A Day in the Life as a Voice Actor in 2020: New Challenges and New Routines
Setting and sticking to a routine is one of the most important success factors in your voice acting career. But how do you adapt when the world changes overnight? In the past few months, COVID-19 has brought on a number of alterations to our daily lives, from maintaining social interaction with friends and family at a distance and over video calls, to homeschooling the kids during the day, and navigating working from home as a voice actor while everyone else in the house is there, too.
For advice on how to create a new voice over routine in 2020 and beyond, we asked our team of voice over experts, the Voices Insiders, to give us a glimpse into their daily lives and share how their routine has changed as a result of COVID-19. The Voices Insiders are a group of professional voice actors who share their insights and tips with the Voices community every month to help talent of all levels grow in their careers.
A routine provides the necessary structure in your day that guides you from one task to the next. Think of your voice over routine like you would a gym routine — the more you stick to it and are consistent, the greater your ‘fitness’ level, and the better your results will be.
Setting a Voice Over Routine
When outside forces disrupt your routine, it’s ok to take a breath and process. Take time for your mental well-being and if you aren’t already, incorporate self care into your schedule going forward. It may be tempting to let stressful situations derail you, but the best way to move forward and regain control is to implement some form of structure, even if it’s not perfect. Trial and error is the best way to learn what works and what you can reasonably handle in your new situation, so don’t be discouraged if setting your new voice over routine takes longer than you’d expect.
While you may be balancing new responsibilities such as homeschooling, taking care of loved ones, or working within shifted schedules, aim to set aside enough time in your day to accomplish your goals as a voice actor. This time can be first thing in the morning, squeezed between school lessons in the afternoon, or even at the end of your day. Make sure to warm up with proper vocal exercises, regularly check your inbox, and have time to audition, record, and edit in your adapted voice over routine.
A Day in the Life as a Voice Actor: Inspiration for Your New Voice Over Routine
Finding a voice over routine that works for your lifestyle doesn’t always come easy. Instead of trying to build out your schedule from scratch, take inspiration from the Voices Insiders.
“I wake up around 7:30 am and have a cup of coffee while I feed my three kiddos breakfast. I usually don’t get into my studio until 11 am or so, after I’ve taken the baby and my two dogs for a walk in the neighborhood. I’ll audition and complete jobs between 11 am and 2:00 or 2:30 pm.
I’m not sure how I get anything done in that short amount of time, but I’ve learned to be super efficient during this short window! My goal each day is to complete at least 10 auditions, with my ultimate goal being 20 auditions a day. I usually end up submitting between 12 and 15 auditions. I stand the whole time while I’m in my studio, so I try to take a break after five auditions to rest my legs and re-hydrate. And then I get right back to it! If I still have energy left at the end of the day, I try to do a few more auditions or complete jobs after I put the kids to bed at 8 pm.”
“I wake up around 7 am and have some coffee and watch the news. My wife works nights as a nurse, so if she’s working then when I wake up she goes to bed. Those days I’m on kid duty until the afternoon so it’s difficult to be productive since my son is three and very vocal. On days I have the morning off, I get in the studio around 8 am or so and audition as much as I can and record the jobs I need to. The afternoon, I usually spend with my wife and kids unless I have a session scheduled.”
“I begin each day doing non-vocal VO tasks like making/going over my to-do list, sending invoices or combing through new auditions, and reading over my paid scripts for the day. This way I am not trying to force myself to record with my ‘morning voice’ that only a mother could love. My next step will be to record a couple of auditions as my ‘warm ups’ before jumping into my client’s work for the day. I start with my smaller projects that I can knock out quickly and fully deliver them. That way, I begin my day feeling accomplished and productive as I get things off my to do-list.
I try to devote an hour a day to auditions, as this step is so important but easy to neglect when our plate is full. I think of this as investing in next week’s income and new clients. It is important that the time I devote to auditions I am completely relaxed and not feeling rushed. When I try to squeeze them in, I can tell there is tension in my reads which really affects my performance. Of course, there are times I receive private auditions or scratch read requests and I try to pause what I am doing to get to these quickly so they client or potential client sees they are important to me. I take several short breaks in the day as well so I am not sitting at the computer all day. I will use this time to run an errand, get a cup of coffee, and relax or go for a short walk to clear my head and rest my voice.”
“Juggling homeschooling my son and running my own VO business means that I’m often working hard to find balance. I start with emails in the morning. When I see the needs of my clients, I schedule recording sessions, followed by auditions, I aim to submit 20 auditions per day. It always requires flexibility, but you can’t beat working from home!”
“My usual routine:
– 6 am wakeup followed by breakfast while scanning the headlines
– Devotions and prayer (read and prayed out loud to warm up the pipes)
– Hop on Voices and start auditioning for the rest of the day
– Anxiously keep refreshing email and Voices to see if I’ve been lucky enough to land any jobs
– Feel slightly sad for about five seconds when I don’t
– Feel euphoric for about 50 minutes when I do!
– End the day around 5 or 6 pm
– Try to make and have supper with the family
– Lights out by 11 pm”
“I begin the day with a quick meditation to ground myself, then warm up with craft exercises. I check my to-do list and arrange my day to meet deadlines. When I have breaks, I audition for jobs that are my ‘wheelhouse’ reads first, then decide whether I need a small exercise or mental health break, or either audition for something that may be a bit of a stretch but is worth it terms of either love or money (i.e. something I’d like to expand my skills into or a high ticket item). I edit jobs that are less than two minutes, otherwise I subcontract all my editing to a sound engineer. I also carve out a few hours every week for blogging and for teaching, both as a private and group coach to the online VO community and at a college in my city.”
“I warm up in the morning with a one-hour walk and then have breakfast. Usually, I’ll do a few vocal warmups before I start, and then I generally try to do the auditions soon after they appear in my inbox. I typically audition in one hour to 1.5-hour chunks of time, get up for a stretch, and then jump back in. As it gets toward the end of my workday, I make sure I do any auditions that are of particular interest to me, especially if the listing will end that night. Most importantly, I stay hydrated by drinking LOTS of water throughout the day.”
“1. Drink coffee.
2. Vocal warm ups.
3. Dive right into work.
4. Dive right into auditions.
5. Take a leg-stretching break.
6. More auditions and work.
7. Break for lunch.
8. Auditions and work.
9. Break for dinner.
10. Complete and work and check for late incoming auditions.
11. Wind down.
How COVID-19 Has Impacted Daily Voice Over Routines
While many voice actors have been working from home long before 2020 hit, work/home life looked a lot different pre-pandemic. Now, homes that were once quiet during working hours or school time are now bustling with activity at all hours of the day, making it more difficult to record quality audio and balance the responsibilities of home life.
“COVID-19 has been a huge distraction. With schooling from home and daycare closed, I’m taking on stay-at-home dad more than a voice actor.”
“With the kids home more and needing help with school, I found my sweet spot for auditioning was at night after they went to bed. I would settle in with a quiet house and no to-do list pressure and just enjoy my time going through scripts. Without the pressure of the day, I felt like I could give a much better performance for my auditions.”
“With my school-aged son home since March, I’ve had to restrict my voice over time a bit to accommodate his online school schedule. The summer off has been nice, but now that he and my five-year-old daughter are starting school virtually again, I know I will have to work around their various (and lengthy) online teaching sessions!
My goal of 20 auditions will remain the same, I just may have to hop into my studio a couple of times per day rather than during one long recording session. And, of course, there’s always night time after the kiddos are in bed! I find that it helps if I focus on that daily audition goal rather than how much time I spend in the studio. Time management is so important! I’ll scroll through jobs and weed out the ones I’m not a good fit for before I step foot in my studio so that my time spent in the studio is just me auditioning.”
“I’m busier than I’ve ever been! So it’s important to stay balanced: exercise, eat right, take time for friends/family, and recuperative activities. Also, to hire out some of the time-consuming (no-to-low ROI) but necessary activities.”
“If anything, there’s been fewer distractions because my kids haven’t needed rides to and from school every day, which used to break things up for me.
It’s weird, but 2020 and all its craziness hasn’t really changed my routine at all. I’m an introverted voice actor with a home studio. I’m very, very grateful for the job I have and I do NOT take it for granted. Every day I thank God for the blessing that this job is, not only for just me but for my entire family.”
“When my son’s preschool closed due to COVID, I had to change my schedule immediately. Now, I have to balance life with no childcare and work, but thankfully working from home allows a lot of flexibility to make it all possible. I use nap time and night time to better concentrate on my work.”
“This year I’ve found I’ve had to manage stress in different ways, take more breaks, and allow myself much more space to complete projects. Emotions have intensified for everyone I’ve dealt with and the good news is, most people are allowing more time and space for getting things done.”
Additional Advice From the Voices Insiders
Your daily voice over routine is going to continue to look different for a while. It’s important to set yourself up for good habits and to keep your goals as a voice actor in view.
“I rarely clear out my full slate of auditions each day, and I had to be able to give myself permission for that. If 30-35 new job postings go up in one day, and there are still new ones coming in at 10, 11 at night, I have to be able to say, ‘No. I’m done for today.’ Having your home as your workplace makes giving yourself structure and boundaries difficult, but I’ve learned not to beat myself up over not being able to do everything.”
“Take care of yourself and give yourself a break. Also, give others more time and space to respond.”
“This has been a crazy year, filled with A LOT of change and unknowns so to help maintain my sanity, I make sure to take time for me each day, even if it’s just taking a moment to enjoy a cup of my favorite tea or doing 30 minutes of yoga. With three small children and a busy voice over career, I can sometimes forget to address my own needs, but if I build into my schedule some ‘me’ time, it helps!”
“It’s always a work in progress. Allow yourself flexibility. You do have to use self-discipline to keep yourself on track. A lot of parents put themselves (and their careers) on the back burner, but you have to remind yourself that your career and your goals won’t realize themselves and will be better for your family in the long run.”
“Balance is probably the hardest thing as a VO talent. There is always the pressure to perform on demand so your client doesn’t look somewhere else. There is also the pressure to keep working and auditioning to put food on the table. First of all, don’t be so hard on yourself as this is hard for all of us at any stage.
I would encourage you to find your sweet spot for recording where you feel most comfortable and plan your day around that. Then balance the rest of the day of editing, billing, marketing, and personal needs around that time. You will always feel more confident overall if you feel like you just gave your best performance. Begin your day with an easy job and end your day with an easy job so you can feel productive and see that to-do list shrink. Find a time to take a break and put work aside for your mental and physical health. For me this is several small breaks but for you out might be a long lunch break.
Finally, don’t worry if your day doesn’t go as planned. Life happens and people understand. If a project is taking longer than expected or something personal comes up that will delay you, just make sure you communicate with your client so they know when to expect the end product. Clear and quick communication in life is so important and this is no different for your clients.
There is a season for everything. Some weeks you will be slammed with paid work and others will be very light. Use the light weeks to market and audition as much as possible. Also use the light weeks as time to get away with friends and family, even if ‘getting away’ is just to your living room couch for a movie. My husband and kids are more understanding of the busy times when I can find slower times to carve out for them.”
“This is a high energy job. It takes mass amounts of energy and commitment to get your career off the ground, then keep it rolling and continue to meet new goals. At all stages, balance is important. Being grounded is important. Having time for the other things in your life that refresh you is important. Without it, you either run the risk of burning out or (because you are no longer whole and in touch with what’s important) or delivering subpar performances and risk a downslide in your career.”
“Be flexible and know that most people are in a similar boat, trying to figure out new routines and getting used to new normals. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself and those around you.”
How has your voice over routine changed in 2020? Let us know in the comments!