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Newcomers: The Secret To Breaking
Into Voice-Overs - And Succeeding!
Part 2: Business and Marketing Savvy

By Robert J. Sciglimpaglia Jr.
Voice Talent, Actor & Instructor
 
My fast journey in voice-overs has taught me many lessons, which I’ve boiled down to a formula that I believe is the secret to success in voice-overs.
 
Part 1 of this series details the first steps of that formula - the importance of having:
  1. a marketable voice, and
  2. a slam dunk/fantastic demo.
To achieve both, add in the need for training throughout your career.
 
Here, you’ll learn number three - the need for business and marketing savvy. You’re not likely to succeed without persistent marketing and wise business decisions.
 
OFTEN IGNORED

Business and marketing is the one area that many of my voice-over and actor friends ignore the most.
 
Even experienced voice actors will lament: “I need an agent!”
 
Presumably, they’d like to just sit by the phone waiting for the agent’s calls with new jobs. But that is insane!
 
I wait by the phone for no one! I rely on me alone to advance my career. And I’m always doing something to make things happen. Period. Exclamation point!
 
Sure, if an agent calls with an audition notice, that’s great. But I’ll still work very hard for the best opportunity to win the job at that audition.
 
WORK HARDER
 
Most people outside our career field think that we’ve chosen the artist’s life to have fun rather than make money. Right?
 
Well, successful voice actors beg to differ.
 
It’s no coincidence that successful people are also great at business. Indeed, in this career, we need to work extra hard to obtain jobs.
 
When I began in voice-overs, I had no agent. My early jobs came from online auditions and networking. So when starting out, you really don’t need an agent. In fact, you’re probably not ready for one. Learn from my experience …
 
CHASING AGENTS
 
After cutting my first demo, I made the mistake of immediately sending it to talent agents.
 
And for this I received many very polite “No thanks, but we already have too many of your type,” or “We are not taking on any new clients now.”
 
Of course, at the time I believed these polite rejections. But now, many agents later, I see this for what they are: rejections! It doesn’t matter how many of “my type” an agent has, or how many clients they represent. If they think I’m good and that I’ll make money for them, they’ll jump out of their chairs to represent me.
 
The lesson is that few beginners are ready to compete at auditions with the experienced big boys and girls.
 
When you get them, agents will send you on auditions. But it’s up to you to win the jobs.
 
EXPECT REJECTION
 
Early on, if I hadn’t been, by nature, a tenacious person with a thick skin, I would have done what several of my friends did: quit!
 
Many quit after receiving X number of rejection letters from agencies confirming their worst irrational fear: “I knew I was no good at this.”
 
X represents the artificial goal they place on themselves. It could be 10, 50, 100, whatever. The truth is, the problem isn’t that they’re “no good” - rather, it’s quite likely that they didn’t market to the right people.
 
STICK WITH IT
 
Many of my voice-over students tell me, “Well if I don’t make it in X years (a common number here is 1), I will quit.”
 
But X is an artificial number that means nothing.
 
When can you expect to see results? Look at your initial investment like the stock market. The longer you are in it, the greater the returns. The real results will come long term.
 
Focusing on short-term gains puts unrealistic goals on your back. That leads to disappointment and frustration. Eventually, you’ll want to quit.
 
KNOW THE PLAYERS

Crucial to your success is knowing the roles of all players in this business. These are the talent agents, casting directors, advertising agents, production companies, and so on.
 
Then you can market your unique voice/personality to the proper people. This advice also applies to auditioning.
 
My friends in the biz are always telling me: “I’m not getting any results from my online auditions.” Then I learn what they’re auditioning for: movie trailers - which often require a powerful voice, yet they have a “regular guy” voice.
 
I realized quickly that in order to have the best chance of winning a gig, I needed to audition for the ones that match my voice type.
 
AUDITION ATTITUDE

And I never get hung up about the “numbers” when I audition.
 
For instance, don’t think: “Boy, 100 people already auditioned for this job. I only have a one percent chance. Why bother?” You never know.
 
Like with my career, when I audition, my goal is long term. I do the best audition I can, so that the people conducting the audition remember me for a future job. Then I let the chips fall where they may, and go on to the next one.
 
I know this works because I frequently get calls from people I’ve auditioned for - not for the specific job from an audition - but for a future one. In fact, often there’s no need to audition again for that future gig.
 
COVER ALL BASES
 
If all of the bases in this formula are covered, you’ll succeed in this business. But if one or more pieces are missing, you have a good chance of failing.
 
To recap, the formula for success in voice-overs is to have:
  • A marketable voice,
  • A slam/dunk demo, and
  • Business and marketing savvy.
Set goals for each of these items. Then enjoy a climb on the career success ladder, which might go like this:
  • Start with non-union jobs, building a core of clients in smaller markets – gaining experience on the way.
  • Transition to jobs in larger markets.
  • Obtain major market agents, join a union (AFTRA, SAG), and get steady union-paying gigs.
  • Keep working hard – and enjoy your fame and fortune!
Robert J. Sciglimpaglia Jr. is the owner of All In One Voice, a voice-over instruction and business/legal services firm. He is also a voice talent, actor and attorney with the firm of Kerin & Canty, in Norwalk, Conn.
 
Internet Movie Database: http://imdb.com/name/nm2215197
 
 
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Comments (2)
MikeH
10/25/2012 at 10:05 PM
These articles, especially Part 2, have really given me a much better sense of how to go forward with VO work and what goals I should be working towards. I'm currently practicing at home and will begin classes soon.
Thank you!
Tom Sikes
11/20/2010 at 3:14 PM
Really enjoyed the "grass roots" approach to V.O. with a mind to the Novice in each phrase. Having read this compared to some coach/instructor articles, I am encouraged to try. Seems like a daunting business to even try to enter, but Robert helped me to consider again approaching V.O.
Thanks!
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