When we talk about getting hired, we’re referring to solid, quality jobs that pay good money. Voice actors invest heavily in training, equipment, and the pursuit of employment and they deserve a fair living. But the quality of the employment is also determined by the seekers. Some job seekers are less concerned with fair pay than just getting hired. Some undercut fair wages (including themselves in the long run) in order to snag the crumbs offered by unscrupulous producers. Are you a crumb snatcher? One rule of thumb, readily available at sagaftra.org, is the union rates. Our advice is to never settle for less than union rates, though you may often negotiate better.
Here are five ways to help yourself get hired as a voice actor.
1. Self-evaluation. What type of work best suits your current skills? What kind of work does your agent send your way? What you think and what your agent thinks may differ. You should try to get on the same page through honest dialogue with the agent. Agents deal with a lot of talent and can’t keep up with all that each one is capable of doing. You have to find ways to demonstrate your range to your agent in a way that she will keep you in mind for additional opportunities. By working with great VO coaches, you may be able to improve areas in which you are already successful and expand your repertoire in new areas. Get your bookings up.
2. Marketing. Marketing can be a great asset to your career, but only if you’re ready to deliver when the phone rings. Preparation comes first and no amount of marketing can overcome an ill-prepared actor. Don’t assume that you can do marketing on your own. Marketing is a skill that requires vast experience. Work with a professional marketer who understands one-person operations and is capable of delineating your community of interest—or potential customers. One of the mistakes voice actors make is trying to impress each other, rather than the actual buyers. By buyers, we mean creative directors, casting agents, talent agents, ad agency executives, TV network producers and video game developers. You must learn what drives these professionals, what their day-to-day work life is like, what they look for in vocal performances, and how they like to be contacted.
3. Learning never stops. The routine of professional athletes is a good guide for voice actors to follow. Athletes recognize that they must continually seek personal improvements and adjustments. The primary way athletes stay out in front is their commitment to the coaching process. You will stretch yourself further and achieve beyond your dreams when you have a dedicated coach nurturing your growth, challenging you, and encouraging you to challenge yourself. Just because you’re a one-person act doesn’t mean you’re a one-person business. Build a team.
4. If you think small, you’ll be small. One of the most honest things one of our students said to us was that he was content with the possibility of making enough money doing voiceover work to cover his investment and work on a few small projects that might come his way. He didn’t see himself in the same league as the biggest VO talents. Even though they, like him, started from zero, he didn’t even see himself in the picture. This attitude represents a lot of people. Get out of your own way. You won’t impress any agents, casting directors, or buyers with insecurities and small goals. If you think small projects, you’ll get small projects. If you think network campaigns, national commercials, and signature projects, you’ll find voiceover glory.
5. Focus on improving performance. It’s often been said that the general rule of thumb for booking jobs is one for every 20 auditions. This is hardly an iron-clad fact, but it’s a useful guide to help you gauge your progress. The cultivation of your performance skills must be your primary focus. If you’re not booking, then something may need to change. How you rehearse, prepare, and train (what you bring to the booth) is the one thing you have control over. If you’re not booking at least one out of 20, then something may be missing. A good agent or coach will be able to give you some insight and it may not be pretty. If you want the truth, you have to create a comfort zone for your agent to share the truth. It won’t happen if you’re uptight, nervous, and overly sensitive. In sports, it’s a common occurrence for an athlete to completely rebuild aspect of his mechanics. Golfers and baseball players, for example, are known for rebuilding their swings. This works for voice actors as well, and it’s a good thing to consider if you’re not booking auditions with some regularity.