From basic beginnings to a broadcast quality studio; this is the story of my home-studio evolution!
I’m constantly asked how I started out in voiceover. How I went from a total beginner to someone with her own professional home studio and clients all around the world. So, I thought I’d make a little video and put this blog together to tell some of the story.
I’m focusing mainly on the studio and technical evolution here rather than talking about the training, personal development, marketing, branding and endless hard slog that has built my business. I hope it’s interesting or useful, or both! Here goes…
How did it all start?
I got my first professional job while I was still at drama school. I recorded a series of e-learning projects at a local producers home studio. At the time I was super impressed and thought I’d never figure out how all that recording equipment and editing software would work. I was glad I was the other side of the mic! But you have to remember, this was the late 90s. Ancient history to some of you! At the time I’d only recently bought my 1st ever mobile phone and only had access to a communal University PC. The idea of having the space, cash and knowledge to set up a studio seemed impossible.
But I soon discovered that as an English voiceover artist with a neutral RP accent, there was a lot of demand for my voice – especially in the e-learning and corporate world. Word spread from client to client and I kept booking more gigs. Always in other people’s studios dotted around the UK but mostly in London. I loved the work. So, I took some classes, listened to radio and TV commercials like a loon and had my first demo reels made.
And then I did nothing. Like a prat! It took me a while to find the money and confidence to set up at home. But once I did, I never looked back.
So, less about the why and how, and more about the kit.
My 1st studio
It was basic! A second-hand mic that was better suited to live music, an ancient interface and a mic stand. The rest was all pillow forts and crossed fingers! But it served it’s purpose. I gained confidence in self-direction, learned the basics of audio recording and editing (using Audacity freeware) and started to build up a list of clients who wanted to work with home voiceover artists.
- Rode NT3 mic
- Roland Edirol UA-25 interface
- Basic mic stand and reflection filter
The sound quality was obviously poor. But it was a great way to start. I was always honest with my clients about my set-up and I made sure that I always sent a sample recording first.
Studio 2 – my first build attempt
It didn’t take long for me to realise if I wanted to build my career, I needed to invest in myself. So, I built a private studio (a room within a room) in my office. I upgraded my mic and kit, invested in much better editing software and really started to push my voice over career. Boy did it pay off! The better sound quality I was achieving, coupled with my improved abilities as a voiceover and editor, meant that the work stared to flow in. I picked up an agent, improved my branding and marketing efforts and started to work in new areas of the industry. It was great!
- Rode NT1a
- Audiobox USB interface
- Reaper editing software
So, why change things?
Well, I made mistakes when I built the studio. Sound insulation needed to be improved, ventilation and light was poor, it was small and I wanted an ISDN line and another equipment upgrade.#
Studio 3 – my current set-up
Ahhhh, now that’s better! Months of research and planning. Thousands of pounds in materials, builders fees, the latest equipment upgrades and I am now one very happy voiceover artist. And, best of all, my clients are thrilled too! I knocked down the old office and studio and did a total re-build. Broadcast quality sound insulation, the best acoustic treatment and the brand new cables and equipment. Mmmmm, yummy!
I now have the space, equipment, confidence and ability to serve all aspects of the voiceover industry, plus my new ISDN line is live!
- Rode NT1A Mic
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB interface
- CCS Musicam Prima LT Codec
- Soundcraft EPM6 mixer with a PDM-300 desk mic for in-booth communications
- Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro (80 OHM) headphones
You can watch more videos all about the studio on my YouTube page where I have video tours, a guide to the build process and other fund stuff like sound tests.
So, what’s the lesson here?
Well, I guess it’s that nothing is static. The industry is always evolving and so my business is too. As I learn and improve I have to change my studio and equipment to work in new markets and I have to keep up with trends and technology too. We need to embrace that. I know I do. I love learning and stretching myself. I love voice work, but I love running a business too.
If I reflect on the last 20 years of my career, what do I wish?
- I wish I’d found the confidence to start home studio work earlier.
- I wish I’d known that it’s ok to fake it until you make it.
- I wish I’d realised that it’s quicker to ask for forgiveness than wait for permission. As soon as I threw off the shackles of self-doubt and invested in myself like a professional, I was treated like one.
I’m brilliant at my job and I love it. Let’s see what the next 20 years brings eh?