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Voice Over as a Business: Commit the Time and Find Your Niche

In my previous blog, here, I mentioned just how unprepared I was to treat being a voice over artist as a business, how I got going and just kind of assumed everything was going to be alright if I just fired off a few demos here and there (spoiler alert, it wasn’t).

Well, today I wanted to go into a little more detail on some of the basics of the business side of voice over and run through the basics on how I’ve started to refine this as a business, and for me, it all started with time commitment and finding my niche.

Where does the time go? – Research and consistency are everything

We live in the information age when any old schlub can jump on to Google, go “Ooh, that looks fun” and proceed to self-teach any new skill, from becoming a voice over artist to building your own tank (seriously, this is possible, its my fall back for world domination if the whole voice over thing doesn’t work out).

And this is where the bulk of my time went initially and where a lot of still goes. You can learn everything you need to know about the voice over business from the internet, you don’t need any fancy expensive courses, you just need to be willing to graft and put in near countless hours applying what you’ve learned, then inevitably making mistakes, failing horribly then learning more and trying again.

Below is one typical example of my initial attempts at running this as a business. Now just imagine how much of a time sink this was, although incredibly valuable as a learning experience:

· Step 1: Blanket contacted agents and production companies at random with a demo and assumed I’d get work

· Step 2: Met with wall of silence

· Step 3: Research how to write better marketing emails

· Step 4: Still fail again

· Step 5: Consider more reasons for the failure; is the email poorly written or too long? Is my demo poor? Am I making a mistake attaching the demo anyway and coming off as pushy?

· Step 6: Adjust the strategy to consider all of the above

· Step 7: Weep uncontrollably and think I’ll never amount to anything

· Step 8: Start again

I’ve repeated this process hundreds of times since on just about every aspect of being a voice over artist, it’s a tried and tested attempt – fail – research a better way – try that and fail again – take another swing – get partial success

Quite frankly, if I’m not failing at least 9 times out of 10 in any given week I don’t count it as a

success (the fail rate is probably even higher than that, but hey ho!)

This was the most dramatic image I could find to represent the kind of time commitment you're going to need. Not too over the top I hope?

Selling yourself and finding your niche

It’s a horrible truth to face but once you start freelancing and working for yourself, you’ll start to find that people don’t actually give that much of a fuss about you. Tragic, I know, but I guarantee your clients (or potential clients) aren’t stopping up and night wondering “Ooh, I wonder how Anthony’s day was today?”

I’m afraid we’re all just a commodity at the end of the day and you might find that for most auditions you never even here an acknowledgement or thanks. You’ll be left wondering, did they like it? What did I do wrong? Did they even listen to it? And most recordings and auditions are then lost to the ether…

Right, starting to get a bit philosophical here, so, how do you counter this commodity effect and get people to stand up and take notice? My advice:

Find. Your. Niche.

The “all things to all people” voice over artists are ten a penny out there

For me, it was a gradual realisation that I had a good voice for e-learning and explainers, partly coming from my experience teaching English in Japan and partly from discovering I had a very soft and friendly voice.

I then started to develop my niche even further and really start to focus on my Geordie accent as selling point and slowly but surely clients started to actually find me through my website who were looking for Geordie voices and have had some good auditions from it.

There aren’t many other Geordie voice over artists, the Big Brother bloke being the most famous (incidentally, I met him once but I was blind drunk, lord knows what I said to him, I’m probably on some industry black list by now)

But, the lesson is, the more unique a selling point you can find, the better, especially in the early days, it takes years to be one of those super fancy VO artists who have demos covering 20 different styles (I’m a long way off myself) so keep it simple in the beginning. I myself only have 4 short demos to display on my own site covering what I’m best at and slowly over time I hope to add to the repertoire.

As proof positive of niche being the way to go, I did end up getting work when a client once asked if I could sound like fellow Geordie and Newcastle and England legend Gazza, so maybe there’s a market for going even more ultra niche?

Again, sticking with the theme of this blog, it’s going to take a lot of time to find your own niche and discover what you’re good at.

This could literally be anything. You good go my route, you have an uncommon accent, or maybe you’re great at explainer videos? Or are you an amazing character actor? The only way to learn is to start doing.

A good place to help find your niche is Edge studio, these folks let you upload your recordings and you can get feedback from fellow voice over artists, they can help let you know if your voice is suited to certain types of reads, they’re a friendly bunch and honest feedback is the best way to improve and discover your voice, and its free! Woo! They’ve also got tons of practice scripts and resources to mess about with I’ve recommended them in a previous blog but here’s the link below again as they’re just so darn good:

I promise they’re not paying me to promote them or anything. I’m sure they’re blissfully unaware of my existence. Besides, I’m promoting all of the free aspects of their site!

So, your studio is up and running, you’ve got your niche and you’ve got the blind confidence to go and face the world and you’re mentally prepared to be ignored by about 99% of people! What’s next? Where do you even start going to find work?

Next time I hope to run through some of the places I’ve had success in looking for work and others I’ve not been so successful in.


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