Last week I discussed the number one thing you need to do to get started in voiceover. Here’s a few more suggestions for getting your career off the ground.
1. Learn as much as you can about the industry. That means “getting in the conversation” and immersing yourself with all things VO. A good way to do that is to sign up for quality voiceover blogs and newsletters. You will learn so much! There are so many wonderful VO blogs that it would be too much to list them all here, however I will point you in the direction of several that are “compilation” style. This is an easy way to stay up to date and informed. Sirenetta Leoni curates a wonderful collection of articles and blogs, adding her own astute insights. Check it out here: Inside Voiceover. Another great one is Derek Chappel‘s Voiceover Blog Talk, which includes his picks for “Top VO Blogs of the Week”. Scoop.It Voiceover by Dave Courvoisier also offers tons of information in one place. Also be sure to check out Voiceover Extra, a standard for many years in the VO world, founded and run by John Florian. There’s so much great information out there! Have fun exploring and you will discover many gems.
2. If you don’t have one, start a Twitter page and begin following VO people! You will see tons of useful information, suggestions, tips and links to things that will help you learn and grow. You will also begin establishing yourself within the community and creating friendly alliances. VO people are the best! Be supportive. Retweet, favorite and comment! Become a part of the community. You can start by following me. Feel free to go through the people I follow – there are TONS of fantastic VO actors, as well as production companies, casting people, agents and more.
3. Once you’re definitely sure VO is for you, you’ll want to get a home studio going. These days everyone needs one. It used to be that all voiceover work was done at fancy outside studios, and you went in to your agency or a casting director for auditions. Now, much of the work and auditions are done from home. If you don’t have a home studio, you will be at a serious disadvantage. Your setup can be very simple at first! You have no need for a $20K studio right now, just a place to practice practice practice. There is a ton of information online regarding how to set one up, as well as many books on the subject. You might also want to consult an expert in this area. George Whittam and Dan Leonard are two of the go-to guys in our industry. Check out their weekly show East West Audio Body Shop (EWABS). Tim Keenan is also very knowledgable (and an avid tweeter, as well!).
4. Continue to practice, practice, practice. I suggest listening to commercials, writing down the copy and recording yourself voicing them. Then listen back. The is pivotal! You will hear things you had no idea you were doing, become aware of any bad habits you might have and learn very quickly how you need to tweak your instrument or your approach. I also suggest joining a workout group to practice regularly in a safe setting. If there are no workout groups nearby, start one yourself! Years ago when I was looking to concentrate on Promo, there were no workout groups in town that had that focus, so I started one with three VO pals who shared a similar interest. For a year and a half we went to each other’s houses once/week to practice reading promo scripts. It was so much fun. We established a strong bond and the experience really helped take us to the next level. Likewise, when I was breaking in to audiobooks, I met three amazing women in a weekend workshop and we created a private online support group. Via email, we would send each other narration clips and critique one another’s work, as well as offer each other support and share information about the industry.
5. Make a demo. Eventually, you will need a voiceover demo. Make that demos, because you will eventually need a different one for each different genre you wish to work in…but in the beginning you can start with a commercial demo. A demo is a compilation of a bunch of clips showcasing the various styles, or “signatures” that you do, usually about one minute long. It should sound like you’re flipping the channels on a radio, hearing snippets of different ads. DO NOT TRY TO MAKE IT YOURSELF! Have it professionally done by someone who knows the industry and the market. If you try to make it yourself, it just won’t sound professional or competitive. So when exactly do you make your demo? Here’s what I heard when I first started out: How do you know when you’re ready to make a demo? When you don’t have to ask that question!
6. Consider joining an online casting site, such as Voices.com or Voice 123. These “pay to play” sites offer auditions in exchange for a yearly membership fee. When you join, you not only have unlimited access to scripts (so you can continue to practice) but you are also marketing yourself at the same time. Every audition you do is your name out there to another production company, ad agency or business. Just make sure you are READY to do a job should you book one…and please make sure you keep rates RESPECTABLE! If you are unsure about what respectable rates are, please check the current SAG-AFTRA rates and other rate cards such as Edge Studios, and/or consult with experienced voiceover people in the industry. DO NOT DO JOBS ON FIVERR. DO NOT DRIVE OUR INDUSTRY DOWN BY CHARGING RIDICULOUSLY LOW PRICES; IT HURTS US ALL IN THE END. Know your worth and the value of what you are offering, and stay true to it.
7. Look for an agent. Only now that you are totally prepared, understand the industry, have studied with a bunch of people, have a home studio set up and a demo are you ready to start looking for an agent. Today you don’t necessarily need an agent to be a working VO, but having an agent gives you access to higher paying jobs, union jobs, and is, in my opinion, a crucial step towards being a working professional voiceover artist over the long haul. DO NOT PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE BEFORE YOU ARE READY. Agents have memories like elephants and it’s very difficult to change their opinion of you once they’ve made up their mind. That being said, once you know you’re ready, ask around for referrals if possible, especially from a casting director, producer or other industry professional who likes your work. Consider participating in “agent nights” if there are any in your area. These are workshops where you pay to audition for and receive feedback from an agent – just make sure the place you are going is “legit” and has a stellar reputation. Research regional agents (agents in other parts of the country) online and ask for consideration. Make sure you review their submission guidelines first! Consider joining Voice Registry, a weekly online workout with agents, casting directors and other industry pros.
Just a note of encouragement. It can take a while to secure representation. Don’t give up. Keep good records of who you’ve submitted to and follow up periodically with updates about any work you’ve booked. Eventually, the timing will be right and they will be looking for someone exactly like you!
8. Continue working your butt off. Once you’ve gotten to this phase, the work has only just begun. Now you need to motivate yourself to audition as much as possible, to build your network and your brand. If there isn’t a strong VO community in your area, then start building. Get together for workouts and/or networking. Stay in class and go to casting director workshops. Consider attending Faffcon, an unique peer-led voiceover “un-conference” that happens twice/year.
One more word of advice. Be at the top of your game always; you never know how a meeting, job or exchange will change your life. Be courteous, prompt, professional and fun to work. Most of all, try to stay positive and inspired. Make friends with your colleagues and cheer each other on. Give back and remember what a blessing it is to be able to pursue the career of your dreams!
I hope my series on Starting a Career in VO has been helpful. If you enjoyed this post or know someone who would benefit from it, please share it. For more weekly information, insights and motivation, be sure to subscribe to my blog at the top of this page. Thanks and good luck. You can do this!