The glamorous world of voice over work.

(Disclaimer: I am not a regular in the studio. I do just enough work to allow me to take an extra vacation every year. Others may/will differ with my opinions and have different experiences in this field. You have been warned.)

Part four in an agonizing series on voice over work.

Not the studio microphone but it sure was handy for this photo.

Back so soon from the tuba video? Well, today’s post will be a bit shorter in any event.

Once you’ve gone through the agony of training and doing your demo you’re ready to tackle the market. You have two routes to take at this point, and they are not mutually exclusive. The internet and the agencies.

The first route is the unconventional one – internet based services. Essentially you set up a studio in your house and try to get work recording for people elsewhere. I started this way and it was pretty interesting. I spent the money to buy the software, microphone, cords, stands, etc., and then joined Voice123. I put up my demo on the site and then auditioned like a mad man trying to get work. This was back when the service first started out and there were under 1000 artists on the site. Competition was tough, but it was not as crazy as today. Now, with thousands of people signed up, the people seeking to cast a voice spot have a lot more voices to choose from. And a lot of them are bad.

Well, shouldn’t that make it easier for a good talent? You’d think so, but what it does is make the producers skeptical about who they’re seeing in the audition box. Ten years ago when I started out doing this I auditioned 82 times before I got my first paid gig. It was wonderful to finally get a paying job. And they wanted it in 5 hours. I had to leave my job, run home and record the piece while they listened in on the phone. But it paid very well. I grew discouraged after a time because as the number of talents on the site grew some of them were obviously waiting for each job to post and dashing off a response. More than once I recorded my submission and submitted it within an hour but found that 24 people had done one before me and they’d shut it off due to the response. Voice123 has now changed their system so that can’t happen and that’s a good thing. But I got out of the habit and don’t audition as much as I should.

The other route is to get in with an agency. Talk to other actors about who they work with locally. Some agencies are… well, not much fun to deal with. They dont’ do a very good job for the actor and you can die of old age and frustration waiting for a job. Find one that is looking for talent and then follow their submission guidelines. If you know someone who works for them use that sparingly. Remember, if you are both going to be in competition for the same kind of work it’s mighty hard to recommend anyone to replace you!

The tough part here is that many agencies won’t really even talk to you unless you have some experience. I got that through Voice123 and reading for the blind. But the honest fact is that I still wouldn’t be working for an agency if I wasn’t also a pretty good Santa. That fat guy opened the door for me for on-camera and voice work. My credentials and photos as Santa allowed me the chance to talk to the agents and then once they got to know me I was able to do the voice work. You will have to gird yourself for rejection. The first time I talked to an agent she told me to “Just throw your photo and stuff away, it will save me the time of doing it myself.” I sent her the photo, demo, and resume along with some sheets of plastic to laminate the picture. In my cover letter I recalled our phone conversation and told her they’d make a good coaster or dartboard but don’t throw them away. I got an on-camera gig two days later from the same agent.

What’s the point? Agents are overwhelmed with new talent. Most of the people who submit are good looking, talented, and probably great people. But the agencies see dozens if not hundreds of them a week. And unless you stand out you will sink into the pool and vanish. But do it in some way that is not going to frazzle or annoy the agents. They have long memories. Be creative, it’s all about marketing.

Beware of agencies with a “door fee” to let you in their talent pool. The simple fact is that if you’re any good you’ll make them money. They should want you if you have potential, and not be demanding up-front money. It is not unreasonable for them to ask for a small fee (under $100) to do the work needed to get you into their system, put you on the web page, list you with major clients, and promote you a bit. The fee typically covers any mailings you might get during that first year. But if they keep asking for more money you should run away. I occasionally pay a small amount to my agency for the web presence but they take it out of my next check. That way they have an incentive to keep me working. And they haven’t asked in a few years.

Once the agency takes you on, do a good job. Take the low paying stuff they test you out on at first. Don’t complain, be on time, bring a beverage to sip, have your asthma inhaler with you and don’t wear clothing or jewelry that makes noise when you move. The microphones will pick up everything, including that pinky ring banging on the copy stand.

If you prove to be a consistent talent they will work hard to keep you busy. It’s in their best interests. Am I busy? Nope. I’m not a full-time actor nor do I hound my agents. But I also know that I’m not the voice every client wants, nor the face they seek for industrial training films. And I’m good with that fact. As Harry Callahan said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

So, you’ve made it this far. The next step is the actual job and how that goes when you get to the studio. We’ll tackle that in the next installment on Wednesday. For now, please ask yourself what your goals are and are you willing to be rejected 82 times or more before you get a job. Can you take agents laughing at your photo and not putting you to work? Can you wait patiently for them to call or will you make them nuts with constant inquiries about jobs? And, finally, what will it be like when you get to the studio that first time?

Now, more tubas.

Another death-defying tuba video.

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