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Biz: 10 Ways To Make 2009 A Better
Year For Your Voice-Over Career
By Philip Banks
Voice Actor
Consider today as Day One of your new career as THE Voice Actor for 2009 and beyond. Well, what are you going to do?
Here’s the news headline: You have a 95% chance of never making a single penny, cent or coin in the currency of your choice. Well, what are you going to do?
Start chipping away at that number! Get it down to 94%, 84%, 42%, 21%, 10%, 5%, 2.5% - right down to “Hey I got paid today, have a booking tomorrow and the day after is looking pretty good too!”
How are you going to do that? Here are your starters.

1. Write down the answer to the following question. Why should anyone hire me?

When you've made your claims to greatness, have a look at the claims made by the voice actors you admire. Do they blow yours out of the water? They do, don’t they?
OK, two options here:
  • get your heroes to revise their claims, or
  • you revise yours.
Promise something you can deliver, not something you think you can deliver. Keep it clear, clean, concise and simple.

2. You’ve made your promise, now prove you are able to deliver - on your web site, on your demos, and in everything you say and do.
People need to be made to feel comfortable with the prospect of hiring you, and confident in your ability to deliver what they want.

3. Are you connecting, networking, “adding as friends,” making contacts? STOP IT! Unless you know what YOU are giving to each connection, person you network, “befriend” or with whom you make a contact.
A hand should be out to give, not receive.

4. (Read this in you best Irish accent) Stop talking sh*te!
People are too polite to tell you that they know you’re trying to make yourself sound more important than the unedited truth would reveal, but you should not mistake good manners for ignorance.
We can all name many movie trailer voices who have never voiced a movie trailer, or national TV commercial voices who’ve never voiced what is commonly accepted as a national TV commercial.
I’m surprised that Neumann hasn't done an audit, because there appears to be more U87s in VO home studios than have been sold.

Say who you are, where you are, and what you are. No one who really matters will think badly of you if you are not really Don LaFontaine’s identical twin Sandra.

5. Don’t be a VO bore. Interested people are interesting, so make sure you walk away from any chat/conversation/exchange knowing more about the person than they know about you.
If you must do the “I’m a voice actor” thing, tell stories and make them entertaining.

6. Work on your brand! Do you really know what that means? If you responded yes, you’re either deluded or are a fibber.
My brand is Philip Banks, yours is your name, and the mention of your name automatically creates an association in the minds of people who hear it with a sound and the fact that you are a Voice-Over.

Do you keep coffee hot in a Thermos? No, you keep it hot in a vacuum flask. Brand. Think about it.

When Setanta Sport was looking for a promo voice, a producer I know was asked to attend a meeting and Andrew being Andrew got bored in about five minutes. He wrote something on a piece of paper, threw it across the table:

“Call him, he’ll make himself available and he’ll do the job well.” He then left. On the piece of paper was my name and number.
If you feel that being known as Dave “Knife crime in the 1850’s” Zweiwskinszca works for you, then go with it.

7. Do not be market follower or try to be a market leader. Make your own way by being a market maker.
If you make a job for yourself, then it is YOUR job and no one else can take it.

8. Focus on one thing and one thing only – YOUR VOICE.  In so doing, you eliminate competition.
Don’t work too hard selling yourself to people looking for a voice. Work smart by encouraging people to think of your voice. That’ll be branding again.

9. The old ones are the best, so remember this:
You practise failure or success by the day, so ensure that you do something every day for your voice-over career. Keep a record of what you do and of the progress you make.

We all have bad days, let them happen. If things start to get on top of you, talk to someone. If you don’t feel you have a friend with a big enough shoulder, then consider me one and pick up the phone or get me to call you.

10. Build some inner strength. As voice-over people we have a major problem - we do our jobs because we love the sound of our own voice, believe we are right for anything.
And when we get feedback that is at odds with that the part of us which bruises so easily - the ego - it gets another whack.
What do we do? Change the world? No, it won't work. Change yourself? Unlikely.
One option remains: endurance training. Allow yourself to be hit until you don't feel the punches and deconstruct your greatness.

The first part is easy. You simply put yourself "out there" and enough people will come out swinging. We don't hit back. We just smile and take what's coming.
Eventually you're prepared for anything and you realize that it is impossible to be offended by someone whose opinion you don't value.

The second part, not so easy. The path to inner enlightenment.
Tell yourself why you suck, really suck. Why you are awful. Don't make stuff up, be brutally honest. Ignore equipment, settings, room and all the clutter. It's you in a room with your worst critic - YOU.

If you do this properly, then any situation - any session, any email, any phone - may knock you down for a split second. But your recovery time will make you come across as the stylish go-to pro voice talent time after time.

Happy New Year! May 2009 for you be full of dreams come true, and a few surprises along the way.
Philip Banks is an international voice talent based in the United Kingdom – which, he says, “Thanks to technology, means nothing.” From his home studio he delivers commercials, promos/imaging, corporate voice-overs and more – including (per a whimsical note on his web site) “just making strange noises.”
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