In Previous Posts we’ve talked about everything “Getting Started in Voice Over”, all the way from thinking this is the career for you, to getting your studio set up and equipped, with a little tech fun thrown in because, well, I love tech stuff and finally coaching and training. By now you should be well on your way to getting your professional voice over career moving.
BUT, wait…how do you find WORK?
This may be the hardest part yet…
Yeah, now you have to find people who are willing to part with their hard earned cash to hear you say the lines they have written. Well, the very FIRST thing you need to know, and if you can’t get past this part you may have wasted a lot of time, money and energy getting this far, is this: You are GOING to get rejected. That’s right, it is 100% guaranteed.
In this business, you need to have a very thick skin. If you can’t live with the fact that 90+% of the auditions you submit for work will either be overlooked or outright rejected, then you may be in the wrong line of work.
We audition for a living…
What, you thought we did voice over for a living? Nahhhh. As my coach likes to say, “We audition for a living, and sometimes people give us money”. (James Andrews)
Seriously, the average voice over artist/actor is booking far less than 10% of the jobs they audition for. Unless you are a well-established (and since this is the “GETTING STARTED IN VOICE OVER” series, you aren’t) voice over artist, you are booking 1% to 2% of the jobs you audition for. Probably less. Truth is, some studies show that on average, it takes roughly 200 auditions to book one gig. If you are a mathematician, you’ll see that is a .5% ratio. One half of one percent. Let that sink in. Maybe you have the golden silky voice everyone is looking for, maybe you have massive range in capability, maybe you are highly skilled right out of the box (but probably not). In that case, you will probably book – 2% of the jobs you audition for. So you’ll book 4 jobs out of those 200 auditions.
I’m not trying to discourage you, but you definitely need to be realistic. This career is a numbers game. The more you audition (and what you audition FOR matters as well – more on that later) the more work you’ll get. The more often “…people give you money”.
And people giving you money is really what you’re after here, right?
Let’s talk about genres again…
Listen, one thing I’ve learned (OK, I’ve learned a LOT in a very short time, but one important thing) is that there is work in voice over for EVERY voice. For some voices there is more work than there is for others, but your voice, the way you sound, is only about 5% of what matters. The other 95% is made up of skill, tenacity, drive, dedication, and yeah, a little bit of luck.
Find the genre your voice fits…
One of the skills you need to acquire is knowing what your “signature” voice is, so you know where you fit within the voice over community. What type of read are you BEST at? As we discussed in Part 5, there are multiple genres of voice over. To repeat myself, here again is a partial list:
- Audio Books
- Movie trailer (IN A WORLD…)
- IVR/On Hold messaging
- Video Games
Where in the long list of voice over genres does your voice belong? How do you figure it OUT? These are the questions for the ages!
A couple suggestions…
I confess, I haven’t figured it out for myself yet, but I can tell you the three main ways to discover it that I have landed on (and I am still working on it).
- Ask your coach.
- Get a mentor and ask them
- Audition, Audition, Audition – and then look at what jobs you book most frequently
- Hire a “branding” specialist
Ask your coach…
If you’ve found the perfect coach for you, work on several different genres over time with them and then ask them where they think your signature voice belongs. The right coach will be one who has been working in this industry for a long time and who keeps track of shifting trends in the industry. Odds are he can help you either identify the most likely genre you’ll have success in, or help train you for the genre you are aiming at. Then seek out and audition for the jobs you are best suited for. Your booking ratio should increase if you are aiming at the jobs you fit into the best.
Ask your mentor…
I know, we haven’t talked about a mentor yet, but a mentor, like a coach, is someone you can talk about your career with, who you look up to, respect and (probably most importantly) get along with. This is not someone you pay for training or advice, but someone who is willing to take the time to meet with you periodically, who understands the ins and out of the business and who will be straight with you. They should be someone who is actively working in the industry, and who has the time and is willing to share that time with you. This can be a lonely business, since you are sequestered in what amounts to (or may actually BE) a small closet somewhere hidden in your house all day. Find a mentor, get to know them (and let them get to know you!) and ask them where they think you fit in this industry.
Audition, audition, audition!…
I know this blog is about “Where to find work”, but bear with me for a few more minutes here, and we’ll get to the where, but for now I’ll just say audition for as MANY jobs as you can find. Try to audition for jobs across a wide spectrum of different genres and types, and then KEEP TRACK OF THE JOBS YOU BOOK. You are going to have to become somewhat of a data analyst here. If you are consistently booking jobs in one area of VO, this is an indication of what you are best suited for. Seems obvious, but a lot of people miss this: I know I did at first. Pay attention to what gigs you DO book, as compared to all the gigs you’ve auditioned for, and if you see a trend that should tell you something.
Hire a branding specialist…
Truth is, like any other business (This IS a business after all), in order to position yourself in the market and capture a share of it, you need to have a brand. The brand here, is YOU. Your brand is not just your voice either. Your brand is who YOU are, your voice, sure, but also your personality, background, work ethic and all the other aspects of you that make you…YOU. A branding specialist is trained to help you pull that unique brand out of yourself, and then put that forward to the world. Once you know what your brand is (and you already have it, you just have to figure it out and then USE it to market yourself) then you can aim at the jobs that best fit your brand.
Expect to pay for this….
This is going to be the most expensive way to discover your signature voice and figure out which genre of VO you belong in, but assuming you are treating your career in VO like a business, it is an investment in your future that should pay dividends.
To be honest, I’ve only just started looking into this so I can’t make a recommendation, however the one specialist I have found that concentrates on voice over is Celie Siegel. Not really an endorsement, as I haven’t (yet) worked with her, but this gives you an idea of what “branding” is and how it helps.
FINALLY we talk about where to look!
So, if you are going to Audition, Audition, Audition…where are all these auditions coming from? There are four main sources of auditions (and work) I am aware of. One of these is shrouded in controversy, but I will include it anyway and then just wait for the hate mail.
Self-promotion, direct marketing…
This is probably the BEST source of work, and also both the hardest to generate and the one that most of us dread. I know I do!
What is self-promotion and direct marketing? This you putting yourself out there, looking for leads and then cultivating them. Look (or listen) around you. Where do you hear disembodied voice the most? (And if the answer is in your head, please seek professional assistance, that’s just NOT normal). Voice over artists are all around you. Local radio stations, television stations, corporations, museums…the list is almost endless. The key here is to look for and find places with a need for voice over work, then put yourself out there with an offer to help fill their need. These jobs, when you book them, are the best because you are establishing a direct relationship with a client, and then building that relationship over time. These are the clients that will keep coming back to you when they need help. They will get to know you, and your brand, and will come to trust and rely on you to deliver consistently. The additional bonus here is you won’t have to share your paycheck with anyone.
Treat your business like…a business
Remember, in this business you are not only the talent, you are the Senior VP of marketing and business development.
They are also the worst, because you have to put on your sales force hat on and get out there in front of people (in person and virtually). You have to step OUT of your closet (which is where you really want to be) and start tooting your own horn, selling yourself. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do this, and since you are likely NOT a marketing major, definitely seek out some training in the area of marketing. A couple great resources for that online are Gravy for the Brain and with Marc Scott. You can check out Mark’s Face Book group as well, VOPreneur. Just a couple to get you started thinking about marketing yourself.
Signing with a talent agent, for me, felt like “I had arrived”. This is the second-best place to find work, and auditions, only because you have to share a commission with them. To be clear, I do not begrudge them their commission, they only get paid when you do and they are doing the marketing for you. Agents tend to have access to higher paying work, and (ostensibly) a smaller pool of talent than the next place to find work (online casting, or Pay to play (P2P) sites). The competition for these jobs is tougher though as you are competing with established professional artists through an agent. While them getting paid only when you get paid is a benefit, it is also a bit of a detriment in that they are not going to want to sign you unless you are already booking work. I mean, hey, they want to get paid too and investing time and effort in someone who cannot book work for them is a waste. You generally have to be screened by an agent before they will hire you.
A note of caution about signing with an agent. While they are vetting you, vet them. I hate to say it, but it is a simple fact of life that talent agencies are run by humans, and there exist in this world (as much as we may hate this) unscrupulous humans. There are predatory agencies out there! Be wary of any agency that offers to represent you “sight unseen” or better “voice unheard”. Also stay away from an agent that wants to charge you for getting on their roster, or who insists on your paying for training (through them – they all will want to know what training you’ve had) before they will represent you. Do your research if you are thinking of booking with an agent.
One last note about agents. They are going to want you to sign a contract with them. Since you are probably ALSO not an attorney, you should definitely find an attorney that specializes in the entertainment industry and establish a relationship with them (and by that, I mean pay them for their services) to help you review contracts and advise you on them. Chances are there are entertainment lawyers in your area.
Controversy – Yep, P2P sites…
Odds are, P2P casting sites are the most maligned part of the voice over industry. The basic premise here is that you pay a site for access to voice over jobs posted there and the privilege of auditioning. Not bad really from the 40,000 foot view. The site acts as an “agent in kind” connecting clients with talent to complete their jobs. You pay them for access and the ability to audition through their site, similar to the way you would pay an agent a commission on wrk you’ve booked. They provide a service, and you pay for that service. Nothing wrong with that on the surface for sure,
Now, I am not going to tell you not to use P2P sites, I use several of them myself as I am working hard to “break in” to this business and get noticed, however there are (or can be) issues with them.
There are some issues….
The issues with these sites are several layers deep. The first and probably most often talked about issue is that most sites do not screen talent. This means there are loads of people on the site with minimal skills, and who are willing to take a much lower rate of pay for their work than a trained professional voice over artist. This is evident if you take a look at the offerings (most will allow you to register a free account where you can at least see what jobs are offered) and compare the rates with a professional rate card like the one found at the Global Voice Acting Academy. It is true that many, if not most, of the jobs posted at these sites are looking for bargain basement VO artists. It’s a sad fact that people accepting work at below industry standard rates can, and are, driving down rates for everyone. It’s also a sad fact that these sites are not going away any time soon, or ever.
People will always be people, and it takes all kinds…
Another issue I hear batted about is unscrupulous actors who are managing these sites. Not all, but some. One of the things that you see from time to time is a job being posted at one site for say $150 and the SAME job posted elsewhere for $600. This indicates (and may or may not be true) that the SITE is siphoning $450 of that job before it ever gets to the talent. In other words, the client lists the job for $600 and the site lists it for $150. You book the job, the client pays the site $600 and the site pays the talent $150. This means the site is making $450 from that job on TOP of your fee for membership. The only way to combat this is to not audition or accept jobs when you see it, and then disengage from that site.
There are other issues, and a quick google search will help you get some more insight into what the pros are saying.
But hey, you may think – better to be working for less than not working at all for nothing. And that thinking can be understandable – but remember that eventually you want to be working on some of the higher paying jobs too, and if they don’t exist when you get to them, well you are hurting yourself too.
Use them, but do it wisely…
But there is a way to effectively use these sites to your advantage and not damage the entire industry in the process.
Vet them! (Some vet YOU)
First, make sure to vet the sites as you would an agent. After all, that is essentially what these sites are doing – being virtual talent agents and connecting clients with talent. The next thing you can do is to bid ethically. What I mean by that is to consult the GVAA Rate Card, or better yet develop your own rate card based on that one and considering your amount of experience, and then bid the job appropriately, even if it far exceeds the budget posted. This ALSO means bidding LOWER than the budget if the job calls for it – it’s rare, but I do see it. This accomplishes two things: It sets you out as an ethical business professional, and it educates clients on what the true value of your work is. Just don’t undervalue yourself for the sake of booking something, ANYthing.
Use them to your advantage…
The other way to effectively use the P2P sites is to use them to establish direct relationships with the clients who book you there. Be careful not to violate the terms of service agreement (you know, that boring legal document you didn’t read but agreed to when you signed up?) in doing so. If the site connected you to a client, and you booked work through them, they should get their cut. But that doesn’t mean you can’t then get work later from that same client outside the P2P platform. For beginning VO artists, this is probably the BEST thing about P2P sites: They connect you with potential future direct clients.
A couple of the sites I use and would suggest you check out (again, not a “recommendation” per se) in no particular order: Voices Dot Com, Bodalgo, VOPlanet and VoiceOvers Dot Com. There are a LOT more, but do your research and make your own decision about investing in any P2P sites!
You likely know someone who knows someone that really needs some VO work. Talk to everyone you know about your business (without being a pest) because you never know who might be interested in having you work for them. Ask friends, family, acquaintances and ESPECIALLY clients you have worked with if they know anyone who needs help that you might be able to provide. Furthermore, as you get to know fellow voice over artists, refer them to jobs that you are not right for, and as you build your network they will likely do the same for you. Truth is this is the least cut-throat industry I’ve ever seen. There is PLENTY of work to go around and almost all the artists I know genuinely want to help (they want to work too, so they aren’t going to pass along the jobs they are perfect for…) and I’ve seen them refer work to other artists many times. Make sure you are networking with fellow voice over artists!
Also, make sure EVERY email you send has a link to your website, Facebook page, Linked In account, Instagram, etc. etc. etc….in the signature line. You just NEVER know where a job might come from.
This has wound up being longer than I thought when I started, but just a few last things to say about the topic of where to get work. Try to remember that success in this business is a journey and not a destination. Listen to what other people in the industry are saying, but make up your own mind about where and how you will go about getting work. There are as many places/ways to get hired in this industry as there are people IN the industry. Use your imagination, try things. You will invariably fail at some, but keep trying, keep putting yourself out there, keep building relationships and above all, when you fail, get back up and keep on trying. Learn from your failures and perfect YOUR marketing approach; it may not be just like someone else’s