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. Well, that was all the fun stuff (really!) but now it’s time to get down to the real nitty gritty.
You see, many people think “Hey, how hard can it be? I read to my kids at night so reading out loud is no big deal. I can do this.” …and you’d be partially right, and mostly wrong. (Sorry – no sugar coating here!)
Voice Over is WORK
Hey, anything you do that results in people forking over some cash HAS to be work, and Voice Over is no exception! Yes, you have to be able to read, and you have to be able to speak, but this is NOTHING like reading a bedtime story or reading aloud to your spouse or SO. This line of work (Yep, I said that nasty four letter word again) requires dedication, training, practice and ART. Yes, ART.
Sadly, the truth is, this career is not for everyone…but not for the reasons you might think. The truth is, anyone that can read well and is capable of speaking COULD be a successful VO artist, but not everyone WILL be. However, there are ways to improve your chances of becoming successful, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Short Detour: Success
Before we dive too deep, let’s talk about success: What is it?
Honestly, there is no single answer to this, and only you can define what success means to you; for most of us, that definition will change over time. You might measure your success by how much money you make, how many jobs you book, awards you receive, positive reviews or being able to pay the rent ONE MORE MONTH. Whatever definition is right for you, make sure you know where you are now and what you are aiming for before you get started. A career in voice over is a journey; like any journey the first step is to check out the map (yeah, I’m old…these days you check GPS), determine where you are at and where you are headed then decide on the route you’ll take. Before going ANY further, think about what success means to you in the context of your voice over career, write it down, and then you’ll know when you become a successful voice over artist: And don’t ever let anyone else define your success for you! There are as many definitions of success in this business as there are people in it, YOU DO YOU and ignore all the noise from others trying to define success for you.
OK, preachy prose is over.
Voice over genres
There are a LOT of different genres, sub-genres and niche genres in voice over work, and while they all have some skills in common, each one requires unique skills in order to be proficient at it. A short list of genres will include:
- Audio Books
- Movie trailer (IN A WORLD…)
- IVR/On Hold messaging
- Video Games
And believe me when I tell you: This is a SHORT list.
I was having a discussion with a non-voice over friend yesterday talking about my journey into voice over. During the discussion, I mentioned some of the different work a voice over artist might find themselves doing and he was somewhat taken back by what voice over work actually is. I mentioned that any time you can hear someone speaking, but not see their face, THAT was a voice over artist working. He was shocked to learn that the voice of Siri was an actual person! You may also be shocked, I don’t know (but I was when I learned that!). Just think about any time you can hear a someone talking, but not see them, and you may be amazed just how many different genres exist in the world of voice over.
Consequently, in order to determine which training or coaching is right for you, you will need to decide or determine which genre of voice over you’ll concentrate on as you begin with. There is no reason you can’t be or become proficient in multiple genres, but if you try to train for several or OH NO!) all of them at the same time, you will surely delay whatever success target you have for yourself.
Voice Over Assessment
The very first step in your training should be an assessment. The best way to have an assessment done is to hire a coach who will have you read practice scripts in a variety of genres to see where your innate talent lies and who can help/direct you in which genre or genres of work to concentrate on initially. This will very likely NOT be simple or fast, and will require several sessions working together over multiple weeks. You can stop in over at Edge Studios education and either arrange to attend an Investigate Voice Over Class or sign up for a Private Evaluation. It’s not free, but well worth the investment before starting any other training or coaching (which will also NOT be free).
You can also reach out to an independent voice over coach and arrange for an assessment, but make sure that whoever you choose is experienced in several different genres of voice over to give you the broadest possible look across genres. The issue with starting out by getting an assessment from an independent coach is finding the right one, with the right experience who can assess your voice and skills across multiple genres. What you are aiming for, initially, is an idea on where to concentrate your time, and money, as you get started so you don’t waste either in an area you are just not well suited for. I used Edge, and I definitely recommend them.
I am lumping training and coaching together, because while they are different, they are also the same. All the advice below is true for each. I’d define training as learning/improving the MECHANICS of an aspect of this business, and coaching is learning/improving the PERFORMANCE of those skills. Below I talk about finding help with the voice over performance, but eventually you’re likely going to need help with marketing, finances, contact management and other areas related to running a small business, not just performing voice overs.
Once you have gotten assessed and have an idea what genres you might achieve success in, you can start looking for the training YOU need to hone your skills (and develop new ones) for your voice over career. What you are looking for is someone who is a working voice artist, in the genre you are aimed at who also offers coaching. Why should they be a working voice artist? Trends, baby, trends. Someone actively working in the genre you are working on, is going to be aware of the present trends in the industry and can guide you to develop/improve the skills that match the current trends. Make SURE whoever you approach about coaching is actively working in the genre you are aiming for!
Once you identify someone you think you might like to work with, see if they offer an initial consultation (either free or paid, but I like free), any GOOD coach will have some sort of initial consult available. Getting coaching is as much about personality as it is about skill and experience, so you really need the initial consult to see if there is some “chemistry” there. Make sure you have an idea, from your assessment, what areas of voice over you are interested in and are suited for before arranging a consult. You’ll likely have only 15-30 minutes initially, so write down what you want to say and any questions you have BEFORE the call. If you just don’t “click”, that’s OK, just move on to another consultation. Don’t worry about “rejecting” someone…voice actors are used to rejection (more on that in a later post).
Well, one short comment about rejection before we continue: If you are thin skinned and can’t handle rejection, this is NOT the career for you. Just sayin’.
Anyway, actually finding the right coach is going to seem overwhelming at first, I get it. I can’t give you a list of coaches to check out, but I can point you at some resources to help you at least start to weed through some to find the right guy/gal.
Some ideas on how to find a good coach
Well, you can google “Voice Over Coaches” like I just did and you’ll get 124,000,000 results. Yes, One Hundred Twenty-Four MILLION hits on that key phrase. Frankly, while you may learn something from weeding through that search return, it’s going to be like finding a needle in a haystack. YOUR coach may be on page 118,346,298 of the search results and you’ll never find them. Which means you’ll wind up settling for someone who MAY be able to help you and MAY not. It’ll be a crap shoot.
Honestly, the best way to find your coach is through (I know it is a dirty word): Networking. Yep, that’s right, get involved in the voice over community and get to know people. You can get involved by joining groups on social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora and others. Use the search function THERE to search “Voice Over” and you’ll get a ton of results (but NOT 124,000,000). Peruse some of the groups, read the posts and ask to join the ones that “feel” right to you. Search within groups (whatever question you have has probably been answered a couple times already) and if you don’t find the answer ask the group. I’ve found that, for the most part, the voice over community is friendly and helpful. Yeah, there are some buttheads too…but they are pretty rare and you can spot them a mile away.
Remember: This is a journey
It will take some time to find the right person, who is available, but it is well worth it and along the way you’ll make connections and friendships that are sure to last a lifetime.
One note of caution when looking for the training and coaching you’ll need: Be VERY wary of any person or organization that promises to make you a successful voice over artist if you sign up for their amazing program that consists of “X number” of classes or coaching sessions for only $XX.99” (It’s always $XX.99…what’s the deal with that extra $.99?). Everyone’s journey is different, everyone comes to the table with their own skillset and level of proficiency. As in other areas of life, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to training and coaching in voice over. Anyone who guarantees they can make you successful, or prepare you for a professional demo reel, in some pre-defined umber of session has only one goal in mind and that is to separate you from some of your hard-earned cash. Forewarned, is forearmed.
Speaking of demo reels:
One of the first things you are going to want to do is have demo reels produced. Your demo reel is your calling card and should show your range of abilities in a particular genre. So, right…you will want to have a professional demo reel in EACH genre you specialize in! You’ll post your demos to your website (yes, you need to have a website…this IS the 21st century after all. We’ll talk about websites in a later blog episode) and will provide them to auditions (when they don’t need a demo of their copy) and in emails when marketing. Once you have found a genre to concentrate on, and the coach that is right for YOU in that genre, he/she will be able to help you prepare to produce your demo reel.
The demo reel is a :60 montage of 5-6 “spots” in that genre that highlight your talent and range. You’ll want to source your own copy, or if they do it this way, your coach will provide copy for you to include in your reel. You’ll want some contemporary copy that fits you, and is no longer being broadcast. And when I say contemporary, I mean recent…something that will likely be recognizable (depending on genre). The only time your reel should be longer than :60 is if you are producing and Audio Book reel, or eLearning, which are longer form narration genres that require longer demos.
Your coach will be able to help you know when you are ready to actually produce your demo.
One additional note about demos
PLEASE, refrain from producing your own demos. First, it is almost impossible for you to be objective about your performance. You REALLY need an objective ear to listen and direct your performance to make sure you are presenting your very best demo. Further, especially if you are just getting started, you will not be able to engineer the audio in a way that both highlights your strengths and ensure the highest audio quality. Demo production is expensive, because it’s worth it. Check out some demo reels through one of the online casting sites, and you will pretty easily be able to recognize those demos that were self-produced.
Expense versus Investment
A LOT of what we’ve talked about up to this point include a discussion about cost. But as part of cost we need to differentiate and expense from and investment. And expense is something that could be categorized as “the cost of doing business”, for example paying your electric bill and heating fuel. These are things you need to pay no matter what. An investment is something that will, eventually, pay a dividend. Equipment, training and coaching, among others, are investments that will result in a payoff somewhere down the line. As you embark on this voice over journey, keep in mind that you are running a small business, and one of the ways to grow your small business is to invest in it. Your investment includes both time AND money. Remember that all of the items we’ve discussed up to this point do not represent an expense, but an investment. Make sure you are investing in YOU and your voice over business!
Next week we’ll talk about how to start finding work!
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