VOICE OVER CAREER
The Voice Over Business Won't Return To
Pre-COVID Mode: What Has Changed, And
How To Adapt To Your Clients' New Needs
October 28, 2021
By Dan Hurst
When I was a boy growing up in Honduras, one of my favorite places to go was a place where a sizable river emptied into the ocean.
One of the things that fascinated me about that place was that there were always wrecked boats in that inlet. I asked an old boat captain whom I knew why that happened.
He explained to me that because of the force of the river and the force of the ocean the riverbed was constantly changing. And many boat pilots weren't vigilant enough to navigate the changes.
ANTICIPATE AND ADAPT
Business constantly changes. It's the nature of the beast.
Companies that anticipate and know how to adapt to eminent changes will succeed in the face of frustrating and even overwhelming circumstances.
The same is true for your business. In fact, the voice over business is in constant change. And if you don't change with it, you lose out.
But to understand how to change, it's critical to know what the changes are … and what changes are coming!
These past two years have been off the charts with change. And for our purposes, it's critical to understand that change breeds change.
If you are building or counting on your voice over business to go back to what it was before the COVID pandemic, you're in for a major disappointment.
It's not going to happen.
Why? Because your clients have changed.
TALK WITH YOUR CLIENTS
Over the past few months I've been spending time with my clients online, on the phone, in person, just to get a sense of what changes they're going through, and how that will and can affect our relationship.
If you aren't doing this, you're in for some major surprises.
I'm not here to tell you how your business is going to change. Every business is different and affected differently by change.
But I'd like to offer some observations of what I've noticed related to my own business and clients.
WHAT HAS CHANGED ...
1. Your clients are affected by their clients and their changes.
If your clients are servicing retail business clients, their business is critically affected by several factors, including supply chain, product development, staffing, etc.
For example, the automotive industry has been greatly affected by the elements I just mentioned. That means they don't have the inventory of new cars that they normally have. It also means that their used car business has become more active and competitive. Which in turn, means that your automotive clients are switching gears (see what I did there?).
You need to be actively ready to help them with that change.
The same can be said for pretty much any retail business.
2. Your clients are working in a new format.
One of my major clients has completely changed their normal operations. Their people are no longer working from the office, but instead, working from home and online.
In the past year, every recording session has been via Zoom. That changes everything! It changes their focus, their perception of the VO, their creativity, and on and on. And it changes their VO needs.
I have an IVR client who has had to completely change his phone messaging. Some of his staff are working from home. Some are now working in different departments. And some staff are gone permanently. He's had to route calls from one department to another.
It's been a mess that has required great patience. And the best thing I can do for him is to be available at a moment's notice to help get the right messages recorded and placed.
Almost all your clients' businesses have changed dramatically within the last two years. They need you to help them acclimate and get back into a productive routine.
3. Media and style have changed.
Clients are looking for the most effective and cost-efficient way of getting their story out to their customers. They are reaching for creative and memorable ways to impact their market.
I know one advertiser that does only :15 and :30 radio spots that only air on rural stations.
Why? Because the customers he's trying to reach don't watch much TV, don't spend much time on social media, and might only pick-up a newspaper once a week. Oh, and direct mail hasn't done much for him.
One of my clients does only :10 social media spots. Each one is part of a storyline. Quick, creative, and memorable.
The point is that just as businesses have changed, so have their customers. And now, more than ever, voice talents who can flex and adapt to different styles and methodologies are going to find more opportunities to work.
What do I mean by "styles and methodologies?"
I've noticed that as commercials get shorter, clients are looking for something that will reach out and grab the viewer/listener quickly. We're not seeing as many scripts that start out with a clever mis-direct and then come back with an "a-ha" moment. They simply don't have time for it.
So, the VO has to be quickly compelling. Of course, part of that is the copy, but also the vocal style.
Recently I got a creative direction that was new to me. The client wanted "conversational drama. Kinda like a trailer voice in the corner booth."
I must admit, when I heard the final product, it did pop!
4. Narration work has changed.
The eLearning business and corporate narration business is going through the roof.
Companies are increasingly communicating with their employees through media. Gone are the days when companies would cram their employees into the corporate meeting room to make special announcements, or train, or motivate.
Now they're using videoconferencing and web videos.
eLearning has become a standard way of training. And even through these methods there is a growing attempt to be creative and memorable:
I recently narrated a safety video for a mining company. They wanted the narration to sound like it was coming from one their blue-collar employees. Knowledgeable but rough. Proud but concerned. Authoritative but friendly.
Polished voices and deliveries have become characters (usually to be made fun of). Trustworthy and genuine voices rule the day.
5. Finding VO work has changed.
My wife chides me all the time when I'm frantically looking for my iPhone, or my glasses, or my whatever. She always says, "Well, it'll be in the last place you look."
That's the answer for finding voice over work. It'll be in the last place you look.
The work is out there. I haven't noticed that it has diminished. It just may not be where you used to find it.
Have a conversation with some of your trusted clients. Ask them how and where they are looking for voice talent now. You'll be surprised by some of the answers.
The reason for this change is understandable. In many cases, simply because personnel have changed, different people are now responsible for finding and hiring creative talent.
In some cases, the company has has switched creative or ad agencies. One of the first things such agencies do is drop the old and start new.
Also, most companies are using this time to assess not only their product and production, but also their creative.
So now is the time to make some new contacts!
A quick chat with creative directors you know might yield some golden leads.
Along that line of thought, I've noticed in the past few months more and more requests from individual video producers. In talking with them, I realized that many lost their jobs during the brunt of the pandemic and have now launched out on their own.
So there is a glut of new producers starting their own businesses, and some of them are taking business away from their former house.
And some are doing what we all should be doing: beating the bushes and finding work.
Yes, the work is out there.
You haven't noticed fewer commercials on the air. My eLearning clients tell me they are slammed. Web video producers are still cranking them out.
Keep searching. You'll find work the last place you look.
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Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business extends internationally, with clients including Maserati, Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, McDonald's, Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada, and many more, along with his national work for numerous infomercials, ESPN, CNN and Fox Sports, among others. When he's not working, he spends time cheering for losing sports teams, getting kicked off of golf courses, and cursing his boat motor.
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