Time for some truth-telling. Usually, I am very upbeat and inspirational in by blog. Hey, don’t leave now! I am still going to try and be uplifting but I think it’s time to lay out some real truths about the voice over industry. We are an amazing group of people who are always taking the time to help others. But…..sometimes we are too nice. We encourage everyone and yet, like any other chosen specialty, we are not all going to be able to make a success of voice over. So, this week I’m going to give you 5 things you NEED to know about voiceover and why it may not be the best career choice for some. Please don’t be offended. These are just cold, hard facts.
Number 1. Voiceover is NOT a get rich quick scheme. Most of us in the industry knew this already but a recent survey titled “State of Voiceover in 2021 Survey” provided the evidence. And thank you to Carin Gilfry, Maria Pendolino, Voice Actor websites and the rest of the team for the great work. The main take away when it came to money was that over 50% of all respondents make less than $8,000 per year doing voice over. Think about that for a moment. Only 25% of all voice actors earn above $40K. On top of this data, it will take about 3-5 years to start earning like the top 25% and that is if you have the stamina and talent.
Number 2. You don’t have what it takes. Wow, I know that sounds really harsh. And, this is also very subjective. Yet, it is an inevitable truth. We can’t all be good at everything we do. No matter what it is. I wanted to be a professional football player when I was younger. I was good, but I was not good enough. My dreams of playing for Liverpool would never be realized. Oh well. I take part in many voice over work-out groups. Where scripts are read, direction is given, and great things are learned. And here’s the honesty. In nearly EVERY group there is at least one person who probably won’t make it. They can’t take direction (every read sounds the same), they sound like they’re reading (really badly), or they have slurred speech or bad diction. Yes, I know some of these things can be fixed with training, but sometimes we are doing a disservice by encouraging those who just don’t get it. The voiceover community is really nice, sometimes too nice. Nobody wants to make people feel bad in front of others by telling them they just aren’t getting it.
Number 3. You will need to invest money. Facebook groups are the worst for this. “I would love to get coaching, but I can’t afford it”, “I can’t afford a microphone that costs $300 or more”, “I don’t have the money for a professional website or email”. Why do we think this is OK? Would a person starting a bakery say that they can’t afford a kitchen, equipment and store-front? Would an electrical contractor say “I can’t afford a work truck, tools and insurance?”. The list goes on. This is a business. You MUST treat it as a business. Get a loan, save up, donate blood plasma (yes, I know of a VO who paid for his commercial demo with plasma donations) or get a second job. If you say that you can’t afford to invest in your business, how do you think those who struggled and scrimped to get their business off the ground feel? They made sacrifices to be able to grow their business. Real, hard sacrifices. When others want to circumvent these sacrifices and go straight to success, forgive us if we roll our eyes a little!
Number 4. Online casting sites are the devil and should not be trusted. There are many people who constantly berate the online casting culture. They insist that you should get all your clients through direct marketing. Although it would be ideal for us all to do this, times have changed. Especially for the younger generation who are casting. They are part of the gig culture transformation and love the easy online accessibility to everything they want. If a casting website makes their life easy, then they will probably choose to use it. And the data from the survey proves this. Only 28% of all work was found by direct marketing. Nearly 65% of work came from online casting with the rest through agents and other sources. Also, there are many personal opinions about how some of these websites behave. Let’s face it, UBER does not really have the concerns of their drivers as the number one priority, yet we all use them as a default when needing a ride. Voiceover clients are the same and in truth, they don’t know any of the nefarious goings on that gets talked about in the voiceover Facebook forums. If you have a strong sense of what you are worth and stick to your basic rates, it shouldn’t matter where you get your work from (within reason). Do you vet every video production company that you work with directly to see if they have any derogatory stories pointed towards them? Do you know how your agents treat their personal assistant on a personal level? Do you investigate every end client that you provide your voice for an explainer or eLearning project to see if they if they align with your personal and professional moral standards? Probably not. If your experience with any of the online casting sites is good and you earn good money from them, don’t let others make you feel bad about it. Just make sure you keep your rates at close to industry standards.
Number 5. Be careful who you get advice from. It’s your responsibility to take your time and carefully research anyone who is giving you advice. The internet has made everyone an expert. Keyboard warriors are everywhere trying to put the world to rights in their mind! If you read something that piques your interest – check their credentials. Go to their website. In this day and age, it’s a huge red flag if they don’t have a website. If they are a coach, check for a list of previous students. Then check the student’s websites. Are they successful? Do they have work that you can listen to? Do their demos sound as good as you would expect? If they are a demo producer, check out the demos they have made. They will have a list of voiceovers they have provided demos for. Do you recognize anyone on the list? Are they successful? Do the demos sound as good as they should compared to known industry behemoths like JMC, Chuck Duran or Eric Romanowski? If they are a voice over giving out advice, check to see how long they have been in business. Do they have a list of clients on their website? Do they have videos to show previous work that has been published? Seriously! If you are reading this and haven’t checked out my website to see if I have any idea what I am talking about, then shame on you!
Now, the intention of this blog was not to deter you from voiceover. Actually, quite the opposite. I want you to look at every one of these 5 “need to knows” and figure out how you will overcome each one in your journey to voiceover success. I cannot give you the answers to any of them. Everyone has such a personal journey and will have different answers. And it doesn’t matter how anyone else did it anyway. This is about how YOU will you do it. The only person that can answer that, is…. well…. YOU!