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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How Much Money Can You REALLY Make Doing Voice Over?

Here’s the million dollar question: how much money does a voice actor make? I really wish I could say, with absolute certainty, “As a voice over actor, you will be guaranteed a minimum salary of $xxxxxx per year!”

Unfortunately, I can’t do that, because there is no set salary for voice over actors.

What I can tell you, however, is what you can hope to expect as you gain experience, as well as what you might earn when you’re first starting out. As a general overview:

First, some facts. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that voice actors made, on average, about $34 per hour. TV and radio announcers clocked in at about $40,500 per year. Not too shabby, but maybe not what you were hoping for, right?

Well, consider this: it’s not uncommon for experienced actors to earn anywhere from $100-$300 for a 15 or 30-second ad spot. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the additional work that goes into creating that ad spot, such as time spent preparing, editing, or doing re-reads. Still, that’s not bad for a single ad, is it?

Here are a few other possible scenarios for you:  (non-celebrity voice)

     Movie trailer - $2,000 - $3000.00
     Cartoons - $250-$500/hour
     Corporate video - $500-$850 for a 15-30 minute reading
     Podcast commercial - $100-$250 for 15-30 second reading
     Audiobook - $200-$500 per finished hour

Keep in mind that your rates will vary depending on a number of factors, including your experience level, the type of project, the client, and lots more.

But let me conclude by saying this: for me personally, I can’t put a value on the freedom that comes with running my own voice over business. My time is mine to decide what to do with, and I get to decide which projects I work on, who I work with, how I spend my day, etc. etc.  Basically, I’m a free man. And that, my friends, is something you can’t put a price tag on. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

3 Reasons Why Your Marketing Strategy Should Include Voice Over

Voice over is one of the most instrumental methods for delivering messages to audiences. While stunning visuals and solid content are also highly effective, the sound of the human voice is something that everyone can relate to, and it’s also highly influential. If these reasons aren’t enough to convince you that your marketing strategy needs to include voice over, here are 3 more:

1.    Voice over appeals to another sense and contributes to a more complete marketing strategy. Maybe you’ve got incredible graphics, video or animation for your ad. Maybe you have written content that hits everything you need to drive home your message. And maybe, in spite of having these stellar components, you’re still left with an ad that is lacking something. That something is voice over. Why? Because without it, there is nothing to appeal to auditory sense. A complete marketing project should include both visual and auditory stimulation for the audience, otherwise you’re missing out on a key method for connecting with your target market.
2.    Voice over paints a picture of your brand. Personality is huge in any marketing strategy, and it’s one of the main elements of an ad campaign that an audience will remember. It’s also closely tied to your brand, so including the right voice over will help your target audience better understand what you’re about. Think about the voice overs that are used for different brands - you’ve got George Clooney’s mid-range “every man” rumble behind Budweiser ads, and the ASPCA partnering with Sarah McLachlan and her emotionally compelling voice that makes you want to rescue all the sad dogs and cats of the world. See how these companies have wisely chosen the right voice to reflect their brand?
3.    It’s just plain old more effective.  More often than not, an ad devoid of voice over is going to be less effective than one that includes VO.  There are lots of reasons why, but here are two: 1) most people want to be spoken to, and 2) sound, including voices,  makes people sit up and take notice. Regarding #1, deep down, people want to be told. And quite frankly, they need to be told to get the complete message. If you’re relying just on words on a page or a screen, you’re going to lose a significant portion of your market, simply because people don’t want to read it. They want to be told it jn a compelling way. As for #2? People respond to sound. When a voice over begins, people listen. It’s that simple.

Very few marketing strategies are successful without involving any sort of voice over. If you want your project to be the most effective - and reach its full potential - it’s absolutely vital that you include great-sounding voice over.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Which Voice Over Genre is Right for You?

Over the last few decades, voice over has expanded to include so much more than radio and television spots. You can find it just about anything now, whether you’re browsing the internet or cruising down the highway. But which area is right for you? Before you can answer this question, let’s go over some of the options available to voice actors.

     Films and documentaries
     Animation and cartoons
     Television commercials
     Radio and TV ads
     Audio books
     Video games
     Training videos
     Promo materials for businesses

This list is definitely not exhaustive, and there are plenty of other types of projects out there requiring the expertise of a VO actor. While it’s great that there are so many options, finding ones that best suite you can be challenging when you’re first getting started. That’s why I give 2 pieces of advice to anyone I know who’s interested in the business:

1.    Experiment. It’s smart to try a little bit of everything when you’re first starting out. Don’t lock yourself into one genre because you think that’s what you’re good at, or because that’s what you like. Play the field, so to speak, so you can get a taste for a variety of projects. You never know when you’ll find something that just clicks. Most VO actors niche themselves, and this is fine (and even smart to do), but when you’re new, take the opportunity to explore and experiment!
2.    Understand your strengths and weaknesses. We all have things that we’re really great at, as well as ones that we’re not so great at. For instance, I’m pretty good at television commercials and narration, but please don’t ask me to supply the voice over for a medical training video. I learned this by following my own advice (Tip #1 above), and I’m glad I did because now I know where to put my focus. I concentrate on my strengths instead of wasting my time (and my clients’ time) on things I know I’m weaker on. Of course, there’s something to be said for focusing on those weaknesses and remediating them, and this is fine too. The point, though, is to develop a good understanding of what areas you’re strong in, and accepting those you’re weak in.

So what about you? What's your tips for new actors trying to find a genre that’s right for them? 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How You Can Be a Better Narrator

Narration is a popular avenue that many voice over professionals explore. Whether it’s for a corporate video or a nature film, there are certain standards that all narrators must follow to produce high quality recordings that capture their audience’s attention. If you’re new to narrating, here’s what you should keep in mind:

     Don’t be monotone. This one kind of goes without saying, but it can be easy to fall into this if you’re reading something that’s a tad, shall we say, dull. When I say "monotone" be realistic, too much of a good thing is just plain boring. So find that sweet spot and stick within those parameters.
     Keep it conversational. Even if you’ve been given a script that’s about the molecular structure of human DNA, it’s important that you read it in a conversational tone that’s easy for your listeners to follow. If you’re stiff, or you speed through the reading, you’re going to lose your audience.
     Stand up while you’re reading. Standing allows you to breathe better from the diaphragm, which will improve your sound quality. It will also help you feel more energized. Although, I admit I record sitting on a stool; but it does keep my diaphragme somewhat stretched out.
     Don’t stand too close to the mic. Getting up close and personal with the microphone will distort the sound and leave you with a sub-par recording. Shoot for about 6 to 12 inches of space between you and the mic.
     Watch your volume. Your volume should be consistent throughout the recording. This is true for any voice over, but especially so for narration.
     Avoid the “popping p’s.” Plosives, or “popping p’s”, can seriously degrade a quality recording. Use a pop filter in front of your mic to eliminate this annoying sound.
     Get the pacing right. Take into consideration the content of the material you’re reading. What’s it about? Is it exciting? Complicated? Match your pacing to the tone of the material.
     Relax! Narration isn’t a whole lot different than other voice over work you’ve done, so just take a deep breath and relax. Read what’s on the script, do it from your heart, use the tips above, and have some fun with it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

3 of the Biggest Time Wasters for VO Entrepreneurs

You know what they say: time is money. When you’re running your own voice over business, this statement becomes even more true, because it’s YOUR money on the line! It’s all too easy, however, to fall into habits and behaviors that zap time and ultimately cost you money. Here are 3 of the biggest time wasters you’ll encounter as a VO entrepreneur, and how you can avoid them.

1.    Email - Email is one of the most efficient and convenient ways to communicate, no doubt about it. It’s also one of the most time-consuming, especially if you’re the type of person who keeps their email open all day and feels compelled to respond to each message right away. When you do this, email turns into a huge distraction that slowly chips away at your productivity. Instead of responding ASAP, try keeping your email closed or out of sight, and designating certain times of your day for checking messages.
2.    Trying to do everything yourself - There are things you’re good at, like voice over, and things you’re not so good at, like bookkeeping or website development, for example. If you’re trying to take on these tasks you’re not so great at, you’re wasting tons of time. Delegate these to someone who’s experienced, and you’ll not only save hours, but also lots of unnecessary stress.
3.    Overscheduling - You may think that cramming as much as you can into your day is a good thing, but it can actually be very counterproductive. When you’ve put 56 tasks on your to-do list for the day, your focus is simply on getting them done and checking off the boxes. This is great, except for you’re not really paying attention to what you’re doing, or committing 100% of your efforts. This leads to lower quality work that may need to be redone, or even areas that you completely overlook, requiring you to revisit that task later on. Instead, focus on the critical tasks, and allow yourself realistic timeframes to complete them.

Time really IS money, so if you’re committing any of these “time suck sins,” or any others that aren’t on the list, you’re missing out on potential profits. And remember, just because you’re busy, it doesn’t mean you’re being productive. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It’s Time to Brush Up on Your Sales Call Skills

What’s your favorite thing to do? It’s cold-calling prospective clients, isn’t it?

Just kidding, I know you hate that, because we all do! Or at least most of us do. However, it is a necessary evil at times, and one that may even pay off if you’re able to land a new client from it.

To do this, though, you need to be a skilled cold-caller. Most of us aren’t natural born salespeople, but there are some things we can do to brush up on those skills. Here’s what I’m talking about:

     Remember your purpose and stick to it. When you’re calling people, get to the point quickly and don’t veer off track.
     Have a script on hand so you can refer to it if necessary. You don’t need to read from it word-for-word, and you really don’t want to anyway because it will sound canned. But it’s a good idea to have something written down to glance at if you need to.
     Make sure you’re pitching to the right person. If you’re delivering your spiel to the receptionist, you’re probably wasting your time because he/she is not the decision-maker.
     Offer to connect with them another way, such as email, if that is preferable to them.
     Be ready to describe how working with you will be a benefit to them. This what really matters to them anyway, so have a few talking points at the ready about how you’ll be an asset.
     If they say they don’t have time to discuss anything at the moment, propose another time or ask them what works for them. Be persistent, but not annoyingly so.
*   Don't be afraid to leave a voicemail message. Remember, this is another chance for them to hear your voice.
     Finally, if they’re not interested, thank them for their time and end the call. Don’t try to wheedle a few more minutes out of them or use other tactics to try and convince them to work with you. Not only is this irritating to 99.99% of the population, it’s also just plain rude.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ready for an Agent? Here’s How You Get One

The decision of whether or not to work with an agent is one that most voice over actors ponder at some point in their career. Agents can be an excellent asset in your career, and a good teammate to have on your side. If you’ve made the decision to seek out an agent, here’s what you need to do:

1.    Get an amazing demo together. This is what agents will be listening to, so make sure your demo includes your absolute best work. It should be a well-rounded example of who you are as an actor so they can get a good feel for you and your sound. If you can afford it, have your demo done professionally so you have something that is truly high quality to send out.
2.    Put your name out there. Exposure is always a good thing in this business, and the more of it you have, the more likely you’ll be noticed. Make sure your web presence is well-developed and is an accurate reflection of your brand, so when people Google you, they’re seeing what you want them to see. Make sure your demo reflects your brand!
3.    Have stellar references at the ready.  You can count on any prospective agent to ask for a few referrals from past clients, so be sure the names you supply are ones that will give you a glowing review.
4.    Be able to vocalize your career goals. Agents want to work with actors who know what they want and where they’re headed. Goal-oriented people are typically more motivated, open to new ideas, and harder working - at least that’s my experience, anyway. Regardless, you should be prepared to discuss a few of your aspirations with a prospective agent so you can be sure you’re working toward the same thing.
5.    Be a professional at every step of the game. Whether you’re cold-calling agents or corresponding via email, every interaction should be a testament to your professionalism. Be courteous, concise, and well-spoken - you would be surprised at the number of people who aren’t, so just doing these simple things will put you steps ahead of many of your peers!