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

“I’m Ready To Voice Act. What Do I Do Now?“

It’s fun, you’re good at it and you’d like to get paid. Where to start?

The good news for a ready-and-able VO padewan is that you don’t need some magical gatekeeper to hold your hand and construct for you an individualized magical step-by-step roadmap to your VO career. You can begin mapping it out for yourself right now!

Be Specific in Your Aim.

Saying, “I want to be a voice actor” can mean many things! Let’s clarify your goal by being specific on what version of voice acting you are aiming for.

Is it union or non-union? Television animation? Anime? Video games? Commercials? Books on tape? Promos and trailers? Voice matching? ADR?

There is skill overlap, but each of these is really it’s own niche-realm in voice acting, each with a unique economy, different players, a different power structure of gate keepers that select for a different kind of voice actor with a unique skill set.

Write this all out. I write out and track my own goals and aspirations with a “bullet journal.”

Each kind of VO requires a different demo as well.

Which kind of voice over work?

What are the projects that you have in mind that suit your talents? Let’s start by targeting that specifically.

List the projects, studios, networks or directors you’d want to be involved with. Be specific- studios, show name, directors, writers, actors, agents.

Once you’re clear on your aim, research to get a clear view of how that pocket of the voice over kingdom works.

Take a look at the players that populate the landscape you want to be a part of, as well as those who may be your competition and colleagues. Move from that detail to find where you might gain insight or connection:

Let’s also do a reality check: What kind of VO would best suit your skill set- honestly? Not just what you’d like, but also what you’d be good at.

Get familiar with the voice actors who work in the world you aim for.

Who are the acting talent on these projects you admire or aspire to? Research what has been their path towards their careers. How do you stack up to your soon-to-be competition?

Who casts, directs and creates the kind of voice acting you aspire to?

Who casts the projects that grab your interest? Do they teach? Or blog? Have they done interviews or panels? What do they post online? Have a question? Ask it.

Research who casts these voice actors (what agencies, if any)? Which casting directors, voice directors and agents are involved? Who is associated with producing and writing the projects you like, that you’d want to be a part of? Can you reach out to them? Do they teach? Have they a web presence or a social media footprint? Are any available to answer a question or two? (And, no, the question will not be, “Can you hire me?”)

What agents represent the talent pool you want to be a part of? Or do the actors self-represent or self-produce (more likely in audiobooks, commercials or non-union). Do any of them teach or blog? Might they reply online to an up-and-comer with a good question or two?

Is your demo competitive for this kind of VO work?

Study the work and the voice demos of your competition- your heroes and colleagues to be. Track down their websites, find their agents’ sites and listen to the agency’s stable of online demos.

Soak in your hero’s body of work, their personal stories!

Don’t be intimidated! Learn from those who are further along than you!

An aspiring pro must be honest with yourself. After looking around, are you still confident that you are ready to compete? Is your confidence well-founded? Do you need some confirmation from a well-placed or well-recommended teacher? Do you need more instruction or experience?

If so- go get it!

“Which teachers are best for my goals?”

Refer to your research to find relevant classes where you may find mentors and community and perhaps forge enthusiastic support or maybe catch the attention of someone who casts.

Again- look to the voice actors you admire, that work in the area of voice acting you feel you are suited for, that you are targeting. It won’t be a large pool of people. Do any of them teach or coach?

What teachers do your hero’s respect and recommend? How about a good agent- who do they recommend? Try asking them!

Are there VO showcases or high level classes that might give you a chance to not only learn and polish your skills, but also to shine for an agent or casting director?

What is worthy of your time and money? Trust your ears and seek out trustworthy recommendations. Don’t just buy the press release of whatever guru or VO-mill.

Your Promotional Materials:

What are the main things that might persuade a casting director, agent or show runner that working with you is an attractive or even irresistible proposition? I would say two things- a killer demo that showcases only your strongest talent and a well-placed recommendation. A decent web presence can’t hurt either.

What materials do you have that affirm that you have the goods? (A resume’ or school degree mean surprisingly little.)

How do your demo and website stack up to those who work the projects you want to work? Is yours competitive? Does it need a refresh or an edit?

If you don’t yet have a demo, are you indeed ready to make one? Be honest! It’s expensive and a mediocre demo is a waste of money and time. Think of it as a school annual picture- once seen, it is not forgotten.

Who produced the demos of actors you admire (check their agents’ websites)? Just remember, a demo can only be as good as the weakest member of its collaborative team. If any of the acting or the production, writing or engineering are off, it’ll all be off.

A great producer can’t make a good demo for a mediocre or not-yet-ready talent. A great voice actor can’t overcome a poorly produced demo. The weakest link sets the high bar for the result.

Golden ticket:

Do you know anyone well-placed (actor, casting or voice director) who knows and likes your work, who can recommend you to their agent or a working casting director? (If an actor, it’s best if this is a client at the target agency.)

Asking for a referral isn’t about asking someone to do you a favor.

Don’t ask a friend or acquaintance who doesn’t know and love your work to put their reputation on the line by recommending you! Asking this is an amateur move that reflects badly on you.

Value your art, your work, your progress.

Remember as you wade in to this that you aren’t begging for work or looking just to ingratiate yourself to someone who will “do you a favor” by helping you out. If you’re looking to be hired, you should see yourself as a valuable asset. Even though you may find radio silence or rejection (for a while), you need to stand your ground as a self-valuing talent. You are the power and the vision and don’t forget it!

Be Patient and Persistent.

This long game requires vision tempered by patience and persistence. When I arrived in LA, I was “ready to go” with years of professional acting and improv experience and it still took a couple years of slog to start getting traction in the Los Angeles voice over scene.

Can’t find answers web browsing? Fire up social media and ask the source. What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t respond?

There is much info to excavate, but with the web, this isn’t the daunting task it used to be! Check the links at the bottom right of this (and every) page of my site! You have weeks of solid, insightful content from all the pros available to you- for free!

Getting traction is not just a matter of your “talent” or cold-calling a few connections and you’re off to the races. And wanting it isn’t good enough either. You must earn the trust and confidence of those who hire (or sign) talent. No matter how ready you think you are, this will take time.

Maybe you realize you’ve a ways to go yet. That’s fine.

If, after diving into all this, you feel your skills aren’t yet strong enough, seek out further instruction and experience. This is a long process. No need to rush this!

If your promo materials aren’t competitive- set about getting them “show-ready.” This may take time and investment, but it reassures those unfamiliar with you that you have the goods. A resume’ won’t suffice.

If you don’t yet have a demo or website- research who produced the demos/websites of working actors you admire. Hot shot producer of demos caught your eye? Listen to the demos s/he has produced.

Assuming you’re ready for it (financially and artistically)- consider producing a new demo specific to your targeted area of VO. Remember- but only if you’re ready!

If you aren’t ready to make an irresistible impression, to hold your own and impress, then consider:

Ask yourself: What are you doing right now to get to that level of confidence and self-possession required of a creative professional?

What are you doing this week, even daily, to steadily fortify your capacities, your grasp of your creative powers, your readiness? What professional and creative habits are you building into your life?

Write this out and track it.

What online classes, panels or conferences can bring you insight, improvement and forward momentum? Are you reading out loud? Are you filling your creative cup with what inspires you from art, people and life?

What have you done today to move the ball down the field? What habits are you cultivating to get better and better at voice acting? Are you into this? Or is this a casual thing?

What are you doing NOW to improve your technical VO competency specific to your target niche? What do you have going in your life to kindle your enthusiasm, expand your control of your powers of expression?

These are all things you have control over that you can implement NOW.

No matter how accomplished you may be, there is always room for growth, exploration and discovery! A pro is dedicated to this journey.

You must be so good that they have to hire you!

You may feel you are “ready to go,” but it will take time to forge the reputation and mutual confidence that will get you in the door for a fruitful audience with a decision maker.

You draw work and representation to you with your artistic power, not your neediness. You’re never angling to get anyone to do you a favor. In fact, if you are as good as you need to be, you are doing them the favor! And they will come to you.

Your goal is to be an easy “yes” proposition- a confident artistic collaborator that is a smart and marketable asset and partner. This is equal parts “show” and “business.”

Becoming a creative entrepreneur comes down to this:

You are the gatekeeper of the cultivation of your creative powers and your career’s progress. Ignore the variables beyond your power to influence. Luck and chance are always in play and there’s nothing you can do about that, except be ever-ready to meet them with the full force of your talent.

Much of your path forward is thus within your immediate power to shape and influence. This is where you focus.

This is the way.

© Dee Bradley Baker 2020

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