Yesterday I was looking through my Facebook news-feed and came across a video that fellow blogger/voice talent Paul Strikwerda posted that showcased one of the recent jobs he did for a real estate agent. He mentioned that “I never thought I’d be pointing out granite counter tops and open floor plans as a VO.”
I think that is part of what I like about the voiceover business. Yes the fact that you work for yourself (unless you are even luckier than that and work for one of those companies like Discovery Channel or National Geographic or Disney for that matter). But the variety is a huge part of what I love about the business.
This reflects in my day job as a creative talent. Everday brings new challenges and we work on a different project… but the context is always healthcare because that is what the advertising company I work for specializes in. Some voiceover professionals are quite content finding a niche and embedding themselves in it. I guess the late Don LaFontaine did just that with the Movie Trailer business. Maybe that was what his voice was best suited for.
Some VOs have a medical background (might have been doctors or nurses before deciding to pursue a career in vo) and so stick to narrating videos about medical procedures or conference videos for pharmaceutical companies. It kind of makes sense.
Jack & Jane of All Trades
This isn’t a new topic of course the variety of topics and subjects that a voice talent can work on during their career is almost endless. Recently I voiced an online video game where I played the voice of dictator Muamar Gaddafi(Play Slap Gaddafi Here) . The next day I did a vo for Google and so on and so forth.
Its not just a matter of subjects but rather the different mediums that your voice can be featured on.
Cartoons, eLearning, Radio Ads, Television Ads, Audio Books, Podcasts, and so on and so forth.
And within each particular job there is an iota of knowledge that you didn’t know and that combines with what you know to make you more than the sum of elements that you were before starting the job.
Whether its knowledge about a medical procedure or how to utilize a website to its fullest extent… or maybe you were hired to read the news and with your busy schedule that is the only way to actually know what is going on around you.
I Give Thanks
I give thanks to the Almighty that this is what I do. Sure I would also love to be a diver or a gunsmith or a race driver. But there is something so enchanting about being the voice that speaks to people.
Its great that working as a VO pays well.. that is definitely a benefit. But we aren’t $400 /hr lawyers… sure you might get paid $1,000/hr for a job… or more but we’re talking about levels of work… not absolutes. Meaning unless all you do all day every day is voice television commercials.. you’ll be getting paid according to the kind of job you are doing.
The Dawn of Things To Come
The other day a client asked me about hiring a Female Arabic Language voiceover talent. I told him I knew a couple who I am comfortable recommending and that I will need to email them to see if they are available. He asked if I couldn’t just have the come to my studio and record a vo part. I mentioned that that would be a little difficult since we live in two different countries.
It struck me as strange that my client would even be surprised that I had colleagues in different countries and that we all didn’t just live in the same city and congregate to audition for jobs in studios peppered around our areas of residence.
It struck me that very soon we will need to reformat our rate cards because Television will no longer be regional. Shows in the United States are not just watched in the United States. Even the unsyndicated ones. Meaning a show like Bob’s burgers which just started airing in the us this year might have a huge following in Denmark because of P2P downloads. The studios are slowly starting to adapt and sell their shows through iTunes or Amazon… but that still means that they have not put any thought into global advertising.
And how much do you charge for a voiceover that will be featured in a show seen by 6-600 million people? I mean we are currently around 6.8 billion people on earth. Sure most of them don’t have TVs or Computers and your voice won’t reach them. But what if that is the future? The ability to connect to everyone at any time all the time.
I foresee many changes in the future. Amazing new developments in healthcare, being bald will be an option, we will be able to regrow our teeth and communication will continue to evolve. As we speak google voice allows people in the US to talk to any other person in the US over a landline or cell phone for free…. so maybe in a few more years we will all be able to communicate with each other for free… or with the minimal price of our internet subscription.
And what do you think the ramifications of that will be to your voiceover business? A bigger Audience, more exposure and with half the cost (if not less?)
The Future looks bright… and I hope to see you there with me.
Jack of all trades… and -one day- I hope to master them all to the best of my ability!
I’m one of those people who rather trades stability for variety. That’s why I loved the thrill of working in an international newsroom: never a dull day! There’s always some silly dictator being toppled; a ‘perfectly safe’ nuclear reactor is about to burst and yet another A-list Hollywood actor shows the world how to treat women…
Those were the days!
Instead of that, I’m riding the voice-over roller coaster, complete with sharp turns and unexpected ups and downs. This morning I’ll be narrating a book on Austrian economics. This afternoon I’m going to sell bike chain lubricant. In between I audition for a role as the Prince of Darkness…Life’s like a Wheel of Fortune. Perhaps I should audition for that too!
I agree with Taji: thanks to the global economy we can reach more people than ever, at lowering rates that barely buy us a Happy Meal. It’s not just affecting VO-actors. Even a gifted actress like Lindsay Lohan allegedly stole a necklace to make ends meet. Yes, it’s a tough business in a bad economy.
That’s why I just don’t understand why so many people want to become a VO talent these days. Why not invent a cure for cancer or help to end global warming instead? Those are noble undertakings and you might end up winning the Nobel prize!
Leave the voice work to the Jacks of all trades that aren’t very good at anything else but blabber. They’ll soon be replaced by clever text-to-speech apps anyway. Yes, the future’s never looked brighter, my friends!
I dunno Paul, I think it will be decades before the AI in text to speech engines is good enough to replace a VO. Having said that I think that text to speech apps for arabic are horrendous… seriously terrible so I figure the issue is different from language to language.
The flexibility that VO work gives you allows you to be the announcer that you are, the multi faith minister and the writer that runs a blog. In your case being a VO is a big part of your professional repertoire but I don’t think it defines it per se. If you choose to concentrate yourself in it then you would stop doing the other things… and honestly I don’t think you are someone who would be happy just doing one thing. Then again maybe I figured you wrong.
I don’t mind competition… Most of the time I find that fresh blood only makes my life easier and stabilizes my prices because most of the skills I picked up took years to accumulate. No matter how much advice I can give the new generation (and there has to be a new generation) it won’t make up for the things I take for granted.
Live and let live.
And with regards to becoming more global… I think that even though the economy might be messed up in one part of the world… doesnt mean it has to be in another… lower communication bills means more money for you but your skill is your skill and no two people have that. Plus its not just a matter of skill … but the relationship between the vo and his / her client that pushes things forward.
Oh yeah… and before you order the green glue you mentioned on your facebook page… check out the comments some folks left on the green glue article I wrote last year.
First off, I have to thank you for being the inspiration behind another one of my blog post that just went \live\. I seriously hope that people won’t take my ramblings too seriously.
In my experience, versatility is a key component of my voice-over \success\. As a professional narrator, I draw from all the other things I pursue in life: being a writer, a musician and yes… being a non-denominational wedding officiant!
Soon I will start another career as a budding voice-over booth builder! I’ve done all the research and budgeting. Lots of Green Glue and other goo is already waiting for me, and Sweetwater has just delivered a shipment of mineral fiber insulation. I just couldn’t keep it quiet any longer!
Once my recording space has been built, I will definitely blog about it.
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