What steps can you take to build and shape your own personal brand and freelance business? What choices will you have to make to define who you are? In this episode of Career Relaunch, Redd Horrocks, a former circus stage manager turned professional voiceover artist  shares her thoughts on how to choose the right professional pursuits, the importance of saying “no,” and how you can tap into online marketplaces to build your freelance business.  I also share some thoughts on why saying “no” is so important to building your personal brand.

Key Career Insights

  1. As a freelancer, feeling like your clients or business could suddenly disappear is a very common feeling.
  2. Planning is useful, but you should also stay focused on the present. Don’t look too far ahead. Things can always get better or worse, and it’s not always easy to tell.
  3. You don’t have to be hustling all the time. You have to make sure you practice some self-care so you don’t burn out on the business you’re trying to grow. It’s okay to say “no.”

Tweetables to Share

Resources Mentioned

Listener Challenge

During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about the importance of saying no to certain projects or opportunities that don’t reinforce your personal brand. What will you start saying “no” to to avoid diluting the person you’re trying to become? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

About Redd Horrocks, Voiceover Artist

Redd Horrocks Voiceover ArtistRedd Horrocks is a Freelance Voiceover Artist. Her career started in 2003 with a chance encounter with a video game developer, and has continued to grow ever since. She has worked with a plethora of clients from more than 100 countries, completing over 50,000 different projects for anything you can think of, and some things she can’t forget. She recently launched Instant Voicemails that offers a range of professionally recorded greeting options. She’s originally from West Sussex, England, but currently resides in America. Follow Redd on Facebook.

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Episode Interview Transcript

Teaser (first ~15s): It’s okay to have integrity. You can have integrity regarding what you choose to do. You don’t have to work with every client, and you don’t have to take every project because there will be another one. I wish I’d learned earlier that it is really okay to occasionally say no.

Joseph: Hello, Redd. Welcome to Career Relaunch. It is great to have you on the show today.

Redd: Thank you so much for having me.

Joseph: I am very excited to have you on the show today, Redd. You’re our very first voice-over artist on the show. I was wondering if you could just kick us off by telling us what you’re focused on right now in your career and your life.

Redd: I’m in this really great point in my career where everything’s very established and running quite smoothly and kicking along as it should be. I’m pretty busy. I’m recording about 200 to 300 projects a week on a good week. It’s quite a lot, but I love doing it, and it’s really fun. It’s lucrative enough that I can support my family. I’m nice and stable, and that’s a really enjoyable place for me to be.

Joseph: That is amazing. That number sounds like a huge number of recordings to do a week. Before we get into how actually manage your days, can you just explain first of all what a voice actor does and the types of projects that you work on?

Redd: What I specialize in is narration. I do standard narration for all kinds of projects. I work with companies all over the world. I might do their phone system or do their explainer video, or they might have a tutorial for how to clean an air filter or something, just anything that you can think of that someone needs to put a voice on. I do podcast intros. I do radio work. I have done elevators, like, ‘Going up.’ Pretty much anything that you can think of that someone would lend their voice to, I’ve done that kind of work.

For me, one of the reasons why I’m able to gain so many projects is I’m actually English. I have a British accent, and then I also have the ability to flip to an American accent because I live in America. I’m able to do both, and that kind of expands that amount of people that need my voice.

Projects can be small. I could do a, ‘Thank you for calling. You’ve reached blah blah blah phone system,’ or I could do a 33,000-word E-book on finance. It’s a really, really big range of the types of work that I do, which is fun and interesting. It’s never the same day twice.

Joseph: Very cool. I have to ask you this, Redd, and I’m sure that people ask you to do this all the time. Is there any way that you could just give us a sampling of a few of your different narration voice styles?

Redd: Sure, I mean this would be a standard. How I’m speaking with you now would be a really standard American. My natural voice is a little bit younger. If I was really starting to accentuate my words in an American accent because I wanted to take my time to explain something to you about how this works, I might do that, or if you wanted me to switch into a British accent, I can do kind of a laid back, this is just my standard voice in British. This is how I would talk to my mom on the phone, or if you needed me to be a little bit more pronounced, I could discuss the important ramifications of various political things going on right now. There’s a few different stuff that I can do.

Joseph: That is so cool.

Redd: It’s a lot easier to do it with a script, trust me.

Joseph: I’m sure. I know it’s hard to kind of do that on the fly, so I appreciate you doing that for us. One question about that. How does one go about developing a whole new accent? The reason why I ask that is I’m American as you know, and I now live in the UK, so we’ve done the opposite from one another. I’ve been here for coming up on eight years. I don’t think I’ve picked up a single bit of the British accent as far as I’m aware. How do you go about developing a new accent?

Redd: For me, I don’t really have a good answer, I’m afraid, because everything happened to me organically. I moved to America when I was 18, so I was fairly young and impressionable. Well, that’s not true. I did date a guy who decided that he thought it was really funny that he kind of trained my accent out of me, so he kept correcting me into American. That relationship did not last long, but these things happen.

I think for me, what I tend to do is I’ve always been kind of a bit of a chameleon. When I’m speaking with someone, I have a weird habit of more adopting the tones that they’re saying. It’s not necessarily something I do on purpose. It’s just something that has just happened to me over the years. I’m afraid I don’t have a good trick for you.

Because I’m speaking to you, and it’s the first time I’ve really spoken to you in depth, I’m going to sound like you. If I speak to my husband, I’m a lot more hybrid-y because a lot of my Britishisms kind of come out of my every day and because he’s used to it. It’s just one of those things that just happened. I was so young when I came here, and it just fell that way. Of course, my mother would kill me if I spoke to her in an American accent, so I have to be British still.

Joseph: Got you. Before we go back in time to what you were doing before, can you just give us a glimpse into what a typical day is like for you? I know that you mentioned that you’re doing a ton of voice-over recordings each week. What’s a typical day like for a voice actor, and how do you manage all the work?

Redd: I change the way I do things about every three to four months. As a freelancer, I found that it’s really easy to get stuck in a rut. I don’t get bored, but I get to a point where every day feels a little bit like the same. Sometimes, I will completely flip my schedule and do things 100% differently.

What I’m doing right now is I get up in the morning, I have this really, really terrible habit of just sitting at my dining table with a cup of coffee doing all my admin work. I have a desk, but I never use it. I get up in the morning, I go through my emails, I take a look at any requests for revisions from previous projects that have come in, send out any quotes I need to send out. I do that, and then I usually do that while having coffee, and then I grab breakfast, and I then I usually head down to the studio usually around 10:00.

My sweet spot for recording, I found, is between about 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. What I’ll do is I’ll head on down to the studio, and I just start knocking out recordings. I have a system that allows me to track which ones need to be done first. I handle all of those in a certain order. I work on various different marketplaces. Different ones have different time scales in which I need to deliver a project. I have to always make sure I’m delivering things in the right order.

I usually record until about 1:00, and then I’ll have lunch. Depending on how heavy of a day I have, I might go back into the studio and be done no later than 5:00, or I might end up being done much earlier, and then I get to do housework of go to yoga or all the standard fluffy things that you get to do when you have two hours to spare on the afternoon.

Joseph: I know you mentioned marketplaces, so I’d love to come back to that later. I know you haven’t always been a voice actor, Redd. Could you tell us about your time as a stage manager for a circus company in Vegas? Then we can move forward from there.

Redd: Back in college, my major was journalism, and then I switched it to communications, which is what my degree is in. Right after college, I’d started working with the theater company at my school, and I interned at a bunch of theater companies. This was back when I lived in Atlanta, Georgia. I really, really enjoyed stage management. I liked how busy it was, how you get to work on really cool productions. I worked on a lot of nonprofit theater, and so much of the work that I was able to do was with these amazing people, and it was like a big family atmosphere, and you’re working on a show for like six weeks, and then you’re done. It’s just very progressed and moved.

I was also a technician. I was a carpenter. I would hang lights. I would do all that good stuff, basically making any production I could run. I worked a lot. I was super busy. I think the year before I went to the circus, I think I calculated that I had 17 days in the year that I didn’t work. I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic.

I was working in that field for a long time, and then I started looking into working on some larger-scale productions. I interviewed for and was selected to move out to Vegas to work with a circus company as an Assistant Stage Manager, which I did for about three and a half years. I was working on a massive $130 million show with so much moving equipment, 64 performers, 110 technicians. It was busy and big and crazy, and I did that for three and a half years, and then I moved out of that into full-time voice-over work after that.

Joseph: One of the things I’ve always wondered about, Redd, with the circus world, what are the types of people who go into work in the circus? Are these people who have aspired to work in the circus their whole lives, or do they come from other industries? What’s a typical person who ends up working in the circus?

Redd: If you’re talking about performers, you’re probably looking at people who come from a competition, especially competition gymnastics. We had former Olympians, things like that. These are people that have done gymnastics. They’re done with the competition circuit, and they’re at a point where they want to essentially retire from competition and move on to like a more stable job. We had a lot of people who came out of competition, a lot of dancers. I mean dancers are performers. They just go to whatever show they want to do.

As far as technicians go and stage managers and such, most people have backgrounds that are more either touring companies, or they might have worked on Broadway or the West End. It’s kind of an interesting conglomeration of people from all different aspects of performance that kind of come together.

The other thing that my particular show had, was we had professional skaters, rollerbladers. We had people who used to compete in the X Games and things like that. We also had a bunch of people who were just professional actors.

Joseph: What was the sequence of events that took you from working for a circus company in Vegas to eventually shifting into the world of voice-overs?

Redd: I’ve always worked on voice-overs in some form or fashion, mostly accidentally, since I was in college because I had a British accent much stronger when I was younger. When I was in college, I had a friend who was a video game major ask me to voice a character for him in a video game he was developing for a senior project. He liked my voice, so I’m just like, ‘Yeah, sure. No problem. I’ve got an afternoon.’ I went on and I did it. It was this action video game, so it was a lot of like blood curdling death screams and like, ‘Pretend you’re running,’ and all this kind of stuff. I had a really good time doing it. I would do voicemails for friends or silly, little projects for people here and there.

After I moved to Vegas, I had a bunch of credit card debt as many mid-20-somethings do, and I’ve never been super fond of having credit debt as most 20-somethings aren’t. I started looking at the things that I could do to maybe generate a little side income, but because my schedule was so rigorous with the show, I couldn’t get a second job. It wouldn’t have worked. I wasn’t flexible enough.

I had a friend who had been working for a voice-over company funnily enough back in Atlanta. She was working for an audio book company, and they were looking for a couple more British girls on their roster. I did a couple of audio books with them, which in hindsight, I must’ve done an atrocious job on them because I was brand new, and I had no idea what I was doing.

I did that just for a little bit, and then I found the different online marketplaces that I’m a member of and start just kind of listing myself as an available person. It just grew slowly at first, and then it suddenly got to the point where everything kind of clicked and took off for me as far as getting clients and having projects and things like that, and it got to the point where I was working 80-hour weeks because I was working 50 hours on the show and then doing 30 hours on voice-overs. I wasn’t nearly as efficient with voice overs back then.

It was exhausting, and I just couldn’t keep doing it. I had to really take a really big, hard look at what I wanted to do, and I decided that I wanted to do the voice-over thing. I gave my job four months’ notice because I am very, very methodical on all things, and then I went full-time, and I’ve been doing this full-time since—oh my! It was just my anniversary. September 29th, 2014 was when I had my last day at the show, so I’ve been doing this for three years.

Joseph: Once you started to shift to doing this full-time, what was the hardest part of becoming a voice-over artist full-time where this was your main source of income, or was there a major challenge behind doing that?

Redd: It’s still, even years later, I still get occasionally terrified that everything’s just going to fall apart. I think that’s a trade of many freelancers because I’m really lucky as I have a really good client roster, and I’m quite diversified. At the same time, if one of my marketplaces is suddenly isn’t a viable option for me anymore, that’s a big hit to an income that my family has become accustomed to.

It’s being kind of at the mercy of the marketplace is tricky. I’ve always struggled with that a little bit because of the uncertainty, but I found that that’s sometimes combated well with really, really good savings plans. I think that’s always been the hardest thing: just never quite knowing if, one day, the rug is just going to get pulled out from under me. That’s something that was a much bigger issue in the beginning but now isn’t so bad, but it’s still there. Every freelancer, I think, has concerns about where the next paycheck is coming from.

Joseph: I know what you mean about that, and I know that that’s definitely a challenge that comes up with most people who are running their own small business or are freelancers. You just never know if everything just going to fall apart one day. What do you do to deal with that?

Redd: Wine helps, I found.

Joseph: Right.

Redd: Gin also, just saying, unequal opportunity. It’s a really weird thing. As a freelancer, we have to think about the future. We have to have savings. We have to make sure that our taxes our paid, that our things are handled. At the same time, I think sometimes it’s beneficial to not look too far ahead.

One of the things that helps me is knowing that one week is not going to look the same as the next week. If I’ve had a really, really rough week, it’s not going to be like that next week. I’m going to have different clients, different projects, different things. On the flipside, if I’ve had an amazing week, it’s entirely possible next week will be bad.

A lot of it is just understanding and realizing that so long as I keep doing the best that I can do, then that’s what I can impact. Doing my job well, keeping my clients happy, delivering my work efficiently, correctly, and on time, and just keeping this client relationships up, that’s what I can do, and that I can do on a day-to-day basis.

As far as gaining projects, that’s the best thing I can do, and giving yourself permission to not spend every waking moment hustling is a really big step. You have to make sure that you’re taking time for yourself so that you don’t burn out and then start slipping.

Joseph: You had mentioned marketplaces, Redd. For those people who aren’t familiar with online, freelance marketplaces, can you just explain what that is and maybe share a couple of the platforms that you’re on?

Redd: I’m actually on five different platforms. An online marketplace is a website that someone who is interested in purchasing a service, like a voice-over, designing a logo, helping with websites, proofreading, things like that, usually a digital service, it’s a place where someone can go to find people who are doing that kind of work and hire them. The marketplace’s work is kind of an intermediary.

For me, I put up a listing to say that I’m available, ‘You can hear my demo. This is the kind of work that I do. These are my rates,’ and then a client will select me, make a purchase through the marketplace. The marketplace will hold the money. I’ll complete the project, send it to the client, the client releases the project, and then I get paid.

One of the good things about these marketplaces is they do have, usually, a fairly large amount of clientele that are familiar with working with the marketplace, and you get reviewed on what you do. Someone could come on and say, ‘I’m looking for this kind of voice. This person does it. This rate is good for me. Let me look and see if they’ve got good reviews,’ kind of like you would with like a restaurant on Yelp. Then they would place an order and go from there.

It’s kind of like a good hub for finding services. There’s many of these on the web. The ones that I use primarily are Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour, and then a voice-over specific one called Voice Bunny. I get different people purchasing different projects from these different marketplaces all day or all week, and I’ll just go through and handle them all in there.

Diversifying and being cross-platform is really important, I think, for a freelancer, and you can choose to put more energy into one or the other definitely. For me, the one that’s made me the most income and the one that I continue to be the most stable on is Fiverr. Fiverr has a really good system.

Joseph: I’ve used Fiverr myself and couple of these other online marketplaces you mentioned to help me with this particular podcast actually. One of the issues, just in talking with freelancers on these platforms, that I’ve heard is how you end up showing up amidst the thousands of different suppliers on there. How did you manage to cut through on Fiverr or PeoplePerHour or Upwork or any of these other platforms you mentioned?

Redd: The one that I would definitely refer to would be Fiverr because I’m actually the number-one-selling voice-over artist on Fiverr.

Joseph: Oh, nice.

Redd: A lot of it is your reviews. Providing consistent work, especially when you’re starting. Say I was starting on Fiverr tomorrow. The first thing I would do is make sure that my rates were incredibly competitive. This is always a little bit of sticking point for freelancers because obviously, we’re always worth more than we’re getting paid. It’s just the way things work.

When you’re trying to build a career on a marketplace like this, you do have to start at the bottom. You kind of pay your dues just like with anything. I would start off having extremely competitive rates. I wouldn’t expect to be charging the amount that the top tier people are charging. Then I would work on gaining clients. All of these sites have systems where you can either send them proposals or you can provide quotes to people that are looking for things. Try and gain clientele by that.

Then I would over-deliver and go above and beyond and make sure that I was getting customers that were super happy, make sure that my reviews are impeccable. If you put in the footwork in the beginning to make sure you’re providing an excellent service and that your clients are always happy, they’ll keep coming back.

One of the phrases that I use all the time is you never know when your next client will be your best client, so if you can build slowly a stable of good clients that are constantly placing orders, constantly reviewing your work, you’re going to gain traction that way, because a lot of these marketplaces are based on algorithms regarding how much money you’re making, how many orders you’re getting, how often you’re canceling orders, how quickly your respond to messages, and then the pivotal one is how good your reviews are. So long as you kind of hit all those little notes, you will see yourself start to excel.

It’s one of those things that can be sometimes very daunting when you’re looking at a new established marketplace, like, ‘I can never match them,’ but I wasn’t the first voice-over artist on Fiverr. If I can climb to the ranks, anyone can.

Joseph: Looking back on your career as a voice-over artist on these online platforms, was there anything that was especially surprising to you about creating your own voice-over business on these platforms?

Redd: I never expected this to go this well. This was always supposed to be a side job. I had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen to me. I worked for it. I’m not saying I didn’t, but I think the surprising thing was that, once I finally found my rhythm and figured out what I was good at and how to carry myself, that was the really surprising thing that everything just fell into place.

There’s another voice-over artist on the site, and she’s an amazing girl. I actually talk to her every day, because when you’re in this marketplace, you don’t get to hang out in an office with people. There’s a bunch of other sellers on Fiverr especially that I’m kind of friendly with on Skype. She and I talk absolutely every day, but I used to idolize her. All I wanted to do was get the kind of number of orders in my queue that she had and all this kind of stuff, and I never thought three years later, that she and I would be kind of colleagues on the same tier that would chat every day.

That was kind of surprising. It’s like I accidentally found this really neat community of wonderful people that I get to spend time in my little padded room talking to myself but occasionally Skyping with someone who’s doing the same thing I am but in a different part of the world. That’s kind of nice. I don’t think I expected to have colleagues doing this, and I kind of do.

Joseph: That’s very cool that you’re able to make those kinds of connections. When you look back on this evolution in your career, from doing this part-time to full-time, what’s something that you wish you had known about this whole career change that you now know?

Redd: I think I wish that I had known in the beginning that it’s okay to have integrity. You don’t have to debase yourself. You can have integrity regarding what you choose to do. You don’t have to work with every client, and you don’t have to take every project because there will be another one.

I have had clients in the past that are just… There are some people who don’t understand that there’s a human being on the other side of a computer. That has been something that has been super tricky for me at various points during this career. Because I am essentially just this embodied voice to them, they don’t understand that I’m a person, and choices they make and things they say and requirements and demands they have of me aren’t always appropriate. I wish I’d learned earlier that it is really okay to occasionally say no.

I have learned, in the last probably 18 months, that it’s okay. Even then, I probably should’ve figured that out a long time ago. Just because you’re trying to build a career doesn’t mean you have to do everything that someone says, and it is okay if you have things that you want to stand firm on. There’s nothing wrong with saying no.

Joseph: The last thing, Redd, that I’m hoping to talk with you about before we wrap up is the topic of publicity. I guess the first time I heard about you was on the Open for Business Podcast. Then I read about you on Business Insider and CNBC, and I’m just wondering, how have you managed to be featured in such big media outlets? Because I know that that’s a question that a lot of people have when they’re starting off and trying to gain some traction with their own small businesses or their own freelance projects.

Redd: Unfortunately, a lot of it was luck. Since I work on Fiverr, one of the things that I am is a Fiverr ambassador. I’m one of the people that they occasionally tap for PR events and stories and things like that. Actually, there is a PR team at Fiverr that occasionally puts me in the mix for things when they might get approached for a quote with an article or there’s a magazine doing a story on gig economy of freelancing and stuff like that. I’m actually lucky that I have a PR team that knows who I am, that occasionally mentions me.

It has been one of those things though where a couple of the stories that have been written about me have led to other stories and people that have contacted personally, which is how I got on. Being on the Open for Business Podcast was a huge thing for me because I’m actually a massive fan of anything that Gimlet Media and Gimlet Creative do. I think my eyes went really wide when that one popped into my inbox. I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ It was kind of a snowball thing. Once I was in one thing, that kind of led to more.

I’m a fairly vocal presence when it comes to the sites that I work on, the marketplaces that I work on. It’s my companies that I work for, and these companies are important to me. I try to be a source of help for them, especially when they’re making improvements or adjustments.

One of the reasons why I’m kind of known to the Fiverr people is because I’ve come back to them a lot of the times with feedback on the changes they’re making on the site and suggestions on how to improve it. There’s been a few features that have been released on Fiverr that I was partially responsible for, so that’s been kind of cool.

Joseph: Let’s wrap up now with what you’re doing right now because I know that you do do voice-overs, but you’ve also launched a new business called Instant Voicemails. What is Instant Voicemails all about?

Redd: Instant Voicemails is a project that I’ve been working on for a year that I’m extremely proud of. It’s a direct-download voicemail company. Say you wanted to change the outgoing greeting for your phone, be you a business or a small business or a big business or just a person, Instant Voicemails is a site that you can go to and select from a range of different options, immediately download them, and then you can use those to upload to your greeting system.

It’s my company. I also work with a fantastic guy named Andy Youso, who’s a radio personality, who does all the male work for the site. We’ve got a bunch of offerings on there. A couple of them are kind of slightly funny, jokey voicemails, and a lot of them are business-oriented. It’s just a really cool site that enables you to purchase a service for your business at a lower cost and get it right away.

Joseph: Very cool. If people want to learn more about Instant Voicemails or you or if they’re looking for a voice-over, where can they go to find out more?

Redd: You can contact me via my website, which is www.ReddHorrocks.com, and then also InstantVoicemails.com. I’m always excited to work on new projects and meet new clients and talk to people about what I do. I also offer coaching. If that’s something you are interested in, people are more than welcome to get in touch with me.

Joseph: Thanks so much for talking with me, Redd. I didn’t say this before, but I’ve always had this little pipe dream for years, going all the way back to my radio days in Hawaii of doing voice-overs for an ad or a product. This has been so cool to hear all about your life, so thank you so much for telling us more about your life as a voice-over professional, how you navigate the online freelance marketplace, and your career journey. Best of luck with the voice-overs and with Instant Voicemails.

Redd: Thank you so much, and thanks for having me. It was an absolute pleasure.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu is dedicated to helping people relaunch their careers and have more meaningful careers. As a public speaker, career consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch® podcast, he shares insights from relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals to more effectively marketing their personal brands.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.