(aka One Man's Journey Into Voiceovers)
A Long Time Ago, in, well, a city right next door
It was 1993. I was all of 20 years old. I was thin.
I am no longer thin.
But bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was ready take on the world.
To tackle the world.
To annoy the world.
I was a telemarketer. Stop judging me. It’s an illustrious career that bears esteem akin to that of Presidents, as long as we're talking about Presidents of Garbage Piles. Presidents of Sewer Systems. Presidents of High-Interest Credit Card Bills. Presidents of Flatulence. Presidents of Large Piles of Excrement That No One Wants. See? Telemarketers share the same esteem and are highly regarded in the same light. I can hear you laughing at me. Stop it.
As a telemarketer, I enjoyed the rich privilege of calling people up during dinner, and offering them something that I was prepared for them to like, and they were prepared to refuse. I was selling Public Service Announcements, aka Community Service Announcements. If memory serves, most conversations went something like this:
Me: “Hi, is this Jack?”
Them: “Yes, who’s this?”
Me: “Hi, Jack! This is Joshua Alexander on behalf of KPLZ Radio, how are you?”
Them: “Oh wow! What did I win?”
Me: *chuckle* “Oh, you didn’t win anything, I was just -“
Me: “Hi, is this Jack?”
Them, tentatively: “Uh....”
Me: “Hi, Jack! This is Joshua Alexander on behalf of KPLZ Radio, how are you?”
Them: “Look, stop calling me, I don’t want to buy anything.” Click.
Me: “But –“
Them: Click. Click. Click.
Them: “Stop calling me!”
Me: “Hi, is this Jack?”
Them: “The police are on their way.”
Me: drops phone and runs.
It was a very enjoyable job. I got a lot of exercise by running from angry people, so I was making some good money (when they bought) as well as losing weight.
But on the rare occasion that I started out my phone calls offering them $20 if they would just-please-listen-for-one-cotton-pickin’-second-I-need-to-buy-food-and-heat, I managed to explain that I was calling on behalf of KPLZ radio and wanted to share with them a good cause. I would go on to explain - after providing them my credit card number for their shopping pleasure - that we here at the Good PSA Company were all working on:
- Trying to keep kids off of drugs
- Equipping parents with a kid-code to prevent abduction
- Encouraging youth sports and activities
- Developing a Care Fund to collectively raise money in an effort to reimburse me several $20 payments I made to prospective telemarketing clients so they would listen for one cotton pickin' second
Clients were, for the most part, welcoming of the first three. I would press play on my tape bed that was piped into the phone, and begin to recite, with eloquence that would rival The Sermon on the Mount, some pre-written PSA dripping with sentiment that not even Sally Struthers could one-up me on. I would insert their name as the sponsor, i.e., “Good sound advice brought to you by Jack’s Plumbing.” The only thing better would have been playing “In the Arms of the Angel” in the background, as they would then be defenseless against my powers.
The call would then continue:
Me: *stops tape bed* “Well, Jack, I never said I was Dan Rather.” *obligatory syrupy self-effacing chuckle.*
At any rate, one time I dutifully read my voiceover script, chuckled off my Dan Rather line, and the client actually bought! I am not trying to be self-effacing here…many clients actually bought several times, and on one occasion I was esteemed the honor of Sales Rep of the Month, and another, the Sales Rookie of the Year. It was a superb experience. If people would just stop hanging up on me.
But some actually didn't hang up on me. In fact, they said, "We like it! We'll buy, but only if you read it on the air." I was unprepared for this. I stammered, leaned back, searched for a manager and said, in my most professional posture, "Uh, they, uh, they want me to read it - they'll buy it if I read it - can I read it? Hello?" If memory serves, the managers would hang up on me as well.
But - long story short - I got permission to read it in the studio. So when the time came to record it, I left my humble telemarketing desk, proceeded into the studio, slapped the headphones onto my ears, and entered a whole new world. I fell in love. Not the kind of love you experience when you open up and see the innards of a Taco Bell burrito…no. No, this was much more powerful. I’m talking about the rush you experience when you finally know what love is, just like Foreigner sang about. I truly hope Foreigner eventually found out, because they kept saying it and saying it, and the radio still plays it. I wish them well on their perpetual journey of discovery.
As for me, I had found what I was destined to do. Voiceovers.
Do What They Say, Say What you Mean...One Thing Leads to Another
"Amway" by dok1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Now, life takes you in different directions, so even though I swore that I found my life’s calling in voiceovers, don’t get all Judgy Judgerson that I joined Amway.
I told you to stop laughing at me.
You would have joined too! It was either that or pole-dancing, and I am told that in addition to having no mad dancing skills, I also had no mad pole-dancing acumen. I am not even sure if pole-dancing acumen is a thing. If it is , I do not have it.
So I went to Amway. And then I went to jingles. And then I went back to voiceovers. And then I went to:
- Paper routes, since apparently when I was 22, I was still 9.
- Dairy Queen, because, well, #blizzards
- More telemarketing, because I do not learn quickly and subconsciously enjoy being hung up on.
- Singing, touring and performing concerts: not because I was any kind of stellar singer, but because I had by now perfected the art of being rejected and wished to take it on the road to see how much I could endure.
- Even more telemarketing, because I delight in a tumultuously slow death.
- Voiceovers and jingles, and singing now in the shower now.
- Combining singing with jingles and calling them singles
- Customer service, because it’s the closest thing to telemarketing. You have telemarketing on one side, customer service in the middle, and Beelzebub and the Fiery Inferno of Hades on the other. People scream in each of those categories, but for different reasons. The first want you to stop calling; the second scream because they want you to turn up the heat on getting things done; the third want you to turn the heat back down. Much screaming.
- Starting my own business in 2003 – AHA! Redemption. And it only took me 3,650 days.
So there I landed in 2003, starting what would eventually become a thriving multimedia production company and seeing it flourish to the point of being able to move past Top Ramen for dinner, graduating to the more expensive imitation crab meat slathered in margarine. I already told you I was no longer thin. Please pay attention.
By mid-2007, almost 14 years ago now, I had gone full-time into self-employment and was incredibly successful. In fact, I never looked back, except to see if I had toilet paper still clinging to me: a necessary maintenance check given that I was so incredulous at my success that I was, ahem, exploding with joy. Bless the Lord for visual imagery.
I was content, satisfied, overjoyed, and vowed never to be hung up on by Jack ever again.
What’s your story?
"So... what's your story? Women's T-Shirt" by danielboard is licensed under CC BY 2.0
We all have our own unique stories for what led us to voiceovers. Some of us came from DJ’ing. Some from podcasting. Some from singing. And some of us - I’m talking about the elite and highly favored by God - from a telemarketing background. We Former Telemarketers have a thick skin and meaty hides. We can take a lot, because we've taken a lot.
Wherever you personally came from, you have unique skills and talents for being successful at voiceovers. Those talents may include:
- Business acumen
- Being naturally gifted at storytelling
- The gift of Encouragement
- Technical aptitude
- Industry knowledge
- Pinching your nose shut and blowing so that air comes out of your left tear duct
Whatever your talent, whatever your journey, you have a lot to bring to voiceovers. My challenge is to take time and figure out your gifting from previous careers or pursuits that you can then apply to a career in voiceovers. It isn't just about using your voice, after all. Having a "cool voice" does not a good voiceover artist make. And you don't learn it all in one day.
There are many people who should not be doing voiceovers. They know just enough to make them dangerous, and they spew out the first bad advice that pops into their head and call it "good." I can name a few serial purveyors of bad advice. Don't get me started. *end of rant* Whatever your REAL gifting that doesn't involve HURTING THE INDUSTRY, DRIVING DOWN RATES AND SPEWING OUT BAD ADVICE, use it!!! *end of second rant*
For me, I brought to my voiceover career:
- business acumen
- extreme organization, a la neat freak syndrome
- extensive marketing experience NOT of the "tele-" kind.
- goal tracking
- unflappable determination
- experience with multiple roles (which helped me to wear different hats in my business, and also to perfect my schizophrenia)
- software experience
- marketing savvy
- teaching & mentor skills
- and so much more, that I once even wrote a blog about it.
As my wife is famous for saying, “Everything in the past has led to now, and I’m in love with now.” I couldn’t say it better, so I won’t even try. Talk to her.
I’m in love with now.
As an update...I'm still annoying the world, I just don't do it over the phone anymore.
End of essay on my foray into the heyday of PSA! Let's call it a day. I pray I may parlay an "A"?
So...what’s your story? Even if it's pole-dancing, let's hear it.
NOTE: This blog is purely for commentary / educational / entertainment purposes. I make no money from these blogs; though I do not refuse large cash gifts if it means I can pretend I'm a church.
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16 thoughts on “Hey! It’s a WAY OK PSA Foray Essay Day! YAY!”
Great blog as always Josh. I have paid my dues on the telemarketing calls oh yes… Selling wills to what seemed to be the most out of date telephone list where 90% I am sure were already dead…. OMG 😱
Anyway… 15 years running a fire and security business for my husband on the side of my own full time career performing and teaching… Oh and aqua aerobics instructing!
Anway, big shout out for your Super VO Training course… Can’t way to chat Weds.
Looking forward to chatting! That’ll be a nice chat. Fire and security through aerobics sounds like proper voiceover training to me!
Fantastic as always , good way to kick off Monday mornings.
Keep up the great work
Thanks Hadi! Thanks for visiting, reading and commenting. Look forward to talking with you.
Yes, we all have a past and we all have a story which molds and shapes us into what we are today. I feel in voiceover, we take all those past and present life experiences and use them to let the words of our voiceover scripts jump off the page and come alive.
That we do! Everything molds and shapes and prepares us somehow, in some way…doesn’t it? If not, what an incredible waste of time!
My voicing career really started in Mrs. Boyd’s 2nd grade class—the hallway just outside. There I performed brilliant improv with every voice accent I could dream up to try to get out of swats. Like you, many of my early discussions did not end favorably (ok, all of them). Silver lining alert: I was the swat leader through most of the 2nd grade (in the last week of school, Chuck did something outstanding…he was out standing in the hall to get 7 seats that week and end up in first place by 2.
This has been quite an influence in my studio even now…I sit for most recordings…I think a subconscious way of hiding my butt so Mrs. Boyd can’t light it up again.
Eeek! Hallway detention and spankings sound like a topic for an upcoming blog….or not. That darn Chuck, always stealing your thunder!
I always get multiple valuable takeaways from your blog posts. Here are today’s:
When reading where in a previous incarnation you were a telemarketer getting hung up on all the time (click), I could’ve get out of my mind… Josh was a pioneer in the art of clickbait!
It seems that you miss your time as a telemarketer. My being in a compassionate mood, I have decided to call you at random times throughout the day and hang up just to make you feel better.
And I must say, for all of us who are still eating Top Ramen and only dream about imitation crab meat with margarine, you are a continual inspiration. After all, if you – the former telemarketer with the hundreds of giant dump truck loads of putrid, fetid, maggot covered negative Karma that was rightfully credited to you for such unholy acts – can make it…
Was that just you?!?! My phone keeps one-ringing and when I go to pick it up, there’s no one there. Now I just programmed that number to say “Compassionate Jon.” Hey! There you are again!
“Hundreds of giant dump truck loads of putrid, fetid, maggot covered negative Karma” = my next blog title!
Wait! What? You can afford Top Ramen. *salivating*
Someday, I will be back up to atop Ramen again! (AND imitation crab me with pretend butter!)
I have just had a three-course meal by reading this…and I didn’t even need to cook anything.
I tried telemarketing too! During university. Oh man, I was the worst. I was selling line-of-credit mortgages, and all I had to do was tell them how much money they could save and book an appointment. In a couple of months there I booked exactly two appointments and neither of them kept the appointment! When I told my manager I was leaving after that day’s shift, he said don’t worry about today, just go home now. OUCH.
After that I decided to just have babies, because birthing and raising three children is definitely easier than selling mortgages, if you ask me.
Hahaha! Whatever I was drinking, I just spewed it out in a joyous spray of incredible reading pleasure froth.
Fellow former telemarketer here! And that was AFTER my first VO job truly fell in my lap, courtesy of great Uncle Joe, an artist in NYC who knew someone who needed a youthful female voice where his niece was going to school in Vermont. I was, like, sure! As a college kid back in the early 80s eating cafeteria food (a close second to Top Ramen), $100 for reading a script for a nonprofit that I liked was easy money and AMAZING! Even met a future boyfriend during that session–bonus! So fast forward to 2016 and imagine my surprise to learn how much more is involved with doing VO nowadays! No saying, “Sure!,” sauntering into a booth with nary even an audition or warmup, reading a script for 1/2 hour tops with a couple of takes, then taking my money, and done!
I’d say my forays into voicing really began, though, when I got to stay inside during outdoor recess in 5th grade during the cold New England winter, so that I could tape record stories for the younger grades. Somewhere in my subconscious, VO means keeping cozy and warm, and this is very true of the uncontrolled climate in my walk-in closet, sometimes a bit too cramped–I mean cozy!– and warm! 🙂
And I sang in bands for a bit when I was a young and foolish college kid, too, so whaddaya know!
What a great story! Truly epic origins. 5th graders everywhere thank you!