Interview: Johnna Gottlieb / Part 1
Etiquette: Voice-Over Biz Is Fun –
But You Must Take It Seriously
By John Florian
What’s it take to “turn off” a prospective voice-over client … agent … producer … colleague?
Unfortunately, not much.
And today as we rush through social media postings and “friendings,” emails, phone calls, auditions – and oh yes, recording voice-over jobs – we might be shutting doors unintentionally with behavior that others deem and remember as unprofessional.
It’s a scenario that concerns Johnna Gottlieb, president of Johnna Gottlieb Consulting, and a voice-over career consultant who for many years booked jobs for voice talents and celebrities as a top voice-over agent at major agencies.
“You need to know that if you are pursuing voice-overs as a profession, you have to be professional about it from the beginning – and always,” she says.
Gottlieb is unique in the voice-over industry, having carved a niche as a career consultant, which she explains as “helping clients with where to begin, how to get established, what it takes to make it, and how to stay in the game.”
Based in New York City, she represented numerous top voice talents and celebrities as a talent agent with major agencies, booking clients on high profile TV shows, narrations, commercials and audiobooks.
She has been a guest lecturer at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Syracuse University, and is currently on the faculty of both NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and UCLA Extension.
In fact, her unique six-session online UCLA voice-over class begins its second year on April 14 (click here for UCLA class details – just a few openings remain.).
Following is Part 1 of an extensive VoiceOverXtra interview with Gottlieb. Today’s topic: Professional Etiquette.
ETIQUETTE … WHAT’S THAT?
Johnna, you’ve mentioned to me the importance of professional etiquette. What do you mean by that?
Well, It relates to how people deal with each other.
Two things that immediately come to mind are how people treat appointments with me, and the second occurs in social media.
OK – social media first.
Something I’ve noticed with the Internet networking sites is that when people invite me to connect with them – for instance on LinkedIn – they’ll end up connecting with all of MY connections, too - people they don’t even know!
So I’ve become very selective about whom I will connect with, since I’m concerned that they will also connect with my contacts.
The networking sites encourage that.
Yes, they say, “If you know this person, do you also know that person?”
But before I connect with someone, I check to see if I really do personally know them.
To me, it’s a professional courtesy to do that. It’s not cool to just connect with anyone you see.
And if someone I don’t know wants to connect with me, I say to them straight out, “You know what? Thank you for your invitation, but I am only connecting with people with whom I have a working relationship at this point. If you want to find out more about my services and talk to me about my business, we can schedule a free consultation.”
And then I never hear from them again.
And you mentioned how people treat appointments …
Yes. You need to understand that if you’re going to pursue voice-overs as a profession, you have to be professional about it from the very beginning.
Here’s an example.
As I mentioned, I offer a free consultation to people who are interested in finding out more about my services, and we schedule an appointment. My whole life is scheduled in increments of an hour, a half hour, 15 minutes.
Well, I’m amazed at how many people who schedule the free consultation call me 10 minutes into the scheduled time – or who don’t call at all, and then later in the day get back to me and say, “‘Oh, I’m so sorry this happened. Can we reschedule?”
Or, I’ll send an email to confirm an appointment and that person won’t get back to me for two days.
That’s a matter of people respecting other’s time.
Right, but there’s more to it. The voice-over business is immediate.
If you get an audition and you don’t respond to it for two days, that’s the end of that.
So I like people to think that even their contact with me is within the context of what they can expect with an audition or agent or a job booking.
For example, a guy had an appointment with me recently. There was a big snowstorm, but I managed to make it into the city anyway. Yet he called to cancel because of the snow.
Now, I understand problems like that. But I couldn’t help thinking what he would have done if it were a booking.
People are always assessing you by how you work. They want to know that they can rely on you to show up on time, and if you establish that you aren’t reliable then they will choose not to work with you.
And you're one of many ...
Yes! In a business as competitive as voice-over, there is ALWAYS someone else they can use who will be prompt and reliable.
I offer prospective clients a free consultation and I take a very hard line with those who cancel at the last minute or call late.
Some people feel “It’s no big deal,” and have become very angry when I’ve said, “Well, you missed your free consultation, and that is time I’m not going to get back for my own business. So now we need to move on to a paid consultation.”
Well, I too, am making an assessment about this person’s commitment to making voice-overs a career, and if they are irresponsible from the beginning, it’s clear that that person doesn’t share my work ethic and probably won’t be a good fit for my services.
That’s a wake up call.
Sure. Even though voice-overs is a fun business, it’s a serious business, and we must take it seriously.
Not being respectful – that’s a big pet peeve with me.
Johnna, you’ve been in this business for a long time. Are people less on-the-ball today that in years past?
You know, that’s a really good question.
I don’t know if it’s a case of things being worse now, or whether the business has become saturated with people who want to do voice-overs.
When I started 20 years ago, voice-overs was not something people knew much about. It was kind of like this big mystery, and there weren’t thousands and thousands of people wanting to do it.
Today, way more people see this as an opportunity, and there are those who want to dip their toe into it, but who aren’t serious about it yet.
They just want to explore. They’ve been told, “You have a great voice and should do voice-overs,” but they don’t understand that this is a serious business.
It’s the same here as with pursuing any kind of job.
Speaking of other types of jobs makes me think of a typical job interview and how to dress for it. For an office job, we generally know what to wear. But how about for a voice-over audition or job?
Oh, everyone thinks, “Voice-overs – I don’t care how I look. I can just fall out of bed and go do my session.”
Well, it’s not like you have to wear a suit and tie or be super dressed-up, but you need to appear professional and like you cared about how you look.
Dress as if you were going somewhere important – not to the gym. Don’t show up in sweats because “they are not going to see me anyway.”
Because, you are meeting face-to-face with people who are working in this business. This is a business meeting. So you should present yourself accordingly.
Know that you are dealing with agents, casting directors and producers, and they certainly dress like they have a job. So present yourself as if you are being seen, even if you’re going to be recording in a booth.
Do jeans fit this?
I think jeans are fine. I wear them a lot. As long as you don’t look like you’ve been working in your garden.
It’s one thing, for instance, if you’ve been with your agent for years and you are on your way home from the gym and they call you with an immediate audition – then, yeah. Go in there dressed like you just came from the gym.
You know the agent – and you’re only seeing the agent.
But for others, you need to package yourself professionally and look like you care.
Johnna, we DO care! So we’ll dress up for Part 2 of our interview (coming soon), which taps your years of experience for advice on how to obtain and work with a voice-over agent.
To contact Johnna Gottlieb:
Web site: www.jogoco.com
For details and to register for Johnna’s UCLA online voice-over class starting April 14, please click here.