There are 4 people you have to rely on to run an established voiceover business:
You Are Your Voiceover Business
That might seem like a heavy-handed point to make, but the fact of the matter is that when it comes to making your voiceover career happen, you’re in the driver’s seat. All the same, no one wants to feel like they’re alone, so let’s continue with that idea of thinking yourself as 4 people working together for a shared goal. You might be the only member of your voiceover business, but it is still helpful to break down the 4 skillsets that you need to get your career as a voice artist off the ground.
So let’s take a look at that again, but look at you as 4 separate people, 4 separate employees of your voiceover business, each with a unique skill that you can bring to the table and get you where you need to be:
- You – The Talent
- You – The Business Manager
- You – The Sound Engineer
- You – The Marketer
These are the 4 hats you have to wear when you run your own voiceover business. You need to master all of these areas in order to be successful. You cannot be successful if you have only mastered two or three. Running a voiceover business really is an all or nothing affair, but in many ways this a is a good thing. Once you know what you have to and how much effort you need to put in, then you can be better prepared for the challenges ahead.
So let’s pick up these hats one by one and take a look at each in turn before you put them on.
You – The Talent
As a voiceover talent, you will hopefully by now have identified your signature voice. This is the voice that represents all that is real and authentic about you. In other words, YOU, because remember, it really is all about you when it comes to your voiceover business.
If you haven’t yet discovered your signature voice then it is something that you should address as a matter of urgency. One of the most respected voiceover coaches in the world is the Los Angles-based Marice Tobias, who is a good friend of mine. Marice coaches most of the highest earning voice talent in America and around the world.
She is the vocal coach of choice for some of the most established artists in the world today. She counted among her friends Hal Douglas, Don La Fontaine and Marlon Brando. She gives keynote talks to Promax every year. Her take on the concept of the signature voice is this: ‘The more of YOU that shows up in your vocal performance – the more in demand you will be”.
Now I am not talking here about a character or caricature performance or extreme, stylised vocal delivery. I’m talking about the kind of straight down to earth vocal delivery you would deliver on a piece of ad copy or as a narration on a documentary. And no matter how boring and unappealing that may sound, the reality is that by mastering that signature delivery, you will have created not only a relevant but a long-lasting voiceover career.
So, how do you nail your signature delivery?
Record yourself reading various styles of VO script get to know what you sound most comfortable with and perfect that as your signature voice, but make sure it is authentic or at least sounds authentic. It should be the voice and style of copy that creates the least resistance for you when you perform it. It is your most natural delivery. Remember you are unique and your uniqueness and distinctiveness are what set you apart from the crowd.
You – The Business Manager
Successful voiceover artists are good marketers. Marketing your services is critical to your success. It is important to bear in mindthat the market will not come to you. You will need to go to the market. For many years I laboured under the impression that first and foremostly I was an artist and therefore did not need to market myself, I reckoned that my talent would be “discovered”.
How wrong could I have been.
For years, while presenting various shows on both the BBC and commercial radio I waited for my big moment. Guess what? It didn’t come. I sat by a phone that rarely rang. How naive I was! That was a huge wake up call. So, what did I do? I designed and printed business cards which I handed round liberally to everyone I met, I went to more parties and social gatherings. I engaged with people. I created a website which contained not only my demos but also had my contact details. I opened and created a Twitter account and a Facebook account and began to talk about my work, I found an agent to represent me and worked with that agent to create new business.
Your agent is someone you work with, not for. If you are looking after the accountancy side of your business you need to get up to speed on accountancy software. Good record keeping is essential if you are to keep track of who owes what. Luckily there are some great Cloud-based packages out there like QuickBooks and QuickFile which I personally use and are excellent.
So to summarize, your website should speak to your clients in your personal tone and in the third person. Your social media and blogs are there to establish your brand and reinforce your credibility as a professional and you should run your office with a solid accountancy software package. Put all this together. Get all your ducks in a row. Be proactive and ask yourself at the end of the day – would I pay myself for what I did today if I was employing ME!
The next key area in which you need to develop proficiency is…
You – The Sound Engineer
Today’s modern working voiceover professional is not only a talent. He or she should also be a first-class sound engineer. In order to attain this level of competency, you will need to take courses on self – recording, post-production and editing. Luckily Gravy for the Brain offers all of these opportunities!
You need to become familiar with your recording software and practice your editing techniques and processing techniques for post-production and experiment with all of these frequently, so that when you are asked to record projects of differing types, the method of recording and editing will become second nature to you as will familiarity with all the different file types, audio compression and delivery methods to the client.
Learn how to record in the field. Experiment with recording in inhospitable recording environments.
You – The Marketer
In order to get to where you want to be you need to have a map. You wouldn’t consider driving to Glasgow from London without first consulting at least a map. And possibly you would also want to take a look at the route on Google as well to see if there are any traffic delays en route! You should adopt a similar approach when considering your career. You need to know what you’re aiming for – you need to have an idea of where you will end up.
After all, how would you know when you’ve been successful if you don’t know what your goals are? Therefore it is important to write down your goals and your plan of how you are going to get there. A useful thing to do is to identify who you would want to work for as a voice talent, what products or projects do you think you could add value to?
Whose projects do you feel you should be involved with? Maybe you’ve seen some commercials on TV already and you think you could do better. So, from now on, listen with intent – and analyse the work of others – every-single-day.
Next, commit those grand goals to paper. It could be a series of bullet points in a diary, it could be some notes in your phone, but it must always be visible to you. So pin it up on a wall in your office, stick it on the fridge or add it as your phone background. Wherever it is, it needs to be in your vision at all times so you never lose focus or direction. It is your career satnav.
The next thing you have to do is to break down that route to get there, into multiple easy steps from A to Z. Formulate a plan, create a timeline and set yourself a realistic goal over a realistic period of time. Also, you need to be prepared to adapt these steps and possibly the goals if, after a period of time it appears that you are drifting or not likely to meet the goals you have set yourself.
You are in this for the long haul. So, be proactive and professional at all times. Focus on the 4 skill cornerstones of your career and you will become the master you want to be of your voiceover business and beyond.
For more information on voice acting visit our series of posts on how to become a voice actor