Any voice over colleague who is even remotely active on social media knows the person I am interviewing today: self-styled VO Superman Josh Alexander.
Joshua just did something no voice talent I know of, has ever done before. He finished his third book: Voiceovers: A Super Responsibility. Here’s how I started our conversation:
Josh, you and I have something in common, other than that we record voice overs for a living. We both worked in the wedding industry. I’ve been a non-denominational officiant for many years. What did you do, and why did you stop doing it? What lessons did you take away from that experience; lessons you still apply as a VO talent?
Well, I did wedding videography, which is Latin for horrendous and neverending torment. I really felt locked into it, had to trade all my Saturdays, and it was getting old. Somewhere in 2010-2015 the business just became really narcissistic and vindictive. Clients would whittle me down from $1500 to $900 and yet still want some of the bells and whistles that came with the $1500 package. I declined, and they would go straight to Yelp. Super frustrating. So I decided no more and gradually phased out and put more time into becoming a professional voice talent.
Lessons I took away? Always value yourself. Always charge what you’re worth. Don’t bend over backward for clients to the point of self-harm. Find a line of work that enables you to spend more time with your family.
I can understand you wanted a different career, but why voice overs? What is it about VO that makes it a good fit for you? Is there a genre you specialize in?
Confucius said “find what you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I didn’t love wedding videography; I was good at it. Voiceovers, I LOVE. And I’m good at them! It makes use of all of my giftings, fulfills the dramatic side of me that wants to act, and enables me to teach as well.
There’s very little not to love about voice overs. It fits me like a glove, and it’s a career that I am leg-shakingly excited about on Sunday nights as we dive into a new week of work. I can’t wait to start a brand new week and see what blessings manifest and what achievements I can hit! It’s truly amazing. By the way, I specialize in corporate/commercial, and E-Learning.
One of the things that makes you stand out from other talent is the way you market yourself. Most VO’s don’t even know where to begin. You seem to embrace it. Where does that come from? What does the average VO not understand… something that you have figured out?
Hashtags are magnets. Engagement is awareness. Branding is memorable. I operate on a philosophy that I really have to keep myself on people’s radar if I’m going to survive and thrive. There is far too much white noise to blend into. I had to come up with something memorable both in terms of a tagline and a logo (“Superman”) and all of that really came from Celia Siegel’s book “Voiceover Achiever.” It was instrumental for me to figure out who I was (for clarification’s sake, I am NOT in fact Superman; Clark Kent might be closer), and to make my repeated mark with that identity.
Additionally, I really pride myself on continuing engagement and putting content out there that draws people to me. There’s a certain element of being shamelessly inherent with that, but if you want to draw clients to you, you have to accept who you are, trust that people want to hear from you, and continue putting out great content and be engaging. Something as simple as wishing LinkedIn connections a happy birthday on their special day, taking the time to do that, actually goes a long way and keeps you on their radar.
But always, always, I’m thinking of what I’m putting out there, and making sure that I’m fostering awareness. It’s very easy to be forgotten. Clients and potential clients are bombarded with new talent and roster inquiries all the time. It’s my job to cut through the noise, to make a self-assured presentation, and to start a dialogue, if I can. To stand apart from the herd, and get heard. (See what I did there?) 😊
Yes, I saw that! How did you come up with your Superman brand, and does it every worry you that whoever owns the Superman image might come after you for plagiarism?
No, it doesn’t worry me. It’s a derivative; it’s not the iconic “S” or the diamond shape, and I’ve seen plenty of derivatives over the years sport the same approach. Superman is Americana; heck, it’s Earth-icana….and it’s deeply inspiring to so many. Again Celia’s book was instrumental in helping me identify what I loved, and how I could apply that to my own life and business.
My tagline “Super Human Being; Superhuman Voice” is two-fold: the first part has to do with the fact that I’m a giver, and giving is my love language. I have been given a lot, and have been taught to give. So I give away my time (through free consults for VO newcomers or reviewing demos), my blog, my advice, my encouragement and inspiration, my affirmation, my books, my training courses, free gift cards, whatever, to brighten someone’s day.
The second part comes from the fact that I am vocally versatile with multiple accents and delivery styles. So you could say that the first part of my tagline is internal: colleague-facing, and the second part is external, client-facing.
What do you do on a daily basis to get this brand out there? How much time do you spend on marketing yourself every day, and what do you do during that time?
I post daily content across social media: to encourage colleagues, to start dialogue, etc.. I post reminders of who I am -and that I’m here and ready to serve- through advertising, posts, etc.. The best kind of advertising is one that asks a question. A question begets a response. So I like to ask questions in groups, and to answer questions on places like Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, etc.. I am constantly marketing, or thinking up a way to market.
For me, auditions are a form of marketing, and the most tangible form of marketing you can present. And, when I’m not recording a job or auditioning, I’m reaching out to new clients via direct email, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, directories, etc..
Alternatively, I’m reaching out to existing clients and making sure everything went OK with my previous recordings for them, inquiring to see if they need anything else.
Oftentimes this is for clients who the project was for even a year ago. And replies like “Oh yeah! Good to hear from you! Great timing – we actually have another one we could use you for.” Had I not reached out to ask if the previous one went OK, they might have gone their merry way with another voice talent.
To me, you always seem to be online, either posting stuff or responding to things. How do you manage to do that and still spend time in the recording booth and with your family? What’s your secret?
I remember a great article on Medium by Emily Jordan – “I don’t have time; I MAKE time.” You have to make the time. Honestly, in reality, you have 480 minutes of every workday to decide what you want to do with your day. I don’t buy that “someone doesn’t have the time.” Even within the confines of their 8-5 job, if they are asked to do something, you can’t really tell me you don’t have the time. And if they don’t make time to do it, they’re fired.
The same is true with self-employment. I, the employee, have to make the time for the important things that the boss (also me) commands, or I’m fired from self-employment. I require myself to reach out, to connect, to foster awareness, to keep that conveyor belt of supply moving in my direction by constant outreach. So, when I’m done with a booked job or an audition and it’s sent, I’m right back to marketing, or working on something that is marketing-related to a degree. Even my blog is a form of marketing, though it’s geared primarily towards voice talent. I don’t have time. I make time, because I want to thrive.
What do you say to colleagues who might be intimidated by the prospect of having to put themselves out there every day? Not everyone is good at tooting their own horn.
I get it! And I love the quote from your book, Paul:
“If you really want to play the trumpet professionally, you better learn how to toot your own horn.”
Beautiful! Marketing isn’t everyone’s bag. But neither is doing your own taxes, accounting, stationery design, branding, writing letters, and all the other nitty-gritty details of running your own ops. They take some time to learn and perfect. It’s an evolution. You can’t be a master at it right away, but give it time.
I would never outsource my own marketing because I don’t want a mouthpiece; I don’t want someone heralding what I do because no one can do that for me better than me. And people want someone who is confident in what they do. A third-party endorser will never connect the way I can in first-person, because I know who I am and what I can offer, and it’s coming from me, not them.
Do you ever feel you might be oversharing a little bit? I mean, posting that you just made an X-amount of money in one month, or broke a record of most jobs in one month… why not keep that to yourself?
This is a very good question, and I appreciate it. I never share publicly what I made…but I do share what I’ve generated in terms of revenue. No one likes a braggart, and that’s my worst fear: that I’ll be misperceived.
Again, I love to give. I love to inspire. I’m a natural cheerleader. One of the main things I wondered before I officially launched into voice overs was: “Can I REALLY do this as a career, I mean REALLY survive financially off of this?” And I wanted to know what others were making, I truly did! But I don’t share that; I share what I’ve generated. It’s a Fortune-500 company mindset. Do they not publish quarterly earnings reports?
I am not a hobbyist: I’m an enterpriser…I’m a businessman who just happens to do voice overs. And as a businessman who thrives on inspiration and wants to inspire by showing that it truly can be done, NO, I don’t feel I’m oversharing. 😊 Look at the comments that come pursuant to those posts. So many are inspired and encouraged to know that they too can actually do voice overs as a full-time career someday.
My goal is not to brag or to put out any kind of “I’m up here; you’re down there” vibe. That is entirely antithetical to who I am. I am an encourager; and I want people to know that they too can do this. That comes from a place of massive incredulity in my mind, which leads to massive gratitude in my heart…I am so blissfully amazed that I get to do what I get to do everyday, and that I can support my family and bless others in this way through this vocation. It is nothing short of amazing.
So, “earnings reports” are just a tangible demonstration of a big-business mindset revealing that my model is prospering, and yours can too. It all comes from a place of wanting to encourage; and more often than not, the fringe who don’t like it come from a place of either suspicion or jealousy. I cannot control that because I cannot and don’t need to make people like me; all I can do is try to encourage and inspire and show that it truly is possible. Oversharing is telling people that I have a leaking scab on my butt. No one needs to know that. 😊
Speaking of sharing, you have just published your THIRD book: Voiceovers: A Super Responsibility. For whom did you write it, and why should people buy it? What distinguishes this book from the previous two? Does one need to have read the other two before digging into this one?
Oh my gosh – I wrote it for everyone. I want everyone to read it. Ultimately, I am combining two of my biggest loves: inspiration and laughter, and they’re wrapped up in all three of these books. Why should people buy it? Why wouldn’t you want to be inspired in voice overs? Why wouldn’t you want to know what a grave responsibility you have in upholding your client’s message properly? Why wouldn’t you want to learn how to better yourself in VO?
I am constantly looking for ways to improve and better myself. If you present something inspiring to me, I’ll gobble it up. I really wanted this last book to be more somber. Yes, it has its silliness and satire like the other two, because life is eclectic, and laughter is truly the best medicine. But it’s more reflective, with more personal stories and some accounts of NOT being honest with who you are that lead to tragic consequences.
We have to somberly understand the gravity of proper and correct storytelling: it’s a huge responsibility. And no, you don’t have to read the other two before you read this one: there is no Frodo dropping the Ring into Mount Doom in this one, leading you to wonder how he even got the ring in the first place. They’re all similar and fairly standalone. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if you bought the other two and read them as well though: I would not be offended by that at all. 😊
Here’s what I think. The thing that makes your book distinctly different from any other VO books I have read, is your personality and your sense of humor. In my review I wrote:
“Fun-sized” Joshua (his words, not mine) is quite the edutainer. You learn while you laugh, and you laugh while you learn. To me, there is no better or healthier combination. Being an author myself, I know this is a risky strategy. If people don’t like your sense of humor, you’re screwed.”
Do you accept that not everyone will be as enamored with your writing style, and does that bother you?
I’ll be vulnerable here. Writing is a gift. People make knee jerk reactions which does bother me. They’ll see the title of the book and freak out. They’ll see the title of my latest blog and midjudge it or jump to conclusions. Some people deliberately want to sabotage out of their own insecurities. People are a mixed bag. I can’t please everyone. All I can do is be myself (thanks Oscar Wilde!) and offer my own unique spin on the world. I just want to write because I LOVE writing. It comes from the core of my heart as a talent God gave me, and a desire to share and encourage and, in my case, fuse that with entertainment.
I have zero desire for someone to purchase something from my website as a result of my blog. I have zero desire to be 100% right. I just crave the engagement, and I crave the very ability to inspire and provide a gift of encouragement. Whether or not people decide to receive that gift is entirely up to them. Not everyone will get my humor, and that’s fine too. I have a zany style that is sometimes all over the map.
I LOVE how Carrie Olsen described my second book, that it was laden with “endearing rabbit trails.” Ha! Best description ever. Beyond all measure, I simply want to encourage and provide an entertaining, informative, and inspiring read. Isn’t that the reason why you yourself write? Or why our fellow bloggers and authors write? We want to inspire and inform. The fact that mine is laden with humor is not a detractor unless you have no sense of humor. The fact is that all three books are very balanced with lighthearted levity, encouraging exhortation and actual advice. They’re both informative and inspiring, and I like and strive for that balance. It keeps you on your toes.
Some folks might say: “These books are just a vanity project to promote Josh’s business.” What would you say to them, and what do you hope people will take away from them?
They would be entirely misplaced. I make so little from these books, and yet put so immeasurably much time into them. If I was seeking to profit from them, that’s a horribly ineffective approach. My goal, again, is to inspire. My hope is that they’re deeply inspired, informed, encouraged, relieved, load-lifted, and equipped with the knowledge that they CAN have a successful career in voice overs. It’s far more possible than people think. I wrote these because I just had to give and create, or I would have burst.
We voice talent are all creative souls: we love putting together something creative, or we wouldn’t be in voice overs! We all use our talent to project a gift into the microphone; I just used my talent to project a gift into the book-o-sphere. That’s all.
Many thanks to Josh for this interview. Click here to order a copy of his third book. You can watch his YouTube channel by clicking on this link. He’s on Instagramas well. Josh is also the founder and moderator of the Global Voiceover Artists Network on Facebook which has 6.1K members.