The voice-over industry is notoriously tough to break into, but Sara Sheckells knew it was her calling. Her love of storytelling started at a young age and continued with an on-air radio hosting gig in college and volunteer narration for textbooks and children’s stories.
After working in the higher education field for several years, she decided to pursue her passion full-time and launched Sara Sounds. We talked to Sara about how to start a voice-over business and take the leap to solopreneurship.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve been interested in voice-over for more than 20 years, and audiobooks more recently as they carried me through a long commute. When said commute began to weigh heavily upon my day-to-day experiences, I reassessed my career path and decided there was no better time to give something new — and long hoped-after — a shot.
It sounds like your business started as a side project while you were working full-time. How did you make the transition to business owner?
Before leaving my last full-time role in higher education, I spoke a lot to friends and family about my thoughts and feelings. I conducted research during my free time and began networking with people who worked in audio production and narration/text accessibility services. I also attended voice-over industry-related workshops and trainings.
How did you get into recording audiobooks for Audible, iTunes, and Amazon?
A friend introduced me to the Audiobook Creation Exchange, where narrators can connect with independent authors seeking to create audiobooks. I created an account and began submitting auditions.
My next step has involved creating a professional demo for narration, as well as doing corporate and educational voice-over work.
What equipment do you need to run your own voice-over business?
I rely on a cardioid condenser microphone, the digital audio workstation (a program used to record/edit audio), Audacity, as well as a digital audio interface (a tool that connects the mic to my workstation), a computer, a headset, and a set of external speakers. I also use an iPad to read texts inside my “booth,” which is constructed from sound-treated blankets and foam.
How do you promote your business and get new clients?
I’m a heavy user of social media, including Soundcloud, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I also created a website to further promote my work. Successful partnerships with one author can lead to a connection to another with the same publisher; continual outreach is required to grow such connections.
I recently recorded a demo in a professional studio with a coach, and will soon begin the process of sending that out along with identifying potential recipients via cold calls.
What’s the most challenging part of running Sara Sounds?
It’s very difficult to start out in a new field, especially when working in the “gig economy,” and after having done something different for so long. It’s a good and welcome kind of challenge, however, to learn new things and improve one’s self every day!
What company values does your logo represent?
The logo for Sara Sounds has been described as accessible, clear, and easy to read. The soothing blue color and visual of sound waves paired with a modern and creative font provide clients with a clear idea of what the company offers.
Why did you decide to design a logo rather than hiring a designer?
I had an idea of what I was looking for and needed a quick turnaround. Logojoy’s premium package offered all I needed to secure a professional brand to use across social media outlets, as well as on business-related print items.