How I got out of Voice Acting and into Virtual Assistance
As the daughter of The Professional Storyteller Bob Souer, becoming a voiceover artist may have been a natural path for Karen Souer to take. But her knack in organising things and helping people veered her towards to somewhat different road… let’s learn more about Karen and find out how it is like to be a Virtual Assistant to the voiceover stars.
One of my first memories in life is playing with the egg crate foam in a sound studio in the radio station that my dad worked for at the time. I loved the grainy texture of it, and watching it spring back when I pushed on it. I can remember being so proud of myself for learning how to eat my candy so quietly that it didn’t disturb the interview that Dad was doing. A few years later, I can remember sitting on my Dad’s reel-to-reel machine in a parking lot shortly before we headed into a hotel so that he could do a different interview. It wasn’t terribly comfortable, but when you are a little girl without a chair when your Dad is speaking at length with some friends, you’ll take what you can get.
Voices and microphones, sound, studios, and learning how to be quiet were the world that I grew up in. I remember some of the most exciting moments where the (not often) times when Dad would need a little girl’s voice as a tag line for a commercial or something. I remember that the microphone seemed so big, kind of intimidating. I always loved looking at the many sliders and knobs of the sound board. My fingers always itched to play with them – they were all different colors! But I knew from many stern admonitions that I would mess things up for Daddy or his co-workers if I did. I remember the feel of my first real paycheck – $25 – for a line I did for a commercial, and how excited I was. Later on I ended up working as a board operator for that same radio station – although they still wouldn’t let me touch the knobs.
Much later, I was out of college, and since I’d had the forethought and wisdom to pursue a degree in theatre and English, I was working in a grocery store. I wasn’t very happy with things there, but I had health insurance and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do beyond that. My interest in being behind the mic had faded as I’d grown up – my mindset is more the ‘backstage’ than the ‘onstage’ person, so I knew that wasn’t the right avenue. I’d always done a little work on the side for Dad, helping him with editing, a little intro writing for a weekly program he did, things like that. Dad called me up, and told me about this thing called Faffcon. He insisted I go with him and my brother Eric to this strange voice over convention, and so Eric and I drove down to Atlanta, and had one of the seminal experiences of my life.
This was a revelation. Voice talents were really nice people. And they loved the idea of someone helping them! I felt like I’d just climbed a mountain composed of grumpy customers and piles of deli meat to come upon a scene of cheerful clients, interesting and intellectually challenging work, and nearly endless opportunity.
I can honestly say I’m never bored. I’ve been asked to do all kinds of things, ranging from research to editing, proofing to data entry, and endless numbers of audiobooks. (Boy those are always interesting!) Dad and I work together often, but I’ve had great opportunities to meet people from all over the country, and in a few different places around the world. It’s been a pleasure, a privilege, and a serious education in a field that affects everyone in the modern world, but that most people don’t think about. Although I have zero ability at sales work – sorry guys I can’t cold call for you! I love zipping through an audiobook doing a proofing run. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and I’ve always caught mistakes in printed books, so it’s a pleasant challenge to speed up the playback and to lock into the words and the voice and find as many mistakes as possible.
When I first started doing this, I didn’t know anyone else with my particular virtual assistant bent. Since then I’ve met a few others, and I think the number of people is growing. I try to make contacts with all of them, although people have joked about my ‘competition’ I honestly don’t see it that way. There are a LOT of voice talent, far, far more than I could ever serve if I worked every hour of every day! Networking only helps grow my reputation, and gives me the possibility of referrals from either direction if one or the other of us is overloaded or unqualified for a particular task.
If the idea of being a support person sounds interesting to you, I’d say give it a go! The more you know about organizational methods, and the more flexible you are, the better off you’ll be to give it a start. Remember that the people you are working with are artists. Actors. They are almost always really nice, but they are invariably very particular – and you have to be totally okay with that! They’re trusting you with their passwords, their schedules, their audio, a part of themselves really, and you have to live up to and prove worthy of that trust. A voice talent makes their living – or part of it – putting themselves out there every day in a public fashion, and this can breed a desire to have their hands on every part of their business. I’ve had many talents tell me they would love to hire an editor, but would be far too embarrassed to have someone else hear their retakes. (I promise you, I’ve heard worse!) Network, make friends, talk to people, and don’t sell yourself. Talk about what you do, and folks will seek you out. I write a blog to help put my name and perspective out there.
Although I have considered a career change – editing for print books – I know that this industry will always be my first real work home. I know that there will always be more work out there, more friends to make, and connections to forge. Voice over may have been where I started, but finding a niche in helping people with their business has been a journey I could never have imagined, and wouldn’t trade for the world.
Karen Souer offers her services to the voice talent in need. She specialises in Editing, Proofing, Content Directing, Research, Data Entry, Social Media Posting and Social Media Content Writing. Let her help you Tame Your Tedium, visit her website to find out how.