Number one: There is no formula. Just talent and hard work.
Number two: It’s getting the basics right. Consistently.
Number three: Learn from the best and distinguish yourself from the rest.
Number four: Make it easy to hire you and easy to work with you.
I was reminded of those last points as I got involved in the casting of a project for a Spanish client. He asked if I could help him find a few Dutch female voices for an hour-long museum tour.
But where to start?
With so much talent, I had to find a way to separate the wheat from the chaff, knowing that my recommendations would also reflect on me. In my role as voice seeker I came up with a couple of principles that are so obvious that they’re often overlooked. Here’s number one:
People are more likely to suggest and hire people they know and can relate to
The longer I am in this business, the more I’m reminded that connections are the key to a sustainable career. If you don’t have a long-term strategy to cultivate these connections, you’re going to have a hard time.
Why are connections so important? It comes down to the most valuable commodity in our volatile line of work: trust.
“But I don’t know anyone in the business,” said a newcomer. “I’ll never be able to break in.”
“Then make some friends!” I said. “With social media it’s never been easier. Don’t wait for others to take the initiative. Start reaching out!”
A year or so ago, I became more active in a Facebook group for Dutch talent. I rekindled old connections, and began making new ones. I received friend requests, and asked people to befriend me.
Some colleagues were predominantly interested in how I could help them land big American clients, and I understand that. Others were also interested in me as a person, and they offered their help.
From the moment I started my life as a freelancer, I’ve learned to pick out the ME-people from the WE-people.
The ME-people ask: “What can you do for ME?” They are mainly interested in getting.
The WE- people ask: “What can I do for YOU?” They are mainly interested in giving.
You’ll notice the same thing when people discuss the merits of going to voice over conferences. Some want to know: “What’s in it for me? Will I get my money’s worth?” Others ask: “How can I contribute? What can I do to help?”
I’m very much drawn to the WE-crowd. The ones who want to cooperate. Those are the people I am likely to recommend.
So, if you want me to put in a good word for you, become a go-giver instead of a go-getter!
Here’s the second thing I value when recommending fellow voice talent:
Make it easy to find you, and to get relevant information about you
When I started searching among the members of the Dutch voice over group, I noticed that many still use a personal profile instead of a professional Facebook page to highlight their voice over work.
If you do this too, this means that I, as a voice seeker am looking at your family photos where you pose in a tiny bikini holding a beer stein looking tipsy. I see your political postings, and the slightly weird way you interact with your friends.
Like it or not, I form an opinion which may or may not be favorable. If it comes down to you and another talent, and I don’t happen to like your political affiliation or your love of lager, you’re out.
What also surprised me was that a good number of talents didn’t have any contact info in the About-section. Not even a link to their website! You want me to recommend you for a job, but you won’t tell me how to reach you or check out your demos? I’m a busy guy and I don’t have time to track you down.
Your most critical information has to be one click away.
Your demos need to reflect the totality of your talent
You can have the most amazing art work on your website and a wonderful bio, but if you post three demos and they all sound the same, you are selling yourself short. Very few voice overs can make a living being a one-trick pony. No one wants to come to a restaurant where the cook can only make three dishes.
So, if you wish to be a working voice talent, I want to hear you narrate some audio books, teach me a lesson through eLearning, sell me a product or a service, give me a guided tour of a museum, and act out a few video game characters. Show me your range.
Don’t only post your overproduced, expensive demos with all the bells and whistles. Clients want to know how you sound in your home studio with your own equipment. Unsweetened. In heavenly mono.
Eighty percent of the website demos I listened to for my Spanish client could not be downloaded. That’s another stumbling block. First I had to find the website. Then I couldn’t find a demo that didn’t sound salesy. On top of that there was nothing to download and send to the client.
Who is playing hard to get?
Eventually, I did get my demos, but most of them didn’t have the talent name in the audio file. They just said something like “Audio tour 2019.” Why is that a problem?
Imagine having to cast this job, and out of twenty to thirty samples you find your top three. The problem is, you don’t know which talent recorded which demo because it’s not listed in the title. Now you have to spend more time finding the name that goes with the voice.
Let’s move on to number four:
Be responsive, ask the right questions, and follow the instructions
If you’ve ever had to hire voices, you know that you can weed out seventy percent of talent because:
- the audio quality is terrible
- deadlines are ignored
- talent makes the wrong assumptions
- talent can’t follow simple directions, and is
- unable to interpret the script
So, which talent gets hired? The talent that’s capable, available, and affordable. If you can’t deliver on all three fronts, you’re gone.
At the beginning of my day I approached ten voice talents. By the end of the afternoon seven got back to me. Out of those seven, five asked questions about the job. Three offered to record a custom demo.
In order to put in an educated quote for this audio guide, you need to know:
- the length of the script
- does the client want finished, fully edited audio that is separated, or is it okay to send in one file
- what’s the budget
- does that include retakes
Since the script was still being translated, I couldn’t give the talent a text, but at the end of the day, four sent me a sample of audio tours they had recorded in the past. The remaining three had found a few paragraphs of a real audio tour and sent that in.
Full marks for everyone!
The quotes I received for an hour of finished audio were between €850 and €2500. The cheaper talent sounded just as professional as the more expensive talent.
Now, it took me a few hours of communicating with my colleagues and my client to get the right information to the right people. I was only helping out, remember?
Do I have any idea who will get hired?
Call me cynical, but based on my experience, here’s what I predict.
The client will thank me for my efforts and post the job on Voice123 or on that other online casting auction house, the one in Canada…
…where they will find some sucker who is willing to do the job for $250 or less, claiming he has to “feed his family.”
No questions asked.
And thus, our business will slowly go to pieces. One lousy job at a time.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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PPS One of my Dutch students just got signed by a major US agent!