How long have your friends and family hounded you to do something with your voice? We've all been there. The intake of compliments finally got to me after almost two years and then I finally work up one morning and decided to take the leap. It was exciting yet frightening and uncomfortable. Having a sound support system is so important and at the same time, you need to mute the haunting naysayer voice in your head.
Research is critical in deciding if this is something you want to do. If you can set realistic expectations and know this isn't a quick fix for an unemployment situation, you will be okay! This will take time, hard work, patience and plenty of perseverance. Can you get results quickly? Absolutely! Many of our students book work and get agency representation only weeks after their professional demos are delivered. But you have to be prepared for this process to take much longer than that. Based on my 35-year career and what talent agents around the country suggest, here are some critical steps to starting a voiceover career...
Learning the art of voice acting is the essential first step. Unfortunately, voiceover forums on social media are saturated with new talents focused only on recording gear. While purchasing a microphone is more fun than paying for coaching, this is not how you should begin your VO career. If you don't learn the performance skills needed to book commercials, narrations and character work, your shiny new microphone will become nothing more than a cool decoration that you can show off to your friends. What you really want to show off is your ability to book work and get on talent agency rosters.
Work with an experienced voiceover coach on script performance, marketing and professional demos. Some naysayers will suggest that I am recommending this because I am a voiceover coach but if you called 100 talent agents in the country, they would tell you the same thing. Trust me. You won't be able to survive in this business if you don't have the performance skills down!
Professional demos are your calling cards. Your number one marketing tool. It's vital to have about 5-6 audio clips on a demo and the demo needs to be around the 60-second mark. Variety is key. You can't have the same read on a demo for every clip. Agents and Producers like working with talents with a range in their delivery. Stay away from doing your own demo unless you have a ton of experience in voice acting and audio engineering. Even if you do, it's still best to have a second set of ears listening to your reads and directing you.
Many new talents attempt to produce their own demo and while that could work for some low-pay clients on Fiverr, it will not fly if you're interested in talent agency representation. I would strongly suggest avoiding DIY demos at all costs. Talent agents will be able to tell that you did it yourself within the first five seconds of listening to your demo. This isn't the best way to start a professional relationship with an agent. Instead, get your demos professionally produced.
Once you have your demos, it's time to start sending them out. That means creating a good spreadsheet of prospective clients, agents and producers. Creativity is needed when reaching out to buyers. Imagine all the emails and calls they get monthly from new voice talents. Your email and phone calls need to be creative. When you reach out to potential clients, ask good questions about their business. Point out something interesting you read on their website. Make the call or email about them! Your professional demos will speak for themselves. Every call or email is only the beginning of building what will hopefully be a positive rapport with the client. Even if they don't hire you immediately, it's a big win when the client wants to talk with you. Every year, I get booked by clients for the first time, when I had reached out to them several years earlier!
You'll need a space to showcase your demos, so a professional website will also be required. Something professional yet user-friendly. Like a one-pager. Clients never want to feel like they've been dropped in the middle of an amusement park when they visit your website. And if it takes them longer than 10 seconds to find your demo, they will move on to the next talent. So make it easy for them by putting your demos above the fold on a one-page website. Make sure to include an opt-in form so the client can contact you.
Don't give up!
The voiceover business is too competitive! Have you heard this line before? Me too. Like every week and you know what? It's bullshit and here's why; Many new talents will sink their teeth into the voiceover business for about a month and then quit. Why? They didn't take the advice of professional voice actors, coaches and talent agents. Instead, they skipped the coaching process, attempted to produce their own demo and put all their eggs into those pay-to-play audition websites. Then, after finding little success after a month, they quit and move on to something else. So think about it; These talents were your competitors for about a month and they've already dropped out. So, the business ISN'T as competitive as one would think! My final thoughts are this; If you're passionate about a career in voiceovers, you need to be dedicated for more than a month. While some talents find success right away, others take several months or even years. Think about other businesses and how long it can take to see results. Voice acting is no different, despite what some voiceover books or online training courses suggest. The rewards are fabulous but you have to be willing to put in the time and work while not expecting miracles overnight. Good luck and Happy New Year!