Having made the decision to go full-time as a VO artist, it was somewhat inevitable that something unexpected would emerge - and so it proved, albeit in the most positive way. No sooner had I handed in my notice to the day job than I was cast in a show, and one outside not just London but the UK to boot. I type this while sitting on a bay in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where I’ll be performing in a production of Hamlet at Fort Lovrijenac with Midsummer Scene for the next three weeks,
In many ways this is the perfect acting job - doing Shakespeare, which I love, in an absolutely tremendous venue, located within a similarly gorgeous city. There is a beach 2 minutes walk from our accommodation, a stunning old town to explore and a number of tours and excursions planned for the cast by our employers. What this doesn’t leave room for however is ANYTHING to do with voiceover.
When I made the decision to focus on VO as my main source of income, I knew it would always be difficult to combine with the unpredictable nature of my acting career. In theory they are complimentary, and for some it is the case - booking acting work or booking VO gigs, you audition or voice test when you can and if you’re free you take the work and if you’re not than you’re employed already.
But making VO from a home studio is quite a different beast. Availability and the capacity to offer a quick, high quality turnaround on a consistent basis is crucial, and relationships with clients are constantly developing. The more you can reassure a client you are there for them for quick adjustments or last-minute jobs, the greater the likelihood you will become their ‘go-to’. Conversely, if you are unable to reply to their correspondence for days, then uncertainty about your availability may quickly develop into uncertainty about your ability - every hour counts.
Fortunately, I am still at such an embryonic stage that the stakes aren’t that high. I’ve listed my (un)availability on every website I have a VO profile on so that the lack of an immediate response won’t come as a nasty surprise. And I don’t have the largest client basis to disappoint as of yet, though in the last few weeks there have definitely been instances of this. Longer term goals to do with marketing have had to be put temporarily on ice, which has been frustrating when you already have some momentum.
During rehearsals (which were in London), I did try to combine the two - coming straight back home from rehearsals to record and edit the VO jobs that had landed that day - but after three days of spending 8 hours acting followed by 5 hours recording and editing (with my 1 hour dinner break also being my commute home), I realised this was currently unsustainable. Of course the option always exists to simply limit the number of jobs I take on, but I wanted to make my online messaging about availability as clear as possible and was concerned that I wasn’t at a point to comfortably juggle the two. Also, I wanted to be able to have the space to (a) do the non-rehearsal room work for the play and (b) actually get to know my lovely fellow cast members, so it seemed like the simplest option for now.
I did look into the possibility of having a portable VO set-up, and am aware of people who manage to make this work. Many suppliers offer ‘vocal booths to go’, but usually at a disconcertingly high price, and it was a risk that I decided not to take when I didn’t have the time to road-test anything. In the future, I believe that some form of mobile set up may prove invaluable, and it is an area that I am continuing to research whenever possible - but I don’t believe myself to be quite at the stage where such an investment would be justifiable yet. If anybody reading this has any recommendations, PLEASE let me know!
I’ve also entertained an idea posited by an actor friend who has also dabbled with home VO but has never gone for it because of the issues stated above. He suggested combining with another talent and marketing yourself as a duo, where if one person is unavailable, the other can step in. Though there are several reservations I have about the idea (having started to invest heavily in my own personal identity as a VO, why people should hire me if that’s your undermining your USP?), but it’s still an hypothesis which I think may have something to it, and one that I also intend to investigate further.
So here I am - getting sunburnt on glorious islands and paddling in the water in-between fits of the bard. Happy to be working, but very aware that I need to hit the ground running VO-wise upon my return. Because the rent never pays itself!