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

BREAKING IN TO THE BUSINESS OF VOICE-OVER

Marcus Manning recently wrote with an important question:  “James, I read your book and found it extremely informative.  I have been working with a voice coach for the last 3 years and have recently received exclusive representation from a prominent (talent) agency here in Minneapolis, MN. The question I have for you and all your years of experience is, how do get in to the circle?  I have had a great number of auditions however, few jobs. How do I get through?”

Here is my response:

The question of "how to break into the 'circle'" is one that does come up from time to time. The important thing to remember about voice-over is that this is Show-Business. As with all other areas of show-biz, there is a period of time for "paying dues," making the connections, getting established, mastering the skills, establishing a reputation, and waiting for that big break. Sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn't. Working with a private coach is an excellent idea that will hopefully accelerate your access curve to "the circle". If there are other workshops or acting classes in your area, I encourage you to take those classes because you will learn something new that you can use in your voice-over work and make connections with others.

Actually, there are two "circles": the biggest one is the national talent circle of voice-artists who are consistently doing national spots. This "circle" is difficult to break into and breaking in usually means the performer has many years of experience - often in other performing arts as well as VO, is highly directable, has ISDN experience, have a good agent, and has managed to be in the right market and in the right place, knowing the right people at the right time more

often than not. Although a certain degree of luck may be a factor, more often than not, these people are highly dedicated professionals who do whatever it takes to get the job done - and they are often excellent self-marketers.

The smaller "circle" is on the local/regional level. The fact that you are going out on many auditions is a good sign that you are on the right track. Every audition you attend puts you one step closer to "getting the gig". Still, it can take several years to get to a point where you are recognized as a highly competent (not just average) voice talent and for the producers in your area to find a need to hire your. It takes consistent - and creative - marketing, continuous learning on your part, daily practice, and undying patience. Just as the Hollywood movie star who is an overnight success actually goes through many years of struggle, the same is true of breaking into the "circle" of voice-over. I know of several VO coaches who will tell their students to plan on anywhere from 6 to 15 years of study and marketing before that "lucky

break" happens that will make you an overnight success. It takes time. Be patient.

If you are too eager to "break in" you will most likely become frustrated and give up before you have adequately "paid your dues". The most successful people I know in this business would do this work for free! The fact that they get paid is a bonus. Keep that attitude and your likelihood for success will be much greater.

Here are some tips for getting your foot in the door:

  1. Find out who the producers are in your area who use voice talent and get your demo into their hands. This includes TV stations, recording studios, ad agencies, video production companies, corporate headquarters in your area. Contact them by phone first so you have a name and approval to send your demo. Do not send unsolicited demos - they will not be listened to!
  2. Follow-up after a few days just to make sure your demo was received. Do not ask if they have listened to it - most won't have.
  3. Do not follow up with additional phone calls - your calls will not be appreciated, and may actually result in you NOT being hired. Instead . . .
  4. Follow up with a mailing or post cards sent at regular intervals.
  5. Try to find something interesting or creative about you that will make you memorable in the mind of the producers. The idea is to create a demand for your talent.
  6. As you get jobs, send out a mailing to your list to announce what you've been up to.
  7. Get a website. It doesn't need to be fancy, but it should look professional and be easy to navigate. It should also have your demo on-line in either (or both) MP3 format and/or RealAudio format. Do not post your demo on-line as a .wav file - it will be too big and take too long to load.
  8. Develop an e-mail marketing strategy similar to your postcard or letter mailing strategy for marketing you as voice talent.
  9. Get an agent if you at all possible. This may or may not be a simple task depending on your performing abilities and the market you are in.
  10. Get your demo on every Internet VO website you can. Many will allow you to post your demo at no charge. Some will charge for upgraded listings and some charge even for a simple posting.
  11. Be diligent and consistent in your marketing and you will gradually work your way into "the circle".

If you get the idea that this business is to a large extent marketing, you're right. Even if you get sent out on lots of auditions and even if you have an agent, you can't just sit back and wait for the jobs to come in - because they won't. Life just doesn't work that way.

As for getting into the "circle". Give yourself time: Time to master your craft. Time to develop your marketing plan. And time to get yourself known.

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