Have you made a tentative first step into the world of voice-overs? Maybe you've produced a voice-reel to showcase your talents, bagged yourself a voice-over agent and booked a couple of jobs, but things have failed to take off for you. If you want to make the jobs you do generate more work and improve your success rate, put these 20 tips into play.
It sounds so simple, but it's vital to conduct yourself well when working in the voice-over world. Be professional and polite. Treat your clients with respect and only question their needs if you genuinely think it will improve the quality of the end-product. Remember, your personal life and issues are not their concern and should be left at the door of the studio.
Develop a great relationship with your agent. They are your key to the top auditions and jobs. Think of them as a business partner and remember, their job is challenging at times too.
If you are still struggling to gain experience and develop your style, find a mentor who is an expert in voice-overs. This should be someone you admire and look up to. If they have the career you'd love, this will give you access to the way in. This person is clearly doing something right, so observe them and allow them to be an objective critic of the choices you make.
Don't rely too heavily on the income you'll make from working as a voice-over artist. It is unlikely that doing this alone will pay the rent (at least to begin with). Have other means of supporting yourself financially as you develop your craft and build contacts.
5, Don't limit yourself
It might be necessary to think outside the box a bit to begin with. You may think that you are the perfect voice for MTV, but if the professionals think your voice is more suited to selling dog food, go with it and earn your brownie points. Take risks and be open to suggestions.
Get used to not getting every job you go up for. It's a fact of life in a difficult industry that success is rare, but it feel all the more satisfying when it does come. Develop a thick skin and don't be dismayed by rejection.
7, Be brave
No matter how full of self-doubt you are, you will be required to give a great performance when you get into the studio. The client doesn't care if you're sick or emotional.
As well as your agent, it's vital to charm producers, writers and studio engineers. Make a great first impression by being responsive, proactive and kind; this will plant the sends for future work.
9, Know your niche
Don't try too hard to go against type. People generally want the real you and most of your work will be in your natural voice. Of course, if you have skills in mimicry or dialects, use them; these are an extension of who you are. But avoid being contrived and theatrical.
In a tough and competitive business, you must be prepared to invest time and money. Do your research when approaching agents or producers, hone your style and don't scrimp on costs when getting materials made. For example, the cheaper option when recording a voice-reel, is usually not better.
Look out for networking events such as marketing and entertainment conventions. A friend of mine had great success setting up a stall at an animation convention; he now works full-time as a voice on kid's TV.
Always be open to learning and perfecting the craft of voice-overs. Like anything worth doing, it takes time to get really good and you should never stop developing your skills.
13, Be open
Always embrace constructive criticism when you're starting out as a voice over artist, whether it be on the day of a job or post-recording feedback. The client is the one paying you and your job is to give them what they want in terms of interpretation. Remember, criticism is the most powerful tool if you used to your advantage; how else will you improve? The more you improve, the more work will come your way.
When you receive a script (which can often be minutes before you record it), ask yourself a few basic questions to get a strong understanding of the text. Who am I? Who am I addressing? What do I want? Is there any subtext? (something hidden beneath the surface). This will help you to quickly and effectively develop a point of view, thus leading to the appropriate tone of voice.
Hone your ear by listening to and analysing TV and radio commercials, audio books, documentaries, animations, computer games etc. Learn from the masters; the people you hear on these voice overs are clearly successful. What are they doing that you're perhaps not?
In terms of working with the microphone and creating and effective voice over, always stay aware of variety in pace, phrasing, pitch, tone, balance, consistency and precision. Think of your voice as an instrument and become a virtuoso!
The voice is not self-sufficient. It relays heavily on the body, mind and soul. Spend time developing performing arts skills, feeding your soul with hobbies and quiet time, and developing your understanding of human behaviour. In terms of movement, I love to keep alive and active behind the microphone as I find it gives my voice an energy that is lacking if I stand still.
18, Offer alternatives
Your instincts will get better and better, but always offer different interpretations of the same script. If you do 10 takes of one sentence, make them 10 slightly different readings. This way the client has the final choice. You will become invaluable if you are versatile and quick enough to do this.
19, Embrace competition
Don't waste time comparing yourself with others. You have a different set of skills to them and they can offer something you don't have. Instead of seeing them as the enemy, think of them as a valuable asset; you can learn from them and befriend them.
20, Don't give up
Getting into voice overs is not easy and requires determination, tenacity and hunger. If you genuinely feel, you've got what it takes, then don't hold back. Go for it!
A great resource for voice over artists is Secrets of Voice-Over Success by Joan Baker . It's full of great advice and really helped me out when I was getting started.