Am I The Big Deal Voiceover Guy or am I hardly working? Here’s the answer. Every shot that Lebron James takes has the potential to be game-changing, and yet, it’s just another day at the office. Every surgery a surgeon does is one of the many surgeries he may do in a day and one of the thousands he may do in his career. Each one is life-changing and still, it’s just another surgery that he has performed. Likewise, every voiceover that I as a voice actor does, is another job that boosts a brand’s exposure but is one of the close to 10,000 that I have done and soon forget. Not every VO job is a big deal.
People often ask me the question “What are you working on nowadays?” Since I have entered the professional realm of VO, it’s always stood out to me as an awkward question. I don’t quite know how to answer. I often answer with “What do you mean?” They usually respond by saying “You know, Are you working on a project right now?”
My response always ends up being an education for the person in how voiceover works. “I work every day and there is no particular project that I can remember. I do my work, send it back to the client and forget it.” I often use the analogy of the surgeon or the basketball player to explain.
Perception vs Reality About Voiceover
I have figured out that there are two kinds of people when it comes to voiceover. The people who think that every day I am doing Disney movie voiceovers that take months to complete and the type who think that I barely work and only make a few dollars to eat scraps for lunch. In reality, the truth is somewhere in between.
The Blue-Collar Voiceover Talent
I consider myself a blue-collar voiceover talent with a voiceover business. I am not the big studio, SAG Aftra Union voice that is on all the stuff you hear everywhere. But I also don’t consider myself a freelancer. Mine is a business that services clients. I remember auditioning in person for the Harlem Globetrotters who were impressed with my talent and long list of big clients on my resume. After the audition, the interviewer excitedly asked, “I see you’ve worked for a lot of big companies?” I said “yes. I have provided them with voiceover for commercials and narrations from my home studio.” At that point he seemed less impressed and said “Oh, you’re a freelancer.”
I should’ve considered this a warning sign. He seemed not to respect my profession, which eventually showed in the way they treated me, but that’s another story. At that moment I corrected him “No! I have a voiceover business. I can take this job as long as it doesn’t interfere with me servicing my clients. I have radio stations who I image for and a list of other independent clients who depend on me.” But his response was again condescending “We have other guys who have side gigs also who get some time to work when they are out on the road.” And that should’ve been my sign to run.
The Voiceover Business Entrepreneur
He is not alone in his misunderstanding of my voiceover business. While he downgraded my profession, others look way up at me as if I am the voiceover version of Tom Cruise. They think I am doing Mission Impossible trailers every day and Pixar films. Frequently I have conversations with these types who, when I let the air out of their balloons that I don’t have these major roles, they actually ask me “Why NOT?”
They generally go on to explain that my 17-year-old career should be taking a path that it hasn’t taken. “Man this is Atlanta. You should be calling Cartoon Network or go up to Tyler Perry Studios and tell them to give you a job. Why haven’t you reached out to CNN?”They basically then think that I have failed myself to which I have to explain that “That’s NOT how things work”
CNN, nor Cartoon Network, nor Tyler (as if I’m on a first-named basis with Mr. Perry) don’t take to anyone walking up to their studios for jobs. Trust me, I’ve tried. I have to explain to people that I instead do steady, everyday work that most people never hear in the general public or don’t pay attention to. Things like narrations and explainer videos along with radio imaging and a lifetimes worth of nightclub and hip hop concert commercials. I assure them though, someone is listening to my voice 24/7 and there is no time of day that I am not being heard. With that explanation, they return to me back the cool factor.
Average Voiceover Guy in a Changing World
Getting people to understand that my job is just a job or that its a job at all has always been difficult. It’s not the traditional pathway that a college-educated dude from Brooklyn takes. It was a path that chose me. As the economy changes, more people are looking for multiple streams of income. And they first look towards their talents for remedy. Many are seeking a greater understanding of what they too can do with their voices. And with that, more people are open to listen and learn what an average voiceover talent does with their day.
Working from home has become the new norm. Tens of millions of people had suddenly been converted from office workers to digital home-mads when the shutdowns began. We left our one on one relationships at work and shifted to virtual co-workers, no longer sharing a workspace and the casual conversations at the water cooler. The business trips stopped. The cold coffees in the break rooms ceased to exist. And the things that connected us and gave us variance in our lives came to a halt. For so many, these disconnects made us feel lonely.
I remember when the pandemic started many of my colleagues and friends in the voiceover business joked about their many years of experience working from home. Like them, I had been working from home for many years. As a full-timer in the voiceover industry, you work in a booth, or a closet, or any enclosed space that will help reduce reflective noises. And for most, they come out of those spaces after a full (or partial) day’s work to interact with their families and friends and enjoy activities.
My life and experience working from home have always been different. Before becoming a voiceover talent, I worked in the school system as a substitute and afterschool teacher. As you could imagine, I was never alone. I was always busy, with tens and sometimes hundreds of kids around me. There were parents to talk to and co-workers to congregate with and share outrageous and unbelievable stories about the kids. After school, I hung out with my co-working friends.
But in 2006, after 2 years of part-time voice acting, I made a commitment to being a full-time voiceover talent (after I was fired from substitute teaching). No more hanging with co-workers or seeing the kids. Or conferencing in person with parents to discuss why their kid’s behavior at school was markedly different than it was at home. No mas! And as a result, I became far less relevant to the people I worked with. To make up for this, I involved myself in activities.
What’s So Different About Me?
When I left my job, or rather, when my job left me, I had to find different things to involve myself in. Unlike so many of my friends and former co-workers, I don’t have a family. Over the many years, I have had many girlfriends but I don’t have any children. I don’t even have a dog. For much of those years as well, I lived alone. While I saw even my youngest brother get married and have beautiful daughters, I decided that a life of travel was the path for me.
I am also an introvert who has always forced himself to be social, and it’s worked for me. I have found friends in new countries while traveling. I’ve encountered new buddies while working out in the gym. I have new friends from attending various Spanish meet-up groups. And even found some guys who gladly and repeatedly dropped me on my head doing judo (lol). I have made friends based on the activities that we have in common which has warded off loneliness. But generally, when those activities were over, I was back to the voiceover booth and back to being alone.
So Why Do I Feel Lonely Now?
The pandemic really highlighted how fragile my associations were. It shone a spotlight on how I had medicated myself with travel and meet-ups. It was initially tough and made me feel lonely. Unlike my co-workers who had their children, spouses, and dog to huddle around the barrage of news coming in about the virus, I did not have that. I was actually working doing radio imaging (alone in the booth) to inform and encourage people to stay home. All the meanwhile spending no time producing nightclub commercials, because they were locked down. I was also suffering from health issues that started before covid.
All of the things that I had occupied my time and mind with were crumbling around me. My social interactions have been reduced to social media and a sharp increase in on-screen time. My time in the gym halted and my only exercise was a brisk walk from the studio couch to the bathroom before my bladder gave way. There was no more swimming. There was no martial arts training. Instead, there were short drone flights around the neighborhood with my DJI Mavic; at least until that fateful day when I flew it into some electrical wires (RIP Mav).
Suddenly I was doing nothing but scrolling. My health and good sense dictated that I follow the CDC guidelines. It wasn’t long before I saw posts from here in Georgia and other red states where everyone was back out and about. Heck, at that point the pandemic had just started a month prior and some clubs were back open. Everyone was having fun. They were in the bars, hanging out in Miami, going out to restaurants and I was still sheltering. The gym re-opened in June 2020. Some of my gym buddies went back to working out immediately. Some were decidedly cautious. But regardless, I allowed my membership to lapse and have still not renewed.
What Now? Do I Go Back To Normal Now That I’m Vaccinated?
No! The pandemic isn’t over. 94% doesn’t mean 100% effective and there are still breakthrough infections. The number of people getting vaccinated with both shots is waning. And the anti-vaxers are getting louder. All of this means, that as the summer progresses, I take caution in finding things to do outside with my girlfriend. We still plan to do activities but in a controlled manner. I’ll get back to medicating myself with travel. I have already started flying again, but I take extra precautions. But in all of that, I’ll still be working from home.
The Covid pandemic has taught me a few lessons. It has taught me that people need people and to strengthen the connections that I have with others. It’s taught me that working from home isn’t for everyone. Being a loner is ok. But I don’t have to feel lonely. It’s important to discover commonalities with people and to keep up with them. The pandemic taught me that we are all mentally vulnerable and the necessity to continually evaluate one’s psychological health. I am still learning the value of random calls with the thousands of unused names and numbers in my contacts list. Because when dealing with the stress of toilet paper and gas shortages, we need others to relate to who are dealing with the same crap.
As a voiceover talent, I do a lot of voices. And I do a lot of voiceover for different genres of voiceover. But as I have expressed before, being a radio imaging voice is one of my favorites. I have nailed a bunch of commercial voiceover auditions and it is really satisfying to book them, but nothing like booking a radio station. Recently I booked KZBT. I’m super excited about this station for several reasons. For One thing, I’ll be their Hip Hop Radio Imaging Voice
Most of the stations that I do radio imaging for are R&B or Gospel stations. I love that work. At 40 plus years of age, I have a grown person’s voice and I actually listen to the music from those stations. But when I entered into voiceover, I was in my twenties and hip hop was everything to me. I did thousands of commercials over the years for hip hop nightclubs. I enjoy that work so much that I go back and listen to my old commercials. So when KZBT called me, I was super excited.
I don’t do as much current Hip Hop anymore. I do a lot of Throwback stations. I enjoy that too but there is a difference from hip hop stations. Hip Hop stations allow me to be wild. I can adlib things in a very unpredictable way on hip hop stations that I can’t on old school or throwback or gospel stations. That’s the difference. That’s what young people like.
The talent who did the voice for the station is one who I respect greatly. He inspired me to get into radio imaging and voiceover in general. But, like myself, he has a huge commanding voice. He makes you pay attention. But there is a new generation of hip hop radio station listeners and they hear things differently. They don’t want to hear a booming voice. They feel that voice may not be talking to them on their level. So many stations are switching to a younger sounding urban voice.
Luckily for me, I can also change to a younger sounding voice as well. If you’d like to book me for your station, leave me a message here on the site and I’ll get back to you.
A colleague of mine once said to me “The job of a Voiceover Talent is to wake up every day and voiceover audition.” Well, I’m terrible at my job. I do not audition often. My career as a voiceover talent has never been about auditioning. It has always been about marketing, personal relationships, and internet sales. But I do voiceover audition from time to time. And I do land some of those auditions. This was one of those times.
Sometime in May (2019), I auditioned for a voiceover for Publix. I have auditioned for Publix many times in my career. I have landed one and been put on hold for several more. As with all auditions, I recorded it in my home studio and forgot it. A few weeks later I received an email from my agent in Atlanta, Jeffrey Umberger, that I was on hold for the job. (On hold means that they are considering multiple talents that may fit what they are looking for.) I let Jeffrey know my availability and again went back to marketing and promoting.
Auditioning is very different from the style of marketing that I do. While some talent have found success in both auditions and marketing strategy, for me, who is not much of a multitasker, I prefer marketing. I feel more assured when I can speak to people and find out exactly what they are looking for as opposed to sending my voice off into the interwebs and hoping that what I said and how I said it was exactly what they want. Auditioning is a guessing game and a numbers game at the same time. It’s definitely a competitive sport also, except in this competition, my livelihood is at stake.
Also, I have always thought of what I do as a business and not just me being a freelance talent. 95% of the work I have gotten in my career was based on business and not doing some voiceover audition or relying on agents. Had I had to rely on agents, this voiceover thing may have been reduced to a hobby. I guess that’s why I never felt comfortable betting on auditioning, in spite of the fact that I am a talented capable voice actor.
My 7 Step Voiceover Audition Process
When I do audition, I have a process. I have shared this process in classes that I have taught but I will share some of it here for free. I start with a dry read. Having never seen the script before, I read it out loud. Having done voiceover for 15 years now, my dry reads are pretty darn good and usually have no errors. Also, my experience in live announcing also helps. For me, the purpose of saying it out loud for the first time is just to get it out of my head without prejudicing myself about what it should sound like. At this stage, there is no perfection.
My second read is to iron out any kinks in my dry read. It’s kind of a dry read but better. Throughout this process, I am recording these reads and I listen back to all of my reads as they get better. My goal is to reach 7 reads before I take any of them seriously. On the road to the seven reads is the 3rd and 4th which I use to help me memorize the lines.
Memorizing The Lines In The Audition
Memorization helps me feel that I am doing more than just reading lines. When you don’t know the material, it shows in the read. By my fifth read, I remember the lines and give it another try and I often have what I call an “AH HAH Moment.” This is not to be confused with a “Haha Moment.” The Ah Hah moment is when you have a realization about the script. It’s when you start to see the interpretation of the script differently.
My Ah-Hah Moment
My sixth read is where I lay down my Ah-hah moment read. It’s where I play with the words. After memorizing it and seeing it differently, I begin to own the copy and inject my personality into it. By the 7th read, I perfect the audition. This is the one I should go with. Sometimes I do more than seven reads though. Some scripts are more difficult than others. Other times I have more playing to do with the copy and have even more Ah-hah moments.
And sometimes I just project myself with different moods. Maybe a sad mood read or a read where it is really outrageous sounding. It’s not that I think they will pick that read, but they will see that I can read copy well in case they need to make changes in the script when we do the real record.
Don’t Obsess Over Your Voiceover Auditions. Edit & Send
From there I start editing. I don’t second guess myself in the editing process. Whatever I have already recorded is what I am going with. My process does not include re-recording. I only edit at this point. I use some lite compression and other tools that clean up the sound a bit but never anything that is too noticeable.
There is a lot that goes into voiceover auditions and the number of steps for me is just one of them. Figuring out how to connect with my target audience is important too. But this kind of thinking is how I landed this voiceover audition and others in the past. It probably doesn’t hurt that I have a great voice too.
Listen To The Voiceover Audition That Got Me The Job Below —–>>>
Political Voice Over matters. Because we, as voiceover talent speak for the people. Turn on the TV. Take a look outside. Depending on where you are you may see calm or you may see mayhem. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that what federal and local leaders decide for us has a substantial impact on our daily lives. This is a time where being neutral is impossible. Covid 19 and the effects that it has had on our economy will affect everyone. And the racial tensions in the United States are boiling over AGAIN! We all have a voice in this. So what do you do if you are a voice-over talent asked to do voiceover that hurts or hinders the causes that you stand for?
I’ve never understood how people could vote against their own interests. Yet tens of millions of Americans do it all the time. I guess I don’t understand them because I completely comprehend cause and effect. Candidate A says that beer is banned and you are a beer drinker. Yet you voice a commercial for that candidate? He is also against microphones that cost below $2500 because lobbyists and his donors are expensive mic manufacturers. So now you can’t crack open a brew when you want to and he has demanded that you get these super expensive mics. How do you stay neutral enough to do political voice over ads for Candidate A? I can’t.
Candidate A is hurting me and my business. And even if I attend AA meetings (I don’t actually consume alcohol) and earn enough money from doing political voice over for his ads to buy that Neuman U87, I know that he is simultaneously hurting my industry and all the best parties that I attend. This changes life as I know it. And even if I benefit in the short term, I lose overall.
Voicing Commercials for Politicians that Align with my Values
I recently completed my Political Voice Over demo. I decided to do one because I am passionate about the effects that all politics and policies have on our daily lives. I was born to take the side of the less powerful. My family came to the United States as immigrants in the 1960’s. Most of my grandmother’s sons served in the armed forces before they returned to buy homes and had families. It was important for them to educate their children well and be part of what happens in the neighborhood to its people.
My father and uncle were always a part of some action committee, political office, or school position. Both of my parents served as PTA president at my school at some time. When I faced repeated harassment and bullying and physical assault, which included being choked once, by the NYPD, my father knew what Captain to go see at the precinct.
Because my father was a vocal member of the community board and worked with the police in some cases, he spoke with the person in charge after an officer put his hands on his teenage son (who was just walking home.) Still, the policies on a citywide level prevented any action from being taken against the assailants. Effectively, my voice was silenced. So when I think about the voice over work I do, I think about having a voice first, and what I am representing.
Who Am I Voicing This Ad For? Know Your Candidate
I consider that the candidate that I am endorsing might actually win and take an anti-immigrant stance, or encourage the use of the police as a militant arm of indiscriminate racism. I consider that that candidate may win and take a public health or environmental stance that can harm communities that lack the resources to fight back. I consider that when Candidate A pays me for that political voice over, I’m gonna have to pay it back in the form higher taxes on the middle class and poor, to the benefit of his rich donors. There is no benign effect. It will come back on me.
Recently I was asked to do political voice over work for a national figure that seemingly supports the same police tactics that terrorized me as a child. I was honored that my talent was considered good enough for the national stage, but I had to decline. I asked a fellow African American if he would be interested in the referral because he voices ads for both sides of the aisle. I have also been asked to do political voice over for pro second amendment rights in a state that borders the one I grew up in. Understanding how guns get into the hands of criminals and the harm that is caused with those guns, I had to also decline. Cause and effect matter to me. I help them win and they make me lose.
What I Stand For
There are causes that represent other groups that have little to no immediate effect on me. But I stand for them because it is the right thing to do. I have a unique opportunity to be in a position where I may be called on to be a voice for the voiceless, to be the strident messenger for the silenced, and to communicate the narrative of the muted. Sometimes those people look like me and speak like me, but can’t speak up like me.
Check Out My Political Voice Over Demo Here
Dedicated to the memory of my brother Julian who died suddenly in late May. Born and raised in the UK, he was passionate about British and global politics. We never missed a chance to trade political barbs with one another. Brexit was his Achilles heel.
Radio Imaging IS the reason I started doing voiceover. I absolutely love it. Especially Hip Hop and Urban AC Radio Imaging. I admired the big voice guys I would hear on Atlanta radio who would break out of character and say funny and outrageous stuff. As a recent college graduate at the time, I knew I could do what they did. I had the big voice. I had the humor. I could tell great stories. Years later, I’m a talent, accumulating more and more stations. 2019 was a very successful year for me in Imaging with the help of being signed to the Mix Group. But I’m always humbled by new stations regardless of where they are in the world or how large or small they are.
I’m working on a brand new radio station. I am setting up a radio station and so I want to talk a little bit about getting started with a brand new radio station I’m Dane Reid the voice-over guy check me out.
So my agent hit me up and said okay Dane we got this new radio station for you I’m always excited about a new station I love radio imaging so this is a really great opportunity for me once all the paperwork was signed they take care of all that stuff on the back end I immediately got in contact with the program director I wanted to know a couple of things I wanted to know.
What their old sound was like? I wanted to know the format of the station. I wanted to know what the morning show and evening drive was like, because all of those things are gonna play into the way that I image the station. I am the official voice and I’m the branding voice for that station and so it was very important that I get what they want right and so I asked a bunch of questions. I asked what they liked most about my demo and what the program director told me was that he really liked the energy that I put in. I had smile, things like that, right.
So I listened back to my own demo and I try to mimic what I’m copying myself to make sure that I captured the true essence of what they wanted what they saw on what they expect for the imaging so they send you a packet and the packet has like 15 pages attached to it and so I’ve been working on that all weekend because I’m about to go out of town and I want to make sure that I get it right to make sure that you get it right you want to make sure that you read the lines multiple times in multiple ways unless it’s a line that I just know that I absolutely nailed it. So I may say “let’s keep it moving” right? “let’s keep it moving” or “let’s keep it moving” (all said differently), right? So they have different vibes to them. And I also look to see what section so they may be you know talking to consumers some of it requires voice acting some of it just requires the big voice.
Some of it just all depends. I’m not gonna give the same kind of energy to “here’s a slow jam” and to “here’s the quiet storm” as I’m gonna give to “the Saturday night party” you know saying so you just have to be very thoughtful about those kinds of things when you are setting up or a station additionally I listen to the station because that’s also very important again it’s all about a vibe about capturing that vibe and recreating it and sending it back to the station because for a year two years three years and hopefully many more years to come I’ll be the voice of this station so I just wanted to give a quick video about radio imaging and I’m Dane Reid the voice-over guy. Subscribe to my blog subscribe to my youtube and I’ll check you guys out later. I’m Dane Reid. I’m gone peace
Wanna Hear Some of What I Do?
I used to steal software and plugins for voiceover. I started my career with Cubase LE which came as free software with my Emu 1616 audio interface. As I realized the limitations of that software, I wanted to grow but I didn’t have the money to grow. But having friends in audio engineering, I found out that there were ways to get what was called cracked software.
My first cracked software was a Cubase SX. There was a company that was famous for cracking audio software called and I used to find their software either online or through a friend who had it. Cubase 2.1 was how I really learned to produce commercials. But a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is only as good as the plugins. So for that, I had to find more cracked software.
Free Plugins? Or Digital Piracy?
The hot plugins of the day were waves plugins. Waves were really good and really expensive. Of everyone that I knew who did audio, maybe only one of them actually bought any of the waves plugins legally. Waves plugins could run 10k for a bundle. Being who I am I had to have the best bundles. I had the waves platinum, mercury and gold bundles at some time in history.
As my career grew, I never really considered buying the actual plugins. They were still out of my reach in price. Plus, what was the point? I was getting them for free. Free beats cheap any day. So I perfected my skills with free software and even upgraded as more cracked software replaced the older versions. I went from Cubase SX to Cubase 2.1. Then I moved on to several Nuendo versions for a few years. Meanwhile, voiceover and commercial orders piled on. I had a nice workflow.
I never shorted on hardware though. I bought my first Neuman for $1500. UA LA 610 for $1400. I owned several computers. A Mac and a PC and a PC laptop. I had travel gear and swapped out several audio interfaces at that time.
The Day It All Went Bad!
So what happened? Well, one morning I got up to do my work. I had several commercials in the pipeline for the day. I fired up my computer and my trusty Emu and then started Nuendo and BAM. Nothing. It wouldn’t start. I tried it again and still nothing. So I restarted the computer hoping that would help. Nothing again. I tried a few times and no result. I was in a bad position.
I called a friend and fellow talent to ask if I could come to his house and record this work and he asked me what had happened. I told him. And his response was something I didn’t expect. He said to me “Why don’t you just buy the software?” I had never thought to actually buy the software. So I did. I bought my first version of Cubase, which was Cubase 5. It cost me $300 at Guitar Center. I came home that morning with my dongle and installed the software and BAM…. Nothing!!
At this point, I’m even more panicked. Installing and getting up and running was much easier with cracked software. So I called Steinberg to help me. I went over several things troubleshooting with the tech before I finally had to admit to the tech that I previously installed unauthorized software. He went silent for a second, and in a judgemental tone said “Well then you have to wipe your entire computer clean and reinstall windows to install Cubase properly.
You can imagine my horror. But I had work to do and the day was coming to a close by now. I got off the phone, backed up as many of my files as I could, and wiped my hard drive. I realized that I had to change at this moment. I did put the plugins back on the computer because I needed them at that moment but over time I began to buy them. I didn’t buy all of them but I bought some.
Pay The Money. It Will Pay You Back!
Over the years I replaced Cubase 5 with Cubase 7 Artist. I also bought Cubase 8 Elements for my mobile rig and then upgraded to Cubase LE AI Elements 9.5. I also bought Cubase Artists 9 for my desktop home studio. That version made all of my 32-bit plugins obsolete so now I had to buy all new plugins. That’s when I bought the Apollo Twin and then the Apollo Arrow with all the plugins for those machines. Now, I can’t steal plugins. I buy them. I also fell in love and buy the Izotope plugins. I have several of those bundles for mixing and mastering. I continue to buy software and plugins for voiceover. For Christmas, I bought UAD’s Manley VoxBox and Valley People Dyna-Mite.
Where To Find Free Software
You don’t even have to steal software and plugins. For plugins, there are literally thousands of free ones online. All you have to do is google free audio plugins. For a DAW everyone knows about Audacity which is free but you can also download a free version of Mixpad which seems better than Audacity.
In my opinion, I get the fact that starting a business or learning a new craft is very expensive, but with free software and plugins for voiceover available now, don’t steal. Don’t steal anything actually. People work hard designing this software and they deserve to make a profit for their efforts. I left some links in the description for Mixpad and Audacity.
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On the surface of things, I may seem like the luckiest guy in the world. I’m a digital nomad who makes a living with my God-given talent, my voice. My voice has allowed me to travel all over the world, freedom to decide how I spend my days and has set me in the company of some pretty famous and interesting people. And my work is heard literally by millions of people every day. There are so many reasons Why I Love Being A Voiceover Talent. So what could a guy with so many great fortunes have to complain about when it comes to being a Voiceover Talent? Here’s my list.
When I think about the things that I don’t like about being a voiceover talent, most of it comes down to the business aspects of the job. But there is one thing that relates directly to the job itself and that’s auditioning. Imagine that you have an advanced college degree in something and you have years of experience in the field. Now imagine that every day you go into work and before you put in 8 hours you have to interview for the job you’ve held for years each time in order to even start work. That’s what auditioning is like. It’s like a job interview every day. It’s maddening for me.
I have heard of talents who literally audition for work all day every day. This is what they do until they nail the job. For me auditioning is frustrating. Literally, you are competing against sometimes hundreds of people for one position. And certainly, I have landed many pretty spectacular jobs from auditioning but the process can sometimes feel like a time-waster. Instead, I have based my business in voiceover in marketing my voice and cultivating relationships with clients. But still, auditioning remains a part of what I do.
Who Do I Trust?
Shady managers, agents, producers, websites, and coaches all prey on talent in the voiceover industry. Some of us know who they are. Some of us don’t. The voiceover industry can be a very lucrative field even if you’ve never stood behind the mic. Many people know that and make money legitimately from it. But there is a growing population of people who lack experience and worse, morals, who are guiding others’ careers. They have everything from profit-sharing schemes of talents entire income, to quickly made demos for talent who obviously are not ready to make one. As these snake oil salesmen penetrate the mainstream of the voiceover industry, it’s tougher to tell who is who as many reputable people are befriended by them. As a voice talent, knowing who to trust to help grow your business is becoming as cloudy as Manhattan smog in the early 80’s.
The Pressure To Perform
When you think performing in voiceover, you may immediately think about copy interpretation and executing the right voice or character. But no! The real pressure for a VO professional is to be what Marc Scott calls a VOprenuer. Day in and day out marketing of your voice. For someone who entered into this profession because of their talent, this can be difficult.
There are no guarantees in life but starting any business has a unique set of risks. There is uncertainty about the future of the industry as a whole and then there is a person’s individual uncertainty about competing in that industry. There are questions and doubts about how will you retire from this industry? How will I provide insurance for myself and family? There is also the everyday questions of “where will the next job come from?” In any small business, what you kill is what you eat.
Dealing With Scissors
I probably came into voiceover at a time when rates for VO services were at an all-time low. But that money was still great money for me. But for the professionals who enjoyed even bigger checks for many years before I arrived on the scene, these checks were barely enough to pay for their 7 Series BMW’s. I was an undercutter. 14 years later I struggled to pay off my Acura in 24 months with these rates. Well, the scissors are out again and this time they keep cutting. Rates are getting lower.
Websites who promise new talent work and at the same time promise clients extremely low rates have big budgets to help them rate at the top of google searches. These websites are corporate-minded, not individually concerned and so they have invaded the industry from multiple angles in an attempt to make talent and agents mere low waged hourly-like employees. This is, of course, a fight that as the talent we must push back on both collectively and as individuals.
Billing- I Am Not A F$%king Collection Agency
Whether I’m fighting with Paypal over a chargeback scheme by a customer or calling a client several times a day to collect on an overdue invoice, the part that I dislike about my job is being a collection agency. It’s probably the most disliked part of any business. Comcast wishes they didn’t have to have a collections division either. But unlike Comcast, I deliver the work with quality, on time and with great customer service. So I deserve to be paid on time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Many people are not content trying to drive the rates to almost nothing. They want to make sure that they actually get it for nothing. Others feel as if the interest is accruing on the money they owe me in their accounts so they should delay delay delay. This is extremely inconvenient because meanwhile, this puts me in the position that Comcast is calling me (I’m kidding.) Either way, I tire from having to collect money that is a given that should be simply paid to me.
I’ve added safeguards to ensure that I’m paid. I collect money from certain categories of clients before the work is performed. I also use services that confirm that the work was sent to and received by new customers. And I’ve reduced the number of clients who I accept PayPal from (Because PayPal doesn’t support it’s service providers). At the end of the day, the best way to get paid is to get paid upfront and avoid frustration.
Truthfully, I was having a bit of fun writing and recording this vlog. Some of it was a bit exaggerated. All in all the benefits of being a voiceover talent for me are greater than those things that drive me crazy about being a Voiceover Talent. It’s a great job to have. And had to give advice to anyone who is frustrated with voiceover or who is discouraged from continuing, I’d simply advise them to have fun. Release the pressure. Learn as much as you can. Just do it. It’s worth it.
I am not a Voiceover Expert. I am a student. I taught a class yesterday called “Intro to Voiceover” to a group of excited students who knew nothing about voiceover. Most of them were local Atlanta actors who wanted to break into the business or to wet their beak. But the first thing that I told them is that I myself, even after 15 years, am a student of voiceover. The second thing that I told themwas “this is an intro course and after this, you’ll need extensive training and coaching to really get into the business and I will recommend others who specialize in guiding your career.”
See here’s the thing. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing, but it’s that I know that every day I am learning and in order to keep learning and grow my voiceover business, I need to keep the humility of a student. The other thing that I know is that many people in the industry with a cell phone camera bill themselves as a voiceover expert. Some of this is driven by the ability to sell courses, classes and advice to new students. Some of it is ego-driven and done for likes among peers. A friend who does a lot of great coaching and demo production once confided in me that there is more money in voiceover coaching and demo producing than there is in voiceover itself. I think that’s telling and a warning as to how students should invest their money in growing their businesses.
I do interviews as a way to learn valuable information from long-established and well-respected voiceover experts. I started it also to meet people in our industry and to watch them first hand conduct their businesses. Joe Loesch taught me to wake up every morning, get dressed and go to work in work clothes as I would for a corporate job. Dave Fennoy taught me to give every character a past, present and future. Anne Ganguzza taught me the value of consistency in marketing. And Joe Cipriano reminded me that relationships in business will help propel you forward faster. These are things that I may have taken longer to learn, but listening to voiceover experts whose opinions I value, helped put these things in perspective.
Why I Vlog
I love motivating people to be their best as I love being motivated by others. It cost money to buy equipment and travel to people’s homes wherever they may be. But I enjoy doing it. It pays when people recognize me and thank them for helping jumpstart their careers, but private lessons are a minuscule part of what I do. And after several lessons with me, I refer students to other coaches. That seems counterintuitive, but my focus is on continuous learning and advancing education. As for actual profit from vlogging, I make none. No ad dollars. No endorsements and no courses to sell. In full disclosure, my content is a form of advertising my business, but I mostly do this because I truly just love content.
Learning then Teaching
One of the biggest themes in my life has been learning and teaching. I am an avid learner. I grew up in a book store in New York that my father owned and learning was the central theme of my life. At a certain age, I realized that I had a passion for teaching people what I had learned. I eventually went on to work in the school system for 5 years. So, I love to impart information. In addition to wanting to share what I have learned in voiceover, I wanted to present that info in a fun way, in a way that you don’t see enough of online in our industry.
Telling Voiceover Stories
I wanted to fill a void that wasn’t being filled. There is plenty of advice in the voiceover industry. There are plenty of experts of varying levels doing podcasts, Youtube, Facebook Live shows and IGTV and I love a lot of that existing content. Some of the shows I enjoy are Ask Dave Fennoy and VO Buzz Weekly. But what I thought that I could do differently was to tell stories. I watch a lot of youtube videos from creators and enjoy the travel stories, the tech stories and the human stories that are told through video and narration. As a voice guy, I have always had a passion for verbally telling those stories. With a Panasonic GH4 in hand, I can tell those stories now cinematically as well as with my voice.