A Day in the Life of a Full-time Voice Actor and the Dangerous Pajama Theory.
The day of a working voice over actor is cloaked in mystery. Some people assume it's filled with doing fun, crazy cartoon voices all day. "That is your job, isn't it?" Others (the majority of people I talk with) take a more practical approach, "Even if you book two commercials a day, well, they're only like thirty or sixty seconds long? WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY?"
(massively important side note) If anyone knows of a job where I can pay my very real bills (my half of the mortgage, utilities, car payment, groceries, etc.) working only a few minutes a day, please privately email me.
I like to attribute this dangerous kind of thinking to something I call the "pajama theory"- which is the belief that because often times nobody is around to see what you're wearing (i.e. pajamas) you're not "really" working.
I get it, I do. It's not that common of a profession, but a lot of folks out there might be surprised at how ordinary the day really is. For those interested in what taking their voice-work full-time might look like or for those of you who are just plain curious, here's a rundown of what an average day of mine looks like. You'll probably find it's quite similar to any other office job.
7:00 a.m. - Time to get that coffee! I'm married with a seven-year-old child, so like most folks we're up getting dressed, eating breakfast, and getting our child off to school (or a day camp some weeks in the summer) at this time. Sometimes I'll throw in thirty minutes at the gym, too. Other than my being able to choose yoga pants to wear some days, this part of the day is pretty standard.
8:30-9:00- Sit down at my desk with coffee and check email. Also pretty standard. This morning I had about thirty emails? I have two agents, lots of "virtual" agents/booking sites, and I belong to quite a few audition sites and networking groups, so the good majority of these emails are audition notices. But some emails are also clients from my own personal client-base who need revisions or small tweaks on jobs I did for them the day before. I pretty much just respond to who I need to and clean up my inbox.
9:00-10:00 a.m.- This is when I go through all of those auditions that were posted overnight. Many (not all) voice seekers find someone they like in their first ten audition responses, so if I think I have a good shot at a job? Yup, that audition needs to get in early. Out of dozens of auditions posted overnight (I carefully read through them all) I pick maybe the top four that I think I have the best chance at.
10:00 am- 12:00- This is when I typically hit my studio. After some vocal warm ups (sounds pretentious, ugh, but it really can mean the difference between getting the job over someone else or not), I will auditon for those four auditions I think I have the best shot at. Now, even though each audition is just a few lines, I take an hour or more on these. Why? To win a job over lots of other actors, you need to find a unique way to deliver the message. This requires thought, trial and error, experimenting, multiple takes, and editing. This is acting, not reading. If it's an open audition there could be fifty other actors submitting with you. After auditions, I'll deliver the tweaks or small jobs my clients emailed me about overnight. I'll also usually get my first booking of the day around this time along with messages from people who need tweaks/revisions on jobs I worked on earlier in the week.
12:00- 12:30- I usually take my first break around this time. I'll have lunch and check out social media. I strive to post a couple of times a day on all my accounts. Technically, this is considered work, but I love it. I've learned so much and met so many terrific people through social media. It's nice to have that socialization, too. Sometimes I have ads running somewhere, so I'll check out the analytics to see how I'm doing, how I can improve, etc.
12:30- 2:30- There's usually another booking or a few private audition requests (people I already know and work with) that come over around this time. Again, I don't just "read", I definitely spend my time doing different takes and variations and really thinking about the script as an actor. Also, I do the editing. Clients want really clean audio with no bumps or stray sounds, all my breaths cut out, etc.
2:30-3:30- This is my second break. I'll go get my son from either camp or school. We like to spend an hour together talking about his day and having a snack together, playing a game, shooting a few hoops, maybe running an errand together.
3:30-5:00- My son is totally over me and now wants to go play with someone his age, read, play on some electronic device or watch television. Like clockwork, something always comes over around 3:30, usually a booking, so works out great for both of us. After that booking, I start trying to wrap up my day. I'll check in with anything still out, send out invoices for completed/approved jobs, deposit payments into my work account..light daily accounting. I aim to finish up around 5:00 p.m. Like most folks, we have family time after five: dinner, karate classes, homework, a television show, etc. Now and then a job will come over at night or a great audition, but that's not daily. Also, I rarely have any work on the weekends.
Pretty standard Mon- Fri, 9-5 stuff, right? The majority of the day's work isn't recording, nope, it's all that stuff done in-between the paid bookings. That "in-between" stuff a.k.a. "running a business" is what keeps the paid bookings coming in. Stop doing these things for any prolonged period of time and the business stops running . And those fun, wacky, animation voices? I mean, it happens from time to time. From time to time my hair looks really naturally good when I wake up, too. It's not all that often is what I'm sayin'. My bread and butter is commercials. Product videos are a close second.
Thankfully, I have a spouse to share the basic home and child responsibilities with, but throw in surprise doctor appointments, sick days, and the rest of normal daily life ....and ...have I completely removed the glamour yet?
Again, this is an "average" day. I could have a live directing session with ten people around a conference table listening in, have a client who wants six edited takes of one spot, or someone who needs a dozen revisions. I could have an obscene amount of bookings: my craziest day was 18 bookings, I think? I vaguely remember crying and maybe eating a ham sandwich in the shower that day. But the shopping spree I was able to have because of that day? What soggy sandwich? Who cares?! Make it rain!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, yes, there are days that audition boards are dead and no bookings come through. Those can be nice. Sometimes I eat ice cream and watch Netflix or get lunch with a friend. Everyone needs a break and some personal time. That's not what anyone should aim to do, though. Do that too much and your business will suffer. Too much free time should start making you nervous. Free time isn't just for ice cream. Free time is also a really great time to explore new ways to grow your business. Free time means you SHOULD be looking for ways to grow.
I have to say, there are a lot of folks who want to work from home or do what I do for the sheer fact that they think it means lying around in their pajamas all day (that dangerous little "pajama theory"). I mean, you could, but you wouldn't earn enough to pay your bills. A business can't succeed if it's not treated like one. People with this mindset are not meant to be entrepreneurs. Strangely, I've also had some people tell me they feel sorry for me because I have to stay around my office and be accessible from 9-5. This one is a head scratcher for me... since those are the hours of most jobs. As a business owner? Well, think of a place you like to shop. What if every time you went to that business nobody was there? Would you keep going there or find somewhere else to shop? Yeah, I kinda have to be around.
"Wait a second...this is starting to sound like..." A real job? Yup, it sure is.
It's a real job with real hours and responsibilities. You have to think about such non-fun issues as no paid vacation, saving money for when you do want time off/ when you need to make it through the slower parts of the year. If you have young children , yup, you have to think about child care.
So that's it. That's the real deal. Surprised? Disappointed? What you thought?
Now, after breaking that all down, I will say this is the most flexible, satisfying, wonderful job I have ever had. I wouldn't trade it for the world. See, (even after everything I said) there IS a bit of truth to the idea that voice actors aren't "really" working. You know the saying, "If you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life."? It's absolutely 100% true. I'm definitely busy every day, but I haven't "worked" in going on four years - that's when I took my voice over business full time. Okay, wearing your pajamas to work (not that I do it all that often) isn't SO terrible either;)