Voice-acting tips from
"The Art of Voice Acting Workshop"

SETTING UP AN INTERNET VO BUSINESS

Eric Bodrero sent along this question about doing voice-over on the Internet:

"How likely would I be in succeeding at an Internet voice-over business? Are they hard to start? Would it be wiser to aim at getting an agent first? I've been thinking hard about it for quite a few months now, but I don't know. There seems to be a lot of people trying to start a VO business on the web. I noticed your links to starting a home voice-over business, and they are great, but is it harder than what it seems? Honestly, the thought of going on auditions and traveling all over town doesn't appeal to me. It seems like it would be easier to just do it over the Internet. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions about this? Thanks alot!"

JRA Replies:

The most important thing to keep in mind about voice-over (or voice acting) is that this line of work is part of “show-business”. All of the advantages and disadvantages of theater, film and television also apply to voice acting. That means: 1) Auditions are an important part of getting work (whether you have to travel to another city, or if you audition on the phone, or if you send an MP3 file over the internet); 2) You’ve got to absolutely LOVE what you do if you are going to compete successfully. If you are not passionate about voice acting, you will not be willing to dedicate the time, money and energy it will take to break into the business, keep your name in front of the talent buyers and continually improve your craft as a performer; and 3) You need to be willing to market yourself in every way you can think of to get your name and demo in front of the people who might hire you. You must also have some basic business skills because you are the owner of your own business as a voice actor.

The voice-over business does appear to be changing. There are more and more producers who now audition and take session tracks over the Internet, and more and more voice talent are setting up their personal studios to do recordings at home. But many more producers still rely on local recording studios for high-quality recordings. Those who do accept un-directed session tracks provided by the talent over the Internet (or even tracks recorded while the producer directs over the telephone) must accept the quality of the recordings they receive as electronic files. As a result, many Internet bookings do not pay very well simply because the expectations of professionalism are lower. The only way to overcome this problem is through experience and a track record of providing excellent tracks, both in performance and sound quality.

Setting up an “Internet VO business” is not really all that difficult: Assuming you have the necessary business skills, all you need is a good computer, a decent quality sound card, a good microphone, a mixer (for controlling your mic levels), the necessary recording software and a fast Internet connection. Your investment in equipment might be as low as several hundred dollars (not including the computer). That sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it!

Well, there’s a lot more to it than that! It is indeed pretty easy to put together the equipment for a home VO studio, but there are some real challenges that come into play later on: The first challenge is to set up your room so the acoustics are decent for voice recording. Computer noise, and echoes from hard surfaces will seriously degrade your recordings. If your microphone is too close to your computer monitor, you can get a very nasty buzz. The quality of your mic is also extremely important. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can make some very expensive mistakes, and you may lose future work because of poor quality recordings.

Then you need to figure out how you are going to market and promote yourself. If you don’t have an agent, you are limiting yourself in terms of access to projects you can audition for. I suggest you submit yourself for representation in your primary market, but be prepared for rejection. Most agents are fairly selective about who they will represent and are interested only in performers who they think will fill a need for their clients. You are not limited to only one agent and you can re-submit yourself every few months (agent talent pools and needs do change). You can generally have an agent for every major city in which you market your talent. There are also several on-line agents who work primarily via the Internet.

The major challenge comes when you try to record yourself while sitting in front of your computer. Your job as a voice actor is to create real and believable characters telling a story. That is extremely difficult to do if you are concerned about your recording levels and making sure your equipment is working properly. Engineering a session is a Left Brain function and performing is a Right Brain function. Most people cannot do both simultaneously with any degree of success. And sitting in front of a computer as you deliver your lines will restrict your physical movement, which will affect the believability of your performance.

My recommendation to anyone just starting in voice-over is to put together a home studio, but not for the purpose of recording client tracks – at least not at first. Use your home studio to practice and rehearse your craft. Get used to using the equipment so you don’t have to think about what you are doing. Only then, will you be able to provide your Internet clients with the quality of performance they deserve, and that you are charging for. Until your performing skills are at a level where you can afford and justify the expense of installing ISDN digital equipment you will most likely not do a lot of actual session work on your home system. In the meantime, be willing to travel to ad agencies and recording studios for auditions and sessions. That is the best way to demonstrate your professionalism as a voice actor.

From my experience, the majority of voice acting bookings do not come from Internet listings or on-line demos. Most are from clients that we’ve contacted directly in one way or another, or to whom we’ve been referred by an agent. However, Internet marketing is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our business at The Commercial Clinic, and we do deliver completed tracks via the Internet.

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