Balancing Work and Life. It’s a Family Affair.
Running a successful business is a challenge for anyone, but when it’s a niche industry like voiceovers, only a small handful get to the point where it is their bread and butter. Rosi Amador has not only carved out a career many would envy, must she manages to keep a families schedule running like clockwork.
Her husband Brian Amador is also an accomplished voice talent. Both of them and their two daughters are all bi-lingual fluent in both English and Spanish.
Rosi writes this exclusive post for Voice Over Herald, giving an insight into her beginnings, dabbling in voice overs and balancing family and work life.
How It All Started
I was born in Puerto Rico, to a family that strongly emphasized being both bilingual and bicultural — an emphasis for which I am grateful, and have passed down to my twin daughters. My parents (from Argentina and Puerto Rico/New York) were both performers, which planted the seed that eventually grew into my current career. My husband, Brian, and I met in the mid-80’s and formed a Latin band, eventually leaving our other jobs to pursue full-time music careers. During that time, a fan of our band invited me to do my first VO for a Spanish educational program. I really enjoyed the experience and decided to look into it later.
The same happened to Brian soon after. I gradually started recording more educational VOs while also touring with our second Latin band, Sol y Canto, but life on the road became a little more strenuous after our twin daughters, Sonia and Alisa, were born in 1996. Nonetheless, I continued recording occasional VOs and also founded a Latin music agency. It was very demanding to run the agency, tour with our band, and raise our twins, all the while doing VOs when opportunities came up! I took the resulting fatigue as a wake-up call, and eventually closed my beloved Latin music agency.
By the early 2000’s Brian built our home studio and by 2007 I made the decision to start studying with VO acting and business coaches and focusing on my voiceovers which brought me tremendous joy to record and didn’t require touring, heavy lifting or leaving my girls. It was then that we began to grow our VO business in earnest with Sol y Canto as our part-time occupation. By 2009, we downsized our national touring to dedicate more time to VOs. Instead of 50 to 80 concerts a year, we now perform around 20-30, and most are within two hours of Boston.
Day to Day Operations
Working at home definitely creates a more relaxed environment, but there is still a sense of a cohesive “work day” that is separate from personal time. Work always starts with checking in with my staff, to make sure they have their priorities set for the day. I typically have an assistant a couple of times a week and one or two interns. Then I turn to answering emails, checking for auditions that my agents have sent me and for private invitations on my favorite online casting sites like TheVoiceRealm.com or, if I have free time, for audition opportunities.
Naturally, I focus on Spanish or Hispanic-accented VOs, as that market has more demand for a bilingual VO artist, and this is my speciality, though fortunately, plenty of VO opportunities come my way on their own. I also try to create time to prospect for potential clients every week and to check my LinkedIn email and social media messaging, aiming to do some minimal social media posting each week as time permits. Aside from these daily activities, my day is usually peppered with emails to and from current and potential clients, in between the time Brian and I spend in the studio recording.
Since staying on top of this work can be very time consuming, it’s been helpful to have interns around for the last 15 years or so, to help share the load and free up time for doing actual VOs. I really enjoy mentoring our interns, some of whom are engineers racking up hours of recording and editing on the job or marketing students eager to try out what they’ve learned. It’s very rewarding to share these everyday experiences with people who want to learn more about what I do, and I always enjoy having our interns as part of the business.
One of the potential dangers of being self-employed and working at home is that work can start to erode one’s personal life, or vice versa. To help keep myself balanced, I always start my day with meditation first thing in the morning, and very frequently, I go to the gym as well, sometimes with a girlfriend, sometimes on my own. My weekday work hours start at 9:30am and end (typically) at 6:30pm.
Our week also includes regular online video meetings (Google Video Hangouts or Skype) with a number of VO colleagues to support one another by checking in on our VO businesses, sharing what’s on our plate and any obstacles in our way. This is enormously beneficial in keeping us on track with our business, accountable and feeling supported. We are blessed to belong to this incredibly generous and supportive voice over community, in which referrals from each other make up a significant amount of all our VO work.
Brian and I make it our goal to stop working by around 6:30 pm so we can connect with our daughters and chat about how their school day went before they dive into their hours of homework. In our home Brian is the chef. Yeah, I’m pretty lucky! I don’t have to cook, and we get gourmet meals every night. I kid you not. Occasionally we sneak back into the office to answer a few emails quietly after dinner, but that’s something we are determined to not do eventually.
An upside of what I do is that my work needs and personal needs tend to overlap, not only because I love lending my voice to worthy causes, but also because I am sometimes able to involve my entire family. Many times when we were touring with Sol y Canto, what was supposed to be a “work trip” really felt like an opportunity to connect with family and friends in places we usually don’t get to go. Even now, when we go on tour, I bring my USB microphone along so I can record a TV or radio spot if I need to, though rarely will I actually use it during our family vacations. I feel blessed to have such a seamless way of blending all the different parts of myself into a career that complements our family life.
Our daughters have also been singing with us since they were 4 years old, and they started doing VOs as well at the age of 14, making my work something that can actually help bring the family together. Probably the most rewarding project of my career was one I did with Brian, Sonia, and Alisa. We narrated and produced the English and Spanish versions of a gorgeous children’s audiobook, “Lola’s Fandango”/El Fandango de Lola,” for the beloved UK and US based children’s book publisher Barefoot Books. Brian and I were playing the parents of Sonia and Alisa, who were playing sisters. Barefoot Books was so entranced with our family they even filmed us in the studio and interviewed us all.
Brian and I try to be very aware of how we’re spending our time, especially since switching full-time to VO work, where our schedules are in large part dictated by unpredictable offers from external sources. Our daughters, as much as they love being involved with the business, are still high school students and can’t do VOs full time; their participation is limited to auditions as their schedules allow and projects that are under two hours.
One method that’s really helped has been setting aside specific days (Monday-Thursday) for doing VO work, with Fridays reserved for invoicing, Sol y Canto gigs, and family time with occasional VO auditions. Still, it can get really busy when lots of clients are calling in with urgent last-minute requests which might occasionally spill over into Fridays. It’s important to have boundaries, so we try to make that the exception — if someone comes to us with a really time-consuming job that starts cutting into our family time (especially VO-free Fridays) we will most often try to work out a less strenuous schedule, and very infrequently have had to turn clients down. This happens the most if the pay isn’t commensurate with what we are now charging.
In addition to the more commercial, broadcast-type clients like Pandora, the Discovery Channel, Comcast, Reunite or Mattress Firm, a lot of our clients are doing really meaningful and important work meant to educate and inspire, and it’s an honor to be chosen as their voice.
Some examples are:
My daughter Alisa, Brian and I all did character voices for a film called “A Bridge Apart,” about the dangers Mexican and Central American immigrants face on their journey to the United States;
I voiced an incredibly fun radio spot for Masterpiece Theater’s“Downton Abbey” for WGBH-TV, my favorite PBS series
Brian and I voiced several “American Experience” episodes on PBS in Spanish and a brilliant pirate video for an educational game in Spanish
For many years I voiced a one-minute PSA for “Healthcare 411,” a program of the US Department of Health and Human Services, delivering important health tips to the Latino population broadcast to over 1000 radio stations available as a podcast
I voiced an inspiring, beautiful Oxfam video in Spanish
Our daughter Alisa and I voiced different roles in a web video for Mutual Ground, a nonprofit that confronts domestic violence in Illinois.
Our daughter Sonia voiced a really fun Spanish math teaching game (produced by Scholastic) for preschoolers
I voiced a powerful web video for Facing History and Ourselves about the women’s protest movement in Chile
Rates for Clients Who Buy Our Bilingual Services
Our clients come in different flavors and rates vary more according to the length of the project (recording and editing time) and usage, rather than the language requested. We don’t charge extra to add a language, in other words. Our VO work fluctuates between English and Spanish pretty evenly. Interestingly, at least one quarter of our clients request that we add what they often describe as “a touch of Hispanic accent” to a read. Occasionally we’re asked to dial it up. This holds true for Brian, our daughters and myself. It all depends on the market the VO is aiming at reaching and we generally intuit what’s needed based on our experience.
Dealing With Difficult Clients
Fortunately, we don’t seem to have difficult clients very often. I attribute this to two factors. One is that in our website, www.amadorbilingualvoiceovers.coms we created a FAQ section that articulates our questions and expectations for each job so we can be very clear in our understanding of the client’s needs and what we are providing. In addition to this, last year, following in the footsteps of some of our voice actor colleagues, we began using a “letter of agreement” (LOA) with our new clients, which once again describes how we wish to deliver 100% satisfaction for their job. It fleshes out what we expect from them, including sending us a clear, final script, pronunciation guides for any unusual words and when and how files must be split up, if requested. In the LOA we request that they listen to files we deliver immediately for approval and clarify our pick-up policy if there are script changes.
If we intuit that a client is very nervous about how we need to sound in terms of pacing, tone, or other factors, we invite them to listen in and coach us via Skype or phone patch to allay their concerns. Providing this level of clarity and flexibility has been instrumental in letting our clients know we are committed to meeting their expectations, but also sets clear boundaries that we can reference should an uncomfortable situation arise.
Problems Arising from Poorly Translated Scripts
There is one difficult and uncomfortable situation that comes up quite often when voicing scripts that have been translated from the English into Spanish. When a client sends us a script that is poorly translated (be it literally translated from the English or idiomatically/culturally incorrect) we advise them immediately so that they know there are errors that we recommend we not record. About ninety percent of the time the client appreciates it and is open to getting the script retranslated on their own or ends up using the professionally certified translator on our team. At times it’s just a matter of catching smaller script errors and checking with the client before we record our corrections.
We might also record the incorrect versions and slate them for the clients to remove later. We are respectful of their choices but we let them know that we don’t want our name on anything that is not correctly translated and voiced. There is a bit of a dance we have to participate in since we don’t know how a script has been translated – was it the client him/herself? Was it someone in their office who was raised in this country speaking Spanish at home, but is not a professional translator? We always try to be very respectful and not offend when it comes to this topic, but rarely has it been a big problem if we’re honest and straightforward, making it clear we have their best interests at heart.
I am incredulous and so grateful that we’ve been able to transform from full-time touring Latin musicians to full-time bilingual voiceover talent in the last five years. I feel so lucky to be able to play for a living! I love this career – my clients are terrific and my VO colleagues are the most supportive, encouraging and kind folks I have ever met, and the most amazing part of it is that they’re all over the country and the world! It’s clear to me that without the generosity of the voiceover community I never would have gotten where I am in such little time.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the man whom I consider to be my VO guardian angel, John Florian, webmaster and founder of VoiceOverXtra.com, an online resource for building voiceover success. He allowed me to call on him for advice when I was just getting established, and has offered Brian and me his continued encouragement to this day. Kindness is the bottom line in all of our VO relationships, as well as a genuine desire to help each other personally as well as in our businesses.
Deep friendships have formed from these online and occasional in-person gatherings, parallel to none in our previous lives. I am keenly aware of my gratitude to all who have helped me and make it a point to pay it forward to other voice actors. It is an honor and a joy to be living this way and to model this type of entrepreneurial life for our daughters, no matter which paths they choose in their lives.