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What a voice actor does in a workday

(Courtesy of Bailey Varness/Washington Post illustration)

Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from Bailey Varness, a voice actor who recorded a workday in June.

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Name: Bailey Varness

Age: 41

Location: Orange County, Calif.

Job title: Voice actor

Previous jobs: I’ve been working in the entertainment industry for over 15 years. I started acting in New York City — in theater productions and doing voice-over as well. I then moved to Los Angeles, driving around constantly from auditions to jobs, this time on camera. I did some various day jobs here and there during some financially lean times. Around 2015, I got a home studio for recording so I could do voice-over jobs from home as well as in the major studios.

What led me to my current role: It had always been my dream to be a voice actor, so I slowly transitioned to exclusively doing voice-over work from home once I had my home studio. I now do all kinds of voice acting, from commercials to audiobooks to corporate explainer videos, and even animation. I’ve gotten to work for thousands of companies, including major brands like Tylenol, Fanta, Moderna and NASA. One of my favorite things about my job is the 20-foot work commute from my bedroom to my home office. And getting to work for myself has given me time to found Voice Work Academy, my online course program for anyone wanting to get into voice acting for themselves. I love getting to both act and teach!

How I spend the majority of my day: A typical day involves recording commercials or narrations for corporations of all sizes. I also spend a lot of time auditioning for new brands to voice, as well as animated characters for the big players like Disney, Nickelodeon and DreamWorks. I also have days when I train with acting coaches and casting directors and do voice-over workshops. Just like professional athletes, good actors continue to train with coaches to stay at their peak form.

I build vocal rest into my day by going for walks or catching up on my accounting or marketing. When you’re a very small business like mine, you’re wearing many hats all the time. I also make sure to make time for my cat co-workers and my incredible husband Noah, usually by watching our latest TV obsession.

My workday

7:20 a.m.: I wake up and read a couple of news articles to start to feel alive for the day. I eventually brush my teeth, drink some water and put on my traditional voice actor uniform: a T-shirt and lounge pants. It’s not only comfortable, but also won’t make any noise during recording like some fabrics can, so it’s a win-win! I then head the few feet from my bedroom to my recording booth to start my workday.

8 a.m.: After a quick vocal warm-up, I start recording my first big projects for the day. First up, I have a couple of ad spots for a major corporation. It’s a live-directed session through Zoom, so they’re telling me exactly what they want.

I then move on to voicing a piece for Cornell University. They’re advertising for the 100th anniversary of their Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration. This is a fun one because I get to use my gorgeous, grandiose voice for this copy. They gave me directions via email, so I just record and edit it on my own and then send the final version to my manager to give to them.

9:17 a.m.: I take my first vocal rest break for the day and take a walk around my apartment complex. After working for at least an hour, I find it really helps keep my voice sounding fresh throughout the day if I take some time to make sure I’m not talking. A nice walk lets me rest, clear my head and get a little exercise.

10 a.m.: I have a couple of auditions I need to do now. I first work on a 30-second political ad. Political pieces are obviously very frequent during election seasons, so I’m doing a lot of them right now.

I then move on to an animation audition. I always save my animation auditions for last during a work block when I can because sometimes playing a character can have more vocal strain if they’re really emotional. Let’s face it, cartoon characters are usually very emotional, which is what makes them fun!

11 a.m.: I take my lunch break and enjoy some more much-needed vocal rest. Because I’m in California, a lot of emails come to me during my lunch break, particularly from overseas. I have a lot of international clients who want an “American accent” version of their scripts, so I typically work a little bit through lunch setting up jobs for the afternoon and beyond. I also watch some of a Hallmark movie that’s on to veg out a little bit.

12 p.m.: Back to the recording booth! I got a couple of jobs from a repeat client in Pakistan who has me do some voice-overs for a few brands he’s working with now. I like working with this client because he trusts me to self-direct on these projects and rarely needs many changes. You have to appreciate the easier jobs when you can get them!

1:05 p.m.: I take this time to rest my voice while working on my YouTube channel, Voice Work Academy. Today I’m writing a new video that will be about how audiobook narration has changed for 2022. I also send some changes to my designer for my Voice Work Academy website to update my new course that I recently finished.

2:08 p.m.: I eat a snack and do a quick workout because I’ve now been sitting for quite some time.

3 p.m.: In the recording booth again, I work on a new job that’s come in. This one is an explainer video for doctors on how to use a new type of needle for endoscopies. With my voice type, I get a lot of medical voice-overs, so it’s good that I’ve learned to pronounce medical jargon pretty easily. This one is more difficult because they want me to time sync my voice to a video that’s already been made. Those take a lot longer to edit.

4:03 p.m.: I’m starting to go cross-eyed with the editing, so I work on some accounting for my business. I follow up on some payments; as a freelance worker, I have a lot of different places that my payments come from.

5 p.m.: I help my husband Noah make dinner. We eat and talk about what busy days we’ve both had, and I’m still not done!

6 p.m.: I watch the cartoon “Big City Greens” three times as research at the request of my agent. She has me watch and listen to animated shows daily to grow as a performer. As far as work and research goes, this is kind of fun!

6:34 p.m.: I jump back in the booth briefly because a client needs a quick revision on one sentence of a project. I get it done, edited and sent to them right away.

7 p.m.: I go on another walk but bring Noah this time. We enjoy walking and talking in the fresh air after a long day. We chat a little bit by the pool before we head in for the evening. Once we get back, we catch up on one of the many TV series we’re obsessed with. Tonight, it’s “Hacks” on HBO.

9 p.m.: We head off to bed and I watch a little bit of nostalgic TV to put my brain in neutral. I choose “The Newsroom,” followed by an old episode of “American Dad,” until I feel myself drifting off to sleep. I turn everything off and look forward to sleep and whatever crazy recordings tomorrow will bring!