Implement moments of clarity and pave the road to voice over success
Today the voice over industry is slightly more competitive than it ever was and many of us are chomping at the bit to seize on as many opportunities as possible and secure a steady stream of gigs. The problem is not many of us book gigs. We post demos on plenty of casting sites, sign with multiple agencies all across the country, and audition for many of the same projects as hundreds, if not thousands, of our voice talent competitors. When this happens, many of us are stuck. While there are many reasons why this may happen, sometimes a few simple observations go a long way to understanding ourselves better as talents and becoming more confident. Personal insight and business go hand in hand.
Invest in The Material
The art of story-telling is not for sissies. Just because we are speaking about a particular product or service doesn't mean our responsibility to the brand stops at words on the page. A well-known voice over coach once told me, "Don't phone it in!" At one point or another, we feel as if our business is not rocket science and/or that we are all able to do this in our sleep. We wake up, brush our teeth, and hop in the booth - knock out an audition or two without thinking, and rush to complete our projects. In this way, we may not completely invest in the material put in front of us. We may not immerse ourselves in a brand, an audience, in the particulars of the who, what, when, where and why of what we're selling or describing. The fact that the voiceover industry is rather over-saturated and highly competitive are sometimes too easy a scapegoat. Our lack of personal connection or directional capacity can sometimes be more at fault; do we actually believe in a brand's story? And with that in mind, do we take the time to consider all that means while we're telling these stories?
Consider Proper Use of Technology
It’s a mass cattle call audition but the creatives want to tie it down to a select group of talents with specific technological capabilities. Sound familiar? Do we have phone patch or ISDN? If not, then how about Source Connect or ipDTL? Do the people requesting our technological requirements actually know what these various connections are, and if not, can they be convinced of the efficacy of our studios? For instance, many voice talent use Skype as a phone patch tool, and we know it to be quite effective in that regard. However, this could rule us out when it comes to audition algorithms that require seekers to use technical requirements as a decision-making factor. The truth is that many advertising industry professionals trust that a voiceover talent has all the proper technology to deliver materials from their end. It's generally assumed that we know what we're doing and can put the voice seeker's worries at bay. Carefully consider your market, what it requires as far as technology - where you will be delivering files and who will be requesting them. Which types of technology will you require access to, and will you be able to install it in your home, or are you close enough to a professional studio to utilize their technology in a way that offers this to your buyers?
Train. Train. Train. And then, Keep Training...
Many of us are convinced that our industry is us "just talking," a means to a financial end, or worse, not something we need to keep working at because we are booking. Those who do not seek to constantly better their skills will never improve (true of any industry). The last two years of my career have proven incredibly successful as a voice talent, leaving me in a position to further what I have worked on thus far. I've spent this time working with an incredible coach to keep me polished and increasing my voiceover presence. A coach challenges us to grow in ways we could never imagine. We emerge armed with new materials and techniques, and our voice over career will only get better. The truth is we get rusty when we live these isolated booth lives, and even when we think there's no one looking or paying attention, there's always (always) someone at the other end, listening to what we're producing. Any improvement is a step in the direction of booking more work.
Invest in Time
We all have busy lives and experience last-minute changes in our schedules; it's challenging to keep track of important deadlines. When is our next audition due - this morning, yesterday, three days ago? Either way, it's tough trying to keep track of a producer’s time-frame. It happens to us all. When submitting auditions that seem to come in round the clock, I submit as soon as possible, not as quickly as possible. There's a distinct difference. We remain invested in the material and mindful of the ticking clock. Otherwise, some careless oversight costs us a great opportunity.
Invest in an Agent
Many voice talent are successful without an agent. Able to start and build relationships without any middleman, they achieve their strategy with hard work and perseverance. After all, it simply takes a successful self-marketing and social media campaign and voila: clients come a' knockin right? Well, not exactly. While this may be a "new world" of freelancers and non-union work, voice talent remains blocked from higher profile work without agency representation. Cold-calling large ad agencies, production houses and networks as a freelancer? There's a reason agents have these relationships, foster them, and have inroads within these worlds, negotiating on our behalf. This makes the difference between small time and big time.
Invest in the Right Agent
Lately, it seems as though agents all over the country are in a rush to sign anyone they can get their hands on. I'm not quite sure how to explain this recent phenomenon, but something seems abuzz. Chances are, the majority of us nowadays are signed with multiple, non-exclusive agents, meaning we're able to freelance with as many as we'd like. Good and bad. Good in the sense that we're exposed to more opportunities and bad in the sense that some agents see this as a showcase of loyalty. Chances to gain new representation can be lost if a voice talent appears over represented. How does an agent know this person isn't going to submit to another agent instead? The non-exclusivity clauses have the effect of making us all just a wee bit paranoid. When looking at the people representing us, we consider their market, their relationships, and their ability to garner us projects and deals. A mutually beneficial relationship with a great agent results in them wanting to book you - because they'll consistently make money. If you're investing in your career, a solid agent will want you on board. Just remember that you're still in charge of your career. Choose an agent who will represent you the way your career needs to be represented.
Get Your Marketing ON
The age of self marketing has dawned, and voice over is following its trends. Advertising houses aren't hitting us up for huge campaigns every five minutes, but we do see internet videos with our voices running on Hulu all the time. For many aspiring voice talent in today's competitive business frenzy, self-marketing is a bit of a learning curve. It may come as a challenge, especially for the veteran voice actor indoctrinated in the golden age of VO, devoid of advanced computer skills and/or social networking savvy. Easier to hire a marketing firm, isn't it? But that's not really the world we're in anymore. It's constantly evolving and changing before our eyes. People want the authenticity of misspellings and blurry faces. There's something real about these new networks which are designed to display ourselves in a new way. We are learning to be self promoters and marketers of our own work when we (most of us anyway) don't have this background. We learn how to be authentic online, how to showcase more than our voice but our personality - our, what's the word?--BRAND! How to sell who we are as a talent without over-selling. Talking about ourselves without talking about ourselves. It's tough and there is no one secret that works for everyone. We struggle to figure it all out, and luckily, we're doing it together. Whatever you do - DO SOMETHING. Get your face out there, either via an agency, casting site, social networking site, or some way for producers and casting directors to find you. When the herd of voice talent go in one direction, take the road less traveled and reap the rewards. Marketing encompasses anything that will get you hired.
So get creative! You'll be glad you did.