Picture the scene: I’m at home recording a voiceover for a brand new product that has already received a lot of interest as part of its Kickstarter campaign. The product is specialist, though anyone could use it and it offers a number of health benefits. The client (yeah, I even have clients now) has worked hard on the script and I manage to nail it on the first submitted take for a very healthy fee. The campaign is grounded in meticulous research, but the tone is humorous and fun. And perhaps necessarily so, because...
I’m the voice of an alignment aid for the act of defecation.
Voice Over Kickstart's Guy Michaels has a lot to answer for.
Exactly a year ago, I signed up to his free Voiceover Kickstart in attempt to shock my own VO ambitions back to life. The world of home-studio VO was opened to me and I began to experience tentative sensations of autonomy in an industry I had only wonderful but all too fleeting interactions with. You can read the original blog here.
Obviously the natural follow up to that blog would be a glorious account of how my forays into the P2P market met with progressively greater and greater success, I established numerous relationships with repeat clients and have been able to finally go fulltime.
And all of the above would be lies.
Rather, progress has been fitful, occasionally bewildering, littered with dead-ends and frustrations... yet also educational. Importantly, I’ve made stuff that I’m proud of that has paid me money.
Probably the biggest factor in my slow progress has been my acting work. Four of those intervening twelve months have been taken up with some form of board-treading, and when such opportunities have come around, I've reacted like any recently employed actor and dropped everything else. Building a profile as a VO requires exactly that – construction and continual maintenance – otherwise (stretching this metaphor unforgivably) it slides into subsistence. For at least half of the intervening year, I simply didn’t do much VO work beyond the odd handful of auditions - I hadn’t factored in the necessary time.
The other factor has been knowing what to do during that ‘VO time’. Beyond setting up my mic and waiting for auditions to land in my inbox (during those treasured ‘resting days’ spent denying the temptations of FallOut 4), it was only through reading other voice over websites and listening to various VO’s talk about their careers that I started to get a clearer idea of how different people’s paths into the industry have been.
Committing to Guy’s VO Kickstart Expert Edition last month really consolidated my learning up to that stage, and also pointed the way forward. The course was divided into three strands: Voice (ie. performance), Technical (ie. quality of sound at source and skill in editing, treatment and post-production) and Branding (marketing, website, professional identity and client management). It brought my skillset up a notch, provided me with a frame of reference for future development and helped expand my sense of the wider industry – and the importance of a pro-active pursuit of work rather than a purely reactivedependence on P2P. I’m not on commission for posting this, there are certainly other avenues from which most of the knowledge imparted could be imbibed and of course I write this as someone who paid for a course and so would obviously want to justify that investment even to myself. But the concentrated ten day blast of Expert Edition served as a much needed catalyst, it gave me a very literal action plan and a template for moving forward.
In the two months since completing the course, a lot of my VO focus has been on the fundamentals – continuing to practise the skills I have learnt (noise gating, check), taking on new ones as required (compression, check. EQ, well sort of), making sure my home studio set-up is as unfussy and dependable to set up as possible. A lot of ground work has been laid, and over the last month as a part-time VO I’ve completed 60 separate jobs and earned just under a grand for my efforts. Not earth shattering, but a start. And certainly preferable to spending all that time spamming agents with representation requests.
Of course, having now reached a tipping point where the next stage in development would be to take the leap and become fully freelance, the Acting (note the capital) has arisen again after a little hibernation, and my next challenge will be negotiating the commitments of rehearsal and performance (outside of the UK to boot) while ensuring my VO momentum isn’t checked. It’s a proposition with no easy solution, I’ll happily admit I'm still in the throws of working it out, but unquestionably it's still a nicer dilemma to have.
So why this blog? Well, if nothing else, committing to writing something every week will allow me to pool my knowledge into one place, if only for my own reference. I want to start discussions, share insights and learn from fellow VO artists (and those who are just… um, VO-curious?) and continue to discuss and engage. Most of all, I want to go 'all in' and make a career in a profession I love and enjoy. If any of that has an inadvertent benefit on my website’s SEO, then so much the better. And on that note, if anybody reading this has any suggestions on blogs they might like to read or who would be interested in writing a guest entry, please leave a comment or email me directly.
So, that’s it for now. Next week, who knows!