Start a Career in Voice-over for Animation, Commercials, Video Games, Narration, Dubbing and Audiobooks!

OTM Essay 5: Opportunity Knocks!

A complaint I hear all the time is that the voice-over business is very cliquey. This implies that people in the industry are in some sort of gang having secret meetings on Sunday nights about how to keep at the work for themselves. Of course, none of this is true.

What’s great about voice-over is that the job goes to the person with the best performance. When you’re running a show you want the best possible voice for your production, even if it’s a newer voice. This is the thought process of studios, casting, and production companies. If you have an amazing demo you will get the attention of the best agents in your home market.

A better way to describe the voice-over business is to say it’s competitive. This is a business that pays you very well for your time, more-so than almost any occupation. Seeing all the money to be made makes people hungry for a slice of the action. You see people give it a try, get frustrated when they aren’t handed roles, and drop out. Terms like “cliquey” get thrown around so they can feel better about dropping it and moving on. “I did everything I could but it’s too cliquey to break into.” If this was the case how would any of us gotten in?

You need to hustle. I called a casting director in Toronto every 2 weeks for 6 months until she listened to my demo. Each time I called I was told “Call me in two weeks”. “No problem. Talk to you in two weeks” I’d reply. Guess what? It landed me my first animated series – Ace Ventura Pet Detective as none other than Ace Ventura. 

You need to work hard to be heard, but once they do hear you deliver that’s when you start booking work.

In the past 5 – 7 years the internet has become more like a file transfer device. Opportunities to do voice-over have risen dramatically. Before this, you weren’t working if things weren’t flowing in your home market, but now there’s so many ways to work – even if your agent isn’t getting you out there.

First you need to invest in a proper microphone. You want one that has been recommended by an audio professional (I recommend Tom Lee music in Vancouver!) With the proper microphone, headphones, music stand, mic stand, and recording software, you’ve got everything you need to record in your home. This is a game-changer, you can pursue work on your own without the help of your agent.

Now you need somewhere dampened to record. There’s a few ways to do this, but I find using sound panels is a great way to dampen sound.

There’s plenty of ways to get work once you’re set up. Go on Google to find production companies in your market making corporate videos, commercials, and documentaries. These companies are looking for good voice-over talent, but don’t always have the budget to go out and search. Reaching out with a sleek demo can help you land a number of clients. 

Be sure to make use of sites like Voice123.com and Voices.com. Both sites are pay-to-play systems where you pay $300 to join for a year. Afterwards you receive emails with auditions matching your profile. Both sites are fine for people starting out, trying to land some work, and build up experience at the same time. Some jobs on the site pay well, so you can expect veterans to compete for those jobs. The most experienced talent is going to be close to the best and highest paying work – the two go hand in hand.

After a decent amount of time you’ll start applying to agents in other markets. This can work out well as they simply e-mail you auditions. You get a deadline to submit the audition. You’ll want to meet that deadline, because the money is solid, these are agents that are hooked into good work.

The key to representing yourself online is the right marketing approach. It’s like the old saying goes “You only get one chance to make a first impression”, well you only get one chance for them to be impressed after that first click onto your site. Once they click your demo they need to be impressed. Like I said in the last essay, within 15 seconds they need to be imagining which job they will hire you for. 

Once you’ve got a client you bite hard and don’t let go. Do whatever it takes to keep that client. If you keep in touch they will use you over and over. I’ve been working with some clients for over 5 years. I always make a point to touch base and see what they’ve got coming up (without pestering them), just to keep a connection going.

Let’s wrap up.

Yes, voice-over seems cliquey to an outsider looking in. The key word being outsider. The people who work hard on their delivery, audition technique, marketing, and relationships know it’s an attractive business that they want to be a part of. All it takes is one big series or commercial campaign and your whole perspective changes. You won’t get instantly handed work, but the door opens easier.

Like I always say – the key is to be good. Getting the right training, having a solid marketing plan, practicing everyday, and doing your best work outside of what an agent can get you, that’s the recipe for success. 

Until next time – stay ON THE MIC.

See you in class.

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