Promote Your Voice Overs with “The Milking Stool” Strategy

vulturesYou’ve worked on your voice over performance skills and technique.  Yeah, you can always get better but you feel you’re competitive and can give the clients a read they’ll be proud to exhibit.

Your voice has interesting variety and you have an authentic sincerity that will even warm the hearts of dishwasher soap consumers.

I always say, to be in the voice over business, you need to enjoy the process.  Auditioning should be fun, engaging your performing skills.  Recording and editing should challenge your left brain.  And the business aspects should give you pride of accomplishment.

But if you’re not getting any work…

If you were a painter you would create art whether or not you sold paintings.  Art for art’s sake.  But let’s face it. We aren’t all Van Goghs.  So to keep your optimism, enthusiasm–and your business–rolling along, you’re going to have to hustle up some work.  And for that you need a promotion strategy.

Here are three steps to promotion that you can build your career on.  Each is a bit more advanced than the last, but when you combine all three you’ll have a well-oiled machine of job location and retention.  And since there are three strategies I call it…

The “Three Legged Milking Stool” Strategy

milking stoolNewsflash for the Millennials: milk doesn’t come from the supermarket.  It comes from cows. And a century ago back in nineteen fifteen, people used to milk those cows.  While they sat on this stool.

It has three legs.  All you mathematicians know that three points define a plane.  So this stool is always stable wherever you set it down.  Like an uneven barnyard floor.

Ahh, but if you take away any leg, the stool wobbles and falls over. So you’ll need all three legs for a stable career.

So what are these “three legs” of voice over promotion?  Let’s take a look.

Leg One: Online Casting

Online casting websites, also called (rather derisively)  “pay-to-play” websites are voice over marketplaces.  They don’t actually perform casting services. Rather they connect “job seekers” (that would be us) with “voice seekers”.

Voice seekers are the typical consumers of voice overs.  This includes advertising agencies, video and animation production houses, in-house corporate marketing organizations, governments and educational institutions–just about anyone you can imagine that needs a professional voice to complete their project.

Online casting is the best thing that ever hit the voice over business. Period. You’ll never get rich using it (although there are some folks making six figures).  But if you want to gain experience auditioning, recording, taking direction, editing and uploading real-world jobs this is the place to begin.

I’m often asked “where can I find copy to practice with?” Sign up with an online casting site and you’ll get 50-100 scripts each week. And you’ll practice with discipline because  each read can reward you with an actual job.

The two biggest sites are voices.com and voice123.com.  They have subtle differences in how they operate so look them over to decide which to begin with.  You need to be a paid member to submit auditions but you can earn back the fee with 2-3 jobs.  OK, we’ve got a foundation.

Leg Two: Direct Marketing

Online casting supplies a wide variety of opportunities for voice over work.  Corporate videos, training materials, phone systems, and local commercials for furniture stores or real estate firms to name a few.  But wherever you live these same opportunities exists locally.  Maybe in your town, but if not, then in the next big city over.

The internet has allowed talent to perform voice over jobs from anywhere for anyone in the country–or the world.  But here’s the hitch: many clients like to work with local talent. There are many reasons for this. For example, you’re in the same time zone, or you can come to a local recording studio.

There are also small cultural differences from state to state.  Car sales may be different in the deep South versus Chicago.  Maybe you and the client even like the same baseball team. You can leverage this “buy local” feeling with direct marketing.

These clients don’t come to you–you have to pursue them.  Two fundamental types of businesses that book voice talent are advertising agencies and video production services. You can find them locally using yp.com by typing in those categories and your local city.  If you live in a really small town, also try a larger city nearby.

Locate the potential clients’ website and contact them.  Tell them you’re a voice talent and offer to send your voice over demo.  Keep track of everyone you contact so you can touch base with them later.  It also helps to have a website and a newsletter to allow them to find you and to stay on their radar.

The nice thing about local clients is they can be very loyal.  You are a resource they can offer to their clients and often you will do a local ad one day and corporate training the next.  And the good news: as they pitch their services, they pitch you as a talent as well.  Then with the skills developed with online casting and direct marketing it’s time to move on up to the majors.

Leg Three: A Voice Over Agent

Don’t jump into this too soon.  Build your audition, recording and performing skills with online casting and direct work first.  Like a pro baseball player learns to hit a curveball in the minors before he steps up to the majors.  But when you ready, a voice over agent is the final leg in your marketing strategy.

Quite simply, you can almost add a zero in back of the payment from jobs found by your agent.  Let me explain.  Suppose you get a $500 job. Not bad.  But if your agent’s commission is 10% they make $50.  Yawn.

So agents are going to chase jobs that earn you the big bucks.  $5000 jobs, with a $500 commission. Now that’s more like it.

Agents will also find work that you will never locate.  Many ad agencies will only work with agents.  There might be jobs at animation companies or game companies that you can’t find.  Or regional or national jobs. And at the very top, union jobs.

Agents build a rapport with these bigger organizations and provide the service of carefully selecting the best talent to send for each job. These jobs don’t come as often but they pay much more money and give you much more voice over cred when they do.

Although the biggies are in Los Angeles and New York, there are regional agents all across the U.S.  And with the internet, many will work with talent from around the country.  This landscape is changing so stayed tuned.

A good listing of agents from across the country is available at voicebank.net.

So Build Your “Milking Stool” Marketing Strategy

Growing your voice over business and career isn’t complicated but it does require many steps. You don’t want to be the Van Gogh of voice over.  Use the three legs of the “Milking Stool” strategy to find opportunities, build your client base and spread your voice art around the world.

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3 Responses to Promote Your Voice Overs with “The Milking Stool” Strategy

  1. mike says:

    Pay2Play sites like Voices and Voice123 are MAJOR ripoffs. Do a web search to see how they are constantly undercutting talent and making it nearly impossible for even 20 year professionals to earn their subscription fee back. Those sites are the worst thing you could recommend an actor who wants to make money.

    • Mike, to say that these sites are a ripoff implies that they aren’t doing exactly what they promise, which they do. Voices.com is quite transparent. When you examine their job listings you see a price range, how many people have auditioned, when your audition is listened to, when someone is selected for the job and when the job is completed and paid. Voice123.com indicates a price range, how many have auditioned, when your audition is listened to, where you rank among the auditions and when the job was completed.

      I recommend these sites because they are an excellent way to experience voice over work in a non-critical environment. To participate you need to audition, self-direct, record broadcast quality, edit recordings, take direction in jobs and deliver finished recordings according to client specs. These are skills that you will need if you market yourself directly or work with an agent.

      I agree that you’ll never get rich on pay to play (although I know several talents making six figures) but if a 20 year pro can’t earn the $400 fee back in a year there are other reasons beyond the sites themselves. And remember, it is only one leg in the “three-legged stool”.

  2. Pingback: Why I like Voice123.com for Voice Over JobsAliso Creek Voice Over Blog

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