I really don’t turn every email I get into a blog, but recent exchanges have asked really great questions. Most recently, a site visitor wrote me:
I love your voice. I have been told I have a nice voice. I am interested in finding someone who can help me break-into the Voice-Over industry. I will also need a demo on MP3 or cd.
Are you in Florida? I am located in . . . Fl.
C . . .
I don’t care what anyone else says; it’s easier to “break into” voiceover than most people realize. That’s not the hard part. The challenge is in recognizing all the skills you need and developing those skills, marketing your talent, finding clients, running your business, and basically making a living at voiceover. Here is my reply to the email:
Thank you. A nice voice is a great start for some types of voice over services, but never as important as what you can do with your voice. Whether it’s a public service, audio book narration, marketing DVD, or animation, you’re selling a message. Doing that effectively will get you noticed. Training is important. In no particular order, this is what it takes:
* Acting or improvisation;
* Voice training (singing, voice over workshops, public speaking);
* Digital sound engineering (mic technique; sound editing, mixing and mastering);
* Marketing and sales training;
* Basic business management;
* General computer skills;
* Communication skills;
* Research skills for some types of voice work, especially audio book narration;
* Grammar, writing, copy writing (basic grammar skills are important though a lot of copy breaks basic rules because people don’t generally speak using correct grammar; but you need to know the difference; although you may never write copy, having a sense of good copy helps with timing, punching key words and general delivery of the message).
Mastering your natural voice is important. Natural sells more than anything. These are just some basics. Voice work today is an Internet-based business. I don’t meet most of my clients face to face; I seldom even have to talk to them on the phone. It’s generally an query email from the client, maybe with an audition script; create and transfer a demo or custom audition clip; email exchange discussing price, direction and delivery methods; record project; do any necessary post-production on the sound files; FTP the final project; email an invoice; get feedback from the client; make any agreed upon changes if necessary; get paid via PayPal or other electronic method or a check from old, repeat clients (or get paid on balance if it’s a long project and you’ve obtained a retainer or deposit upfront).
None of this is rocket science. Like any business, it involves more than just having a good product or service (more than just a nice voice), but thousands of people manage it and when you start to develop a client base and get gigs, it can be a fairly smooth operation. Like many voice producers, I genuinely enjoy both the performance and business sides of my work. Both are essential. In fact, it’s important to be a better business owner than a performer.
There are inexpensive ways to develop the skill sets you need. Most community colleges offer performance and business courses. I’ll try to develop more posts on my web site with good resources over the next couple weeks. Please check out the “Voiceover Resources” category on my blog site. You’ll see some links now and many more to follow since I get questions like yours all the time.
My sincere best wishes in your endeavors. No matter what you pursue, with the exception of sound engineering which is more limited [industry-specific], the training needed for voice work will benefit you tremendously in hundreds of professions, business endeavors, or just day-to-day life.
I really mean it when I say voiceover is a business. Even if you have representation, you will need to run your own show responsibly. It’s the difference between being employed and being contracted. For the most part, there are no employed voice actors who are taken care of and told what to do. Instead, there are contracted voiceover businesses. A recording session may be directed and produced by someone else, but you are still being contracted. In simple terms, you yourself have to bag, book and bill your own gig. That’s business.
I’m not saying I’m a strong businesswoman. I don’t feel I market as much as I should; I need to develop a passive income stream for when I feel the need to devote more of my time to learning; and industry veterans tell me I don’t charge enough for some services; but I definitely recognize the importance of the business side of voiceover work. To that end, I’ve decided to create a new blog category, “Voiceover Business,” which will be devoted to these issues. This blog is the first in this category.