Last week I discussed 5 truths of voiceover. It got some amazing replies and I thank everyone for that. After posting, I received some messages asking how to overcome some of the 5 challenges that I mentioned. So, this week I decided to answer each of the 5 truths and give some insight into what works for me.
Number 1. Voiceover is NOT a get rich quick scheme. Unless you are one of the lucky 0.01% who achieve very quick success, you are going to have to work damn hard at voiceover. You need to sit down and write a business plan with the goals for the next 5 years. Where does your voiceover business need to be in 5 years for you to consider it a success?
You need to diversify your client base. Yes, online casting sites are an easy way to get access to clients, but you need to have other methods to get work. Direct clients that you have worked with previously, agents, video production/eLearning rosters. You need to reach out consistently to many people and stay top of mind.
You need to remember that most clients do not care who you are, how long you’ve been in the industry, how good you think your voice is. All they want is the right voice for their project. Simple.
Work out who your ideal client is. Really put in the work. How old are they? What social media platforms will they use? What interests will they have? Keep asking questions about them so you really have a good focus on who they are. Once you have a really good idea of who they are then you can start working the social media platforms that they will be on. And don’t try to circumvent the process. Just try and make connections and build a relationship. They are not stupid. They know you are a voiceover. They know you want them to hire you. DO NOT TRY AND SELL YOUR SERVICE! That comes much later. Just be patient and trust the process.
It took me 4 years to start to have a good, reliable list of repeat clients. Be patient.
Number 2. You don’t have what it takes. This is a tough one. It can be difficult to work out whether someone just doesn’t have what it takes to do voiceover professionally or that they need coaching to get to where they need to be.
The first thing to do is get a coach. Get a good coach. Do your research. Ask around. Be specific. Work with that coach for about 6 months. Have your bookings gone up since you worked with them? If the answer is no, then you may need to face the fact that you are not competitive enough and this might not be for you.
The market will tell you if you are good enough. Voices.com have a very interesting statistic. For successful talent, the booking rate should be 3 jobs out of 100 auditions. The highest earning talent book 6 out of every 100 auditions. These numbers are a good indicator of whether you are good enough. If you are not booking 1 out of 100 auditions, the marketplace is telling you something. You need to work out if it is because you don’t have what it takes, or you need more training. Finding which one is true will take some real honest discussions with yourself.
Recently I heard the advice that you should join a workout group with people who are on the same level of you or who are less experienced. The person giving this advice said that this takes the pressure off as you won’t be criticized by those who are much better than you. I think this could be probably the worse advice I have ever heard. How can you improve if you are learning from those who don’t have the experience to know what it takes to make it in this industry? You should be doing the opposite! Find a workout group that is full of the best talent that you can find. There are plenty out there. Some may require you to pay a nominal fee. It will probably be worth it.
I always say that if you are the smartest person in the room then you are in the wrong room. This applies to voiceover. Do what you can to associate with successful people. Be relentless. I couldn’t find a script workout group in Houston, so guess what? I started my own. I invited people I knew were successful in the industry and forged some great relationships.
Number 3. You will need to invest money. Here are some cold, hard facts:
A decent audio set up is going to cost you around $500. Spend less than this and you will not be as competitive as most other voice overs. A good microphone like the Rode NT1 will cost $300. An audio interface like the Scarlett Solo will cost $120, cables and a mic stand will eat up the rest. And remember, this does not include a computer which most of you will have already.
Treat your space. There is so much information on the internet on how to treat your recording space. From the basic PVC pipe and moving blankets to full-blown purpose-built studio. You will NEED to treat your space. If you don’t, you won’t be competitive. PVC pipes and sound blankets will set you back around $100-200. A studio-bricks purpose-built studio costs around $8,000.
Subscriptions to online casting sites. Voices.com is $499. V123 is around $400 for a worthwhile membership. Bodalgo is around $150. Voice Realm is $140. The list goes on. These sites are where many of the modern voiceover buyers are. If you don’t pay – you don’t get access.
You will need a website, professional email domain, accounting software, CRM, and much more. All the successful talent pays for these. Remember – there is a reason why they are successful!
So, save up. Get a loan from your bank. Ask family members for a loan. Use money from your 401K. You will need to invest money. There is just no getting around it.
Number 4. Online casting sites are the devil and should not be trusted. A lot of buyers enjoy the ease and flexibility that online casting sites give them. Many big clients are starting to use these sites. Many well-known and successful talent make good money from these sites. They should be a part of your business plan when starting out in voiceover as it gives you easy access to jobs that are paying fair industry rates. Remember, I am not talking about Fiverr, Freelancer or UpWork although some people have made these work for them.
I have been fortunate that I took the advice of many people and started with close to industry standard rates. 6 years ago, my basic fee was $150 for a 2-minute explainer video. It is now $250. If you set your rates early on and stick to them then it makes playing on the online casting sites easy.
Make them work for you. Check your statistics. If you are not booking as much as you should over a year, then you need to change something. The market is telling you that you are not good enough. It could be your audio or your performance. Figure it out.
Use these sites to your advantage.
Number 5. Be careful who you get advice from. This is quite simple. If possible, I would recommend that you never ask a question in an open forum like a Facebook group. You just open yourself up to so many differing opinions from people with such a wide range of experience. I would recommend that you should be way more targeted than that.
If you focus on audiobooks, create relationships with those that you know are successful in the audiobooks field. How do you know who is successful? Join an audiobook Facebook group. Notice the names that keep popping up like Scott Brick, Johnny Heller and many, many more. But don’t stop there. Go to their websites. See if they have evidence to show that they are actively involved in the industry and field. Once you have confirmed that they know what they are doing – reach out to them. Most will have an email on their website. Send them an email introducing yourself. Don’t be scared. The worst that can happen is that they don’t reply. Would you rather get terrible advice from someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about or take a chance and get an amazing answer from someone at the top of their game?
Yes, posting in a Facebook group will give you instant gratification but that will not further your career.
Remember that the above is only advice. I am only as good as the people that have taught me. My advice may not be the best advice for you. It comes from experience and hard work. I may be doing things to this day that are preventing me from moving to the next level. But I am open to that. In fact, I am always learning. Always striving to improve. Always looking to build relationships with those who are more successful than me. In fact, I have had two private Zoom calls this month doing just that. And they wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been relentless. You should be relentless too. What’s the worst that can happen?