Voice Over Education Blog

Business & Money

Voice Over Freelancer Tax Tips, 2015 Edition PART TWO


NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one!

As we noted in our previous installment, the art of voice over is also a business. As your voice over business changes over time, so might its needs. And so might its tax-related opportunities. Here’s a list of some things you may have been too busy to deal with before, or may have overlooked ...

Reminder: Estimated income tax payments are due quarterly.

If you don’t file and pay estimated taxes when due, you may incur penalties when you file at the end of the year. That’s just one reason for keeping timely, accurate records. For estimating taxes, said tax accountant Jonathan Medows in a December 2014 interview with Freelancers Union, “a third of your estimated profit, I think is always a safe figure. You may owe a few dollars, you may get back a few dollars, but that’s always a safe number in terms of estimated tax planning.”

Reminder: You may apply for an extension of the filing deadline, but your taxes are still due by April 15. It’s an extension for submitting your forms; it does not extend the deadline for payment. Since you haven’t done your forms yet, you’ll have to estimate the amount due. See above.

Voice Over Freelancer Tax Tips, 2015 Edition PART ONE


NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Stay tuned next week for part two!

It’s that time of year again. One of the best tax tips we can offer is a time-tested one: Treat yourself like a business. Not only will that make you eligible for deductions that mere “hobbyists” cannot take, businesslike practices are the only reliable way to know how you’re doing and see how to grow. And in the long run, running a businesslike operation will also save you time.

That said, there are some new things to consider for 2015.

(Please note: Although we’re confident of the general validity of these tips, things change, details matter, and everyone’s situation is unique. This list might be incomplete and requirements change. Refer to your tax advisor or tax-software publisher for guidance and additional information.)

Healthcare

* Allow for the Affordable Care Act penalty tax, subsidy repayment, or paperwork. As we understand it, if all members of your household had adequate health insurance coverage throughout 2014 and did not receive a subsidy, you’ll find the ACA reporting pretty simple, just tick a box.

But if you were uninsured or underinsured, or insured less than nine months of the year, you may be hit with a penalty. However, this year it is a relatively small penalty, and there are dozens of possible exemptions from the insurance requirement. You may need to fill out an elaborate worksheet.

International VO Work: How to do more trade, without being seen as a jack of all trades.


Marketing pros understand the importance of positioning – being thought of by your customer as a certain type of product or provider, a specialist, an expert ...not a jack or jill of all trades.

As a VO pro, you, too, should understand the importance of focus. It enhances your credibility as a strong voice over talent. Being known as the go-to person for a particular genre or specialty is likely to bring you more business, more easily, than spreading yourself thin among too many fields.

But, within that focus, when you’ve expanded your capabilities and extended your marketing as much as you can (or dare), how can you pitch additional prospects without watering down your image?

Try this: Expand internationally.

In a wide range of foreign markets, producers seek authentic voices like yours. (Notice that we didn’t say “authentic English-language voices” like yours, because if you live outside the U.S., and/or speak accented English, or if you speak a different language altogether, we’re also talking to you – sell your vocal wares in North America. It may be as simple as applying the following advice in reverse.)

Start your prospecting by asking, where is your language and/or accent considered a premium asset? For example, Americans seem attracted to a British accent as being honest, educated, interesting or simply distinctive. Everything from classical music to cleaning supplies have been hawked in the USA by Brits. And in many places outside the U.S., a neutral American accent is heard as a modern sound, firm common ground among many speakers of English.

To join or not to join? A case for SAG-AFTRA membership


As the business of voice over has evolved and grown in the past 20 years, the role of SAG-AFTRA in a voice actor’s career has also evolved. It is now not only possible, but even common for a voice actor to make a good living without ever booking a union job. Many newer genres of voice over -- including e-learning, web narrations, and many videogames, to name a few -- are not generally produced under SAG-AFTRA jurisdiction, and are therefore open to non-union actors.

However, as a working voice actor and as a member of the Edge Studio leadership team, I feel that union membership is something to which many of us should aspire. This position might be controversial to some, but I’d like to present the case for SAG-AFTRA membership.

Let me state that SAG-AFTRA membership will not be right for some voice actors. Perhaps voice acting is a part-time pursuit, without the intention of making it a full-time career. You may well live in a small market, where the number of voice over jobs produced under union jurisdiction is minimal, or non-existent. Or you are specifically interested in pursuing a voice over genre that is not, and probably will never be, under union contract. Telephony, maybe. Or museum tours.

But for voice actors who are mainly interested in commercial work, broadcast narration, promo/trailers, or audiobooks; the decision on whether or not to join SAG-AFTRA will be a one you’ll face during your career.

Ten website design rules, and how to violate some of them


To design and build your website, there are countless mix-and-match options. You can hire a web design service, or use a Content Management System provider/host such as Squarespace or WordPress (using their tools and a customized template), or even build your site from scratch, maybe starting from a template, and incorporating a player so that visitors can hear your demo files.

Unless you already know about sitebuilding, or plan to make it a sideline, building your own site from scratch is not the most efficient way to go. (If you have that much spare time, focus it on actual Voice Over practice, auditioning and work.)

Whatever your approach, it’s easy to stop too short or get carried away. To get your results “just right,” here are some principles to heed. And sometimes not. This list is far from all-inclusive, but it may help avoid common mistakes.

1. Don’t get a round-hole template for square-hole needs. If using a template, is it perfectly suited to your marketing situation? Some design services tend to use templates for everything, but your voice over website probably doesn’t have the same needs as, oh, their telecommunications services retailer client. This is something to ask the service about before starting. Your site content and navigation should suit what you have to offer; you should not add or limit content to suit the available menu or space.

(One advantage to some templates is that they’re well-tested on all platforms and screen sizes. A disadvantage is that unless extensively customized, they tend to make your site look like everybody else’s. Does the world really need yet another huge, space-wasting, confusing image “slider”?)

What’s in Your VO Business Plan? (Part 2)


NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. To read part one, click here!

Last week, we discussed the need for you, as a voice over artist, to behave as a business. Every business needs a Business Plan. Unless your plan is intended to be read by potential investors or partners, yours doesn’t have to be super-formal. But it should address all aspects of your voice over business, be written down, and be well thought-out.

Much of that thought is simply a matter of Common Sense, so don’t let this task intimidate you. The key thing is that you don’t overlook something that will be important down the road, and that you be realistic in your projections and expectations.

So as you apply your common sense, don’t guess at the answers. Take your numbers and guidance from current, reliable sources.

Here’s a guide as to what to include:

Market potential

What niche (or few niches) will you pursue? Consider both your capabilities and your interests. What will you most enjoy doing, and is there a demand for it? Will you work full-time or part-time? Should you focus on one genre, or will you be able (or need to) serve more than one market? Has the VO market you’re considering changed since you first looked at it? Is it growing? What other VO markets involve similar capabilities that you have? Who (or what) will be your competition, and what do they offer? If the market is so large and saturated that you’ll just be a drop in the bucket, what sub-genres within it have sharper demand?

Product development

What’s in Your VO Business Plan?


NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Stay tuned next week for part two!

There’s a saying: “Nobody will treat you like a business unless you treat yourself like a business.” That’s oh, so true, regarding everything from pricing and getting paid on time, to finding clients and having your professional capabilities respected.

Maybe you’ve heard this other one: “90% of new businesses soon fail.”

That’s not necessarily true. The number is probably apocryphal. In fact, last time we checked, even the U.S. Small Business
Administration didn’t have exact data on the number of new businesses that don’t succeed within their first few years.

But versions of the latter saying still get passed around, because it rings true. It’s as plausible as the first, because many new businesses don’t have a comprehensive business plan.

A business plan addresses both these issues. Whether you’re a budding voice over artist or an established pro, you should have one, and keep it current. It will help focus your efforts for greater productivity and profit, and help you adapt to the continually evolving needs of clients and the many voice over markets.

However, there are many kinds of business plans. Some run dozens of pages, covering the entire range of business considerations, with an Executive Summary and carefully researched market data and financial
projections. A plan aimed at obtaining venture capital differs in content from one aiming to secure a bank loan. (The former stresses investment opportunity, the latter assures lower risk and includes examples of collateral.) Other potential prospects require other emphases, and some plans can be much simpler.

An Agent is Not a Magic Wand


There’s no magic wand in show business.

Few voice over artists land a lot of jobs by merely hanging out their shingle (putting up a website), posting a demo and waiting for clients to call. It also takes “legwork” and continual professional development over the years.

Your website is simply “home base.” From there, you branch out and promote yourself, via email, mail, phoning, networking, all that “marketing” in our business entails.

Ah, but if you have an agent, no more legwork, right?

Wrong. If representation makes sense for you, you’ll still want do your own self-promotion. In fact, your agent will probably expect it.

While the agency will provide guidelines for your collaboration, within those bounds you should continue doing much or all of the self-marketing and prospecting that you did as an independent.

In short, an agent is not a magic wand; you don’t just sign, give them your demo, and wait for your agent to call.

Another common misunderstanding regards who to promote yourself to:

You should start out by promoting yourself to potential clients, not to potential representatives. Any agent, manager, etc., wants a marketable entity. They’re not in business to be mentors, coaches, business managers, teachers, parents, etc. (all of which can also be helpful, of course).

That’s not to say that you can’t actively seek representation at some point in your career. But if you’re not already successfully self-promoting, your career is probably not at that point.

The Importance of Being Grateful


I ran into voice actor Steve Zirnkilton at the Cracking the Voiceover Code event in New York last month. Steve is a very busy actor, with extensive promo credits on all of the major networks and half of the cable channels.

Despite his long list of top-notch clients, Steve will always be best known for voicing the opening lines of the Law & Order television series – arguably the best known voice over script in popular culture (other than “In a world …”).

So, back to the event. After meeting him, I uttered the words that I knew were a mistake the moment they left my mouth: “Hey Steve, could you give me 10 seconds of `In the criminal justice system, … ?’”

Steve is a gracious guy. He politely delivered the opening lines of Law & Order on demand, as I’m certain he has been requested to do as party entertainment 10,000 times before. I squirmed.

A few days later I was emailing with Zirnkilton about something else, and felt the need to apologize for the request I made of him at the event. His response was humbling, and all voice actors should adopt this “attitude of gratitude” about what we have chosen to do for a living.

Excerpted from Zirnkilton’s email response to my apology:

“ … and when it comes to people asking me to do the Law & Order opening. No matter how many times I'm asked to do it, I can look at it two ways. I can think of myself as a circus monkey doing tricks, or, I can look at it for what it really is; how incredibly lucky am I that I am in a position to deliver the opening line of a television show known by millions. I promise you I'll never get tired of that!”

It’s All a Matter of Scale


How many times have you been reminded about the need to keep current numbers, hard facts, and metrics as it relates to your Voice Over business? Hmmm?

In my blog a couple years back, I wrote about The Pareto Principle. That’s the rule of 80/20 that keeps coming up everywhere. As the Pareto Principle applies directly to your VO business, for example, it’s likely 20% of your marketing efforts results in 80% of your jobs.

In a blog that I penned titled Metrics, Numbers, Stats, I talked about the need to quantify your auditioning and booking results.

Another of my articles delved even more into this -- The Patterns of Pace, which has a great link embedded: 50 Top Tools for Social Media Monitoring, Analytics, and Management.

My point here is that numbers are a blessing, a curse, and a hard taskmaster. However, your VO business cannot survive unless you “keep” them.

Did you know for instance, that Nevada is the largest producer of gold in the world? They do it with massive mining techniques. In a picture of the front-loader they use, people are itty-bitty standing under the gigantic shovel.

The easy-pickings like the Comstock Lode and other surface veins of pure nuggets are gone. Nevada gold mining today produces one ounce of gold by digging up 30-tons of soil from enormous open-pit mines, then leeching it with caustic cyanide.

Yes, we talk about “mining” for prospects, but let’s face it, the big fat mother-lodes of choice clients are gone. Plan for big numbers to achieve small results.

How many times have you heard the sage advice that you get one booking for every 85 auditions? (Or is it 150 now?)

Open Mouth, Insert Voice


Folks, this is going to be a full-blown rant. Prepare yourselves!

Not too long ago, I went to a recording studio for a regular client. This particular project called for a round-robin recording session of both grown-ups and kids. We were called into the studio in various combinations, which is a nice change. That is, until I got in the booth with one of the grown-ups.

For considerations sake, let’s call him John. John is the type of voice actor we all have worked with before: he can’t keep quiet. Not won’t, can’t. John has this clinical condition that he is so desperate to impress and entertain everybody that he will blurt out a joke or comment in response to anything that anyone says, no matter how banal or cliché. And when some people laugh (I hope they were just trying to be polite) John thinks, "They love me! I’m gonna give 'em more!" And the cycle continues.

What did he say exactly? Once he started his standup routine, I quickly drowned him out, so I honestly don’t remember much, except for one thing: he called New Jersey “the armpit of the universe.” Oh, did I mention that this studio was in New Jersey?

What was that? How do I know he wasn’t from New Jersey? His Australian accent gave him away.

Even if I wasn’t from New Jersey, I still would have been peeved. You just don’t go around putting down people or places, especially when you have the potential to offend the client, the talent, and the owners of the studio.

So what did I do? I kept quiet. As much as I would have liked to put this gentleman in his place, we were in front of new producers, children, and my #1 client. And you know what? He probably would have thought that I was being a jerk. Sigh.

End of rant.

The Voice Over Performance Formula


Soon after entering the world of voice acting about five years ago, I unfortunately became afflicted with “Gear-it is.” It is a terrible, debilitating disease that has driven many an up-and-coming voice actor to madness. What is truly sad about this disease is that it is easily preventable with the setting of appropriate goals and priorities when starting a voice over career.

Gear-itis generally starts with the first trip to Banjo Center. (Names and locations have been changed to assure anonymity.) The aspiring voice actor purchases a modest microphone (the Acme F100s) and an inexpensive audio interface as recommended by the uninformed frustrated drummer who works days in retail to pay his rent.

Inevitably, after purchasing the Acme F100s, the voice actor reads an obscure blog post from an actor in Sydney, Australia (or Sydney, Nova Scotia -- doesn’t matter), that he or she used to own an Acme F100s, but the new Aardvark TLM 108 kicks the Acme’s butt, and no one should ever consider the F100s.

And another voice actor is infected.

I am still in recovery. I can tell you that an important step in my beating this disease was learning the VOICE OVER PERFORMANCE FORMULA:

A GREAT PERFORMANCE RECORDED ON A GOOD MICROPHONE WILL BEAT A GOOD PERFORMANCE RECORDED ON A GREAT MICROPHONE. EVERY TIME.

I think it would be possible for a talented voice actor to win an audition recorded into the microphone that came with a 40-year-old Realistic tape recorder, if the performance was good enough. Alternatively, a mediocre performance recorded through a Boyman U88 will never land the job.

What's Your Motivation?


The voice over industry… we all know that it is a place to make some fast and easy money with minimal investment. I already have a voice! I know how to read! Audacity is free! I can buy a USB microphone for less than $100! What more could I possibly need?

Ugh!!

Here are two things I’ve been hearing and seeing quite a bit lately. First, people in desperate situations hoping that becoming a voice over talent will be the answer to all of their financial troubles. Second, people commenting (complaining?) about the amount of money they need to invest, in an effort to be or remain competitive.

At one time or another, nearly all of us have dealt with financial or other challenges. At the time I left college and went to recording school, I owned: a small pickup truck, a mattress, three milk crates (which held my clothes and some books) a small refrigerator and not much else. I lived in a crappy apartment with two (usually intoxicated) roommates. I rented P.A. equipment to set up live shows and saved every extra dollar of income (sometimes a dollar was all that was “extra”) to start buying microphones and cables. Slowly, I began to acquire some critical pieces of gear. I was passionate about what I was doing and wasn’t going to let my circumstances get in the way of achieving my goals.

Tips for Growing into the Growing Audiobook Field - Part 3


NOTE: This is part three of Johnny's article. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here.

TIP NUMBER FOUR: MORE RESEARCH -- KNOW WHAT YOU'LL NEED

If you are good at this genre and want to do it, you are going to need a place to work. Many narrators today work out of home studios. If your home has some extra space, you may be able to create a usable studio. It is true that some producers will call you in to their studios and have you record there -- with the benefit of having a director and/or engineer. But recording in the producer’s studio is becoming less and less the norm. If you are willing to work only on evenings and weekends, many sound studios will rent studio space for very reasonable amounts during those periods. Look into that.

Tips for Growing into the Growing Audiobook Field - Part 2


NOTE: This is part two of Johnny's 3-part article.   Read Part One.   Read Part Three.

TIP NUMBER TWO: RESEARCH SOME MORE -- TAKE A CLASS

If you want to be an audiobook narrator -- study acting. Actors must always be in learning mode. Our field of study is humanity and the human condition. That takes more than a lifetime to master, so get to it. When people learn that I am a narrator, they frequently ask if I am still acting! Yes!!! Audiobook narration is an organic acting experience. You have a guide -- the author. You have an instrument -- you. You have an audience. You create the roles -- every character -- and you control the pace and vocally create the author's world for your unseen audience. Even in nonfiction, you must “play” the narrator. If you’ve never tried an acting class, look into one for beginners. There are various sorts. Some are better than others as a foundation for voice over. I suggest one that focuses on scene study or improv, but any acting-based class is good in that it gets you out of your own head and makes you create. Voice-training classes? Sure! Audiobook narration classes? Absolutely!

Tips for Growing into the Growing Audiobook Field


NOTE: This is a multi-installment article. Stay tuned next week for Part 2.

Audiobook production and sales have swelled lately. Which is, indeed, swell for the similarly growing number of actors and hopefuls wanting to work in the genre. Because, as in any acting field, typically there are more actors than acting job opportunities.

So every actor needs to explore every avenue available to his craft – especially considering that not every actor is a good match for audio book narration, even within the community of trained voice over artists. Those of us who narrate audio books regularly look askance at the idea that "anybody can do it" – pretty much the same way that all trained voice over artists feel when ordinary people say anyone can do other VO genres. We all know it’s not true that just anyone can walk in off the street, step up to a mic and do what we do. In fact, if the idea weren’t so naïve, it would be offensive. While the ability to read and speak the English language is a fine thing, it is not enough to succeed as an audiobook narrator. In fact, neither is VO training in most other genres sufficient. It helps, but audiobook narration and acting is such a specialized genre that it requires additional insights and skills, even a different sort of demo.

10 Common Voice Actor Mistakes


Just as important as knowing WHAT to do in the VO business, is knowing what NOT to do! Being aware of the biggest classic mistakes ahead of time can really help you avoid them.

Some of these admonitions may seem obvious and common-sensical, others are basic concepts you can adapt to your style and business plan.

Do yourself a favor, print this out and post it in a place where you’ll see it often.

By-no-means-complete, but essential list of VO mistakes:

1. Being undecided about your rate. Do your research; many of us charge too little for our services. Or we are apologetic, defensive, blustering, …. When your rates are competitive and you present them confidently, an issue might not even arise. But if you must get into a conversation about rates, come prepared!

2. Believing all you need is an agent and you are in the black. Of course, a good agent is invaluable in obtaining auditions for you that you’d not get yourself, but they will never be your only source of sessions. Look for contacts, keep networking, continue to market online and in person, and DO that cold-calling you’ve been putting off. Don’t rely solely on your agent.

3. Making your voice over demo when you are not yet ready. You need practice, you need coaching, you need to know your voice and what it can do. In short, you need to be really prepared. If you pay for that demo too soon, it can be wasted money. And no demo is forever. Be ready to go through the process as often as the market demands.

Are You "ACTING" Like a Professional? (Part 2)


Note: This is part 2 of 2 of Robert's article. Read part 1 here.

If you ask any voice over artist or actor, they will no doubt TELL you that they are a “professional” and that they act professionally at all times. But I know, from my own observation, many of these people are kidding themselves. I’ve lost count of how many actors and voice over artists I’ve seen repeatedly shoot themselves in their foot.

My playing a lead role in a short film recently gave me a chance also to play casting director. This came about because one of the main actors dropped out of the production, so the director asked if I could fill the role with one of my actor friends. That experience was more valuable to me than shooting the film itself!

I posted a notice on my Facebook account, requesting anyone who was experienced and interested to private message me. I cannot tell you how many people responded by PUBLICALLY posting that they were “interested.” That was already a strike against them, as I specifically asked that they message me. Narrowing the candidates down further, more than few of the responses were from people who were not “experienced.” In fact, they had never acted before!

Three responses in particular illustrate what I mean by “shooting yourself in the foot.” One said he would love to do the part but his “daughter had a playoff game that day.” Well, so did mine, and I missed hers. I know actors that have missed funerals for an acting role. The phrase “the show must go on” has long survived because it is so true.

What Your Client Doesn’t Need to Know


My voice over coaching students often ask me: At what point can they start calling themselves a pro? I could give a long answer to that short question, but here’s a hint:

You’re a pro as soon you start acting like one!

Even when your coach believes you’re ready for the Big Leagues, you could still come across as an amateur. One of the biggest signals of amateur standing is when you disclose information clients don’t need to know, or don’t care about.

Here’s the top thing your clients don’t want to hear...

1. “Please bear with me. I’m new at this.”

In our business, there’s no on-the-job learning. Never sign up for something you cannot handle. If you’ve auditioned for a job and were selected, the client assumes that you are qualified to do that job. Playing the newbie card won’t gain you sympathy, won’t get you leeway or anything like that. It will simply undermine the client’s trust.

Professionals are competent and confident. Their equipment (both vocal and technical) is reliable and they’re able to produce studio quality audio. Pros don’t make excuses. They don’t need to.

Running a close second among topics to avoid is...

2. Personal problems.

Life can be tough, unpredictable and stressful. Being self-employed is both an escape from such stress and a cause of it. On the upside, a freelancer is always in the driver’s seat, and with practice you can hold many plates in the air at the same time. If the load become troublesome, don’t burden your clients with your problem. The same holds true if you are going through a rough time as a parent or partner. Whatever Life throws at you, leave your troubles at the studio door and get to work.

Are You "ACTING" Like a Professional?


Note: This is part 1 of 2 of Robert's article. Part 1 deals with the definition of "professional" and part 2 deals with the voice over casting experience.

I am asked quite often by my peers if I would recommended them to my agent for representation. I do not take this request lightly, because I cherish the relationships I’ve established with the professionals that represent me. I will not refer someone unless I am absolutely sure they are a “professional” also. The reason for this is that my referrals are a reflection of me, and I do not want to waste the precious time of the people that represent me -- nor erode their trust in me -- by sending them someone who is not a “professional.”

What does “professional” mean, anyway? Does it mean that the person is a member of the performance union? Does it mean that one gets paid for their work? Does it mean they are top notch in their craft? Well, for me, all of these things are part of what it means to be a “professional.”

But to me, the word means much more. I need to know, for sure, that people I recommend to my agent are not only at the top of their craft, and getting paid for their gigs, and not doing a bunch of “freebies”, or bottom of the barrel “cut-rate” gigs, but also that they take the acting/voice over profession seriously; as seriously as their family, or their “day” job. If they don’t, I won’t recommend them. Why is that? Because I am told time and time again by my agents that I need to be a “professional” at all times when representing the Agency at auditions.

2014 Is Coming, Are You Ready?


2013 is almost gone. Crazy how the older one gets, the faster time flies.

How did you do as a voice talent this year?

* Did you hit all your financial goals?

* Upgrade your equipment?

* Are you better at your craft?

* Did you strengthen your marketing presence?

Edge Studio students are taught that success in our industry takes more than time at the mic. It’s not all fun, but it can all be interesting, if you have a plan.

Did you have a plan of any kind, or did you just slam into things sideways, hoping gigs would automatically spill out of your phone?

Unfortunately, that’s the case with many people, maybe most. And for everyone, there’s always something more you can do to make the most of your time, and fill in the gaps.

So it’s already time to make your New Year’s resolution. Don’t let 2014 become a year where you didn’t accomplish anything of note. Think now about how to schedule your cold calls, write that blog, and perform better. Stop the vicious “I’ll do it tomorrow” cycle, and truly advance your voice over career.

To get on the right path, you need three things: a Mission, Goals, and a Plan. These may sound similar, but they are distinct and, in my opinion, critical to your success as a voice talent.

The difference is that a Mission is broad, while Goals are focused. A mission declares who you are, what you want, and what you will do to get what you want. It is the changeless core that will allow you to withstand change. Writing a Mission Statement is a challenge and takes time. It forces you to examine who you are and your values. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Debunking the myths about online casting sites - Part 3 of 3


Note: This is part 3 of 3 in Graeme’s Pay-to-Play article.

The purpose of this article is not to lobby in favor of the online casting services, nor to malign them. Voice actors are entrepreneurs, and like all small business people they need to make business decisions based on what works best for them in their specific circumstances. But let’s ensure that these business decisions are being made on the basis of correct information.

(In the interest of full disclosure – I’m a paying member of both websites. Edge Studio has good relationships with both organizations, and recommends both.)

Voices.com – Myth #3

“The SurePay escrow fee screws the voice actor – it’s the actor that ends up paying voices.com the 10% commission. Why should I pay an expensive annual membership fee AND pay commission? It’s double dipping!”

This is probably the most contentious of the myths about voices.com. And the one I personally find hardest to rationalize. But, I'll give it a shot.

First – technically the actor doesn’t pay the 10% escrow fee. When submitting an audition, the voice talent puts in their price and the voices.com platform adds 10% to the estimate. Your price is $300? The client sees $330. Really, this isn’t much different from the union voice over world where frequently the casting director or agency lists a project on the casting breakdown at $XXXX + 10% (with the 10% intended for the actor’s agent). Do you feel the 10% escrow fee makes your estimate uncompetitive? The fee is added to every submission. And see the Myth #2 blog entry from last week – voice seekers aren’t typically making casting decisions based on price, anyway.

Debunking the myths about online casting sites - Part 2 of 3


Note: This is part 2 of 3 in Graeme’s Pay-to-Play article. To read part 1, click here.

The purpose of this article is not to lobby in favor of the online casting services, nor to malign them. Voice actors are entrepreneurs, and like all small business people they need to make business decisions based on what works best for them in their specific circumstances. But let’s ensure that these business decisions are being made on the basis of correct information.

(In the interest of full disclosure – I’m a paying member of both websites. Edge Studio has good relationships with both organizations, and recommends both.)

Voices.com – Myth #2

“Jobs are always awarded to voice talent who quote at the very bottom of the suggested price range for the job; and often to talent who undercuts the budget and does it for even less than the bottom of the suggested range.”

According the David Ciccarelli, CEO of voices.com, the average price paid by the voice seeker for projects in the $100-$250 budget range is $170. For projects in the $250-$500 budget range, the average paid is $355. This trend continues through all budget levels. Voice seekers want excellent work at a fair price, from professionals. They use online casting sites because of their efficiency, and to get exposure to new talent they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to find. They aren’t necessarily looking for the lowest price.

The key lesson:

- Quote a fair price for the job. Lowballing isn’t going to win the project.

Stay tuned next week for Myth #3!

Graeme Spicer is Edge Studio's Managing Director, and he teaches Business and Money 101.

Debunking the myths about online casting sites - Part 1 of 3


As a working voice actor and as a member of the leadership team at Edge Studio, I have the chance to speak with lots of interesting people with many different roles in the voice acting community. As best as I can, I also keep up with the many blogs, social media groups, bulletin boards and podcasts about our business.

I like a good controversy as much as the next guy. And I’m willing to listen to and support many points-of-view, so long as the differing POVs are informed (i.e. the facts are being presented accurately and in a fair context).

It is upsetting when the facts on an issue are misrepresented, or just plain inaccurate. In my opinion, this happens frequently regarding the big two online voice over casting websites (or “pay-to-play” sites, as they are often called) – voices.com and voice123.com.

Some in the voice acting community disparage online casting sites as having a negative influence on our industry. I feel that some of their concerns are valid. However, my best estimate is that more than 50,000 voice over projects will be cast through voices.com and voice123.com in 2013; at a conservative guess of $300 as the average value of a project, this means that $15,000,000 in voice over projects are being cast on these two websites alone. I know of voice actors making six figure incomes from these sites. Love them or hate them, online casting sites aren’t going away.

Is there a voice over agent in your future? by Elena Berger


So, you’re considering signing with a voice over agent. You’ve been freelancing, getting your feet wet and generating your own voice over bookings, and it seems time. From now on, your new agent will do all the leg work. You can simply sit back and wait for the phone to ring. You’ll watch your rates increase, and the number of auditions will grow exponentially. Your career will explode. All you need is that agent.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but that isn’t reality.

First off, odds are that you, like many self-represented VO artists, are non-union. Most VO agents are union-franchised and cannot work on non-union projects. This is a big consideration when signing with an agency. The job pool shrinks.

On the other hand, union actors have entrée to better-paying jobs. Rather than earning a one-time buyout for a non-union spot, union actors are paid residuals, which over the life of a commercial can be quite substantial. Also, VO talent agencies have access to projects and opportunities that are usually not available to unrepresented VO actors. This long list of union gigs includes commercials and campaigns, animated features, animated television series, audio books, and more.

Even so, an agent isn’t a magic wand, nor does an agent have one. If you decide to opt for representation, you’re essentially taking on a business partner. For any partnership to work best, the partners need to collaborate -- each pulling their share of the load, each focusing on what they do best.

In a voice over situation, here are ways to enhance the relationship.

Let your agent take full responsibility for what they do best.

Mea Culpa by Graeme Spicer


In my role as Director of Strategic Planning at Edge Studio, every day I get the opportunity to speak with voice actors about their victories and their frustrations. And as a working voice actor, I’m guilty of many of the things that I warn others about. Seems to always be the way.

Earlier this year, I did a session for a production studio located in my hometown – a midsized Canadian market. I have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the Creative Director – he has been feeding me work consistently over the past couple of years. I love this client.

The session went smoothly, and when I followed up to ensure he had everything he needed, he replied yes, and that the commercials had already been completed and approved. As he generally does, he graciously sent me MP3 copies.

In a moment of temporary insanity (I can think of no other reason to explain my irresponsibility), on a Thursday I posted the radio commercials to SoundCloud and on my Facebook page. "So proud of this work for my hometown, etc."

I knew better.

Not six hours later, I received an email from my client stating that his boss had just received a concerned email from the ad agency, and asking me to immediately remove the post from Twitter. The campaign didn't launch until Monday! Ironically, I hadn't tweeted the ad. However, I had completely forgotten that when I post to SoundCloud or Facebook, I have a setting clicked somewhere WHERE THE CONTENT IS IMMEDIATELY CROSS POSTED TO MY TWITTER ACCOUNT.

I was upset. I like to pride myself on being the easy guy to work with. Always cooperative and professional. I couldn't believe that I had acted with so little respect for my client, his client, and their client's client.

A Few Tips on Planning your Voice Over Career


  • It is always important to review the basics. So wherever you stand in your career, please don’t jump ahead here. You may even want to go back. Don’t skip any of these phases in your voice over business development.
  • Define small steps, not big leaps. This way, if you fall behind, you can more easily get back in gear. Otherwise, if you fall behind, it will be more difficult catch up.
  • Be realistic: We’ve found that things take 50% longer than most voice over artists expect. The good news is, that gives you time to maneuver.
  • Don’t try to do all this in your head. Either write it down or type it up. Then review your business plan every quarter. Adjust it as necessary, still as a plan. Not on a whim.
  • One plan does not fit all. Once you have pulled your thoughts together and “formalized” them, you’ll have a course of action that is ideally suited to you and your goals. A way to maximize your potential, enjoy life more, and make more money.

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