Last time I talked about the rise of the machines and the catastrophic fall of the voice over artist as we know it with artificial voices coming to doom us all. OK, I suppose that’s a bit over dramatic, we’re still a ways off yet full replacement (I’m still keeping an eye on my household appliances though, never let your guard down I say).
So, in contrast I decided to show some love to the humble freelancer in this blog and talk about what you can achieve all by your lonesome, you’re a strong, independent voice over artist and you don’t need no agent or machine telling you what to do!
I think many of us when first starting out (and I include myself in this) are married to the idea that to start getting voice over work we need an agent to give us work and add that level of prestige, but I don't think this is necessarily true. There are definite benefits to going with an agent, but you'd be surprised at how much you can achieve on your own.
I’ve personally never had an agent and have managed to survive alright, and in fact I feel I may have done better in many ways.
That’s not to say I’ll never get an agent, or that you shouldn’t, there are definitely advantages to having someone on your side! Anyway, here’s some thoughts on my own experiences, and as I always say, you’ve got to find what works for you!
Of course, I caveat all of these blogs with the fact that these are rambles. I wouldn’t take everything I write as gospel or anything and completely understand that everyone is going to have radically different experiences out there.
Pros of going it alone
· The biggest advantage of going it as a lone voice over artist is that you are your own brand. This means you never take a job you don’t want to do and you decide the direction of your career 100%.
· This leads to building personal relationships yourself, you speak directly to your clients and find out exactly what they want. You become to go to voice over artist in their head every time they need work because you’ve had the time to build the relationship directly. I’m always looking for ways to build my little family portfolio of clients and this is always easiest directly, and today, all my best clients are the ones I’ve spoken to directly.
· You are your own voice. Often with an agent you’re just one face, often among thousands. You don’t stand out and can become just another commodity. I find this is also the case on a lot of the freelance sites too, you’re just one voice among the 1000s. I am not a number, I’m a free man and all that!
· The voice over agent also isn’t your friend, they’ve got their own business to run and their own money to make. Unless you’re a close personal friend of the agent they’re probably not going to care either way about you (unless of course you make them a boat loaf of money, then they’ll probably love you. Probably)
· Related to the above, you can’t always rely on an agent to push your voice, experience from other voice over artists often highlight having an agent as quite a passive source of work. You’re always playing the waiting game for them to get in touch and need to jump at a moments notice.
· Finally, going it alone is a great way to stay flexible and work on your niche. I’ve found through constant trial and error on my own which sort of clients hire me and which don’t, I think if I’d just been another face on the books of an agent I’d have become complacent and not constantly tried to tweak my demos and style.
Cons of going it alone
· It’s insanely difficult. Like really. I’m not even joking. If I’d known I’d face this level of rejection when I started out I’d have chosen another career path. Like professional hermit, not rejection there, no sir! To stand out on your own you’re going to have to put in many hours of work. I mentioned those relationships earlier, well they take a long time to build and we’re talking months, if not years before you might see concrete results. Having an agent however means at least there's one other person in your corner.
· By going it alone you’re missing out on those clients who only use agencies and agents. This means you could be missing out on some of the bigger clients who don’t have the time to talk to voice over artists themselves, they prefer to hand off the voice over responsibility to an agent who will sort everything for them.
· There’s a chance that without an agent some clients might not take you seriously, unless you have a solid portfolio of work to back you up some clients like the comfort of knowing an agent has vetted your skills first.
· Agents usually only work on commission so they have incentive to work very hard to find gigs for the talent on their rosters, even if you’re one of 100s or 1000s on the roster there’s bound to be a project that’s right for you. You can also work on building a great relationship with an agent the same way you might with a client.
As I was writing through my ramble I can definitely see the advantages of both going alone and having an agent. I’ve concluded that for the stage I’m at right now I’m happy to continue going it alone. I think there’s still a lot of work I need to do in building my own brand and identity up and I think as a medium to long term goal there’s definitely no reason I can’t do both in the future!
Unless I remain some kind of control freak who is unable to give any decisions over to any third party at all… perhaps that’s a deeper psychological discussion for another day though! Having an agent certainly isn’t the must it might once have been, but it definitely sounds like an asset for me down the line. I’ll keep you posted in the future if I ever wander down the representation road…