I am a working voice actor. That means I spend my days servicing existing voiceover clients from commercial production to radio imaging to long narrations with lots of edits. When I’m not doing that I spend a lot of my day marketing to find new voiceover work. It’s not glorious celebrity-driven fun work all the time, it’s simple 9 to 5 work but done from home.
I recently taught an intro to voiceover class where I stressed to the attendees that this is real work and if you are not going to constantly train and work this career like you would any other that you shouldn’t do it. Still, in spite of my plea to others, many still look at voiceover as an easy job that makes a lot of instant money as long as you have a great voice. It’s simply not true.
Because of this microwave mentality, I frequently receive phone calls from people who know me and know what I do regarding a friend or colleague who has a “Nice Voice” for voiceover. Many times the caller is passionate insisting “No Dane Reid, this person really does have a great voice for voiceover. I know that if you talk to them they will be successful”. And over the years I have talked to many people either on the phone or through some kind of messaging platform and given them advice. But the truth is, is that its draining and even a bit insulting.
I’m flattered to a degree that people respect me in the field enough to seek my advice. But it’s not easy balancing my career and essentially consulting others on the start of theirs. I have tried and have actually spent up to 2 hours on the phone helping someone with ideas. I’ve been sent demos by other talent and asked to critique them. While I’ve listened to a few, I have sternly warned people that I can’t do anything to help you secure work. Even if I really like your demo, I can’t get you a job. Also, by the way, did I mention that I’m a working voice actor and at that very moment I should be actually working.
Some of the people I speak to ask insulting questions like “how do I get to do the movie trailers?” I can’t count the number of people who ask if I personally am on any animated television shows. That’s not so bad of a question, but when I tell them I’m not, their next question is “Well why not?” Green as they are to this industry, they think that you just start off as the movie trailer guy or in the next Disney animation. Or simply make the assumption that those are the only pathways to success in voiceover. For them, they would have already hit these segments of the industry by now. For me, I’m left thinking, “What was your name again?”
One call I received some years ago was from a woman who a friend recommended me to. As I was giving her common-sense advice as to how to get into the industry, she blew me off. Apparently, she was annoyed when I insisted to her that she needed voiceover training followed by a professionally produced demo. She touted her many years in corporate sales and her ability to reach out directly to CEO’s of companies to get work, so basically, she didn’t value my step by step approach that pretty much every industry pro would advise her on.
I’ve left many of conversations having thought that the person on the other end will never do as I advised them to. So why am I wasting my time? Well, I do it for the few that go from advice seeker to colleague. Those people who were just like me when I started voiceover in 2004. That’s when I found a local Atlanta voiceover talent online who took a cold call from me about VO. I’m sure her eyes lit up thinking that I was looking to hire her when I called, only to be disappointed to know that I myself was looking to get into the industry. But still, she happily gave me advice.
So what has changed? Two things. The first is that I blog. Frequently, I am found online by people who see my blogs and videos. That, in turn, invites more questions. But when I began blogging, it was to answer questions that people often asked of me. I figured that the blogs would serve as the go-to place when you needed to know something. I didn’t know I’d get even more questions following each video.
The second is that more people are looking to get into creative fields, voiceover included. And so more people are looking at their natural abilities as a way to earn money. This has created this rush of photographers, videographers, graphic designers, marketers and also voiceover talent. Together, with the hardware and software at all-time low prices, the cost of entry is cheaper than ever.
Look, I love helping people. But I have to be able to balance my time between serious potential talents and my already serious voiceover career. Voiceover, while it may seem like a cool side hustle that anyone can do, it’s simply not. So if your friend has a nice voice, start by asking your friend a few questions like “Are you willing to invest a lot of time and money into developing your talent and career?” And when you ask them that question, stress the words “A LOT.” If they say yes, then call me. I will recommend one of my many reputable voiceover coach friends from my personal Rolodex. But I will send you or your friend an invoice first. 😉