Saturday, November 1, 2008

Time to pack it in?

So, you’ve been trying for a while now to make some money doing voiceovers, right? You’d read on a website about all the money people make doing voiceovers. All your life people have told you that you have a nice voice and you really should be “on the radio” or a “voiceover person.” You know how to talk, so how hard can it be?


After hundreds of dollars spent getting a demo made. Hundreds more having a website designed and hosted. And joining Internet casting sites. And doing dozens, even hundreds of auditions through those sites. You’ve tried low-balling the price. You’ve tried raising the price. And what do you have to show for it? Zip? Maybe a few hundred dollars?


What now? You’ve heard that “winners never quit and quitters never win,” but you’re wondering how much more money you have to sink into your voiceover “career” before you start making those big bucks?

Well, where ever you are on the road I’ve just described, please believe me; the vast majority of people trying to make money doing voiceovers never do. Yes, the vast majority. And there are lots of folks who will happily take your money to “train you for a professional voiceover career” or “create that killer demo” or whatever. Maybe you’ve already met some of them?

Being successful in voiceover requires a host of skills, only some of which have anything to do with talking into a microphone. If you don’t succeed it’s both because and not because of the competition. There’s always someone more experienced, more talented and more driven than you are. Always. Someone with a better voice. A better demo. A better agent. Or something.

You can make excuses all day long. None of them amount to a hill of beans, except for the way they block you from actually getting where you want to go.

So, here are some concrete suggestions from a guy who’s learned more than a few things the hard way…

Don’t sign up for the first training opportunity you find. At least, don’t sign up until you’ve checked to see if the person doing the training actually knows his or her stuff. And until you’ve checked to see if the prices being charged are reasonable. In many cases, you’d be far better off taking an acting or improv class at the local community college. And then some singing lessons. If you have talent for voiceover work, you’ll learn everything you really need (except microphone technique) in theatre and singing classes.

Don’t make a demo until you’ve spent at least a few months listening to the demos of top notch working professionals. Here, I’ll save you the trouble of finding them. Click this link. That’s the Union/International house reels for voiceover talent agents. As you can see and hear, there are hundreds of people in line ahead of you. Actually, it’s not hundreds. It’s thousands.

Don’t build a website until you have a demo worth promoting. And when you build the site, again, don’t go with the first person you meet who can code a little html. Has this designer ever worked on a site for a voiceover person, or even an actor, before? Look at the sites. Look at lots of sites from other voiceover people. Take note of what you like and what you don’t like. Discuss these with your designer. Or, do what I did. Find a template you like, study some html, and build your own.

Are you depressed yet? Look, I’m deliberately trying to splash some cold water on your face because at some point you have to examine the question: is it time for me to quit this and get back to doing something else with my life?

Bonnie Gillespie is a brilliant Hollywood casting director, mainly for independent films. She writes a weekly column for Showfax called The Actor’s Voice. This blog post was prompted by reading Bonnie’s column from October 16, 2006. While as usual with her column, the focus is on Hollywood actors, the lessons apply to all of us who earn our trade acting with our voices in places other than Hollywood. As Bonnie writes…
What I’m hoping to provide here is a nice little kick in the butt for those of you who hem and haw about leaving the biz. To paraphrase Yoda: Leave or leave not. There is no whine.
And this is, I think, the money quote…
Remember that what you do as an actor most of the time is pursue work. So I’m not talking about finding yourself jealous of those who are succeeding in ways you were not. That doesn’t count. That’s like being an astronomer and finding yourself jealous that you didn’t discover a new planet. Very, very, very few people have the level of success that draws people to the pursuit of acting in a major market. If you cannot be happy pursuing the work, improving your craft, and building relationships in this industry, you absolutely should consider packing it in…
Take a long hard look at reality. Are you putting your family in jeopardy? Are you spending too much time and money on this dream of voiceover success? Do you truly understand in your bones that voiceover work, like any other kind of acting work, is mainly finding work? This is a marketing and sales job far more than it’s a “talk into the microphone” job.

So, how are you doing? I’d love to read your thoughts and experiences. All it takes is for you to leave a comment.

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