Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

Getting an Agent


If you were interviewing prospective business partners what would you be looking for?

Well, you probably want someone who has good experience, comes well recommended, someone that seems a good person to deal with on a day to day basis, is smart, someone who inspires confidence and seems to be going places. You’d want someone who comes off as dependable, able and ready to bring in money for you both. Not needy, not unprofessional, unprepared, or flakey. You’d want a partner who obviously has their act together and who anyone would say you’d be crazy not to sign. That’s what an agent wants in an actor. And that’s what you want in an agent.

When you begin your search for an agent, you may feel at a disadvantage– even powerless. Don’t sell yourself short! The real power is ultimately the talent–YOU– and you should not sign with the first agent who says “yes” unless you feel good about their business, temperament, connections, and enthusiasm for you. They ultimately work for you, so choose wisely. If they don’t impress you or give you a good feeling, don’t be afraid to say “no thanks” and look elsewhere.

Remember an agency’s voice-over, commercial and theatrical departments may well be completely separate entities. Signing with one department doesn’t necessarily imply signing with all departments within an agency. You are targeting a specific department with your interview, but may be asked to interview with their other departments (or not).

Your new agency may elect to “hip pocket you,” which means they don’t sign you to a contract, but send you out on a trial basis. You are not obligated to be exclusive to them under this arrangement. If you start booking, they will want to sign you. When you “sign” with an agent it means they work trying to get you auditions and you only audition through them within the area defined in the contract for the duration of the contract. It’s possible to have separate agents for the same kind of work both in New York and in Los Angeles, since they generally don’t compete. But you can’t sign with two agents in the Los Angeles area for voice overs.

You can sign with an agency for a year or a few years. Often, the first contract is for a year’s exclusivity and if things go well, the next contract will be for a few years. I would advise shorter period for an agency you are new with, say, a year.

All residuals that come your way from gigs you worked while you were signed with a particular agency will come through that agency in perpetuity, whether you are still signed with them or not. They helped you get the work so they get their 10% cut. Forever. So, if you sing with one agent and eventually move on to another, but still get the residuals from the first agent, you must keep your accounting straight and honest and get the old agency their fair share (not matter the terms you left them). Failure to do this can lead to legal action. This dynamic can get even trickier and riskier with a manager you may have left but who feel the right to a claim on work you may have done since leaving that may have in some way been facilitated by the old manager. 



I’m not a fan of relying solely on “cold calling” or endless “cold send outs” of your promotional materials trying to get an agent or manager or casting director interested in you. These impersonal generic mass-mailed send outs mostly go in the trash, though it can get some action. (How many flyers from new restaurants do you throw away in a week? How about those flyers you find stuck in your windshield wipers at the mall? Do you ever find those effective?) I find it’s more effective to put your work out there and use that as the bait to attract the fish, so to speak.

Get in a play or showcase, a student film, an improv troupe, make your own web series or movie, etc. Put your incredible creative abilities out there and you will get a response– eventually. You become what you do and what you make. Also, you might ask a fellow performer you are studying with in a voice class to recommend you to their agent, if it feels right. If you knock them out with your ability, their recommendation could get you an interview with their agent.


1. Evidence that you are working at your career and are serious about pursuing this:  A professional looking resumé, some recognizable learning experience (classes, workshops, teachers), performing experience, maybe some local performances an agent could go check out. They need to see evidence that you are the real deal and worth their time and investment of attention.

2. Well-placed referrals. The right recommendation is probably more crucial than having a good resumé, demo or website.  Favorable word from casting directors or acting teachers (whose classes you’ve taken) carry especial weight. Anyone who could hire you might also be of help:  a show runner, a casting director or producer. Any of these who know you and like your work and is willing to recommend you with a call or an email is gold.

It would also be great to have a recommendation from any clients (fellow actors) signed at the prospective agency you are interviewing at (if they know your work). I don’t mean just asking an acquaintance or friend to “walk your stuff in” and get them to pressure their agent to meet with you as a favor. Nobody’s doing anyone any favors here! Your referrer(s) needs to be someone who can vouch for your talent and is willing to put their credibility on the line because they believe you are that good.  Remember: a recommendation puts your credibility on the line. A smart person never spends this thoughtlessly nor asks this of another.

3. A life. An actor should have things you love and are passionate about in addition to acting. This feeds your acting and your confidence. Relationships, hobbies, skills, travel, areas of expertise that are unique to you that you work at because you love it. 

4. Work a prospective agent could go see you in locally. This could be an improv show, a play, one-woman-show, a class showcase, a student film showing, etc.  You need to be an active, working artist putting your work out there, connecting up with those who are successfully going for it.

5. A competitive demo. See my Demo page for specifics. An openness to rework, refine or redo, if needed. Almost as important as good recommendations.

6. A professional promotional website. See my “Your Website” page.

7. An idea of what you want to be doing in five or ten years. Where do you want this career of yours to go? The clearer your picture you have of your future, the quicker the trip! Your agent will want to see you have vision for where this leads. Why are you doing this? What’s your story that brought you here? What is your plan? Who are your heroes? Share this and find out how the agent can help you get where you want to go.

But also let them know what you bring to the table for them. It’s a two way street and they should feel as lucky to have you as you feel to have them. Flip it and find this out about them as well!

8. Insightful questions to ask them: For example: How do you see me fitting in with your stable of talent? How many of “me” do you already have? How many voice over clients do you represent? (and how many would be my competition here?) What casting directors do you have a relationship with? What is this agency’s history? How often can I expect to read or be sent out? What are your expectations of a new client? Who records auditions? How do auditions work at their agency? Do they have an ISDN setup? How many of their clients email in audition Mp3’s instead of coming in to read?

Finally, show them you’ve done your homework. Research the agency as much as possible and ask about their history, agents and general operation.

31 Responses »

  1. …I don’t know how to put my work out there. You can’t research agencies and ask for an interview…?

    • You certainly can research agencies online, check out their posted demos and inquire or reach out. But I’m typically more concerned with focusing on gaining experience, insight and confidence rather than heading straight to an agency or looking for “work.” You need to not ask, “how do I get an agent?” or “how do I get work?” The better question is “what can I do-what am I doing- to get so good that they have to hire or sign me?” But that’s once you’ve well established that this is fun and you are good at it.

  2. A lot of websites you can audition on require some sort of premium membership, most a few hundred dollars a year! Otherwise, clients must seek your profile out themselves. It seems like a heavy investment starting out, especially if you add the costs of audio equipment. Is it prudent to seek out experience before sending your demos to talent agents? How is that possible with auditioning sites gatekeeping with a yearly subscription?

    • A website that charges actors money for the “privilege” of allowing you to audition, or a “talent agency” that charges its clients for the “privilege” of representing them? I consider each of these a predatory racket, feeding off the naive and inexperienced. I would advise avoiding this kind of thing and invest your cash elsewhere.

      Here’s how it should work- even if it’s non-union- agent and actor both agree to a business partnership where if you book, they get 10% (if its union) or 15% (if it’s non-union). No kick backs and no up front fees from the actor. This more legitimate arrangement attracts much better opportunity.

      We all start having to “pay our dues,” and endure all sorts of unfairness or unprofessional wrongness as we gain momentum and graduate to better opportunity, higher professional standards and better pay (hopefully). But you’re buying into a very low ceiling in terms of opportunity and self-image with the “pay to play” arrangement. It’s a low status mindset you want to get free from as soon as possible. Even a beginner artist is worth more than this, in my view.

      As I detail extensively on my site, I’d prefer you use your money to get experience or even take classes with a seasoned and well-recommended pro first (no- don’t pay a “talent agency” who charges their “clients” to take their crummy classes). Much valuable learning experience is even free for performers.

      I’d love for your ascent to not be focused on money for as long as possible- I want you to get good at this, and not dive in to the entrepreneurial aspect of this prematurely.

      Don’t make or send out a demo until you are ready to impress. Charge and grow your capacity with performing experience and good training and don’t throw cash down money holes needlessly.

      There are so many eager to take your money, so you gotta be choosy before handing over your money to self described “gate keepers.”

      You deserve better and should aim higher.

  3. If you Signed with a VO agent in a city, and you have signed a Nonexclusive contract does that mean you can have another agent in the same city?

  4. Do you believe it is viable to seek representation in Los Angeles before moving there?

  5. if i wanted to change agency for […] wanting to do different projects in a different area would that be possible?

    • Changing agents may bring new attention and opportunity, but it also may bring more of the same. Your capacity to audition well is paramount, not just your agency’s competency or connections. Make sure your dissatisfaction is accurately pinned on your representation before jumping ship.

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