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Pivoting To Persevere - And GROW - As The Voice
Over World Spins Through The COVID Crisis
June 29, 2020

By J. Michael Collins
Voice Actor, Coach & Producer

We're all in this together.

It may seem trite at this point, or like a line from one of far too many pandemic commercials, but it's true.

The voice over community around the world is having a shared experience, from the darkest days of quarantine lockdown to the first glimmers of a return to normal, we're all experiencing the ups and downs, the uncertainties and successes, together.

Here's a confession: I had my doubts.

For me, the seriousness of the situation hit home the day the NBA and NHL shut down their seasons. When sports leagues with billions of dollars on the line just ... stop ... it has a way of bringing home what a serious disruption the world was headed for.

For the first time in my career, I felt like I couldn't see the chessboard, and was unsure of what would happen to our industry. After a weekend pity party, however, I did what I always do when it comes to business - set aside emotion and made reasoned, logical judgements about how to adapt to change.

Our industry has been turned on its axis more than once, and somehow, through every crisis, it seems to persevere, and even grow in unexpected ways, rewarding those who embrace change, and sometimes punishing those who do not.


I made an immediate decision to pivot away from areas I thought would be impacted negatively by the crisis.

My focus shifted to aggressive pursuit of e-Learning and medical narration, and equally to aggressive pursuit of commercial and corporate work centered around messaging about the crisis.

Like many of you, some of my best clients went into a temporary holding pattern, but setting aside the fear and following the work where it was going allowed me to overcome and easily offset those losses with new work.


In addition to shifting my focus to areas that would grow during the crisis, I adapted my approach to finding work in general.

One very early trend I saw at the beginning of the crisis was a flight to quality.

You might expect companies to be slashing budgets and looking to lower-end sources for VO talent in these tough times, but many more have become hyper-focused on getting their messaging more finely tuned than ever. The slightest misstep can make a company seem tone-deaf, which in the current moment could be unrecoverable.

So instead of lowering rates and trying to double-down on auditions and marketing, I turned my attention to quality-minded buyers who were looking for a voice that could communicate reassurance, compassion, steadiness in a storm, and sensitivity to shaken consumers.

In many cases, this meant vulnerable industries like healthcare companies, airlines, phone and cable providers, social media companies, and behemoth online retailers. Right now, they need voices who can cut through the noise and make the consumer trust them.

I targeted e-Learning buyers who need training on new best practices and procedures stemming from the crisis, and medical narration buyers (well, for natural reasons they became the fish that just jumped into the boat). 


I focused on quality over quantity, and high-percentage pursuits over low percentage ones. Also, I...
  • Passed on many agency auditions if I felt that I was at all marginal for the role.
  • Increased my minimum rate for online casting sites and just batch-deleted any price-driven buyer, unless there appeared to be a high-volume component attached.
  • Redirected my SEO efforts to capitalize on the increasing trend of direct-to-website hiring, and to bring more walk-ins into the net.
Direct marketing tactics changed as well, emphasizing on-call availability and the ability to offer a professional Source-Connect equipped home studio, to put their minds at ease about directed sessions.  

Lastly, I took a little extra time with auditions than I usually would, to really try to understand the psychology behind the messaging, and the psychology of those being targeted by the message.  

And, I've learned to pad an extra 20 minutes or so to any crisis-related VO session, as there are more creatives than ever who want more safeties and wilds just to be sure the message is perfect.


Agents who hustle will continue to thrive.

Online casting will continue to evolve and play a substantial role in the mid and low end of the market.

Your personal branding, visibility, and SEO presence will matter more than ever. Your marketing will need to be more clever and subtle than ever, to stand out from the crowd, and, as the work spreads out, the middle class of VO talent will continue to be the fastest growing segment.

Ultimately, like in 2001 and 2008, our industry has once again risen to a great challenge - perhaps its greatest yet.

Because of the foresight of those who have used the past decade to adapt to technology and prepare when the world needed people who could remain productive while isolated, the business of voice over will once again weather the storm, and come out stronger on the other side.


Meanwhile, if you're still locked down and haven't completely fulfilled your quaran-teen quota of extra pounds yet, here's my lovely wife Anna with a recipe for her homemade authentic Dutch Apple Pie!

Hi Everyone! J. Michael and I cannot wait until we can see you all in person again, but until then, here's a little something that has been keeping us happy at home. Well, mostly him. I'm lucky if there's a slice left.

As many of you know, I'm half Dutch in addition to being American, and while there's nothing more American than apple pie, there's also nothing more Dutch than apple pie. And where I was raised, this is how we do it. I hope you find this treat as delicious as "we" do...

Honey .. .give me back my plate!
In more than 20 years as a professional voice actor, J. Michael Collins has worked with many of the world's largest companies, brands, sports leagues and organizations - in both the classic agency-based VO world and online casting marketplace, where he has become a leading authority. He is also recognized as an industry-leading voice over coach and award-winning demo producer, and is a multi-time Voice Arts Award nominee and winner as voice actor, demo producer, script writer and casting director.



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