As a successful UK female storyteller, narrator and voiceover, I was recently asked to speak at my daughter’s school to launch their careers week.
Now sure, I could have waffled on about how to be a narrator; the technical skills required to be a voiceover, what it takes to set up and manage the studio, the brands I’ve worked with or the skills needed to market and manage the business. But these are primary school kids. Do they care about all that? I doubt it.
I thought a little deeper and I realised it’s not narration that’s interesting, it was my journey that was key. And discovering that storytelling is at the heart of everything I’ve ever done.
Where did it begin?
All I ever wanted was to be an actor. It started with escaping into TV dramas as a kid and finding I had a talent for it in primary school shows (I even dug out a clip of me performing as Nancy in Oliver aged 10 to show at my daughters’ assembly). I studied drama at GCSE and A Level and finally went to drama school to train as a professional.
I was a successful working actor for many years. I performed, produced, and set up my own company writing and devising my own work too.
My first professional job was in voiceover while still at drama school for an e-learning firm. And voice work followed me throughout my career. It was always there. The work was steady, interesting, diverse and the people were wonderful to work with.
I set up my own studio and started promoting myself as a voiceover alongside acting work.
But the truth is, it wasn’t that linear
As is often the case with a career in the arts, you also find yourself working outside your chosen profession to pay the bills. As well as classic jobs like waitressing and cleaning, I also took on some more…well, alternative paths!
I was working as a barmaid in an East-End pub when I was head-hunted by a major insurance company! The boss got to know me, he saw my skills and asked me to join his aviation broking team. Yeah, I know, mad right? I had no experience and couldn’t offer him commitment as I was still working as an actor and voiceover; disappearing for days or weeks at a time as creative work came up. So, what did he see in me? Why would he want me?
It was my ability to tell stories; to read people’s emotions, understand people’s needs and be highly persuasive in negotiations. I took to it like a duck to water and it gave me the confidence to move on to other things.
I wanted to put this new-found skill for communications, and my ability to move in corporate as well as artistic circles, to good work. I’d always cared deeply about the environment and social justice. The theatre company I founded was dedicated to making work that promoted sustainability.
Fast-forward a few years and I’m working as a communications specialist at renowned sustainability charity Forum for the Future. I helped the organisation tell its story better, found innovative ways to help the staff connect with their audiences better, used narrative techniques to design and create better work, pioneered storytelling training programmes to help Forum’s partners identify their brand values and won a Global Green Award for the Farming Futures project I helped design and manage.
Again, at the heart of it all was storytelling. Understanding my audience, being empathetic and persuasive.
And, of course, voiceover was there too!
Many of the projects I worked on needed visual and animated content. It made sense for me to provide the narration. That work lead to more external narrating work and, of course, my acting career was always there too. So, it wasn’t long before I left Forum for the Future behind.
Now I work full time from my home voiceover studio narrating work for businesses and individuals around the world.
What’s the thread that ties it all together?
Acting, running my own theatre company, voiceover, setting up my own business, working in communications, training fellow performers, insurance broking…they are all rooted in storytelling and persuasion.
That’s what I do.
Whether I’m selling a product in a commercial, explaining how to use complex medical devices in a corporate film, teaching new skills via e-leaning, or taking people on a journey through their imagination with audio drama – it’s all story.
The vocal choices I make with tone, pace, pitch and accent tell a story about the brand, the product and the audience.
All communication is storytelling. So, marketing my business, writing this blog, finding new clients and promoting myself – it’s all storytelling in order to persuade.
So, how did the talk at my daughter’s school go?
It was magical. I talked about following your dreams, pursuing interests in the arts even if you don’t want it as a career because its just essential to human life. I talked about my journey, my set-backs, how I wandered off track but it lead me to exciting new roads. And yes, I showed off a few showreels and talked about running the business. But the talk was really about the power of story. And how the story you tell yourself is the most powerful one.
My career story is one of dreams, hard work, set-backs, tangents and coming full circle back to what I loved in the first place; home, narration and security.
The story I told myself to get here is that I’m strong, I’m creative, I’m talented and I deserve success.
If I was to narrate your story – what would it be?