When you want to seriously kick your Voice-over Career into high gear you want to obtain a Voice-over Agent. What is an agent? Well, a voice-over agent is someone you hire (although it often seems to be the other way around!) to seek employment for you in the world of voice-overs. Agents are often regulated by the laws of the state you live in and they can also be "franchised" by SAG-AFTRA.
Agents seek out work for you and then are paid a percentage of your earnings when you work. They are highly motivated to find work for their clients because if you don't work then they don't get paid. The percentage of money that they are paid is 10% if you work a union job. Often for non-union jobs this percentage may be higher--up to 20%-- since those jobs often pay less money and require the same amount of work to obtain.
But an agent knows the marketplace and can often get you more money for a job and find jobs that would be difficult or impossible for you to find on your own. Many companies will only work through agents and will not deal with you directly.
Through hard work! A successful agent learns where the voice-over jobs are to be found in your region. They will build relationships with creative directors at advertising agencies, with casting personnel at animation companies, TV & movie companies and video game companies, and with various video and radio production houses.
In addition an agent builds a strong rapport with voice-over casting companies in your area who are also called upon to locate voice talent. Because an agent may represent hundreds of clients, they have a much better product to sell than you do as an individual. They can fill any specification that a client asks for, often with several different clients. This leverage benefits you because a strong agent can find opportunities all aver the country.
The first thing you need to market yourself to an agent (or to anyone who needs voice talent) is a professional demo. You should take classes until you and your instructors feel that you are skilled enough to compete in your area. Then you should produce your voice-over demo. The voice-over demo is your calling card in the world of voice-over. The conversation goes like this:
You: I do voice-overs!
Them: Send me your demo!
Once you have a top-notch demo you should send it to the agents in your area. You should also enclose a cover letter introducing yourself and a resume of any voice-over experience that you have. If you have no experience just leave the resume out--it won't be missed. But given the choice between two equally professional demos, the agent will pick the person with experience every time.
The moral of the story? If you don't get an agent right away move on to "Plan B" and start marketing yourself. In every market there are jobs in local and regional radio commercials, local TV commercials, cable TV, and local video productions (industrials) where you can gain some experience. Then as you gain credits, resubmit to the agents. If you continue this process you'll float up to the top and get an agent.
Well, yes and no! One of the most deflating things you can do to your career is to run out and join the performer's union that governs most of the work -- SAG-AFTRA -- before you've obtained some work and experience. The simple reason for this is that after you've joined the union you are not supposed to work nonunion jobs.
So there you sit, you're not able to compete with the "big boys" for the union work and you're not allowed to work the nonunion jobs. So most people advise that you not join the unions until you have to. Many agents handle union and nonunion talent. So when you first start, hang back, get an agent that seeks nonunion work and build your experience and your credits.
Later when you have the experience consider joining SAG-AFTRA to seek union work in radio and TV commercials. Often franchised agents will not sign you unless you are a member of one of the unions. Ultimately your goal should be to work only SAG-AFTRA obtained for you by a franchised agent.
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