There are four key elements of a successful voice over career, which must be mastered in order to achieve success.
- You – Your Talent and Ability
- You – The business manager
- You – The sound engineer and
- You – The marketer
These are the 4 hats you have to wear when you run your own voiceover business. You need to master all of these areas in order to be successful. You cannot be successful if you have only mastered two or three. Let’s look at each in turn.
You, The Talent:
As a voice over talent, you will hopefully by now have identified your signature voice. This is the voice that represents all that is real and authentic about you. In other words, YOU. If you haven’t yet discovered your signature voice then it is something that you should address as a matter of urgency. One of the most respected voiceover coaches in the world, the Los Angles based Marice Tobias, who is a good friend of mine, coaches most of the highest earning voice talents in America and around the world.
She is the vocal coach of choice for some of the most established artists in the world today. She counted among her friends Hal Douglas, Don La Fontaine and Marlon Brando and she gives keynote talks to Promax every year.
Her take on the concept of the signature Voice is this:
‘The more of YOU that shows up in your vocal performance – the more in demand you will be.”
Now I am not talking here about character or caricature performance or extreme, stylised vocal delivery. I’m talking about the kind of straight down to earth vocal delivery you would deliver on a piece of ad copy or as a narration on a documentary. And no matter how boring and unappealing that may sound, the reality is that by mastering that signature delivery, you will have created not only a relevant, but a long-lasting voice over career. So, how do you nail your signature delivery?
Record yourself reading various styles of VO script, get to know what you sound most comfortable with and perfect that as your signature voice.
You must make sure it is authentic, or at least sounds authentic. It should be the voice and style of copy that creates the least resistance for you when you perform it. It is your most natural delivery. Remember you are unique and your uniqueness and distinctiveness are what set you apart from the crowd.
You, The Business Manager:
Successful voice-over artists are good marketers. Marketing your services is critical to your success. It is important to bear in mind that the market will not come to you. You will need to go to the market. For many years I laboured under the impression that first and foremost I was an artist, and therefore did not need to market myself. I reckoned that my talent would be “discovered”. How wrong could I have been? For years, while presenting various shows on both the BBC and commercial radio I waited for my big moment.
For years, while presenting various shows on both the BBC and commercial radio, I waited for my big moment.
Guess what? It didn’t come. I sat by a phone that rarely rang. How naive I was! That was a huge wake-up call. So, what did I do? I designed and printed business cards which I handed round liberally to everyone I met. I went to more parties and social gatherings. I engaged with people. I created a website which contained, not only my demos, but also my contact details. I opened and created a Twitter account and a Facebook account and began to talk about my work, I found an agent to represent me and worked with that agent to create new business. Your agent is someone you work with, not for, remember?
If you are looking after the accountancy side of your business you need to get up to speed on accountancy software. Good record-keeping is essential if you are to keep track of who owes what. Luckily there are some great Cloud-based packages out there like QuickBooks and QuickFile which I personally use and are excellent.
Your website should speak to your clients in your personal tone and in the third person. Your social media and blogs are there to establish your brand and reinforce your credibility as a professional, and you should run your office with a solid accountancy software package. Put all this together. Get all your ducks in a row. Be proactive and ask yourself at the end of the day – would I pay myself for what I did today if I was employing ME?!
You, The Sound Engineer:
Today’s modern working voice-over professional is not only a talent. He or she should also be a first-class sound engineer. In order to attain this level of competency you will need to take courses on self – recording, post-production and editing.
Luckily Gravy for the Brain offers all of these opportunities!
You need to become familiar with your recording software and practice your editing and processing techniques for post-production. You need to experiment with all of these frequently, so that when you are asked to record projects of differing type, the method of recording and editing will become second nature to you, as will familiarity with all the different file types, audio compression and delivery methods to the client.
You, The Marketer:
In order to get to where you want to be you need to have a map. You wouldn’t consider driving to Glasgow from London without first consulting a map. And possibly you would also want to take a look at the route on Google as well to see if there are any traffic delays en route! You should adopt a similar approach when considering your career.
You need to know what you’re aiming for – you need to have an idea of where you will end up. After all, how will you know when you’ve been successful if you don’t know what your goals are? Therefore it is important to write down your goals and your plan of how you are going to get there.
A useful thing to do is to identify who you would want to work for as a voice talent – what products or projects do you think you could add value to? Whose projects do you feel you should be involved with? Maybe you’ve seen some commercials on TV already and you think you could do better.
So, from now on, listen with intent – and analyse the work of others every day.
Next, commit those grand goals to paper. It could be a series of bullet points but it must always be visible to you. So pin it up on a wall in your office. The next thing you have to do is to break down that route to get there, in multiple easy steps, from A to Z.
Formulate a plan, create a timeline and set yourself a realistic goal over a realistic period of time.
You do need to be prepared to adapt these steps and possibly the goals if, after a period of time it appears that you are drifting or not likely to meet the goals you have set yourself.
You are in this for the long haul. So, be proactive and professional at all times. Focus on the 4 cornerstones of your career and you will become the master you want to be.