Please forgive me for such a long delay. October is my busiest month, not just for voice over but for my other careers. I am a severe workaholic, but I’ll my best to keep up with posting every 1-2 weeks.
So for today’s post, as always, please read but keep an open mind. The information here is based on my own experiences and that of some of my colleagues and friends. I don’t speak for everyone. And don’t let what I have to say discourage you from your VO journey. My only goal here is to share knowledge.
“I’m a Voice Over and I feel like I haven’t worked a day in my life.” When I first started in VO, a teacher actually said those words at the beginning of the workshop. Looking back, I would have started laughing out loud if I knew then what I know now.
To my knowledge this person is still using that phrase as she/he continues teaching waaaaayyyy more than actually performing VO. It also doesn’t help that more than too many have little to nothing good to say about the person as a talent.
Why won’t I say their name? I keep it confidential on this blog because it’s really unprofessional and quite tacky to denounce a person so publicly. It’s also slander, which is wrong. You’re going to encounter lots of people like that, though. If you do, here are signs to watch out for:
- A demo is guaranteed after the workshop: The majority of those working in VO frown at this, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s not recommended these days. However, I’ve seen posts now and then that pop up where a demo is offered as credit for attending a workshop. But before considering, you must do your research on the producer. Listen to audio samples if any are available. Ask opinions of fellow VO talent.
- They coached “big name” talent but have nothing to show for it. I knew a woman who liked to boast on her website that she coached American Idol finalists, the Dixie Chicks and others, yet she had no proof. She also claimed to be a jack-of-all-trades, yet again, where’s the proof?
- They put down other VO talent and producers openly then insist only they know the business while trying to sell marketing materials. Or, they say, “I normally charge this much, but for you I’ll only charge this.” If it’s too good to be true, trust me, it is. Ask questions, lots of them. If the so-called coach/demo producer gets impatient or frustrated or gives shady answers, those are major red flags. Don’t ignore them!
Voice Over isn’t easy. When you find your niche it becomes more comfortable because you develop skill and confidence. But there are still jobs that require hours of using your voice, or taking direction from others. If the latter takes too long, it won’t look good on you. Directors don’t want to hire someone who doesn’t instantly take direction. Never ever forget, time is money. You’ll be reading this a great deal in my blog because it’s brutal honesty.
People who to this day still go around teaching the idea that as a VO they feel like they’ve never worked a day in their life is a false teacher. Beware of them!
VO is wonderful and yes it’s great fun, but there is in fact work involved that quite a few people don’t realize.
Please bear with me. The list is examples of what I’ve seen and experienced. Not everyone will say the same.
Here’s why VO can be hard work:
- If doing video game work you might be screaming for hours which means you’ll be hoarse for days or possibly weeks.
- If doing animation you might be required to voice 3, 4, or 5 different characters that MUST NOT sound the same.
- You could be in a small booth for 3-4 hours at a time.
- If reading audiobooks you must have a good flow with the words, understand where and when to take breaths and make the characters stand out without sounding cartoonish (unless it’s a kids book)
- Recording a commercial? Do you know the product? The intended audience? The right words that make the meaning of the copy standout to listeners? How to sound natural and believable instead of like an announcer?
- If doing an elearning project can you sound engaged with the copy given to you without sounding bored out of your mind?
- Can you build a good space to record at home with? Do you have a website to showcase your demos?
- You’re reading a commercial that involves an energetic pace. Can you record a number of variations while keeping the energy high for multiple takes?
- Do you understand recording software? Audio gear? Working on both PC and Mac?
- Do you understand microphone technique? Editing? Adjusting the gain on your audio interface?
- Are you prepared to dedicate time to marketing EVERYDAY? Are you prepared to keep up with all the current events in VO?
I could keep going, seriously I could. But I’d probably wear you out. Here’s the point. VO is something you do out of passion, without expecting guarantees. If a teacher brags about living the good life because they barely have to do anything except talk into a microphone then they’re scam artists. Chances are they make more money convincing others to take their VO workshops and then telling them they’re ready to have demos made after one lesson.
Do your homework. If you find a name look up everything you can find. They’re experts at animation or video games do they have an IMDb page? If they’re known for commercials do they have a website with demos? If they’re experts at audiobooks are they listed as narrators on Audible.com? Are they on LinkedIn? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? YouTube? Do they share connections with well known VO people?
Research and research some more! Be careful out there!
Tim Bick says
I agree, there is a general sell going on these days where the underlying message is “anyone can do it and the money is unbelievably good”, and yet the evident contradiction is that if the money is so great, how come this person is doing coaching/selling studio time/got a book out?
Most definitely. However, I do know some VO talent who are top notch but they teach because they love it. Yes it’s extra income, but time isn’t something that’s free. I’m not certain I’ll ever go down the route of teaching even though I enjoy it in other fields (yoga, mermaid swimming, baking, etc.). The best coaches are the ones who are working and keeping up with what’s current. The ones offering demos right after the workshop or during are the ones you need to be wary of. Good luck to you!