5 Ways to Get Hired in Voice Acting

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.

Follow them on Twitter: @JoanTheVoice and @RGaskins1, and like them on Facebook: Rudy Gaskins At Large  and Joan Baker Live.

The Quickest Way to Break into Voice Acting

Recently, the mother of a 10-year-old girl asked us about breaking into voice acting for herself and her daughter. She began her query with, “Can I ask you a quick question?” Like most people who are new to voiceover, she was surprised to learn her “quick question” required a rather involved answer. So, as is often the case, we want to take a step back and answer some of the most basic elements surrounding her question. Voiceover is not an exact skill until it is. By that we mean you have to get into the mix and begin training before you really begin to see what there is to learn and what pertains to you.

Like learning to swim, you have to get into the water. You can’t figure it out by walking around the edge of the pool. One of the key things to learn is the different script genres within the commercial genre, i.e., real person, announcer, spokesperson, character, banter, PSA, etc. There are other genres and they all require different interpretive skills and talents. Promos, audiobooks, character animation, and ADR are the most popular. There’s also comedy and drama to be considered, and some folks may have a knack for one or the other. In addition to knowing the genres, training includes timing, relaxation, projecting a naturalistic tone, microphone technique, releasing inhibitions, and learning to create the world of a script within a lonely, lifeless recording booth. Unlike acting for film, TV or stage, you don’t typically have other actors or props with which to interact. You do it all with your imagination!

Ten years old is not too early to start professional training. All voices are needed at some point and teen voices are quite popular. Just look around at all the teens in commercials on TV. These same commercials often have radio counterparts, as well as a Web component. That’s an abundance of work! A lot of advertising is directed at youth and one thing advertisers understand is that consumers and ads connect better when an ad is delivered on a peer-to-peer basis. In other words, teens like to get information from other teens. Of course there are cases where a teen would want to hear from an adult too, but suffice it to say that there are plenty of voiceover jobs for young voices.

To recap, the way one gets into VO acting is through training with a good coach. (See our article,“Finding The Best Voiceover Teacher For You,” for more on this subject.) We provide reputable services in this regard, but you will otherwise have to do some research by working with several people to see where you find the best fit. Once you have a certain amount of training under your belt, your coach will guide you through the process of creating a demo reel. The demo reel is a critical tool if you’re ever to gain the attention of talent agents, casting directors, and buyers. You will also use your demo reel to showcase yourself to potential buyers you meet in your travels or whom you seek out for employment. It’s important to continue consulting with a coach, but at the very least, to use research and common sense to ensure that you’re operating within a professional production process. If you hear offers like, “Train and get a demo reel in one weekend,” or “four classes and a demo reel,” run for the hills. In fact, anyone who suggest that voice acting is something that can be learned easily or quickly is either a rip-off artist or completely out of the loop. After receiving good training and creating a professional demo reel, you’ll be ready to move forward, meeting agents and casting directors and learning how to promote yourself to buyers. This final marketing step will probably require a coach’s guidance and, in the best possible scenario, will include joining SAG-AFTRA.

  1. Training
  2. Demo Reel
  3. Agent
  4. Marketing
  5. Auditioning
  6. More Training

Oh, and booking jobs along the way.

There you have it. The quickest possible answer to a “quick question.”

 

Follow them on Twitter: @JoanTheVoice and @RGaskins1, and like them on Facebook: Rudy Gaskins At Large  and Joan Baker Live.

8 Tips for Creating Your Voiceover Flight Plan

The best thing about teaching voice acting is what you learn in the process. Teaching can be downright selfish when you consider the wealth of information that pours in from your students as they pursue knowledge, skills, riches, fame, and infamy. What our students have taught us is that with all the talent, enthusiasm, and training in the world, you can’t take off until you have a flight plan. And the dream career is about surveying the landscape for opportunity, reaching greater heights, and being free to spread your creative wings. Our goal as teachers is to take you higher.

Voiceover Flight Plan™
Planning is something most prefer to avoid. It’s a solitary endeavor requiring introspection, research, and resourcefulness. It means sitting down and thinking hard about what’s in front of you, assessing the skills you’ll need to reach your dream, and determining the tools and people you’ll need along the way. Think of your voiceover career like flying a plane. Each stage of your career is simply a new flight path, a new destination, a new view of the rest of your life. With each new destination may come the need for a different kind of aircraft. You must adjust for fuel, baggage weight (That’s a big one), weather conditions, and air traffic. You need a Voiceover Flight Plan™.

Realistic Planning
Don’t make the mistake of thinking of your “flight plan” as an antiseptic, heavily structured matrix that sets you up for failure. A rigid plan is no plan at all. Weather conditions can be unpredictable, so your plan must leave room to improvise. You are your business and you never want to forget that the “you factor” is the most important part of your plan. You’re the face, the voice, and the brand. We teased about “baggage” earlier because it’s valuable to look inward at what there is about ourselves that can be elevated, enlightened, and inspired. Therapy, self-help books, and spiritual guidance can be a lightning rod to reinvention. You may know a million things about yourself, but it’s the one thing you don’t know that will bring down your plane.

Plan Your Display
This is a huge visual poster of your Voiceover Flight Plan™. Your plan will not work as notes scribbled down in a journal. It will not work as an index card taped to the bathroom mirror where you brush your teeth. We’re talking about a billboard—a display that cannot be ignored. If you wanted to ignore it, it should require an enormous effort to do so. Ideally, your display would be out in the open where your friends and family can see it. Not only will this invite supporters and fans, it will engender accountability and raise the stakes. It’s not that you’ve made a promise to be perfect or never slip up, but to honor your commitment to your dream. Clearly, there are forces more powerful than you are. There will be times when you have to land the plane and let the storm pass.

Destination
A good plan begins with a destination. Once you choose your destination you can map out a way to get there. Let’s say your destination is to be the voice of a national TV commercial campaign for Volvo. Great! Let’s get more specific. How much money do you expect to make from this campaign, over what period of time? Sure, it’s all made up at this juncture, but this is how things become real. This is also how you come to terms with the veracity of your plan. The next question will set the tone for your entire plan and every critical lesson you will learn along the way. By when will you arrive at your chosen destination? Let’s say you plan is arrive at this destination in 18 months. Go out and buy some poster boards and colored markers because now the real planning begins.

The Timeline
It’s a simple process from here, except for the fact that our personal baggage tends to get in the way. Otherwise, the timeline, created by answering the next series of questions, enables you to map out the milestones that will track and measure your progress. Measured results are the key to your success.

1. What must you have in place in Month 14 if you are to reach your destination in Month 18?

2. Working backwards, what must you have in place at Month 10 if you are to accomplish what you’ve indicated in Month 14? The same question applies as you move backward through Month 5 and Month 1. You have just mapped out the milestones that will help you to arrive at your final destination.

The Display
So far, everything you’ve done is just in writing. You may want to write down a few more thoughts or milestones to fill in any actions you feel will be needed to ensure success. Now, let’s get on with the arts and crafts. Create your map across one or two sheets of 2×3 poster boards. Everything you write here will also exist in your notebook or journal, but it’s the display that reminds you to stick to it and take action each day. You can find motivating images, quotes, etc., to adorn your display so that you remain inspired.

Committed Co-pilot
Identify a highly responsible, wise, and learned person who is willing to occasionally evaluate your progress. This person does not have to be in the business of voiceover. In fact, it may be better if they are not. The purpose of enlisting a co-pilot is to get an objective opinion on the general status of how you’re fulfilling your plan. Co-pilots must be given full freedom to say and think as they please, to offer their opinion and judgment as they see fit, without any concern for your feelings or rebuttal. Your job is to make it clear to the co-pilot that you want their unfiltered honesty and that you forego any right to challenge their judgment. The co-pilot must know that you are true and honest in this regard. You don’t have to do what they say, but you must listen and seriously consider their input. You must set up a regular monthly meeting with your co-pilot to share your status and hear their response. Remember, you have asked for a considerable commitment from this individual and you must stand by it. That means never missing or being late for the appointments.

Accountability
Be a person of your word at all costs. Plan your work and work your plan. No matter how good an excuse may be, it is still an excuse. Say what you mean and do what you say. It’s easy to dismiss the power of your word, but when you make a practice of standing by it, you will realize that it is not only the most powerful instrument in your arsenal, but the only one that really matters.

Professional voice actors looking for new horizons are very similar to new actors who are just beginning. That is to say, they want the success yesterday. It seems to be human nature. The plan we’ve outlined for you will enable you to see the big career picture from above. With the Voiceover Flight Plan™, you’ll be able to develop practical steps and truthful expectations. 

Follow them on Twitter: @JoanTheVoice and @RGaskins1, and like them on Facebook: Rudy Gaskins At Large  and Joan Baker Live.