I was at a recording session recently and I met a friend who was also in the media business. We had worked together years back as co-presenters on a radio show. So we greeted and made fun about how much we had changed. Then he asked me, ‘so, what do you do now?’ I said ‘Voice Overs’ and he laughed so hard while replying ‘c’mon tell me what you really do, who lives by just doing voice overs in Nigeria?’
That’s just to show how much fragile people think voice over is. Well, I will share with you in this piece what I did not share with him that day, the reasons why your claim to be in the voice over industry is not paying the bills.
Yes, you may enjoy reading for the fun of it, you may have a good voice, people have been telling you that, you have gone to schools or training centres that helped with your voice and diction and so on. But if you really want money out of voice overs , you need to start seeing it as a business.
When starting a business, you are adviced to draw out a plan, make a feasibility study, know your target customers, and all that..in short, you have to get ready.
So why not also get ready for this?
In some other parts of the world, there are agents who gets you connected, they are the middlemen, the manager of your talent, they get a cut or commission from each job you do. You don’t have to stress yourself because some one else is selling you for you. That’s okay.
But in Nigeria, as at now..April 2017, I don’t know of anyone who majors in that area. So why not tidy up yourself.
Come to think of it, even if you had an agent, it is still for your own good that you manage this business like a business should be managed.
If I mention Fela Anikulapo Kuti, in the world of music, what comes to your mind straight up would be about Afrobeat, not Juju or Apala or Rap.
Or if I mention Gucci, in the world of fashion.. I bet you wont be thinking about laces and frills. Highend qualitative leather, would be the imagination in your mind.
Because they have carved a niche for themselves in those areas. Fela didn’t say ‘oh, I love music, I love to sing, just give me anything and I’ll sing it’. No, he found what was comfortable for him and stuck to it. Perharps, if he was still alive, he could have probably tried something else closely realated but we wouldn’t have been able to separate his image from Afrobeat anyway.
So how does this relate to Voice overs. Good question.
When I meet some voiuce Over Artiste and I introduce myself, then they’ll ask me of any notable job I have done on Radio or TV.
Excuse me? Are Voice over jobs limited to Radios and TVs?
Looks like some people in this job don’t even know how wide it is, hence the limitation to TV adverts and Radio jingles.
There is voice over jobs in the banks- Interactive Voice Response, they need a voice for their new online platform, the phone customer service
In the Telecommunication Industry—they need a voice to welcome their customers and give them information
Online—various companies need a voice to represent them on their websites.
Authors need a voice to turn their books to audio formats.
Blue chip companies, Consulting Firms—they need voices for the next e-learning programme.
What about Movie Trailers, what about looping, narration, animation voices…… and the list goes on.
Some voices are really good for TV adverts but not compelling to the ears when it comes to audio books. You can be really good in one area or two and just fair in the others.
Find your best spot and just nail it there. Seek customers in that area such that when they listen to you once, they wouldn’t want to try another person, not yet.
How to do this?
Get some sample scripts for various types of voice overs. You can get them online (Link to samples) and record yourself. Then you can play it over and share it with colleagues you know will judge fairly.
Even the grandfather of voice overs, now late, Don Lafontaine, yes he was the voice behind thousands of commercials and network promotions. But his fame is largely due to his genre- Trailers, he was noted for Film and Video Games Trailers.
So whats your genre?
Lets say you are good at making cakes, you know the ins and outs, you have all the utensils and materials for different shapes and sizes. Now you make all sorts of cakes and displayed them in your kitchen and then sit down there, expecting someone to bring money in exchange for them.
Without you telling someone how great you are at making those cakes, or show them the ones you have made, even give them some to taste, my friend, forget it, you will have to consume the whole lot by yourself.
So it is in almost every business, marketing is the backbone.
You have to know your customers, who needs the kind of voice service I can offer? Where can I find them? What is the best medium to reach out to them? And so on.
If you need to take a course in marketing, do. Taking courses is easy these days with the help of the internet.
Bottom line is you have to blow your own trumpet, loud enough for your potential customers to hear.
This is closely related to the last point, not only should you introduce and market your service, you have to build a list. People may not listen to you at first, after all, no one has a voice over job tucked in his pocket 24/7. So that tells you that you need to keep the line of communication opened….intentionally too. I should quickly add that your attitude matters, you have to genuinely care about them if you want to be remembered.
Some years back, after I read a book about voice overs, I learnt that I need to have a professionally packaged demo, that it is my complimentary card.
So. I got up, packaged my demo professionally, included my contacts and started distributing it to as many producers, media houses, advertising agencies and so on. Have they been in need for a voice over artiste that fits my criteria? I’d say Yes. Did they contact me? No!
I just went to introduce my self, I didn’t build a relationship.
On the other hand, I got a voice project recently. The client was an office colleague of one of my clients, like 5years back. They are not working together anymore, but because of the way I used to related with my first client back in those days ( I used to sincerely asked about his family, send greetings on his birthday, son’s birth and so on even when the projected was concluded) the second client needed a voice for an E-learning programme, she had other options but according to her, she preferred working with me, and started searching for me through Facebook. The rest is story.
So, you need to up your attitude game and walk close by.
There is always something new, the world keeps evolving. The only constant thing is change itself. Even in diction, you’d be surprised that some words are now been pronounced differently compared to the one your oral English teacher taught you. That’s why our Pronunciation Dictionary, popularly called DJ, keeps having new editions.
To make matters worse, you’ll see some broadcasters, old on the job still resting on the training they got from FRCN since its inception in 1957. And yet, they’ll be bragging all over the place. If the teachers in FRCN have not been keeping abreast the changes, you think the school will still have a name?
Wake up, attend trainings, seminars and workshops that relate to what you are doing. It is only by learning that we will learn more.
I will still use the music example again. Have you noticed that most of the singers or vocalists you know are also instrumentalists. Even if they don’t play, they will know much about at least one musical instrument, this helps their jobs.
Know what goes on in your industry. Before you can get rice ready to be eaten, you would have need for water, at least salt and a source of heat. Definitely not just the rice.
All some voice over artiste know is just to go there, pick the script, speak to the microphone and that’s it!
How to form a script? They don’t know.
What happens to the voice afterwards? They have no idea
I’ll bet you’ll be paid extra for making a colossal correction on an ad script.
Don’t get me wrong, am not saying you should leave your lane and start to go into editing or production. But some knowledge about what goes on in your industry is not really a bad idea.
I’ll share my story again, a client wants an IVR, that’s Interactive Voice Response- like the voice that welcomes you on the phone and tells you the options you can make to save you time or speak with an operator.
Ok. This guy has no idea how it works, he has computer analyst that will help him feed the voice into the system but he doesn’t know how to get the voice. This was where I came in, he wanted to know why I was charging so much for just voice over production. I asked if he has a studio, so I can just drop the voice and charge for that only, he said ‘no’. So I had to go into details of how I will have to pay studio charge and the Editor before what he wants can come out.
Another one, I was working on a job with an editor, an urgent one, we were running out of time. We were done and he was mixing the piece when the phone rang, he had to leave immediately. He showed me the folder to get the project from when its done and he was gone.
After he left, I decided to play the piece over one more time before sending it to the client. Lo and behold, there was a slight mistake. Gratefully, I edit as well, I had to quickly fill in and brush it up…and that was it.
You would have thought voice over artistes should be familiar with voice editing softwares, don’t be surprised, in Nigeria, the case is not always so.
With the knowledge of production, you will ensure that you don’t undercharge and bite yourself afterwards.
‘Voice over’ is sometimes called ‘Voice acting’ , that’s because there’s always a little bit of acting going on, its just that its only the voice doing the acting. It becomes more expressive in animations.
To this end, it becomes an added advantage if you have the skill of acting and or singing.
So, you see, you need to do the work before you conclude about it making you money or not.
Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.