5 Things Aspiring Voice Actors Do Wrong

The four capital mistakes of open sourcephoto © 2011 opensource.com | more info (via: Wylio)When talking with people who want to get into voiceover, I love the initial interest and excitement that comes with it. There is a rush to get through to the cool stuff, the documentaries, the cartoons, the big money, baby! Well, hold on. This isn’t instant hot chocolate: add hot water, stir, POOF! A CAREER!

That desire can lead to some serious mistakes and setbacks that can put your right back where you started. This isn’t to say that you won’t have setbacks; everyone does. But these are things you can avoid.
  1. Making your voice over demo too soon. Yes, you can spend a couple of thousand dollars and make your demo any time you want, thankyouverymuch. You could conceivably have one made by the end of this week. Of course, if you haven’t prepared, you haven’t practiced, you haven’t had some coaching, you haven’t found out what your “money” voice is, you haven’t picked out scripts appropriate to your voice…you are going to waste a few things. Your money, your time, and the time of the studio you engaged to get the demo made in the first place. There is no rush: you have time to get these things done. Take it.
  2. Making your first demo on your own. So rather than waste your money and time at a recording studio, you figure “Hey, I have the programs I need. I’ll just whip up that demo myself, get it out there, and let the jobs roll in!” Erm, no. You already have the burden of getting the script interpretations right. You really want to take on mic placement, editing, background music and sound effect selection, engineering, timing and all that plus more by yourself? Some things you should leave to the professionals. Recording your first demo is definitely one of them. Experienced, professional studios have the skills, the royalty free music and effects libraries, the experience and the overall wherewithal to make you look your absolute best in the recording. Down the road, you may be able to do some of this yourself, with training and experience. But do not, under any circumstances, make your first demo on your own. You will pretty much guarantee it will be listened to for 5 seconds and tossed. If you go to Voice123, Voices.com, or any of the P2P sites, you can find plenty of demos that simply should not be used as a representative of anyone’s abilities. Don’t be one of them. Get it right the first time.
  3. Assuming all you need is an agent for voiceover success. There are hundreds, nay, thousands of people out there who operate as voiceover agents. And for every one of them, there are many more times that amount of voice artists. Your agent can and will get you access to auditions you may not have access to as a layman. But they cannot and will not be your only source of work, unless you have that kind of bolt-from-the-blue “success” reserved for Ted Williams. A note on Ted; he did get a national commercial gig for Kraft. If it went according to rates I am familiar with, he may have made upwards of $2000 for that job. And that’s it. He’s still trying to put his life together, and I wish him all the best. But his kind of success didn’t necessarily result in long term productivity. Your agent can work with you to achieve that, but you need to be willing to invest your own time in looking for contacts and work wherever you are, and just add the agent into your toolbox. Speaking of looking for your own work…
  4. Assuming all you need is Pay-to-Play sites for success. The argument remains the same; multiple sources and multiple paths are the way to go. Many people are successful in finding work through the P2Ps. Some people eschew their use entirely. You have to make that decision yourself. But don’t make that decision that you are going to get your work exclusively from that channel, for the same reasons you shouldn’t assume your agent is going to get it all for you. Here’s a sobering note: on Voice123, if I check for voice artists with the following criteria; commercial, middle age male, English – North American, no union necessary in the United States, I find 1,158 voice artists. Competition for gigs will be challenging. And you may win some. But this isn’t going to be the only way you get work, unless you are planning on eating quite a bit less than you do now. Your success is directly connected to your ability and will to network, engage, help, and listen.
  5. Losing patience with the process. You simply can’t do this if you want success. Today may not be the day you win that regional network gig, or that national spot for McDonalds. Tomorrow might be. But in between, you want to fill the space with phone messages for Joe’s Dry Cleaners or Aunty Em’s Frozen Toast on a Stick Shoppe. There is always the chance you cannot move forward with this career the way you want. From experience, I can tell you the readjustment period can be rough. But folks, these things take time. You have to keep working, keep reaching out to potential clients, keep reaching out to experienced voice over talents for advice. Patience, grasshopper.
You must use the tools and resources available to you to find your way. But don’t expect “the way” to pop up like some Yellow Brick Road. It’s going to take some hacking and slashing to get there. In recent weeks I have seen a few posts from people I respect and have seen great success in the business, pointing out in essence that “the way is hard, nigh impossible. You may not want to go that way.” That’s the challenge you face, folks.
Are you up to it? I hope so. Exercise patience and persistence, mix it with training, talent and skill, and you just might make something of yourself.

A Resource for Voiceover – MineWurx Studio Voice Talent Services

Minewurx Studio Banner

Micheal Minetree is the proprietor of Minewurx Studio, and he has posted a listing of the services in the very active Minewurx Studio Voice Talent Services group on Facebook. I am reposting it in its entirety, because if you are a voice talent and need some help with any of the things he has posted, you might have great option right here. I have never worked with Minewurx, but many people whom I respect have, so I offer this wihout hesitation.

There is something I’ve wanted to share with all of you for a while – but I had to wait until the time was right. So here goes. The “Voice Talent Services” part of the group name is just that – it’s about providing services to talent when they need them. These services cover a whole host of things to better and empower voice talent.

The services we provide cost very little money to new clients and can be had for little to no cost at all for current web hosting clients. One client just got their Flash website edited and redesigned for free. Another client called when their ProTools system wasn’t working and they needed a hand. Cost? Free. Another client called when they needed a quick graphic for their web site. Charge? nada… These are things we do every day for our clients. Below is a list of the types of things we provide:

  • Web Hosting
  • Graphics
  • Software Training
  • Coaching and Instruction
  • Talent Casting
  • Audio Editing and Mixing
  • Audio and Video Encoding for the Web
  • Audio and Video Player Installations
  • Voice Demos
  • Video Editing
  • Music Libraries
  • Sound Effects
  • Job Postings
  • Web Design
  • Site Development
  • Blog Installations
  • Forum Installations
  • FTP Server Access
  • File Storage and Backups
  • ISDN – Source Connect Bridging
  • … and anything else we can think of..

So – the moral of the story is – when you need a hand with any of the above – try calling your web hosting provider and see if they offer them. I’m pretty sure they don’t. But we do…

If you ever need anything having to do with any of the above, or would like to explore what options are available to you concerning your existing web hosting – just call. We’re building a different kind of web hosting service – one that offers additional features like no other.

Questions? Message me on Facebook, email me from the website or call (571) 318-9776 and leave a message if I’m not there. I always  get my emails – so that is the fastest and best way to reach me.



And there you have it. Some interesting opportunities there. Go check out Minewurx!


LONG JUMPphoto © 2007 TOM MARUKO | more info (via: Wylio)The eVOlutionary steps have been silent ones since the wild days of the Ted Williams experience (that was all of one month ago…seems like forever). Silent, but not because I haven’t been doing anything. I’ve made some new contacts, gotten some new clients, and done some cool projects.

I also took a full time job.

A little backstory: I have been a working voice actor since 2003. But it was always on the side, as a supplement to the full time income I earned as an IT professional. In 2009, I was among the millions of people caught up in the financial disaster that was (and still is) the recession, and I lost my job of 11 years. I then floundered trying to figure out what to do, how to process the loss of a job, and dealing with how to define myself afterwards.

I won’t dissemble: I did a terrible job of all three, to the detriment of my family.  Be it hesitation out of cowardice, brain lock because of a loss of confidence or plain old stupidity, I struggled to get anything going. The only thing that seemed to move in what looked like a proper direction was the progress I made as a voice artist. I gained new clients and new representation, made some fantastic new contacts and friends. I actually built up the idea that I could make a real go at being a voice artist full time.

Maybe that was a bit of self deception at work: I knew that it would take much longer than that single year to be “making it,” if I ever did. So I made the decision to look for work in my prior field, information technology with an emphasis on desktop support.

Not surprisingly in this economy, work was difficult to come by. Interviews were hard to come by. But just as the holidays were ramping up, I was given an opportunity by a former peer of mine at my previous place of employment, except as a contractor instead of a full time employee. I took the opportunity, and then spent the next few weeks before starting the new position trying to wrap my head around the changes I would have to make to continue pursuing the voiceover career I want while doing the every day work that I currently need. It wasn’t going well, at least in my mind.

But a friend of mine, Heather Anne Henderson (a wonderful audiobook and commercial voiceover talent out of Oregon) gave me the quote of 2011, a French saying she read in a D.H. Lawrence book:

Reculer à mieux sauter.

“To recoil so as to leap further.”

This single quote is how I am looking at this next year: gathering myself before jumping ahead. Considering new clients and new niches (thank you, VOCareer). Working on getting my social networking and marketing efforts organized in a real, coherent manner.  And in a nutshell, getting my life together.

I thought long and hard about even posting this article. In the end, I look at this as an opportunity to share with others the reality of the business, especially in light of last month’s “miracle.” And I took my cue from the honesty that Pam Tierney brings to her blog posts.

I mentioned in the “How Do I Get Into This?” post that none of this business is easy. I know that from experience, and I don’t see it getting easier. But it is what I am committed to doing, so I can do what I know I CAN do.

Recoil, so as to leap further.

E-Learning resources we all can use

Glasses sitting on Keyboard

Kat Keesling is a voiceover friend of mine, and one of the minds behind the Hear The Bill project, a volunteer effort by voiceartists to make the health care bills passed by Congress accessible to everyone by reading and recording them. It was a brilliant effort organized by her and Diane Havens that I was proud to be a part of.

Earlier today, Kat posted a very cool article listing a number of resources aimed at e-learning professionals, but with many links and tools that would be helpful to bloggers, voice artists, small business owners, anyone with a need for some creative resources. I am already using one of the links, Stock.xchng, for the stock photo at the top of this post. I was just wondering what I would do now that PicApp is abandoning the WordPress platform; thanks to Kat, I don’t have to worry. Plus, the links offer a chance to explore some cool tools like Screenr. Thanks, Kat!

Edited @ 10:39 PM to include the actual link!

Got an iPhone? Use it to find VO jobs

Just a couple of days ago, I mentioned the use of Twitter to find voiceover work, and my buddy Jamee Perkins went right out and did just that. In light of that little bit of success, I thougt I would toss out another way to look for work.
Craigslist is of course the well known killer of local newspaper ad revenue. Besides that, it is a great way to find used electronics, computers and the collectible gems you are looking for. But have you used it to find voiceover work? It is possible.
Work that is posted on Craigslist is typically no or low pay work, granted. But for the new voice artist, it can provide you with experience, and that can be the key to getting yourself going in the field.
The Craigslist website is also well known for its famously spartan interface. No flash (and no Flash) here, just text and some occasional pictures.

It is searchable, but most of your searches are limited to the metropolitan area you have selected, in my case Charlotte. You would have to change your location multiple times to search multiple locations. That’s a drag.

But if you have an iPhone, you have a much more efficient option.

For the standard 99 cents, head to the App Store and pick up CraigslistPro+. It pretties up the Craigslist interface quite a bit, and makes it very easy to respond to listings directly from your iPhone, save listing and searches. It’s the saving of searches where the magic begins.

Once you install and open the app, you’ll see the prettified home screen:

To make this work, you need to add cities you want to search in and the category you want to search. To do that, tap on the "Location" button. You will have the opportunity to Add a city by tapping on that field:

Next, select "US Cities." If you are outside the US, this should also work if you select your region.

When you tap that, you’ll get a list of all the major Craigslist cities. Tap on "Select All."

You’ll get all of them added to your search options, and it will look like this:

You can go back and add more cities that didn’t appear in this listing, as it only contains the largest metropolitan areas. Once you have added all of your target cities, you can go back to the home page.

Back onthe home page, tap on the Search Category button, and select Gigs, then Talent Gigs. Once that is set, head on back to the home screen.

Once there, type "voice over" in the search field at the top of the screen. Your results will come up with every posting from all of your target cities. Neat huh? You can tweak your search on the home screen by tapping on the Filters/Setting button on the home screen, including filtering out no pay jobs.

But we haven’t reached the neatest part. Tap the "Agent Setup" button in the top right corner. You’ll be taken to a screen where you can set up a search agent.

Tap "Save Search as Search Agent," name it, and your agent will be in place. You get push notification automatically to your iPhone if your search term comes up in any of your target markets. Your first 50 are free, and you can add up to 10,000 notifications for 10 dollars. That, my friends, is a steal.

The only downside is that you have to scroll through your search results to find a new hit, usually by the date you received the push. I would much prefer a button on the push notification popup that would let you go directly to the new hit, and I have submitted that as an improvement.

Your mileage may vary, but it is a cheap way to search one of the lower level sources for work to expand your portfolio. Obviously, you have be be selective in the work you try and get: as I mentioned before, there are a lot of low/no compensation gigs. But occasionaly, you may find that diamond in the rough. And you may have only paid $11 to find it. That’s a pretty good return on your investment, don’t you think?

I don’t intend to leave Android and Blackberry users out; I just don’t know their apps as well since I don’t have either of those smartphones. 

Because of the way I have to import this blog, if you want to see this post laid out slightly better, trip on over to the actual entry. Good luck!



Twitter can be your friend!

This shouldn’t come as news to any of you tech savvy, Intertubez friendly folks out there, but I just wanted to point out something: Twitter CAN lead to contacts, which in turn can lead to voice work. Take for example my interaction with MarketHOLD.com.
Back on May 24th, @marketHOLD posted this tweet, with those charming Twitter friendly shortening conventions:
Seeking, seeking contact information for #voiceover artists. Tell me: Do u want 2 work? Do u want businesses 2 find you 2 ask u 2do work?
As I do a lot of on hold messaging in addition to commercial and narration work, I was interested. I followed up with a tweet of my own. We interacted via Twitter for the week, sending links to my demos and such. This morning, I was in direct contact with Sarah at MarketHOLD, and I will be added to their website as a talent very soon. No, it’s not a paying gig yet, but it is the start of it, and that is always the first step.
Terry Daniel over at VoiceOverClub.com had a recent experience with getting work via Twitter:


It is worth your time to get out there, if for no other reason to see the very interesting and helpful information that can come through the hashtags #vo and #voiceover. Many voice artists and production houses are there offering news, tips and information you shouldn’t miss. And hey….you may even get a gig out of it.