There is no single, predictable path to a voiceover career. And there is no way to absolutely guarantee that your voiceover career will be a successful one.
Sure, we all hope that we’ll build a long, sustainable career, filled with great financial reward and loads of personal satisfaction. And there are plenty of people who do just that. Unfortunately, there are thousands more who don’t.
Swimming Against the Tide
And the actual numbers can be quite sobering. For example, it’s said that nearly two-thirds of the Screen Actors Guild’s members earn less than $1,000 dollars a year. And according to the Los Angeles Times, 90% of SAG’s members earn less than $28,000 a year. So the odds are definitely not in your favor.
I don’t point all of this out to discourage you, only to give a realistic perspective on what you’re up against. I also hope that it will give you a better understanding of just how important it is for you to approach the business of voiceover as just that: a business.
Historically, in many lines of work, apprenticeships were used (and often still are) to teach each new generation of practitioners the skills they’d need to become competent, competitive individuals. Newcomers to fields like carpentry, bricklaying, and plumbing often worked alongside master craftsmen for years before being allowed to call themselves professionals.
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?
There is no similar system in voiceover, but many of today’s top talent had mentors who showed them the ropes, and helped them build a strong foundation in the many disciplines of our craft. Animation voice legends Daws Butler and Mel Blanc famously mentored a number of talent who went on to achieve great success. Movie trailer king Don LaFontaine was well-known for inviting up-and-coming voice talent to ride along in his limo for a day, as he traveled around Los Angeles, going from session to session.
Such experiences are incredibly valuable, but increasingly rare these days, since technology has made it possible for broadcast-quality audio to be delivered from home studios. Convenient? Sure. But it also reduces the number of opportunities that voiceover talent have to spend time together, sharing, learning, laughing, and being exposed to new ideas and perspectives on our business.
These days, there are thousands more people than ever before calling themselves professional voiceover talent, but I’m not convinced that, percentage-wise, there is a growing number of highly successful talent.
The Secret Sauce
So what is it that allows some voiceover talent to achieve their goals, while others continue to struggle? The answer to that question may be somewhat elusive, but there are many working talent who have already solved that puzzle, and have the careers to prove it. And during their careers, they’ve all faced many of the same questions that you have:
What can I do to ensure my success as a voiceover talent?
How do I get an agent?
What’s the best way to market myself?
Do I need a coach?
If you knew the right answers to these questions, you’d guarantee yourself great success in voiceover, right? You’d know exactly the path to take so that you’d find sacks o’ cash and heaps of career and personal satisfaction on your doorstep each morning.
Or would you?
Success is Unique
The truth is that there are no right answers. You see, everyone’s journey to voiceover success is different.
The challenge to find your way is as unique as your voice. And that’s exactly as it should be.
With that thought in mind, I decided to pose similar questions to some of our industry’s best. Their opinions represent a wide range of voiceover disciplines, including Commercials, Promos, Animation, Audiobooks, Live Announce and Narration.
I think you’ll find the the differences in their answers to be incredibly interesting. The similarities, too. But most valuable, perhaps, are the generosity and the honesty displayed by everyone who took part. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
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