I cannot believe that it’s already been (or only been) almost three months since I jumped into the world of voiceover! Some have advised me not to mention my lack of chronological VO experience here, but I’m not too concerned. In just the last three months since my first audition on June 8, I’ve submitted over 1,000 voiceover auditions through five different pay-to-play sites. I’ve also booked 22 paying jobs during that time (between $100-$2,000), and have a 23 percent audition shortlist rate.
Mind you, I’m also on the microphone anywhere from 6-10 hours a day, submitting an average of 10-20 auditions daily. I’ve built up a solid website, created a Facebook page with a steadily growing audience, and started a VO blog. To say I’ve been busy is an understatement! However, I’ve been a travel blogger and content creator for the past five years, and in the media and public speaker circuit for ten years. This isn’t my first rodeo.
But, this is still a career pivot, and it’s my first time doing a LOT of things. You can read a ton of blog posts and watch a ton of YouTube videos, but there’s no better teacher than doing. I have a lot yet to learn and experience, but as I go through the early stages of this new career, I wanted to share what I’ve learned after 1,000+ voiceover auditions.
There’s no such thing as auditioning too much.
They say that the only job you’re guaranteed not to book is the one you don’t audition for, and I couldn’t agree more. If you’re using P2P sites like I am, then it eventually becomes a numbers game. If you’re good at voiceover and you submit 100 auditions, there’s a good chance you’ll get at least one or two bookings. I’m pretty happy with my 2 percent booking rate, especially as someone new to the industry. Other people with a lot more experience might not be, and of course I would love for mine to be higher! That’s a personal choice. But I love creating auditions, and the more I audition, the more work I get. It’s simple math.
You just need that one PITA booking to teach you to charge more.
Every voice actor comes across a job that they really really really want to get booked for. We get told to record it, submit it, and forget it. For 99 percent of my auditions, that’s easy enough. But every now and then I stumble across something I’m really passionate about. I did finally land one of these bookings, but it turned out to be a total nightmare. I did way too many hours of recording and editing work for way too little money because the producer made some poor decisions. I learned the hard way that it’s okay to ask for more money when you know you’ll be putting in more work, and to walk away from projects when your gut tells you it won’t be worth the effort.
You can get bookings with cheap gear. You’ll get more with better gear.
Before I recorded my very first audition, I decided to go low-budget on my gear. I had no idea if I would be any good at voiceover, and I didn’t want to drop a lot of money on equipment I might soon be putting on a shelf. Much to my surprise, I booked several jobs with that cheapie tech. I quickly decided to upgrade to a really good USB microphone. Then I booked 10 more jobs with that one. To reward myself, after six weeks and 15 jobs, I went big and dropped a thousand dollars on a professional XLR microphone. Well…my shortlist and booking rates have since doubled. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
The learning curve for DAW editing and software is steep.
I’ve been making videos and recording audio as a journalist and travel blogger for a decade. As such, I was already somewhat familiar with Audacity. However, I was nowhere near familiar enough with the editing skills that would be required to succeed in the voiceover business. With no small amount of help from personal friends, YouTube, and voiceover Facebook group members, I drank greedily from the DAW firehose. I was absolutely terrified of switching over to Adobe Audition, and especially learning how to edit in spectral view. But with plenty of study and practice, I’ve got a lot of it figured out. Of course, you need to have a good voice to succeed, but if you can’t edit your auditions to sound great for a prospective client, then you’re dead in the water.
Pay-to-play sites actually work well for some VO actors.
I can’t help but smile a little bit every time I see an argument in a Facebook VO group over the utility of pay-to-play sites (e.g., Voices, Voice123, VOPlanet). So many people will tell new voice actors to stay away from them and work on marketing themselves directly to clients. I fail to understand how new voice actors are supposed to do that with zero track record, no clients, and no experience sending in auditions (which means likely no demo, either). Yes, some of these P2P sites are considerably more shady than others. However, they work well for a lot of people – including me. I’ve earned several thousand dollars in just 10 weeks from P2P sites, and accumulated a roster of clients that include some very well-known companies. I know some people will continue to judge new voiceover talent for their choices of auditioning platforms. However, I won’t be one of them.
IF you have the technical skills, you can make your own demos.
Here is yet another situation where the prevailing popular opinion seems to be that you should never make your own demo. Well, some people actually have the technical skills to make a pretty decent demo and don’t want to spend $1,000 for someone else to make just one right out of the gate. For example, I have 18 demos total; six are compilation demos and the other ones are individual clips. Having these on my P2P profiles has garnered me a considerable amount of work. Do you think I was going to pay $18,000 to create all of those demos? Or even $6,000 for the compilations? Absolutely not. Will I consider dropping the cash when I’m ready to start pitching agents? Probably. But if you’re confident in your recording and editing skills, I don’t think it should be a hard and fast rule that absolutely no one should make their own demo.
It’s really fun to audition for genres you’ve never tried.
When I first started auditioning, I had plenty of free time, so I decided to just start recording and submitting auditions for jobs I never would’ve thought to otherwise. I remember one in particular — a Welsh Corgi walking through a shopping mall in search of ice cream. This is definitely not in my wheelhouse! I mean, what would a Welsh Corgi sound like if she could talk? And that’s where the acting fun comes in. No, I didn’t get the job, and I didn’t even get shortlisted. However, I have submitted other auditions that required some character acting that I have been shortlisted for, and it’s been a lot of fun to explore a voiceover category that I’ve never done before.
Script guidance is often completely useless. Do YOU.
It can be a little frustrating when you’re given a custom script for an audition with absolutely zero guidance. It’s kind of up to you to guess what the client wants to hear. However, it can be even more frustrating when you get too much guidance– and especially when the instructions are clearly contradictory. Excited and enthusiastic while calm and smooth? Professional, yet casual? Serious in tone with gravitas, but young and fresh-sounding? At this point, it’s best to just use your judgment and do what works for you. It’s just guidance, and the definitions of those words are all subjective anyway when it comes to the sound of a voice.
Getting the voice part right is useless if you don’t get the acting part right.
Earlier this year before the pandemic got going, I was working my way into television in a reality/travel capacity. I’ve already been doing TV work for over a decade as an expert on border security and Mexico’s drug war, so it’s always been as myself in a documentary capacity. I had to zero acting experience going into voiceover. There’s a talent agency here in Orlando that’s ready to sign me, but the agent wanted me to take more acting classes to see if I would actually be any good in a commercial. I went for it, and fortunately, that bit of training has really helped with voiceover.
Sometimes it can be hard to figure out how to interpret a script in a way that the client will like. I guess there’s not too much acting involved in an eLearning project, for example, but it’s absolutely necessary if you’re doing animation, video games, or audiobooks with any dialogue. While I continue to absorb as much voiceover training as I can, I’m also constantly working to improve my acting skills in tandem.
The learning and improving NEVER STOPS.
Probably the hardest part of getting trained in voiceover is picking from the plethora of training options. There are tons of courses and voice coaches out there, not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands, of YouTube videos available for free. There are subscription services for sites that offer webinars, conferences several times a year where you can hear talks by very experienced voice actors, and websites and blogs where you can pick up scraps of information about technology and editing. It can definitely be overwhelming! However, this means there’s no excuse to not use the free time you have to learn more and improve your VO and acting skills. For me, it’s worth sitting through a two-hour webinar of stuff I mostly know for that one golden nugget of new information that will help me book more jobs.
The VO community is filled with kind, funny, and really cool people.
I’ve been part of the travel industry has both a writer and a travel agent for five years. I’ve also been a content creator as a disability rights advocate, so I guess you could say I’ve been a part of the social influencer community. I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow around some pretty amazing people in this world. However, you’d better believe that there are some judgmental and downright bitchy people who can’t be happy if you’re succeeding, or will do anything to judge and bash someone new asking a supposedly stupid question. I can honestly say that some of the most kind and helpful people I’ve come across in any professional community have been here in the world of voiceover. From online conferences to Facebook groups to webinars, it’s been the standard of behavior and interaction, and I’m so excited to be a part of it!
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