Today kicks off the first in a new three part series, inspired by one of my readers (thank you Britt Dyer!). Over the next several weeks I’ll be talking about agents: what they do, how to get one and how to work with one once you’re in partnership. It’s a subject that can often feel mysterious or frustrating. Sometimes it’s a challenging part of getting “to the next level” in your career, but it doesn’t have to be confusing!
What exactly does an Agent do? Well, the short and sweet is: they negotiate contracts. Legend has it, there was once a day when they sought out budding young talent with potential and cultivated it…but that doesn’t happen much anymore. Basically, you and your agent are part of a team. You come to the table a completely formed product, and then your agent (hopefully) helps to sell it. Ideally, they find lots of opportunities for you, they talk you up, push for you and go to bat for you, and when you book jobs, they get you the very best deal they can, which will be mutually beneficial for both of you, as they earn 10% of what you make. With union jobs, that 10% is typically added to the top of your rate, so the agent’s cut doesn’t actually take away from what you’re making on the gig.
Wait, how are Agents different from Managers? Technically, to call themselves an agent (at least in the state of California), they have to have a license, adhere to certain guidelines and practices, and they can only take 10%. There are no requirements for someone calling themselves a “Manager”. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some great managers out there, and typically they get more involved in the day to day career of the talent (or at least, they used to), but beware, there are tons of unscrupulous ones out there, as well. Most managers take between 15- 20%. A lot of times they will add an additional percentage onto the client’s bill and still (also) take 15-20% out of your cut. That being said, if they are getting you work that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, then it’s probably still worth it.
So, do I need one? It used to be that if you didn’t have an agent, you couldn’t really be in the game. Before the internet era, it was a pretty closed circuit; there were no other ways to get auditions (and hence, jobs). These days, with the explosion of online casting and home studios, you don’t really need one to be a full time voice actor anymore. But you probably want one. Or more than one. Yes, probably many more than one. For example, I work with my main agent here in Los Angeles but I also have agents in Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco. The thing about having agents is they get you access to jobs you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Union jobs. Higher paying jobs. Higher profile jobs. So it depends on what you want. If you are content to hustle all your own work, you might not need one. I know lots of great talent throughout the country that don’t have an agent and they do really well. But for me personally, it’s a crucial part of an overall strategy. While I’m out generating my own work, I also appreciate having someone looking out for and delivering me opportunities as well. And I want a shot at the Cadillac jobs.
When should I start looking for one? As I mentioned before, you need to come to the table as a complete package. You should have at least a commercial demo – professionally produced, not home made! You should have a web presence – or at least a web page – with your contact info and demos/samples of your work. You should be sufficiently trained as a voice actor and ideally, working already. One of the best ways to attract an agent is to let them know that you’re a booker! There is absolutely no incentive for them to take you on unless they think they can make money by working with you. The way you prove that to them is by telling them about the work you are already doing.
Stay tuned for Part 2 on Agents next week! If you liked this post, please share it….and if you’re not already subscribed, go ahead and subscribe at the top right of the blog page so you don’t miss anything. Cheers!