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A 'New Norm' Settles Into Voice Over:
Home Studio, Rates, Marketing & More
July 30, 2020

By Dan Hurst
Voice Actor

The voice over world has changed. Probably permanently.

The COVID pandemic has created a whole new way of doing business. A New Norm.

It used to be that even if you didn't have a home studio and could only work from professional studios, you could still get work. Those days are almost completely gone.

The vast majority of agencies, producers - even production studios - are now looking for voice talents who have their own studio-quality set-ups.

Here's how odd it is:

Recently I did a national voice over via Source-Connect with a local studio and a local advertising agency! In fact, we all know each other, but the agency chose to do the ultimate social distancing thing and hook up via Source-Connect all within the same town.

Interestingly, I've also done a few ISDN sessions with the same local studio!

This is a New Norm. And frankly, I'm okay with it. But there are some key elements to note as we make this shift. Here are five that I've noticed.

1. We're Seeing A Polarization Of Talent Use.

While we're going to continue to see low-ball clients looking for cheap VO, we're also going to see more VO talents willing to work for lower rates just to get the work.

But we're also going to see great clients delighted that they can get great voice talents easily and quickly because they are working from their professional home studios - and those clients are happy to pay a fair rate for that convenience and accessibility.

Recently, I've been working more and more with clients who are also working from home, and it has been interesting to compare notes about the business and maintaining a high level of professionalism and efficiency while working in a more comfortable and relaxed setting.

When clients realize they can still get professional voice work from talents working from their home studios, it's a win-win situation. It's a paradigm shift.

While there are clients settling for cheaper rates and substandard voice overs, there are also clients demanding the high-end voice over quality that comes from a professional studio. And if your home studio is high quality, and you can deliver what the client expects, you're golden.

That doesn't mean you have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to build the ultimate home studio. But it does mean that if you are going to play the high-end game, you will have to invest in great equipment and an acoustically solid environment.

Face it, you're competing with the best in the business, so not only do you have to bring your A game, but you also play with the best equipment you can.

Don't shoot yourself in the foot for the sake of a few hundred dollars.

2. Source-Connect Now Seems To Be King.

I'll still have my ISDN lines, but I haven't had a request for ISDN in months.

Now, I'm sure there are still some client studios that use ISDN, but there are certainly fewer of them. And with the shift away from ISDN, Source-Connect seems to be the go-to connection for more studios.

That's actually good news for voice talents. Source-Connect is far cheaper than ISDN. And if you have a decent internet connection, you can depend on Source-Connect.

But don't rule out ipDTL and Source-Connect Now. Both areexcellent IP Codecs on the Opus platform that deliver clean, fast connections. And there are certainly others worth considering.

3. P2P Sites Are Losing Their Luster.

Yes, there is still work to be found on some online casting (P2P, Pay-to-Play) sites, but clients seem to be less and less enchanted with them. At least, that's what I'm hearing.

The main reason for the disenchantment is the process that clients have to go through to find the right talent on a P2P. It can be overwhelming.

Clients have to wade through an endless number of talents - often just a number or a code on a website with no way to really get to know more about the talent. And in many cases, they are doing so on a P2P site where there is simply a lack of transparency - they are using the site as a partner they don't really know, they don't know how their budget is really being used, the site won't allow them to really know who the talent is, and on and on.

It can sometimes be like trying to buy a pair of shoes online from an automated website, and the website won't tell you what the name of the brand is; they've asked you what you are willing to pay but they won't tell you how much the shoes really cost; and when you ask for a sample (audition) you get a pile of crappy shoes to not so crappy shoes.

And then you think you have to choose from that pile or go through the process again somewhere else.

I have a client who used to hire off of P2P sites, who got increasingly frustrated and irritated at the sheer lack of competency, professionalism, and sometimes integrity within the process.

He said,
"I don't hire someone because their rates are lower. I hire someone because they're the right person for the job. And when I realized that talent agents and casting agents are better at finding that person than I am, it was a no-brainer."
By the way, there are some excellent voice talents on some P2P sites. The problem is that they often get lost in the shuffle. That's a key point: P2P sites are not talent agencies. They're stockyards.

And that brings us to the next consideration of the New Norm for voice overs ...

4. Agents Are Gold.

Great agents have always been gold. But this shift in the way the voice over business is working has created a greater demand for the best agents.

Clients are realizing that they have been spending too much time, energy and money on P2P sites trying to find the right voice. Why not let someone find that voice for you and deliver to you the best of the auditions so you don't have to spend time going through countless auditions, usually bad auditions, while you could be using your time more efficiently and productively?

That's where talent agents and casting agents save the day.

They have the best talents on their rosters, and almost all those talents work for the same rates.

But here's a caution about talent agents: Just as the voice over business is overloaded with people who claim to be voice talents but aren't that good, so is the business overloaded with agents that aren't that good.

It's pretty easy to throw up a shingle and call yourself a talent agent, just as it's easy to buy a USB mic and call yourself a voice talent.

Another word of caution to voice talents and clients: If your agent isn't hustling to land voice over work (instead of waiting for the phone to ring), that's not being an agent. That's being an order-taker.

5. Social Marketing Is Still King.

Social marketing has carved its way into the world of legitimate marketing. It works! 

But don't confuse marketing with selling yourself.

Marketing is what you do before you can sell yourself. In fact, great marketing requires "selling" the client to yourself first.

You have to know the potential client before you even know if you have what they need. And "need" is a crucial part of it. Marketing is getting to know the potential client and figuring out if and how you can meet their voice over need.

It takes time to make connections and build relationships. And now that many clients are working from home, it's even more difficult to just pick up a phone, call their office, and try to establish a connection.

I've found that the best way to connect with a client is to use their preferred media. And most of them are online - either email, internet forums, chat groups, etc.

I've met some of my best clients where they hang out, not where they work.

But don't embarrass yourself and waste your time, or your client's time trying to talk them into using you. Once you know them and what they need - and they know you and that you can meet that need - it's a done deal.

I'd much rather work with a friend than with someone I don't know, who doesn't know me, and we have to dance around figuring each other out.

And if they never use me, I still have made a friend! In fact, I have more business friends than clients. And I'm totally cool with that.

So, there you have it: The New Norm in voice overs is not going away any time soon.

Embrace it and trim your sails. It's a new day.
Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business extends internationally, with clients including Maserati, Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, McDonald's, Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada, and many more, along with his national work for numerous infomercials, ESPN, CNN and Fox Sports, among others. When he's not working, he spends time cheering for losing sports teams, getting kicked off of golf courses, and cursing his boat motor. 


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Comments (4)
James Conlan
7/31/2020 at 2:29 PM
Well, you done it again, Dan. So much wisdom - and good hair, too. I'm sending your comments about good agents to my good agent for their edification. I might also note about the New Norm that there has been a proliferation of new online VO coaches who have breached the geographical domains of more established coaches. It's hard for a newbie to choose from among all those who claim to be the way to fame and fortune. And, really, who among us can make that claim?

Yours, Jim "Norm" Conlan
J. Valentino
7/31/2020 at 1:06 AM
This is one of the best articles I've read in quite some time on the VO business. It's extremely well written. The cream always rises to the top. It sometimes takes a while, but it always happens.
Rowell Gormon
7/30/2020 at 8:43 PM
"Stockyards" descriptor yet, Dan! I wish I'd thought of that.
Ryan Duncan
7/30/2020 at 6:17 PM
Always crucial to hear where the future of an industry is heading. Thanks for the informative article, Dan.
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