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.
  • Advertisements

Posts Tagged ‘getting started’

“Will work for $25” – or, How Low Will You Go?

Posted by MikeCooper on April 2, 2009

There’s been some talk in the Voiceover Blogosphere this week about that which is the root of all evil: money. We Limeys generally think it’s vulgar to discuss it, but fortunately the Yanks are on hand to put paid to such nonsense…

First up, EdgeStudio, the voice-over training and production company, published their advice on the rate card as they see it, listing ballpark figures in US Dollars for various types of voiceover job. It comes with the following caveat:

“Edge Studio put together the following rates as pure suggestions. It is meant to reflect average and realistic dollar amounts being fairly charged within the industry. PLEASE USE THIS ONLY AS A GUIDE – RATES VARY from city to city, client to client, job to job, and voice talent to voice talent.”

Nonetheless, it makes an interesting starting point. The article was then picked up by Voice-Over Extra. Both Voices.com and Voice123.com also make their thoughts clear with their own guides to industry rates.

Then secondly, Stephanie Ciccarelli of Voices.com posted an interesting article on her Facebook page here, which also got me thinking.

Of course, for the benefit of anyone reading this Stateside, we’re talking about “Non-Union” rates: SAG and AFTRA have their own, very firm, ideas on pricing for sessions, usage, residuals (ah, remember those?) and so on, and they aren’t negotiable. The thing is, here in the UK we’re not subject to the same union pressures, and Equity doesn’t have the same grip on the voiceover business as the American unions seem to (possibly a good thing, if Equity’s paltry rates for commercial radio are anything to by – but that’s another story).

All the same, the rise of online voice directories – though they may be your friend, if you’re starting out – means a huge rise in the number of non-union people, both in the US and elsewhere, pitching for work and not necessarily knowing what to charge for it.

It’s very tempting, especially if you’re trying to get a foot in the door of voiceover work, to price the job as low as you think you need to in order to get the producer to say “yes.” But anyone who adopts this approach risks two things: one is that they reduce their rate to the point where they can’t make a living, and the second is that they begin to drive down the perceived acceptable rate for the industry as a whole. After all, if Gary Greatpipes has just voiced your TV documentary for £50, why would I then want to pay Mike Cooper £500 next time around?

Now, if you’re a casual reader and you’re just picking yourself up off the floor at the idea of me making £500 (about $720 at today’s conversion) for voicing an hour-long documentary, you may think I’m the one with the loose grip on reality. After all, I’m only talking, right? But the thing here is that I might only get one of these £500 jobs in several weeks. On a quiet week it might be the only job I do… If I’d charged £50 for it, that means I have to find ten of them to pay the same amount. And that’s a lot of work. Literally. Put it this way: ten one-hour documentaries should each take me about ninety minutes to two hours to voice. Two hours is what producers generally allow, so that means my ten documentaries will take up twenty man-hours, or about half a week in working terms. If I’ve sold that time for £50, that means I’m now working at below minimum wage!

OK, I appreciate that my figures above seem extreme. But there are people in this day and age that are prepared to go low – really low – on rates, and I just don’t think that’s either right, or sustainable.

It’s important that you go into this business with clear ideas about the income you need in order to make a go of it, then stick to them. The idea of pricing yourself low to start with, then working up to the bigger fees is fraught with danger. Why should those hard-won clients who paid you $25 last month suddenly start paying you $250 six months later? They won’t see the logic. Sure, your technique may have improved. But improved tenfold? If they really thought you could improve tenfold then they probably wouldn’t be hiring you in the first place (they’d be hiring the guy who was quoting $250…)

There are two problems here (actually, let’s reframe that and call them “challenges” – it fits my outlook better):

Number one: Prices will inevitably come down as a result of a larger market. “Voice seekers” – as the online directories have termed them – are looking for savings, and rightly expect that a Voiceover Artist working from a home studio should be able to undercut the cost of recording in a “professional” studio with an engineer and the associated overheads. But that Voiceover Artist would probably be being paid at least £200/$300 an hour, and the seeker would be paying studio costs on top of that. Why should they expect to get the talent cheaper than their “show-and-go” rate when the talent is recording and editing in their own studio, for which the seeker probably isn’t paying anything at all?

Number two: there are more voice seekers than ever before. The market for voiceover is growing hugely as everyone wants a voice for their eLearning project, computer program, phone system, Flash video or whatever. These seekers are largely, and through no fault of their own, uneducated about that they should expect to pay. Recently I’ve been signed up to a few “virtual outsourcing” websites (like eFreelancer, GetAFreelancer, EUFreelance, and so on), just to see what’s around. I saw a job yesterday where the client wanted twenty separate reads, in twenty separate files, and – although they’d parked the job in the $50-$250 range – they stated in the text that they wanted to pay $2 per file. That, my friend, is just barking mad. No one can earn a reasonable living at those kind of rates, and these voice seekers need to be educated about what is, and isn’t, realistic.

Fortunately, I have two responses to these “challenges”, and the first is to think a little about how people do business.

Clients, in any sphere of business, don’t automatically want to buy the cheapest option. They want the best deal on the finest product they can get. This is true whether you’re buying a cup of coffee (why do I pay over £2 in Starbucks when the guy in the kebab van will sell me one for 60p?), whether you’re shopping for a new car, or whether you’re buying voiceover services. If the client needs a voiceover, then they need a voiceover. They’ll have budgeted for a voiceover, and that budget stands a good chance of being somewhat higher than the $25 that’s on the table. And if it’s not, then who’s got the problem with reality? The Voice Actor who says “Sorry, that’s not realistic remuneration for my time and services”, or the client who needs to revise their budgetary aspirations? $25 is their opening offer, and of course they’ll be “quids in” (to use the Limey vernacular) if you’re naïve enough to accept the offer. But we’re not living in the “Land of the Stupids”, so wise up.

Business works on the principle that one party has something the other doesn’t, and is prepared to pay to get it. If you’re a professional Voiceover Actor, then you have not one, but two things they need: a great voice and the vocal chops to lift their words off the page in a way that engages their audience – in other words, their own customers. If Joe from Marketing could do that himself, he wouldn’t be hiring a Voice Talent (we’re called “talent” for a reason, y’see…) Ask yourself the question: what is the potential net worth, in sales terms – in taking the message to the audience – of hiring a professional Voiceover Artist to read the script, rather than doing it for nothing in-house? Again, I’m willing to bet that it’s more than $25.

There may be a “challenging economic climate” out there (I’m not doing the recession, remember?) But ultimately, your voice track might be all that’s standing between where your client is now, and where they want to be. Where would they be without it? You’re selling, remember, so maybe you should point that out, in the nicest terms, of course…

And what if they decide to pass, and to go to the next guy who will do it for $25? Simple. Let it go. Clients will learn eventually that a $25 voiceover sounds like a $25 voiceover. But this will only happen if the rest of us maintain that grip on reality I mentioned earlier.

Before this gets too “ranty”, I’ll close – with an impassioned plea to my fellow Voiceover Artists.

Professional Voice Talents need to stick together and not devalue the worth of our product. We need to be realistic about our costs, and be prepared to ride it out. Otherwise there’s no future in this business. We’re not selling “widgets” here, where we can undercut to break even: all we have to sell is our time. When all you’ve got to sell is your time, you need to put a realistic value on it. Lawyers, doctors and other consultants wouldn’t sell an hour of their time for $25. Their skillsets are, of course, very different, but your own unique skills are just as desirable to your own potential clients as are those of the other professionals I’ve mentioned.

So… DON’T sell yourself short. KNOW your talent. BELIEVE in its worth. And be prepared to CHARGE accordingly.

Comments, as always, are very welcome!


Posted in Freelancing, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , | 14 Comments »

Voice directories – your key to getting started?

Posted by MikeCooper on March 20, 2009

We’re coming to the end of this short series on getting started in voiceovers. I promised that before we finished I’d take a look at how to find work, and I also said I’d give you a tip on how you might find work that fitted around your schedule, if you weren’t working as a full time Voiceover Artist. It’s my belief that this is where the online voice directories might become your new best friends.

I’m talking about sites like Voice123.com and Voices.com (though there are plenty of others). A lot has been written elsewhere about the usefulness and efficacy of these directories, so I’m not going to do that again here. Suffice to say that plenty of people complain that they never get the gig, while others can’t praise them highly enough and claim to be working virtually non-stop. You will have your own experience if you choose to use them. The fact that you generally have to have a paid subscription in order to take part in castings on these sites has led to them becoming known, somewhat derogatorily, as “Pay-to-Play” sites, and a lot of voice talents don’t like that model. For them it goes against the grain to pay a subscription in order to audition for a job they statistically stand little chance of getting. In fact, the long-standing advice is “never pay to audition”, and the very idea is enough to enrage some actors.

The bottom line is that each of these sites allows you to set up a profile, along with audio clips and demos, and then to audition for work. Hell, you can even use one of these sites as your own website if you haven’t got one (check out mine here and here – I did this for a year or so until I got my website set up properly). Each time a job is posted that fits your profile, you can opt to be notified by email, prepare an audition and submit it.

Here’s the key for the new Voiceover Artist: this doesn’t happen in real time. There’s always a delay. Now granted, there’s nothing to stop someone picking an early audition and closing off the project early, and if you consistently audition at the last minute you may fall foul of some of the metrics used in the automated system, but I think this gives you the opportunity to respond in your own time to jobs without having to drop everything the minute the phone rings. Most projects run their course and many projects don’t even get cast for a while after they’re closed, so although the owners of the sites may furrow their brows at me here, I’m suggesting that you apply when it suits you.

A couple of things to bear in mind, though:

Firstly, only audition for jobs that you honestly think suit your voice and your talents. It’s so easy to take a scatter-gun approach and audition for everything. If you do that, you’re wasting not only your time but that of the voice seeker too. You’ll get better at judging as time goes on, but don’t use the auditioning model to rehearse. You won’t get feedback and critique; you’ll just piss people off. By all means print out the scripts of everything you get sent and use them for practice, but don’t audition unless you really think you can “nail it”.

And secondly, remember that these services are very, very busy with jobs – especially in the US. The number of jobs is outweighed only by the number of prospective talents applying. You may get nowhere fast, but remember that it’s a numbers game. If you’re doing everything right; if your demo is technically good; and – most importantly – if you’re what the producer wants today, then you stand a fair chance of getting the gig. Bear in mind though that recouping the cost of your subscription may take time, and I can’t guarantee of course that it will be an investment that works for you.

All of that said, though, what the voice directories do give you is a way of not having to be at the end of the phone and ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice. The jobs often require the talent to record and edit at home, rather than attend a session at a fixed time, too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series on getting starting in voiceovers as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Thanks for reading, and for your comments (you can leave yours below). If there’s anything else you’d like to see discussed here, drop me a line!

Posted in Freelancing, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

If you build it, they will come…

Posted by MikeCooper on March 17, 2009

So, you still want to get into voiceovers, eh? Assuming that you’re following this series; that you’ve given some thought to the kind of work you want to do; and that you’ve been working on getting your voicey skills up to snuff, you’re going to have to take the plunge and buy some recording gear. Yes, it’s time to build your first studio!

A few years ago this would have cost you around £15,000 (about $20,000 at the current conversion), and a few years before that it would have been unthinkable: not just because of the prohibitive cost, but because voiceover artists roamed the land (or at the very least, Soho) auditioning and recording in professional recording studios.

So what changed? Several things in fact, in a short space of time. Technology has a habit of getting cheaper, year-on-year, and the area of professional audio is no exception. By the mid-1990s it was possible, with the kind of sums I mentioned above, to kit yourself out with a microphone, a studio-grade tape machine, a mixer and so on and to record at home. But what really made it a viable option for voice talents and producers was that ISDN lines became available. In the UK, this changed the landscape virtually overnight. In parts of the US too, but not perhaps to the same widespread degree it did here. Suddenly the days of the travelling, jobbing voiceover, doing sessions in different parts of the country on different days of the week, were over. Voiceovers moved increasingly into the world of the home worker.

ISDN for Dummies – a quick primer…

ISDN lines are basically digital phone lines – they’re the same copper pairs between you and the exchange (or “switch”), but without all the DTMF signalling gubbins and A/D converters that you need to handle speech and connect an analogue phone. ISDN gives 2 data circuits, each carrying 64Kbps of data. These can be used in various configurations, and in the days pre-broadband, this was as fast as the information superhighway got – for those who could afford it.

Anyway, that’s all besides the point (yes, there is a point): bonding your two 64K “bearers” together means you get 128Kbps, and by using a variant of the MPEG audio codec – usually Layer 2 – 128Kbps mono is just about enough for carrying broadcast-quality speech, thank you very much and goodnight.

But we’re a long way off installing an ISDN line – assuming you ever need one at all. So, file everything you’ve just learned under “Useful Trivia” and rejoin the group, Grasshopper…

While all of this was going on, the PC on your desktop, each time you upgraded, was growing in power exponentially. Suddenly the tape machine was a museum piece: with a decent sound card and a suitably large and fast hard drive, the desktop PC could do all that tape could do, and oh so much more besides. Editing used to mean cutting blocks, chinagraph pencils and single-sided razor blades. Then along came the fledgling versions of what would later become programs like Pro Tools and Adobe Audition. In their infancy they were basic and clunky, but in next to no time Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) were replacing 1/4″ tape editing forever.

Fast-forward to today, and the home studio consists of just a few basic building blocks:

  • a microphone
  • a mic amplifier (also called a “preamp” or “mic pre”)
  • an analogue to digital converter (which could be a sound card or an external USB/Firewire device)
  • a computer with recording software
  • a suitable space to record in
  • a way of monitoring what you’ve recorded

…plus the stands, cables and so on to connect them all together. Let’s take all that bit by bit. You may require a packed lunch, but stick with me and I promise it’ll all be worthwhile in the end.

Where’s the mixer, Dad?

Purists will be throwing their hands in the air at this point and demanding to know why I’m not suggesting you buy a mixing desk. Simple: you don’t need one. You might never need one (I still don’t have one…)

You’re in the business, at this stage, of recording voice, and voice alone. At this stage commercial production or mixing soundtracks are not, I’m assuming, your main priority. And even if they are, you’d be surprised how many people now perfect their mix in software, rather than by what I lovingly refer to as “fader-waggling”. Even Apple’s complimentary copy of Garageband will do more than you think.

So… don’t muddy the water. Don’t spend more than you need to. You can always add a mixer to the, er, mix, later.

The Microphone

For our purposes, there are two basic types of microphone: condensers and dynamics (there are also “ribbon mics”, but we’ll ignore them for the purposes of this seminar). Dynamics power themselves, tend to be somewhat cheaper and are usually “noisier” when you listen to them on their own, but the better ones compete well and are used in a lot of radio stations (the Beyer M201 is a good example, and was the standard BBC Radio 4 mic for many years). Simply speaking, a dynamic microphone has a very sensitive membrane, or “diaphragm”, which vibrates between a couple of magnets when sound hits it. This generates a tiny electric current, which then gets amplified on its way through the preamp.

Condensers, meanwhile, require “phantom power” (you’ll sometimes see this referred to as a 48-volt supply). Phantom power is just a way of getting the power the mic needs down a microphone cable without upsetting anything else. This is most safely achieved using “XLR” connectors, rather than “TRS” connectors, and the provision of XLR jacks on equipment is one sign that you’re dealing in the pro or semi-pro realm.

Condenser microphones range from the fairly cheap (£100-ish) up to many thousands of pounds. They’re sensitive, both to noise and to unwanted noise, but will generally give better results than a dynamic mic if used properly. They’ll bring out more of the nuances of your voice, but the better ones will also show up the shortcomings of your recording room…

The Preamp and Interface

Both types of mics need a pre-amplifier to bring the tiny voltage coming out of the mic up to “line level” for other equipment to process, and something to turn the analogue audio coming out into digits that the computer can process.

Preamps range from the cheap and cheerful to the esoteric and shockingly expensive, but a USB or Firewire interface will have one built in which will do the job just fine for you at this stage. Look for kit which allows “balanced connections“. I won’t go into why in this post (Media College has a really good tutorial here), but suffice to say that balanced connections will serve you well in the long run.

Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, there are some half-decent USB mics that will plug straight into your PC or Mac, though how good they are in comparison is a matter of hot debate. You can seek advice on this in the various online forums if you want a second opinion. Good examples of USB mics are made by Audio Technica, SE Electronics, Samson and Røde, among others, and some of them get good press. On the other hand, the purists will always insist that a USB mic with its own preamp built in just can’t compete with a separate preamp and condenser combo under ideal conditions.

In terms of your interface, you broadly have two options for getting sound into your computer:

  1. You can plug your microphone directly into an external USB/Firewire interface (something like an Mbox 2 Mini), which then plugs into a USB or Firewire port on your machine.
  2. You can buy a mic preamp (which will probably be better quality and will have more bells and whistles) and plug the output of the preamp into a professional-grade sound card on your computer. Check out, for starters, something like the “dbx 286” or the “Focusrite Platinum Voicemaster Pro”. Either of these, or something like them, will serve you well if your budget allows.

Once you’ve got your sound card (or USB/Firewire interface) you’ve now sorted out the tedious business of turning analogue audio into digits for the computer’s benefit.

The Computer and Software

Your next step needs to be to work out whether your existing computer is up to the task. Is it quiet? If you can hear it working, your microphone will too. If you’ve got the cash, investing in a silent or near-silent machine from a company that specialises in building them is a good investment – especially if it’s going to have to live in the same room as you’re planning to record in. Otherwise, consider putting the computer outside the room and running longer cables for the keyboard, mouse and monitor. Ideally, you’ll want two hard drives: one for programs and one for recording (this can help avoid “glitches” in your recordings). And at the very least, your faithful machine is probably going to need an upgrade to its sound card. Domestic sound cards are noisy and aren’t designed for the nuances of professional audio that we’re going to be working with, and the the 3.5mm jacks which are built in just aren’t up to the job. So, either an entry-level professional-grade sound card (M Audio do some nice ones which will also allow you to run Pro Tools M-Powered later if you need to) or some form of USB or Firewire interface will be the order of the day (again, you won’t go too far wrong with an M Box 2 Mini – which actually comes bundled with Pro Tools LE).

You’ll be needing some cheap (or, better still, free) sound recording software. Audacity is free and many people swear by it; on the other hand you’d have to pry my copy of Sound Studio 3 ($79, Mac only) out of my cold, dead hands. It’s all a matter of preference. I’ve already mentioned Pro Tools. This program is the Swiss Army knife of audio production, especially for radio and television. Sound engineers love it, and some voice talents use it and love it too, but for our initial purposes of recording a voice track it’s overkill, and a sledgehammer to crack a nut (IMHO).

The Room

Think very carefully about where you’re going to record. If you already have identified a quiet (and I do mean quiet) space in your house, then revisit it now before you spend anything. What can you hear? Seriously… The brain does a great job of filtering out stuff we don’t “need” to hear. Once you start listening for it, you may notice road noise, the tube, aircraft, lift machinery, dogs, neighbours, kids, stairwell noise and so on, depending on where you’re living. You’ll probably also hear your computer fan – laptops can get noisy as their little fans race to move the hot air. Some of these issues you may be able to work around if you’re recording on your own time; others you may not. If your space is less quiet than you thought, then any decent bit of kit (and that’s what you’re going to need, after all) is going to record that extraneous noise for the world to hear. This will be the second thing a producer or potential client notices, after your voice itself. Or possibly the first, if it’s that distracting.

Assuming that you’ve got not too much in the way of noise coming in from outside, your next step is to look at how to mop up the noise bouncing around inside your studio. Professional studios are “dead-sounding” for a reason: all of the reflected sound off the walls in a room will eventually find its way back into the microphone and onto your recording. That’s why we don’t record in the bathroom. If you’ve got a nice airing cupboard, walk-in wardrobe or similar, you can probably save yourself some money here. Otherwise you’re going to need to look at some sort of acoustic treatment, whether that’s in the form of tiles which you can stick in strategic places to absorb the sound, or in the form of something rather more handy, like “The Mic Thing”. This creation is a heavy duty mic stand with wrap-around padding, and it works surprisingly well for its £190 price tag (Some Audio Guy wrote a great review of it on his blog here, complete with an audio file).

The Monitoring

“Monitoring” is just techno-speak for a means of listening back. You’re going to need headphones and speakers. There are many, many options for both of these, but my advice would be to go for “closed back” headphones, which won’t allow too much sound to “bleed” back into the microphone. (So no, you can’t use the ones that came with your iPod. Sorry.)

You may squeeze through, for now, with your existing computer speakers, if you’re just recording voice. But be aware that computer speakers generally fall into two categories: the crap ones (pardon my French) that come with the average desktop, and the room-shaking sort that send the dog running off with its tail between its legs. Neither is what you want when you’re trying to get a neutral handle on what you’ve just recorded. Look out for speakers that are sold as “studio monitors” or “reference monitors”: they’re designed to be “flat” in terms of their frequency response, and not to emphasise either the bass or the high end, so  you know what your recording actually sounds like, and not what it would sound like if it were part of the soundtrack to “World of Warcraft”.

Both your headphones and your first set of speakers can be had for under £200/$250 all-in. Again, seek advice from the forums to see what’s popular – and available – in your own part of the world.

The End

It’s a little bit of a minefield, I’ll grant you, and once you’ve got all this stuff you’re going to have to make your way up the learning curve of how to use it to good effect. But the good news is that, spent wisely, £500-£700 ($750-$1000) will give you a decent starting point which you can upgrade in stages when things take off. And if you do it properly, you’ll have a better-sounding setup than would have cost you £15,000 a few years back. Now that’s progress…

Posted in Freelancing, Tech, Uncategorized, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

What a mistake to make…

Posted by MikeCooper on March 14, 2009

I read a great blog post this week at VoiceOverExtra.com by David Goldberg, who’s a producer and voice coach at EdgeStudio in the United States.

In his piece, David talks about the reasons why some voiceover artists don’t get asked back twice and covers everything from basic schoolboy errors in marketing (like not putting your contact details on your demo) to some of the finer points of studio etiquette.

There’s a lot of stuff here which seasoned talents will know, either consciously or otherwise, but you might be surprised at what you hadn’t thought of. If you’re following my articles on getting started in voiceovers, then you owe it to yourself to take a look! Here’s the link.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Train to win!

Posted by MikeCooper on March 13, 2009

In today’s instalment of my series on how to get into the voiceover business, we’ll look a little at how to improve your game. Most of us aren’t blessed with the skills to be a great voiceover right from the get-go, so how do you develop your talent? I’ve said before that you only get one chance to make a first impression, so you really want to make sure that you’re in fighting form when you come to approach your potential clients.

How do you know when you’re ready though? What you really need here is input from someone who knows, not just someone who wants to tell you what they think you want to hear. Friends and lovers, therefore, should probably not be your first port of call when you’re looking for constructive feedback on your voicey “chops”.

The availability of training and coaching is an area where the market in the US and the market here in the UK differ hugely. I could write another post about this (and probably will at some point), but suffice to say there’s a much, much wider variety of resources available Stateside than in Blighty. In America, voiceover classes, “workouts” and so on are widely available, especially in the larger metropolitan centres, and even the Learning Annexe runs affordable classes that make training in the world of voiceover available to a wide cross-section of the populace. Not only that, but many who set themselves up as voiceover coaches will tutor you by phone or on Skype.

Where there’s choice, there’ll also be a variance in quality, of course. Not all tutors and courses are created equal. So, before parting with your hard-earned, seek some feedback if you can, from those who’ve already taken the course or worked with the coach in question. Ideally, these shouldn’t just be testimonials supplied by the prospective tutor, unless they can be independently verified.

Here in Britain, things are a bit more limited. This might be because the population is six times smaller, and hence the market and the opportunities are correspondingly smaller as a result, or it might be because we’re much better at it and don’t need the practice (I’m joking, but I’m donning my flameproof nightie and running as I type…)

Even in and around London there are surprisingly few “off-the shelf” options for voiceover coaching. A quick Google search will reveal a handful of options, however. If you’re enquiring then be sure to ask pertinent questions. What’s included in the fee? Will there be something to take away at the end of it, like a CD or audio files? Is the course a one-to-one or in a class (and how large might that class be?) How flexible are they to what you’re looking for? And above all, what’s their experience, and where do they aim to take you on the journey?

If you’re starting from scratch, my own personal view is that you should be wary of anyone who promises to take you from a standing start to having a demo ready in the space of a day. You may go away with a shiny silver disc with your voice on it, but unless you’re truly blessed, it normally takes a lot more than a day to get up to speed (there’s a lot to take in). But that’s just my view, and your own experience may differ.

If you’re fortunate enough to be within striking distance of the capital, another option to try might be the “Introduction to Voiceover” courses run by the City Lit in Central London. The City Lit (or the “City Literary Institute”, to give it its full, but barely-ever used title) specialises in affordable training courses on all sorts of stuff, but prides itself on the quality of tutelage provided, which is generally offered by those who have a good level of hands-on experience in the area in question. If you’re not sure your voice is ready for this course, they also run a couple of “Technical Voice Production” courses, which are aimed at getting your underlying vocal technique up to scratch by the teaching and application of breathing technique, resonance and so on.

If you’re in the UK, but outside London, you may run into difficulties finding any voiceover coaching at all. So, if opportunities for classes or coaching are thin on the ground, what are your options?

Well, for a start, remember that voiceover is a form of acting. Indeed, in the States, the terms “Voiceover Artist”, “Voice Talent” and “Voice Actor” are pretty much interchangeable, so acting classes and actors’ voice training may serve you well. Improvisation classes might help you to “loosen up” and find your voice when you’re confronted with an unfamiliar script, too. So might a class on public speaking. Hey, whatever you can do in front of the room you can certainly do in a confined space (as my old scout master used to say…)

It’s worth remembering that if they’re not offering voiceover classes per se, then it’s worth talking to the tutor about what you’re after, to make sure that they know your ambition is in the area of voiceovers rather than playing the lead in the next production of Romeo and Juliet. They may, or may not, be comfortable in this area of teaching or, better still, might be able to point you in the direction of someone better qualified to help.

One of the few people here in the UK who was offering specific voiceover training was a guy called Bernard Graham Shaw. Sad to say, Bernard passed away just before Christmas last year. His book, however, is still available (you’ll find it here), so if you’re looking for some tips on approaching copy and getting your skills up to snuff, why not order a copy of it – I bet his family would really appreciate that! It comes with a CD which personally I don’t rate as the best voiceover training CD ever made, but the advice in the book on approaches to copy is as safe as houses and goes from first principles.

Talking of books, there are plenty of self study guides around, especially in the American market. They’re available from Amazon on both sides of the pond, so if you can’t get to a class, or can’t find (or afford) a tutor, then books might be your best friend. Many of them contain a CD on technique, too. The range of books goes across the spectrum, from how to read scripts, to getting work in animation, to how to market yourself and so on. Again, a quick trawl through Amazon will give you a flavour. Ordering two or three of these could be a good investment. If you do, why not submit a review to Amazon when you’re done, to let others know what you thought the books’ strong and weak points were? Pay it forward, and all that.

Of course, whereas you can leave feedback about a book, a book can’t give you feedback. Fortunately, all of the main voiceover forums online have areas where you can submit examples and demos of your work for other members to critique. This can be a useful way of getting input on your progress, and on what you may or may not be getting right. But beware: there are a small number of “knockers” out there too, whose alleged “helpful advice” may actually disguise a desire to knock you down and keep you off their patch. It’s a competitive business, after all, and not everyone in the playground plays nice. Nonetheless, if you don your protective armour and are prepared to sort out the useful comments from the not-so-useful, the forums too can be a great resource while you’re honing your craft.

Next time, we’ll cast an eye over what you might need to set up shop, as we turn our attention to building your first home studio.

Posted in Freelancing, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Things That Dreams Are Made Of

Posted by MikeCooper on March 9, 2009

Did you bring some loose clothing? Good. This time around we’re going to change down a gear or two and move away from the nuts and bolts, temporarily. Today’s post on getting started in the world of voiceovers is an exercise in dreaming (you should be breathing more deeply and slowly already, but do try to stay awake for now…)

When I was training as a coach a couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to work with a coach called Michael Neil who, as well as being an NLP trainer and all round nice guy, is something of a celebrity in coaching circles (you can find him here). Michael has a phrase which I love, which he uses when he’s trying to get people to imagine their perfect future. On his radio show you often hear him caution his callers against exercising what he calls “premature practicality”. Those two words sum up perfectly for me what most of us are guilty of doing whenever we try to think about what we want. We start trying to imagine our dream outcome, and before the pictures have even formed, that voice in the back of our head chimes in and starts telling us all the reasons why whatever we’re dreaming couldn’t possibly happen.

Beware of that voice. As someone pointed out to me (it might have been Michael again – he’s full of this sort of stuff), “That’s not the voice of God. It just sounds like it thinks it is…” 

That voice you hear is your internal saboteur, and you need to watch out for it, recognise it, and keep it in check. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, that voice: it’s just trying to protect you. As human beings our natural state is inertia. Change isn’t comfortable, especially when there’s a danger of failing and getting ourselves bruised – either mentally or physically – in the process. But if you’re going to make it in this new career you’ve chosen, then you’re going to have to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Tell that doubting voice that you realise it’s only trying to help, but that it just needs to cut you some slack. You’re only dreaming, after all (for now…)

So, here’s something you can try. Close your eyes (not just yet – when you’ve finished reading this paragraph will do) and allow yourself to imagine yourself sitting right where you are, but a year on from now. You’re holding a copy of your voiceover CV in your hand which details the best of the projects you’ve booked so far. What’s on the list?

Now glance down at your future diary for the month ahead. Who’s booking you? Where’s your work coming from? Are you surprised at how much is there? If so, that’s great: you’re visualising a successful future for yourself. If not, then make sure that nagging voice isn’t stopping you from getting there (making a gentle “shushing” noise out loud might help, but don’t do this public transport – it unnerves those who are less enlightened…)

If it is feeling good then play with it a bit more… close your eyes again and drift on down the timeline to a point two years hence. What’s that client list looking like now? What about five years from now?

Don’t knock this stuff, even if it sounds whacky. It can be very powerful, and doing an exercise like this on a regular basis can have profound effects. People who take time out to visualise regularly and who allow themselves to immerse themselves in it are prone to having insights that their conscious mind wouldn’t normally entertain, and it can be a great way to remove your mental blocks on how to move forward. If you have success doing this, please use the comments form below and write and tell me (I’m cool with it if you don’t want your comment published – just let me know). If you find this post helpful and would like to hear more of this sort of stuff, let me know that too.

This is just one example of a dreaming or visualisation exercise; there are lots more, and there are plenty of books and visualisation aids that can help with this. Coaches are excellent at it too. Some money spent on either could be one of the most useful investments you make in getting your career off the ground and moving in a wonderful direction.

Before we wrap this up and send you away wearing flowers in your hair, here’s a quote I really like from Marianne Richardson, an American spiritual activist, author and lecturer, who sums this what I’ve been trying to get at rather eloquently. She says:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

Meditate on this a while; repeat the exercises above and give yourself permission to do some dreaming about the career you really want. You might surprise yourself, and that’s probably a good thing.

OK, my kaftan’s going back in the cupboard and there’ll be some more of that straight talking you’ve told me you like next time around. But the last word, along with the title of this post, goes to Depeche Mode. They might not have the eloquence of Marianne, but sometimes a little bit of 80s electropop helps to clarify things better than anything…

“Dream life the way you think it ought to be
See things you thought you’d never ever see…

These are the things
These are the things
The things that dreams are made of…”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Pick your poison

Posted by MikeCooper on March 4, 2009

Last time I talked a bit about the practicality of balancing a voiceover career with another job, and about one or two things to watch out for if you’re thinking of taking this up full time. This time around I’m going to get you to start thinking about what, specifically, you want out of your career in voiceovers because, as I said before, it’s a very broad church.

Here are some of the different areas of work and types of voice work that you might consider:

  • Commercials
  • TV or radio promotions (“Promos” in the trade)
  • Radio or TV announcing or presenting
  • eLearning or training projects
  • IVR (“Interactive Voice Response” – for those automated telephone systems we all love to hate)
  • Corporates / Industrials
  • Live announcing for events
  • Audiobook narrations
  • Documentaries
  • Character work
  • Spokesperson spots (“I wouldn’t dream of using anything else but Whammo!”)
  • Podcasts

…and the list goes on. Think about it: how many voices do you hear on radio and TV everyday? Once you start listening consciously, you realise just how long this list could get. Rather than trying to do everything, I’m going to suggest that you pick what you’re good at (or have the potential to be good at), and what interests you, rather than trying to do everything. When you come to make your demo, if there’s a huge variety of material – everything from the Voice of God, to cartoon characters and storytelling, via selling carpets and funeral services – there’s a good chance that your listener will be confused about what you’re really trying to offer. As virtually no one can do everything well, there’s also a very good chance that you’ll dilute the good stuff, and people are more likely to remember the dud reads than the better ones.

You might get lucky with a scattergun approach, but there’s an old maxim/cliché from the world of coaching that says “If you aim for nothing in particular, you’ll hit it every time”. There’s a fine line in my book between a cliché and a truism, so trust me when I say you need to think carefully about where you’re going to concentrate your efforts – at least until you’re having success booking jobs, at which point you may find it easier to branch out.

So, what is it that excites you from the above list? Maybe you’re a character specialist who has a dozen or more different voices chattering away in your head, eager to get out? Perhaps you love to tell stories and can keep your audience hooked as you read novels and short stories aloud… Or maybe you’re an actor who wants to be an in-vision announcer or spokesperson.

If none of the above seems to fit for you, don’t worry! For my own part, I’m pretty much a “straight” voice, and there’s plenty of work out there for those of us who aren’t Jim Carrey, thankfully. I spend much of my time as a live announcer on radio and television, I voice TV documentaries and corporate projects, eLearning and training courses, some commercials, and I’ve done a few audiobook titles for foreign learners of English. (Shameless plug: if you’re interested to see what I get up to, check out my voiceover website here – there’s a News page and even an RSS feed, if you’re that keen…) 

It might seem from this that I’ve contradicted what I said above about concentrating on one or two things but there’s a common thread: basically, I’m asked to voice a variety of projects which require a “believable, authoritative but accessible” British voice without affections or discernible accent. (We’ll have a think about how you characterise your own voice in a later post, but it won’t hurt to start thinking a little about this now, either.)

When you’re starting out, you’ll probably find it easier and more productive to concentrate on one or two things from the above list while you hone your craft and start auditioning for work. So pick them out and focus on them, rather than trying to be a Jack of all trades. It will make it easier for you to concentrate your attention; it will give you a better chance of making your first demo a good one; and it will help to define your “brand” to your potential clients.

Next time: Get your billowy kaftan ready and get set with the incense – we’re going to dare to dream…

Posted in Freelancing, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Gobs on Sticks meets… Trish Bertram

Posted by MikeCooper on March 2, 2009

Trish Bertram is a British voice talent who has been in the business for many years. Her voice is immediately recognisable to TV viewers and radio listeners all over Britain from her work on TV networks as an announcer and promo voice, and for her extensive work in the corporate sector. She’s been around long enough to see plenty of changes, not least the trend towards artists setting up their own studios and working from home, which is something she now does herself.

She’s a great friend and has always inspired and encouraged me as I moved towards a full time career in voiceovers. So, I asked her to share some insights into how she views the business as we go forward.

GoS: Hi Trish, thanks for playing! I’m midway through writing a series of blog posts on how to get started in voiceovers. So this seems like a good time to ask – how did you get started?

TB: I started as a live TV continuity announcer. I always wondered who the people were doing the links between the programmes on TV… then my friend and flatmate from college got herself one of those jobs at Westward TV in the early 80s and wrote to me suggesting I had a go too. So I made a home made tape on a little cassette recorder and sent it round to various TV stations asking to be considered. Considering my only microphone experience had been doing tannoy calls as a theatre stage manager, looking back my naivety was quite staggering! Anyway, I was lucky as LWT [London Weekend Television] took a chance on me. My friend at Westward grew up to be one of our most well known tv presenters by the way – Fern Britton – but we both started out as theatre stage managers.

GoS: What kinds of projects do you work on now, and has that changed over the years?

TB: Yes, one area of my work is radio station imaging and these days I can supply imaging updates from my home studio via email as opposed to always having to go to an outside studio. You and I also write and record continunity links for a TV channel and email them off to their transmission base, which I don’t think either of us would have envisaged happening a few years ago when we spent all those long shifts together in transmission! I have also come to realise that the whole world is now a marketplace for voiceovers – which wouldn’t have happened with out the rise of the internet or without the availibilty of reasonably priced but quite sophisticated kit that one can now set up at home.

GoS: The internet’s certainly changed the playing field, you’re right, and being able to work at home would have been unthinkable even when I started in TV. That said, there are loads of different kinds of work for Voice Actors. What’s your favourite kind of work, and why?

TB: I don’t really have a favourite – as every area of work brings it’s own challenges and it’s the variety I like. (Although we all dream of being the voice of the one tag line on a global big brand commercial that pays £££! It’s not happened yet… but you never know!)

GoS: Yes, good luck with that – lunch will be on you, you realise? Meanwhile, what’s your biggest gig to date?

TB: Bill Gates gave a presentation to the United Nations about four years ago when he was donating computers and software to the Third World. I was chosen as the voice of the video that accompanied him, explaining the initiative. When I was rung by the production company they said “it’s a job for Bill” I replied, “Bill Who?” Did I feel dumb when they told me! My biggest live job was for The Asian Games in Doha in 2006. I was the live stadium announcer for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The TV audience was estimated as around 3.8 billion across the world, so it was a bit daunting!

GoS: Yes, that’s certainly a couple more than you’d have got with LWT! International stuff brings a different dimension, but what about the voice industry itself? Do you think there are differences between how it works here in the UK and other countries like, for example, the US?

TB: Having researched many US voiceover sites, directories and forums I am impressed by the way our transatlantic VO cousins market them selves and “sell their wares”. Another difference is cultural… for example the “big voice of God” style for TV and film promos and trailers is still  popular in the US, whereas we seem to be moving away from that style over here. There’s no right or wrong but once again the rise of the “cybervoice” way of working means that we have to consider other countries’ cultural requirements – for example, when submitting demos.

GoS: Good points. I also think there’s a difference in the culture of auditioning, which seems to play a bigger part in a VO’s life Stateside than it does here. Plenty for a newcomer to get their head around though, isn’t there? So, what do you think is the biggest challenge to someone wanting to get into the business at this point in time?

TB: On the one hand there is a whole cyberworld out there now so, in theory, more opportunities for everyone. On the other hand it also means that there is much more competition! So if you are new to the business you have to do a lot of flag waving! Get yourself a good demo made, launch a website, join some business and social networking sites, email prospective clients, join some voice directories and forums, pick up the phone, and immerse yourself in it all. (Something you are really good at, Mike!) One person who has been an inspiration to both of us is our fellow voice Philip Banks who has been brilliant at developing his own online presence (and generous enough to give us his advice).

GoS: Yes, Philip’s certainly a bit of an act to follow online isn’t he? So there’s plenty we can do for ourselves with the power of the internet. How important is having an agent, then?

TB: Not overly important these days I think. An agent can find you work where you don’t have any particular contacts yourself – but should never be relied on for your whole income. Voices go in and out of fashion, and agents can put you forward for projects while you are “voice du jour”, but there will be quiet times where you have to be proactive yourself. Having said that, an agent can give you the credibility factor and also deal with any contractual issues that may be more complicated than a straightforward fee. (For instance if your voice is going to be used across territories or for a cross media campaign.)

GoS: OK, I’m not going to tell the world how old you are, but you have been at this for over twenty-five years now. What’s changed in the business in that time?

TB: Definitely the technology. The rise of the internet has opened up a whole world of  opportunities for being a “cybervoice”. I had reached a time in my career where it was a question of keep up or get left behind. It’s still a brave new world for me – but thanks to you and other fellow voices I have been dragged kicking and screaming into voice cyberspace! Now I think I should have done it years ago!

GoS: And how do you see the role of the voice directories like Voice123 and Voices.com? Do you use them?

TB: I am monitoring various friends’ experiences of these but have dipped a toe in and have joined the US site VOPlanet and the European directory Bodalgo. It’s early days for me yet so we’ll see. But it seems to me that they are a good way of marketing British voices to other territories. And in theory you just need one job from a voice directory to recoup the joining fee.

GoS: Yep, as long as the “voice seeker” is paying decent rates. That’s a whole other discussion though! Finally, Trish, what are your aims for this next phase of your career?

TB: Develop my ‘cyber’ career! I am learning a lot from younger voices like yourself and am also listening hard to changing voice styles. Like Madonna – the key to survival takes a certain amount of reinvention! One inspiration was the great Patrick Allen who, thanks to E4, was still socking it to us all at 80!

GoS: There’s hope on the tellybox for us all, then 🙂 Thanks, Trish!

Trish Bertram is my fellow voice on movie channel Film24 (Sky Digital channel 157) and regularly voices station imaging for the BBC Local Radio network and promos for QVC, among other things. Find out more about Trish at www.TrishBertram.com.

Posted in Freelancing, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“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.

Posted in Freelancing, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

So, you want to be a Voiceover Artist?

Posted by MikeCooper on February 21, 2009

I can’t say I blame you. The hours are good, the money’s great and, if you like the sound of your own voice (who doesn’t?) then what could be better than being paid to talk?! Best of all, you need no formal qualifications, so anyone can do it! All you need is somewhere to record, a bit of kit and a website, before you go right ahead and nail a sign over your door marked “Voiceover Artist – Enquire Within…”

Before we get carried away, let me point out to anyone who’s missed where I’m going with this, that I’m joking. Well, mostly. The truth is that the hours are good, and based on an hourly rate the money could be seen as amazing, but only if you’re working regularly. £200 ($300) or more per hour is, to most people’s way of looking at it, a pretty good hourly rate – and it certainly compares favourably to minimum wage.

But permit me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment, if I may? What if you’re only working two hours a week? Or one? Or if you only get one voiceover job a month? Many people who go out and buy microphones, sound editing software and mixing desks will never book a job. I can’t give you empirical evidence of this, of course, but having heard some of the people on some of the voice directory websites, I’d be surprised if I was wrong in my assertion.

If you’re faint of heart (or weak in the head), then I suggest you stop reading at this point, because I’m not going to be Mr Nice Guy for the rest of this post. I’m going to challenge all of your fluffy notions about the ease of getting into this business we call “Voice”.

First up, the failure rate is very high. I’m not trying to scare you, but lots of people never make it. Period. Sorry to disappoint. 

There are plenty of people out there who have been told they have a “great voice” or that they “should do voiceovers” (do you recognise yourself in this category?) More often than not, they’re told this by people who haven’t the first clue about it and who know nothing about how the business works. If these people tried to give any other sort of career advice, the person on the receiving end would probably either laugh politely, or politely suggest that they mind their own business. The truth is, we all like to be flattered

What’s that? You do have a great voice? Seriously? Congratulations – you’ve just qualified to join the competition! But “competition” is the keyword here, and having a nice-sounding voice is only one part of the puzzle. Do you have the talent to back it up?

If you’re reading this because you want to get into voiceovers and you’ve never, so far, recorded anything and played it back to a jury of your peers for them to critique it, then now would be a really good time. Actually, before you play it to anyone else you’re going to want to critique it yourself. Channel your inner Simon Cowell before you go auditioning for anyone else’s Sharon Osbourne… Take a piece of prose (or poetry), a piece of print copy from a magazine, or whatever gets your juices going, and read it aloud into whatever sound recording device you have to hand – the built-in microphone on your laptop, or that old cassette recorder in the cupboard will do just fine for the purposes of this exercise.

What do you hear when you listen back? Are you ready for Prime Time just yet?

How’s the delivery? Does it keep you interested and hold your attention? (If it doesn’t hold yours then the chances of it holding anyone else’s are negligible at this stage.) If it’s not holding your attention then there are plenty of reasons why that might be (which are probably worthy of another post) but the key thing is to recognise that there’s something missing and accept that you’re going to need some sort of training to put it right. You’re going to want to do this before you start buying any fancy kit, and before you begin touting for business, too. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression, right? The last thing you want to do is approach an agent, a producer or a potential client with anything other than your best foot forward.

Still reading? Phew, that’s a relief. I thought I’d lost you back there when I was laying out the cold, hard facts (most people don’t like that bit).

If you’re going to do this, you need to get serious about it and treat it like you would any other career option. We can’t all be astronauts, or pop singers, after all, so once you’ve practised a little and got some input from others, you’re going to need to be honest about the level of your talent and whether you think you can cut it in the big, wide world. As a marker for comparison, Google something like “British voiceover artist”, or “voiceover artist Los Angeles” or “female voice actor”, or whatever is most appropriate for you, and visit a few people’s websites. Look at the credits and client list to make sure you’ve got someone who’s making a living at it (anyone can have a website, remember?) and then listen to some of their audio samples. There’ll be a gulf in the technical quality compared to your own ad hoc recording (hopefully), but could you seriously imagine yourself delivering copy with the same degree of passion, zest, believability, or whatever other adjectives you can find to ascribe to the talent you’re listening to? Have you got it in you? Is it just waiting to be released? Or are you being unrealistic?

Hard lessons again, I’m afraid. But this post is an exercise in sorting out the wheat from the chaff, and I make no apologies for that. If I can save just one person the (considerable) time and expense of barking up the wrong tree, then I think that’s a good thing, and something that that person might even (reluctantly) thank me for before they move on to find their real inner passion. (I believe unquestioningly that we’ve all got something we’re really good at, by the way – it’s just sometimes a hard lesson to learn that it’s not necessarily the first thing you thought of.)

You’re still reading. Well done! Made of stronger stuff, eh? So, you’ve got the voice, you feel you have the talent – or the potential to harness and refine it – what next? Well, like I said, the voice is only one part of the puzzle. This is a business, after all, and you’re going to need to treat it like one. Next time I’m going to look at what might stop you (you with the talent and all) from making a living in voiceovers. It’ll be less Boot Camp-y (promise) but I’ll start to get you to think a little about application – and what your goals are, now you’ve decided you’re in…

Posted in Freelancing, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »