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VO NEWCOMERS
News Articles About A Voice Over
Career Can Mislead About Challenges

July 15, 2013

Note: The author is the Virtual Emcee at Voice Over Virtual, the giant three-day online conference presented by VoiceOverXtra September 18-20, 2013. Learn About It Here.

By Dave Courvoisier
Voice Actor & TV News Anchor

Recent articles from two well-known national publications will no doubt swell the ranks of voice over wannabe’s. I mean, this stuff is easy! All you do is talk … how hard can it be?

READER'S DIGEST DOES IT ...

A June 2013 article in Reader’s Digest  is titled: These High-Paying Jobs Are Definitely Not for Everyone, but luckily mentions in the subtitle: "While these high-paying jobs definitely aren’t typical, those who have them claim they’re worth the bucks." 

And sure enough, of the eight jobs mentioned, voice overs is there at #7 with the the write-up:
"Showcase your pipes in a quirky cartoon or comical radio commercial and, after five minutes, you could earn $325. Even lesser-known voice-over artists can pull in $50,000 to $80,000 per year.”
I suppose there’s nothing factually wrong with that claim.

It’s just what they leave out that misconstrues the promise. You know, the equipment, the coaching, the marketing, the time spent practicing …inconvenient truths, I suppose.

AND NEW YORK TIMES ...

Then there’s the vaunted New York Times article of June 29th:  Actors Today Don’t Just Read for the Part. Reading IS the Part

This article is about audiobook narrating, and features a headline picture of the highly-accomplished Katherine Kellgren

Again, the factual article quotes several successful actors, talks to the founder of Audible, and mentions the high-paying per-hour sums the best actors receive for their dedicated work. 

Please don’t mention the word "voice over” to these folks … this is the high-brow cousin of VO, even though plenty of people do both, as was evidenced by a workshop at the recent Audio Publishers Association Conference where people like Pat Fraley and Jeff Kafer offered instruction on how to segue from one to the other.

Again, the NYT article failed to reference the distinct challenges of breaking into audiobook narration - a different kettle of fish entirely than mining for, say, eLearning producers in the corporate world.

BREAKING THE BARRIER

If all this caterwauling about the promise of using your voice to make money causes you to roll your eyes … good for you!

YOU KNOW the reality of breaking the $50-80-thousand-per-year barrier. You’ve lived through the lean months. You’ve struggled to find your freelance legs. You’ve experienced the rejection.

Let me be the last person to discourage anyone to take the first or second step in this business. I had plenty of encouragement when I was starting, and I doubt I’d still be standing if that had not come my way.

What I worry about is a resurgence of unscrupulous "weekend demo” coaches, a tsunami of over-exuberant responses to cattle-call online casting sites, and a dumbing-down of rates in the marketplace.

WHAT TO DO?

So what can you do?

Be courteous to those who approach you for advice.  Tell them about VoiceOverXtra ... Doug Turkel’s Learn from the Voices of Experience…or Peter O’Connell’s VoiceOver Entrance Exam.

Warn newbies about grasping, misleading, and over-promising demo mills. Contribute sound counsel when asked - just don’t become a crutch for someone who needs to stand.

Refer serious candidates to resources on the web, including groups, forums, and communities that can answer questions.

Encourage interested parties to do their research, and get experience doing pro-bono work for charitable organizations. 

Note:I want to thank voice actor, coach, producer, narrator, and icon Bettye Zoller for providing the inspiration for this article.
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ABOUT DAVE
Dave Courvoisier is an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, writer, producer, voice actor, and the main weeknight news anchor on KLAS-TV, Channel 8, the Las Vegas CBS affiliate. He also writes Voice-Acting in Vegas, a daily blog of voice over adventures, observations and technology.

Email: CourVO@CourVO.com
Web: http://www.courvo.com
Blog: http://www.courvo.biz
Twitter: http://twitter.com/courvo

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Comments (6)
Harry Palmer
8/12/2013 at 12:41 PM
Thanks for an excellent discussion of the requirements to be an effective Voice-over actor. Acting is required since you are using your voice to create a character who is believable, entertains, and informs. For many of us, the greatest challenge is realizing the need to be an effective business person. The second greatest challenge is to practice the 15 to 30 minutes a day. Excellent books for further study: "Word of Mouth" by Susan Blue, Molly Ann Mullin, & Cynthia Songe. The "Voice Acting for Dummies" by Stephanie and David Ciccarelli is also an excellent primer. Thanks for your guide. I've been researching getting into this business for almost nine months. Although I may have the voice, I am not sure I have the dedication it will take to stay the course. Only the future will tell. Becoming a Voiceover talent is like learning to play a musical instrument. If a person won't make the effort to practice the instrument, they will never learn to play - or to become a good Voiceover talent.
Bobbin Beam
7/16/2013 at 3:33 PM
Voiceover is more solitary than it ever has been. Not all are cut out for it. Most newbies are out of business within three years. Rejection and failure are huge components, but for those of us in the trenches, it's all in a day's work.

The most successful voices today are those which resonate with the listener. It's not all about making the big bucks because "all you do is talk!" You have to be believable, have conviction and stick to it. Get professional training again and again. Kick out the bad habits and stay fresh and be aware of changes and trends. Be yourself, and be current. Become a part of a workout group.

A little luck along the way doesn't hurt...it's often said luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Get out there and make it happen. Making 50-80K/year requires stamina and hard work. Period.

Thanks for listening.
Bobbin Beam, Voice Actress www.bobbinbeam.com
Philip Banks
7/16/2013 at 7:18 AM
Nicely done, Dave.

I'm waiting for the article for VO people with the title, "If I were you I wouldn't believe ..." the content would be myth killers as opposed to dream crushers.

There are VO people I like, love and some for whom I would wrestle a Great White Shark to save them from adversity, but they write and talk utter nonsense. It does the business no good and, if they believe they are promoting themselves, they're not fooling the people who matter one bit.

For people who are new to the business, here's something that may encourage you. If, since you started you have been hired and paid three times, just three times ...You have performed a miracle!

Excuse me while I go and find job number 3.
Elizabeth Holmes
7/15/2013 at 12:29 PM
This is so helpful, Dave! Thank you so much for your balanced perspective.
Darla Middlebrook
7/15/2013 at 10:51 AM
Thank you for this reminder Mr. Courvoisier! I am a newbie audio book narrator and I KNOW that those "big bucks" jobs will not be coming to me in the near future. It has been difficult to convince people that this is not an easy-fast-buck profession. Good coaching, positive support and practice-practice-practice daily is absolutely necessary. Audio book narration is a labor of love for me. If anyone enters this genre of voice acting with the idea of becoming super rich, super fast he/she will be greatly disappointed.
LoveThatRebecca aka Rebecca Michaels Haugh
7/15/2013 at 9:22 AM
DAVE YOU ROCK. I don't need to say more but I will. I really appreciate the follow up on the 'missing information' and how those inside the industry like you and us - your readers, really need to have a view of the big picture. Thank you.
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