Professional Voiceover Talent: Scared of Newcomers?

Voiceover Talent Aim for SuccessIt’s becoming a common refrain in all sorts of creative endeavors: some established, experienced talent are complaining about the vast numbers of newcomers to their field. I’ve heard it from web designers, graphic designers, copy writers, and yes, voiceover talent.

In a recent blog post titled True Professionals Don’t Fear Amateurs, entrepreneur, marketer and author Seth Godin wrote something that resonates deeply within the world of professional voiceover talent:

Gifted college professors don’t fear online courses. Talented web designers don’t fear cloud services. Bring them on! When you need something worth paying for, they say, we’ll be here. And what we’ll sell you will be worth more than we charge you.  – Seth Godin

He didn’t specifically mention voiceover talent in the post, but he might as well have. In recent years, I’ve heard scores of fellow talent complain about the influx of so-called wannabes. They’ll bitterly say, “These days, anyone with a laptop and a USB microphone thinks they can call themselves professional talent.” (The technical barriers to building your own studio and recording broadcast quality sound have been lowered significantly in recent years.)

The professionals, though, those with real talent, used the technological shift to move up the food chain. It was easy to encourage amateurs to go ahead and explore and experiment… professionals bring more than just good tools to their work as professionals.  –  Seth Godin

 

Or they’ll whine, “All they have to do is pay a few hundred dollars to join one of the online voice-casting sites, and they can compete for jobs that I used to book.” (There are now a few sites boasting thousands of paying members who essentially bid for the job of voicing your next project.)

While many of these statements seem reasonable, correlation does not equal causation.

Just because someone builds a home recording studio, it doesn’t mean that they’re instantly qualified to voice national commercials or network television promos. Heck, I could fill my garage with some of the best woodworking tools available, and I’d still never be able to properly build even the most basic bookcase.

And just because someone ponies up the cash to join one of the online voice-casting sites – often called “Pay-to-Play” sites or P2Ps – they don’t magically become your competition. Auditioning for gigs and being good enough to actually book those gigs are two very different things. (Oh, and if the jobs that you used to book are now being posted on the P2P sites, congratulations! It’s time to start ramping up your own marketing and providing your services to clients who want to hire “you,” and not the ones who want to hire “someone with a voice.” There’s a huge difference.)

And if you need any motivation to up your game, consider how Seth ended his post:

If you’re upset that the hoi polloi are busy doing what you used to do, get better instead of getting angry.  – Seth Godin

 

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[…] here based on the very cogent words of Seth Godin. I’m glad I didn’t though, because Doug Turkel has written what I would have, only much […]

Tom Dheere
Guest

Hey Doug, I think you were quoting me! And yeah, it is annoying that everyone thinks they can do this for a living without proper training, equipment, or a strong work ethic. But it doesn’t bother me anymore. There will always be new people trying to get into the business and that’s fine. There’s plenty of work to go around and I’m fortunate enough to get my share!

Gerald
Guest
One of the challenges I’ve seen as someone that facilitates resources within the voiceover community, is that the ‘professionals’ do a very poor job of engaging those that are trying/wanting to get into the field. What I mean by that it might do more good for the industry for the professionals to actively guide and mentor those wanting to get into the field instead of ignore them. As an example, I ventured into the photography business a number of years back and was fortunate to meet a professional in the field that gave me valuable guidance about respecting the industry,… Read more »
Dave Wallace
Guest
Hey Gerald, I think I wrote my post at the same time as yours, so I didn’t get to read it before I posted, but I also talked about one of the things you talked about: how (some) existing professionals do little to engage newcomers and help them. I always try to give newcomers as much info as I possibly can. The way I see it, with that info, one of two things will happen: they will either quit their voice-over pursuits once they realize the total amount of work that needs to be done, or the info will empower… Read more »
Dave Wallace
Guest
Great article, Doug! “Newbie” is a relative term. I’ve been doing VO for 5 years, but I’m sure those who have been doing it for 20 may consider me a newbie. That said, I did notice many, many senior voice-over talents complaining about the influx of newbies who don’t know how how much work is involved with running a VO business. Their concerns are not entirely unwarranted, I think, because I myself have noticed that many newcomers are more attracted to the “dream” of a voice-over career rather than the reality. From what I’ve observed, though, there are two major… Read more »
John Hutchinson
Guest

Well said Doug! In the words of John Cleese…. “Adopt, adapt and improve”.

Debbie Irwin
Guest
Every business has its wannabes and coulda-beens. Back when I was a stockbroker in the Go-Go 80’s, there was also a mad rush to join the field because of the perception that there was ‘easy money to be made’. All you needed was a phone, a desk and the ability to smile ‘n dial to find clients. The reality is that nothing comes easy…. even after studying long and hard to pass a number of SEC regulatory exams, the hard work of improving one’s skills, building a business, servicing and maintaining clients meant that the attrition rate was very high.… Read more »
Terry Daniel
Guest

Great article, Doug! Some people get obsessed with newcomers and competition. It’s a waste of your hardworking energy. Focus on your own business and what you would like to accomplish. There will always be a ton of competition in every creative field and you can choose to worry and let newcomers rule your thought process or you can choose to focus on YOU and your business and that is what I do every day.

Zurek
Guest

Great article, Doug!

Paul Quinn
Guest
So true. Not to say that newcomers (we were all newcomers at one point) can’t establish themselves as fulltime working voice actors. Just like any other highly specialized field, it requires time, training, energy, money, and repeated failures before you can begin to support yourself. The vast majority who “dabble” in VO, or expect instant success (after all, it’s only “talking”, right? ) will eventually meet with reality and weed themselves out of the process…it is as it should be…natural selection at it’s best. Malcolm Gladwell said that for the people who rise to the top in a particular field,… Read more »
LoveThatRebecca.com
Guest
Hey Doug – Great comments in this article. Amazing how we can find parallels across industries, right? So true. I think this is very comprehensive and fair… Adaptation is also a key element for survival!! There is one thing I see in many of the conversations you referred to when there are complaints about newbies etc…. It’s the idea of ‘making lots of money easily in VO’… perhaps that’s a concept that is unique to VO. It’s somewhat akin to the tale of the actor who makes it “overnight” but if you dig a little, you learn that it took… Read more »
Steven Mane
Guest
Hi, Doug. Just for the record, the complaining goes both ways. Whereas experienced talent might fear newbies coming into the field, the ones that are trying to break in complain that there is too much of a clique going on. They want to break in and join the ranks of Rob Paulsen and Tara Strong, but feel that they’re being overlooked for the same people over and over again. The funny thing is that both aforementioned talents are the ones who give off the aura of “I want to help you break in”, and when it doesn’t happen, the newbies… Read more »
dave
Guest
Good read Doug. You nailed it. Regardless of who you are, you can’t sit back on your laurels. And if there’s not new people coming in, regardless of the numbers, the industry stands still. And our consumer won’t have the diversity they want and really is needed. But you do get what you pay for. Like any any service provider we’re trying to get the most we can for the least amount of work and the employer is trying to get the most work for the least amount of pay. Someone said this to me once. You are as valuable… Read more »
Anthony Gettig (@anthonyvoice)
Guest

What a superb analysis and correlation to the voiceover world. Well said, Doug!

Paul Hernandez
Guest
Great article Doug. As someone who has received a lot of great advice and tips from people like yourself, I don’t worry about newcomers. I’m certainly not at your level yet, but I have done fairly well. I don’t mind passing on what I’ve learned to newcomers who ask. The reality is, many people aren’t willing to put in the time, effort, training and hard work it takes to get anywhere in voiceovers, so to me, the hundreds of people you may be competing against on a P2P site aren’t really much competition anyway. And if that’s the only place… Read more »
Kelley Buttrick
Guest
WOW! I loved reading all the posts here! Great blog Doug! All this discussion got me thinking about newcomers and one of my biggest pet peeves: Established VOs speaking in a demeaning way about “newbies.” Of course I’m speaking in general here, but so many times, I think we forget we were all newbies once. Where would I be if someone with more experience didn’t have the patience or take the time to help me avoid looking like an idiot? How many “stupid” questions did I ask? Did I ever do something really dorky when first starting? You bet I… Read more »
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[…] I liked this post from Doug Turkel today on established voice talent getting jammed up about newcomers. […]

lancedebock
Guest

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Excellent article Doug!

Ron Whittemore
Guest

Good stuff Doug…always appreciate your thoughts! Best to you!!

Dan Deslaurier
Guest
Hello Doug, and many thanks for this column–your thoughts on the topic are spot on. Reminds me of when a professional athlete will talk about the right way to “go about your business” each day to ready yourself and compete. Truly, those with real confidence in themselves and their abilities know how to do this, and not to waste creative time and energy about what the other guy is doing. Ours can be a most solitary endeavor, and I find it truly refreshing and renewing to come across like-minded, sensible and thoughtful posts like yours. Again, Many Thanks!
Carl
Guest
Some great insight here Doug, glad I found your blog. In Australia it’s very similar (though somewhat on a smaller scale). Not a lot of opportunities to get your feet wet without “knowing” someone in the first place. And then there’s a range of sites offering very cheap reads and paying talent way to little which at least one of the major radio networks is very happy to play hardball on rates… tough for new talent to get past the low paying jobs without getting burnt out. We try to address that with the site I founded – we took… Read more »
Lisa Rice
Guest
Great article, Doug. Sometimes I still feel like a newbie and I’ve been voicing projects since I was eighteen which was just a few years ago. ; ) 😉 What I mean is that there’s a continuous learning curve with technology, voice over direction and proper protocol expected in running a freelance business. I had a conversation with a man who recently conducted a series of interviews to fill a few minimum wage jobs. He was astounded at both the quantity and quality of job applicants. Many suddenly found themselves without a job because they failed to either tweak their… Read more »
Lance Blair
Guest
Great post and great comments. Also, a few of these newbies are actually really, really good and bring fresh energy and new ideas to voice over. There can be (not always!) just as much to learn from these talents that have ‘it’ and hit the ground running as from a seasoned pro. I have never felt the need to charge less because of talent pool dilution, and somehow, I work more and more each year. We all see this in our careers, yes? The only time I go ‘cheap’ is when I work with people in countries with bad economies,… Read more »
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[…] Professional Voiceover Talent: Scared Of Newcomers? […]

scottwburns
Guest

Have to agree…this is a great article. Basically, we were ALL newbies at some point. Granted it feels the field is saturated, but the cream always rises to the top. I love sharing what I’ve learned with others…and am reminded of the phrase, “If you want to keep something…give it away.”

Monk
Guest
Aren’t we always learning every day SOMETHING new? I would never claim to “know it all” and I’m always up for learning more. I get the same question that everyone else gets, “how can I get into doing voice overs?” and I’m more than willing to share what I know and point them in the direction of people that know more. If I don’t know, I’ll find out! (I avoid “Male answer syndrome” that way) I have a day job on a college campus, each semester I introduce people the vocal booth and get them to understand the basics of… Read more »
Don McCorkindale
Guest
I haven’t read all of the above comments and I’m sorry if I replicate any. Just a few thoughts on “the invasion of the amateur”! I’ve been and actor/voice artist for over 50 years. Combining stage, TV, film and radio [at one time member of the BBC Radio Drama Company]. The reason I’m fortunate in getting lots of V/O work from my “home studio” is I have that priceless commodity, experience. This cannot be bought or learned. You can’t go on a course. I surf different sites to listen to what is being produced and paid for and, sometimes, astounded… Read more »
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