So You Want to Do VO? - Part 9: The Secret to Success

I started writing this series as a way to give new and aspiring voiceover artists the answers to the most frequently asked questions about getting started in the VO business. Originally it was going to be just a one page cheat sheet to answer the question, "How do I get started doing voiceover?"  but as I started getting into it, I realized that there was a lot more detail that needed to be explained, so I decided to split all this into multiple, easy to digest posts that I could release every week.

If you've been following along for the past several weeks reading the articles on this subject, first of all, THANK YOU. And second, I hope you've learned a few things and you're on your way to building your voiceover career.

Now it's time to focus on the way to make that business work FOR you.


The secret: FINALLY revealed
Every new voice artist wants to know the secret to being successful. After all the work has been done buying the gear, setting up your audio chain, eliminating unwanted noise, getting professional training, honing your talents and getting your demo produced, you are finally ready to learn the most coveted piece of information - this is the key; The golden ticket; The brass ring. This is the thing that every professional voice artist understands and the secret that every SUCCESSFUL voice artist closely guards. This is the one tip that can make or break your career. It's the single most important factor in voiceover being either a career that can bring in six, or even seven figures per year, or a hobby that earns you beer money,

Are you ready? Are you REALLY ready? OK, here it is:

The more people that know about you, the more successful you will be. 


I know, I know: groundbreaking information, isn't it? But amusingly, there are voice artists that just don't get it and spend their entire short-duration careers whining that they never get any work and that someone else is always landing the big jobs.

It's always someone else's fault
why I'm not successful.
WAAH!
I got involved with a conversation on one of the social networks about this very topic just recently. The individual had their demo professionally produced and was using the tired excuse that the voiceover industry is being monopolized by a handful of professionals who are preventing the fresh new voices from being heard. This person didn't want to take any responsibility for their own career. They felt that the only way to be successful was to get an agent, and no agents wanted to listen to them. And what was this person doing to get an agent? Nothing. He had his demo made and felt that this should be enough.

This person, though they were young, had subscribed to one of the most archaic of voiceover legends.

And like most legends, it's entirely wrong.


Marketing, marketing, marketing.

When I first got into the VO business, I came to a surprising revelation: the business of voiceover has very little to do with your voice. Almost nothing, actually. I'd say that a true VO career is maybe 5% about the quality of your voice, and the rest is all about marketing that voice.

Think about this:

You could have a custom built recording studio with careful attention to acoustics.
You could have a professionally produced demo and get training from a top-quality VO coach.
You could have perfect elocution and enunciation. "She sells seashells by the seashore" rolls off your tongue like butter dripping off of a hot biscuit.
You could dance over complicated medical narration scripts with the grace of Fred Astaire.
You can believably sound like you're from New York, or Old England, or South France or West Germany, or the mid-West...

But so what? How does anyone know you even exist?

Look, it comes down to this:

"If you don't get your vocal cords
to vibrate against the right ear drums,
you will go nowhere."
To succeed in VO, marketing is the key: You have to be able to sell who you are and what you can do, to the right people, at the right time.

Exceed their needs and expectations
It's important to understand that marketing is not just about selling a product (in this case, your voice). It's about focusing on the needs of your customers.

Say for example, you have a lemonade stand and sold cups of lemonade for $.50 a cup. You might get a few customers and that would be fine.

But what if you thought about where you were going to set up your lemonade stand? Say, for example at the bottom of a busy off-ramp on a hot Summer afternoon during rush hour. And what if you packaged your lemonade in a plastic bottle to make it easier for your potential customers to drink it when they're waiting at the stop light? And what if you put your name and website on the label so customers could go to your website later and buy the product directly from you? And what if you posted a sign at the top of the on-ramp telling people that there would be ice cold lemonade for sale just a few hundred feet down the road?

That is marketing.

You can be a voice over artist and might make a few bucks. But if you want to succeed beyond working for whatever gig you can land from a freelancing or P2P site, a consistent, organized plan for marketing your voice is in order.

There are several tactics when it comes to voiceover marketing. I won't go into specific details (mostly because I don't have the space here to dedicate to it.) What I will say is that you need to have a plan. You need to take a piece of paper (or open a new document, but that doesn't sound nearly as romantic) and write down a specific, organized strategy for how you're going to get people to hear your voice and eventually hire you for work. This plan is what you use to promote and push your business forward.

Spend the time to carefully write out a strategy that you'll use to promote yourself and then follow that plan out to the letter. It may take some tweaking and some trial and error to find the right combination, but by doing this, you will be far ahead of the individual who thinks the world owes them something simply because they spent money on a demo and want it really bad.

In my mind, the three most important parts to a successful voiceover business are: marketing, marketing, and marketing.

Research time
There are many great books out there on the subject of marketing and several geared towards voice artists specifically. Here are just a couple of them.

Voice artist Bill Dewees has a great eBook called "How to Start and Build a Six Figure Voice Over Business"  and he goes into detail about what he does on a daily and weekly basis to keep himself as one of the most prominent and successful working voice artists in the business today. His weekly youtube videos are incredibly informative. The man knows what he's talking about.

Another great book is by Paul Strikwerda called "Making Money in your PJ's"  Paul has over 30 years of experience in the business and runs a blog that I read religiously. Paul also knows his stuff and his book is entertaining to read and packed with information on how to transform your hobby into a business and keep it that way.

Both books are a good investment if you're serious about wanting to succeed in the voiceover business. And if you've been reading my articles from the start, Its fair to say you're probably serious about the business.

But don't just stop there! You need to keep learning. The other thing that most new voice artists don't think about when getting started is the commitment to continuing education this business demands. You never stop learning. Seasoned pros still get coaching. The more you know, the better prepared for success you will be. Technology evolves, trends in client demands change, and new techniques and ways to grow both your voice and your business are constantly being developed and updated. If you aren't learning, you're losing money.



RECAP

The voiceover business is an exciting, weird, competitive, entertaining and sometimes frustrating industry.  I hope that this multi-part post has given you some good advice to research if you're interested in making a career of it. Again, I would like to stress that there are many ways to get into the business. What's been presented here is what's worked for me. It may not be the easiest or the fastest way but it's the way I used and it works pretty well.

Its taken nine weeks worth of articles, but we've finally answered the question.

SO YOU WANT TO DO VO?
Here's what you need to do:

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Above everything else, be a sponge. Learn as much as you can, from as many sources as you can. Study, research, practice, train, audition and learn with every step you take. In this business, stagnation leads to death. Read out loud every day. Get involved with the community. Talk to professionals. Never stop improving. If you can do all of this and still have fun doing it, then you may have found the right career for you and because of your dedication, you're going to be leaps and bounds ahead of the kid with the laptop and the microphone that wants to make a few bucks on the side because his buddies told him he had a good voice. If you follow these suggestions, you'll no longer be just an amateur, you will truly be a professional voice artist.

And if you have any questions, I'm always available to help out.

Now get going!



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About Rob Marley - 
A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, producer and writer, now living in the hill country of Austin Texas. For more information, visit his website at MarleyAudio.com