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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Voiceover Opening New Doors for Visually Impaired

Very often, voiceover work is done for companies looking to entertain-, appeal to-, or inform audiences.  But, occasionally, a voiceover artist is hired to complete a job with an even more significant purpose.

Not that long ago, a leading technology-related publication released a story of voiceover tech that was opening doors for the blind community.  Though a lack of vision is a hindrance, technology is making it possible for those suffering with vision loss to do more than ever before, and much of that is accomplished with voice recordings.

For a blind individual, breaking into the software engineering field was a major challenge, in large part because there was so a large visual component to the work.  However, with the help of voice talents, tech companies have been able to provide screen-reading technology to blind professionals, which has meant an a much more level playing field for those who want to brooch the tech sector, despite vision loss.

New coding education software offered by Apple, for instance, has been updated with this screen reading technology.  The software was designed to teach people – young and old – how to write code.  This isn’t just for those who are currently of an age to secure a career path.  The tech companies that are pushing this type of software are looking to inspire the younger generations.  These are the kids that have grown up with smartphones and tablets.  They knew how to navigate from app to app at two years old.  And, now, at as young as eight years old, some are trying to make their own apps, by writing their own code.  For the visually impaired, voiceover is a powerful tool.  It can give them the verbal information that they need so they can make the most of their own tech-related skills.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What Can a Voiceover Talent Learn From Marketing Trends

If you aren’t following along with some of the marketing news, while working as a voiceover actor or actress, then you are doing yourself a disfavor.  There is a lot to be learned from marketing news.  Above all else, you can figure out new tricks and tips for marketing your own services, and that could most definitely lead to a growth of your business.  Aside from that, though, a lot of voiceover work has a tie to the marketing industry.  Consider the marketing-related jobs that you could find yourself reading for:

·         App Creation
·         Commercials
·         Web Video or Audio for Business
·         Radio Spots

These are just a few of the examples of the way that businesses can make use of your skills as voiceover actor or actress.  With so much of our work coming from the marketing industry, it makes perfect sense that voiceover talents would want to know about the trends impacting that profession.
With the New Year came many reports of expected marketing trends for 2017.  Among those, there were many that could lead to changes in the voiceover industry as well.  For instance:

·         Cultural Diversity This is a big matter in marketing these days, for good reason.  More cultural diversity often means looking for voiceover talents who are able to speak multiple languages or who have experience with the practices of multiple cultures to draw on.

·         Video Content The benefits of great video content have been fully realized over the past couple of years, which means that businesses are now scurrying to make their own potentially-viral videos for online marketing purposes.  Often, that means a need for voiceover.

·         The Slow Death of Print Marketing With more and more of the marketing budgets moving to the web, there are far fewer ‘print’ advertisements and far more of video- or audio format.  All of that is helping to drive the continued growth of the voiceover industry.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Do I Need a College Degree to Be a Voiceover Actor?

The short answer to this question, of course, is ‘no’.  Most voiceover talents are working on a freelance basis.  That means that they weren’t hired by a company, but rather reach out to clients on their own to secure work for themselves.  That means that there are not specific job requirements that come with breaking into the industry.  However, that is not to say that an education is entirely unnecessary.  Though you may not need to showcase that degree on your resume, there are many types of classes that can really prove very beneficial in this line of work.  Consider these various tasks that you will most likely have to complete and how the classes listed could help you along:

·         Auditioning If you want to be a voiceover actor or actress, then you will have to be comfortable showing off your voice in front of others.  That means that you are most definitely going to be asked to do public speaking.  It is pretty clear that public speaking classes could come in very handy.

·         Acting It’s in the title after all, so do be prepared to do some acting as part of your role as a voiceover talent.  Even if you don’t appear on stage or screen, you will have to use some of the same skills as stage actors and actresses to make your voice fit the character being portrayed. Thus, all sorts of acting classes can prove beneficial.

·         Marketing In order to get work, you are going to have to be able to sell your talents.  So, you may seriously want to consider signing up for a marketing class or two.

·         Accounting As the business is run by you, you’ll have to manage the invoicing, paying of debts, keeping of records, and others such matters.  Above all else, I highly recommend taking accounting or general business classes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How Your Voiceover Career is Improving Your Health and Wellbeing

Chances are, if you are a voiceover talent, then you are working on a freelance basis.  That means that the health insurance options offered by your company (and by ‘your company’, we mean you) are pretty horrible.  The good news, though, is that you may not need health insurance as badly as those poor souls who don’t know the joys of working in this industry.

According to research, a healthy mind can actually have a big impact on your physical health.  It has been found that an active mind can reduce the risk of these common medical conditions:
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
How can this be the case?  The first couple are easier to understand.  If you are keeping your mind active, you are more likely to feel fulfilled, and therefore less likely to suffer from depression.  Even anxiety is less likely to claim an active brain.  Because you are succumbing to depression and you are feeling fulfilled, you are more likely to make healthy food- and exercise choices.  That means less risk of obesity, which, in turn, means less chance of obesity-related illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.  Additionally, it has been found that regularly challenging your brain can actually reduce the risk of falling victim to Alzheimer’s disease.

How does voiceover work help with all of that?  In this industry, you regularly challenge your brain.  You are forced to be a bit creative, to interact with others, and to complete a wide assortment of tasks related to voiceover and the running of the business.  Thus, you don’t give your brain time to get bored, and, if you love the work as I do, then you will most definitely feel fulfilled.  This type of work is sure to improve your vocabulary, your reading speed, your comprehension, and your listening skills.  It is wonderful for your mental health, and as demonstrated above, pretty fantastic for your physical health as well!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

You Never Know Who Your Voiceover Client Will Be

Once you have established yourself in this industry, you may be surprised to find that you get requests for voiceover work from the least expected places.  There have, of course, been very strange, unusual commercials that use voiceover to animate everything from plumbing fixtures to wall paper.  However, it is not just the object which your voice will represent, but also the person doing the hiring that can come as a shock. 

I thought it would be great to highlight a bit of fun voiceover work that a man recently did.  The person hiring him?  His teenage daughter.  Sounds funny, right?  Well, it was, but it was also quite a brilliant marketing move on the behalf of a pretty, talented, and intelligent young girl.

You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JP6ZDMaVyVI

The truth is that voiceover is in much higher demand than many people would think.  While most attribute the work exclusively to books, film, and maybe the occasional commercial, in truth it has become a very big business that extends into many different facets.

While this dad undoubtedly didn’t charge his daughter for the work her did, it does go to show that even Youtube can be a source of income for voiceover artists.  Many music videos, tutorials, training videos, and other such materials are posted on Youtube every day.  A large portion of those will feature voiceover work.  The creators of these amateur films have good reason to pay for professional voiceover.  There have been many notable successes that rose in popularity purely because of their Youtube work.  The professional voiceover provides a more sophisticated feel to a video and, therefore, is often given more credit by audiences and critics.  So, as we face the start of a New Year, be sure that you are considering every possible avenue that you could travel, thanks to your voice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Dirty Word in the Voiceover Industry: Marketing

There are many aspects of running a voiceover business that are not at all related to your voice.  These include, of course, marketing.  You will have to get your name out there in order to be discovered and hired.  Marketing is, in fact, likely going to take up as much (if not more) time as the actual recording process.

Build a Brand The first thing that you must do as a business owner (which is essentially what you are when you decided to go into voiceover) is to begin to formulate your brand.  This will often include the mission statement and the business logo, but there is much more to it.  You need to have a clear picture what you are and what you hope to be.  Your figurative voice and your image should be consistent across all channels.  That is the most important aspect of building a brand – consistency.  In doing this, more and more people will begin to recognize your name, your face, and your talent, as they run across it on multiple channels. This will establish your signature sound or your money voice.

Get Social (online and in person) Social media is great and it is a wonderful way to start building the brand, but don’t believe that it has completely replaced the value of in-person conversation.  The more you talk to people about what you do – online and in person – the farther your name will spread and the more leads will come to you.

Search and Search Some More Though the leads much eventually begin to pour in, you will always have to do a bit of the leg work if you want to ensure a steady stream of paid work.  That means searching out opportunities to audition, seeking new platforms to advertise your brand, and taking advantage of chances to interact with potential clients.

Ask Others to Help Spread the Word As you build your brand and begin to break into the industry, be sure that you are taking advantage of all channels of communication. Don’t be afraid to ask others to speak up on your behalf.  Personal recommendations are extremely valuable in all areas of business.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Voiceover 101: What is a Pop Filter and Do You Need it?

Have you ever noticed, when you listen to an amateur recording of a person’s voice – maybe a poorly made podcast or a family video – that there is a lot of feedback that makes it difficult to make out the words clearly?  The breathing noise, the cracks and pops of lips moving, and other such noises can really destroy the professional image you are trying to portray with your voiceover work.

This was the problem that sound engineers were trying to alleviate when they developed something now known as the ‘pop filter’.  It is also known as a pop shield, but regardless of what you call it, the point is simply to filter out some (most) of that unwanted sound.

Those sounds, commonly referred to as ‘vocal pops’ in the voiceover industry are really just a result of the movement of the mouth when forming certain letter sounds.  This primary occurs with hard letter sounds, like ‘P’ and ‘B’.  They are very difficult to prevent in your speech and you don’t want to be focused on that, when you are trying to produce convincing monologue or dialog.  You recording will end up sounds too forced or fake, because you were concentrating on lip formation, instead of paying attention to the words, the content that you were meant to deliver to the listener.

The good news is that pop filters have become much more commonplace in recent years.  Once upon a time, you had to book professional studio time in order to enjoy the benefits of a pop shield.  Now, you can invest in one for your home studio, without paying an arm and a leg to get it.  In fact, according to some voiceover professionals, you don’t even have to buy one.  There are some instructional videos online that tell you how to use a nylon stocking to create the same sort of shield.  Nevertheless, given the fact that you can pick up an actual pop filter for $20 or less on Amazon, I shouldn’t think it was worth the effort of making your own.

Do you need it?  Yes.  Most professionals in the industry agree that the shields are well worth the minimal investment, because they can save everyone a lot of painful editing time.

Personally, I've experienced more trouble with breath sounds on "t" and "f" words. But with careful placement of the right pop filter and a little self control I've managed to work with that.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How to Study for Your Job as a Voiceover Artist

If you are breaking into the voiceover industry, then you likely have looked into many different aspects of the career. You might have assembled a home office, built yourself a website, and even applied for a job or two.  However, in order to keep progressing as a voice actor, you need to practice and study the craft.  This is true in most any profession, and particularly for those who are novices in their respective fields.  So, how do you study to hone your craft?

Listen Voiceover can be found in so many different arenas these days – commercials, television shows, movies, theater performances, how to videos, social media advertisements, and the list goes on from there.  So, you won’t be hard pressed at all to find examples that you can study and learn from.  Pick out voiceover performances that you really like.  But, also pick out some that you recognize as poorly done.  Try to figure out what you appreciate in the good, and what you’d want to avoid in the bad.

Experiment Once you have studied the works of others, play with your own voice.  Set up the recording studio and just go in to play once in a while.  No one has to hear the outcome of these sessions except you, but it is entirely worthwhile, because you may discover different approaches that would be valuable in prospective jobs.  This is also a great way to work on impressions, if you are hoping to use them to maximize your appeal.

Sign Up for Classes You may not find classes specifically catering to voice acting in your area, but chances are very good that you can find some general acting- and improvisation classes near you.  These can be very valuable for voice actors and actresses.  After all, we still must know how to ‘become the character’ for the sake of our work. Attend conferences set up by professional groups
like WoVo (World Voices Organization), Faffcon or VO Atlanta. 

Above all else, always try to learn from each and every job that you do, whether you read a single line or a three hundred page novel.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Voiceover 101: Negotiating Contracts

As a voiceover professional, you will, most likely, be in charge of securing your own work.  This is typically a very independent field of work, which means that, unless you have an agent or agency representing you, you will have to negotiate your pay on the jobs that come your way. 
Negotiation can be an uncomfortable proposition for most people.  So, if you are feeling nervous, anxious, or stressed about having to face this part of the job, know that you are not alone.  In fact, there is a very good chance that the person (or people) that you will negotiate with feels the same way.  There are several things that you can do, though, to make the process less anxiety-ridden.

Do Some Research First and foremost, be sure that you are well prepared before you pick up the phone or walk in the room to negotiate. You should be aware of an approximate- or average rate charged for the type of work proposed.  Charging too little can leave you little room for editing and revisions later on.  You don’t want to miss out on future paying work because you are bogged down and losing money on this one. 

Understand the Variables While knowing the typical average voiceover rate can be helpful, it is not a strict rule.  There is a reason that it is called the ‘average’, as some jobs will pay more and some will pay less. You have to consider the variables that could influence the acceptable rate for the job.  

For instance:

·         Some jobs pay more simply because of the location of the hiring company.  It is no secret that average wages can vary greatly from city to city, town to town. 

·         Start-up companies generally have less money to spend on voiceover work than well established, successful companies.  So, you have to consider the financial capabilities of the client.

·         Experience matters.  If you are brand new to voiceover, it is likely that you are being selected by the client, in part, because they expect that you will charge less than a professional who is well recognized in the business.

Consider Other Points of Negotiation While the company may not have a lot of leeway in the budget, there may be other perks that can be offered instead.  Perhaps they could offer preferential treatment for future voiceover work. Or, maybe, they can alter their timeline to suit your needs.  It is a good idea to consider what you value other than money, before entering the negotiations.

It may not be comfortable, but negotiation is part of the job description for most voiceover artists. If you are well prepared, it will be a much easier and, very likely, much more successful process.

If you are working with established talent agencies, coordinate with them on rates since they may be more aware than you are of rates and other considerations.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Creating a Voiceover Demo That Will Sell Your Talents

If you are hoping to break into the voiceover industry, or, as I have been discussing in recent blog posts, you want to get your child into the business, you will need to create an audio demo. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE VOICEOVER DEMO The demo tape is truly the most important part of any application process you will go through from this point forward. Think of the demo as a resume of sorts.  Just as you want to ensure that your resume lists every possible highlight of your career -- including education, experience, awards, and certifications -- you want your demo to showcase every nuance of your voice talents.  Be sure that this recording showcases everything that makes you a great, unique, talented voiceover artist who is undeniably perfect for whatever job you may apply for.

THE TIMING OF THE DEMO As a general rule, you don’t have a lot of time to showcase your talents.  In this day and age, especially, people don’t have long attention spans.  If you can’t capture their attention within the first few seconds, then you have likely lost them.  Assuming you do pull the listener in, you will still have a minute or two to get across everything you are capable of.  Even the longest demos (and length is not necessarily a virtue, in this case) are just three minutes in length.  Your best bet is to create something that is approximately one minute long, but that delves into who you are as a voice actor and a real person.

KNOW THE NICHE Although it can be tempting to try to create a demo that appeals to every prospective client, it really is best to focus your efforts on a particular niche within the market.  So, your aim might be to do voiceover work for advertising firms – commercials – or you might want to aim for longer gigs, such as audiobook work.  There are a number of different directions you can go, but decide what you want before you begin to record the demo, because you will want to showcase different talents for different categories. Don't try to showcase all categories of voice over in one demo. It will takes several demos to establish that such as... Commercial Demo, Narration Demo, Character/Animation Demo, etc.

FORMATTING When the demo is complete and ready for release, be sure that it is saved in the MP3 format.  This is the most widely accepted format. 

Once this process is complete, you will be ready to apply and that is when things get really exciting!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Establishing Your Child as a Voiceover Actor

In the last blog post, I wrote a bit about the considerations that must be made before deciding whether or not the voiceover industry is the right fit for your child.  Once you have made that decision, however, you will have to take the right steps to get to the point where your child can sign his or her first contract.

The first step should be voice lessons.  Not only is it really important to have this sort of training before doing any recording work, it will also give you a good feel for how committed your child really is.  If he or she does struggles to find the motivation to go to the voice lessons, then it is very likely that he or she will get bored with voiceover work very quickly.  That could spell trouble when the first jobs come through the door.  Better to realize that it isn’t going to work now.  Assuming, though, that he or she continues to enjoy the lessons and is still excited about doing the job, then the training will help him or her understand how to properly control and care for his or her voice.  Good instructors will also be able to explain the concept of ‘getting into character’ even to very young children.

Once the training is at a point where everyone feels comfortable that the child is ready to take on some professional work, a studio will be required.  Even before the first job has come in, this is a must.  Why?  You will need to record a demo.  Most potential clients will ask for a copy of the demo tape.  The good news is that this is a great way for the child to become comfortable with the recording process.  It will also give a good indication of how well he or she will handle the editing phase.  But, first, you must have a recording space that will allow for audio to be captured without background noise.  A quiet space with a high quality microphone, headphones, and a computer loaded with good recording software.

When you have the studio set up, get to work on that demo.  Create a good one and your child will likely have work very soon after.