The Business of Being A Voiceover Artist

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Three Things You’ll Need To Know

Being a successful voiceover artist isn’t just down to being a great voice performer with a top class voiceover demo.  One of the most important factors governing your success is how well you understand the business of voiceover.  So here are three simple ways of making sure you’re ready to do business.

1.  Know How the Industry Works

One thing I do know about some voiceover artists is that, at times, they can be their own worst enemy.  I know some really gifted voice artists who’ve let themselves down by not making a study of the industry they so passionately want to work in.  Whether you’re just starting out or are getting voiceover work already, to increase your chances of success you need to do your research thoroughly before you launch or re-launch yourself.

Voiceover is big business and there’s big money to be made.  There are hundreds of voiceovers recorded every week and not just on television and radio.  Voices are everywhere, in stores, on planes, on websites and delivered electronically to your computer.  They’re on phone systems, on interactive games. They’re narrating corporate and informational CD’s and DVD’s, audio books, TV programs and documentaries; and a variety of different voices are needed to do all this work.

Finding out how the industry works can be just a matter of putting aside a couple of hours a week to do your research.  Begin by creating a Voiceover folder on your computer and start building some lists and information. While you’re there, create another folder to store mp3’s of your demos and any voiceover you do, to potentially use on your next demo.

It’s an incorrect assumption that voiceover is hard to get in to.  Studios are always looking for new voices.  If you know what you’re doing, they want to hear from you.  They want your demo, and it’s definitely okay to call and talk to them.  If you’re just starting out, quiz them about how to get into voiceover and while you’re there, ask them what kind of work their studio does.  Does this sound like the kind of work you could be doing?  If you think it is, ask what they’d like to hear on a demo and how they’d like to receive it.  Then call the next studio and the next and the next.  Soon, you’ll begin to a feel for what goes on in your city.

Listen to radio stations to hear what kind of work they produce.  Every radio station has its particular audience. Could you fit it there?  Listen to television stations with a new ear.  What are you hearing and seeing?  Begin to recognise locally, nationally or internationally produced advertising?  Listen to the different styles voice artists are using.  Voiceover for television is very different to radio.  Can you hear yourself mastering those styles?

Source industry magazines online.  Find out what the Voiceover rates are.  If you’re in Australia or New Zealand you have an arts union, the MEAA, who negotiates rates and fee structures on your behalf.  If you are working in voiceover, or plan to, join your union.  Not only will you need their industry savvy and workplace protection, the more you know about the industry you work in, the more empowered you’ll be.

2. Know How to Create Successful Marketing

For some, even the word ‘marketing’ is scary.  But don’t worry.  You don’t need a degree to use some really canny marketing tricks to make sure your talents are known to the right people

You may have a great demo but no matter how talented you are as a voiceover artist, unless you’re really across all the ways to make sure the industry knows you’re there, you’ll be missing opportunities right, left and centre, because the thing is, someone has to do the job and it almost always goes to the voice artist who’s made sure they’re one of the voices casting people think of.

If you’re either just starting out or have been doing voiceovers and want more work, having or creating a reason to make contact with a studio is a good marketing ploy.  That’s one reason why regularly updating a demo, or creating a new one, makes good marketing sense.  You’re welcome to call studios and ask them how they’d like to receive a demo.  It will be either an audio file (mp3) via email or a CD.  Ask if they want you to drop it in personally or mail it.  If it’s the former, make a time to do this, so they’ll be expecting you.

Radio stations are more difficult to get a response from because they are sooooo busy in their production areas.  If you’ve directed your demo to a sound engineer/producer and you haven’t had a response, you could call the station and ask to speak to a copywriter or someone in production about advertising.  That’s not really why you’re calling but it might get you through.  When you do get through, tell them you’re a voiceover artist and that you’d like to send them a demo.  And, conversely, if you first sent your demo to the production department, ask for the email address of the engineer and send one there.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to speak to an engineer.  I’m telling you, they are flat out.  However, if you’ve been told or have determined that you are just the right voice for that radio station and you can find another voiceover artist to recommend that radio station listen to your demo, then all the better.

If you have an agent, they’ll be able to provide you with a list of studio or radio station contacts.  However, you’ll need to make sure this list is up-to-date before you send any demos.  Even if you don’t have a list, create one from researching online or from a phone book or industry handbook, and then call just to make sure the info is correct; another good reason to call.  If you’re after a more comprehensive marketing plan, download my program, ‘Marketing For The Uninitiated’. Here’s the link.

3. Know How to Manage Your Own Voiceover Career

Successful voiceover artists work all the time, some a few times a month or a week, some every day, some several times a day.  Part of their success is that they’ve cultivated solid working relationships with those who do the casting; that is studio personnel and engineers.

Sometimes voiceover artists will have an agent, sometimes not.  As you know, it’s not essential to have an agent to work as a voiceover artist, but whether you have an agent or not, it’s important to realize just how important it is to manage your own voiceover career.

Your agent may call you and book you for the job, but they didn’t get it for you…your demo did.  Your agent may invoice on your behalf but you need to make sure they have all of the job details correct.

One thing I’ve learnt in my career is to never leave anything up to anyone else without first checking that the details are right.  Invoicing is a really crucial part of being a voice over artist, so make sure you and your agent have the same details of the job.  And if you are working freelance and taking care of your own invoicing, it’s even more important that you have all the information you need.

If you need to contact a studio for any reason, do it yourself.  Don’t get your agent to do it.  Every opportunity for direct contact is an opportunity to further build a relationship.

Remember, voiceover is not a closed shop.  Just as in any career, the best way to ensure your on-going success is to stay determined and passionate about it.