GKN Weekly Update 1/15/13 – An Open Letter To VO Newbs (I Hate That Term!)

Good morning fellow voicers & voice-ettes, and Happy National Hat Day! I’m not kidding. It’s also National Strawberry Ice Cream Day so take your pick….


My buddy Doug Turkel penned an excellent blog entry recently about the massive influx of new talent in the voiceover industry over the past few years. This, I think, has primarily been due to advances in home recording technology and the controversial P2P or “pay to play” online casting services. (BTW I still don’t have a problem with them, but that’s a conversation I really don’t want to re-re-re-re-rehash) As a result, “These days, anyone with a laptop and a USB microphone thinks they can call themselves professional talent.” That’s a quote from Doug’s blog, but I think he was quoting me from a few years ago!

The responses to Doug’s blog entry were very positive. Most said that new talent doesn’t worry them and they’re happy to pass along advice. A few feel frustrated & threatened by new talent and that’s fine, too. To them I would suggest they re-evaluate their demos, website, technique, marketing practices, etc. to determine the the true source of their unease.

I, like many other veteran voice actors, get contacted by aspiring talent from time to time asking for advice, referrals, or my client list (remember that clown?!). Some find me on their own, others are referred by friends or family. I always reply with a personalized yet brief response and a “form letter” that I have.

My other buddy Kara Edwards originally penned it and I have customized & tweaked it over the years (thanks again, Kara!). It is friendly, comprehensive, and tries to paint a clear picture of the realities of the voiceover industry. I’ve sent it out at least one hundred times over the past few years. Would you like to guess how many of them actually pursued a career in voiceovers?

That’s right, zero.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Why zero? Because this is a hard job, man! The problem is that many people who don’t do this for a living think it’s easy. “You just talk, right?” (sigh)

If you really wanna give this a shot, you need three things: time, money, and will.

Time: at least twenty hours a week to make cold calls, audition, practice, network, etc. I don’t mean twenty hours on nights & weekends, I mean weekday business hours!

Money: at least $5000 to get coached, make a commercial demo, create a website, build a studio, attend events, etc.

Will: time and money can be found, but if you don’t have the will to maintain a high level of self-discipline, make a consistent effort, and do the work even when you don’t feel like it, well, what was that thing about community theater…?

Oh, and that’s assuming you have talent and no speech impediments! BTW I know some VO friends who have received inquiries from aspiring talents with lisps, stutters, and worst of all, a New Jersey accent! 😉

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’re an artist inside the booth and a business outside of the booth. Most people either don’t understand or can’t be bothered with the business part. And that…is why…they fail. (too dramatic…?)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Genre fiction, as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, is a stew. You take stuff out of the pot, you put stuff back. The stew bubbles on. Neil Gaiman

STUFF!: If you would like a copy of the “form letter” feel free to ask!

From Tom Dheere’s apartment, this is Tom Dheere: GKN News…

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11 Responses

  1. John Sachanda says:

    I’d appreciate a copy of the newbie “form letter”. I am mainly involved with video production, but I find a lot of the issues & techniques you discuss apply to most creative art endeavors. Thanks for your effort in posting your thoughts and comments.

  2. Rich Kelly says:

    Hey Tom, I’ll also be pleased to receive a copy. Although I’ve recently begun my marketing and auditioning (and booked several gigs) I’ve been asked a number of times how one gets into voiceovers. I then explain that I’ve had over 40 VO coaching (including audio engineering) sessions, had my demos produced, built my home studio, created my website, consumed in excess of 1,500 articles, blogs, podcasts, videos, etc. on all things VO (a heartfelt thank you to everyone in the VO community for being so willing to share) and provide additional insight on the nature of this business (as my relatively new eyes and ears perceive it). I also let them know that true desire, passion and perseverance are mission critical as well. Each time my friend or acquaintance then says that they do not have the time or money for all that! Thank you Tom!

  3. Tom Dheere says:

    It’s on its way, Rich!

  4. Tom Dheere says:

    Sent! I hope it’s what you’re looking for…

  5. Cat Smith says:

    I would really like to read the form letter, if you want to send it my way.

  6. Kostas Aspiotis says:

    Hi Tom,
    First time on your website and this is the first article i read from you.
    I’m in the beginning of a looong ride in to the world of Voice Overs.
    I’ve taken with me a huge amount of Will, plenty of Time and….enough Money!
    It will be a plesure to have this “form letter” .

    Great article, clear and very helpful .
    Thanks Tom.

  7. I love Terry Prachett. Just yesterday, finished listening to Feet of Clay. Marvelous performance by Nigel Planer. Terry’s books are sublime and broad all at once. Should come with their own rim shot. As I’m keen to specialize in Audiobooks, Nigel’s read revvd up my enthusiasm at a time when I was starting to feel like the business end of VO was all I was ever going to be doing. But I’ve got my plan set, a mission statement writ, and I’ve begun banging out those tasks in the plan.
    As to voice over being hard work, Kristen at Edge says one should expect a 5 year plan to really get off the ground, so this should be my year, baby!
    Loving those business classes of yours, Tom. ‘See’ you at the next one.

  8. Tom, that’s absolutely not true! If you did indeed send me the form letter (which I’m not sure of, as I only recall the personalized message), you did not dissuade me. I am continuing this journey, warts and all. I have secured my second gig through much persistence and will proudly be linking it to people as soon as the files are finished. I have time and I have will. I’m working on getting the sort of job that will provide me the money, but I’m going to keep at it, no matter what. The upside is that I already have adequate (not top line, but adequate) recording equipment/space, some demos, and some (not enough, because there’s never enough) coaching, so it’s something! I understand that it’s hard, not some ridiculous get rich quick scheme. If anything at all, your kind words and encouragement are more persuasion than dissuasion. Knowing the people in this industry tend to be more giving than forbidding is so encouraging. I can’t wait to keep going. I’m actually a little sad to hear no one else kept trying.

  9. Carol Ochs says:

    Hi Tom….would appreciate a copy! Thanks!

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