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Thursday, October 27, 2016

6 Reasons Why Voice Acting is the BEST Type of Acting

Film, television, stage, and voice actors - we all have something in common. Acting, of course! But we’re all different, too, and not just because we’re all unique individuals. I’m talking about the work we do, and how it can certainly be categorized under the same “acting” umbrella, but when you take a closer look, each area is vastly different from the others.

Now, I might be a tad biased when I say this, but I wholeheartedly believe that voice acting is the best of the various acting branches. Want to know why? Here are 6 reasons for you:

1.    I don’t have to follow a dress code. While I don’t just roll out of bed and hit the mic looking like a tired slob, I certainly don’t get dressed up for the occasion either. And that is NICE.
2.    I don’t have to go anywhere if I don’t want to. Because I have everything I need in my home studio, I get to be a hermit if I feel like it.
3.    I only have to worry about my voice. While other actors may have to do things to physically prepare for a role, like lose or gain weight, or grow out a beard or shave their head, none of these apply to me. All I care about is how I sound.
4.    Stage fright is not really a factor. Unless I’m doing a reading at a studio somewhere and all the sound techs are staring at me, I never get that sweaty-palmed, shaky-breathing, awful feeling of stage fright.
5.    I get to make my own schedule. For the most part, I’m working on my own schedule. There’s nobody depending on me to be somewhere at a certain time, so I just work whenever I want to as long as I'm meeting my deadlines.
6.    The paparazzi don’t follow me around. They don’t know what I look like, so how can they?!

What about you guys? What are YOUR reasons for why being a voice over actor is the best type of actor to be?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How Much Money Can You REALLY Make Doing Voice Over?

Here’s the million dollar question: how much money does a voice actor make? I really wish I could say, with absolute certainty, “As a voice over actor, you will be guaranteed a minimum salary of $xxxxxx per year!”

Unfortunately, I can’t do that, because there is no set salary for voice over actors.

What I can tell you, however, is what you can hope to expect as you gain experience, as well as what you might earn when you’re first starting out. As a general overview:

First, some facts. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that voice actors made, on average, about $34 per hour. TV and radio announcers clocked in at about $40,500 per year. Not too shabby, but maybe not what you were hoping for, right?

Well, consider this: it’s not uncommon for experienced actors to earn anywhere from $100-$300 for a 15 or 30-second ad spot. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the additional work that goes into creating that ad spot, such as time spent preparing, editing, or doing re-reads. Still, that’s not bad for a single ad, is it?

Here are a few other possible scenarios for you:  (non-celebrity voice)

     Movie trailer - $2,000 - $3000.00
     Cartoons - $250-$500/hour
     Corporate video - $500-$850 for a 15-30 minute reading
     Podcast commercial - $100-$250 for 15-30 second reading
     Audiobook - $200-$500 per finished hour

Keep in mind that your rates will vary depending on a number of factors, including your experience level, the type of project, the client, and lots more.

But let me conclude by saying this: for me personally, I can’t put a value on the freedom that comes with running my own voice over business. My time is mine to decide what to do with, and I get to decide which projects I work on, who I work with, how I spend my day, etc. etc.  Basically, I’m a free man. And that, my friends, is something you can’t put a price tag on. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

3 Reasons Why Your Marketing Strategy Should Include Voice Over

Voice over is one of the most instrumental methods for delivering messages to audiences. While stunning visuals and solid content are also highly effective, the sound of the human voice is something that everyone can relate to, and it’s also highly influential. If these reasons aren’t enough to convince you that your marketing strategy needs to include voice over, here are 3 more:

1.    Voice over appeals to another sense and contributes to a more complete marketing strategy. Maybe you’ve got incredible graphics, video or animation for your ad. Maybe you have written content that hits everything you need to drive home your message. And maybe, in spite of having these stellar components, you’re still left with an ad that is lacking something. That something is voice over. Why? Because without it, there is nothing to appeal to auditory sense. A complete marketing project should include both visual and auditory stimulation for the audience, otherwise you’re missing out on a key method for connecting with your target market.
2.    Voice over paints a picture of your brand. Personality is huge in any marketing strategy, and it’s one of the main elements of an ad campaign that an audience will remember. It’s also closely tied to your brand, so including the right voice over will help your target audience better understand what you’re about. Think about the voice overs that are used for different brands - you’ve got George Clooney’s mid-range “every man” rumble behind Budweiser ads, and the ASPCA partnering with Sarah McLachlan and her emotionally compelling voice that makes you want to rescue all the sad dogs and cats of the world. See how these companies have wisely chosen the right voice to reflect their brand?
3.    It’s just plain old more effective.  More often than not, an ad devoid of voice over is going to be less effective than one that includes VO.  There are lots of reasons why, but here are two: 1) most people want to be spoken to, and 2) sound, including voices,  makes people sit up and take notice. Regarding #1, deep down, people want to be told. And quite frankly, they need to be told to get the complete message. If you’re relying just on words on a page or a screen, you’re going to lose a significant portion of your market, simply because people don’t want to read it. They want to be told it jn a compelling way. As for #2? People respond to sound. When a voice over begins, people listen. It’s that simple.

Very few marketing strategies are successful without involving any sort of voice over. If you want your project to be the most effective - and reach its full potential - it’s absolutely vital that you include great-sounding voice over.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Which Voice Over Genre is Right for You?

Over the last few decades, voice over has expanded to include so much more than radio and television spots. You can find it just about anything now, whether you’re browsing the internet or cruising down the highway. But which area is right for you? Before you can answer this question, let’s go over some of the options available to voice actors.

     Films and documentaries
     Animation and cartoons
     Television commercials
     Radio and TV ads
     Audio books
     Video games
     Training videos
     Promo materials for businesses

This list is definitely not exhaustive, and there are plenty of other types of projects out there requiring the expertise of a VO actor. While it’s great that there are so many options, finding ones that best suite you can be challenging when you’re first getting started. That’s why I give 2 pieces of advice to anyone I know who’s interested in the business:

1.    Experiment. It’s smart to try a little bit of everything when you’re first starting out. Don’t lock yourself into one genre because you think that’s what you’re good at, or because that’s what you like. Play the field, so to speak, so you can get a taste for a variety of projects. You never know when you’ll find something that just clicks. Most VO actors niche themselves, and this is fine (and even smart to do), but when you’re new, take the opportunity to explore and experiment!
2.    Understand your strengths and weaknesses. We all have things that we’re really great at, as well as ones that we’re not so great at. For instance, I’m pretty good at television commercials and narration, but please don’t ask me to supply the voice over for a medical training video. I learned this by following my own advice (Tip #1 above), and I’m glad I did because now I know where to put my focus. I concentrate on my strengths instead of wasting my time (and my clients’ time) on things I know I’m weaker on. Of course, there’s something to be said for focusing on those weaknesses and remediating them, and this is fine too. The point, though, is to develop a good understanding of what areas you’re strong in, and accepting those you’re weak in.

So what about you? What's your tips for new actors trying to find a genre that’s right for them? 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How You Can Be a Better Narrator

Narration is a popular avenue that many voice over professionals explore. Whether it’s for a corporate video or a nature film, there are certain standards that all narrators must follow to produce high quality recordings that capture their audience’s attention. If you’re new to narrating, here’s what you should keep in mind:

     Don’t be monotone. This one kind of goes without saying, but it can be easy to fall into this if you’re reading something that’s a tad, shall we say, dull. When I say "monotone" be realistic, too much of a good thing is just plain boring. So find that sweet spot and stick within those parameters.
     Keep it conversational. Even if you’ve been given a script that’s about the molecular structure of human DNA, it’s important that you read it in a conversational tone that’s easy for your listeners to follow. If you’re stiff, or you speed through the reading, you’re going to lose your audience.
     Stand up while you’re reading. Standing allows you to breathe better from the diaphragm, which will improve your sound quality. It will also help you feel more energized. Although, I admit I record sitting on a stool; but it does keep my diaphragme somewhat stretched out.
     Don’t stand too close to the mic. Getting up close and personal with the microphone will distort the sound and leave you with a sub-par recording. Shoot for about 6 to 12 inches of space between you and the mic.
     Watch your volume. Your volume should be consistent throughout the recording. This is true for any voice over, but especially so for narration.
     Avoid the “popping p’s.” Plosives, or “popping p’s”, can seriously degrade a quality recording. Use a pop filter in front of your mic to eliminate this annoying sound.
     Get the pacing right. Take into consideration the content of the material you’re reading. What’s it about? Is it exciting? Complicated? Match your pacing to the tone of the material.
     Relax! Narration isn’t a whole lot different than other voice over work you’ve done, so just take a deep breath and relax. Read what’s on the script, do it from your heart, use the tips above, and have some fun with it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

3 of the Biggest Time Wasters for VO Entrepreneurs

You know what they say: time is money. When you’re running your own voice over business, this statement becomes even more true, because it’s YOUR money on the line! It’s all too easy, however, to fall into habits and behaviors that zap time and ultimately cost you money. Here are 3 of the biggest time wasters you’ll encounter as a VO entrepreneur, and how you can avoid them.

1.    Email - Email is one of the most efficient and convenient ways to communicate, no doubt about it. It’s also one of the most time-consuming, especially if you’re the type of person who keeps their email open all day and feels compelled to respond to each message right away. When you do this, email turns into a huge distraction that slowly chips away at your productivity. Instead of responding ASAP, try keeping your email closed or out of sight, and designating certain times of your day for checking messages.
2.    Trying to do everything yourself - There are things you’re good at, like voice over, and things you’re not so good at, like bookkeeping or website development, for example. If you’re trying to take on these tasks you’re not so great at, you’re wasting tons of time. Delegate these to someone who’s experienced, and you’ll not only save hours, but also lots of unnecessary stress.
3.    Overscheduling - You may think that cramming as much as you can into your day is a good thing, but it can actually be very counterproductive. When you’ve put 56 tasks on your to-do list for the day, your focus is simply on getting them done and checking off the boxes. This is great, except for you’re not really paying attention to what you’re doing, or committing 100% of your efforts. This leads to lower quality work that may need to be redone, or even areas that you completely overlook, requiring you to revisit that task later on. Instead, focus on the critical tasks, and allow yourself realistic timeframes to complete them.

Time really IS money, so if you’re committing any of these “time suck sins,” or any others that aren’t on the list, you’re missing out on potential profits. And remember, just because you’re busy, it doesn’t mean you’re being productive. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It’s Time to Brush Up on Your Sales Call Skills

What’s your favorite thing to do? It’s cold-calling prospective clients, isn’t it?

Just kidding, I know you hate that, because we all do! Or at least most of us do. However, it is a necessary evil at times, and one that may even pay off if you’re able to land a new client from it.

To do this, though, you need to be a skilled cold-caller. Most of us aren’t natural born salespeople, but there are some things we can do to brush up on those skills. Here’s what I’m talking about:

     Remember your purpose and stick to it. When you’re calling people, get to the point quickly and don’t veer off track.
     Have a script on hand so you can refer to it if necessary. You don’t need to read from it word-for-word, and you really don’t want to anyway because it will sound canned. But it’s a good idea to have something written down to glance at if you need to.
     Make sure you’re pitching to the right person. If you’re delivering your spiel to the receptionist, you’re probably wasting your time because he/she is not the decision-maker.
     Offer to connect with them another way, such as email, if that is preferable to them.
     Be ready to describe how working with you will be a benefit to them. This what really matters to them anyway, so have a few talking points at the ready about how you’ll be an asset.
     If they say they don’t have time to discuss anything at the moment, propose another time or ask them what works for them. Be persistent, but not annoyingly so.
*   Don't be afraid to leave a voicemail message. Remember, this is another chance for them to hear your voice.
     Finally, if they’re not interested, thank them for their time and end the call. Don’t try to wheedle a few more minutes out of them or use other tactics to try and convince them to work with you. Not only is this irritating to 99.99% of the population, it’s also just plain rude.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ready for an Agent? Here’s How You Get One

The decision of whether or not to work with an agent is one that most voice over actors ponder at some point in their career. Agents can be an excellent asset in your career, and a good teammate to have on your side. If you’ve made the decision to seek out an agent, here’s what you need to do:

1.    Get an amazing demo together. This is what agents will be listening to, so make sure your demo includes your absolute best work. It should be a well-rounded example of who you are as an actor so they can get a good feel for you and your sound. If you can afford it, have your demo done professionally so you have something that is truly high quality to send out.
2.    Put your name out there. Exposure is always a good thing in this business, and the more of it you have, the more likely you’ll be noticed. Make sure your web presence is well-developed and is an accurate reflection of your brand, so when people Google you, they’re seeing what you want them to see. Make sure your demo reflects your brand!
3.    Have stellar references at the ready.  You can count on any prospective agent to ask for a few referrals from past clients, so be sure the names you supply are ones that will give you a glowing review.
4.    Be able to vocalize your career goals. Agents want to work with actors who know what they want and where they’re headed. Goal-oriented people are typically more motivated, open to new ideas, and harder working - at least that’s my experience, anyway. Regardless, you should be prepared to discuss a few of your aspirations with a prospective agent so you can be sure you’re working toward the same thing.
5.    Be a professional at every step of the game. Whether you’re cold-calling agents or corresponding via email, every interaction should be a testament to your professionalism. Be courteous, concise, and well-spoken - you would be surprised at the number of people who aren’t, so just doing these simple things will put you steps ahead of many of your peers!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

5 Ways to Make Money When You’re Not Doing Voice Over

Is your voice over business paying the bills? Often times it does, but most actors experience periods where the money just isn’t what they need or want it to be. This might be because you’re new, and a steady VO income usually comes over time as you build your brand and reputation. Or maybe you’re just in a voice over lull right now.  Whatever the case, you may be looking for other ways to generate income in addition to your using your pipes. I know I’ve been in that position since I started doing voice over work.

Luckily, we live in a day and age where it’s really not too difficult to make some side money. Here are 5 ways you can boost your income when the VO work is slow.

1.    Sound editing - Do you have awesome editing skills? This can come in handy, because believe me, there are plenty of VO actors out there who are no good at it. Whether they’re technologically challenged or just don’t have an ear for it, people are willing to pay good money to those who can edit tracks to make them sound like high quality, professional recordings.
2.    Vocal coaching - Vocal coaching is another area you can make some extra cash. This one is probably better left to actors with more professional experience, as level of experience will be a deciding factor for many of the people seeking coaching. However, if you’ve got the skills and are good at working with others, coaching might be something to consider.
3.    Teaching - This is very similar to coaching, but while coaching is more of a one-on-one deal, teaching is usually done in front of a class. Again, this is a job better left to more experienced VO artists who have the credentials to back up what they’re teaching. Check with your local college or voice over group to see if any teaching opportunities exist if this is an area that interests you.
4.    Web development - All VO actors need a website, but very few are capable of creating their own in a professional and engaging format. However, if you are one of those few, I strongly recommend advertising your web development services to other actors, or anyone who needs a website, really. There is a huge market for this type of work, and you may be surprised to learn the earnings potential available.

5.    Blogging - If you’re like me and you like to talk, blogging is a great avenue to earn some extra cash. A lot of actors employ ghostwriters to handle their posts, for one reason or another. Actors aren’t the only ones, either. Many companies and individuals rely on freelancers to handle their writing projects, and as with web development, the right gig could land you a decent steady income. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Why Won’t Anyone Hire You in Voiceover?

I have been asked by a lot of beginners why they aren’t getting the jobs.  They bid and bid, but don’t get the work.  Of course, as in any industry, there is much to be said about experience.  The more that you have to showcase, the more trustworthy you appear to a potential client.  But, it isn’t all about experience, and there may be other reasons why you are missing out.

Lack of Self-Confidence It is the rule of every great salesman – you must believe in what you have to sell.  If you can’t honestly say that you love the product, why would anyone else want to buy it from you?  The same is true when the product is your voice.  If you don’t believe in your ability to return a very solid, professional piece of work to the client, you are going to have a very hard time selling your services.  That could explain why you aren’t winning the jobs.

Lack of Focus If there is one message that I could give to every new voice over talent, it would be, ‘choose a niche and stick to it’.  In the beginning, it is really hard to turn away jobs.  However, you can benefit greatly from staying focused on one niche market. Follow those niches that are most accepting of your signature sound. First of all, you can more quickly rise to the status of expert.  Secondly, you can build really great relationships with other voiceover talents.  Not all will return the favor, but if you recommend another professional to the person you are turning away, there is a good chance that you might see that good fortune returned to you.  Don’t be a afraid to turn a potential client away because the job doesn’t fit your area of expertise, but do so wisely and it may just pay off in the end.

Lack of Exposure I have said it before, and I will say it again, and again, and again, and again… and, I think you get the point – becoming a voiceover talent means becoming a businessperson.  You are, in essence, taking on the role of entrepreneur.  That means managing the billing and issuing the contracts, but it also means tackling marketing.  Bidding on jobs is certainly part of that process, but definitely not all of it.  You need to be advertising your brand, and your brand is you.  So, make your name known.  Be social.  Be engaging.  Interact with others in the business.  All of these efforts will help to ensure that people associate your name with the voiceover industry.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What is Long Form Narration?

If you are considering a break into the voiceover industry, then this is very likely a term that you have happened across more than once.  However, being new to the profession, you may not be familiar with its meaning.  Though it does not have great meaning in your life now, it will if you do decide to make a go of voiceover. 

Long narration, as the name implies, is a time-consuming venture.  The most common variety of work (or, rather, that which is most recognizable to people) is the audiobook.  The book industry was always large, but the audiobook market has exploded thanks to the technological age.  Not only do buyers have more immediate access to the audio versions of books and better systems on which to listen to them, more and more authors have discovered that it is easier than ever to make- and sell them.  That means a larger selection of audiobooks, which in turn means that buyers are more eager to consider them. It has, in essence, been the perfect storm, creating a truly massive industry.  That is wonderful news for voice over talents, of course.

However, not every long narration is an audiobook.  In fact, that is only one of a long list forming in this category.  Other examples include medical narrations, documentaries, training films, corporate training and marketing presentations, and even recruitment promotions. Many types of long narrations are also used on the internet now. These areas have expanded by a large margin because of the improved technology as well.  (Of course, the number of people working in the voiceover industry has grown by leaps and bounds as well).

There is no exact definition of how long something must be in order to be considered long narration, but in many cases, anything over a few minutes would be placed in this category, so one can see how these jobs would be highly sought after, the real money makers for voiceover professionals.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

3 Things to Know Before Becoming Voice Over Professional

This is a great industry to work in.  If I didn’t believe that, then I wouldn’t be doing the work and making the effort to secure more jobs in the field.  However, there are some downsides to the career, and those are things that you should be aware of before you try to break into the industry.

There is a Lot of Competition The technological age has delivered us many wonderful things, opened many doors that would have been securely shut to us before.  This includes the opportunity to branch into businesses that might have been too far out of our reach previously.  The voice over industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the recent past, as more and more people realize the potential that exists because of the internet and readily available high tech equipment.  This means that the demand for voice over talent has increased, but so has the talent pool.  Unfortunately, the latter has increased by a much greater rate.  That means that you will be facing a great deal of competition should you decide to become a voice over professional.  More competition means bidding wars, and that means less pay per job too.

It’s a Solitary Position
If you are a social butterfly, then this is probably not the job for you.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  There are social aspects to the job, of course, which I will touch on in this next section, but you will spend a lot of time on your own when working as a voice over talent.  For some, that is a welcomed experience, but for others it can take on the feel of solitary confinement.  You need to be aware of how well your personality will mesh with that sort of lifestyle before you invest in the career path.

It Takes Much More than a Nice Voice
Being a voice over professional is probably about 25% speaking clearly, concisely, and in an attractive voice.  The other 75% of the job is essentially being a good businessman. You have to know a good deal about marketing, about accounting, and about contracts, about working on line via emails, texts, phone calls often never meeting the clients you work with, because you will become your own business. Someone has to run it. Someone has to secure the work. Someone has to write up the invoices. That someone is you. I could elaborate on this section but for not for this short blog.

If none of this has scared you away, then maybe you really are cut out to be a great voice over talent!