Recently, I’ve received e-mail from a number of folks who are checking out the prospect of becoming a voice-over talent. They ask me questions about how I got started; what I did to become successful; and what a typical day looks like for me. I openly let them know that it’s hard work and encourage them to give the idea some careful consideration before taking the plunge. My 1000-foot level response looks something like this:
There are a number of “things” to consider before diving into a voice-over business and it will be important for you to think about each one.
- Are you willing to make very little money the first two or three years in the business?
- Are you open to working a “day job” while you’re developing your ability and establishing your client list?
- Do you have the skills to set up and maintain accounting, taxes, insurance and marketing that a small business requires?
- Do you like your voice and all the uniqueness it possess?
- Can you read clearly and are you willing to take direction?
- Do you have a thick skin and can you keep from obsessing about every audition you send out?
After doing some honest reflection and answering the above questions truthfully, you may still be interested in the business of voice-over. The next step it to get started with training from a reputable coach. A good coach will tell you during your first session whether you’ve got the chops for VO or not. Next they’ll help you identify your signature voice and find genres that fit your voice and delivery. When you’re ready, many will also direct and produce your demo.
Take some acting classes, improv is best. Practice cold reading anything you can get your hands on. While voice-over talent get to rely on scripts, you have to act the part. You need to deliver the lines in a convincing way so that they don’t sound read. You need to sound like you know what you’re talking about even when you don’t.
Get you demo(s) produced and website created to feature your abilities. Your first impression to talent seekers is super important. Take your time getting the training you need before your demo is produced. Hopefully you will have found a coach that isn’t part of a production mill and can truthfully tell you when you’re ready. Your website acts as your storefront with demos, details and contact information. Do not start to look for work without either of these.
Where will you record your broadcast quality audio? In your very own home studio of corse. You’ll need a quiet area to call your own, a mic, computer and software. Plus, the know-how to connect all these goodies and record your dulcet tones. Outside noises, distractions from family, pets and friends need to be removed.
You Gotta Work
Go out and look for work. Since you’ll be owning a business, it will be up to you to get clients on your own. Whether that means signing up with Voices.com or Voice123.com; leveraging your existing business contacts, family and friends or cold calling businesses…it’s up to you. You’ll find the most success in using a combination of the above.
Agents will not get you work. Agents will line up auditions for you. That’s it. If you book a gig from an agent arranged audition, you’ll pay her or him 10%. Yes, the agent will have access to the big money gigs but will only be interested in representing you once you’ve proven yourself independently. They’ll look at you and say, “What are you bringing to my talent stable?”
During an industry teleconference with the talented and respected voice actor Randye Kaye, she said that about 10% of full-time professional VO peeps are in the SAG or AFTRA unions. You’ll be more flexible to stay nonunion at the start. You’ll know when it’s time to join a union, a client will want to hire you and only works with union talent. That’s the day you’ll be signing up.
Plan Your Day
My schedule is much the same from day to day. It’s flexible enough for me to schedule sessions. When not “working” my time is spent auditioning and marketing.
- Check e-mail from overnight and respond
- Add appointments to my calendar
- Practice for 90 minutes reading copy, recording my takes and analyzing my delivery. We are, after all, our own worst critic.
- Audition 4 hours
- Marketing 3 hours
- Virtually socialize with my vo peeps (twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, blog, other…)
I wake at 6:00 a.m. Pacific time and leave my studio to have dinner with my family by 6:00 p.m. If necessary, I work weekends and get up early when the east coast is calling for me to complete an early morning gig.
So, there you go. A little sporadic but it covers a lot of ground. This is what comes to mind every time I answer the question. I’m sure you have your own 1000-foot-level of what it takes in this business. What would you add?