Sarah Kennedy is an award-winning voice talent based in Brisbane. With 18 years of experience, her voiceover work shows impressive versatility that can bring any script to life. But there’s a method to the magic! Mavens interviewed Sarah to find out more.
Tell us about your career trajectory. How did you become a VO artist?
I was a theatre actor first and the transition from full time actor to full time VO happened over a few years. Once I became a mum, voiceover became my sole focus because of the work/life balance it offered.
Your role often means taking direction from copywriters, creative directors and clients. What makes a great VO brief and how can the person directing get the best possible performance from you?
Give me context! Who is the intended audience and what is the objective of the project? Keywords to indicate tone are super helpful, such as ‘bright and bubbly’, ‘serious and authoritative’, ‘warm and natural’ etc. It helps to see and hear any visuals or music already produced or selected. Finally, if it’s a live session, don’t be afraid to direct me!
Your home studio looks seriously awesome! Can you tell us about your booth and the process of recording from home?
It’s a DemVOX Sound Isolation Booth from Spain. It’s decked out with great gear and I work a few different ways. Sometimes I self-direct and record using my own software, then email the files to the client, or the client will direct via Zoom, or I connect with other studios using a bi-directional streaming app called Source-Connect and they do the recording at their end. Even if the client is on the other side of the world, it’s like I’m in the next room.
You recently narrated an audiobook for Penguin, The Sister’s Gift by Australian writer Barbara Hannay. How did the project come about and what was the recording process like?
Actually, my agent sent me the audition just to get some constructive feedback as it was a “Sydney Talent Only” job and I’m in Brisbane. I ended up booking it! The Sound Kitchen Studios in Sydney recorded me via Source-Connect, and the process was made up of very leisurely, three-hour recording sessions over a few days. It was a lovely departure from most of the other genres I work in and a very different pace to commercial work!
You’ve worked on a huge range of clients from radio stations, eLearning and on-hold messaging to banks, tourism, government and retail. How do you ‘get into the zone’ when you’re preparing to record?
Each genre calls for different things performance-wise, and most of the performance stuff is ‘on tap’ for me just because I’ve been doing this for so long. But I always make sure I’m warmed up vocally and muscularly (face and articulators) before I start recording.
You do a lot of your own marketing and are absolutely killing it on Instagram! Where does your work come from and what tips do you have for VO artists wanting more gigs?
I’m certainly no expert but I try to be authentic and not take any of it too seriously. Clients find me through a number of avenues, so I try to maintain a presence on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I also have my own website and email marketing is another big part of my strategy.
My tips? Diversify your genres. Get a website. Lean into the vulnerability when it comes to self-promotion and know that it gets easier the more you do it. Don’t freak out when you have a lull in bookings, that’s the time to stoke that marketing fire. Set goals. Seek out and nurture genuine relationships with other voice artists. Keep your demos up to date. Invest in specialist classes, coaching or upskilling regularly. Be easy to work with!
As a trained actor, confidence seems to come naturally to you. Have you always felt confident? What advice can you give those who are working on becoming more confident, especially at work?
I’m confident with some aspects of my work and not with others. I’ve been acting since I was 10 and VO’ing since 2002, so I feel confident in my ability to do the actual voice work. But when it comes to marketing myself (which is a huge part of the job) I project an image of confidence even if I’m not always feeling it.
My best advice is to just DO the thing and stop worrying about what other people think. You can lack confidence and still be good at something. The confidence will come in time and the more you do it the more the confidence will grow, just like a muscle.
Your kids Mary, Harry and Max are also talented voice over actors. How did you approach training them?
Each of my kids is very different in the booth! Mary is a complete natural and I almost don’t need to direct her at all. Harry works best with lots of positive encouragement. With Max (who is my youngest), I gently hold his hands to help him keep still in the booth and we use a ‘repeat after me’ method because he’s an early reader. We get a more fluent read from him if he parrots me instead of reading the script himself. I’ve had some copywriters do that for me and it’s quite interesting. They weren’t holding my hands though, just my vocal chords!
Who are your favourite female role models?
Sarah Moore from Eleven Lights Media is my guru when it comes to social media marketing. My agent, Kathryn Scott at Scout Voice Management who heads an incredible all-female team along with Heidi Young and Amy Farrell. Jameela Jamil who does such wonderful things for women all over the world with her influence.
Sarah works from her home studio in Brisbane, Australia and is also happy to travel to any studio of choice. To hear samples of her work or enquire about working together, visit Sarah’s website here.