The Art, Commerce and Science of VO
Creating and managing a voice over practice in today’s highly competitive, very technologically involved marketplace can be frustrating and challenging. One way to make that challenge less frustrating is to identify the different skills you need to master, and make sure you’re getting more and more expert at those skills.
But what are those skills? And how do you methodically pursue the right training to make sure that you are paying attention to the right areas of expertise?
I’ve been pretty successful, not only with my voice over and acting business, but with any business I’ve ever undertaken, by gaining expertise in 3 specific categories, and staying up to date with that training.
And although it took me awhile to recognize the universal truth that all businesses should be built on these 3 areas of expertise (took me over 2 decades, actually), having that information has, in particular, been key in creating and maintaining a successful, satisfying and profitable voice over and acting business. And I’ve built VO2GoGo’s curriculum around those three areas for you, specifically to help you learn what you need in these areas, completely “covering the waterfront.” So, with those big clues in the headline of this article, what are those three key areas?
Let’s be honest. Launching yourself as a voice over performer isn’t that hard. It one of the few jobs where you can actually just declare yourself as such, even before you get your first audition or job. People do it all the time.
Frankly, most people shouldn’t. They end up not taking it seriously, mostly just playing at being a VO talent. And in the process, they are adding to the noise that you need to get past to be successful.
And becoming successful as a voice over talent is one of the hardest things you can attempt, with absolutely no guarantee of any kind. This business is the most capricious in the world – the best VO actor doesn’t always get the job, and with so much of the booking decision process is beyond your control, you have to be willing to be rejected on a daily basis.
I tell my students and clients about my own journey when I coach them on how to be successful in this business. I tell them that continued success has happened specifically because I approach this as a business, and I’ve become really expert in three key areas: the art, the commerce and the science of voice over. If you don’t master the skills in all three areas, your chances for success rapidly evaporate.
The first of these three areas of expertise is to become world-class in the art of voice over performance: get the best training you can in the various performance categories of voice over: commercials, narration, animation, audiobooks and a whole lot more. Take great classes that give you great training, put you in the room with other working voice over talent, and in the Training areas of your various online VO profiles, show voiceseekers and casting directors that you’re smart with your training choices.
In my humble opinion (and the opinion of over 2,000 clients and over 30,000 Backstage readers over the last 4 years), you’ll find the very best voice over training in the world here at VO2GoGo. We love what our fans have to say about what we do.
If not with us, then choose a reputable training coach that comes with great references, and works every day in the business, as either a talent or part of the casting community.
Once you start training, you’ll naturally be drawn to getting perfecting copy and technique that will give you experience in all those areas of the art: performance, auditioning, cold reading, self direction, studio performance and more.
With all of the VO2GoGo classes in our curriculum, and with the concentrated Pro membership, you’ll get training in the art of voice over in over a dozen classes built around those performance categories.
All of this gives you the required expertise in the art of voice over.
Unfortunately, that’s where most coaches, even the reputable ones, stop.
The art is just the first area. There’s two more areas in which you need to hone your skills.
The second of these three areas of expertise is to become world-class in the commerce of voice over performance: operate your voice over practice with the best business acumen you can muster. And if you don’t have business training, you need to find someone who can help you create the business structure and world-class business practices you need.
Any VO performer you admire, especially those that are well known and successful, are not only good performers, but also good businesspeople, without exception. They treat their careers the way a lawyer or doctor or craftsperson treats their practices. They have a brand, a product (their ability to tell stories), customers (CDs, directors, producers etc) and they know how to fill their customers’ orders. They know how to market themselves (get auditions), they know how to sell themselves (execute those auditions), and they know how to collect their money and hire salespeople (agents and managers) to bring them more business.
Given that they also got great training in the art of VO, they know how to deliver a great product in studio. That’s a given.
But fail to learn to run your business properly, and execute on that learning by running your business well, and you’re going to struggle. That’s also a given
Aside from traditional business training, being a performer means you need to be open to working in new business models. Branded entertainment, high-profile off-network series, new distribution channels, union membership and coverage, and creating your own content are all contributing to amazing new ways of making money and having a successful voice over career.
With the VO2GoGo curriculum and Pro membership, we give you training that covers both traditional and evolving business strategies, tactics and operational skills. Don’t know how to market yourself? We can show you how. Don’t know where to find auditions? How to manage the customers and project you get booked on? How to join the union? We can show you all that as well.
All of this gives you the required expertise in the commerce of voice over performance.
But that’s still not all you need. There’s one more very important area to master to be successful.
The third of these three areas of expertise is to become world-class in the science of voice over: you must learn to master the technology you need to use in the pursuit of your voice over career.
The voice over business has changed drastically toward a less analog and an almost completely digital world, and you need to be not only aware of those changes (it’s a daily moving target, I’m afraid, and you need to be on top of it all), but know how and when to take advantage of new technology and processes.
This mastery of the science and technology includes creating the perfect profile for audition sites and grooming those profiles as you gain more work and experience. It includes mastering communications and production using the Internet, email, social media and more. It means understanding how studios, microphones, sound recording software, designing a home recording space, and all other components combine to tell a story with sound. It means creating that space in your living quarters to record your auditions with competitive quality, and to know how to get those auditions to the gatekeepers who can help you get work. And, it means knowing how to use all of this technology quickly and expertly, without hesitation, and with the confidence that a true professional displays.
With the VO2GoGo curriculum and Pro membership, we do just that: we recommend audio gear and software that won’t cost you more than $170 or so, we show you how to use that gear to both audition with ease and high quality, and how to use that same gear to produce content for your clients and for yourself. We make the technical terms and recording standards that can be very confusing to most people clear, concise and useful to you. We watch technology trends and revamp classes to take advantage of the latest developments in this space, and we keep you safe from technology that is time-wasting at best, and dangerous at most.
All of this gives you the required expertise in the science of voice over.
The art, the commerce and the science of voice over performance. Built for you, just like any other business. That’s what you need to be successful.
Caveat: I decided that when I started coaching voice over talent on this business, I would both give them the best world-class advice about what to engage in, and also make sure they also knew what to avoid: what practices hucksters use to extract money from their wallets. It’s appalling how much of the latter competes with the former.
All three of these areas, the art, commerce and science of voice over, are filled with charlatans who will hold out their hands, looking for cash, selling you a dream, offering to help you with exactly what you need without any regard to the quality of what they sell. Some are well meaning, but poor resources, and some are out and out scams. Find someone you can trust, someone who’s actually working as an VO performer and has a great acting practice themselves, and ask them for advice. Don’t be suckered by the con-artists.
One final thing: you have to love this. You have to want this. You have to be willing to put a lot of work into it, only to be rejected because your voice is too old, or too young, or too plain, or too hot, or too creepy or…the list never ends. Roll with it. Move on. If you can’t do that, you’re in trouble before you begin. If you love being a storyteller, and can handle it when you find out you didn’t get the booking because you sound too much like the producer’s ex, you’re in much better shape.
You may have noticed the art, commerce and science content logos in this article. They are used around the site to show you what content we’ve created here is relevant to which of these three main areas of expertise. Some apply to more than one category, and some just one. Here’s what you’ll see on class pages, on articles and on other pages.
I do hope this helps you understand our approach to VO training. And don’t wait for someday. I want you to get started now, with us if you like. Just become a VO2GoGo Pro, and you’ll get all of this training and expertise at a very manageable pace, and at an amazing price. I’ll help you love your life as a voice over professional as much as I love mine.
What areas of your career do you need to improve your skills in? Was this take on your practice familiar to you, or a surprise? Let me know in the comments below.
Hope this helps.
Wonderful article David. I will forward this to those that ask me that question.
Terrific breakdown on the supersets of skills needed for success in the VO industry. And once you learn them, and the mini sets that each category breaks down into, it’s a never-ending process to stay on top of all of it, especially with technology growing at break-neck speed. But as you say, if one has the passion and drive, then it all becomes part of the game.