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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Writing a Voiceover Cover Letter

There will be many times when you will be required, as a voiceover artist, to submit a demo tape and cover letter to a prospective agent or employer.  Cover letters are challenging to write because most of us do not like writing about ourselves.  It is uncomfortable, not just for voiceover artists, but for most human beings.  Nevertheless, it is a necessary evil, so it is best to just get past the discomfort in order to sell yourself in the best possible light.

Don’t Rush It Whether you are just updating a previously written cover letter or writing an entirely new one, do not rush yourself.  Take your time, so you are less likely to make costly mistakes.  Typos can really turn prospective agents and employers off.  Worse yet, there have been occasions when people have left the wrong employer’s name in a cover letter, or mistyped a phone number.  Take your time and avoid missed opportunities.

Make it Personal People respond better to personalized messages.  Rather than writing a “Dear Sir or Madam” letter, take the time to track down the name of the person who will be reading your cover letter.

Do Your Research In addition to learning the name of the agent or casting director, learn more about the agency or the employer.  Know what sort of work they do, what industries they serve, and more, so you can appropriately reference these facts and make things as personalized as possible.

Don’t Be Shy About Your Enthusiasm Are you excited about the job?  Then make that abundantly clear.  You won’t sound desperate.  You will sound enthusiastic and that can be a very winning quality.  Agents and employers want to hire voiceover talents who want to show up to work each day.

Above all else, write in your own voice and don’t be shy to explain why you think you are a great candidate for the spot to be filled.  Part of working in voiceover is being able to sell yourself.  So, sell away!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Recipe for a Great Demo Tape

In the last blog post, I wrote about the frequent need for more than one demo tape.  In this blog post, I’ll focus more on the breakdown of a successful demo.  This is really aimed at those who are new to the industry, though this recipe can be one for success at any level of experience.

It is typically recommended that you include five ‘spots’ in your demo tape.  That simply means that you include five different examples of your voice.  It is a good idea to use these different spots to highlight the range of your talent.  For instance, in a narration demo, you might want one spot to be the reading of an audio book, the next to be a documentary-style reading, the following to be a children’s book, and so on.

Standard practice is to make each of these spots 5-15 seconds long, with the goal of the overall length of the demo being 60-90 seconds. You may also want to use a couple of seconds for musical intro and outro. As an example, here is what a 75 second demo might look like:

Musical intro: 2 seconds
Spot 1: 15 seconds
Spot 2: 15 seconds
Spot 3: 10 seconds
Spot 4: 10 seconds
Spot 5: 10 seconds
Closing Statements: 10 seconds
Musical outro: 3 seconds

This, of course, is just a guideline, and you may find that some spots fall slightly short of the time allotted.  Others may be a bit longer.  The same is true of the closing statements, but as long as your demo falls within the golden 60-90 seconds, and portrays your voice talents in the best light, then you can feel good about a job well done.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How Many Voiceover Demos Do You Need?

One of the biggest things on the minds of new voiceover talents is the creation of a demo tape.  This is a big part of building a business in this industry, and you should place a lot of focus on getting it right, but it may be that you are limiting yourself by putting so much emphasis on one demo tape.  The truth is that you will likely find that that demo is only one of a collection that you will ultimately create.

Consider this, when shopping for a computer, you may walk into a box store that sells them, but you will do no more than glance at the headphones, televisions, and video games sold in that same store.  When casting directors are on the hunt for the perfect voiceover talent for the job to be filled, they will not pay much heed to your demo if it doesn’t fit the niche they are operating within.

That is to say that there are different industries that seek voiceover talents.  If your demo is only catering to one of those, and your intent is to get work across multiple industries, then you are likely going to need to record multiple demos. If you are just getting started in the business, then chances are that you don’t really know where your voice best fits, so trying to narrow to a specific niche is going to be a challenge.  Consider recording three demos for the following three types of voiceover until you decide which fits you best:

Commercial This is a much smaller subsection of the voiceover industry than many would think, but it can be a lot of fun, and if you have the right voice for it, the casting directors may just want to hear more.  Focus on showing a wide range of tone in this demo – soft sell, hard sell, conversational voice, and public service announcement.

Narration This demo will be an important one and may ultimately be the one that you garner the most work from.  Narration is a big part of the voiceover business, though it comes in many forms.  Show a lot of diversity on this demo, considering that you may be hired to narrate documentaries, audio books, educational materials, and web content.

Corporate This is very similar to- and could even fall under the narration category, but corporate work does tend to differ quite substantially from other narration-style voiceover.  You can also really focus on a specialty, particularly if you have a lot of work experience in a particular field.  It will be essential to showcase a strong, authoritative, and attention-grabbing voice in this demo.

In truth, the number of demos that you record will depend on your goals as a voiceover artist.  However, if you are brand new to the industry, then it would be recommended that you record demos that will appeal to at least two of the above categories. I've utilized many demos on my website or have sent out to clients/potential clients. These are specific to the industries I work in. I.E my Agriculture Demo, Financial Demo, Health Care Demo and several more.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why You Shouldn’t Always Hide Behind Your Voice

As a voiceover artist, you will likely spend a lot of time at your desk and in front of your microphone.  However, you shouldn’t hide behind your voice all of the time.  There are two big reasons to get your face in front of others.

1.    People bond more easily with others when they can put a face to a name.  Whether you are literally meeting and greeting in person or simply sharing video of you in the recording studio that touch of human interaction can really make a difference in how potential clients respond to you.  It can make you more memorable.

2.    The more comfortable you are performing in person, the better you will be behind the mic.  A lot of voiceover work involves a healthy dose of acting.  That means that any practice you get performing will help you with your work.   It is also helpful to have average, everyday discussions with others.  It can help you when you have to portray a natural, conversational voice for one of your projects.

I’m not saying that you have to go perform a stand-up comedy act or that you have to put on a one-person show, but it might be a good idea to record your next promo with video, not just audio.  Or, take part in a play.  At very least, go out and sit in a cafĂ© and talk with a person or two while you are there.  Tell them about what you do.

If you are naturally introverted, understand that you are not alone.  Many voiceover artists share that in common with you.  That is why we are more comfortable behind a microphone than on a stage.  However, it is very good for your business to put your face forward from time to time.  So, hide away the majority of the time, if that is what makes you most comfortable, but do make yourself visible on occasion.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Creating a Convincing Voiceover Marketing Campaign

Ironically, marketers regularly hire voiceover artists to help with their advertising campaigns, but when it comes time to sell their own services, the very same voiceover artists don’t know where to begin.

I’ve had several people mention the overnight success of a man found on the streets.  The guy had a voice that was made for radio, but was living on the streets because he didn’t have a home to call his own.  His voice was discovered, and he was promptly whisked away to partake in interviews and voice spots.  This was an incredible story and the man does have an undeniably ‘golden voice’.  

However, there is a reason that he went 50+ years before his voice was discovered and sought after – he didn’t market it.  It goes to show that even the best voice won’t guarantee that you secure voiceover work.  You have to understand how to get your name and your skill in front of the right people.  There are four important elements to successfully marketing yourself:

1.    Create a Brand Technically, you aren’t creating anything.  You are your brand, but sit down and outline your objectives, and list the things more important to you, then use those as the focus of your brand.  This will help you maintain consistency as you network and build your business.

2.    Know your Audience Who is going to hire you?  What would those individuals valued most?  Once you know the answers to these questions, you can begin to create campaigns that speak directly to your intended audience.

3.    Stay Informed Read, read, read and listen, listen, listen.   If you do, you will learn about new technology, new services, new conversation platforms that can help you reach your audience more effectively.  You will also likely find connections between your brand and trending topics, which can be exploited for the purpose of growing your business.

4.    Keep it Simple All of this may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  Really people respond best to other people.  So, be you.  Create campaigns that match your beliefs and your voice, and you will draw the attention of other likeminded individuals in a real and meaningful way.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Voiceover Debate: Sit or Stand

This is a question that I have been asked by new voiceover talents on more than one occasion.  Should you sit or stand while recording?  There are varying opinions, and ultimately the decision will be yours, but there are a few pros and cons to each that should be considered as you prepare to set up your voiceover studio.

Achieving the Best Air Flow The flow of air through our bodies is an important part of the formation of words.  The better the air flow, the better our voice will carry and the stronger it will sound.  Obviously, when recording voiceover tracks, a stronger voice is a superior voice.  It will come across better when listened to the recording.   That means that standing scores a big point, because when we stand our airflow is less restricted.

Clocking Those Hours Time is money, they say.  The phrase certainly rings true when you are being per project doing voiceover work.  Therefore, you want to maximize the time that you spend in the studio, because that is where your profits are made.  This is why many voiceover artists forego the better airflow and opt to sit down.  We naturally tire faster when standing, and often feel more comfortable when supported by a chair.

The Good and Bad of Movement Typically, when recording voiceover, there is a need for a bit of acting.  Even though the client may never see our facial expressions and motions, they can help us achieve a more realistic character for the project.  Essentially, we commit to the role, even in the way that we move our bodies while recording.  That said, too much movement in the studio can be troubling because the noise can be picked up by the microphone. Obviously, standing allows a voiceover artist to move more freely, which can be both good and bad.  So, the point awarded in this category will depend on how much you like to move and how good your microphone does at blocking out background noise.

Obviously, take the time to consider the pros and cons, but in the end, choose the position that allows you to create recordings that you can be proud of.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Voiceover 101: Dealing with Rejection

It is going to happen.

You are not the first voiceover actor or actress to be rejected.

It will happen again.

You can overcome it.

Those are the four most important messages that any voiceover professional can send to someone breaking into the industry, regarding rejection.  Unfortunately, rejection is a big part of this line of work.  You will not get every job that you audition for and it is very likely that you will suffer at least one span of time that seems to be wrought with rejections.  As long as you recognize that you are not alone, and that all others in this line of work have experienced (or will experience) the same, you will be able to bounce back from it relatively unscathed.

To help you through the process of healing after you first rejection, allow me to provide the following pieces of advice:

Do Not Hide From Your Emotions Rejection is a disappointment. You will feel hurt, sad, or angry.  Don’t try to suppress the emotions.  Instead, confront them and acknowledge the fact that they will pass.  The sooner you address them, the faster you will be able to get past them.

Praise Yourself for Taking the Chance You cannot be successful in life without taking chances.  You took a risk and it didn’t work out as you had hoped… this time.  But, the fact that you took the chance in the first place should make you feel good.  Go forward knowing that it may not have panned out this time around, but it won’t always be that way.

Do Something Nice For Yourself I’m not saying that you should go buy yourself something expensive every time you don’t get a job that you audition for.  Nor would I recommend indulging yourself with calorie-ridden treats every time.  However, it can be healthy to show yourself compassion.  That might mean taking a break to go get a good cup of coffee, to read a book for a little while, or to go for a walk.  That little bit of kindness paid to yourself can greatly decrease the time that it takes to get over the rejection.

Take Notes Though it feels horrible in the moment, take in every detail that you can about the rejection that you receive.  You can learn a lot from the losses that you suffer in life, and that certainly extends to the voiceover profession.  So, if you were fortunate enough to receive a critique, make a point of using it to improve your skills.  It may just work to your benefit at the next audition.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Big Benefits for Voiceover

In past posts, I’ve talked about many of the roadblocks that can stand in your way when you are starting out in the voiceover profession.  There should be no secret of the fact that it is not always easy to build your own business, and this career path is certainly no exception.  However, there are many great reasons why I, and other voiceover artists, work so hard to be successful in the industry.  There are many wonderful advantages of working as a voiceover professional.

Work in Your Pajamas It’s not always going to be the case, but there are many days when, if you wanted to, you could go to work in your pajamas.  That is because work is in your own home.  With a home office and recording space, you have the luxury of wearing whatever attire you’d like, as long as you get the work done. 

Begin to Excel at Trivial Pursuit This career is an interesting one in that it exposes you to all sorts of information that you wouldn’t have likely been privy to otherwise.  There is a lot of reading to be done, and often that leads to you learning all sorts of facts that might just serve you well in a game of trivial pursuit.

Plenty of Peace and Quiet Working from home has one more very distinct advantage – quiet.  There is no office banter or phone conversations happening around you.  This is your domain and you will very often be on your own to enjoy the peace that the job provides (unless, of course, you are sharing your home office with your spouse or roommate).

Be Something New Every Day Well, probably not every day, but there will certainly be plenty of time spent pretending that you are someone- or something else.  As a voiceover artist, you will very likely give voice to many inanimate objects on a fairly regular basis.  You can become (at least for a little while) a dog, an apple, or perhaps even a golf ball (and without the pain of being hit with a golf club!).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Slow Period? Consider a Broader Niche

Many people who are new to the voiceover career path get caught up in doing one type of voiceover work.  Whether those are short recording for commercial advertising or very long recordings for audio books, it can be dangerous to become too pigeon-holed. 

Choosing to stay true to a particular niche can make your own marketing efforts easier and more effective.  However, don’t allow yourself to become so specialized that your new business struggles financially.  There is a fine line between true niche marketing and foolishly giving up the chance for paid work.  You can, however, hone your specialized skills by broadening your niche a bit.  Consider these voiceover avenues and how they may fit within your intended specialization:

Commercial Voiceover We’ve already mentioned this, of course.  The irony here, though, is that many voiceover actors and actresses don’t realize how very large this niche is. 

·         Radio voiceover
·         Television voiceover
·         Cinema voiceover
·         Web-based advertising voiceover

This can be a very great niche to work within, because it is so vast.  When marketing your services, though, be sure that you consider all forms of advertising voiceover and choose your keywords and audiences appropriately.

Video Narration This is not a terribly far cry from the commercial advertising already written about, as the voiceover will likely appear in many of the same forms of media.  It does, often, require more time in the studio than the average commercial spot, but it may be a good way to branch out without moving terribly far from your comfort zone.  Narration can also be a good branching off point for those accustomed to audio book work.  The same sort of acting skills and knowledge of various dialects and accents will be valued in this area.

In-Person Narration Rather than spending time in the recording studio, perhaps you would like to work live.  If you have already focused your energies on video narration, or something similar, then this may not be a horribly uncomfortable stretch for you.  This is often referred to as being “the voice of God”, but essentially means that you lay out the plot of a life play from backstage, or you read the introductions for special speakers at banquets and special events, or you just create an air of excitement by introducing the audience to the show that they are about to see.

These are just a few of the areas of voiceover that may open up for you, if you expand your marketing efforts slightly.  So, if you are struggling to maintain a consistent workflow, then now might be the time to consider branching out a bit.