Survival Tips for New (& Nearly New)
Voice Actors - Staying the Course!
By Paula Lin
©2008 Paula Lin
What’s today's climate for aspiring voice over actors? How can you avoid getting rained out?
Well, gasoline prices continue to rise - as perhaps does your blood pressure while you wait for your first voice-over gig to materialize.
Sure, you’ve done what you think was necessary to get that VO career going. But your professional heart’s desire doesn’t always happen as quickly or consistently as you want.
Let me share some survival tips that may help you along the way from famine to a feast in the challenging, creative, and fun world of voice-over.
NOW & FOREVER ...
1. Become educated - now and forever after - about the field. You need to know if you are really cut out for the considerable rejections and changing technologies that are the norm in the VO industry.
Voice-over and acting classes will help you loosen up and project the many voices you didn’t realize you had inside. Check the many educational opportunities - workshops, seminars, teleclasses, conferences - in VoiceOverXtra's extensive Calendar. Attend a free acting workshop in your community.
Learn how to edit a voice track.
2. A voice-over demo is your chief calling card to prospects. Investigate VO coaches who can help you develop your skills. After sufficient training - perhaps with a variety of coaches - cut a voice-over demo with a coach or production facility that offers top-notch direction.
3. Home studios are here to stay. When you've determined to stick with this career - or perhaps after you've landed a few decent gigs - and can afford the cost, invest in high-quality equipment that you can master for producing auditions and actual jobs.
Attend local classes or go online for voice-over classes and info to build your own studio.
Talk to friends in the industry who might help you with the studio, and work out a friendly discount or a favor exchange.
4. The business side of voice-over includes understanding budget and finance.
Make sure you have enough money set aside to sustain the most important aspects of your livelihood. You don’t want to be worrying all the time about paying your bills to the point that money woes cramp your new “style.”
Be on the lookout for grants for small businesses. Watch for application deadlines and, yes, there really are funds out there for you! Check in with the Small Business Association.
5. More about income: It is indeed possible to work both voice-over and a full-time job. This may not be easy, but you’re one step ahead if you have some kind of broadcast job that allows you to squeeze in voice-over auditions. Hopefully, your full-time job is not overly stressful, because that can zap your energy.
You can audition after work and on weekends at your leisure, knowing that your full-time job is taking care of YOUR own business!
6. Part-time work or steady freelance contracts and jobs are another way to keep your cash flowing and allow flexibility for voice-over work and education.
For this scenario, be sure you can still pay your bills and continue to “live,” so to speak.
Part-time opportunities include teaching; freelance writing and/or editing and/or proofreading; consulting; tutoring; sales; the old stand-by, waiting on restaurant patrons; ANYTHING that frees you to work on becoming a successful voice over artist.
7. There is honor in volunteering. For instance I was recently asked to facilitate a media arts festival, and during this, I got my business cards to the “right” hiring managers. A vo gig may be just a phone call away.
How about this: if your house of worship has any opportunity to speak before the congregation, do it! Also think about your Rotary, Kiwanis or other local civic groups. Talk about your current career - or voice-overs!
8. Take care of your well-being. Find time daily to relax and clear your mind as you proceed toward your goal.
Health insurance is important, of course, and is a major reason to stay employed full time. Yet, an ideal situation could be a part-time job that pays decently and offers benefits (more easily found in school systems and state/federal government jobs).
Some companies and membership in associations also provide benefits for part-time work, too, depending on how many hours you log.
9. Develop entrepreneurial skills. Ideally you would like to work toward developing certain traits: talented, disciplined, efficient networker, self-confident, organized, well-connected, flexible, optimistic, and able to multi-task.
You also need an entrepreneurial spirit. Taking risks isn’t easy, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know!
10. A marketing strategy will bring positive attention to your services. Try promotional items that highlight your name/company and are useful to potential clients. Business cards are a must! Your voice-over demo will also become your "calling card."
Learn how to write a direct mail marketing letter focusing on how you can serve your customer with voice-over.
Be bold, with a profile highlighting your unique services in the community newspaper.
11. A business plan will help you plot a path to success. It will also force you to study the voice-over opportunities in your market.
There are many sources for help with a business plan. Check online. Women's organizations are very helpful with start-up info.
Remember: You are your own business. So create a plan tailored to you!
12. Finally, give luck and serendipity a chance to hover over you. After all, if you’re down, the only other way is UP!!!
Paula T. Lin is a multi-award-winning broadcast journalist and CEO/founder of The Definitive Enterprises: Voice & Word, LLC. She enjoys cultivating her roles as voice-over talent, writer/editor and instructor.