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Taking Care of Business

Nancy Cartwright writes about the true meaning of taking care of business, with tips on how to keep your career, and life, on track.

So what exactly does that mean? Taking care of business? Does it mean returning all the phone calls you received by the end of the day? Or stopping off at your local office supplier and stocking up on paper because youre out of it? Does it mean (especially if you are voice over actor) that because you feel a dry tickle in the back of your throat that you better quickly make sure you have the right remedies on hand? Yes, yes and if you know what is good for you, YES!

It means all these and more. Taking care of business means that since you are the one driving this pickup truck, you better be the one making sure it gets a tune-up every 7,500 miles or so. It means that because your agent only makes 10% and you make 90% of the job, that you better be 100% in good communication with him/her to make sure that your personal needs and wants as a client are totally understood. More importantly, it also means that you must be a professional, in and out of the workplace.

To be more specific:

Taking Care of Your Home Office

I dont know about you, but my office is my haven. It is my sanctuary of organization and it is in the quietest part of my house. In fact, it sits high above any other space on my property, in the attic above the Master Bedroom. I call it my tree house. I love that no matter what time of day it is, I can always retreat to my sanctuary. And I do. (I have been known to tip-toe upstairs to my office and work steadily from 2:00 am till 7:00 in the morning only to switch hats and become Chief Cook and Bottle Washer for getting my kids breakfast!) When I really dont want to be disturbed, I pull the plug on the phone then it is really quiet! I find that my best work is done right after I put my kids to bed, after I give one last kiss to 15-year-old Lucy. (She is a dancer and works her body out so much that she is asleep before her blonde braids hit the pillow.) Then I slip into 13-year-old Jacks room and give him one last squeeze before he is down for the count. (Sheep, that is.) Once the lights are out and the dogs are properly settled in, I head upstairs to my refuge and begin the task of, Taking care of business.

I go through and handle a thick packet of memos and other items given to me from my personal assistant.

I do any auditions that came in that day (usually they want the submission by the next day).

  • I confirm or pass on any invitations.

  • I get special requests for autographs and do the signing.

  • I give my personal autograph to any checks for the business.

  • I handle requests from staff members. (I currently have five staff.)

  • Phone calls are returned.

  • I continue with ongoing projects, including writing articles for AWN, answering questions for magazine interviews, any online interviews, etc.

  • And finally, I will open up and respond to emails (Averaging about 30/day my asst receives about 200/day)

I average no less than ten hours a week, doing personal administration. And this is not including putting together special Bart Baskets for charity events that I donate, signings hundreds of autographs from fans all around the world and making phone calls as Bart, Nelson, Ralph, Chuckie, Rufus the Naked Mole Rat, etc. to terminally ill children. Believe me, it wasnt always this way. I feel I have a successful work ethic that enables me to efficiently handle the business at hand in order to free myself up so I can do things that are more creative.

Here are some tips in putting your organization together:

Pay your phone bills, especially your cell phone. It is crucial that your agent and/or mother be able to get a hold of you.

Do not share your office with anyone else. Let this be your one space that you can actually call your own with the business of your career.

Put a sign on your door Do Not Disturb when you are handling all of your administration.

Do the work as it comes your way. Do not procrastinate by setting a bill aside, a phone call for later or a response to a soirée when you find that a better offer never happened anyway. Do it now! Later has a way of catching up to you, and then it is too late! You might miss an important networking event and regret it later because you put it off.

Complete what you are doing. Do not let work accumulate so that you cant find the invitation and do not let all the work pile up so that you cant even find your chair. Again, Do it now!

Set a target for yourself and make sure you stick to it. For example, set a goal to write five letters a night for five nights in a row to people who you know can help you with your career and then just DO IT!

Know before you go. In other words, do your homework! Prepare for that job. Read the script. Mark your lines. Make sure you know all the words. (Duh! you would be surprised how many actors dont look up words in dictionaries. It seems like common sense, yes? Well, not everyone thinks that way.)

Keep a simple filing system so you can locate dispatches, letters, bills, etc., easily and keep it up to date.

Taking Care of Your Body

The voice over business is an industry all its own. It has its own rhythms, its own rules, its own eccentricities; therefore, it is paramount that you know exactly what is expected and how to keep yourself in top form in order to be able to deliver the goods. Sound a little complicated? It isnt. I am simply addressing the physical aspect of your career your body and even more specifically, your vocal chords.

Your vocal chords are only one part of the entire vocal anatomy. There are the larynx, which holds and manipulates the vocal chords; the pharynx, the cavity between the base of the tongue and the walls of the upper throat; the uvula (the punching bag that hangs at the back of your throat that you use when you do a sexy growl); the glottis (the opening between the vocal chords) and of course, the tongue itself, without which we wouldnt be able to talk, eat or tickle words, food and whatever.

Taking care of your body is pretty darn important. It is arguably the only instrument that doesnt need a carrying case, however, the care and maintenance of it is vital if you are to survive well in this industry.

Several years ago on a trip to Australia, I was about to embark on a two-week promotional campaign whose purpose was my appearance at an animation art gallery in order to promote the selling of animation art. My bags were packed, I was ready to go. The gallery had sent a driver and ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT I got a tickle in my throat. There it was there was no denying it I was getting a sore throat and I did not have time to stop to get any remedy. I boarded the plane and for the next 17 hours, my tickle incubated into a full-blown case of laryngitis! By the time we landed in Sydney, I couldnt talk. I was horrified. My voice was shot the entire two weeks of the trip.

I have to admit, the radio stations were sympathetic and the television crews were compassionate, which I appreciated under the circumstances. I, however, was less than overjoyed because there was a job to do, and I felt like I had created such a painful (in sound) situation that the exhibition would fail because of it. (In retrospect, Bart never sounded sexier!) The good thing is that I delivered the goods as intended and the art sold like crazy. It was a huge success, thank goodness but I learned my lesson well: Like a good girl scout, Always be prepared.

The next time a similar incident occurred, I was, once again, in Australia. (Hmmm, maybe I am allergic to kangaroos!) I was on a 10-day lecture tour doing The Big Laugh on a theater circuit. I had two days off in the middle of the run that I was really looking forward to. I could finally see some of the country that I had traveled in before but never got to spend the time sightseeing. The show was doing so well and selling out so much that the venues booked two more shows! This was the good news. The bad news was that I came down with laryngitis right smack-dab in the middle of the gigs on the two days off I had scheduled and I spent the entire time in my room, nursing my body back to health.

Considering what happened the last time I traveled to Australia, I had put together a Vocal First Aid Kit. I included nearly everything one could consider would be helpful to handling laryngitis: Echinacea + Zinc, L-lysine (cold sores can accompany throat/nose problems); eucalyptus oil to drop in a hot pan/sink/tub of water to inhale; Cold-Eze throat lozenges; eucalyptus or Vicks chest rub; Singers Saving Grace (a honey-lemon throat spray); Throat Coat herbal tea; and calcium-magnesium tablets, Vitamins B and C to replenish what is being depleted while you are recuperating.

I sat in the tub every two hours, soaking and inhaling eucalyptus. I drank tea with honey. I downed vitamins and ate soup. (I always eat very light when I have a cold mostly juices and soup.) Miracle of miracles, I was up and better than ever within the two days and delivered two more shows to standing room only! So the upshot is, take care of your body and be prepared.

Taking Care of Your PR

There is one final area that I would be remiss if I did not address it: Your personal relations with the public. Where do you hang? Who do you hang out with? What are you doing? Believe it or not, it is this area that tends to bog a person down (stop him) more than any other area. What kind of support do you get from your friends and family? Do they wish that you had a more stable job/income? Do they think this is just another flight of fancy and that someday you will take more responsibility and get a real job?

Okay, here is the deal. It is very important that you surround yourself with people who believe in you and what you are doing. To do otherwise, is your demise. Make sure your friends, (even if they are family) really have your best interests at heart. I mean that. I ran across a beautiful quote recently written by humanitarian and author L. Ron Hubbard. He wrote, What a true friend does: for one thing they stand up for one, give him counsel, they help him in adversity, they safeguard his reputation, wont hear ill of him, share his triumphs, ignore his faults. It is a good gauge by which to judge who your friends really are, and when you discover a friend who does not fit this description, do something about it.

I hope you see now that Taking care of business does not just mean sending out your resumé, CDs and cover letters. It means, handling all aspects of your life so that you can be the best YOU that you can be.

Occasionally I deliver university lectures that address various aspects of this article. If you are interested, please go to my Website: and find out more information about when/where my next lecture is being held.

I hope to see you there!

Nancy Cartwright is best known as the voice of spiky-headed Bart Simpson on The Simpsons. She has voiced dozens of cartoon characters in her career that has spanned more than 20 years. Currently she can be heard as the voice of Rufus the Naked Mole Rat on Disneys Kim Possible and Chuckie on Rugrats, All Grown Up. To learn more about Nancys career, listen to her new audio book My Life as a 10-year-old Boy.