Hacking Voiceovers

I was recently listening to a podcast, featuring one of the top up-and-coming voiceover talents in our business, when the performer bashfully mentioned spending tens of thousands of dollars in coaching and demos the prior year. Hearing that figure, I was instantly floored. 99.9% of voice actors don’t average 25K in yearly earnings so spending a comparable amount on training appeared crazy to me.

After finishing the podcast, I couldn’t get that figure out of my head and I started breaking down the dynamics more. Is it possible to recoup that type of investment in a voiceover career? Was I too quick to judge? Is the coaching and demo market effective enough to recoup that kind of investment?

In other fields, talent usually pays dearly for quality education and the privilege of competing. Look at the typical executive; he or she is usually forced to shell out 50K per year for an MBA or law degree (not to mention the cost of college). Even “artists” are forced to pay. I have an MFA, which cost me about 100K in inflation-adjusted terms, as do hundreds of thousands of actors, writers, painters, filmmakers etc. Thinking about it in those terms made me realize that my perception of legitimate education appeared to only be if you went to a university and it dawned on me just how flawed that logic is.

As I reassessed my thinking, I then realized why I was originally taken aback and that has do with how voiceovers are taught. In our industry, there are only so many quality instructors that can be truly impactful on your career. I define a quality instructor as someone who has significant experience and a true willingness to teach. That combination may sound simple but is actually rare, and more often than not it’s the unsuccessful actors and producers who teach at community colleges or in cut-rate workshops.

That brings me back to the talent in the podcast. Based on what I heard, the talent determined that in order to succeed in such a competitive environment, he needed to take dramatic steps financially and work with the very best in the industry. He did just that by finding and paying for the best teachers in commercials, promos, trailers etc. and soaking in what they had to offer. By investing so heavily in quality training for himself, he created his own voice over “hack” which has borne fruit far in advance of what the typical talent experiences following conventional pathways.

For more about the Voice Over Business… check out last weeks blog Why Voice Overs is a Part Time Job and a Full Time Commitment.

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