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Special Guest: Tom Dheere

It’s time to Boss-up a level with advice from this week’s guest – Tom Dheere – the Voiceover Strategist. This funny, charming voiceover actor and coach is all about business so naturally; we had to have him on the show. Remember, the H is silent, but he’s not! Hit play and get down to business with three VOBosses in this week’s episode!



Takeaways

Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Tom Dheere was an acting major with Shakespearian aspirations.

  2. He found voiceover acting in the mid-90’s and never looked back.

  3. Anne, Gabby and Tom can play a game of six-degrees of separation since they are all from the NY/NJ area.

  4. Tom lives in NYC and considers himself to be a blue color, non-broadcast voice actor.

  5. He’s happy to make a living with the ‘boring’ voice work that DOESN’T make you a household-name.

  6. Like many voiceover actors, Tom didn’t know much about the business of VO when he started and had to learn it on his own.

  7. He tries to help other’s avoid mistakes he made early on in his career.

  8. He cautions against the American Idol, starving artist mentality of performing for a living.

  9. Agents do not come and seek you out – an agent can only make you more successful than you already are.

  10. Agents don’t make you a star – they help you get opportunities you would not get otherwise.

  11. Tom is big on numbers and cost-benefit analysis. He gets a lot of work from recommendations from fellow voiceover actors.

  12. Spreadsheets and the like help him manage anxiety and his business via structures.

  13. Voiceovers can be chaotic and unpredictable – making it a numbers game – takes away some of the fear.

  14. Chaos and creativity do not go hand in hand.


Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++


Tom Dheere’s Website

Recorded on ipDTL


Transcript

>> Today’s voiceover talent is more than just a pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Today’s voiceover talent has to be a BOSS.

>> BOSS.

>> A BOSS.

>> A BOSS.

>> Join us each week for business owner strategies and success with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabrielle Nistico, along with some of the strongest voices in our industry.

>> Rock your business.

>> Rock your business.

>> Rock your business.

>> Like a BOSS.

>> Like a BOSS.

>> Rock your business like a BOSS.

>> Rock your business like a BOSS.

>> A VO BOSS.

>> A VO BOSS.

>> A VO BOSS.

Anne: Welcome, everybody, to the VO BOSS podcast, I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my bosstie, Gabby Nistico. Hey Gabby.

Gabby: Hi!

Anne: Today we have voice talent, speaker, coach, proclaimed VO strategist. [laughs]

Gabby: I, yeah, I think we can please say that.

Anne: Yes. We must tell everyone that the H is silent, but he is not. Welcome to the podcast Mr. Tom Dheere!

Anne and Gabby: Yay!

Tom: Thank you for having me.

Anne: It is so exciting, Tom, to finally have you on.

Tom: I know, right?

Anne: It’s like our East Coast like soul brother. [laughs]

Gabby: We met for the first time at VO Atlanta this past year. And I was like “where has this man been all my life? What’s going on?” Like a long-lost brother, you know, cousin, somebody, something, yeah.

Tom: Oh shucks.

Gabby: So tell us – yeah, you know the drill, tell us your tale. Tell us how you got into this wacky business.

Anne: Tell us your tale.

Tom: Let’s see. I was an acting major, got my BFA in acting, I went to the National Shakespeare Conservatory here in Manhattan. My original plan was to be a working New York-based Shakespearean actor. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t want the Hollywood thing, I didn’t want to be rich or famous. I just wanted to ply my trade doing Shakespearean acting. I dropped out of school for various reasons. And I’m hanging at home with my mom, and she’s reading a copy of New Jersey Monthly Magazine, and she’s looking at the back where it’s got all the classifieds and want ads and stuff, and she’s like “what’s voiceover?” I’m like, “I don’t know. You make money to talk?”

Which is exactly what it is. And she’s like, “well, there’s this coach in Ridgewood,” which was about a half hour from where I lived at the time. And she said, “you got a good voice, you should check it out.” So I called her up, went over there. Her name was Hope Noah, who was a voice coach back then, and did a diagnostic. She’s like, “yeah, I think you’ve got potential,” so I worked with her for like six months, and then I cut my commercial demo and then she gave me – this is 1995. She gave me a stack of Xerox copies of production company listings, and she’s like, “Ok, well congratulations, here’s some production companies you can cold call, good luck.”

Anne: [laughs] See you!

Gabby: Aww. Tom, that means you and I were in New York at the same time beating our heads against the pavement trying to find voiceover work.

Tom: That’s right.

Anne: But wait. But Tom, you were in Ridgewood, which was like two towns over from where I was working at the time. And so we were like –

Gabby: Oh for the love of God.

Tom: Really?

Anne: I know, isn’t that crazy? I swear to God. I was working in Hackensack, and living in –

Tom: Oh, Hackensack! I know Hackensack.

Anne: Living in Mahwah at the time.

Tom: I know Mahwah as well, right on Route 17. Yeah.

Anne: Yep, so wow.

Tom: That’s funny.

Anne: Yeah, I used to frequent the restaurants in Ridgewood quite a bit.

Gabby: So this episode has the potential to be the butterfly effect. Basically, had one thing had gone differently, we may have all crossed paths.

Tom: I turned left on 34th street instead of right.

Gabby: That’s amazing. Alright, so you’ve been at this a good bit, and I know you do coaching, and you do a lot of audiobook work. I mean, tell us a little bit more about your day-to-day now.

Tom: My day-to-day now is that I’m living here in New York City with my wife, and right here in the heart of Manhattan. I’m just a block away from Madison Square Garden, so I’m like right in the middle of it.

Anne: Wow.

Gabby: Nice.

Tom: About 60% of my work is non-broadcast, e-learning, explainers, industrials, you know, the boring stuff that you didn’t know was an actual voiceover when you got into this industry because you were trying to be – do cartoons and stuff. And then I have this really bad habit. It’s called eating, and I’m kind of up to like three times a day now, so when I found out that, “oh, I can pay my rent doing this quote unquote boring (I think it’s awesome) nonbroadcast stuff,” I’m like “ok. I’ll do that.” That’s more than half of my work, about 10% is audiobooks, and then the balance of voiceover work is, you know, commercials, your occasional medical narration, occasional video game, that sort of thing. And so another part of my day, big part of my day is I do a lot of coaching, a lot, a lot of coaching as the VO Strategist and demo production as well.

Anne: Tell us a little bit about your business practices because that’s really what this podcast is focusing on, the business of the day-to-day of VO.

Tom: Well, funny you should ask, Anne. This is – what I teach now is everything that I wish I knew 20 years ago. Because I went to Montclair State, I got my BFA in theater, you know, National Shakespeare Conservatory, I learned a lot about the craft, about acting, but didn’t learn how to get an acting job. And then I transitioned into voiceovers, I didn’t know for a long time how to get a voiceover job, you know, all the ins and outs. And it’s like, “ok, well now I got the job, what do I do, how do I comport myself, how do I invoice, how do I pay my taxes, how do I brand and market myself?” So I teach all the things that I wish I knew. So my goal is to give back to an industry that has been so amazing to me over these 20 plus years. I call it my karmic penance, by trying to share with as many people as possible all the things that I did wrong so they don’t have to go through what I went through so they can do it right.

Anne: Nice.

Gabby: Now I know why I like you. That’s it.

Anne: Side note, my husband went to Montclair State, just sayin’.

Tom: Oh.

Anne: It’s crazy.

Gabby: Weird.

Anne: Very weird. So Tom, tell us a little bit about what you’ve learned through the years. Because I mean, you’ve been in the industry for quite some time, and I love the fact that yeah, I wish I had that as well when I was going through the industry, like somebody to help me out and teach me the things that I wished I had known. Would it – give me an example of something you wish you had known back then that you know now?

Tom: Well, I started recording from home and doing that stuff in 2006, but before that in that time from ‘94 when I started, wanted to do this until 2006 when I was able to actually record from home, and you know Facebook was new, and LinkedIn was around the corner, and Twitter and YouTube and stuff. But that 10-year gap in between, the one thing I didn’t understand that I really wish you know – knew was that if you want to be an artist inside the booth, you need to be a business outside the booth. And a huge part of that –

Gabby: Amen.

Tom: – yeah, and a big part of that is not relieving yourself of the responsibility of your career to the “American Idol,” “Chorus Line,” “God, I hope I get it” starving artist mentality.

[Anne and Gabby laugh]

Tom: You know? Because that’s what a lot of people coming in to the voice industry think. It’s like, “well I get my training, and then I get my demo, and then I get an agent, and then I wait for the phone to ring, and then the phone rings, and they say ‘we have all this money and we like your voice, can you be here at 3:00?’” And you know, it’s like that’s not – I mean, there may have been a time in the ‘90s that that was kind of the reality, but that’s not the reality of it anymore. Your agent’s job is not to make your phone ring. It’s your job to make your phone ring. So I wish I had known that instead of just waiting to be discovered because that don’t happen.

Anne: I had that. I definitely had that when I was first starting out as well, back in the early days where I was like, “I thought that agents would come seek me out,” crazy, naïve young girl that I was.

Tom: What a lot of people don’t understand is that an agent will not make you successful. An agent will only make you more successful in a particular genre that you’re already good at. An agent’s job is to enhance your career and give you access to auditions that you can’t get on your own. They’re not gonna make you a shtar. You know, that’s just not how it works.

Anne: Absolutely, Tom, I totally agree with that. So many people that just start off in this business, it’s their thing. “Well, I need an agent to get work. I need an agent to get work.” It’s truly not necessarily the case. They are an opportunity that it’s just one of the opportunities you have for getting yourselves work.

Tom: Right. I’m a numbers guy, so I do cost-benefit analysis of my voiceover business to see what my revenue is and where it came from. Last year about 5%, 6% of my revenue came from representation, from my manager and the various agents. 50% of the work that I got last year came from fellow voice talents who recommended me to clients. Who’s more important to me, agents or my so-called competition? Clearly my so-called competition, and I really believe there is no competition in the voiceover industry. I think there’s plenty of work for everybody that knows what they’re doing. It’s just a matter of figuring out what you need to do to be an effective voice talent in the 21st century.

Gabby: Agreed, but I got to ask you to back up for a second. How does a guy who wanted to be a Shakespearean actor become a numbers guy who’s doing cost-benefit analysis?

Tom: That’s a very good question. That’s just kind of the ABC’s of me. My mom likes to say when I was a kid, I had the MASH playset like mess hall tray, because I didn’t like my food being, you know, leaning in, you know, blending in with my other food.

Gabby: Oh. OK. You’re mildly on the spectrum, I got it. I’m right there with you. Alright, that makes sense.

Tom: Yes, but let’s not say – I’m not full-blown autistic, and I don’t even have Asperger’s. I actually went to a – I actually got diagnosed to not having any of those things.

Gabby: But you got tested!

Tom: Well, I did ‘cause a friend of mine was like, “well you know.” “Really? I should go!” And I went. And they’re like, “no, you’re fine.”

Gabby: That’s amazing.

Tom: And then I yelled at my friend who thought it was hilarious. Anyway I am very structured. The way that I navigate the universe is by trying to create as much order as possible, by understanding what things are, and why things are, and how do I put the period at the end of every sentence? So for me, having spreadsheets and doing cost-benefit analysis is a form of control and a way to manage anxiety. I have anxiety like a lot of people do, but the way that I’ave been able to positively manifest it is through being able to create structures and systems, systems of thought and systems of execution, so I have a better handle on how I think about what I’m supposed to think about and how I’m able to realize that and turn it into things that are actionable. Because as you both know, the voiceover industry in particular and the entertainment industry in general is extraordinarily chaotic, unpredictable, and very few people have really any chance of truly achieving any level of success. So I try to do what I can to make it a numbers game as much as I can, by giving everything a name and a color, you know, or a code or an abbreviation. That’s how I get my way through the universe. And my friends are like, “how in the world? You’re so anal. How can you be in the most unpredictable business you could possibly get and be successful?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.”

Anne: I love that description.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: Like I think we could just end the podcast now because that was just brilliant. I love –

Gabby: Alright, bye.

Anne: – like, you nailed it on the head when you said you wanted – you brought in some control, right? We’re in such an unpredictable industry that I think even for myself, the only time I was able to really grow and gain control of how my business was growing was by actually writing down those numbers, doing an assessment of ok, what part of this business is bringing me income, and how much, and when, and where, and I think that’s when I as a business started to really like exponentially grow. So I think it’s critical that people really sit down and take a look at some numbers in addition to obviously doing their auditions and doing the dream job in the booth. But I think they really have to take control, just as you said.

Tom: I can tell you exactly when it happened. Because when I got into this, when I was 22 is when I decided I wanted to be a voice talent, I thought I needed to sound like James Earl Jones and book commercial. Do I sound like James Earl Jones? So, and then a few years down the road, I did start to do this cost-benefit analysis, and at that time, 75% of my work was e-learning. And I was like, huh. So I had a little conversation with Mr. Earl Jones in my head and I said, “look, you do the commercials, I’ll do the e-learning. ‘Cause I can’t do what you do, and you can’t do what I do.” And once I kind of had that a-ha moment, my career changed immediately.

Gabby: For some folks in this industry, there is this weird, I don’t know, belief or maybe it’s just a crutch that in order to be creative, I must be chaotic. And I don’t…for me anyway, that’s not the case.

Tom: Yeah. That’s nice, but that’s not living in reality.

Gabby: No!

Tom: You know? You want to do that, you want to live in a cardboard box, that’s fine. I like clean clothes, I like eating good food, I like going on vacations. You know what I mean?

Anne: I like being able to brush my teeth.

Tom: I like knowing what’s gonna happen. And even then, you know, I don’t know, I literally don’t know what’s gonna happen next. I mean, I’ve got my Google calendar that’s filled with, you know, auditions, and bookings, and coaching sessions, and demo sessions, and conferences and stuff, but day to day, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean yesterday, just yesterday, I was doing a retake session for an audiobook that I narrated, and in the middle of it, the guy that owns the studio called me and said, we’ve got a client who wants to book you right now, and they don’t even realize you’re in the studio. And I’m like “oh, because I’ve worked with them a bunch of times.” We paused the recording session, and then we took an hour, and we did that session. Then we went back to the retake session because that’s life. That’s just the voiceover industry right there. You can only get so, you can only be so prepared for that.

Anne: Yeah.

Tom: So I like to make my life a scaffolding that I can drape the crazy on. You know what I mean?

Anne: Well, I think that’s the great unpredictable part of the business. You know, when all of a sudden they’re like, “oo, you know, we need you for another session now,” I think that’s great, but also there’s the reality of “well, there might be a day when I may not have a job.” That is something where, when you talk about jotting down the numbers and kind of color coding and taking control, I think that can really help to alleviate the stress and anxiety that comes with a day that may not have work.

Tom: Right. And days that don’t have work doesn’t mean you’re not working. I have my monthly action plan sitting here right next to me, and it’s got checkboxes of all the things that I can do when there’s nothing else to do, focus on my marketing, do this, make a post on Instagram, get ready for this newsletter, build that slideshow. You know? There’s always something that needs to be done. It’s just a matter of having the wherewithal and self-awareness and proactivity to go “ok, this is my business.” Because you’ve got to take a holistic look at your voiceover business. It’s not just audition, cross fingers, book, audition, cross fingers, book. That’s not what it is. That’s like 20% maybe, maybe less than that of your voiceover business model. What’s the other 80%? Focusing on your marketing, developing your craft, you know, attending networking events, you know, making sure that your cables aren’t frayed. You know, all those little things that are focusing on the health and well-being of you and your business physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. That’s how you’re able to move forward because you can take that holistic approach and be able to look at every aspect of your voiceover business so they’re all – every part of it is moving forward at the same time.

Gabby: Tom, Anne and I talk a lot about the fears entrepreneurs deal with and the sometimes irrational fears. I’d love your take on that and how you manage those things because we’re on this topic anyway.

Anne: And is that the spiritual that you talk about?

Tom: The fear is failure, the fear is not being acknowledged, appreciated, listened to. Because as you know, we’re all a bunch of narcissistic masochists.

[Anne and Gabby laugh]

Gabby: Yes, yes.

Tom: It’s like [knocks] “Hi, I have a great voice, could you give me money? No, OK.” [knocks] “Hi, I have a great voice, could you give me money? No, OK.” So I’m like, what the hell is wrong with us?

Anne: I was like, “wait, go get the door.” [laughs]

Gabby: I’m amazed the dogs didn’t start barking.

Anne: I realized that you actually knocked, OK.

Tom: I did knock. I was using a practical prop.

[Gabby laughing]

Anne: That was good.

Tom: Thank you. But we have serious problems, you know, because we want everyone to look at us, and give us money, and tell us how wonderful we are. It’s just, what’s the context of that?

Anne: Story of humankind. [laughs]

Tom: Because we all – Philip Banks was just a guest very recently. He once said the difference between amateur voice talent and a professional voice talent is an amateur voice talent has a huge ego completely out of control and a professional voice talent has a huge ego somewhat under control.

[Anne and Gabby laugh]

Tom: So how do you address the fear? Well you figure out – you got to quantify and qualify. What is the fear for you? When I diagnose voice talent, because I do a lot of diagnostics, and I have it written on the – printed on the diagnostic sheet, because everyone has the same thing, which is you are not alone, and everybody has the same basic problems. They don’t know how to listen, they don’t how to get out of their own way, they’re afraid of failure, they’re afraid of being a failure in their own eyes, they’re afraid of being a failure in the eyes of the industry, they’re afraid of being a failure in the eyes of their friends and family who, most of which, have no idea what they’re talking about most of the time, you know, because they don’t understand what it means to not have a 9-5 job. Either it’s a 9-5 job, or you’re – you get discovered and be rich and famous. There’s like no in between. They don’t understand that you can be, what I like to call, a blue-collar voice talent, you know, and get up, get dressed, sit at your desk and work. And then you know, take a lunch break, and you then call it a day, and do it again tomorrow. They just can’t get that in their heads because of this “Chorus Line” and “American Idol” mentality that, if you’re not a star, you’re a loser. And the vast – the reason most people can’t get past their fear is because they don’t understand how to think. They don’t know how to think about themselves. They have this Prussian 18th, 19th century educational system that they’ve had to deal with since they were born. And they’ve had to deal with this “Chorus Line,” “American Idol” star mentality. So you put both of them together, and you have this really kind of bizarre, convoluted, warped perception of themselves and the entertainment industry and the relationship to the entertainment industry. And you know, then they wonder why they can’t, you know, get anywhere in the industry, because they don’t know how to listen, or think, or get out of their own way.

Anne: I think that probably the whole business aspect outside of your crunching the numbers really is tempered with the emotional aspect of the business, believe it or not, because that affects how we conduct ourselves on a day to day basis. Like you said –

Tom: Absolutely.

Anne: – blue-collar, I’ve always said that was kind of my shtick too, blue-collar, you know, blue-collar, a lot of e-learning, a lot of narration and that sort of thing, and I always just loved it and felt successful that way. But you’re so right, there’s such a Hollywood perception. And I think that that shrouds people’s brains in terms of how to get work and be successful.

Tom: When it comes to being successful, one thing I tell all of my students is that you need to figure out what does success look like for you? Once you figure out what success looks like for you, you have a much better chance of being successful because then you can come up with a plan, and write it down, and stick to it like grownups do, just like businesses do. If anybody wants to get in touch with me, you can go to VOstrategist.com, you can talk about anything you want pertaining to voiceovers, or if you just want to say hi, you know, be nice to just talk to people and stuff. But yeah, VOstrategist.com, and we’ll take it from there.

Anne: Tom, thank you so much for spending time. And I would like to give a big shout-out to our sponsor, ipDTL. You too can connect and communicate like a BOSS by going to ipdtl.com and finding out more.

Gabby: And of course, don’t forget about Voiceovers.com, fair, effective, transparent. They’re giving us what we’ve been asking for in the industry. You want to make sure you check them out, Voiceovers.com.

Anne: Have a great week, guys, and we’ll see you next week!

Gabby: Bye!

Anne: Bye!

Tom: …Bye?

Gabby: [laughs] Bye?

Anne: Bye?

Tom: I know, I know.

Gabby: Are we leaving? Are we done?

Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.