There is a glut of people wanting to do voice-overs as a potential career. When I started, one of the voice-over marketplaces, Voices.com, had under 3,000 talent registered. Ten years later, they have 30,000. That’s a lot of alleged competition.
The changes in the voice-over industry
Like many things, the voice-over landscape has changed and evolved greatly over the years. Ten years ago, it started changing drastically and the playing field evened out much to the chagrin of many veteran voices. The ability to record from home changed everything, allowing the (talented and educated) solopreneur, with recording abilities, to join in the party.
For many years before, voice talent, like other talent – actors and models alike – needed an agent to land work. The voice talent would have a demo on “cassette”, land a coveted meeting with a potential agent, hopefully be added to a roster, and get called on every-so-often to come into a studio to audition, to then hopefully, be booked for a job. The jobs were high paying. The veterans of the voice-over industry worked for decades, building their career, reputations, and bank accounts by this tried and true method of hiring.
Technology changed EVERYTHING. As soon as the internet allowed audio files to be shared, suddenly we had the technical capacity to receive a script, record a digital file, send the audio, and be paid(!) all by computer.
My experience has been that of the latter…enjoying the convenience of working from home, without an agent or a commute to a fully loaded studio.
How EVER we define success, it IS attainable in voiceovers for those willing to do the work.
The debate of Voice Acting vs. Voiceover
I have become increasingly sensitive to the ongoing comparison of “Voice Actor” to “Voice-over”. There are voice acting veterans that have established themselves by pounding the pavement, both auditioning and working in outside studios. There is (or has been) an elitism among talent that implies that those of us with “home studios” are voice-over amateurs and those with a history, an agent, and union are the true professionals. It is my belief that how ever you carve a career for yourself, investing time, effort, and energy, you qualify. Call it whatever you want, but as the industry evolves, so does the talent. The cream will always rise to the top. But,…
…there is a lie in our industry that says, “You TOO can be a voice actor, recording scripts from home, making LOTS of money, just like that. Jump on the bandwagon!”
The truth about VO success stories
In a blog by Carrie Olsen on voice-over as a “Side Hustle”, Carrie writes an incredible success story in the field of voice-over. It left me with the impression that finding success in voice-over should have been much easier. Her essay alludes to her career being immediate and extremely lucrative. Unless you read between the lines, you would think the industry is easy money. After working at my own business for ten years, reading the article left me feeling pretty bad about myself, quite frankly. How could she have such easy success and I seem to be toiling over a hot microphone? There are some truths she didn’t include.
SUCCESSFUL VOICE ACTOR MUST-HAVE’S
First, there are four elements that spell Carrie’s remarkable success. (Three of them come naturally to her, possibly four.)
1 – Talent – Carrie’s got this in spades. And, after the coaching she invested in, Carrie absolutely soared. She has an enormous amount of natural talent. I can hear it oozing from every line of her demos.
2 – Voiceprint – My voice-over coach, Marc Cashman, explains voice print as, “The vocal equivalent of a fingerprint. Everyone’s voiceprint is unique.” This is the sound of your unique voice. Not only is Carrie’s voiceprint a pleasure to listen to, it is in demand at the moment. Therefore, she would easily be hired for an abundance of jobs.
3 – Passion – You’ve got it or you don’t. There has to be passion for the work, or it won’t “click”.
4 – Sweaty Equity – There is no dramatic success unless you work at your business…A LOT. Even though Carrie found success quickly, if you read between the lines, she worked her tail off right from the beginning.
Here are some more reality checks:
- Technology – If you know your way around equipment, editing, sound and sound proofing, or computer technology, for that matter, ie. administration and social media, you will be at an advantage.
- Professionalism – If you understand how to be professional you will have a leg up with how to land and keep clients. And, while an agent is good to have eventually, business skills and abilities are vital.
- Stamina – I have to strive for this regularly, but the truth is, if you are juggling another full time job, inside or outside of the home, the job of running your own business is always a pressure cooker. Even if voice-over is your full time gig, reading for more than three hours in a row, requires stamina. Trust me on this one.
- Intelligence – I’m pleased to say, I keep clients because I know how to handle a lot of pressure filled situations. While there are other qualities that will allow for that, being smart really helps!
- Time management skill – Are you able to prioritize really well? For example, are auditions on voiceover marketplace sites worth it? Is blogging worth it? What is worth investing time, money, and energy into?
- Money – As mentioned by many people in this business, you don’t need a lot of money to start. Absolute, super-bonus!! However, if you want to move ahead quickly, it can cost you. Coaching, workshops, conventions, quality gear, top-notch marketing – all costs.
- Plus, business administrative skill, marketing and social media marketing ability, great communication skills and an excellent grasp of English pronunciations, grammar, and punctuation (if you are working with English), script reading ability and presentation skills, and the ability to maintain consistently good vocal health.
There is more work out there than ever, due to the benefits that technology provides. Voice-overs are required much more frequently because of our ability to “broadcast” from our computers, among other things. There is plenty of work and we can all be provided for… opportunity abounds…and, for the talented and initiated, we will all survive.