less than critical.

For example, Read more…

Highlights from The Voiceover Talent Ebook: Steve Mackall

Voiceover Talent Steve Mackall

Steve Mackall:

“Unabashedly be yourself in the auditioning process. There’s only one you.”

Recently, the fabulously talented Steve Mackall was generous enough to answer some questions as part of an ebook project I was putting together. Below are some highlights from Steve’s responses. To read the rest of Steve’s answers, and for insights from nearly 30 other Voiceover Superstars including  Joe Cipriano, Randy Thomas and Bob Bergen, sign up for your free copy of the ebook over on the right side of this page.


What do you love about your job?

That when I do it right I am a “finishing touch” on someone’s ‘dream realized.’ The fact that a creative person had something in their head and my voice and/or interpretation helped bring it to life is humbling and exciting. Or equally as thrilling, my voice and/or interpretation totally surprised the client and up-leveled their spot/concept. That’s a connective moment.

And of course I love working in my pajamas (full-length red ones with a trap door).

What business or practical advice do you have for voiceover talent just starting out? (Or for those with a good deal of experience, who are looking to move up to the next level.)

Allow me to answer this question with an anecdote. Several years ago a once famous (now fallen) voiceover pro asked if I’d help revamp his reel. I was humbled by this request and happy to assist. I mean this cat used to be first call. After giving him my pair of pennies on his material I Read more…

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The Voiceover Community Supports One of its Own

Sandra Swingler, wife of Vocieover Talent Andrew Swingler

 

While I’ve long been impressed by the level of caring and support that I’ve seen fellow members of the voiceover community show for one another, this week has been a shining example of their goodness. In the face of an unimaginable loss, voiceover talent around the world have rallied around L.A.-based British voiceover talent Andrew Swingler.

A little more than six months ago, Andrew’s wife Sandra was diagnosed with a type of cancer so rare that fewer than 100 cases have ever been reported. Sandra lost her valiant fight with the disease on June 27th, leaving behind two beautiful young girls, and her devoted husband Andrew.

I never met the Swinglers, but after reading Andrew’s story on my friend Derek Chappell’s blog, I was struck by what a close-knit and loving family they are. So it comes as no surprise that fellow voice talent have found ways to help raise money for the Swingler family.

Natalie Cooper has decided to auction off her 50,000th tweet on eBay. And that tweet won’t only be seen by Natalie’s 2500+ followers, but also by the nearly 320,000 followers of @FabianLord, which exponentially increases the amount of exposure that tweet will receive. But act quickly, Natalie’s auction ends Saturday afternoon, just after 4P EST.

And while only one person can win that auction, anyone can donate to the Swingler family through Anne Ganguzza’s VO Peeps Scholarship Fund. In fact, over the next three months, all contributions made to that fund will go directly to Andrew and his two precious girls, and are tax deductible under Section 170 of the US IRS Code.

Every little bit helps, and will be greatly appreciated.

Learn from the “Voices of Experience” (The Voiceover Talent Ebook)

 

There is no single, predictable path to a voiceover career. And there is no way to absolutely guarantee that your voiceover career will be a successful one.

Sure, we all hope that we’ll build a long, sustainable career, filled with great financial reward and loads of personal satisfaction. And there are plenty of people who do just that. Unfortunately, there are thousands more who don’t.

 Swimming Against the Tide

 

And the actual numbers can be quite sobering. For example, it’s said that nearly two-thirds of the Screen Actors Guild’s members earn less than $1,000 dollars a year. And according to the Los Angeles Times, 90% of SAG’s members earn less than $28,000 a year. So the odds are definitely not in your favor.

I don’t point all of this out to discourage you, only to give a realistic perspective on what you’re up against. I also hope that it will give you a better understanding of just how important it is for you to approach the business of voiceover as just that: a business.

Historically, in many lines of work, apprenticeships were used (and often still are) to teach each new generation of practitioners the skills they’d need to become competent, competitive individuals. Newcomers to fields like carpentry, bricklaying, and plumbing often worked alongside master craftsmen for years before being allowed to call themselves professionals. Read more…

Alesis StudioDock

Alesis StudioDock - Front

One of the major criticisms of Apple’s iPad has been that it’s a consumption device, and not a creation device. In terms of audio, that’s all about to change. The biggest challenge has been finding a way to get your audio (whether from a microphone, a guitar, a keyboard or MIDI device) into the iPad. In Spring of this year, Alesis will debut its StudioDock, which will give voiceover talent lots of input options. A quick look at the back of the StudioDock tells most of the story:

 

 

There are two combo XLR-1/4″ ins, with switchable phantom power, making it “plug & play” for high-end condenser mics. Input channel gain controls, and balanced 1/4″ outputs.

 

A quick look at the left side of the dock reveals traditional and USB MIDI compatibility.

On the right, you’ll find a 1/4″ headphone jack with separate volume control for monitoring your recording.

Best of all, the StudioDock works with virtually every audio and MIDI app in the App Store.

Alesis StudioDock - Left

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic of FaffCon

 

I get it. FaffCon’s unorthodox nature can be difficult to understand. Its brilliance isn’t immediately obvious. In fact, the whole concept of an UNconference runs counter to convention. (And counter to conventions, for that matter.) Like so many things, an UNconference like FaffCon is much easier to understand once you’ve experienced one. If you were at FaffCon 1 you can stop reading now, and I know that I’ll see you at FaffCon 2 in February because you get it, too. If you weren’t there, let me try to help you imagine the experience.

What FaffCon Isn’t

Forget any thoughts of scores of conference lemmings sitting in neatly arranged rows of chairs in huge, generic meeting rooms while self-serving “industry experts” blather on about their latest conquests and their new book/e-book/training program/gadget/whatever that you can buy to “guarantee” buckets of voiceover success.

What FaffCon Is

Instead, imagine smaller, more intimate groups of like-minded professionals having actual, interactive conversations. These pro voiceover talent willingly and generously share knowledge gained from years of experience. Information that doesn’t often find its way into books. The kind of information that can help you take your career from where it is to where you want it to be.

There are no keynote speakers, no products for sale at the back of the room, no emcees, no “us” and “them.” It’s all us. It’s all voiceover talent who have forged a career through trial and error, persistence and innovation. It’s all people who know what works and what doesn’t. It’s all people who likely were mentored somewhere along the way, and who understand that the best way to honor those who helped them is to pay it forward.

Too Big For FaffCon?

And don’t worry that the information shared at FaffCon will be too basic for you. FaffCon is strictly for working pros. It’s not for newcomers to the voiceover scene. On the other side of the coin, don’t worry that you’re above FaffCon. You can’t be too big or too successful to benefit from, and bring value to FaffCon. That’s because the value of an unconference is in the collective wisdom.

Of course, the more experience and success you’ve had, the more valuable information you’ll have to share with the class. And you won’t be alone. More than a third of FaffCon attendees have over 20 years of voiceover experience under their belts. And they’ll be sharing tons of wisdom that will be helpful to you. These are people who’ve been where you are and know where you’re coming from. And even if you’re the voice of a TV network, or doing national spots for a fast food chain, chances are you have questions about some portion of your career. Whether those questions are about gear, marketing, contact management, SEO, ISDN, agents, branding, social media or home studios, you’ll find fellow talent who not only have the answers, but are eager to share them with you.

You’ll Get What You Need

Looking at unconferences simply from the perspective of “What’s my ROI?…What’s in it for me?,” might be our natural reaction, but that runs counter to the concept. Unconferences are about sharing, not about receiving. (Of course, everyone who attends will receive a TON of valuable information, but that can only happen if everyone who attends is willing to bring something to the table.)

Somehow, unconferences manage to supply exactly the information their participants are looking for. Unconferences are magic. And you’re never too big for magic.

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Voice Over Mastermind Groups (pt. 2)

 

Part 1 of this post gave you some background regarding voice over Mastermind Groups and how they can be helpful for voiceover talent. Now we’ll get down to the nuts and bolts:

GETTING STARTED

How many members will your group have? Four to eight seems to be the most common size. With too many members, meetings take too long. And with too few members, the resources just aren’t there.

When, where, and how often will meetings be held? How long will your group work together?

You might agree to monthly meetings for the next 6-12 months, and then reevaluate.

SET THE STAGE

It’s a good idea to set some ground rules at the very beginning. For example:

  • Personal criticisms are not allowed.
  • Everyone must be willing to provide positive support, encouragement, accountability, and non-judgmental commitment to each member’s success
  • Mutual respect is essential
  • All meetings are confidential, and anything said during a meeting will not leave the group.
  • Be an active listener
  • Always be open for feedback and support, and be accountable to the group’s purpose and ground rules
  • Share, suggest and encourage, but do not criticize

SAMPLE AGENDA

The meeting’s agenda belongs to the group, and it’s important that everyone participate. Here’s a sample agenda.

  • Welcome
  • Members Share
  • Each member is given, say 10 minutes to share. For example, you can:
  • Share a recent success, or breakthrough, and/or report on your progress since the last meeting
  • Share an opportunity or problem you have experienced
  • Ask for support
  • Share issues/problems you are currently grappling with, and ask the group to suggest strategies and resources that might help overcome these obstacles
  • Bring a resource to each meeting to share with the others. It can be an article, a tape, a book, a contact, a link, a tip, or any useful information. If possible, bring enough copies to share with everyone
  • State a goal you will have accomplished by the next meeting.
  • Tell members what your next milestone is, so that they can nag you to finish your task (again, more important than you might think)
  • Tonight’s Topic

Possibilities include:

  • Problem solving
  • Generate marketing ideas/plans
  • Explore ideas for generating new business
  • Define our individual brands
  • Demo / web site critiques
  • Demo / web site development
  • Sharing technical / studio knowledge
  • Taxes / Insurance / Business Resources
  • Decide on the next meeting’s topic, date, time and place
  • Adjourn

MUTUAL SUPPORT

Think of your group as an intensive networking and feedback machine.

Your voice-over peers will help you brainstorm new possibilities and then hold you accountable, so you stay focused and on track.

You’ll create a new community of supportive colleagues who will work together to move the group, and its members, to new heights.

UNBREAKABLE BUNDLE

Considering the economy and the nature of our business, I think it is really important for voice-over folks to get together and help each other. I’ve had to deal with many voice actors who feel threatened or too insecure to help others, since they feel it will hinder their own career.

But I’m convinced that it does exactly the opposite.

I have found that it has done nothing but open more doors. And if nothing else, meetings like this will give each of us the ability to open more doors for ourselves, since that really what it’s all about.

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ~ Kenyan Proverb

ABOUT DOUG …

Doug Turkel has more than 20 years of experience as a professional voice talent. Branding himself as the “UNnouncer” – as opposed to the brash “Monster Truck” guy – he has “quietly” become the voice behind more than 10,000 spots and several TV networks. His strong roster of clients includes MasterCard, NBC/Telemundo, McDonald’s, The Travel Channel and The Discovery Channel. He is currently the promo voice of the Home Shopping Network. Working from a home studio, he notes that “voice talent who learn to use the tools that the Internet offers can find work anywhere and everywhere.”

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Voice Over Mastermind Groups (pt. 1)

Voiceover Talent Mastermind groups can help

 

As I write this, a soft breeze is rustling the palm fronds, and a small pod of dolphins repeatedly breaks the surface of Blackwater Sound with their dorsal fins. The solitude of this beautiful spot on the bay side of Key Largo has become a favorite weekend escape for my family and me.

At the end of a week filled with the realities of daily life ¬– bills, taxes, car repairs, chaperoning the kid’s field trip and trouble-shooting the hum in my left studio monitor – sitting on this dock, watching the day go by and reeling in the occasional mangrove snapper is just what I need to prepare for the week ahead.

Solitude can be good. Solitude can be great. But when it comes to a business that involves as much networking as voiceovers, solitude can be very isolating.

Remember Waiting Rooms?

For years, one of my favorite parts of working in this industry was the time spent at recording studios, while not in the booth: the schmoozing, the chatting, the plain old hanging out with people who do what we do day in and day out. (The free bagels were a nice perk too.) Back then, recording studios had waiting rooms, where the 5-10 talent who were auditioning for any one gig would share war stories, water cooler chat, and recent successes, both personal and professional. (Little did we know how blessed we were to be auditioning against so few talent. But that’s a story for an entirely different article.)

Meeting People

The camaraderie and support were fun and beneficial, and many of the friendships forged are still in place.

Another great advantage of going to recording studios was the time spent talking to studio owners, engineers, advertising agency personnel and clients, which often led to new leads and opportunities.

These days, with more and more of our work being done from home/remote studios, the opportunities to rub elbows with fellow voiceover talent are hard to come by.

Today’s Solution…

One easy way around this problem is to create those opportunities. For a group of us here in South Florida, the answer was a Mastermind Group. A Mastermind Group is generally defined as a small group of like-minded people who meet regularly to support each other’s growth. A group’s members may have similar or very different goals. The common thread is that each member accepts responsibility for supporting, advising, and challenging other members in pursuit of their goals.

The Beginning

My brother had formed one for his industry (advertising) years ago and I’d heard enough about the benefits of his group to know that it could work for us, too. But first, a little research.

In the early 1900s, Napolean Hill introduced the Mastermind Group concept, describing it as “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.”

“Spirit of Harmony”

For me, while the idea of a ‘coordinated effort’ is obviously important to the success of a Mastermind Group, the key lies in the ‘spirit of harmony.’

Keep that in mind as you consider who to invite to join your group. Starting with a strong foundation, and filling the group with supportive, generous members will go a long way towards ensuring your success.

Who to Invite

Google “Start a Mastermind Group,” and you’ll get more than 636,000 results, many with conflicting recommendations. I can’t help you deal with that kind of information overload, except to tell you what’s worked for us:

When selecting potential members, make sure that they:

Are committed – to the meetings, to the process and to growing their business
Are good communicators who understand two-way sharing – the best members will ask for help and offer help
Are innovators who are willing to explore new ways of doing business
Are not competitive by nature, but are team players
Have similar experience levels – otherwise, more experienced members get little benefit and may quit out of frustration
Have a high level of integrity; trust and authenticity are vital to your group’s success
Have a good sense of humor (This is more important than you think it is.)

Part 2 of this post will discuss the action steps you’ll need to get your group going.

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