by Dana Detrick-Clark
“Tell me how I can break into the voice over industry!”
You’ve been told you have a great voice, you want to transition into a field that seems to be all about fun, or you want to make big, easy money. Right?
When I’ve received this request many times in the past, I have taken a great deal of time to provide links for coaches, for schools, for job sites, for other mentors. I’ve mapped out plans that could fill books, only to watch the interested party glaze over and lose interest when they realized it wasn’t going to be all fun and games.
So instead of wasting any more time on market research or industry jargon, let’s get right to the nitty gritty!
Here are the top 10 things every new voice over talent should know:
1. It’s hard.
More people are entering the marketplace than ever before. Many have histories in radio, in pro audio or music, or on stage. That gives them a huge edge in experience vocally, technically, and in business. And these are just the other new folks, not the seasoned pros who are already deep into their voice over careers!
This is your competition. Prepare to be a student for many years as you hone your craft.
2. It’s expensive.
There are upfront costs to entering the voice over world, as well as fees and investments you’ll make throughout your career. Business licensing, insurance, promotional material, gear, training, and memberships are only the beginning, and you will likely not see a return on these expenses for awhile as you build your business. And once you do make money? Prepare to pay taxes.
3. You are a business.
Voice work is a business, and needs to be run like one. That can be more difficult than expected! Between marketing, sales, meeting licensing requirements in your locale, establishing (and sticking to) hours of operation and all that comes with being an entrepreneur, you have to leave time for projects! If you’re in for the long haul, you’re going to put in some long hours.
4. You will always need mentors, coaches, and practice.
The most successful members of the voice community are always the ones that never stop learning and growing in their craft. Trends change, technology changes, and they don’t resist it! If you wait for the jobs to find you and then develop your technique around them, you’ll have far less jobs to pick from. Opportunity finds those who are always preparing for its visit.
Mentors and coaches will keep you inspired, challenged, and on the path. It’s not hard to embrace that, once you start interacting with the voice community. They’re all wonderful people who care deeply about this industry.
5. You need to have at least some technical chops.
Whether you’re working out of someone else’s studio or just don’t care anything at all about the technical side of voice work, you still have to have at least some rudimentary knowledge of recording. Know your microphones and know your setup. Studios will ask. Get the basic lingo down so you aren’t in the dark if you’re asked to provide raw or finished audio, lower your input volume, or gate your breaths out. A recording class is a great way to start, or read as much as you can about basic recording techniques.
6. It’s all about relationships.
If you only focus on landing a voice “job”, once it’s over, you’ll be on the path to trying to find another voice job. But when you focus on building relationships with clients, with other talent, with studios, with agents, and with complimentary service partners, the jobs will find you.
Related: Join the Mailing List!
7. You have to be able to take criticism.
At the end of the day, you’re providing your client with a finished product that they need to put to use in the way they have planned, so you have to learn how to deal with what they’ll say to get it there. It’s not personal, no matter how little tact they use.
I find myself being more annoyed if a client isn’t blunt when they need a change. My main goal is to make my clients happy, and if I have to guess how to do that because they don’t want to hurt my feelings, it wastes time and emotion for both of us.
8. Most of the time, you never hear back.
This one is a huge source of frustration for talent new to the field. You audition for a voice job, and get absolutely no feedback from the client as to why you’re not picked.
Accept this upfront: they don’t owe you feedback. They hardly have time to interact with the chosen talent, let alone send hundreds of emails to every other talent that auditioned to explain why the other person got the job.
Sometimes, they just have a voice type already in mind, and you weren’t it. Your performance may have not been what they wanted. Your recording’s quality may not have been what they wanted. Maybe you have the same name as the person that dumped them in seventh grade. It doesn’t matter.
This is why it’s so crucial that you have a clear niche you’re working in, a clear profile of who the ideal client in that niche is, and what their general expectations are. It saves the guess work as to why you didn’t get the job, so you won’t have that burning desire to contact them and pick their brains.
9. Know your niche.
Most of us start out happy to voice whatever we can. It doesn’t take long, though, to discover which categories of work are a good fit for us. It may be that we naturally draw more clients in these areas, that the trend is for a voice like ours, or we just like it more.
Finding our niche market is valuable because we can spend more of our efforts focusing on these specific clients and honing our skills to meet their needs, achieving an above-average level of competence, and making us more likely to get the job.
10. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
How do voice talent make money? By finding the gentle balance between getting work from many sources and spreading ourselves too thin.
Many start out with what are known as P2P (“Pay to Play”) websites. These sites utilize crowdsourcing to bring clients a large selection of talent (at a rate that saves them money), and provide talent with job leads they don’t have to generate on their own, all in one place. Facilitating this service usually comes at a membership cost for the talent (hence the “pay to play” title), with sometimes an added percentage taken from the final talent fee per job.
It’s rare for a voice talent to make a full time living from these sites alone (not ruling out that it can happen, though). And they’re not the only way to procure work.
Signing with talent agencies, joining unions, contacting studios and potential clients directly, and networking are also great ways to gain opportunities. Most voice talent do a combination of some or all of these things.
There are other opportunities within voice over that a talent may choose to pursue as well. Voice coaching, authoring a book or blog, podcasting, or entering into other fields of media or content creation can also balance out your income.
Voice over can sometimes be a feast or famine, where you have a ton of work one month, and the next see everything dry up. It’s best to have something rolling that you can focus on in those down times, so you don’t end up desperate for any work you can get. When you’re hungry for business, you risk making bad choices that don’t benefit your long term goals. Do your best early on to manage during the slow times so that won’t be an issue.
I don’t say any of this to discourage you from entering the voice over world. As well as being all of the things I state above, it’s also just as fun and rewarding as you suspect. But you should enter into your voice over career with eyes wide open to the challenges, the responsibilities, and the tactics that will give you a competitive edge. With those things in mind, and enough time to hone your craft, you’ll have no trouble breaking into voice over.
Latest posts by Dana Detrick-Clark (see all)
- How to Create a Quarterly Plan That Completely Changes 2016 - April 6, 2016
- How To Barter Smarter [free download] - February 9, 2016
- How to Craft 3 Valentine’s Day Specials That Will Make You Irresistible to Your Clients [podcast + free download] - February 1, 2016