All About Voiceover Demos Part 1

Voiceover Lessons for Beginners #6 Part 1

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Text Synopsis:

Lesson Focus: This is Lesson 6, Part 1. In this part, we’ll take an overview look at the current VO demo landscape, which has gotten very complicated over the last 10 or 15 years. Part 2 will discuss the specifics of how to actually make your demos.

Traditionally most voice actors had a couple to a handful of demos reels each representing a fairly broad category – like commercials, characters, narration, audiobooks and so on. These reels were – and still are – a collection of short excerpts from longer pieces, edited together to show range within that category, and were usually from about a minute to 2 or 3 minutes long. Some talent had more specific demos for sub-categories, and some used a single commercial as a demo.

Today things have gotten really specific. If you check out the casting sites like Voice123 or Voices, you’ll see actors with many compilation demos, as well as individual clips posted. These compilations can be very specific, like insurance commercials, mobile tech explainer videos, warm & friendly reads etc.

On the casting sites, demos and clips are tagged with various descriptors like conversational, authentic, authoritative and so on, to optimize them for site search, and to make it easier for the buyers to find what they’re looking for quickly.

There is a wide range across the talent pool of number of reels and clips posted, and it is unclear to me if there is one strategy that is the most effective.

But to start off, go with whatever you’re good at right now, and just put the good reads – meaning professional level – on your demos. A mix of compilations and individual clips will probably be the best approach for most performers.

In Lesson 6 part 2, we’ll discuss the mechanics of getting your demos and clips made. Your assignment for now is to go online and start listening to talent demos. The easiest way is to go to Voice123.com and Voices.com (or the preeminent casting sites in your region) and look around. Keep in mind you will benefit more from observing what successful pros are doing, so be selective while observing.

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How Much Does Voiceover Really Pay?

Voiceover Lessons for Beginners #5

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Lesson focus: pay rates for voiceover work

Two categories: union jobs, and non-union jobs.

Union jobs: In the US, SAG-AFTRA (https://www.sagaftra.org/)sets rates for most union voiceover work. Information presented here is primarily based on SAG-AFTRA. Some other countries have their own talent unions.

The union sets minimum rates. You may be able to negotiate a higher rate with the client. Rates depend on media type and usage.

Session fees are paid for the actual recording. Royalty payments (“residuals”) may be paid depending on usage. Rates range from several hundred to many thousands of dollars, depending on the specifics of the job. Certain low-budget SAG contracts allow talent and client to negotiate fees.

You may also earn health, pension and other benefits depending on your earnings or hours worked.

Non-union work: No minimums; whatever the client is willing to pay. Most jobs do not pay residuals. Range is from nothing to many thousands, depending on job specifics.

Job sites like Fiverr are typically the lower end of the pay range, in terms of average fees per job, followed by casting sites like Voice123 and Voices, then talent agencies (generally speaking).

Premium talent and celebrities are often paid well above industry standards and union minimums.

What should you charge? Many novice talent do low budget work to get experience then move up to higher paid work. Some talent do low pay jobs in exchange for higher volume. If you join a union you’ll have to abide by their rules. If you work through an agent, they will usually handle the money issues. Charge what you feel you’re worth once you get established.

ASSIGNMENT: add a smile to your reads.

  • One of the basic and most useful tools for the VO actor.
  • Smile adds warmth, makes you more likeable, more approachable, more expressive, more energetic.
  • If you can’t generate a real gut smile yet, force a smile and think of something that makes you happy or laugh. Keep trying, you’ll get there.
  • The goal is to be able to turn your smile on and off and dial it up and down at will.
  • It’s not a substitute for a really connected, nuanced performance, and you won’t always use it, but it goes a long way in a lot of situations.

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How Do You Get Voiceover Work?

Voiceover Lessons for Beginners #4

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Text Synopsis:

Lesson focus: In this lesson, we’ll look at the principal ways voice actors get jobs, and then we’ll talk about when you should start actively pursuing voiceover work. We’ll conclude with our next assignment. This overview will give you a good basic understanding of these processes.

Voice actors get work in a number of different ways, but they all ultimately fall into one of two basic categories: AUDITIONS, and DIRECT HIRES.

AUDITIONS: In my experience, the vast majority of voiceover jobs start with an audition. An audition is a recording you make of some or all of a script; that recording would then be submitted to the client for review. So, auditions are VERY important.

Principal sources of auditions –

Talent agents & managers:

  • individuals or groups that represent performers and act on their behalf in procuring work, negotiating fees, making sure they get paid, and so on. They work on commission, typically 10 to 20 percent. They get auditions from ad agencies, production companies, casting directors, and other sources, then have appropriate members of their talent pool record the auditions, which are then forwarded to the client.

Casting directors and independent producers:

  • perform a similar job as agents in the auditioning process, and often work directly with talent; the difference is they generally don’t represent the actor formally like an agent or manager does, but they will occasionally negotiate fees and collect payment on behalf of the talent, if an agent is not involved.

Some clients who do their own casting maintain lists of preferred talent, and send these individuals auditions directly. The odds of booking these auditions are often much higher.

Casting websites, (for example Voice123.com and Voices.com) are subscription services that allow clients to post audition notices, which are distributed to selected talent. Talent then submits their recorded auditions to the client via the site. These services vary in the specifics of how they operate and what they cost to use. Try a free membership first to check out the service before upgrading to a paid membership.

Job sites like Fiver and Upwork tend to cater to lower budget jobs, but if you’re just starting out and need some experience and resume, they may be a good resource.

DIRECT HIRE jobs are jobs where the client hires you without asking you to audition first. Repeat business is an important source of direct hire jobs, but most repeat business starts with a job booked from an audition.

Demo reels or demo clips – short collections of sample reads that highlight your abilities –  can yield some direct hire business, as can referrals, personal contacts and networking.

When should you start actively looking for work? Generally, when your reads are competitive and you’re capable of producing edited, professional quality recordings at home.

In Lesson Five we’ll talk about how much voiceover jobs actually pay, and how much time they take up.

Assignment: start recording your practice sessions. Your phone or an inexpensive mp3 recorder is sufficient. Start getting used to hearing yourself recorded, so that you can judge your work objectively and make adjustments as necessary. This is known as “self-direction.

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