From my blog at www.DanHurst.com:
The other day a fellow voice talent asked me, “C’mon tell me the truth. How are you making it in this business? I’ve been trying to make this thing work for a few years now and I’m no further along that I was when I started.”
The interesting thing is that I’ve heard those sort of questions and comments for several years. I don’t suppose there is any one single legitimate answer. However, I’ve got five secrets that you should know about making it as a voice talent.
I’m not sure it’s fair to call these secrets, but they are certainly key factors for success in the voice over business.
1. You’ve got to be good.
Look, supposedly there are tens of thousands of “voice talents” in this business. I read just recently that there are some 30,000 voice talents in L.A. alone. Granted, the vast majority of them are film actors trying to make it and have listed themselves that way as one of their options. My calculated guess is that there are probably only about 2000 truly full-time voice talents in the world that do nothing but voice work to earn a living. The bottom line is: no matter how simple this business may look, it is incredibly competitive!
That means you have to be good at it to make it…even part time.
So, do your homework. Practice. Study the voice talents that are making it. Listen and learn from their little nuances of delivery. Don’t mimic them, but embrace their passion and focus on their product. They get work because clients believe in them.
Here’s an important thing to consider. Do you really think most clients want to pay the big bucks for the superstars in our industry? Of course they don’t. But they’re willing to pay for their delivery style. No, you can’t and shouldn’t sound like them, but you CAN learn to deliver the goods like they do. And that will pay off in the end!
Which leads us to the second point:
2. You’ve got to market effectively.
There are maybe ten voice talents in the business who are fortunate enough that they don’t have to worry about this point. The rest of us have to shake the bushes every day.
I’m not going to drop names here, but I’m well aware of several “big names” in our business who have to fight this battle every day. If they have to do that, think how much more you do! If you’re not willing to do it, don’t waste your time calling yourself a voice talent. It just goes with the territory. But I’m about to tip you off on one of the most powerful marketing tactics you can discover.
Quit fishing in the same pond everyone else is fishing!
One of my majors in college was Marketing and Advertising. What a waste of time that was! They just taught me to do what everyone else was doing. A few years ago I read Blue Ocean Strategy by a couple of Harvard gurus and it changed my whole perspective on marketing my business.
The premise of that book is that most people fish the same waters that everyone else is fishing, but the really successful people discover how to fish the blue waters that few or no one else is fishing.
That simple perspective has revolutionized my marketing strategy and my business. See, I don’t live in a major market. I don’t have one-on-one contact with huge producers and agents. I am non-existent as far as they’re concerned. But what I have done is found a few niches that very few other voice dogs were scratching. As a result, I’m connected with some awesome clients who don’t play in the L.A and New York arenas. They couldn’t care less about that side of the business, and we make each other happy. And I still get to pursue opportunities in those markets!
If you’re not good at marketing, maybe you should invest in yourself and go take a college course or two on marketing and advertising (just find a school that isn’t teaching the same old same old). And think blue waters.
By the way, while we’re on the subject of marketing, definitely invest in a compelling website with awesome demos. Why is that so important? Because if you’re going to fish blue waters, those potential clients need to be impressed with YOU…not with how many pay-to-play sites you’re on, or your facebook page, or your Google+ page. I don’t know if my statistics are similar to other folks in this business, but I suspect they are, and if that’s the case, 99% of our clients come by referral or because they find our websites. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I checked out your website and …”
If you are going to be professional, look and sound the part! Which leads us to the third secret.
3. You’ve got to sound professional.
This is a sensitive subject for a lot of people. There is a mentality that you can get into this business with a “decent” sounding mic and a laptop. I’m here to tell you that’s a lie.
Why is it a lie? Because people with great equipment and delivery will eat your lunch in auditions and demos. That’s just a fact.
Do you have to have the best of everything? Of course not. It’s not about how much money you can spend. But it’s not about how little you can spend either.
If you’re serious about this business, hire an audio engineer (they’re worth every penny) to help you assemble a system that is right for you. Did you catch that? An audio engineer. Not a sales person at the audio store. Not some computer wizard at Byte Me (if there is an actual store with that name, I apologize. I’m sure you’re an excellent outlet for byte stuff). You need someone that understands how and why an audio chain works, and can help you tune your system to you.
If you’re not willing to do that, do us all a favor and take your shingle off the wall and go home. Hey, it’s a business. If you want a hobby go make kites. Which brings us to the fourth point:
4. You’ve got to treat this like a business.
I’m frankly appalled at the number of people who call themselves voice talents who are abject failures at this critical point.
Now, I’m pointing the finger at myself on this. It is an area in which I struggle. Thank God I have a CPA and attorney who understand that this is not my forte, so they have to work overtime to keep me on the straight and narrow.
Nevertheless, this is a business. Uncle Sam sees it as a business. The state sees it as a business. The insurance company sees it that way. Even my bank is watching!
Speaking of that, I heard this from my drive-through bank teller this week: “Hey, kind of a slow week, huh?”
Good thing there was a window between us.
One of the things that I’ve noticed about myself and several others in this line of work is that we struggle with time management. I think it must be part of running one’s own business and having to do everything by oneself.
See, the bottom line is that when I’m not working…I’m unemployed. That means there is a constant drive to accomplish something business related. When I’m parked in front of the TV watching a football game, I’ve got the laptop open and I’m sending out contact letters to potential clients (or writing an article). I have clients all over the world, so my iPhone is on duty from 3am to 10pm. My studio, which happens to be in my home, is almost always open. Bottom line? It’s a fun business, but it’s not an easy one! And if you do it right, it’s a busy business!
So, in my pompous wisdom, I tell you to manage the clock, but I am, in fact, one of the greatest offenders of this critical point.
5. You’ve got to love your clients.
I am of all men most fortunate. I have a wife who has stayed with me for God knows why. Three awesome sons, two awesome daughters-in-law, two perfect grandchildren, an amazing business, and clients I could kiss on the mouth…but I won’t.
That’s not to say I don’t love my clients. I do. I owe my voiceover career to them!
My point here is that one of the key secrets to voiceover success is to be passionate about your clients and their success.
A few years ago my wife and I had some remodeling done to our home. I’ll never forget the impact it made on us when some of the sub-contractors really took an interest in us and our dream. Their recommendations and extra attention made a huge difference in the whole experience. You can bet that painter and that carpenter got several referrals!
It’s the same sort of thing with your clients. When you get excited about their projects, they sense it and it means a lot to them. Connect with them. Dream with them. Enjoy being a part of the creative process (appropriately and without intruding). That will make an impression on your clients that will reap great benefits.
So there you have it, five secrets…ok, so they’re not secrets, but they are important things to help you move your voice-over career ahead.
Hey, they work for me.