Business of VO: What to Expect Your First Year

with Liz Atherton

With babies, the first year is serious love combined with sleepless nights, bottles, diapers, and lots and lots of learning.  It’s much the same with VO . . . serious love (passion for the work), sleepless nights (must find work), bottles and diapers (mics and drop cloths) and lots and lots of learning!  Listen as VO Boss Anne Ganguzza and guest, Liz Atherton, share wizdom and stories of the first year blues with clues for success!


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Liz has her own booth – SQUEE!

  2. Thank you Brad Hyland and Tim Tippets for helping!

  3. Anne’s first year in VO – it was very stressful.

  4. In any first year of any business, you’re going to run into a lot of “don’ts” which mean you

  5. MUST be passionate and driven because it is scary, and risky!

  6. I’m going to try and do this – make an agreement with yourself.

  7. Setting up a home studio takes a lot of unexpected learning.

  8. As a first year VO it’s more than just a studio…

  9. What equipment do I need?

  10. Your equipment needs to match your genre.

  11. If you don’t know what you need, you should hire a professional and pay them to help – this will save time and money.

  12. You need to hire people who are specialists in their field to help you get started the right way.

  13. Cheap isn’t always the right answer.

  14. Your FIRST investment should be coaching/training/coaching/training/demo . . .

  15. You must be success driven – don’t rely on a fallback position.

  16. Investments to start companies can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  17. Investments to start VO can cost thousands.

  18. Equipment – Software – Coaching ← all required to start a successful VO business.

  19. You are your brand!

  20. You are your product.

  21. And then there’s time . . . sometimes it is YEARS – at least 5 years!! Know this and be ready.

  22. Even a voiceover prodigy has to start with learning.

  23. DON’T QUIT! It can be at least 5, if not 10 years before you get a sound return on your business.

  24. Keep adjusting.

  25. Create multiple voices – work on different genres – diversify.

  26. Find that predictable income.

  27. If you’re not working for someone else, then you should find multiple revenue streams.

  28. It’s now what’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong?

  29. I’m not hungry, I’m dieting.

  30. The first year is going to be tough!

  31. A VO career is going to take time and money – and it’s worth it!

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Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

Thanks to Tim Tippets, The VO Tech Guru for helping Liz set up her studio!

  1. Check out Liz’s new MIcrophone, The USB Blue Yeti

  2. Find out about 

  3. Recorded on ipDTL

  4. Awesome editing by Carl Bahner

Full Episode Transcript

>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premier business owner strategies and successes being utilized by the industry has top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS. Now let’s welcome your host Anne Ganguzza.

Anne: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with the Bee, Miss Liz Atherton!

Liz: Bzzz that’s me. Good afternoon!

[both laugh]

Anne: Well, Liz.

Liz: Yeah?

Anne: It’s been an amazing afternoon, and I’m so happy to now be speaking to you in your very own booth. Woohoo! Your very own studio.

Liz: It’s quite special. I had a very underground view. Only special people can come to my studio.

Anne: You have to crawl under the table to get to Liz’s studio, but I will say how proud I am of you. By the way, for those BOSSes that do not know, Liz has gone like above and beyond any other guest that I’ve ever had in terms of getting to record for the podcast. So Liz has traveled hours, like hours to studios. We’ve begged, borrowed and all sorts of things to Liz to get to, because Liz did not have a studio before now. And now Liz has a very simple home studio which she set up all by herself. We had some great help though from some amazing people. I think the biggest shout-out, number one, will go to Brad who initially helped –

Liz: Brett Highland, thank you, thank you.

Anne: Brett Highland. Thank you so much for helping my girl out.

Liz: You’re a rock star.

Anne: And also Mr. Tim Tippetts, the VO tech guru. Yes!

Liz: Oh my gosh, Tim is amazing. Thank goodness for Tim.

Anne: So big shout-out to you guys for helping Liz to set that up. This is now, we’re listening to Liz in her home studio. So I’m really excited about that.

Liz: Thank you, Anne.

Anne: So Liz, you know, that struggle that you had or that we had in the beginning to get you, to get you going and to get you productive and in business for this podcast reminds me a lot of my first year when I started in voiceover just setting up my own business and being an entrepreneur. And there were so many struggles that I had. And I wanted to talk about it today because with the BOSS listeners because I think that a lot of times, it’s a lot more complicated [laughs] then they want to think it is. I want people to understand what to expect the first year. What to expect your first year when you’re [laughs] a voice talent, not when you’re expecting, but when you’re the voice talent, what to expect your first year.

Liz: And Anne, no matter what it is, it’s got to start with you have to be dedicated to what you’re going to do because in any first year of any business, and sometimes even more than one year, you’re going to hit struggles that you don’t anticipate. You’re going to hit things that knock you down. You’re going to have naysayers. You’re going to have all of those things that say don’t, don’t, don’t, and if you don’t have a I can make this happen attitude, then you’re just in trouble. And I just think it starts first and foremost there.

Anne: So true. So true. And the studio is a very, very important component of your business, because you know, obviously it’s your livelihood. You have to record for a living, and you have to produce files that are reasonable sounding. Not even more – better than reasonable sounding, but good sounding quality audio files. And to do that, you really need to have a home studio. And I remember setting up my home studio the first time. It was such a struggle, number one, because I was still trying to figure out what it meant to actually have a home studio and where was I supposed to set one up, and how was that supposed to work? And I didn’t really understand the science of it, which is why we thank people like Tim Tippetts so profusely because –

Liz: Oh my gosh.

Anne: – they know what they’re doing. They can certainly help set up home studios in a heartbeat. I’ve worked with a lot of great people in the industry. But I remember, I was like in tears because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I couldn’t figure out how to get it set up. And I knew that that meant, for me, it meant make or break in terms of my business. You know, I had to get something set up that could produce quality audio. I just had to.

Liz: But you’re not just doing that. That’s one piece of what you’re trying to make happen in your voiceover business. One, you’ve taken the decision, I’m going to try to do this. You’ve got all of these other parameters so that when you’re running into trouble setting up your studio, which like you said, is probably the most important component of what you’re trying to do, because you can’t, you can’t run out and rent space to go record a bunch of auditions. I mean, people used to do that. I remember we had a guy, way back when I first started doing voiceover agenting, and people didn’t have home studios. And you couldn’t go on, like I did two days ago, and purchase a Yeti – shout-out to Yeti, but purchase a Yeti microphone that came with headsets and a filter on it or a guard, and have it delivered the next day.

Anne: That’s true, right? You had to go to a store and buy it. That’s number one. [laughs]

Liz: Exactly, yeah. But you know, people used to pay to go sit in someone else’s studio and record. But anyway, beyond that, now you’ve decided you want to do it yourself, and maybe you were or were not your own sound engineer in the past. You know, so now you’ve got to figure out, how do I make this sound good? What do these levels mean? There is just so many things just technically to be a voiceover talent.

Anne: Now that doesn’t mean that all voiceover talent run out and go get a Yeti microphone because that’s another decision that needs to be made depending on what you’re going to be doing with your business. Now for example Liz got a Blue Yeti USB mic because for her, it was a quick solution to be able to communicate with her clients and/or me for this podcast in good quality audio. And the Blue Yeti USB just happened to work out and it was a pretty color too.

Liz: It is pretty.

Anne: Sometimes that may, you know, your microphone has to make you happy. I have a multitude of microphones. And for Liz’s purposes, that Blue Yeti is serving its purpose very well. For me I’ve got, gosh, I’ve got like four or five different mics. Now that doesn’t mean you need to have four or five mics. I’ve been in the business for, you know, years. They’re all great mics, so they still work.

Liz: And they serve their purpose.

Anne: They do.

Liz: I’m not auditioning. I’m not trying to be a voiceover actor. I’m just someone who chats a lot about voiceover. Whenever I’ve joined other exam sessions or things like that, I’ve done it from my laptop or whatever is built in. And you know, for an ongoing podcast, that just won’t do. Even as a guest, like you said, I’ve borrowed other people’s studios but now I kind of feel kind of special. I feel kind of grown up. [laughs] But even that was a mess. You knkow? Because it wasn’t just plug and go because I didn’t have, like you’re talking about, I didn’t have a studio, I didn’t have like a quiet room.

Anne: Yes, exactly. So there’s all of those factors that went into play for that. If you don’t know what needs to go in to your studio, it can be really frustrating at first for you to try to set it up, and you think you can get all the information online, and I’m not saying you can’t. You can get a good amount of information online. But sometimes when you’re just, you know, in the throes of the beginning of things, it can be super frustrating if you don’t have a support system, and if you can’t find a direct answer that can be online. So.

Liz: Well Anne, and I want to jump in. I’m going to take the opportunity because this is a real nice segue between voiceover entrepreneurialship and me starting a different kind of business that supports voiceover. You know, as a VO talent, you do have the opportunity to reach out, but when it comes time to really make those decisions, I would like to encourage you to hire the right person to help you. While people are like, “oh, I can do it myself, I can figure it out,” if you don’t start with the right expert, whether they’re your good friend and they’ll do it because they love you, or you’re part of a group, or you pay somebody, I highly recommend that you step into the realm with the expert to begin with. It’ll save you time in the long run.

Anne: And it’ll save you money in the long run, I think.

Liz: In the long run, exactly. And you’re going to learn so much. So right now, I mean, I’ve started two businesses. My first one was a talent agency, and I sold it in the end of 2018 to go into CastVoices full-time. So very fortunate, found some investors that are just the crème de la crème. Even with the crème de la crème investors, you still have to work through things like documentation. You have to hire attorneys. You have to do this, and you have to do that. I had been working with an attorney that I absolutely love for all my years as an agent. Not an entertainment attorney. I have those as well, but from a contractual business standpoint, I had worked with this attorney for years. My investors had their attorney. The difficulty came when we have two different attorneys who are brought – or at least in my case. I can’t speak to their attorney. They’re both great people, but more broad-based in trying to figure out things. I feel like if we together had hired an attorney, we might have been able to circumvent a lot of just the goings-on between our attorneys talking. That might not sound like a big deal, but when it was all said and done, that was a very, very large bill. We were just going with what we knew instead of maybe looking out there for the kind of business we were trying to begin together and found someone expert in our field.

Anne: Well, I think your point, I think your point is that you need to hire people that are specialists in their field to help you to propel your business forward. I think that’s a super important point that a lot of people I know, when they first get into voiceover, they try to get into it the cheapest way possible. Of course there are some great support groups. Of course there’s the Internet at your fingertips. However, you do have to really have a mindset that this is a business, and a business is going to require investment. Let’s say for voiceover, that initial investment, which I fully, fully believe and stand on my soapbox, should be coaching, training, coaching, training, coaching, training, and the demo of course, and as well as some good business sense or business training to help you navigate this industry. Liz, in your entrepreneurship, in your businesses, you required a hefty investment.

Liz: I did.

Anne: I think that it’s something to note that voiceover, you know, beginning people in this industry, thinking it’s so expensive to pay for coaching or it’s so expensive to put up a website, my goodness, Liz, can you shed some light on how much you had invested in the first year?

Liz: Oh. So I invested myself for many years trying to get it ready because it was an idea.

Anne: And yourself and your time is money. So.