“I’ve been thinking about doing a bit of voice over work to make some extra cash. How do you get to be a voice actor?”
I love this. People ask me all the time but there isn't really a single answer... All I know is how I did it, so I'm putting it here on the internet.
This is the last of four parts. For part one, scroll to the bottom of the page
How To Escape The Bog
Getting to the stage where you're exchanging your skills for actual money... It's that cyclical old beetle of needing to have worked to get work.
This is the problem: everyone needs to start somewhere, but until the revolution comes, doing anything for free is going to undermine the value of the work you and the rest of us in the industry are doing.
Desperate portfolio builders working for no or low pay drive down the value of voiceover and often lack the experience necessary to work to an adequate standard.
So what’s the answer? Panic!
… No no don’t panic. I’ve figured it out.
Here it is.
When you're getting started, appreciate that your work is a contribution to society. Donate your time to causes that will genuinely never have any money to pay anyone to do anything. Target community radio, charity audio newsletters, podcasts that aren’t earning anything themselves. If you’re any good, word will spread, eventually, to someone with a marketing budget.
Talking of word spreading… Tell everyone
Sending off a demo cold is a rubbish approach to marketing. Why should anyone care about you, your ambitions, or how great your mum thinks you are?
Well, they might care if they work with your mum.
Tell everyone… and tell them to tell everyone. Be annoying about it, they’re your mates, they don’t mind. Before you start messing about with SEO stuff, look at who’s around you. You don’t need to start from scratch, build on the networks you already have.
So much of my work comes from recommendations – people I have recorded for think I’m great, and they tell other people. One job leads to another at a different branch of the same company, or with someone the communications director met in a lift. I’m on an unbroken watch for opportunities, and I follow wherever they take me. Anyway. There are pages and pages of memes about this sort of thing.
The Haunted Forest
There is an in-between stage… somewhere after "Doing It All By Yourself", but before you get to "Working With An Agent" is the murky world of “Pay To Play”.
Essentially jobs boards where you pay the caretaker to let you look at them, they provide a structured service through which voiceovers and people who need voiceovers can find each other.
They are all heavily oversubscribed for the number of jobs that are posted and although you absolutely can make it work, certainly for the US/Canada based sites you will have to respond with individually tailored auditions within minutes of each suitable job arriving in your inbox.
There are some that are more selective, but you need to already be working professionally before they will add you to their roster.
And now… Agents
I have two useful bits of information about agents:
1. They’re nice to have (I had one for a couple of years and it was fine) but you don’t need one to be a success.
2. Listen to this podcast by the now sadly departed Bernard Graham Shaw. Top bloke. Some of the practical details are out of date, but the advice is solid gold.
For further musings as and when they arrive, follow the instructions to subscribe below.