When you’re a new talent starting out in the voice-over industry, it’s important to have a realistic plan for your career.
Yes, voice-overs can be incredibly lucrative. However, if money is the sole or main thing driving you, I personally don’t think that you’ll become as successful as you would like to be, or that you'll get as much long-term satisfaction out of it, either.
You want to:
- figure out a way to appear professional from Day 1 - as if you’ve been working in the industry for years!
- appear to be confident - even if you’re absolutely nervous
- ultimately build up your experience and your resume.
If you happen to earn a nice chunk of change in the process, that’s even better.
YOUR FIRST JOB
Let's assume you've received training and have completed your first demo - which is a professionally-produced recording that displays your voice-over skills to potential clients. Now what?
One of the questions I am asked most often, is “How do I build my resume when I’m just starting out?”
My answer is to start with people you know.
If your uncle, your current employer, your hairstylist, or even the local movie store that you visit every Friday night knows that you’re just starting out in this industry, it wouldn’t hurt your reputation to offer them voice-over services for free. You could either present it as barter, or as a mutual favor.
Another approach is to offer to work on spec for that first job with a client. The more risk-free you appear, the more marketable you are.
WHAT TO CHARGE?
One of the hardest things as a new talent is figuring out what to charge a client.
When you’re approached for a voice-over job, one of two things will happen in regards to rates:
- The client will say, "This is what I’m paying," and they'll ask if you’ll do it at that price, or
- The client will tell you what the job is, and ask what your rate would be.
Many factors come into play when figuring your rate. For instance, ask:
- Will the recording be broadcast on TV or radio?
- How long do you plan on using it?
- What markets will it be used in?
Yet most importanly, ask: "What's the budget for your project?"
OFFER REDUCED RATE?
Even if you have the best voice for the job, if they can’t afford you, you’re probably not going to get it. So if you can appear accommodating and put it back on them to offer a rate - mentioning that you’d be happy to work with them to fit within their price range - you’re better off.
But if you accept work at a lower price, don’t necessarily offer that same lower price to your next potential client, just because that tactic worked the first time.
Yes, accepting work at a low rate could be a great step in building your resume! But over time, marketing yourself by offering low rates probably won't help you.
KEEP RATE OPTIONS OPEN
However you decide to structure your rate card, keep that information to yourself as much as possible. Once a client sees what you’re willing to work for, you lose the opportunity to raise or lower your rates as needed. And always remember to present yourself as a voice-over professional, even when you’re just starting out. I’m not suggesting lying, of course. But let your voice-over demo speak for you (which is why it’s very important to have a professional demo), and let the client decide from that.
AUDITION & PRACTICE
What’s a better way to practice than to audition?
Every once in a while a client might actually PAY you to audition for a job. But this is a rarity.
Offering to do an audition - a short sample of their script - at no cost is a great way to start building a rapport with a potential client.
“Playing the sites” is another great way to audition! Two of the most popular are Voices.com and Voice123.
When you become a member of those sites you have the opportunity to audition for numerous jobs every day! My recommendation is to focus mainly on the jobs that really fit your voice and your niche.
Even if you don’t land all of the auditions that you submit - which even the veteran voice talent rarely do - it’s additional practice and helps to build your confidence and experience in recording, editing and submitting auditions.
HOW MANY TAKES?
There is no magic number of how many times a talent records something until it’s perfect.
When I started out I probably recorded a 30-second commercial 20 times before I submitted it to the client. Today, with a lot more confidence, I might nail it on the first take or record a few takes and pick the best one.
The advantage of digital recording is that you can cut and paste as needed. Say, for example, you recorded three versions of a 30-second spot. Perhaps you love your second take, except for the last sentence.
Not a problem! You can re-record the last sentence or cut and paste it from a previous take.
In the beginning, I had a habit of recording anything, long or short, a couple of times and then in the editing process, I would listen back to ALL of it, and select the best sections from each take.
But that turned out to be incredibly time-consuming. And it started to sound like a cut and paste job!
If you are cutting and pasting, you should be the only one who knows that’s what you did. The completed job should never sound like it's been altered.
I quickly realized that the best method is to re-read the sentence or section that I messed up WHILE I am recording.
So for example, I go back to the beginning of the SENTENCE that I stumbled on, read it again, and then continue on from there.
Afterward, I just edit out the stumble.
WHEN YOU'VE 'MADE IT'
I still remember the day I was sitting in a doctor’s office, filling out one of those new-patient questionnaires, and got to the section about my career. I paused. A huge smile grew on my face and I proudly wrote down “voice-over talent.”
There is no magic number regarding clients or years of working in the industry before being able to call yourself a professional.
Perhaps that day will arrive when clients begin coming to you - versus always chasing after them. Maybe it'll be when you finally have regular, re-occurring clients.
Or it could just be when you feel confident in your work and are able to record and edit in a more reasonable time frame
SET GOALS, HAVE FUN
You need to set realistic goals for yourself to help you determine the answer to that question.
I have always been a big believer in continuous education. Whether you have one client or 300, there is always more to learn.
Even the seasoned voice talent practice, study and continue to improve their craft.
Whatever goals you set for yourself, make sure you continue to enjoy what you’re doing. The voice-over industry is an exciting, creative opportunity for you to perform and have fun
ABOUT HEATHER ...
Heather Costa is a full-time voice-over talent as well as a voice-over coach and producer with the company, Such A Voice. Her fast-growing success and knowledge in this field have earned her respect in the voice-over industry. Her voice-over credits include work for Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Clear Channel, Finish Line, Walmart and the Disney Channel. As a coach, working with students around the U.S., she has helped launch the voice-over careers of many talent.