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Making the jump to full-time.
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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 6:45 pm    Post subject: Making the jump to full-time. Reply with quote

How do you know when it's time to make the jump to full time VO artist? I am almost there, but, naturally nervous about making the leap. Please, if you would, share any concerns you had, troubles at home or any motivational stories you can think of.
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Frank F
Fat, Old, and Sassy

Joined: 10 Nov 2004
Posts: 4340
Location: Park City, Utah

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know your ready to be a full time Voice Artist when:

1) - You have a few clients who give you enough work which earns what you are getting at your "real" job... at least this month.

2) -You are not concerned with having a "realtionship" with a spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or signifigant other - becuause Voice Over's have become your "partner" and is your one and only passion.

3) - You realize that one hour of VO work has the same earning power as 40 hours at the "job", and you like the VO work.

4) - You have a lot of clients who are promising lots and lots of work... and you have CONTRACTS.

5) - You have enough money in the bank to last you three years or until the enterpruener side of you goes away...

5) - You have no other choice....

Good luck,

Frank F
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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 4:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Nicely put, Frank!

Guest, you say in your post
I am almost there, but, naturally nervous about making the leap.

The thing that is making you nervous is probably your concern. Everyone has their own comfort level. For instance, someone (man or woman) married to a neurosurgeon probably isn't as concerned about the money part. <g>
It has been my experience that everyone comes to this occupation with their own expectations and comfort levels.

For me, I had plenty of time knowing that this was eventually what I wanted to do.

I had a plan to learn about how this worked and what part I thought I could play in it three years before I left radio. Like many of you, I had a very public persona so I had to set a date to leave the radio show. Also, in that time, broadband internet became available which helped a great deal. I knew how much I had to make to be able to do this full time. Taking a full time day job doing tv graphics and video editing, I saved money and did VO's part time.

Judge Ito Sidebar:I made some calls to a couple of people. It's tough for others to tell you how to go about this because almost everyone has different work ethics, expectations and needs. Marsha Crenshaw in Atlanta called one night. I have to publicly say that she could not have been more encouraging and fun. She comes from a radio background, as well.

I read that it takes four to five years before you can feel comfortable with a new venture. When I began full time I had saved money and had enough clients that I knew I could eat and pay my bills. But, this is me and how I went about it. I would suggest using the same logic into this field as you would any other. Practice good work ethics as you would in any business, you will succeed. They used to say in broadcasting that, "radio is not something you want to do, it's something you HAVE to do." Make sure you're doing this because you wouldn't be happy doing anything else, not because of panic for a bad employment / no employment situation.

You'll find a great deal of support here. (And, I reservve the right to delete my post.) <g>

(BTW...at my old station my nickname was "Font of Bull****". Not hard to see why.) LOL
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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As sort of a side bar, how do most self-employed voice actors deal with things like Health insurance? I pay $250/mo through work, but a self-employed friend of mine says his premiums are over $1500/mo for a family of 5! God, that's a mortgage payment (or more).

Is there some sort of group health coverage? Do the unions offer something? $1500/mo. seems like an enormous chunk of change. I can see why so many Americans are without health care coverage if this is what you have to pay without your employer's assistance.
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Czarina Emeritus

Joined: 10 Nov 2004
Posts: 12933
Location: East Jesus, Maine

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This may actually be a subject for a separate topic, especially since it's my pet political peeve.

$1500 a month is normal, and may only be for catastrophic coverage, not a comprehensive plan.

Buying into insurance on your own is fraught with peril. There are too few options and the well-touted National Association for the Self-Employed offers a plan with Mega Life and Health-- a catastrophic plan under which nothing qualifies as a catastrophe.

You're sometimes better off banking the money you'd otherwise spend on premiums. God forbid you should end up in the hospital, but you'll have some bargaining bucks and won't need to argue with an insurance carrier over what is or isn't really covered. If you do incur a bill, a simple phone call to the hospital can save you loads of money. I recently made arrangements to pay for my kid's operation and saved 30% off the total bill.
I asked my lawyer about this--going without insurance I mean-- you'll end up having to make a payment plan if you end up with bills. So what's the diff? A hospitalization plan doesn't cover everything (like the DOCTOR BILLS) so you'll be making payments anyway.

AFTRA and SAG both have insurance but the coverage doesn't become easy to get until you're making over 30 G's.

Don't you just LOVE the equity of this? Hal Douglas needs to pay LESS for union insurance coverage than I do. The guys who make the least pay the most.

THAT is completely WTF.
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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's my pet peeve, too. The National Assn. For The Self Employed is a front for Mega Life. And Mega is mostly BS.

Our wonderful system, supposedly based on self enterprise and entrepreneurship, is set up for the "little guy" to fail. It's all forked up
in my opinion. I've been self employed and it's a helluva lot of fun. But the small business person is the one who pays the most to keep the system afloat. :evil:
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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deirdre wrote:
The guys who make the least pay the most.
THAT is completely WTF.

Ain't That America?
For you and me
Ain't that America
Somethin' to see, baby
Ain't that America
Home of the Free

yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeeeeah!
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Triple G

Joined: 07 Dec 2004
Posts: 3307
Location: San Diego - serving the world

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 6:43 pm    Post subject: MCA-I Members? Health Insurance Teleconference tomorrow Reply with quote

For those of you interested in Health Insurance, MCA-I has just established through Pinnacle Choice - Health Insurance and a Health Benefit Card. It is for members, and you can get more information on the website at www.mca-i.org.

I'm currently with the NASE and am definately not happy with it, so I will be checking out the new MCA-I stuff more closely myself.

Members - you should have received a Member eNews today with the dial in information. If you did not, please send me a note or call the IO - get the contact info off the website at www.mca-i.org.

Oh for the days when there was actually AFTRA work in San Diego and I did qualify for those benefits.

Playing for a living...
YouTube Channel: http://youtube.com/connieterwilliger
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The Thirteenth Floor

Joined: 10 Nov 2004
Posts: 1347
Location: raleigh, nc

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 9:26 pm    Post subject: health insurance? ...oh yeah, i remember that... Reply with quote

count me as another ex-mega-through-the-association-of-self-employed- whatevers.

i finally had to let it go when it jumped in price three times in one year...and i hadn't gotten any benefit from it or even had anything to claim.

i forget whether it was 250.00 or 450.00 a month for just me (with a high deductible)...but i couldn't afford it.

i'll check into mca-i's plan (thank you, connie), but i hope it's better than what itva offered years ago through mutual.
rowell gormon
"Mr. Warm & Friendly Voice...with Character!"
Rowell Gormon's Clogged Blog - http://voices2go.com/blog
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 5:18 am    Post subject: Health PLans Reply with quote

I don't know if this exists in other States in some form - but NY has a system called Healthy NY which offers great coverage for lower-income folks. For a couple earning less than 32,000 or so (that may have gone up now, I don't know) coverage is $280 or so per month. Not bad.
It was really useful for me when first giving up the day job - as the COBRA payments were still $800 per month!
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is there anyone on the board here who has lived in both Canada and the US? I would be interested in hearing both sides of the health care discussion from someone who has first hand experience with both systems.
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SoundsGreat-Elaine Singer
King's Row

Joined: 30 Dec 2004
Posts: 1053
Location: Toronto, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been watching this health care topic with interest. Here in Canada we are very worried that our Health Care system is falling apart. However, even with no outside insurance, I see my doctors - family and specialists, get tests from simple blood tests to CT scans without paying a cent. I may have to wait a few weeks but I can handle that. Now I live in a major centre (Toronto). I don't know how it is in the smaller towns. I do pay for my prescriptions in full. Once I hit 65, however, I believe that is covered as well.

They are pulling back on some services. For instance, you used to be able to get an eye examination every two years. Now you have to pay for it. They are very strict about certain types of care. For instance you can only have one full physical a year so you have to remember the date you had your last one and make sure you pass that date when you make your next appointment. There are some other annual exams that they watch closely too. But I think that's a small price to pay for getting the service free (well, our taxes are higher than yours so it's not totally free).

There is a serious shortage of doctors and there are a lot of people who don't have a family doctor. My brother, who lives in a smaller centre, was in that situation. His family doctor moved out of the community and he was unable to find a doctor still accepting new patients. Only through the pull of another brother, who is a doctor in Manitoba and knew someone in the medical community, was brother #1 able to find a family doctor.

Hospital care certainly isn't what it used to be. I suspect it's better in the States, but then you are paying for it and certainly deserve the best of care. We don't have enough nurses and those that are there are stretched to the limit. It is kinda scary.

So I guess there's good and bad in both systems.
The Youthful Mature Voice (Emeritus)
Senectitude is not for the faint of heart.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2005 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A note about the fairness issue as it relates to AFTRA or SAG insurance:

First of all, I understand the frustration and seeming lack of sense. I have several friends who sit in the (totally heartbreaking and thankless) position of trustee for the plans, and I know how hard they have tried to keep the eligibility thresholds low while still offering benefits worthy of qualifying for.

Second, we gotta remember that:

a). Performers never pay into the plan directly - the contributions toward qualifying is paid by our various employers (as a percentage over and above our session fees). While it's unfortunately true nowadays that we do have to pay premiums, they are not too steep in comparison to the rest of the "real world".

b). At least the opportunity to participate still exists -- which is something that cannot be said for so many workers in so many other industries in this country. There are hundreds of thousands of people who put in more than 40 hours a week at a job or jobs and either cannot afford the premiums or have no plan available to them at all through their employer.

In a nutshell, to be able to qualify for full health (and dental) coverage with relatively low premiums at a $30K earnings level for what we all know is not usually a traditional 40 hour a week effort . . . well, that's not such a bad state of affairs. Especially when viewed against the backdrop of the country at large.


Finally, as unfair as it may seem, our plans are still what are referred to as "Robin Hood" plans -- meaning that the high earnings/contributions of some are what enables the plans to continue to offer coverage to those who earn far less. In a ideal world, we would have been able to keep the eligibility down in the $9K range, but ours is far from an ideal world.

So . . . when a voice artist is having contributions to the plan (or plans) made in his/her name and is earning at or in excess of $30K, they have - in essence - "earned" that coverage. Those who have very high earnings are also underwriting the eligibility of those who earn less. Figures vary, but it has been estimated that a performer really needs to earn something in the neighborhood of $60K to actually "pay for" their participation . . . so it can be argued that even those who earn between $30 and $60K are being helped by the highest earners.

Yes, it blows to earn $2K and not come anywhere near making it -- and it REALLY sucks to earn $29.9K and just miss making it. Or earn $30K between the two union plans but not enough in either. (I know plenty of folks in all these boats these days.)

But if we're being honest, we have to admit that in order for the plans to survive, there must be a cut-off somewhere -- and I think we also have to recognize that the highest earners are the folks (whether they know it or not) who are keeping the thing afloat. It is also true that the two plans had very low eligibility thresholds FOR DECADES.

And flipping the argument on its head for a second, I think some of the higher earners could safely argue that the cuts in benefits they've experienced in the name of keeping more people in the plan are unfair, too.

The recent changes in the plans were not only an increase in the eligibility requirements -- but also the addition of premiums AND cuts in services/benefits. So . . .

DON'T TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY (please), but the folks who do earn more have been asked to not only pay premiums but swallow cuts in the plans in the SOLE INTEREST OF BEING ABLE TO KEEP MORE PEOPLE IN THE PLAN. Not everyone has accepted this graciously, but it has been accepted - because it is the bedrock of unionism (trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number.)

There have been sacrifices on both ends. That's all I'm saying. And while it may seem out of balance or not equitable, every effort has been made to make everyone happy. And ya know what that usually results in . . . Wink

Lisa L.

PS: I would strongly suggest that those without insurance via other employers look into the Health Savings Account option. Thinking ahead to when I may not qualify in the future, I think this might be my move. It makes a ton of sense on almost every level for the self-employed.
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Czarina Emeritus

Joined: 10 Nov 2004
Posts: 12933
Location: East Jesus, Maine

PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2005 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PS: I would strongly suggest that those without insurance via other employers look into the Health Savings Account option. Thinking ahead to when I may not qualify in the future, I think this might be my move. It makes a ton of sense on almost every level for the self-employed

Unfortunately, these Health savings plans don't make sense because they were designed by guys who never have to worry about getting ill since their insurance coverage is provided by you and me.

The way the Health Saving Accounts work is this: You need to have a catastrophic plan in place--a high deductable is OK-- and then you can set up a special tax-free account to cover the deductable, take up the slack, etc.

Here's the rub-- the catastrophic plans are outrageously expensive even with a high deductable, leaving you with
A) no money to save
B) no money to pay doctors when you DO need them
C) no coverage for a hospitalization anyway because the criminals who run these scams disallow everything.

On the Union note: I am happy grateful happy to be in a group, believe me. But any program, like union dues or Social Security that has an end point on contributions is, by incident if not design, regressive. The fact that union dues have a maxiumum limit, in spite of the fact that they're based on earnings, is crap. And, yes, the employer is making contributions to the union H&R funds in my name, but that's merely nice words on paper when I still don't earn enough to qualify to use the benefits.

Once you make over $10,000 it costs $1200 annually to cover yourself. A steal. Can't beat it with a stick. Great coverage, great group, awesome.
It costs $5584 per year to cover self and one other-- kid or spouse, and $8720 to cover spouse and kid.
Once you earn over $30,000 the premiums go down. So Dan Rather pays less in premiums to receive the same level of care as I do through the union.
Incidentally, his dues would merely be twice what mine are.
Call me a socialist, but that is just WTF.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 7:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Understood, DB. It is, as you say, a regressive system.

Now . . . the following is not meant to imply that ANYONE in the high earning bracket (ala Dan Rather, etc.) is - individually or collectively - unsympathetic to the plight of their lower-earning union brethren, but:

Another factor to consider is that the folks in that very rare air are the folks who afford us a goodly share of our bargaining power at the table, which is where the health/retirement plan contributions are negotiated.

Without the Julia Roberts's, Tom Cruises, Dan Rathers and (insert celebrity of the moment here) in our ranks, there would be far less incentive for producers to maintain union contracts at all.

This is, of course, not to say that the thousands of us unknowns are of no value to producers -- far from it. It's merely a reminder that the performing unions probably would never have come into existence at all without the stars of that era in full support. If the biggest names in film and radio (for example) had rebuffed the organizing efforts back in the day, there would be no SAG and no AFTRA. If the stage stars had not stood up for the rights of the little folks getting crapped on by theatrical impresarios, there would be no AEA.

My point - and just for balance - is that we have to realize that when SAG and AFTRA sit down to bargain the Theatrical and Television Contract (for example), the producers realize that they risk losing the services of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts (etc.) if they don't offer decent minimums to the background players. Whether Tom or Julia actually get personally involved in the negotiations is not the point -- they are there at the table by virtue of being members in good standing. They offer us some considerable clout.

The same is true, by the way, of some non-celebrity VO types -- folks you and I may have heard of, but who are not "famous" in the conventional sense. The bottom line is that producers bargain with the unions because they want to work with the people they want to employ on any given day -- and they are willing to pay for it. If it really didn't matter whose voice was on a movie trailer and just anyone would do, it would make no difference that someone like Don LaFontaine refuses to work without a union contract. See what I mean? Folks like that keep the producers at the table and signing on the dotted line.

So while I understand (believe me, I do) why it is tempting to look to those folks and presume that if they only were willing to pay more in dues or willing to accept a health plan of lesser quality because they are quote/unquote ABLE to pay more . . . well, the argument can be made that they already DO pay more in dues and already DO have higher contributions made on their behalf into the plans.

Look at it this way: in this particular business, the unions offer just about the only "fairness" you'll ever find. The institutions are imperfect and membership doesn't always appeal to everyone, but as long as show business remains a SUBJECTIVE enterprise, it's the best we can hope for.

Until the day arrives when we can (in true socialist fashion) force producers to give everyone equal employment at the exact same rate of pay - and give every member the same health and pension benefits . . . well, this is it. (Not that anyone would want to live in that kind of world - just saying.)

I can go far more in-depth on the dues cap thing, but I won't. I'm sure this is boring enough as it is. But suffice it to say that one thing we also have to remember is that at a certain level, performers with stratospheric earnings cease to rely on the services of the union -- and yet, they remain members nonetheless. Once in awhile you will see the unions step in on behalf of a celebrity member, but more often than not, a high earner has lawyers and such to handle all their employment issues and no longer relies on the union. They don't work at scale and they don't need help tracking down a check for a session, etc.

The vast, vast majority of them do however remain members in good standing and happily pay their dues and support the unions when called upon. They remember how much the unions did for them when they were starting out and take pride in their membership. (Just watch the SAG Awards sometime and you'll see what I mean.) Many of them also give generously of their time and money to The Actor's Fund and the SAG and AFTRA Foundations. So there's that, too. AND by the way and not for nothing . . . all of these organizations offer financial assistance to members with catastrophic health issues. In fact, there is a LOT of support available to members in need, so any member in that situation should call their nearest office and ask to be directed to the various entities.

ANYHOW . . . I'll shut up now. I hear your frustration, but wanted to share some of what I have learned in all these years of union service. The one thing I know for sure is that nothing is ever black/white - it's all shades of gray. And it's really fun trying to please 120,000 people 100% of the time.


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