People often wonder what it takes to make a good living doing voice-overs. I could go on and on about the factors that help voice actors become financially independent, but ultimately, success often comes down to perseverance and finding the right niche market.
Whether you’re a working VO actor or you’re an aspiring one, if you feel like you’re stagnating, I have an interesting story for you.
The Ultimate Rejection
A few months ago, I recorded an audition which I thought was really good. The clients and producers agreed because I eventually landed the job. The session was recorded via Source-Connect and there were many (many) people on the client’s end who all had different ideas about the way the script should go. As a result, I must have recorded every single line at least 10 ways. I’m always up for a challenge, so it was fun—but the session was exhausting!
A few weeks later, the producer reached out to me by email to explain that they had re-cast the voiceover and that a male VO talent was going to re-record the script. Naturally, I was bummed, but not surprised. For one, the casting director (CD) had tried to cast this particular job 4 times before the client settled on hiring me. Also, recording each line so many ways gave me the feeling that the team didn’t have a clear vision for the production. Either way, finding out you’ve been re-cast is disappointing.
Now, despite all that, I really LOVED my audition, so I kept it in a special folder called “Good Ones.” I make a habit out of keeping every audition I record and organizing them into folders. I have folders for commercial auditions, narration auditions, video game auditions, and animation auditions. Every now and then, I listen back to these auditions and put the best ones in my special folder.
Even though I was recast, and this audition didn’t book me the job, as I mentioned before, I had a great feeling about it. Rather than letting it go to waste, I asked for permission to use it as a voice over demo. When the casting director agreed, I took the recording, added music to it, and posted it to my website as a voiceover demo.
Low and behold, this VO demo has been the gift that keeps on giving! Since posting it, I can’t tell you how many clients have hired me, citing that very spot. It just goes to show that a good home-made demo can be worth gold. This is something I go over in Get Clever About Voice Acting & Announcing Part 3.
If you’re a voice actor, you know you can spend countless hours auditioning and never hear back from anyone. Feeling deflated at some point or another is almost a rite of passage! But I want to remind you that it’s not all in vain. If you like an audition you’ve recorded, keep it.
The Advantage of Pay-to-play Sites
If you’re on pay-to-play sites, you have the advantage of knowing which auditions clients like. They even tell you right on the breakdown whether it’s ok to use their audition in your portfolio.
- You were put on hold for the job (but didn’t book the job)
- You were asked to record another take or version of that audition by your agent, casting director, director, producer, or client
- Your acting coach thought your read on the audition was fantastic
- You simply have a strong feeling about it (like, you LOVE it!)
Based on the story of my website demo, you know that a great audition can be excellent bait for new clients. This is precisely why auditioning (and coaching for auditions) is so important.
After putting that demo spot on my website, I quickly noticed that I was attracting a very specific type of client. Most clients who were referencing this new VO demo were coming from boutique advertising agencies and were requesting I read for their manifestos (a sort of commercial for companies rather than for specific products). It turns out that I accidentally found a little niche market for myself!
In essence, whenever you book a job or get traction from an audition or a particular demo spot, it’s usually because you’re in the zone of your niche market. Interest in your work tells you the type of clients or industries your work is attracting.
It should go without saying that it pays to keep track of what clients like. As such, always ask clients what demo made them feel like you were a fit for their script. Soon, you’ll notice which demos are most popular, and you can feature those and attract more of these types of clients. These demos can also be used for outbound sales for targeted segments of the market. Once you tap into a niche market, you’ll be able to create steadier income for yourself and be on the road towards financial independence.
In the end, there are silver linings everywhere—if you know where to look. If you’d like to know more about the voice over demos, read Part 3 of the Get Clever Series.