Written by Michael Daingerfield
A very common complaint that I hear about the voice-over business is that it’s cliquey. The term cliquey implies that the people doing the voice-over work as well as the agents, studios, casting and production companies are like this gang that are in cahoots with each other - having meetings on Sunday nights about how to keep the work to themselves. Simply not true. What’s awesome about voice-over is that the job will go to the person with the best performance - there are very few variables. If you were doing a production - would you not want the best possible voice for your production? Of course you would. If you had the chance to hear a new voice - and that new voice was perfect for your production wouldn’t you choose that voice? Of course you would. And it’s no different with the studios, casting and production companies, they simply hire the best voice for their production. That’s it. And I can promise you that if you have an amazing demo you will get the attention of all the best agents in your home market.
I think a much better way to describe the voice-over business is that it’s competitive. It’s a competitive business because you get paid extremely well for your time - better than most occupations - in fact other than being a professional athlete, an A list movie star or medical specialist - most occupations will not pay the kind of money you can make doing voice-over if measured on an hourly basis. That can make people hungry to get a piece of that type of action. I think that the business gets described as cliquey because for the past number of years - a certain number of people around the world have tried their hand at voice-over. And most likely a good percentage of those people didn’t stick with it for the long haul. They were looking for the fast buck and when it wasn’t handed to them - they came up with terms like “cliquey” etc. to make themselves feel better about letting go of their dream and moving on. “Well, I did everything I could to be successful at voice-over - but the business is cliquey and you just can’t break in.” If this were true how would any of us who have found a way to break in have done so? We did so by hustling - I called a casting director in Toronto for 6 months every two weeks until she listened to my demo - and every time I called she’d say “call me in two weeks” - “fine no problem talk to you in two weeks” I’d say - and guess what? It resulted in my first animated series - Ace Ventura Pet Detective as the voice of Ace Ventura - I think it was well worth it. You have to work hard to be heard in this business - but once they hear you and you deliver - HELLO!
The good news is that in the past 5 - 7 years since the internet has become more of a file transfer device - the opportunities for doing voice-over have risen dramatically. It used to be that if things weren’t flowing in your home market - then you wouldn’t be working. That’s just not the case now a days. There are many ways in which you can work - even if your home town agent isn’t getting you out there.
The first thing you will need to invest in is a proper microphone - one that’s been recommended by an audio professional - (we recommend Tom Lee Music here in Vancouver). With the proper microphone, headphones, music stand, mic stand, recording software for your computer and a sound interface - you now have the ability to record in your home. This changes everything - now you can go after the work yourself, instead of needing an agent to tell you where the next audition is.
Once you have the equipment - you’ll need a somewhat dampened recording environment where you can record your voice-over. This can be done in a number of ways - I recommend building sound panels as they work quite well to dampen the sound.
There are many ways of obtaining work once you have the recording environment and the equipment needed to produce broadcast quality voice-over. For starters In your home market you can research on google the list of production companies that are producing corporate videos, commercials and documentaries. These companies are always looking for good voice-over talent - and sometimes don’t have the time or budget to go out looking for the talent. If you contact them - already have a sleek voice-over website with your demos to showcase to them - you may land a number of clients by taking this approach. You can also audition for on-line voice-over websites like voice123.com and voices.com - both of these sites are a pay-to-play system where you pay a fee of $300 to join for the year. Then by e-mail you receive auditions that match your voice profile. There’s been a lot of talk on the web about these sites - I think they’re fine for people who are starting out and trying to land some work and build experience at the same time. There are some jobs on these sites that pay very well - so there are veterans that compete here as well. Think of it this way - the best and most experienced talent is going to be close to the best and highest paying work - the two go hand in hand.
Once you’ve been at it for a decent amount of time you can then look at applying to agents in other markets. This can also work out very well - as they will just e-mail you auditions - you’ll get a deadline on when to send in the audition and typically the money is solid as these agents are hooked into some very good work.
When you get into representing yourself on-line it really is key to have the right marketing approach. Think of it as the old “one chance to make a first impression”. You have one chance for them to click on your website (and to be impressed by the site as it says something about you even before they hear you open your mouth). Then they click on your demos and as explained in the previous essay about demos - you need to impress them - 15 seconds in you want them imagining which jobs they could be hiring you for. And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about getting a client - is that once you get them - you bite down hard and don’t let go - you do what ever it takes to keep that client - because then they will continue to use you over and over. I have some clients that I’ve been working with for over 5 years - I always make a point of keeping in touch - asking what they’ve got coming up next (not being a pain in the butt) but keeping in just enough touch so that there’s a connection.
So can the voice-over business appear to be cliquey? I suppose to the outsider looking in - yes. But the key word there is outsider - to people who are working hard on their delivery, audition technique, marketing and relationships (people I would consider as insiders) it’s a business that looks very attractive, one that they want to be a part of. All it takes is one big series or commercial campaign to change your whole perspective - it won’t instantly hand you more work - but it will get you in the door more easily.
As I often mention at the end of my essay’s - the key is to be good. Being good in this business is your ticket - with a new agent, the studios, casting and production companies. If you’re getting the right training, have a solid marketing plan, are doing your best to get work outside of what an agent can get you and practicing daily - I can tell you - you WILL work - to what extent I don’t know - but you will work. Until next time - stay ON THE MIC and I’ll see you in class.