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Common Questions And Complaints
About A Voice-Over Career - And
Answers You Might Not Want To Hear
May 2, 2019

By Paul Strikwerda
Voice Actor, Coach & Author

Every couple of weeks I make the social media rounds on the various Facebook voice-over groups to see what's new.

The answer: Not much.

In fact, most of what's going on is an endless regurgitation of familiar topics, and Me-Me-Me marketing we love wasting our time on:
  • How much should I charge?
  • Where can I find work?
  • Will you critique my demo and my new website?
In an effort to nip these dreadfully boring and superfluous conversations in the bud, I'm going to cover some returning questions rapid-fire style, so we can all get on with our work.

Q: I want to get started in voice-overs, but I have no experience, no equipment, and no money. Where do I begin?

Are you serious? You sound like the guy who wants to be an Uber driver, who doesn't know how to drive, does not own a car, and has no money in the bank. How's that going to work?

My two cents: Get a job. Put some money aside, and work with a voice-over coach to find out if you're even remotely talented before you spend big bucks on a studio, gear, demos, and a website.

Q: It sounds like I need a lot of money to break into this business. Why is it so expensive?

Compared to what?

Ask a New York cab driver how much he paid for his medallion. What did the pianist pay for her Steinway? How much debt did your doctor take on to get her degree?

You can't be invested without making an investment. If something is worth it, you've got to pay the price. And if you're serious, you can equip your voice-over studio for under a thousand dollars.

C: I just got started as a voice-over talent. I've been auditioning for over three months and haven't booked a single job. Nobody ever told me it was going to be this hard. I've got rent to pay.

Your coach should have prepared you for a harsh reality. Ninety percent of trained actors are out of work. The ones on the A-list get booked again and again. It's not much different for voice actors.

Your job is finding jobs. Over and over and over again. So, stop lurking on social media and start marketing yourself!

Q: I signed up for several Pay-to-Plays (online casting service). Posted my demos. Nothing's happening. Is this a scam?

A P2P is the lazy way to get into this business. You pay your membership fees, you post a few homemade half-baked demos, you do a few lousy auditions with your crap equipment, and you expect magic to happen?

Don't blame the system. You are delusional.

C: My neighbor is driving me crazy with his mad dogs, his leaf blower, and his lawn mower. Right now I want to kill him.

Do you expect the world to stop just because you need to meet a deadline? You advertise yourself as a professional, yet you have no dedicated, isolated recording space. That's a problem.

Costs come before revenue. Stop moaning and get a double-walled booth. If you're any good, it will pay for itself many times over.

C: This new client hasn't paid me in months and won't respond to my emails. Help!

Who have you been working for?
  • Did you do your research to find out whom you're dealing with?
  • Did you watermark your audio?
  • Did you ask to be paid upfront?
Not every client can be trusted, so you have to protect yourself. You either lawyer up and threaten legal action, or write the unpaid invoice off as a business loss.

Remember: even if small claims court rules in your favor, it's not going to collect your money. That's on you.

Q: I'm not making enough as a voice-over talent. What am I doing wrong?

You're not alone! In this business, there is no guaranteed return on investment, and with what you're charging, are you surprised you're not making enough? It's a self-inflicted wound.

Low rates are the sign of a desperate amateur. Who wants to work with a desperate amateur? Be better, not cheaper.

C: Sitting in front of a computer all day long is hurting my health. I hate it!

No one is forcing you to do anything that's detrimental to your health. In order to take care of your clients, you have to take care of yourself.
  • Exercise, do yoga, move around, choose a healthy diet.
  • Sit up, hydrate, get a supportive chair, and a wrist rest.
  • Don't forget your emotional health.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people.
  • Get a life outside of your studio!
Your work is just a means to an end.

C: Being a freelancer is hard work. I thought it would be fun to be my own boss, but I'm starting to change my mind.

No job in the world is 100% fun all the time, no matter what some Instagram posts may tell you.

What you see and what you hear - the end result, may sound and look like fun, but you don't see the effort necessary to make it happen.

If you do your job well, you make it seem effortless.

If your level of fun is the only criterium you use to evaluate your job, you're never going to be satisfied.

Now, if you're not happy with how things are going, know that nothing is going to change unless you change. Keep in mind that as long as you keep on blaming others for your misfortune, they have to be the ones that have to change in order for you to be happy.

That ain't gonna happen.

Allow yourself to make mistakes. Allow others to make mistakes. You don't have to spoon-feed every newbie begging for free advice. They'll end up being lazy, ungrateful, and dependent.
  • Give yourself time to become good at what you do.
  • Learn from the experts. Invest your earnings to further your career.
  • Value what you have to offer and price accordingly.
And beginning today, start figuring out ways to get visitors to your web pages, instead of interacting on other people's groups and sites, boosting their SEO. 

What do you say?
Paul Strikwerda is a 25+-year veteran of the voice over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He is also a voice over coach, author of the book, Making MONEY In Your PJs: Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs, and writes an informative and entertaining blog.


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Comments (3)
Paul Strikwerda
5/5/2019 at 2:41 PM
Hi Jay:

Thanks for chiming in. I just visited your Facebook profile which features a picture of a chihuahua as your profile picture and an empty timeline. The only thing I learned from it is that we have one voice-over friend in common.

A search for "Jay Valentino and voice-over" ended in ZERO results. So, I gather that you're the perfect person to lecture me on professional promotion and SEO, since you seem to be a true expert at it.

I look forward to reading your many in-depth articles about the voice-over industry, and if they're substantive and compelling enough, VoiceOverXtra may even republish them.
Jay Valentino
5/2/2019 at 3:24 PM
Tip: Just add a blog to your VO website! Then get sites like VoiceOverXtra to post your article, which links back to your blog! You can just write about anything, just write obvious info like "Hum the lowest note as a warm up before doing a Voiceover." Blog about anything and somehow relate it to voiceovers. This guy is right in that it does increase your SEO, and it also creates the impression that you are an expert in your field. Lawyers do it all the time, for example. They write articles to create the impression that they are extremely knowledgable about a subject and it draws people to their firm, or people comment on the article (like I am right now). Most of the time it's just obvious stuff. You're welcome!
Bobbin Beam
5/2/2019 at 12:01 PM
AMEN Paul. The only additional suggestion I could even venture would be to advise that Facebook Groups are a huge time waster and if you're seriously wanting to focus on your career, get off of there. Folks'll benefit much more by turning OFF FB notifications, and turning ON all marketing efforts focused toward those who can HIRE YOU.
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