Nothing infuriates experienced professionals more than folks who want to get into their industry for the wrong reasons. The relentless march of technology means many things once unattainable are now commonplace, & the industries with a low perceived barrier to entry (hello, aspiring authors!) always have to deal with interest from people looking for an easy ‘in’.
First, the most hated opening gambits from newbies to voice agents:
- “Many of my family/friends/colleagues tell me I have a great voice, and I should get into the VO business” – if your family/friends/colleagues are actually in the VO business, then go for it, their endorsement is valid. A relative lauding you for your voice is not a good judge of your potential behind a mic.
- “I want to start doing voice-overs, as a side gig or hobby, I’m always using my voice.” Imagine calling up Ferrari’s F1 team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, and telling him he should give you a seat in one of his Scuderia Ferrari race cars for the Monaco GP cos you drive a lot? He’d hang up. That’s how voice agents feel, too.
- “I’m on school holidays and looking to earn some pocket money; I’m available anytime, and I’m cheap.” I’m going to leave that here and let you figure out why this is the worst of all opening lines.
So what’s the key ingredient that someone needs when they want to enter the voice over industry, which is now considered a business with a low barrier to entry?
It’s not passion – that’s the most overrated reason. You can point to extremist groups around the world who will say they are passionate about their immoral actions. You’re expected to be passionate about what you do, otherwise, find something else.
It’s not a ‘good’ voice – that’s genetics. Not every 6’8″ college student is a future NBA MVP. Not every 5’11” skinny girl is the next Giselle Bundchen. It’s what you do with a genetic gift that counts. BTW, having a deep voice is not even particularly advantageous anymore: since Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian trailer, the perception of a deep voice is that it’s good only for the cheesy copy on action movie trailers. Most voice recordings (spots, corporates, e-learning, etc) use normal pitch voices anyway.
It’s not a willingness to work with others: Being good with clients in a session the norm; voices who don’t get along, get shunned pretty quick. A reputation for being difficult spreads faster than a bush fire.
If pushed to identify just one trait, then I would say it has to be talent: there are a lot of people who play guitar well, but Eddie Van Halen is the most influential guitarist of his generation because of his talent.
That said, talent alone doesn’t guarantee a long career in any business.
The key is the whole package – your voice, i.e. your actual voice, talent, acting skills, experience, etc. is 80% of it, but the remaining 20% would be professionalism – easy to work with, punctuality, fair when it comes to compensation, etc. There are a lot of ‘nearly there’ voices knocking about who wonder why they don’t get booked as much as others who seem to be forever busy. Equally, there are a lot of very talented voices who are so difficult to work with, that clients don’t want the drama in a session and will choose another voice. Once a VO gets known for being the real deal and having the whole package, the bookings start to flow: clients/agents/studios all want to get things done in the simplest manner, and a voice who gets that and is part of the solution is always going to get work.