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Auditions: Online, It's Not War!
The Mistakes We All Make ...
 
By Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager, Voice 123

I have been doing more and more Quality Assurance on auditions submitted through Voice123 (the online voice-over audition and casting service) and at the same time, I answer emails from voice talent who express to me that they have not gotten work.
 
Whether they are experienced in offline voice-over casting or not experienced at all, many manage to make the same mistakes that I have seen cost them voice-over work.

I am basing this article on information gathered via:
  • Customer service emails.
  • Auditions and demos listened to while doing QA at Voice123.
  • Both voice seeker and voice talent complaints about working online.
EXPERIENCE IS BEST TEACHER
 
From those three factors, I get a sense that some may get emotionally charged up, which is EXACTLY why you should keep reading.
 
Also keep in mind that I am describing mistakes made by everyone at some point. I have now seen it happen, and I blush because I made the same mistakes at some point, while using Voice123.

I understand where a talent comes from. I also know that the greatest education comes from those who have made mistakes, and then learned why they were mistakes.
 
Problem #1:
Working Online Is Not War!
 
Working online carries with it a greater need for understanding.
 
If you approach working online as if it is "Me vs. Them," you will find yourself unemployed.
 
I have seen notes and emails go back and forth between clients and talents such as:
  • "I watermarked my audition, so you cannot steal it."
  • "Your budget is laughable, but I am auditioning anyway."
  • A budget quote: "You tell me."
  • An audition remark that states, "I have 30 years experience, and I have never seen someone so cheap in all my years ..."
WHY START FIGHT?
 
For a voice talent, seriously, if something upsets you, it is best to walk away from the audition.
 
Do not waste energy or time on being aggressive online. It is too easy for people to fight back and remember you.
 
If you want to start a fight, you will get what you want, and then some.
 
Problem #2:
Slaaaaaaaaaating
 - or Aggressive Slating
 
I think this is the most common.
 
What many voice talent do not understand is that working with computers instantly means you are dealing with people with short attention spans.
 
A study showed last year that from "mouse click to frustration," you had a time frame of only 3 to 20 seconds.
 
Keeping that in mind, if you are a buyer or producer, with even as little as 10 demos to listen to, how often can you take the following slates before you just get frustrated:
  • "Hello, my name is *** and I will be doing three takes, of three different reads for you, and I have watermarked each one to protect myself."
  • "Hi, my name is ***. My web site is ***, and you can find out more about me at ***. I will be doing three reads."
Those 'slaaaaates' are killers!
 
Not only is the first one displaying that a voice talent may be paranoid - a sign of inexperience while working online, but they both go on for more than 10 seconds.
 
EXPERIENCE IT ...
 
Try this, which lends itself to why it is not a bad idea to know about online customer service:
 
Walk into a store and ask where to buy soda. If the guy behind the counter explains every single detail of the store for two minutes before telling you what you originally asked for, you may just walk out.
 
Online sites: their interfaces provide your name, and the client is about to hear you anyway, so there is no point in explaining for 20 seconds, what they will hear for the next 20 seconds.
 
Problem #3:
Paranoid Behavior 
& Watermarks
 
When online casting started, watermarks made sense, but not so much anymore.
 
Why? Because:
  • the online community has been around for several years now,
  • the Internet sites have gotten wiser about who posts jobs, and
  • there are a 1,001 ways to verify someone before they post a job.
Plus, if for some reason they try to take the audio, web sites have that covered, too. How do I do it? I am not telling. It took me years to figure out how to catch people, so I won't shed that skill in public.
 
PARANOID BEHAVIOR
 
So, what do I see talent doing?
  • Loud watermarks that sound more like tests of the emergency broadcast system.
  • An announcement that there is a watermark, and that it is being done to protect their work. That one alone turns off a buyer immediately. It makes a voice talent sound nervous.
  • Submitting auditions with poor audio on purpose, and then explaining it away that "I did this to protect myself." That only makes one think you are making excuses for yourself.
 
Problem #4:
Not Following Directions
 
The common response I get when I mention this is, "Well, they do not tell me enough to go on."
 
That happens, yes, but I am referring to specific times when a buyer asks for something in a description, and the voice talent thinks it is a good idea or OK to submit whatever the talent thinks is best, and to make up a reason as to why it was done.
 
If you do not understand how that feels to the buyer, try this:
1. Imagine you go to a restaurant, and you are trying to impress your loved one.
2. The waiter takes your order, and you are waiting for it to arrive.
3. The waiter comes out with a completely different order, and says, "I know you asked for this, but I wanted to give you something different."
 Working online is like "being your own business," so how do you think it makes a buyer feel when you do the opposite of what they requested?
 
How would it make you feel, if you were hiring?
 
Problem #5:
Not Understanding
'Give & Take' Of Working Online
 
Like it or not, auditioning online carries a heavier burden of reassurance that a job can be done.
 
It is not about, "I auditioned! Now, someone will call and tell me what I have to do next!"
 
You need to have a business plan in place, because when you work online, you are directly in contact with the buyer. There is no agent-filter or production house to report to on a certain date and time.
 
It is all about you, from A-Z.
 
WHAT HAPPENS ...

This is "give and take" ...
 
As the "seller" of your voice online, you have to own a professional online business known as YOU, which you present to buyers of your voice-over skill.
 
You have to be the "giver" because this is a new playground, with a new way of doing business in voice-overs.
 
I will not lie. It is not always easy, and it does take some time to learn how to communicate online.
 
Problem #6:
Not Seeing The Forest
For The Possible 'Greens'
 
Working online is about building relationships - not "paying to play." If you want to pay-to-play something, try online poker.

I say this because the budget you see from the voice seeker may be lower because the person simply has no idea who you are, and what you can do.
 
Everyone is equal when you work online, even those with decades of experience, so those budgets may be just teasers. Once the voice seeker knows you, and knows you can do what they need, the real money will come in.
 
GET REPEAT BUSINESS

I have been told several times that Voice123 shines because of the repeat clients, not the job postings.
 
These voice talent know the difference between playing online and working online.
 
A tip: I did something recently to help a very experienced offline talent of many years. He explained to me that working online was difficult. I told him the following:
  • If you are experienced offline, find someone younger than you, and show them your profile and auditions.
  • See if they could re-write what you send in emails and audition remarks.
He swallowed his pride and ego, and we agreed he could tell me I was wrong forever. But he did as I suggested, and booked his next online audition, after a two-year drought.
 
I take no credit. I give credit to the young man who re-wrote the text for his uncle to make it more net-savvy, short and sweet.
 
The idea came to mind because I wrote my brother's Yahoo personals profile, and the next day, eight women showed interest. I have always believed that the arbitrator tells a story better.
 
Problem #7:
Whatever Has You Upset
About The Web Site You Use, 
Don't Mention It
 
They know already, trust me. They deal with it too, and tell us about it.
 
If you want to relate to someone, do so on a positive level.
 
Voice123 works on issues all the time. We have constant communications, with over 10,000 emails a month.
 
For instance, what do you accomplish with an audition remark like this?
"The audio you will hear is not good because Voice123 insists on using 96 KBPS, which sounds awful!"
Your purpose was to be hired, not file a complaint, and the seeker knows it is an audition process, anyway.
 
Problem #8:
A Phony Accent
 
When a voice seeker requests an accent, please take care to not offend someone's nationality.

Understand that when a person is highly offended, they might feel compelled to hit back, and not say why.
 
People who audition and hire talent from Voice123 tell me what they hear, and I'll pass along these tips:
  • A French accent request does not mean "Sound like Pepe Le Pew"
  • A Spanish and/or Hispanic accent request does not mean, "Sound like Speedy Gonzalez or Cheech and Chong"
  • An Italian accent request does not mean "Sound like a Joey Soprano"
  • A German accent can be confused with an Austrian accent.
  • An African accent does not mean "Sound like you are from the Bronx"
  • A Chinese accent does not mean "Replace the letter 'L' with the letter 'R' " 
  • A Scottish accent does not mean "Mike Meyers 'Big Sexy' impersonation"
INNOCENT OFFENSE
 
These are innocent mistakes made because sounds and images are stuck in our subconscious mind, and we may mean no offense. But still, I have seen how these errors offend people greatly, and when working on an international stage, it helps to be aware of what your buyer feels.
 
Certain "characters" in the North American culture of entertainment are deemed highly offensive in other countries.
 
I have learned this through my years of traveling. I also worked in Times Square for seven years - considered the crossroads of the world for good reason.

As we all know, people can be very sensitive while working online, no matter who you are, so there has to be a level of understanding that we are all starting over in this online playground.  
 
Yeah, we can all audition. But we can also be much more than just a voice talent.
 
ABOUT STEVEN ...
 
Steven Lowell is a voice actor based in New York City, and public relations manager for Voice123, the online voice-over marketplace that provides online auditions and work for its members.
 
 
 
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Comments (2)
Sandra
11/13/2016 at 2:20 AM
I am getting ready to start marketing myself as a Spanish language female Voice Over (newbee). This article is very informative, and funny - your last points on accents were so funny I had to give myself pauses between each example to be able to laugh to my heart's content. And I am NOT planning on participating in Voices 123 anytime soon. I do NOT look forward to it. I will try to find clients some other way. Which way, you ask? Any other way - I am willing to invest whatever time it takes to find another way. It looks like there are many Voice Seekers that don't know what they are doing and I wouldn't care to meet them. I need to meet people that know how to behave professionally so I can grow in a fertile soil, and not despite them in an arid desert. Yes. It is about relationships. Precisely. And in Voices 123 it looks like one gets a very high ratio of crappy blind dates. Or as hard as winning the lotto ticket. My intuition and many comments I've read tell me so.
Thanks for your article, good for any and all relationships!!!
Dave Roberts
10/28/2012 at 9:23 PM
Steve,

I'm sure you're a well intentioned guy and you are doing your best to promote Voice 123. But I've got to say your business model is failing for those of us who have been in this business for over 40 years. We realize that the internet is a place to be heard and it's the future. Those of us who are diligent have agents in every major city that know us personally and speak with us daily. We pros have home studios that mirror the major studios and we deliver a top notch quality sound. We don't touch jobs that are below $440.00. In fact, our agents negotiate our professional VO talent for much much more. Voice 123'a jobs mpore often than not are in the $100.00 range. I'm not complaining...I'm just saying: If Voice 123 wishes to compete in the 21st Century, it needs to change it's business plan.

1. It needs to have a roster of high paid-high talented voice over artists that BIG clients are willing to pay for.
2. It needs to have a roster of middle paid-middle talented voice over artists and MIDDLE clients (local) that they are wiling to pay for.
3. And then it needs to have a roster of bottom paid-bottom talented voice over artists (small market) that bottom clients are willing to pay for.

If you cannot do this, the complaints and the dissing on line will continue towards Voice123, and you will see your subscription of pay to play diminish.

You have had a great "hey-day" in building Voice 123. I salute you. But as you have grown, you have missed the point of who we are, and at what stage of our careers we are at; there are those that are newbies. There are those that are wannabies. There are those that are good but not quite there yet. And then there are those that are true pros. I'm sure you know this already.

If I were working for Voice 123, I would revisit the business plan from a personal point of view (after all you're a VO artist) and see where it can change for the better and become a wonderful place to be as a VO artist. After all, we all want to work..and Voice 123 has given us the ability to make the world our oyster!

All my best, Dave.
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