What are the secrets behind being a successful professional voice over talent?
This is a question I am asked regularly, and I also see it often in online voice over talent groups and forums.
Of course, there are no real secrets. The idea of a “secret” anything is usually just a tactic used to sell more books, seminars, etc.
In my experience, I’ve found there are only one thing you can do to become a successful professional voice over talent and that one thing isn’t the same for everyone. Do things that work for you and take you closer to your goal of being a successful professional voice over talent. Do things that don’t work for you and take you further away from your goal of being a successful voice talent.
I’ve shared my own tips and “secrets” before, and I know that nothing that I share will work for everyone who applies it. Well, almost nothing…
That’s because the art of voice over is just that—an art, not a science. It’s also a business, and there ARE many tried and true business practices that DO work for nearly anyone who uses them.
How I became a Successful Female Voice Over Talent
As I read voiceover stories online, and hear about people struggling to book voiceover jobs or find an agent, I recall my own struggles that were part of my path in the early years. It wasn’t easy, but I was enjoying the journey, so it didn’t seem like a struggle to me.
Believe it or not… I actually didn’t set out to become a female voice over talent. Having a career as a “voice over talent” wasn’t even on the map back then (early 1990’s) as a possibility for more than a tiny few lucky people. Generally, the only people who could make money doing voiceover work were people who had direct access to professional recording studios or connections and/or agents to get into those studios to record actual paying gigs. This was all before the days of home recording studios and the internet.
I remember when I was sent on my first voiceover audition, I didn’t really know what to expect or what it was about at all. But, being a young, passionate, hungry-for-work actress in Southern California, I was up for anything (well, almost anything) that might lead to more opportunities to hone my craft and make a few bucks. Most of my work was for on-camera jobs, live spokesperson gigs, stage work, and the traditional actor jobs that I knew existed.
I had an Agent who encouraged me to audition for Voice Over Talent and I soon discovered after a couple of successful voiceover jobs that I had a natural aptitude for it. So I started intentionally pursuing more opportunities in voiceover auditions and workshops, asking my agents to send me out on more of those kinds of gigs when they came along. Over time I got to know many producers and studio contacts in Orange County, Los Angeles and even San Diego. That’s how it all started for me. But that path to success isn’t even an option in today’s world.
How to make it as a Voice Over Talent Artist
If I were to write a book about how to make it as a voice over talent, and rely on my experience of how I made it as the blueprint, my book would be irrelevant for anyone wanting to become successful today.
In fact, back then, when I told someone what I did, they looked at me with that head-cocked look you see puppies make: “A what…?” So, then I’d explain “You know when you watch a TV commercial or listen to a radio commercial, there is someone speaking but you don’t necessarily see them or know who they are? Well, I get paid to speak the words for situations like that.”
Now when I mention that I am a female voiceover artist, what I usually here is: “Oh yeah, my friend/cousin/neighbor is doing voice overs! Maybe they could call you so you can give them some advice about how to be more successful?” Ah, Sure… but there is a nominal $350 per hour “brain-picking fee.” I take checks, credit cards and PayPal. Joking aside, the advice I always give to anyone thinking they should go into this business is simple…
Take a few workshops from reputable voiceover casting companies or agencies in large metropolitan areas, and notice how you feel after you do that.
Determine how much authentic natural talent you have, and how much heart-felt desire and willingness you have to hone and perfect your talent and ability over the next 10+ years.
The truth is, being a voice over talent isn’t the right job for most people—just like being a doctor, an insurance agent or florist isn’t the right job for most people. We each have to discover which jobs are the right fit for us as individuals with our own unique strengths, talents, abilities and interests.
If after reading all that, you’re still saying, “Ok, I get it… But how do I become more successful as a voice over talent??!” Keep reading for my tips, but don’t get your hopes up too high because they are very common sense things that often get ignored.
I’ve written several voiceover business articles on this topic, so I recommend you check them out as well. Of course there is a ton of information on the internet from a range of reputable sources as well as people who don’t have a clue about what they are writing. Part of the learning curve is figuring out who’s accurate, and who’s not.
As I said earlier: if there were ever any voiceover “secrets,” they are out of the bag by now and someone has found a way to get paid for sharing them.
The business suggestions are still very important to remember and often overlooked. Assuming you have reached some level of talent, a desire to do the work, the ability to interpret copy in multiple ways, and so on, then here is my short list of, “What works for me and helps me be a more successful voice over talent.”
It’s all about connecting with the Voice Over Client, and then becoming extremely valuable to them.
So, how do you that?
You always do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
You always are professional and courteous to people you are dealing with.
You always return emails and phone calls quickly.
You are always pleasant to work with.
You always deliver your voice files on or ahead of schedule.
You always under-promise and over-deliver.
You are available to discuss the style of the voice over, or hold a phone patch session with the client to give them what they want.
You are always focused on giving them what they want and being of service to their needs. It’s not about you. It’s about them and helping them get what they need to complete their project.
You always follow-up with your clients afterward, to make sure they were satisfied with your work, and ask for a copy, if possible, for your library of work. You ask them for permission to add them to your database, so you can stay in touch.
You compile a database, which you continue to update with new contacts. This is your most valuable marketing resource.
You have an actual marketing strategy in place, to maintain your connections with your contacts.
Those last two bullet points are a big KEY to building your professional voice over business, and are probably the most overlooked by voiceover actors. Anyone can voice one commercial spot, if they are invited, or have a connection. But keeping business flowing to keep up a flourishing career takes time, energy and smarts. You have to be up to the task, and keep pushing. It’s never-ending.
Great connections lead to referrals, which are critical in this business. It’s all about connection and relationships.