Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.

“Then you career, from career to career…”

Posted by MikeCooper on February 27, 2009

If my previous post on getting into voiceovers didn’t put you off, and you’re still reading, then I’d say the next thing to think about is what “getting into voiceovers” actually means to you, and how you’re going to fit a career in voiceovers into your life.

What do you want from this? A full-time job which can replace the one you already have? Or something less than that? Just a bit of money on the side, perhaps?

Let’s take the second option first, because that’s the one that people usually seem to opt for, at least publicly, and if only out of a sense of (false) modesty or self-deprecation. If you’re telling yourself that you just want a voiceover career on the side, permit me to suggest to you that you might not be being completely honest with either of us. Are you seriously telling me that you’d rather do what you’re doing now than be a successful Voiceover Artist? If you’re reading this (and haven’t landed here at random) then you’re interested in voiceovers as a career. If you read the previous post and you’re still reading, then you’re convinced you have the talent to make it. And with that amount of interest and all that talent, who really wants to invest the money on equipment and marketing, and the amount of time needed to get anywhere, if all they really want is the occasional voiceover job now and again? No, that doesn’t seem likely to me somehow.

So, I ask you again, what do you really want from this? 

Still happy with the part-time option? OK, at least I got you to think about it. I do feel, however, that most people would at least like to dream of the day where they could leave their existing job behind and make voiceovers a career. It can be done, and the evidence is all around you. But it’s hard work getting there and will most likely take a long time. Most people aren’t going to be lucky enough to walk into a full time voiceover gig with a radio or TV station (yes, I do count these jobs as voiceover jobs, by the way. There may be a big difference between being a radio presenter and a commercial or animation voiceover, but in my swatch-book they’re still shades of the same colour. You’re being paid to talk, after all, and the rewards and satisfaction are, in my experience, much the same…)

Unfortunately, there are challenges, whether you decide on the part or full time option. Here are a couple of things to bear in mind.

The obvious thing, looking from the outside, is to think of starting small and building things up. That approach works really well with making greetings cards or scatter cushions in your spare time, but the thing to watch for in the voiceover business is that you’re going to be dealing with deadlines. The phone will ring (if you’re lucky) and you will be expected to turn up at the allotted time, whether that’s for an audition or for the gig itself. How will you fit these kinds of demands in around your existing commitments? There are too many full time, experienced talents in the market who are available at the drop of a hat for producers to wait around for those that aren’t. Surprisingly though, depending on how you’re going to find your work, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker, and I’ll talk about why not in a later post on finding jobs. But it is something you need to be aware of.

If, on the other hand, you’re aiming for the full time option then you’ve probably already guessed the biggest challenge in making the jump: finding enough work to pay your bills. If you’re lucky, and if you’ve managed to overcome the challenges and build your business gradually, you may come to a point where you decide – either through choice or through force of circumstance – to cut loose and pursue your voiceover career as your main job. If you’re in a position where you’ve been made redundant and you have a pot of gold sitting in your account then you might be tempted to do this.

Don’t. My advice is that, unless you’re already having some success, and can see at least a few opportunities to expand from where you are now, I’d not aim for a full time voiceover career at this stage. Going from a standing start to working as a full time Voiceover Artist takes most people several years. So – unless you’re a captain of industry with a six-figure golden handshake (or you’ve won the lottery, lucky you) – your severance package probably isn’t going to cover you. What, therefore, will you do in this situation to make up the shortfall? And remember: whatever you choose as your “secondary” job will need to be flexible enough for you to run your own diary.

I’ve tried to set you up here by thinking about what’s going to happen when the work starts coming in, so the above doesn’t come as a surprise. Again, nothing here is supposed to put you off – it’s just meant to make you think it through, because the glamourous side of things has to be tempered with practicality. Like I said before – it can be done. I lived through a year in a call centre, and I’m here…

Next time I’ll talk about getting specific on the kind of work you want. Voiceover is a broad church, and finding your niche is going to be your next challenge.

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4 Responses to ““Then you career, from career to career…””

  1. Lea C. said

    I just wanted to drop a comment stating what a neat series of posts this has been regarding starting in the VO industry. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for to supplement my other reading, and to help me keep things in perspective.

    Recently ordered a Marshall MXL 2006 (heard it’s a good start), and am awaiting my very first lesson from a professional. Am looking forward to a simultaneously exciting and terrifying few years ahead of me as I learn the trade. Thank you for your resource!

    – leamichelle of the Voice-Overs.com forums 🙂

    • mikecooper said

      I’m so pleased you’re enjoying it!

      “But wait! There’s more!” …and it will follow in a few days. Incidentally, if there’s anything you want to ask, feel free!

      And do let me know how you get on with your new mic. It’s an exciting time, eh? 🙂

  2. Jonathan Marks said

    Great initiative. I think you’re right to stress that you shouldn’t get into the voice acting business unless…. As a manager at a radio station I used to grade would be presenters as 1. Fantastic…you’re on the air. 2. Potential, with training. 3. Last resort- Only in times of national emergency. Very few were born presenters. In terms of training, we used to recommend people read a news bulletin or poetry to practice, rather than something out of the newspaper. Newspaper prose is difficult to phrase correctly, being written for the eye rather than the ear. You should link to jimcutler.com who is one of the nicest voiceover guys in NYC.

    • mikecooper said

      Thanks Jonathan. I’m quite flattered to have such a respected professional following my blog, and very pleased to hear your comments!

      You’re right on the newspaper copy, though in terms of news sources, the BBC website isn’t too far away from the mark. Also, I think sometimes print ads are good practice material, as they’re written to be direct and unambiguous, like scripted ad copy.

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