Reality check, with a question:
Do you find it more difficult than you’d thought it would be to get, and keep getting, work as a voice talent in 2015?
I’m not one to wax poetic about the past. Change is, at best, exciting; at the very least, it’s inevitable. And certainly the voiceover business has changed drastically since I joined it over 25 years ago.
Back then, it was a fairly local, and more personal world. You trained until you knew you could deliver the performance, made a demo based on your suitability to the market, and started marketing your services to recording studios, advertising agencies and (possibly, eventually) casting directors and agents. Marketing, word of mouth and referrals were your golden keys to that first chance, and then you hoped to continue to get hired based on the awesome job you did (and keeping in gentle touch).
So far, sounds pretty much the same, yes? Only, back then, your marketing was to your general geographical location, there were post offices and telephones involved, and most of the time you knew your clients more personally, often got to shake their hands in person.
And – fanfare for the truth – there was less competition. Once you were in that “stable” of voice talents a studio or agency could rely upon, the phone kept ringing. That’s how I built my business. And that part of the business still exists. Most of my work is from word of mouth and repeat clients. Believe me, it’s easier for the client re re-hire someone they trust than to go out and start a brand new search.
But, as you know, things are also very different. Many potential clients have a huge database of voice talents to choose from – and, thanks to the internet, all they have to do is post a project and hundreds of auditions will show up in their mailbox. The work, for the client, is not on the front end (listening to demos, sending invites to those who suit their requirements, then choosing from the handful of hand-chosen candidates) but on the back end – easy to post the project, but harder (I imagine) to sort through the hundreds of auditions that may vary widely in quality. Casting this way must seem easier, but I suspect it often is not, for the client. However, in this new virtual and pervasive climate, they might not know there are other ways to find voices.
Agents will use their expertise to send a client only those auditions they feel are worth considering. (if you are new to this field, know
that agents only take a percentage of the fee paid to the voice talent; they don’t cost the client up front). Casting Directors use their experience and skill to vet the talent even further (CDs are hired by the client). And there are websites, like voiceover.biz, where all talents are proven pros (and members of WoVO) so clients know they will be satisfied with the audition and the job.
Many clients, however, use the sites they know the best, the “match.com”-type roster sites of the voiceover world, often referred to as Pay-to-Play sites (P2P) because talents pay a fee to receive audition opportunities outside of private invites. I am not here to bash these sites; many talents get their start (many even a large percentage of their work) by using these sites well. Still, it’s like trying to find a mate by going to singles dances with hundreds of other potential “dates” there; it can be difficult to be noticed for how special you are, and difficult to find what you really want.
The fact is , there is a LOT more competition out there now, a lot more choice for clients – the voiceover world is global, virtual, loaded with new talents from those who have just been “coached to their demo” to those who have worked for years. For example, one such site reportedly has over 125,000 voice talents in its database – and that’s just one of the rosters collecting membership fees and roster names.
As a talent, you have to make your own way, find your own business, using new rules in a virtual world. You have to find a way to make it personal, to stand out, to get hired and rehired.
I am a coach with Edge Studio, and for years taught a class for them we called the “What Now Workshop“, which put all the puzzle pieces together (business, marketing, voice skills, home studio, professional behavior) to answer the voiceover equivalent to the college grad’s question: Now that I have achieved this goal, what now?
So – here is my question to you, especially if you made a demo a year or so ago:
- How are you doing? Have you landed work? If so, what made you stand out from the competition?
- Or was it so much harder than you thought? Have you given up? If so, why?
- What did you believe about the business that turned out to be a myth?
- How long did you give yourself, and how long did it take, to start making money after your demo was completed?
- What is harder – getting the first job, or getting more jobs?
And, for those of us working in the field for while:
- Have we created a problem by training our competition so well? Are there now just TOO MANY voice talents?
- Do we have a glut of “newbie” voiceover events? Are they misleading? Do most of these new talents end up lost in the shuffle?
Yes, it’s a virtual voiceover world – with all the advantages – and disadvantages – that comes with it. But are there now simply too many talents out there, diluting the waters? How many will succeed, and how many will fall by the wayside, after reality sets in? Only time will tell, as the cream continues to rise to the top. But I’d love to hear from you about your experiences, and thoughts.