January 2016 Newsletter

“Everything about us is changing except the way we think.” – Albert Einstein

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Running Your Small Business as a Working VO Talent

As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.

So, let’s assume you’re after what we’re after: to work steadily as a professional talent, earning a decent living while scratching your aesthetic itch. It can be done, you know. People do it every day. However, as with any small business, it helps to be as systematic and as efficient as possible. That’s where SOUND ADVICE comes in.

After all, this is a small start-up business you’re embarking upon here, as you train and set out to produce your voice over demos. This business requires attention to detail on many fronts: in your performance, in the production and marketing of your demo, in your continued pursuit of representation, and so on.

The problem, however, is that far too many people will focus on details that are of absolutely no consequence to the overall goal of establishing and maintaining a career in this business. The purpose of our book, “The SOUND ADVICE Encyclopedia of Voice-over & the Business of Being a Working Talent”, is to help you maneuver through the industry minefield with greater ease than ever before—even if it may be contrary to popular belief.

If you are, or once were, established in this business, recent changes in technology may have left you in the dust. Yet, technology is inevitable if you intend to make yourself accessible to the work.  And even if you have embraced technology fully, it’s imperative you remain in step with how advancing technology applies to this field.

If you resist change, you’re bound to become the effect of that which you resist, and the future of your career will be in jeopardy.  Lucky for you, we cut through the weeds and simplify what you honestly need to know, and what you can avoid completely—regardless of your technical prowess!

As H. G. Wells once said, “Adapt or perish.”

Many aspiring talent have been taught only stage skills and the result has been a forfeit of any real attention or advancement to establishing and forwarding their careers. The question remains: what does your job entail in addition to showing up and performing?  What is it you specifically need to know to adapt, rather than perish?  No short answer, which is precisely why we offer our one-on-one Orientation/Career Reboot.  Each individual’s experience and education, like their skills and assets, are as unique and individual as they are.  For the more experienced talent, a recharge of what works and what is simply an outdated approach needs to be addressed from time to time.  (I wrote and completely updated our book for this very reason as well.  Consider it the owner’s manual for running your small business as a working voice over talent.)

The truth is you make your luck.  The world won’t seek you out as a talent you have to go to it!  Discover what you have to offer as a talent and how to realize your dreams.

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How To Determine What You Do Best

“Who am I?” Now there’s an age-old philosophical question.

Type can be elusive in this business for a number of reasons. For instance, you may discover yourself growing into a type you’ve never played, or graduating out of a type that once felt the most comfortable to you.

The bottom line is: How you look speaks volumes before you even utter a sound. Your face, your build, already has an entire performance built into it. Your presence, whether you realize it or care to admit it or not, says so much. Hopefully, it’s saying what you intend it to say.  (Now there’s the rub.)

To determine your type, start by studying the medium you intend to work in—television, commercial, and voiceover. Record the shows you watch religiously, commercials and all. The commercials that play during the shows you never miss are already geared to your demographic. It’s more likely you will book jobs that are within your frame of reference, what you know best.

If you don’t watch much TV, do a quick search of the top shows you may have heard of but have yet to see. This is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which: pop culture references are used most at auditions to give talent a better idea of what those casting are looking for. (“We’re looking for a Jon Snow meets Don Draper type.” To which I have to say—so am I!)

If you’re at a loss, watch a good eight hours of programming a week for a solid month. For instance: the Today Show, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, NCIS, Gotham, the evening news (as depressing as that may be), something on HGTV, something on the Food Network, History Channel, and maybe a little something on IFC (Independent Film Channel), like Portlandia, or Comedy Bang Bang. The idea is to record a good cross section of material. Look for commercial examples that cover nearly every demographic.

When you play back what you’ve recorded, whether you’re viewing familiar programs or not, have a pad of paper and a pen handy and make note of the following:

  1. What is the spot for?
  1. Is the commercial for a product or service you’d find nationwide? Or is it local?
  1. Do you use the product/service the commercial is promoting?
  1. Do you wish you used/had the product/service (but maybe can’t afford it—yet)?
  1. Are you personally opposed to the product/service?
  1. Would you appear on-camera in the commercial, film, or TV show?
  1. What is the overall emotional tone of the spot? Is it solemn? Hopeful? Sarcastic? Playful? Stoic? Confident? Is it edgy? Is there an attitude? Is it witty?
  1. Does the delivery seem realistic, personable and conversational?
  1. Is this spot airing during a show you watch frequently? Or a program you’ve never seen and maybe might never watch?
  1. Does the voice talent’s age seem to coincide with the age the commercial, film, or program is geared to reach?  Or is it the opposite?

And if you don’t have cable and a DVR, check out iSpot.TV

From all this, you will likely discover being yourself is what is required of you a bulk of the time, and far more interesting than watching you desperately try to be something you’re not.

Under Promise & Over Deliver

Certainly in today’s competitive, online voice over market, non-union talent can work themselves into a frenzy worrying (and assuming) they’re required to offer a myriad of production options otherwise they will ‘lose the job’.  This is one of the greatest obstacles you may be facing when you’re first trying to establish your voice over career. The fact is there’s a simple solution to this conundrum and that’s: Under promise and over deliver by leaving it to the professionals!

If this is your situation, we suggest you answer the following most-commonly asked questions as we have answered them below.

 

Potential Client: I would like to add your name to our database for voice over talents/actors, and would like to request some info, please.

What are your rates?

YOU: This is determined on a case-by-case basis.  My rate depends on the project, its intended (and ultimate) use, the length of usage, and so on.

Potential Client: Do you have your own studio?

YOU: I have a home recording set up for auditions, and two studios I work with professionally, which offer ISDN, Source Connect, phone patch, etc. should we need it. 

Depending on the project, the work load, and provided my home set up meets your project’s audio standards, I have the ability to record from home and upload the uncompressed audio to your Dropbox.  We can patch through Skype on these occasions if need be.

Potential Client: Can you provide fully produced work if requested?

YOU: No, but I can refer you to the studios I work with as I mentioned.  They offer those services at extremely affordable rates.

Potential Client: What is your turn around time?

YOU: Again, this has to be determined on a case-by-case basis, however I can usually turn most projects around inside 24-48 hours.  It would really depend on the project and the specific demands.  

 

Keep your responses brief and honest.

If you’re a voice actor who’s still mastering recording your auditions from home, and you agree to delivering anything beyond the specific responses offered here, then you will be promising services you won’t be able to deliver.  Your potential client will have it in writing from your email correspondence and ultimately hold you accountable to deliver something you have very little control over.

Keep in mind you’re only being paid as a voice talent, not as a professional recording studio, or recording engineer, or producer, casting agent or as a talent agent. It’s very likely you’re not getting paid enough to offer all those services, even if you are a seasoned professional in each of these areas.  If a potential client asks you to do all of these things, it’s unlikely they understand production demands.  You’re a voice actor, and you will service the project and your potential client best if you refer them to your “colleagues” who have a proper studio.

Hear for yourself what truly professional voiceover demos should sound like here: voiceoverinfo.com

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.  – Marie Curie

Copyright © 2016 by Kate McClanaghan, Inc. All Rights Reserved.