Dawson McKay – Voice Over Artist and Creator of DawsonVO

[quote style=”boxed”]The only way to change that, really, is by living the example and hoping others see the results and adopt it themselves.[/quote]

At age 5, Dawson McKay didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up, but it turns out he was practicing for a career in voice over at that early age. Still learning to read, he was riding through town with his mother when they passed a 7-Up billboard. “Seven Yoop!” Dawson pointed proudly at the sign as he read aloud. His mom eventually stopped making fun of him for that and he continued reading signs and billboards in the voices of the announcers on tv.

Growing up, he fell in love with the most colorful of entertainers: The Muppets, David Copperfield, and KISS all created fantasy worlds to which we could escape, and Dawson studied their every move.

Over the years, he searched for his ideal creative outlet, working professionally in magic, puppetry, radio, cartooning, sound design, video editing, and acting. Dawson finally found his home in voice over, which allows an actor to play everything from rock star to puppet to guy-next-door. Along the way, he won many awards for his performances and was even nominated Best Morning Radio Host for the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Dawson loves bringing a script to life, but when he’s not working… he still practices by reading signs and billboards aloud.

What are you working on right now?

Getting my studio finished. It’s been a work in progress for years, as I’m sure most studios are.

Where did the idea for DawsonVO come from?

Voice acting has, of course, been around forever, but the industry is in the midst of a huge shift from traditional agency based work to a more online business. Even the bigger agencies and production companies in New York, LA, and Chicago are starting to hire more online, so it really opened things up for those of us who lived in Elsewhere, U.S.A.

What does your typical day look like?

First thing is to hit the scripts I’ve received from clients with the all-too-familiar “Hey, got this from (the end client) at the last minute and really need it by this afternoon! Can you help!?” Then a few auditions, some admin, and that’s about it. That’s grossly oversimplified and it takes up most of the workday, but that’s the gist.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When I have an idea that I think is a good one, the first task is to find someone who’s done it before or someone who makes their living bringing ideas like mine to life. That alone is a HUGE task, finding someone you feel is both qualified and is someone with whom you click. Always write down your ideas and plans, refer to it often, and let it be a breathing, changing document that helps guide you until your ideas are realized.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The ability to work online is a double-edged sword. It makes it really easy for people like me to work on a project with someone in Florida, London, and Germany all in the space of a week, but at the same time we have to look for ways to keep the personal touch in that process.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Cleaning up after the meat cutters in a grocery store. I learned I don’t like cleaning up after meat cutters in a grocery store.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

There have been mistakes that I wish I had sidestepped, but my process for moving forward is something I really wouldn’t change. Go big. Go pro. Hire the best to help get you there. But, knowing what I know now, there were a few rather expensive gear purchases that weren’t right for me.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always be on the lookout for inspiration. If you wanna be the best at what you do, look at what the best in other industries do. I look at McDonald’s, Coke, Nike, and all the major brands for inspiration on how to reach their intended clients and see if there’s anything I can adapt to my business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve failed at customer service a couple of times and that really frustrates me. I’m always working to overcome that by constantly putting myself in the client’s shoes and asking myself what I would want if I were them.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I had the idea for Mandles before they were manufactured! Candles with manly scents like motor oil and wood shop.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

People’s tendency to hang their opinions on their egos. When you’re always working to protect your ego because you’ve hung it onto a particular idea or thought process, you cannot ever grow or learn. The only way to change that, really, is by living the example and hoping others see the results and adopt it themselves.

Tell us a secret.

I’m the voice of the Little Caesars “Pizza Pizza” guy.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Voices.com, PayPal, and Freshbooks.com. They just make things so much easier for a small businessperson.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr Maxwell Maltz. It sounds much more academic than it is, so dont let the title scare you off. It’s a very interesting and fun read about why we do the things we do and why we sometimes let that ego get in the way.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why? (please don’t include yourself)

Outside of a lot of inside industry peeps, I like @EntMagazine (for Entrepreneur tips and advice, ‏ @JayJayMug (just cool things to look at to spark your creative side), and ‏ @CMNHospitals cuz we all gotta give back!

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Today, actually. A client said they were so amused by my mispronunciation of a drug name that they were gonna use it as a ring tone.

Who is your hero?

I have many. There are a lot of men who have taught me one life lesson or another, but one of my sons is named after a motivational speaker and the other is named after a famous cowboy.

Can’t anyone be a voice actor? Don’t you just stand in a studio and read?

Common misconception and, unfortunately, that idea causes a lot of people to waste time and money pursuing a career for which they are not really suited. Voice acting is not unlike singing in that you can be trained on some of the mechanics, but at the end of the day you either have the talent or you don’t.

Do your kids want to follow in your footsteps professionally?

Not at all. I’ve thrown it out there to both of them, especially my older soon who is really good at character voices, but they both have their hearts in other areas, so I support them fully in those pursuits. My oldest wants to be a cartoonist and the younger boy wants to be a chef.


Dawson McKay on Twitter:
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I’m just about everywhere under the username DawsonVO. You can also reach me, of course, at www.DawsonVO.com.