Written by Michael Daingerfield
YOU'VE GOT TO STAY IN IT - TO WIN IT!
Whether you’re just starting out - or have been in the voice-over business for 17 years like myself - you’ve got to stay in it - to win it. Meaning voice-over can be tough to just dip your foot in the water and catch a big fish. And that’s the whole point isn’t it? To find out your potential - to see how far your voice can take you?
Since OTM opened it’s doors over 5 years ago - we’ve had over 500 people take our classes. And the people that have been successful are the ones that have stuck with it. The ones that have taken lots of classes to get good, produced their demo - at a professional level (when they were ready) and then learned how to create relationships in the business that turned into work - as well as created a marketing campaign on-line and in hard copy format (cd’s, business cards, postcards) that helped sell themselves to agents, studios and casting. They are also the ones who figured out how to find work - as that’s an art in itself - especially if you can record from home.
I’ve been in the business now for 17 years and there are things happening in my career now - that had I quit or given up even a year ago - would never have happened. And I can honestly say that’s happened throughout my career with various milestones that I’ve hit. Remember this is about building a career - that’s when voice-over gets interesting. When you have multiple relationships with various studios, casting directors and production companies who all know you, trust your work and like working with you. It’s like you’re planting seeds that one day ‘pop up’ and turn into work. As I’ve said many times - you can enter the business and get a great job - but that doesn’t make a career. A career is a successful, consistent and sustainable position in the market that continues to grow.
There’s obviously a reason why you’re attracted to voice-over. Maybe people have been telling you that you have a great/quirky/friendly/cartoony/distinct voice - or you’ve always felt comfortable using your voice - whether it be in a more narrative way for commercials or narration or for doing characters on animated series or maybe you’re a great mimic (that’s how I started) or all of the above. Or maybe you’re just curious about the business as it’s one of the more mysterious businesses and more difficult ones to get into. Why is that? Why is voice-over hard to get into? Because...you have to have perseverance, talent, self-awareness, humility, a love for using your voice and a lack of shyness in expressing yourself with your voice.
There are definite road blocks no matter how good you are in the beginning - imagine going to a store and you pick out a TV and then you go to the cashier and you see 12 other people in line buying the exact same TV and you’re like “oh great - this is gonna take a while...” It’s similar in voice-over - there are definitely some people ahead of you in line - people that have a similar voice print as you (voice print means the distinct sound, flavour and tone of your voice). These people have taken classes, produced their demo and gotten an agent and are waiting to get more auditions and more work. This is part of it - the best news is that there are more ways to work now in voice-over than there’ve ever been. Now that TV and movie rentals are making the shift to the internet - the amount of voice-over work that will be available is literally going todouble. The pay structure may take some time to figure itself out with this - but that’s okay it always does - it’s a part of the evolution of our business - which referring to Voice 7 (The history of Voice-over) the voice-over business is very young and still in it’s infancy.
There wouldn’t be any roadblocks if it was an easy business to get into. Remember performing for a living isn’t like any other job on the planet - other than being a professional athlete. When you perform for a living you have to put it on the line every time you go out there - because that’s what people expect of you. That’s why you get paid the amount of money you do - because you’re willing to dig deep and share yourself in a vulnerable way that other people aren’t capable of or willing to do. Also, there aren’t any rules or agreements in society about show business - it’s not like you can get a degree in voice-over and that will guarantee you a certain job with a certain amount of income each year. Quite the opposite really - it’s more like the wild west - but if you learn how to play the game in the wild west it can be the best of both worlds. Think about it - on average voice-over actors work 1/10th the amount of time most people working full time do and on average voice-over actors will make more money per year. And the work that they’re doing is fun, creative and engaging. What makes it interesting is that when you go after your dreams - and even if you get just a little bit of success - that can be worth 10 times more than receiving success in something that is safe, predictable and not your passion.
And that’s the point isn’t it? To go after it in life - yes it’s not always easy - but if you were to look back at the end of your life and you could say that you went after your dreams with everything you had - you’ll sleep a little bit easier don’t you think? I don’t mean to raise the stakes here too much - but it takes guts to go after your dreams - it takes guts for some people to take one voice-over class - I know, I see them in my classes - they’re giving it everything they have to get up in front of that mic - open their mouth - and take their shot it - and every single one of them loves it and has an absolute blast. And the next time they take a class it’s that much easier. It’s about moving forward - sometimes you take small steps and sometimes you take big steps - but as long as you’re moving forward then you’re moving in the right direction.
The path that I’m on is no different than the one that you’re on - I may be just a little bit further ahead. But I still come up against road blocks - get intimidated by new challenges - and have to keep pushing myself to get better. I look at it like it’s a game - it helps take the emotion out of it. As you continue on your voice-over path - keep adding allies to your side - it’s great to have people you can bounce ideas off of - or check up on the work situation. You don’t have to go through the journey alone. A great place to find these allies are in classes - the other students are people just like you - they’re interested in the voice-over business - they have a passion for it - and they want to make it a career - either part-time or full-time. So the next time you’re in class - share your contact info with the other students and keep in touch. They say that people make it in groups a lot easier than as individuals! On that note - stay On The Mic and I’ll see you in class.