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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.

Do You Have the Right Stuff for Voice Acting?

Many people who come to us for voiceover training ask if they can begin with an assessment to determine if they have the right stuff to be successful. It’s a fair question to ask, but it belies the opportunity for a fuller investigation that is best conducted by the student. Some people have a knack for voice acting and that’s easy to see on the surface. For others, the knack doesn’t emerge until the student puts in a certain amount of work under the appropriate guidance. Sometimes it takes time to tease out an individual’s potential, and some people quit before that happens.

Still the question is fair. People get into voice acting to earn a living and they want to know if they’re making a good investment. Most can accept finding out that they’re not cut out for it, but few can swallow the idea that a voiceover teacher took all their money while having no faith in the possibility of their success. 

After more than 20 years of teaching voice acting and tracking the careers of our clients, we’ve come to realize that the question of whether you can succeed is best answered by the student. In all honesty, the best thing the teacher can do for a student, by way of assessment, is to identify which skills must be developed to fulfill the requirements of the job. Of course, this leads to another question: “How long will it take for me to learn the necessary skills?” We’ve rendered estimates in this regard, but only after working extensively with the student, getting to know them, and empowering them in the process of determining their readiness. 

Your potential to be successful in voiceover, or any field, requires personal attributes which a teacher cannot know without working with you over time. Will you do the practice, the homework, and the vocal drills? Will you consistently show up for training and give your all to the process? As teachers, we don’t tell students what they can’t do. We point to what there is to do and show you how to do it. 

When you think about it, it takes quite a bit of arrogance to tell someone what they cannot become. The great Misty Copeland is a perfect example. Here’s the body of one of the rejection letters she received at age 13: “Thank you for your application to our ballet academy. Unfortunately, you have not been accepted. You lack the right feet, Achilles tendons, turnout, torso length, and bust. You have the wrong body for ballet, and at 13, you are too old to be considered.” Just about two weeks ago, 19 years later, Copeland became the first African American to be named a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater. Clearly, something inside her— something the teachers could not readily see—kept her fire alive and allowed her to blaze her own trail.

We highly recommend that you explore all your questions with your teacher, but we strongly encourage the voiceover student to look within. To that end, we’ve provided a simple, multiple choice quiz that will help you examine your inner conversation about succeeding in voice acting. The only requirement is that you’re honest with yourself when you answer the questions. Once you submit your answers, you will receive a general evaluation that may help you determine what’s next for your career.

Click the icon below to take the quiz.

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.