MAY 2015

Play is the highest form of research.”

– Albert Einstein

Young Keeper of the Realm

You’re Paid To PLAY!

Most people assume whoever hired us know what they want and will “direct” feeding us every nuance and notion. However, this may be something of a lightning bolt from the blue, but you are not likely to get any direction at all. This is the case when it comes to auditions and the session alike. And careful what you wish for…what little direction you may get will be limited, if not flat-out confusing. This is why we’ve taken the time to define the limited vocabulary you may come across on a voice over session or a shoot during our initial coaching sessions.

The thing is: far too many actors kill a perfectly wonderful opportunity to play and create by second-guessing the director or producer. Instead, concentrate on how you think the spot should go. Don’t think about it; don’t tell us what you’re going to do—just DO IT. Work it up in the lobby or the greenroom or some hallway just off the auditioning area, but whatever you do, play with it! Don’t sit and wait for someone to come hold your hand and lead you.

And don’t assume the copy (the script) is broken simply because you ‘don’t get it’ yet. Read it out loud until you do, and if you’re still confused (here’s a novel idea) ASK! If there’s anything to get, I’m certain they’d be happy to tell you.

If you find the grammar is incorrect, or a sentence is actually saying something other than what the writer/producers/director are trying to convey, by all means, tactfully let the powers that be know. (Just be sure you know that’s truly the case before opening your gob.)

Most of the time, there’s no hidden message. The director is usually trying his hardest not to step all over your talented toes by offering you a line reading—so give the guy a break. Get in there and have fun. If he has a suggestion you truly can’t decipher, let your guard down—ask him for a line reading. Why not? It’s not going to hurt anyone, and it cuts to the chase, everyone goes home happy. Maybe they’ll invite you back to play with them again sometime.

You obviously have the stuff they want—you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t—so let the director see how you’d tell this story. If he has a specific idea, he’ll guide you toward it—just listen and apply from there.

You are truly capable of a limitless number of deliveries. Make it your mission from the onset of every audition and every session to discover just a few of them on the fly. They don’t call it a ‘play’ for nothing. Where else can you get paid to play?  ›

Marketing and strategy

Good Question(s)

Recently the great Dave Courvoisier, seasoned voice actor and one of the founders of WoVO,, posed a few good questions regarding the Essentials of Running Your Freelance VO Business. Thought I’d take a hand at answering them for you here.

  • Do you really need a formal business plan to be a successful voice actor?

No, but you need a game plan, and a checklist to follow (and complete) in order to establish and effectively run your business. Especially if you’re just getting started. Otherwise, you’re likely to run off in every direction—or none at all. You need to prioritize. Then divide and conquer.

  • Can you be a success as a freelance voice-actor without having a great voice?

Frankly… YES! Your point-of-view (POV), your intention with a phrase, your imagination as you deliver your performance speaks VOLUMES above and beyond “voice beautiful”. No one wants a mannequin voice over. You’re paid to have a pulse. Besides, you could have the greatest sounding voice ever, but it will die with you if you don’t make yourself available to the work, and man those most likely to hire you with the proper tools (demos, MP3s, quick/clean/creative auditions, etc.) that will forward your professional brand, establish yourself as a reliable, effective voice talent.

  • I’m doing “just alright” in my freelance VO. What should I do to take it to the next level? 

That really depends on YOU. What are you doing now exactly? What’s working? What’s not, and why not? And what do you consider “just all right”? Certainly nothing remains static. You’re either improving or declining. So… ask yourself honestly, “Where are you now? And where do you want to be in 6 months, or even a year from now?” To be honest, maintaining an even keel can be harder to do than establishing yourself, or even overcoming an immediate obstacle. At least with the latter of these you have a good idea what you’re up against.

  • For Pros and Newbs: What are your four favorite books/resources for sharpening business skills? 

That’s easy. Just one comes to mind… The SOUND ADVICE Encyclopedia of Voice-over & the Business of Being a Working Talent!

  • It freaks me out… How can I overcome my fear?

Just DO IT! Follow an effective strategy… such as ours, frankly… and get a move on. Marketing is an ongoing process, and the only way to know for sure it works is roll up your sleeves and simply DO IT.

  • How do I know which area of VO I’m best at? 

Coach with the best in the biz. It should become clear within a couple weeks of coaching. Step up and WORK your skills with people who honestly offer you technique, process and tools that will continue to develop your skills and abilities. None of this stuff is immediately intuitive. And there’s nothing natural about a ‘natural talent’. You’re simply expected to make it look easy. That takes work. So be sure you have some real substance logged in under your belt PRIOR to producing your VO demos.

  • How do I break down my business into manageable parts? 

Just like any business it’s important you first consider the end game. Start by asking yourself, “Where and what do you hope to accomplish? Do your research to insure your goals are realistic and attainable. After this, if you’re sure VO is for you and you’re even more intrigued to continue… Train. (Never mind your own personal doubts—they come with the territory. Only experience will squelch those demons.) You’re building your product… namely YOU. (Your performance, your identity, your style, your greatest assets. Becoming self-aware takes time.) Building your product is a constant. So is marketing. (This may include creating the demos and web presence necessary to run your business. And where product and process overlap.)

  • What does a full-time Voice Actor’s day really look like? 

No two days are exactly alike, and certainly those days differ from one talent to the next. So it’s a coin tossed. Every talent is unique, as are their specific skills, promotional tools, and how much in demand you might be. May be a better question is: what do you want in your life? And are you willing to work to maintain it?

  • Why is this so hard?

It’s not. Best advice: Shut up and dance! œ

Young woman using laptop computer

A Common Worry

Not too long ago, one of our favorite Sound Advicers’ mentioned this at the end of his email: “I haven’t made a lot of money for (my agent), but she remains generous with her time and answers all of my questions.”

It’s a common mindset (and worry) among actors that unless they are booking jobs after 7 to 10 auditions, your agent will drop you on your head. Rest easy, this is rarely the case. Here’s our response that may help you, too:

If you currently have only ONE talent agent you’re relying on for a bulk of your auditions and VO income, you’re giving that agent full responsibility with whether you live or die. The more agents you secure in a variety of markets, the more streams of revenue you have and the greater likelihood you’ll see a greater return of income.

You need at least 3 – 5 talent agents in a various regions offering you at least 3-5 auditions a week a piece, PLUS 15 to 20 auditions a week from pay-to-play sites. Think of your auditions to be a form of promotion!  In fact, they are your greatest form of promotion.

That said, the best audition doesn’t necessarily book the job… however, with some tenacity on your part, there’s eventually a sense of familiarity in your voice and the honest POV of your auditions… there’s interest and effortlessness in your performance that strikes the potential client as the most correct for their project.  All the more reason repetition and tenacity is essential to your overall success!

As for you, you need to consistently offer the best possible auditions to become someone, including your agent, would come to rely on. Your agent is well aware of this.  Her own tenacity has positioned her precisely where she is today.  That took years of dedication!

In a nutshell, your agent’s not thinking, “Gee, he hasn’t booked enough for me!”  Or she would say so.  She’s not shy and she understands very well the industry you’re in!

So, keep going. œ


Copyright © 2015 by Kate McClanaghan, Inc. All Rights Reserved.