The world of voice-over may be drawing you in with its bright promise of exciting work, big bucks and loads of fame to come. But like any other industry, a voice-over career has a slightly dimmer side that comes with the territory.
If you’re in the midst of making a decision to jump off into the pool of voice-over actors to determine if it’s right for you, you will want to answer these five questions to ensure you’re truly prepared to climb up on that diving board.
The first question deals with an overview of your intent, while the next four gauge your overall readiness to enter the industry by examining how prepared you are to deal with specific aspects of a voice over career.
1. What is My Purpose For Having a Voice-Over Career?
Yes, a voice-over career sounds cool. But that’s typically not a strong enough reason to dive into it with abandon. Here you’d be smart to dig deep to understand what you’re really looking to get out of your voice-over profession. Perhaps you want:
• A full-time career
• A little extra money
• A creative outlet
• A replacement for your existing job
• Fame and recognition
• Impress friends, family and colleagues
• Achieve success
• Any combination of the above
If your reasons for entering the voice-over arena include achieving success, you’ll again want further clarification. What does success in voice-over mean to you? And how will you know when you’ve nabbed it?
The only way you’ll reach your ultimate goals in your voice-over career is to know what those goals actually are. If you have a solid idea of why you’re getting into VO, feel free to move on to the next question.
2. Am I ready to deal with rejection?
Rejection is a huge part of any type of acting career, so we may as well put this question up near the top of the list. Once you start moving forward with auditions, you may find only one to two percent of the jobs you auditioned for end up becoming a paid booking – and that could be a high estimate!
It’s not uncommon for voice-over talents to send out audition after audition after audition and not see a single job for an entire year. Startling, but true.
The amount of rejections you may receive depend on several factors both within and out of your control. Those within your control include your skill level and experience. Those outside of your control include your gender, the competition, (both in volume and expertise) and what the voice seeker specifically wants to hear, which is a mixed and changing bag that can largely depend on the “mood of the day” of the person reviewing the auditions.
Related Post: “5 Ways Mentally Strong People Deal With Rejection”
A good word of advice is to try to find someone to hire you at the level and locality where you already are. Instead of immediately pitting yourself against career voice-over talents who have already established themselves and understand the marketplace, look into local production companies, and/or local radio and TV commercial opportunities.
You can also scout out e-learning or narration gigs for companies that need that type of ongoing work, and may be willing to hire someone new at a slightly lower rate.
3. Am I ready to go with the flow, whatever that flow may be?
Going with the flow in the voice-over industry means being highly adaptable to whatever may come your way… And adaptability is a must on several levels.
Every day in your voice-over career is going to be a little different, so you need to be flexible enough to accommodate an ever-changing schedule. This can mean adjusting work hours to meet deadlines, and weekends to meet work loads.
It can also mean adapting your acting abilities to meet the jobs that come down the pike. Are your acting skills savvy enough to play a harried mom one minute and a doctor sharing important medical information the next?
Adapting your budget is another must in the voice-over business. Going with the flow in acting work often means being able to survive when there is no flow of work coming in. Lean periods are typically part of the deal, and it’s essential to have a backup plan so you can still pay the mortgage or buy your kids new shoes.
Even when you establish a good foothold with clients that bring you repetitive work, you need to be constantly auditioning and looking for new gigs, as you never know when that repetitive work may dry up. With more than 22 years in the industry, I’ve seen voice-over clients come and go. In some cases, I’ve had accounts that used to pay tens of thousands per year dwindle down to nothing. Not because of anything I did wrong. Business models change. Markets change. Change is constant, in everything, so you have to adapt.
Going with the flow means ensuring the flow keeps coming. It’s always a good plan to consistently bring in new clients while maintaining the clients you already have. It’s also prudent to set up a nest egg in the form of a generous savings account, or other form of investing.
4. Am I ready to make substantial investments without guarantee of reward?
Speaking of generous savings accounts, investing in professional workshops, technology and studio equipment are typically a MUST to get started. A soundproof booth is essential for high-quality results. If you don’t have your own home recording studio, you’ll need to find nearby accommodations. And you’ll also have to adjust your schedule (and perhaps your clients’ as well) to be available when the studio is.
Additional investments of time and effort are also required. Sending out auditions daily, creating professional voice-over demos and learning new skills are part of the deal. Acting skills are one category, but you’ll also need to learn about technology, business, marketing and trends in all of the above.
The investment of time, effort and money don’t stop once you’re established in the industry, either. There are always new technologies to learn, website updates to make, marketing materials to create, print or email, subscriptions and memberships to maintain, blogs to write, branding to strengthen and bills to pay.
The adage says it takes money to make money, and this is definitely true in the voice-over industry. But it can also be a tricky adage to follow when there’s no money coming in at the onset of a fledgling voice-over career.
5. Am I ready to spend loads of time working alone?
Many voice-over folks I know end up talking to themselves – a lot. That’s because there’s seldom anyone else around during our workdays, spent in our soundproof booths. While you can certainly interact with clients through phone patches, or attend workshops and industry events that put you in contact with other voice-over actors, and the surrounding community of the VO industry, a good bulk of your time is going to be spent flying solo.
In most instances (unless you’re working with a recording studio that will take your audio and create the mix on their end) you alone are responsible for producing the entire recording, inclusive of creating the vocal sound, ( i.e. being your own director,) editing the final audio, and delivering the final results.
People who are used to being in an environment with a lot of social interaction may be in for a rude awakening when they realize how rarely many VO actors (especially those working from remote-location, home studios) actually connect with the outside world during a work week. This particularly holds true if you’re not in a large metropolitan city that offers opportunities to record or audition live, or even interact with others, except via email and maybe a quick phone call. The learning curve for voiceover self-direction, not only in the booth, but in general solo-preneurship duties, is a steep one to navigate.
Ready or Not?
If you’ve clearly outlined your purpose, your definition of success, and your readiness to deal with all the side effects that come with a voice-over career, then congratulations! You may be primed to get up on that diving board and take the plunge.
If you remain hesitant about any of the issues, you may want to spend some more time pondering your next move. Strategizing for success can also help, with an honest review of your strengths and weaknesses so you can capitalize on the former and get help with the latter.
Being an entrepreneur with your own voice-over business can be exciting, fun and terrifying all at once. But it also takes time, money, resources, knowledge – and a good amount of faith. You need to have faith in your abilities, faith you made a well-informed decision and faith you’ll be able to go with the flow, whatever that flow may be.
Debbie Grattan has been a working actor for most of her adult life, and a successful professional voice-over talent since the mid 1990’s. Check our her many diverse voice-over demos and portfolio of hundreds of video samples to get to know Debbie’s sound.
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