Observations on the Ever Changing Voice-Over Acting Landscape – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the article, “Some Observations on the Ever Changing Landscape of Voice-Over Acting.” It will make more sense if you read Part 1 first.

Just Because It’s Easier to Start… Doesn’t Make it Easy to Succeed

Here’s the truth: If I was trying to start my voice-over acting business today, I honestly don’t know how far I would get in that process. Even though access to jobs and opportunities is greatly expanded to the point where virtually anybody can set up a studio and start auditioning for (and hopefully booking) lots of voice-over acting gigs, I actually think it is much harder to “make it” in this business today than it was twenty years ago. And by “make it,” I mean ramp it up to the level where you can make a living at it as your sole source of income.

Just for the record, I am a full-time voice-over talent and have been since the year 2000. Prior to that I supplemented my voice-over acting income with more stage and on-camera acting jobs. While my income has increased over the years, the biggest change and challenge I’ve seen is that I now have to market myself much more aggressively and constantly in order to land the same amount of work. Keeping the marketing engine rolling has become a pretty full-time job all by itself and has necessitated me building a marketing team. Since I am also a full-time Mom, wife, and running a household as well as a VO business, I’ve learned to delegate….a lot.Technology also created much higher Competition in Voice-Over Acting

After all, my professional time is of most value when I am recording. That’s what I get paid to do. The more time spent on marketing, (and blogging, posting to social media, networking, invoicing, and the list goes on…) the less time I have available to do what makes the money. We all need to be wise in how we spend our very limited time on a daily basis. These days I think it is very easy to get caught up in a lot of activities that make you feel busy but which are not ultimately very productive. This is a pitfall I am aware of at all times.

Maintaining Voice-Over Acting Client Relationships

It used to be that I only had to focus on maintaining my relationship with my agents. I’m sure there are still many voice talents who operate that way, but what has naturally evolved for me over the past several years is doing work for more and more clients directly, who find me on the internet or are referred to me. Now it is necessary for me to maintain relationships with a whole bunch of different direct clients and companies, in addition to agencies, casting agents, recording studios, production companies, etc. It’s much more to manage from a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) perspective. I’m always thinking about better ways to serve, stay in touch with and be top-of-mind for my clients’ voice over acting needs.

And, it’s not something I ever thought I’d have to do as a voice-over actor!

I have effectively become my own agent in that I am now almost completely responsible for my own marketing as well as the delivery of my services. If I sat back and waited for jobs to come only through agencies, I would have a lot of free time on my hands that is currently consumed by doing paid work.

It used to be I didn’t have to do much to market myself beyond having a demo, resume, etc. I got to just walk into a studio and be the talent…and then go home. But now, more and more, voice-over talents are forced to wear the marketing hats AND sound engineering hats, as well as the talent hats. That’s a lot of hats!

If you have a background knowledge in marketing, advertising, branding, writing, website construction/maintenance, SEO, in addition to being an awesome voice actor, you will definitely have an advantage in the voice-over business today.

It’s a tremendous amount to manage. Wait a minute, I thought technology was supposed to make my life easier?

So You Still Want to Be a Voice-Over Actor? How About a Voice-Over Entrepreneur?

I recently came across a video created by Paul Strikwerda that very succinctly lays out the reasons to NOT run head-long into a full-time voice-over acting career.

And to further amplify the excellent points Paul makes in his video, I also recently read a wonderful post by Rachel Fulginiti entitled, “Thinking Of A Career In Voice-Over? 10 Key Questions To Evaluate Your Potential” Her article deals more with the personal qualities that are critical if you’re going to become a voice-over entrepreneur — which I think is a much more appropriate term than “talent” these days.

If you aspire to work in voice-over acting, and if after watching this video and reading Rachel’s article, you are still convinced that you have what it takes to make it in this business, then by all means give it a go.

But, contrary to what some people will tell you, especially those who have a vested interest in getting aspiring voice-over talent to pay for start-up voice acting services like demos and classes, this really is a very tough business in which to succeed.

It’s nothing like it was just ten short years ago, and it now requires a lot more than just a great voice-over acting demo and the ability to take direction.

I’m not saying this to discourage aspiring voice talent in order to decrease the competition. I’m saying it because it really is true, and a person should be aware of the upside and the downside before entering into any new career field.

With voice-over acting, much like TV and film acting, it’s easy to ignore the downside and hold onto unrealistic dreams and expectations of “what could be” if things go the way you hope. Especially if all you hear about is the upside.

Again, comparing it to the music business.  Today you can literally be discovered on Youtube (like Justin Bieber was) and have millions of fans who watch your videos and want to hear your music. You can be on the Today Show next week if you happen to put up a video that goes viral. But, there are SO MANY people trying to do just that… Youtube is teeming with all kinds of very talented (and not so talented) people, who are ALL looking to be discovered, or at the very least, be noticed and acknowledged.

Ditto for the voice-over acting business these days. There are tens of thousands of voice-over actors chasing after thousands of voice-over acting job opportunities every day.

Just the thought of jumping into that race without the years of experience and a database full of loyal clients who already know me, feels a bit daunting I must admit. The demands created by constantly changing technology force all voice-over acting talents to embrace change at every turn. It’s both scary and exhilarating, and in the big scheme of things, it makes for a very interesting and challenging profession.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” — Alan Watts

 has been in the voice-over acting profession for more than 20 years. She has collaborated on thousands of projects and partnered with hundreds of production companies, marketing and advertising firms, commercial voice-over recording studios and corporate/business clients around the United States and throughout the world. Check out her Voice-Over Acting Demos and request a Voice-Over Services Quote for an upcoming project.

10 comments on “Observations on the Ever Changing Voice-Over Acting Landscape – Part 2

  1. Debbie Grattan on

    Dustin – thank you SO very much! Indeed, since I get inquiries frequently from people wanting to jump into this business with the idea that it’s easy money, made from home, with little start up, it’s important to be clear about the business aspect, and what is required for ANY level of success. And the winds keep shifting, bringing new things to the table, so it requires one to really stay at the cutting edge.

    One thing I also wanted to say was that it took me YEARS to have the income necessary to be able to delegate so many aspects of the marketing of the biz to others. When one is just starting out, it is necessary to wear ALL the hats (talent, R&D, Marketing, website design, engineer, AP, etc.) so it can be enough to overwhelm even the most savvy business person, much less an actor, coming to the table with some talent, but little to no development in the business side of what’s necessary to be viable and actually make money! That’s really key. We can all act for free until the end of time, but that doesn’t pay our bills! Thanks again for your comment!

  2. Debby Barnes on

    Aww…Debbie, thanks for the Part 2, heads-up. This was a winner as well. And tying things up with: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” — Alan Watts was ingenious. Keep sowing, growing + glowing! 🙂

  3. Debbie Grattan on

    Debby B – Thanks for staying with me for part 2. I’ll keep the “sow, grow, glow” as my motto!

  4. Paul Strikwerda on

    Thank you for taking a closer look at the way the voice-over world has been transformed in the past few years. Some things have changed for the better. Others for worse.

    I enjoy working in my own sound booth in my own time, but I miss walking into a studio and collaborating with a director and an engineer. Freelance life can get quite lonely, every now and then.

    Even though I would not discourage anyone to follow his or her passion, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to become a voice actor either. Our society has greater needs, and with sliding rates across the board, it’s getting harder and harder to earn a living wage.

    Hobbyists are competing with seasoned pros on a level playing field, and customers care less and less about quality. We auction off our voices as if we’re selling a commodity, and clients benefit when colleagues compete for the lowest bid. Audio book royalty shares are cut and membership fees for voice casting sites are going up.

    The landscape is definitely changing. As I say in my video: “A voice-over career is like a microwave meal. The picture on the box looks great, but what’s inside does not come close to what you see on the outside.”

  5. Debbie Grattan on

    Paul S. – you are ever eloquent and succinct in crystalizing my very own thoughts in your words. Thanks for your contribution here, with your video AND your additional comments. Always a welcome addition!

  6. Juliette Gray on

    Debbie, great insight. It’s important to understand where you are in your life and career from a historical perspective. I agree with Paul about the lonely aspect of doing everything from home. In LA we can get out to outside studios more and be directed, have contact with other humans, but it’s more and more becoming home. It’s taken me a long time to accept marketing as part of the job and I welcome being too busy to do it but realize its a necessity despite how busy we are. You give an excellent perspective and it’s always welcome.

  7. Debbie Grattan on

    Thank you for your comments, Juliette. I suppose in life, everything is about framing things. There are always at least two sides of perspective, and where there’s a will there’s a way. I try to find the things I like most about my work, and focus the majority of my attention there. The marketing aspect can have elements of fun in it for me too, (i.e. blogging is still a creative process) but I’m glad to have regular asssitance in that arena, so that it doesn’t just become a drag.

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