Alicia Williams did her training and demo production with SAV in 2017 – let’s check in with her and see how the VO life is treating her!
What were you doing before I got into voice-over?
In all honesty, I was recovering from a compilation of traumatic events. In September of 2015, I had a multi-procedural surgery that saved my life. The six months leading up to the surgery began with the end of my marriage of 30 years, the loss of my home of 26 years, and the revelation of a critical illness and three trips to the emergency room. My life felt like a warzone and I was beyond battle fatigued. I was deeply searching within to discover my path to healing, reclaiming my peace and recovering my life.
Had you heard of VO before or considered it as a career path? If not, what appealed to you most?
I had heard of voice-over, but as I would later discover, in a pretty limited context. Raising a family, traveling for speaking and singing engagements while pastoring a church, and my love for reading, would lead me into the magical world of audiobooks. I also used them as a learning strategy for my private students who had reading challenges.
It wasn’t until I was faced with closing the church in 2013, that I began to consider I might be good at narrating audiobooks. An opportunity to be the voice of a hotel and conference center web video opened up, so I took it. Everything had to be put on hold as my health and family’s safety would take intense priority. After my surgery and relocating, my desire to reconnect to my love of the spoken word, the written word, storytelling, and creative expression brought me back to exploring and committing to voice-over. Everything about this process helped me remember who I was before all of this started…health and fitness, breathing and singing for vocal warmups, authentic emotional expression, reading and analyzing scripts, daily structure on my own terms, business planning and strategizing, meeting and building new relationships and helping others, all became a restoration of who I am. I found my home in voice-over, a place where it’s best to just be me.
What was the most valuable part of my training with SAV?
There was such great value to my SAV experience, it’s tough to narrow down. I’d have to say it was the people, the quality of character of my coaches and the personal instruction. Remember, I was clearing out the rubble and dusting off what was valuable so I could rebuild. I was always spoken to with honesty, respect, and kindness. In my small group training, Joleene Derks was the Sensei of breaking down huge tasks into bite sized-accomplishments with a healthy dose of reward and my group mates are now my colleagues and friends.
My technique coach, Jessica Magers-Bennett showed me strengths I was unaware of and encouraged me to build upon them, but I was also shown potential weaknesses and shown how to grow and go for the gold. Her professional, but very “real” approach was exactly what I needed. I didn’t need pressure to be perfect or a critic in my head. Encouragement is the key component with me. Even now, if I need to silence negativity, I’ll go back to the notes I received from each of these ladies.
What was your first paid VO gig? How did it come about? How did it go?
My first check after completing my training was as a live emcee job for an annual Community Harvest Celebration I had created almost 20 years ago and organized each year. The activities were physically demanding and the atmosphere had to stay super energized, so I naturally took a hiatus while recovering from surgery and training for voice-over. I had a great relationship with the director of the community center, so I shared my new career with her which included my professionally produced demos. Thank you, Angela Castonguay! I was asked to come back because I had established a rapport with the families, that being the real secret to a successful event. This time, I didn’t need to do any of the prep work; just bring my professional happy voice, a heart full of love, and keep the families engaged. It was a wonderful experience for me and my family and a great way for me to relate to old friends in a new capacity.
What was it like doing e-learning, what was it like doing promotional material?
There’s a noticeable contrast between doing e-learning and doing promotional work. The intensity level of promotional work is much higher because the company is trying to win: win the customer, the contract, etc. The read has to take their idea, capture it and deliver it in tandem with a video you may or may not have seen ahead of time. These sessions are more directed (in my experience, via phone patch) because the turn-around has to be quick and there’s no room for error or misunderstanding. When it’s done, it needs to look like it was your idea from beginning to end. The shortest turn-around time, so far, for delivery has been twelve hours. That’s not so bad considering I’ve delivered a couple of my kids in less time. Ha! But seriously, anxiety was knocking at my door for this type of project. However, the studio I initially worked with was such a cool group and so appreciative of my part that I would have jumped through hoops for them. We’ve established relationships and they keep me on their roster.
E-learning is a much slower process. The goal is to instruct on a particular topic and create a final product that is usable on multiple devices, so the process is more detail focused. Being the voice of the main character gave me a chance to create and give warmth to her personality. I was a sweet, red apple named Melodie. I loved it. There were no directed sessions, but I worked in collaboration with a team throughout the months it took to complete the project. I had to learn new platforms and software, like Slack, Trello and Articulate Storyline 360. I met some talented and interesting people along the way and have encouraged a couple to seriously consider pursuing voice-over.
Each type of project has its reward.
Tell me about your big plans for 2020 with your meditation project and audiobook plans.
2020 is going to be a year of great clarity for me. I’ve been working toward some important steps. I’ve been in the service industry my whole adult life. Helping individuals discover their personal worth and power creates healthier individuals and communities and brings me great fulfillment. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates there are approximately forty million adults experiencing anxiety-related disorders in the U.S. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that almost 32% of adolescents from 13-18 suffer from some form of anxiety. Anxiety can have a detrimental impact, affecting job and school performance, and most certainly personal relationships. I was always a peaceful person, but as a direct result of trauma, I developed PTSD, which is a form of anxiety. While I have come a long way, I thoughtfully practice and fill my life with the experiences I need to heal and stay healthy. Creating an inner atmosphere of peace is crucial for me and meditation is a significant part of that. I’m currently working on producing my first meditation project. Utilizing my voice and sharing knowledge to help others create calmness within themselves, is one tool I am honored and thrilled to help provide.
I’m also ready to venture into narrating audiobooks. I’ve been in conversations with several publishing houses, a couple of them fairly young and a few international. My goal has been to build relationships with potential clients. The benefit of newer companies is getting to know the heart and vision of the president of the company. It’s easier to determine if this can be a long term relationship. I’m good at doing the gigs, but I’m built for partnership. I’ll keep you posted.
How would you describe your sound?
I would describe my sound as soothing, warm, clear, calm, confident, believable, deep, smooth, and resonant. I can be the comforting mom that any child would snuggle up with, the thorough expert leading the way on a journey of discovery, or the distinguished lady boss that doesn’t compromise on quality or take “no“ for an answer. I remember performing a Poland Springs water script during one of our group training sessions. As soon as I finished, one of my group mates said, “I’m convinced I need to drink this water”. I was tickled.
My dream VO role/project would be
The fact that I get to do voice-over for the rest of my days is a dream come true. I’m honored to do this. Any of the following projects would light my world:
- Narrating the memoir or biography of one of the influential women I have come to respect in American history
- Becoming the go-to voice for the Allstate Foundation
- Voicing a Disney mom character or a Marvel mystery character created for my voice
- Bringing one of my son’s or my daughter’s (each conceptual artists) original characters to life on the big screen
Is there anyone in particular (at SAV or otherwise) that has been a mentor/role model in the industry?
As I mentioned earlier, Jessica Magers-Bennett and Joleene Derks were instrumental in finding my voice and laying the foundation for my business. I’ve met a lot of people since then, but none I can call a mentor. I am inspired by Joan Baker. She shares a lot of my conviction and passion for people. She has a big heart and a business mind. She’s definitely a role model. With what little I have come to learn about her journey, she certainly has my respect. Corey Dissin is someone that has opened the door to share his access and insights with me from the time I showed up on LinkedIn. He is someone I respect and can call on.
What advice would you have for folks currently going through their VO training?
Your training is an investment in your most important business asset, Y-O-U! You owe it to yourself to make the most of it. Show up on time and prepared for your sessions. Your coaches can only work with what you give them, so give them your best effort. Know yourself. Be open to learn. Have fun with it!
Aside from VO, what are your hobbies or passions in life?
I’m very passionate about living a spiritually centered, balanced, healthy life. I love gathering with my family. We are a creative bunch and our get-togethers are entertaining, to say the least. I love to read. Historical fiction and biblical fiction are my favorite genres. I also enjoy biographies. I love music of many genres and singing, including K-Pop. Thanks to my granddaughter, I’m BTS army. I’ve spent more than twenty years as a private tutor and learning strategist. I’ve worked with learners ages four through adult, including a South Korean exchange student. I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan. I love live basketball games. I love classic movies and live theatre. I love to cook (while listening to music). I’ve studied herbs and natural healing for most of my life. I like to study neuroscience as well. I like snowball fights followed by hot chocolate, fuzzy socks, and Hallmark movies. I enjoy traveling. When traveling, I love to visit the nearest museum, park, and a boutique bookstore, or my trip is incomplete. I love nature walks and gorgeous sunsets.
Any other thoughts you have about voice-over in general?
I find myself becoming very protective over this industry and those who are newly interested in voice-over. I don’t like to see individuals try to jump on the bandwagon to make a few bucks or those who parrot an expert to seduce newbies into spending money on substandard demos or fake training. Use discretion with your knowledge. Don’t be suspicious, just be aware. Preserve the integrity of the voice-over industry. Self-publishing companies are telling authors to narrate their own audiobooks and ads are running about getting cheaper voice-over from AI. As professionals, we are the ones who show the value we bring to the table. Own it. Rock it. Repeat.
Anything you’d like to plug?
To hear a little of my personal journey, visit the YouTube link to my interview on WBGR’s Lisa Harris Green. Visit me on my website or any of my social media accounts.
Facebook: Alicia Williams Velvet Voice
Want to get started in voice-over? Check out our introductory webinar to learn more about how to get started!