When you first start out in the Voice Over industry, life is a very lonely place. I think everyone goes through it. You spend a tremendous amount of time locked in a small room somewhere in the depths of your house trying everything you can to improve your vocal performances. Your “Harry Potter” room. You probably have little to no contacts in the industry and sometimes you wonder if you will ever make a success of your business. You are spending more time away from your family than usual and you feel deep down that those close to you are just telling you what you want to hear – or patronize you when you ask them if you have “what it takes”. In truth, what do you expect them to say? Or worse – you could have a big brother that takes great pleasure in telling you that you will be “shit” at everything you do and then follow it up with a dead arm! They have no idea what it takes to be a professional Voice Actor and they don’t want to hurt your feelings (except for your brother!).
In truth, opening any type of business is filled with same initial pitfalls. You can’t expect to open a new cupcake bakery and expect people to come in droves because you think you make the best cupcakes in the world. Obviously, there is a benefit in that line of business that you get to eat a crap load of cupcakes but you must still get customers in the door. And that really is the key to any business. Quite simple. You must figure out a way to get customers or clients. You can have the best product in the world but this will not make you 1 single penny until you get the first customer. And a talent rich voice actor does not make up for a financially poor voice actor – trust me!
In truth, when I started writing this I didn’t expect the first two paragraphs to be so depressing! Now that I read it back – it seems a little dark – but in truth I think this business needs a little reality injected into it at times. Is it a great job – yes, undoubtedly! Is it easy – absolutely not, especially if you don’t have the right mindset. This is a business. It must be treated as a business. There may be some shortcuts for the very highly naturally talented people, but for the rest of us - it is a grind to start off with. Sucks I know but it is what it is.
You must create a business plan, including planning your finances. It is a simple numbers game. You need to figure out how much you need to earn per year. Divide that by the number of weeks you are prepared to work subtracting holidays. Then work out how many days that leaves you. Divide the number you need to earn every year by how many days you can work and that will give you your daily goal. Example: You are prepared to work 48 weeks out of the year. This gives you 48 x 5 work days which is a total of 240 days not including weekends. Your goal is $48,000 per year. Therefore, your financial goal is you need to earn $200 per day. Then you can work out your rates accordingly. If you anticipate 1 job a day, then your rate should be $200 minimum per job. Simple math! Substitute $48,000 with $480,000 and you need to make $2,000 a day. Easy!
So now you have your financial goals taken care of everything else will come easy, right? The plan is written and you just know that you can get 1 job per day! Sorry to burst your bubble but it ain’t gonna happen! Overnight success is a fallacy. Success in any business takes many skills but mostly; hard work, a structured marketing plan, a good product and time – oh and a bit harder work! Now I hear many people saying “I am a hard worker”, “I have a great plan” but they don’t have the patience. They forget that growing a business takes time. And that is one thing that you have little control over. It takes time to create a brand. It takes time to get listed high up in the search ranking in Google. It takes time to get your studio set up so you have a competitive sound when it comes to auditions. It takes time to learn your craft as a voice actor. It takes time to reach a level of professionalism that may get you listed by a talent agent. It takes time to build a network of contacts and clients.
There are things that you can do that can speed many of things along but you must realize – this is a long haul. Most people I speak to say that it took them 2-3 years to establish their business. I agree with this. Don’t lose heart though. If you plan that this journey will take 2-3 years, then you will be on the right track and won’t be disappointed when success doesn’t come quickly. You get a bit pissed off occasionally but you will understand!
So, set yourself up for success. Choose this life. Choose it for the long haul. Choose a business plan. Choose a marketing plan. Choose professional coaching. Choose the right equipment. Choose a network of peers. Choose a network of clients. Choose practicing in every spare hour you have. Choose being the best person you can be at this job, making your clients happy time and time again and providing the best product you can. Choose this life… but why would anyone choose that?