The Truth About A Career In Voice Over
I get asked a lot to coach newcomers who want to become Voice Over Artists. The first thing we do is have a conversation about what they expect to do and what they are willing to do to launch their career. How they answer that question tells me whether they’re serious or just dipping a few toes in the water.
The first question I ask is “Why do you want to get into VO? I get the usual responses. “I want to do something else and this seems like fun and it pays well.” Another one is, and you’ve all heard this, “People tell me I have great voice and should be doing commercials.”
Then comes the axe. The one that separates the men from the toys, so to speak.” How much are you prepared to invest in launching your new business?” “Huh, what? Invest? I have to spend money?”
“Yes Mr. Howell. You have to spend money on training, recording equipment, a website and a first class demo. And you need all four. Three, two or one just won’t do.
This is when I cut to the chase and tell them that it’s gonna run them somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000-5000 to launch their new business. That’s when eyeballs begin to explode. It’s funny that people will gladly borrow $20-40,000 to buy a new car, but won’t invest a few thousand in themselves.
Many wannabe VO’s fail to understand that Voice Over is a business. It’s not a hobby. Not that hobby’s are cheap – but you’re going to become a business owner and that means spending money to open your store or, in our case, our storefront or website.
Some respond with “Okay let’s go for it.” Then I ask the fatal question. “Are you prepared to sell yourself to get work?” “What? I hate selling. That’s why I’m a (fill-in the blank.)
Yes, Thurston, you have to sell your services. “But I thought that’s what agents do?” And therein lies one of the biggest myths in the Voice Over Business. The myth that your Agent will get you work. Let me set that record straight.
Agents represent you. They do not go to the office everyday and call everybody in town trying to get you work. Agents post your demo on their website, negotiate rates, bill clients, collect fees, subtract their percentage and send you a check for the balance of the original agreement.
Do you need an Agent? Yes, you do! But you must learn how to market your Voice Over business or you’ll soon be out of the Voice Over business.
Many can’t cut it in VO. And it’s not because they don’t have talent. It’s because they can’t or won’t take the necessary steps to build a rock solid client list. And that involves selling. However, there are many ways to sell/market your VO business without cold calling and getting rejected. Here are a few.
LinkedIn is a great place to market your VO business. In fact, I’m also posting this blog on my LinkedIn page. Most of the time LinkedIn will not generate much income – but then again it might and it serves to remind your connections who you are, what you do and why they should call you when they need a VOA (Voice Over Artist) for a project.
Networking is another must for aspiring as well as veteran VO people. Your local Chamber of Commerce usually has a Networking event 6-12 times a year. Go to them. “But I hate that small talk stuff.” Get over it. Just be you and go with the intention of making new friends. Not getting booked. Hand out cards and ask to meet for coffee. You never know who they may know who may just hire YOU!
A Website. Make it great. Make it easy to find and play your demo files. Make it easy to contact you. I spent several hours creating my website and upon review I discovered I left out a contact page. And please, please, please do not put one of those annoying “CAPTCHA” widgets on your site that make people prove they’re human. I see those and I’m gone! I’d rather deal with the small amount of spam that comes through than send a client to a competitor.
A Steady Paycheck. The only way you’re going to get a steady pay check in VO is if you work for a broadcast company. As a VOA you’re a freelance artist and you need lot’s of clients sending you small checks every single month. Sure you can pray for that big national gig – but it’s the little $200-500 gigs that will sustain you. Pick a number from 0-$500 or more and set that as what you need to bill every day to make it in the Voice Over business. Some months you hit or go over that number. Some months you won’t come close. But if you become determined to build a solid client base, you’ll do very well as a VOA. And have a lot of free time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. And even if you’re in sessions 8 hours a day – you’ll still be doing something you love. And you must love it. Never do something for the money. Do it because you love it and the money will take care of itself. Meaning you love doing what’s necessary to build and maintain your business.
There’s a lot more to this VO thing than what I’ve posted here today and we’ll get into the “other” types of work VOA’s can do other than Commercials and Narrations next time. Until then – Stay Blessed. Stay Humble. Stay Busy!