“If things look or sound too good to be true, they usually are.”
However, it’s the job of a copywriter or advertising agency to make us believe the nonsense they’re trying to sell. And so many people are falling for it!
Why? It’s because of a tried and true formula in advertising you have seen a million times.
It all starts with a problem, a need, or a desire. A fear of missing out, perhaps.
For instance…. do you have a problem with odors in your house? The commercial shows us dinner guests being greeted by the hosts, and these guests pick up on something nasty as soon as they enter. A bad smell. Oh no. How embarrassing!
But what to do? Can the evening still be saved? Enter the magical resource, also known as the product that needs to be pushed. In this case some kind of spray or plugin that will make the nasty smells disappear in an instant.
And all is well again.
Except, it only treats the symptoms and not the cause. And who knows what these chemicals will do to you in the long run? But who cares, right?
The final shot of the commercial is showing happy people at the dinner table, breathing in a fresh, fake aroma.
The formula is: Problem, Solution, Smile. Rinse and repeat. Nine out of ten commercials are trying to do the same thing. They create a scary, importunate situation most people can relate to, and they seduce you to get you emotionally invested (like most commercials for medications we see in the United States). It helps if you add some pets and cute kids.
Oh, you suffer from high blood pressure? You can no longer do the things you want to do with your kids and grandkids? How sad!
Thankfully we have a solution: ask you doctor about taking ONE pill a day. One pill only, and all your problems will be over. The next scene is showing the patient happily interacting with the family dog and the grandkids.
What do these commercials have in common? They offer a simple solution that is guaranteed to work for most people so they can live the dream.
Now, have you ever seen promos for certain voice over coaches? They may not be the sleek commercials we see on TV, but they too know how to tap into this desire so many seem to have: to become a voice actor, audiobook narrator, or the voice of a cartoon character. It seems like such a fun job: talking for a living and making some good money!
The problem is: how do you get there, how long is it going to take, what stuff do you need to buy, and how expensive is it going to be?
But fear not. There are people just like you who once had a dream, and who are now making a fortune with a USB-microphone and a Fiverr account. If THEY can do it, you can do it too. Just sign up for their training and you can start your career in no time! Just three easy payments, all credit cards accepted.
GET RICH QUICK
There’s just one problem…. well SEVERAL, but let’s start with one. How do you know the people offering these get-rich-quick programs are any good? How solid are their credentials? How much experience do they have as a working, job-booking voice over and as a coach?
You see, there are no official credentials in the world of voice over. No government accredited courses. There’s nothing like a voice over conservatory or an official VO Academy. If you’re new to this world, you have no clue what you’re getting yourself into and whom you can trust.
I just spoke to a fellow voice over coach in the UK, and we both know quite a few self-styled “coaches” who -only a few years ago- couldn’t tell the difference between a shotgun and a condenser microphone. People with no credits to speak of; people who have barely finished whatever training program they signed up for.
And they are going to teach you a new profession? In a market that’s filled with experienced, credentialed, award-winning talent with agents, state of the art home studios, and impressive portfolios?
And they have the audacity to promise you that you’ll be amazing, and that your life is never going to be the same again?
Do you honestly believe that crap?
If it sounds too good to be true….
BE A CRITICAL CONSUMER
Now, I’m not here to dash your dreams or to sell you what I am offering. All I urge you to do is be a critical consumer. Do your research. Shop around. Ask online. Check the better business bureau. Scammers hate that.
I just don’t want you to get your hopes up and spend your hard-earned money on someone who tells you want you want to hear.
I coach people, but I never guarantee any results. Not because I stink at what I do, but because I can’t control my students. I can teach them how to drive, but some are better drivers than others. Once they’re on the road, they are on their own and I don’t control them nor the traffic.
There are so many variables in voice overs that we cannot influence. For instance, we don’t know what a client will like. And it’s the client who hires the talent.
We don’t know to what extent Ai is going to take over our work as voice overs, but one thing is certain: all the basic jobs that don’t require real acting skills are up for grabs. Those are the jobs newbies need most to get started.
Doing voice overs seems easy to those who don’t know much about it, but it’s much more than talking into a microphone. Doing the work is the easy part, but GETTING the work is a daily struggle, even for the best in the business. And speaking of business, this IS a business, and if you don’t know how to run it in a professional and profitable way, it will always be a hobby.
Again, I don’t want to rain on your parade, or make someone else look bad so I can look good. I’m not trying to sell you anything in any of my videos or blog posts. No book, no coaching programs, no conferences, no demos (full disclosure: I have written a book, but I’ve never asked anyone to buy it).
My only motive for telling you this is to caution you, and to ask you not to believe anything that sounds too good to be true.
It usually is!
HOW TO FIND A GOOD COACH
Unqualified voice over coaches make unrealistic claims. They’ll take anyone with a pulse and a credit card and tell them they too can become a voice over artist, and these “coaches” barely have credits or credentials.
But how do you find a good coach? What would you be looking for? After all, there’s no accredited voice over coaching academy that hands out internationally recognized certificates.
Should you be looking for someone famous? Someone with a long list of credits on IMDb?
Not necessarily. Just because someone has lots of professional credits doesn’t mean they’re a good teacher. In fact, I know quite a few famous pianists who are great on stage, but don’t ask them to teach. They have no people skills, patience, or educational background.
There’s someone in Europe who used to be a continuity announcer who’s teaching people to become a voice over. I used to do continuity for Dutch national radio, and I can tell you that doing voice overs is about more than talking into a microphone and telling listeners what’s coming up next. Much more!
A DECADE OF EXPERIENCE
So, when looking for a coach, it’s helpful to find someone who not only can give you a solid introduction, but who has specific experience in what you want to pursue: eLearning, audiobooks, commercials, animation, video games… And with experience I mean, at least a DECADE of consistent bookings.
You need someone who knows the industry inside out, someone with a wide network who can connect you to the right people. It takes time to become good at what you do (a long time), and it takes time to build a network. So, someone who started a year or two ago, does not fit the bill.
You also want to look for someone who does not depend on coaching for a living. You want someone who is booking jobs right now. The industry changes quickly and things that were relevant ten years ago are outdated today. Right now there are people who are selling courses who, long, long ago, recorded a voice response system for a big bank or telecommunications company, and that’s their entire calling card!
Also: there are voice actors who have turned to coaching because they’re not booking! If you want to become good at VO, you’ve got to learn from the best in the business, and the best are always in demand.
People who depend on coaching for a living depend on their students, and are usually inclined to keep you around for a long time. I always say:
A good coach makes him- or herself redundant. A bad coach makes you dependent.
NO JACK OF ALL TRADES
When I’m done coaching I want my students to go their own way. They know I’m always available to answer questions, but they have to be able to stand on their own two feet once the training wheels come off. I also believe it’s a good thing to study with different coaches who are good at different aspects of the job.
For instance, I’m not an acting coach, so if you want to learn how to act I’ll send you to someone else. Avoid coaches who tell you that their way is the right way. There are many ways to make it in this business and a good coach will help you find YOUR way.
A good coach will tell you what you need to know. Not what you want to hear.
If you want someone to massage your ego so you can feel good about yourself, forget coaching. Coaching is about getting better at what you’re not good at, about fixing your flaws, and overcoming challenges. It’s about being criticized (in a supportive way) and facing your fears in a safe environment where you can experiment.
A good VO coach does not have a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about your specific needs and goals. Even if you’re starting from square one, you already have things that make you unique and different from the rest. Those are the things that will make you stand out and help you find your place in the business. A good coach helps you find those features and helps you polish them.
BUSINESS SKILLS ARE ESSENTIAL TO SUCCESS
Also, avoid coaches who only focus on teaching you speaking skills like enunciation, correct pronunciation, diction, tongue twisters, breath support, microphone technique et cetera. Those skills are important, but just as important is that you learn how to run a one-person, for-profit business. This involves developing a brand, creating a website, a social media presence, doing your marketing, networking, and all the administration you have to do to keep your business going.
I hate to say it, but this is where most voice overs fail because their coaches fail in this area. You can have the most resonant voice in the world, but if you don’t know how to sell yourself, you will have no career.
Speaking of selling, avoid coaches who are pushy, who butter you up so they can make a sale; coaches who promise the world and guarantee results; coaches who are trying to sell you expensive packages including demos. On average it will take even the most talented people a few years before they’re ready to record a demo. So, when you’re just getting started it is impossible to know if you’ll ever be good enough to do that.
A good coach will be brutally honest and tell you: “You’ve worked hard, but I don’t think this is for you and here’s why.”
And finally, never sign up for sessions unless you’ve talked to the person who’s going to be your guide. Trust your gut to find out if they are a good fit. Will they give concrete answers to your questions or are they purposely vague? Are they only talking about their own accomplishments, or are they interested in you? And when you end the conversation, do you feel uplifted and empowered, or do you feel forced to sign on the dotted line?
THIS IS GOING TO BE TOUGH
I know this is a lot to take in, but there’s a lot at stake. I hate to say it, but people are preying on naive newbies who have been told they have a great voice. I have great legs but that doesn’t mean I could become a professional soccer player. It’s not about the legs but about how you use them.
You need someone to prepare you for an industry that’s been adding more hopefuls every day (certainly since COVID); an industry with lots of established talent with better equipment, more connections, more experience, more confidence and more credentials. An industry that has seen a constant erosion of rates, and that is facing the threat of cheap artificial voices that never sleep or get sick.
If this were easy, anyone would do it and make a good living.
It’s not easy at all, but if you bring something unique to the table, if you’re willing to invest and work hard, a good, ethical coach can help you create a career others can only dream of!