What is "time off"?

Hey! Sorry for the unexpected two-week hiatus. I started a long overdue bathroom remodel and it quickly got out of control.

Have you ever seen The Money Pit?

Well, I'm a much less charming and funny Tom Hanks. Thankfully the tub didn't fall through the floor... yet. I did laugh the same way when I found that the bathtub drain my wife and I had worked on for most of a day on was leaking... again.

But a one week project quickly turned into a 2+ week project, so that's awesome. Now we're out of the woods and have a mostly functional bathroom that we're really happy with. Just a little finish work to get it wrapped up.

It did get me thinking about how I haven't really taken time away from work for more than 3 years now. Even when I've taken a week or more to do something else, I've always used the margins of my day to get work done. I step away from the extra stuff (direct marketing, social media, and this newsletter) and just focus on client work.

For example, I kept up on one steady customer that sends me a few scripts every week, a pretty large and urgent eLearning project that came through, a smaller one of the same, and a handful of auditions from agents. All done late, at the end of a physically exhausting day.

But at least it was from my home studio.

Like many VO's, I've taken a recording kit to Vegas, Seattle, and Orlando... booked a studio in Orlando for a gig, actually. There's something nice about being able to travel and record, but there is also something that bothers me about not being able to shut it off.

I think of the last couple of weeks and the income that would have been lost had I not been able to actually record. One of those Learning projects was 20% of my target monthly income and needed less than 24 hour turnaround. If I couldn't do it, they couldn't have waited, they would have hired someone else.

Then, there's the gap in my 30-60 day pipeline. Not marketing or auditioning on P2P as much for a couple of weeks will absolutely lead to a gap somewhere in the future, though it's hard to say when or how big.

The key here is FOMO (fear of missing out) and I get it bad when I think of taking time away from work. That can't be healthy right?

So, I'm dedicating this issue to digging into taking time off as a freelancer and how we can manage it without feeling guilty.

Also, this bathroom remodel was anything but a vacation and I often enjoyed having a reason to run away from it to do some client work. That said, I'd love to get the family out of the city for a week and away from all the connectivity that fills up most of our hours.


Let Your Regular Clients Know Ahead of Time

This is one I definitely need to start doing. I have a handful of regulars that I can count on weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on what they do. Shooting them an email a month or more in advance of some time off might get them to adjust their schedules. So, those urgent eLearning projects I always get from the same client might end up a little less urgent or maybe done a bit earlier if they know I'm going to be out.

The Freelancers Guide to Taking Time Off

Add bookends to your time off

Adding an extra day or two to the bookends of your vacation time might be just the thing to give you a little more ease into and out of your vacation. A day prior lets you wrap up anything before you pack your suitcase into the overhead bin. A day or two after you return can let you ease back into your working schedule and maybe even wrap up something that you've been putting off for awhile... looking at you messy studio.

How to Take a Vacation And Detach From Your Business When You’re A Freelancer

We're not alone...

If you feel like I do when it comes to taking real time off, we're not alone. The gig economy is getting bigger and bigger and basically all of us working as freelancers feel like we can't take a nonworking vacation.

92% of US freelancers can’t take a nonworking vacation, a new survey reveals.

Vacation when everyone else is

I actually kind of hate this idea. There's nothing better than taking a trip in the middle of the week to a busy weekend spot. Or traveling to a tourist destination in the shoulder season. That said, maybe the best time to take time off is around the holidays when many of your clients are doing the same and work slows down anyway.

I'm a Freelancer and I Hate Summer

Being here every week

Not going to lie, I knew being here every week and writing an email would take some time to get the hang of. That said, I'm going to work to make sure I'm incrementally writing these pieces throughout the week. Rather than making Monday or Tuesday a mad rush to put together the articles I've found and write something for you all. I do a good job of keeping up on articles throughout the week, but I hope to keep the info flowing to you uninterrupted by staying just a little bit ahead of schedule

How to Get Work Done in Advance if You Thrive on Looming Deadlines

You Probably Won't Book It Anyway

I was listening to a 2020 episode of The Pro Audio Suite podcast with Marice Tobias (linked in the resources below) and something she said struck me:

"You probably won't book it anyway. Take a chance."

Paraphrasing there, but that's essentially the gist. Funny enough, I can immediately think of at least three spots I've booked where I took a big swing and landed them. Each time, I was actually told by the client it was because I took a chance.

First, and most recently, was a restaurant spot for the summer BBQ menu. I decided I was Joey Tribbani in the episode of Friends where he quit eating meat so Phoebe could eat it. Booked it nearly drooling on the mic, but we dialed it back quite a bit in the session.

Next was a spot where it was an internal video that was a spoof of a fragrance ad. My daughter had been watching Beauty and the Beast quite a bit, so I channeled my inner Lumiere and put on a terrible French accent. I even slated my audition with something like "This is Josh Risser and I don't know why, but I felt this needed to be in a horrible French accent".

Finally, I booked a toolbox ad because I said "the drawers are smooth as buttah" and really laid into the "buttah". They said they liked that I took that chance, but didn't want me to do it in the final spot. Sure. Whatevs.

So, maybe take that as a challenge for the week. When that audition comes in that begs you to take a big swing, do it. What can you do that still honors what the client wants, but helps you stand out from the dozens or even hundreds of other talents that are reading the same lines?

Oh, and Marice said you have about 3 seconds to stand out. So... Get to it.

Take a chance,

Josh Risser

You Probably Won't Book It Anyway!

When auditioning how often do you fall back into your comfort zone read? Guilty as charged. These days companies are looking for ways to stand out; On the Internet, on TV, and even radio. How can your audition show the client that you're the one to help them get potential customers to pay attention?

Maurce Tobias - The Voice Whisperer (The Pro Audio Suite Podcast)

I got a mic! So, uh... where do I find a job?

This is probably the second question people ask me, right after "Wow! How did you get into a job like that?" There are jobs everywhere. Supply and demand seems to work both ways, so more jobs, more people vying for jobs, and more places to find those jobs, some of which are better than others.

Insider Cheat Sheet for Where to Find Voice Acting Jobs

Getting My Shit Together

When it comes to client work, I pride myself on never dropping the ball. Yet, when it comes to working on things that will move my business forward or make the Future Me a bit happier, I have a rough time getting my shit together. Lately, I've been actively trying to build routines and systems around things like marketing to keep the ball rolling, even on the days when I only want to hide in the booth and read.

How Self-Employed Workers Can Stay Motivated and Organised.

Putting The Screws to Noise

When I built my booth, the walls and studs were screwed together with boring ol' sound transferring screws. Crazy talk! One helpful method of preventing sound transference into a room through the wall is decoupling the drywall from the studs (among a million other expensive things). Yet, these fancy screws with springs just may make that step a bit easier. Probably useful for converting a room to a sound proof studio.

Ingenious Drywall Screw Cuts Noise Transmission in Half

My Killer 2-Step Negotiation Process

Step 1: Read Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss to change your mindset on the negotiation process and get some perspective on how little your negotiation actually matters.

Step 2: Stop freaking out and just do it! Seriously, I've never lost a job because I asked for what I was worth, though I don't count jobs I happily turned down because the budget was too low. Also, clients in business are used to a little haggling over price. It's a give and take, if you give a little and they give a little, everyone walks away satisfied.

10 steps to more successful freelance negotiations

VOMM Ad of the Week!

Now that we're moving through summer and feeling a bit like our old selves again, ads are really dialing up the goofy. This suite of alcohol ads from Mike's definitely hit the center of the Venn diagram. Right between "Summer Fun", "Goofy", and "With Friends".

Mike's Hard Seltzer

Don't Be a Source of Friction for Your Customers

Independence Day in the US means barbecues! We were at my parents' place this weekend for some grub and sun. My dad broke out a big pile of meat that he bought at a fantastic local butcher shop.

I love the place.

Their meat is local (I'm in Montana, so that means some seriously good stuff) and super fresh. They'll cut anything you want, answer all your questions, and you'll leave there confident that you're going to have an excellent meal. They're also right in the middle of town, so it's never really out of the way.

I haven't shopped there since 2010.

My first trip in there I picked out a couple of nice ribeyes and then walked to the counter to pay.

"Sorry, no cards. Cash only. ATM is over there if you need it."

I don't carry cash. I hate paying ATM fees, but I felt obligated to go swipe the card pay the fee to get some cash out to buy my steaks.

I never went back.

A month ago I was talking to the owner of a local garden center as I bought some plants. He had just installed Square payment devices and I made a comment as to how nice it is to be able to take credit cards without having to worry about all of the overhead old POS and Merchant Account headaches.

"Yeah, until I realized I paid $1200 in fees last month."

Dude, you made $40,000 to get to pay that $1200! Plus it's a tax write off. Not to mention, there are plenty of people like me who won't even shop at a business because I hate having to deal with carrying cash.

How many customers are you losing because you're making it hard for them to pay you? They probably aren't going to care if you roll that 3% into your prices. I know I don't if I like the business I'm buying from.

How many voiceover clients are you losing because you aren't making it easy for them to come back to you?

You can make their life easier by doing things like editing together a few takes from a session, splitting the takes so they don't have one huge file, not bickering in negotiation over small potatoes, providing a separate file of alts for the tag, maybe a second version all together.

Or your agent?

Not double checking your slate and file name, taking the extra time to make sure your audition is super clean and well edited, noting the deadline and getting it in early!

Remember, this is a service business. How can you make things easier for the people you serve?

Keyword: serve

The key to service is to remove friction, not create it.

Stay smooth,
Josh Risser

Confidence is THE Key

Having worked with J. Michael Collins, I know this is a big part of his coaching angle. When you're on the mic, you have to know that you're one for the job - audition or session. They picked you for a reason. That reason is because they know you could knock this job out of the park. I've made my fair share of blunders on live sessions and they're always met with compassion and lightness from the clients. Those folks know what we do isn't easy and they trust that we can pull it off.

That's why they're paying us for it.

Poker Face: Why You Always Have to Project Confidence in a Voiceover Session

Maximize Your Learning Time

Though this article mainly focuses on time in drama school, I feel like it very much parallels how I was approaching my journey into full-time VO. I was learning from everyone, reading as much as I could on audio production, voiceover, business, marketing, freelancing. Any source of information that I could apply to growing my career was fair game and hearing about the successes of others only helped me solidify my own VO dreams.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Acting Training

Pomodoros, Places, and Procrastination

Procrastination is a pain. All of my life. Often, the inertia of starting is my biggest hurdle. Funny thing is, the task always seems less painful than I thought it would be. For me, pomodoro timers (25 minutes of work, 5 minute break) and Lofi.cafe have been a lifesaver. I've also noticed that if I find myself procrastinating in one place lately, it helps to grab the laptop and change it up a bit. A patio, coffee shop, or park bench, whatever it takes to interrupt the pattern.

3 Tricks to Outsmart Procrastination and Stay Focused

Take Time to Mark-it!

Excellent tips from Peter K O'Connell on how he likes to mark up his voiceover script. Take the ideas and make them your own. Marking up a script is a very personal thing and helps me make more confident choices when I'm auditioning or working on a job. I don't work on paper, but leaving a blank text file open for a quick copy/paste is an easy way to get it done on screen. Bold, italics, underlines or even underlined bolded italics go a long way.

7 Tips for Marking Up Your Voiceover Script

VOMM Ad of the Week

I eat waaay too much peanut butter and I love Monty Python, so this ad was right up my alley. Love the Terry Gilliam style, but it was almost too blatantly stolen from the Flying Circus intro. I mean, just listen to the music.

Whole Earth Peanut Butter

Happy Mid-Year!

Typically, I'm not one to use arbitrary measures of time (like the New Year) to set goals and wait for them to institute major changes in my life. Yet, they are useful reminders to take some time to recalibrate ourselves personally and professionally.

As we round the corner on the half-waypoint of 2021, I'm taking some time to reflect on how the first half of the year has gone. What have I accomplished, what is half-finished (or less), where have I dropped the ball, and what is it time to let go of?

I also plan on looking more at what has worked for me when it's come to securing new clients in 2021 and what seems to be failing miserably.

For example, my pay-to-play book rate has felt staggeringly low lately... but is it really? My income is up year-over-year from 2020 (but I'd guess most of us are in that boat given the dumpster fire that was 2020), so the question becomes, are new bookings actually up or is it due to an uptick in return clients?

Maybe I'm seeing more success than I realize from other marketing efforts? How can I trace those back?

More importantly... how I can leverage other marketing channels more effectively? I had some early success this year from direct marketing via email. Why did I stop when I saw some success? That seems silly.

These are questions I plan on finding the answer to right after I hit send on this message to all of you.

So, I encourage you to also dig into your own questions to figure out how you can keep moving your business forward in the next half of the year. Feel free to start with the ideas in the rambling paragraphs above and jump into your own questions as you start uncovering them for yourself.

Happy Mid-Year,


Halfway Already

When it comes to evaluating where your business stands at the mid-year, its important to have some idea of what exactly you want to examine. Set some goals, scratch off the ones that aren't producing results, and remember to focus on what you can control – the daily process over the long-term results.

6 Essential Elements of a Midyear Business Review

Freelance Estimate Anxiety

This literally happened to me yesterday. Despite years of sending quotes I still get some anxiety when I get asked for a quote on a new project from a new potential client. I'm going to try to remember the advice in this article (paraphrasing): "The worst thing that can happen is not losing the job, but booking it at a bad rate."

A simple trick to get past freelance estimate anxiety

Do you have a "Plan B"?

Me? Not really? But one thing I've learned since taking the leap to full time VO is that everyone needs something different to feel comfortable in their self-employment. If you're have some unease around taking the leap and continuing to pay the bills, figure out what you need to get comfortable when the time comes.

Here's Courvo's take.

What's your Plan B?

More on Robots

This will probably become a semi-regular segment. If you haven't played Witcher 3... stop what you're doing and go do that first because the voice acting is stellar and the game is fantastic. That said, a game modder was able to use AI and the original performance to add an entirely new segment to the game that includes VO. I wouldn't say it's "scary good", but it's decent, if not a little stiff feeling.

Hear for yourself in the trailer at the top of this article:

Voice AI is scary good now. Video game actors hate it.

VOMM Ad of the Week

This week it's not just one VO-focused ad, but an entire campaign. Boston Pizza is fully leveraging the "back to normal" idea and re-training on patio usage. I actually laughed out loud at the tv spot, but the physical aspect of the campaign is equally hilarious.

Calling the helpline is also well worth the time (despite the robot voice): 1-855-BP-HOW-TO.

Boston Pizza How-To Patio

Rise of the robots?

There is a steady stream of robots doing everything for us these days. I have one that opens my garage, another that operates a few lights, one that turns on my fireplace, and even one that can dig around Disney+ for that episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse my daughter wants to watch. It only makes sense that they'll get better and better at talking for us too.

Or talking in place of us.

And it's easy to feel a bit disheartened when you see what happened to Bev Standing or articles with titles like "We're Losing Voice Over eLearning Jobs to AI Voices". AI is getting better and more prominent, but people have been using text-to-speech in eLearning for a long time. So, what should we do?

Well, the first step is to avoid narrating like a robot.

Too often on eLearing demos and in projects I've seen, the voice talent is doing what sounds like a bad impression of the eLearning voice in their head: rigid, overly precise, and impersonal. If you sound like a robot already, why not hire one?

Get some personality in there!

I've heard eLearning narration treated like a read-aloud of a technical manual, without the depth and empathy that needs to be included in the training experience. Think of the learner and who they are. What are they going through with this change? Change brings stress and every training is some sort of change. Where are they in their careers? What do they already know? Who are you to them (as the presenter of information, not the VO)?

Some eLearning scripts read like a technical manual because they essentially are, but you can make it a better experience for the learner and maybe avoid giving them a reason to hire robots.

For now, I'm not worried. Robots can't feel excitement, empathy, or sympathy, so they can't add those emotions to their read. Plus, the folks ditching us and hiring robots are very budget sensitive and those are the clients I try not to keep for long anyway.

Talk to me again in 5-10 years and maybe I'll have a different opinion.

Keep Talkin,


VO vs TikTok

Since we're on the subject, I wanted to bring up Bev Standing's GoFundMe again. If you have the means, throw a few bucks at it to help the fight. This is different from the robots simply taking our jobs, this is literally taking someone's voice and leveraging it in ways that weren't agreed upon.

You like me have probably been tempted to tinker with a service like Descript. They take a sample of your voice to create a pretty decent avatar of it. Once they can do it, what stops them or someone else from doing this to you later on down the line. For the meantime, I'd suggest keeping your voice to yourself.

Support Bev Standing

Go Bigger or Go Deeper?

Sometimes we're more mind reader than voice talent. I know I've booked stuff and then after a directed session the final project sounds NOTHING like the original audition. In the space of an hour and after passing through SourceConnect "Come down to the racetrack this Sunday for a great time." ends up as "SUNDAY! SUNDAY!! SUNDAY!!!!".

That said, we're in the business of interpreting direction in the moment, letting go everything we've done or holding on to everything. The only way to be able to do that effectively is to keep taking direction from multiple sources.

The Difference Between Notes From an Acting Coach & A Director

Drawing a Line

4:45pm, last Friday. (6:45pm client time): "Just some minor client feedback. Could you get this back to us ASAP?"

What does ASAP mean to you?

For me, as I was walking up my stairs to start cooking some dinner with the family, it meant a quick email from my phone to tell them I was off for the day, but had planned on doing some work over the weekend, so they'll have it by Monday. I knew this guy, he works late and on the weekends, so I definitely felt a pull to head back downstairs and into the booth. But I resisted (it helped that I could hear my daughter running to the stairs to greet me).

The job wasn't lost, no deadline was pushed, but I absolutely felt the guilt and fear of potentially disappointing my client as I hit the send button.

A Guilt-Free Approach to Freelance Client Boundaries

A Loner But Not Lonely

My wife is a teacher, so she's home a lot of the summer. A few years ago I realized that this created some unexpected issues for me when she heads back to school in August. In 2019, a few weeks into her school year, I got hit with a weird bout of mild depression which I've since attributed to loneliness.

I had spent the last few months with her always around during the days, so I fell into a habit of skipping my local meetups and coffee shop work sessions. When she went back to school my interactions with people dropped significantly. It took a month or so to set in, but I hit a major funk in late September that year.

Knowing this, I now go out of my way to keep up my outside relationships, even when I don't feel that pull.

How to Battle Solopreneur Loneliness

VOMM Spot of the Week

Grubhub - "We Serve Restaurants"

The VO in this spot has a really cool, understated delivery (with a nice touch of vocal fry at the end of a few lines). He keeps it subtle and doesn't get in the way of the visuals.

Lots for me to learn here. For example, I would have probably waaay overplayed the "Bacon-stuffed lobster" line, but I think the way he lands it is just enough.

What I'm Reading

I'm a bit of the way through Sanford Meisner on Acting and am really enjoying the fly-on-the-wall view into a class of one of great acting coaches.

The main thing that's hit me so far is thinking about what came before you entered the scene. You're coming from somewhere, you are carrying with you the emotional baggage from that experience, how do you bring that into the scene? Definitely something that could be translated into your VO performance.

Welcome to Voiceover Mastermind

Welcome to the first ever edition of Voiceover Mastermind (VOMM). Thanks for tuning in.

First off, let's rewind to 2014/15. I was just starting to get rolling on my VO career after knocking out a few internal eLearning courses for my employer at the time (a call center for a major telecom). After a few years of working in a call center and now narrating eLearning projects as a trainer, I had people left and right telling me how great my voice was! How I should get into radio! And how "people make money doing that kind of stuff!"

It's good work when you can get it. But as you know it's more than just the voice.

Early 2015 I began digging deep into everything I could find on VO. Mostly made up of books, (a few) podcasts, blogs and Facebook Groups.

I was frustrated. It seemed everyone wanted my money, was offering seemingly conflicting advice, and often "coaches" had very little to show in the way of their own work.

Hopefully VOMM can help alleviate this a bit.

I have this crazy idea that you, like me, have a really difficult time keeping up with all the voiceover resources out there. The blogs, the Youtubes, podcasts, magazines, TikToks, Instas, etcs and more. And that's just the VO-specific world. Try keeping up with the advertising world to keep an ear on trends and you'll quickly find yourself doing more research than reading.

But, like you, I do my best to keep up with changes and news from the industry and fellow talents. Thing is, filtering the best stuff that is actually useful can be terribly difficult.

That's where Voiceover Mastermind comes in. Every week, I'm going to share with you a selection of my favorite articles and resources that I think will help move your career forward. Also, if you have a resource you found helpful and want to share it, send me an email.

Check out the first selection of articles below.

Keep Talkin,


Be Here Now

You're going to be seeing a lot of Kiff VH's podcast All Over Voiceover.

I'm a sucker for a good origin story and this two-part episode with Rama Vallury was easily one of my favorites. Despite him being in LA and me being a flyover-VO, I found a lot of parallels with the struggles and self doubt that he discussed.

Well worth the nearly 3 hours of listening time. Then go back and listen to the rest of the back catalog.

Be Here Now w/ Rama Vallury - Part 1

Be Here Now w/ Rama Vallury - Part 2

How Does It Align?

It's hard to say "no" when it comes to a a project that may not have the best budge or even a simple request for a conversation to "pick your brain". Having well defined values gives you a filter through which decision making becomes easy. Does it align? No? Then, no.

Know Your Values: 7 Ways to Discover and Clarify Your Personal Values

One For You, Nineteen For Me

June 15 is a weird day in the US when it comes to tax time. Second quarter estimated taxes are due and the IRS won't be happy if you don't consult your crystal ball to see how the rest of the year might go and pay them two weeks before the second quarter even ends.

To make sure I have enough to pay Uncle Sam and my state income tax, I've followed the Profit First system for about 5 years. Hasn't let me down yet. (affiliate link)

The Opposite of Goal Setting

People often forget subtraction when it comes to improving their life or business, so the idea of removing something from your life or routines goes overlooked. The concept of "Anti-Goals" really resonates with me as a new way to evaluate things I might want to improve.

My mornings have been a mess lately and when they're off, my productivity for the entire day typically follows. I'll be evaluating the rest of this week through the lens of the anti-goal.

The Power of Anti-Goals