Voice Over Education Blog

Business & Money

Unraveling the Mysteries of Online Casting

Let’s play a game.

I’m going to say a word (well, four words actually) and you’re going to tell me the first thing that pops in your head.


Pay-to-Play sites.

What was the first thing you thought of?


“They’re awesome!”

“I never book anything on them. What am I doing wrong?”

“Non-Union scumbags. They ruined the industry.”

“It’s the only way I know to find work.”

“What’s a Pay-to-Play-Site?”

Let’s say one of the above more or less line up with your initial reaction. How closely do your feelings about Pay-to-Play sites align with reality? Do your assumptions and expectations match the truth?

Some voice actors assume their only way to get into the voiceover industry is to use Pay-to-Play voiceover sites.

Some veteran voice talents whose voiceover careers pre-date the advent of the Pay-to-Play business model assume that if you use Pay-to-Play voiceover sites to find work, you are unethical.

What goes into a cover letter? A letter. Not a form.

In a previous article on EdgeStudio.com, we advised “15 things n-o-t to say in your voice over cover letter." The list is based on actual letters received from, mostly, voice actor hopefuls. Thing is, you can't write a thoughtful letter just by avoiding gaffes. What should your cover email include, and how should you say it? Here are some suggestions.

Note that in offering these suggestions, we'll also suggest some further things to avoid. Not that they're so wrong as most of the things in our first list. In many cases, they're practices that add to the length of your letter without adding to its substance. Or, as your high school English teacher would have said, they're just "wordy."

Also note that we're talking here about a "cold call" letter, one to someone you haven't already met. In cases where you've already started a conversation, you should be able to continue that conversation where you left off. But many of these rhetorical principles will still apply.

Get to the point!

Specifically, tell your reader the upshot of what you've learned about them, not how you learned it. Tell them how you can help them, not just what you do.

Consider, for example, the statement, "I see from your website that you produce explainer videos." A statement such as this is even found in some templates that otherwise might be good examples.

What's wrong with it?

Your reader knows what's on their website. They know what they do. And (just between us) it's no longer very impressive that you thought to visit them online.

Instead, get to your benefit. What did you learn about them that you are especially qualified to handle, or even fix?

Instead of saying:

Does a voice actor need insurance? Yes, and no. And Yes.

You're trained, your voice-over career is off to a great start, and things are going well. There's nobody else quite like you. You've landed a healthy supply of steady voice-over clients, or are clearly starting to. What could possibly go wrong?

Indeed. One never knows about the future. That's why there is insurance. Are you (as they say in the insurance game) hazardously "exposed"? Whether your voice-over business is long-established or just getting started, it is, in fact, a business. And any business worthy of the term "professional" should be protected by appropriate coverage.

But for a freelancer, and voice actors in particular, exactly what does that mean?

PLEASE NOTE: We are not tax or insurance experts. Our intent here is only to raise your awareness. Before making any major decision in these areas, please fully inform yourself or consult a qualified professional.

There are various types of insurance to consider. Some, you might consider a necessity. Others, maybe a luxury. But you should consider them. Because insurance is a luxury only when you will never need it.

Health insurance.

We know what this is. If you get seriously ill, the insurance pays all or part of your healthcare expenses. And, in protection of the insurance company's own interest, they will probably pay for some preventative care and checkups.

Since your business IS you, it's natural to think of health insurance as a necessary business expense. But for you as a solo worker, it's actually a personal deduction, a special one for self-employed people. That affects how you may deduct it, and what other taxes it may or may not affect. For example, the deduction applies to your various income taxes, but not to your self-employment tax. There are also considerations as to how much you may deduct, and what business income it may be deducted from.

What non-DAW software do you use? And should you?

In a recent episode of Edge Studio's TalkTime! telephone call-in discussion, we focused on "Non-DAW" software (Digital Audio Workstation). In other words, apart from recording software, what programs do some voice-over professionals use, why do they use them, and how do they like them? During that hour of chat, our callers covered a lot of ground. In fact, it was surprising to see how many options they came up with. Here's some of what was covered.

The full hour discussion can be heard in TalkTime! archives at EdgeStudio.com:
Go to edgestudio.com/talktime/archives and scroll to March 18, 2018.

We can't possibly review all these programs, and we DO want to stress that almost none of them are required to be a voice actor or run your voice-over business. In many cases, if you don't already know a program or have a good use for it, it might be a waste of time. Often it's more productive to do what you do best, and hire an accountant, or a web designer, or a graphic artist for special skills.

But, if only to expand your awareness and a place to start, here are various types of non-DAW software you might consider. We've included some notes based in part on the comments, but this list is not at all complete, and neither are our comments.

Website building and management

What's new in the swinging, swirling world of Income Taxes?

Whatever you think of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that became U.S. Federal law in December (you know, the one officially called "To Provide for Reconciliation Pursuant to Titles II and V of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018"), it's likely to affect you for better or worse. While it provides widely publicized tax cuts, many deductions will be disappearing for the solo entrepreneur and others. We're talking about deductions that will disappear from your next return. Your return due April 17, 2018, might be your last chance to take them.

Their relevance to you depends on your particular situation, such as whether you're paying off a mortgage, but we'll bet there's something on this list that you should learn more about, or discuss with your tax preparer and/or financial advisor.

We're not tax experts or financial advisors ourselves, so in pulling together this information, we've relied a lot on an article published by Freelancer's Union, " Grab these 20 freelance tax deductions before they are gone." Also bear in mind that rules and information change over time, so before making any decision, be sure you're up-to-date with fresh information from authoritative sources. For example, we found some very out of date information at IRS.com. That surprised us, until we remembered that the real IRS site is IRS.gov. You'll also find old documents at IRS.gov, but they are plainly labeled "archival or historical."

Personal Exemptions. What the increased standard deduction giveth, other provisions taketh away. After this year, you won't be able to deduct the $4,050 each in personal and dependency exemptions for your family members.

Are you unintentionally rude or crude to people ... too?

Ours is a people business. Not only do voice actors have to know how to sound friendly at a moment's notice -- in virtually any context, they have to actually be friendly in working with others. Or at least, as the saying goes, be able to fake it convincingly enough that the other person will never know.

Yet, from time to time, we meet and hear from people who say things rudely. We assume it is usually unintentional -- that the person just didn't think about what they said. Probably all of us are like that now and then. In fact, it's an annoyingly easy habit to fall into. So let's think a bit more about it now.

For example, we received an email from someone wanting to be removed from our email list. But rather than simply ask for removal, he mentioned that he'd spent most of his life at a mic, and didn't need to know more. What's more (he asked), how did we get his name?

It wasn't a nasty note. It just didn't show him in his best light, and it did feel like a kind of backhanded put-down. As for him, it doesn't really make us want to hire him as a voice actor. (Keep in mind, we hire tens of thousands of voice actors.) Further, apparently he doesn't agree that in VO and the rest of life, "learning never ends." Maybe he has no interest in getting hired or potentially generating favorable word of mouth. Even so, a much nicer approach would have been to thank us for providing our free information, and respectfully mention that his inbox is overflowing.

As for us, we don't spam. There are only two ways someone gets on our mailing list. Either a) they signed up for it, or b) they registered at our website to use our free voice-actor resources, where addition to our list is clearly disclosed.

The bottom-line lesson: Before speaking, pause for a beat. And during that moment, ask yourself:

Why wait for VO work?

Say "NO!" to New Year's resolutions. Instead make positive changes when you come across them. Why wait???? It makes no sense. Some examples from daily life:

  • You realize you need to pee. We don't mean to be indelicate, but didn't your parents once tell you, "You should have thought of that before we left"? They were right. Go now, rather than at some more awkward moment.
  • You have a good idea? Write it down. Or make a song of it that you can remember. Or send yourself a phone message. Anything but waiting till later. Odds are, you'll forget.
  • You come across a way to get more VO work. Why wait? Make it a "self-fulfilling" resolution by getting your rear end in gear now!

Let's look closer at that last one ...

How will you come across ways to get more voice work? The range of possibilities is virtually infinite. We can't predict which one of the countless ways you might encounter in the coming year. But we can help you seek and recognize opportunities that are suited to you, and expand the germ of an idea, and help you match yourself precisely to the opportunity.

There are lots of ways to get more VO work now:

Should you ever volunteer to do voice-over for free?

Here at Edge Studio, we've long made the point that a well-trained voice artist is already experienced when he or she produces a demo and enters the VO job market. Our course plan covers a wide range of script and directorial situation in the student's particular genre(s) or specialty, with comprehensive coaching and realistic performance situations, and what's more, we provide experience in business development and other aspects of our field.

Still, when starting your voice-over career, additional experience is almost always a plus. (In fact, it's a plus throughout your career!)

One way to add to your experience is volunteer work. But should you volunteer to do voice work for free? There are pros and cons, so read on...

Both schools of thought are valid. There are reasons to provide free services, and there are reasons not to.

Why you should not volunteer your services for free.

When are you done with a home-studio recording session? Part 2 of 2.

NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

Last week we reviewed what to do after the rare session at a client’s studio. Now let’s look at what you should do after a session at your home studio – 99% of most talent situations. Maybe the client is on the phone or another connection. Maybe there is a remote director. Or maybe your client is just listening-in as an observer or sounding board.

Even if (especially if) you’re working alone and largely self-directing, what all should you do at the end?

If you’re being remotely directed in your home studio, it’s the same situation as when working away: When the client is satisfied, the session is over.

But what you do next is somewhat different.

After a remote session, anyone can disconnect through a simple click, with little or no notice, and there may have no chance (or even desire) to schmooze. It’s not the same as when, in person, you must at least hang around long enough to grab your bag and put on your coat.

So get the “paperwork” executed before you record. If the hiring process proceeded too quickly for a formal contract, and especially if the client balks at signing a contract, you should have obtained an email from the client’s business email address that stipulates the details of the job, including your policy regarding revisions, script changes, etc.

Obviously, you can’t exchange physical business cards, so also get names and contact info before the session, preferably in an email from the client or producer. Otherwise, consider recording their contact details (including spellings) while you’re recording; it’s faster than writing.

When is your session at the client’s studio really done? Part 1 of 2.

NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

Sessions at a client’s studio (rather than your own home studio) are increasingly rare, but maybe that’s even more reason to review how to wrap one up. In an “away” situation, it may be your last chance to do everything right. Unless, of course, you DO everything right ... which will increase your odds of having more chances to come!

So, what should you do when your away-session is done?

The answer to this question depends partly on whether you’re being directed, even if the director is also the engineer or your client.

If the client is present (and/or client’s ad agency, etc.), that’s good. Even if the client is just tagging along, it’s good to have their immediate feedback, because they’re there to approve it. If they have any script changes, the voice actor can make them.

If the client wants to participate more actively, let them. (If the client is inexperienced at audio recording sessions, you might have to be a bit more diplomatic than if working with an experienced Director, but take them seriously. If you try to change them, they might hire another voice actor who is more welcoming of their input.)

Also, working with the client makes it a more personal relationship, which in turn increases the likelihood of having the client come back to you for future work.

Decades a lurker, radio drama comes back as a podcast.

To adapt a famous radio program intro, “Who knows what imagination lurks in the minds of humankind?” Without a shadow of a doubt, the listeners of radio dramas knew. And now, so do podcast listeners. The heyday of radio drama gave way to television drama, but the genre never entirely died. It survived here and there -- on radio, records, on-stage and the Internet – till now it has been coming back, in a big way.

Well, bigger. And it’s growing. It’s GROWING! We mean, it’s (SFX: EXPLOSION)...

In the 1960’s there was radio’s Firesign Theater, a comedy troupe delivering sophisticated absurdity on Los Angles radio stations, in an improvisational style but very carefully scripted. By the mid-’70s, Firesign’s four original performers had gone their own ways, but they also stuck together, performing on records and on stage now and then, in various formats, as recently as 2011.

In the early 1980’s, National Public Radio serially broadcast at least two of the first Star Wars stories, with their scripts greatly expanded to suit the extra available time, and in many ways even more vividly imagined. (For example, there was more character development and backstory, while the torture and garbage bin scenes were as gruesome as the listener’s imagination will allow.)

At the same time, Bob and Ray were on the radio, with their own brand of radio “drama” in the form of short skits about the loony family of “Mary Backstage, Noble Wife.” (The title itself was a play on an old radio program about marriage amid the footlights, called “Mary Noble, Backstage Wife.”)

Also about that time, Garrison Keillor was introducing America to Lake Wobegon and other dramatic characters residing on "The Prairie Home Companion." Keillor has retired, but the program continues to feature radio dramas, complete with live sound effects, using techniques still very much alive in the film industry’s Foley studios.

Should voice actors accept buy-out jobs?

Ring, ring goes your phone. Or “bloop,” you’ve got an email from a prospective client. It’s an interesting job. But either explicitly stated, or reading between the lines, you see that it’s a buyout – an “in perpetuity” job or audition. No residuals. Theirs to use forever, in any way they wish.

Still, it’s an interesting opportunity. Should you be interested?

The obvious answer is, can you make your next mortgage payment and if not, will this cover it? At the other extreme is if you’re a union member and may accept this type of work only on union contract terms.

But there are many genres in which SAG-AFTRA or other union membership is not relevant, and situations where your actual existence is not at stake. At what point are you selling a valuable service for a simple, fairly valued price, and when do you begin to sell your soul?

The issue of “in perpetuity” has been discussed among talent almost in perpetuity itself. There is no absolute answer. But here are some questions to ask yourself before asking a potential client about this. Our point in these is that it’s not a black-and-white issue, and there might be self-limiting factors. Above all, our point is that you should think about it fully and carefully.

Is exclusivity also an issue? It’s not the same issue, but it is related. A voice actor could voice an ad for one advertiser, then for a competing advertiser several years later, without anyone objecting or listeners even noticing. But if sold “in perpetuity” and the two campaigns thus might run simultaneously, that potentially becomes a problem. Understandably, future prospective clients might at least want to have been warned. If you always sell your voice in perpetuity, the universe of non-conflicting clients begins to close in on your career.

Is it a genre or market where vocal identity is not a significant issue?

Laws you should know about before you start podcasting

Are you thinking of producing a podcast? 57-million Americans listen to podcasts every month (that’s 23% more than last year!), and although the lion’s share of that is driven by major TV networks (such as ESPN) and traditional radio outlets, you don’t have to be big to get on the bandwagon. Technically it’s easier than ever go from wannabe to podcaster in a couple of hours.

But hold up for a few hours more. You’ll be competing with heavy players, and the average podcast listener follows only five shows a week, so it’s helpful to adopt “best practices.” One of those practices is an understanding of podcasting-related legal issues. What’s legal to say and do?

This is not legal advice for any jurisdiction, and the rules and laws, etc. vary from place to place. We encourage you to investigate critical issues further, to find what details apply to you and your needs. This list may not be complete. Our purpose here is just to suggest issues some people overlook and to give you a place to start.

We don’t mean to be discouraging. Rather, we want to help you pursue your podcasting ambitions with energy and confidence.

Rather than give you legal advice, we advise you to obtain expert legal guidance, or at least educate yourself a bit – browse the Web and read up on the subject before proceeding on what might be mistaken assumptions. There are some helpful links in the text, and at the end of this article. In particular, whether or not you intend to grant some form of re-use rights to your podcast, you should review the Creative Commons Podcasting Legal Guide.

So, what are some of the legal issues that every podcaster should be aware of?

Copyright of works by others

Will you use copyrighted recordings in your production? In most cases, you’ll need appropriate permission – first.

Should you “watermark” your VO audition?

In the voice-over world, “watermarking” is the anti-theft practice of ensuring your audition is unusable for final production. Voice actors do this to prevent the client from using their audition without telling them ... and more importantly, without paying them. Loosely defined, watermarks are implemented in various ways -- such as adding an undesirable sound at some point in the audition, deleting a moment of sound, omitting or misreading part of the text, degrading the technical quality, or some similar measure.

Watermarks were a trendy practice back when online auditioning was a new phenomenon. Is it still a good thing to do? Was it ever? And what alternatives are there when submitting an audition to a voice seeker you do not know?

(And does watermarking apply only to auditions? Probably yes. Once you’ve landed the client, you shouldn’t have to even think about watermarking the final production, ready for approval. By then, you should have their identity and pedigree, some sort of written agreement (at least a detailed email).)

Let’s review various watermarking options. But be sure to keep reading, because these are NOT necessarily recommended!

  • Add a beep now and then, or at a critical point (e.g., the phone number or product name). Or any inappropriate sound.
  • Mix in a copyright notice at a low volume.
  • Drop out the sound in significant places.
  • Misread a word or phrase, or web address, or transpose a couple numbers in the phone number.
  • Degrade the technical quality, for example by adding hiss or overcompressing the file (that is, by making the file size too small, not audio compression).

You get the idea. Such a list even acquires its own set of tips, such as:

Does your VO website’s SEO meet 2017’s best practices?

In late 2015, we wrote extensively on “How to SEO your VO website, PDQ.” We still recommend that article, but, as our friends at HubSpot remind us, a lot on the Search Engine Optimization landscape has changed in even the short time since. One thing that hasn’t changed is our advice that you should market yourself using the full range of marketing materials and practices, and not obsess over where you appear in search engines or artificially building out your website. But here is where to focus to give your search presence its best shot these days.

The impetus for this advice comes from the publication of yet another piece on SEO, this one from HubSpot. It’s a free download, called “18 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2017." Since it's available to anyone (if you fill in their form), and much of our previous SEO series still applies, we’ll just add our two cents to update the VO perspective.

After all, the site of a typical SEO talent is not the same as other websites, and neither is VO talent’s situation.

Let’s remind ourselves of those issues first.

Your website services multiple functions, of which is to "position" you (what part of the VO marketplace do you serve?) and to reinforce your brand "personality" (are you fun, ominous sounding yet fun to work with, science-oriented, whatever), but most of all, your website is to present your demo(s). As such, even a simple one-page (not even a mobile-friendly scrollable page) will suffice, with contact info, of course. More important than length and content is that your first be impression be aces and same for your demo.

Now let’s look at some of those 18 SEO myths and see what’s changed in the past year or two.

Would you hire yourself full-time for a one-time VO job?

If our headline seems a bit jumbled, it’s meant to be – because we’re about to take a skewed look at an article in Forbes magazine, called “Ten Things I Look for When I’m Hiring.” The article is about what to look for when hiring a full-time white-collar employee. Most voice-over jobs are on a freelance, contract basis, not full-time. Hence the jumble. How relevant are these criteria to your work as a voice artist? And how well do you fare with regard to these attributes? The answer to both should be, “very.”

First, some caveats ...

Choosing a tax preparer for your voice-over business

Some people have a head for rules and numbers, . . . some other people don’t -- but manage to deal with them anyway, . . . and other people are better off assigning such work to someone else. Taxes are like that. For your voice-over business, you probably keep the books yourself. Do you prepare your taxes yourself? Would you have more time and/or peace of mind if you hired a tax preparer or accountant? Or will software do the trick?

We’ll let you evaluate the software approach, as there are reviews online, and trial periods or even free name-brand tax and accounting products to choose from. To those resources we’ll just add a few observations:

  • Sometimes the software is free for the Federal tax return, but you then have to buy the State module to complete the task.
  • Bookkeeping software, which can interface with the publisher’s tax software, is helpful only if you use the bookkeeping. If you fail to maintain your computerized records on a regular basis, it won’t magically automate your tax return, and your job at tax time will be even bigger.
  • Popular software is designed to be used by an entire range of people and/or small businesses. As voice talent, you are in a particular kind of business, and may need to make some judgments related specifically to the VO or acting industry. Does it know, for example, that you can deduct a suit purchased for use on-camera, but only if you NEVER wear it otherwise?
  • There may be additional forms or taxes related to your business. These may or may not be included in the software package. In fact, you might not even know about them till rudely informed by a penalty notice.

We think we have the above examples correct, but as with anything we say here regarding taxes or the law, consult your financial or legal advisor.

Which brings us back to our topic: How do you find such an advisor?

Talent agents, casting directors, etc. Who does what?

What’s the difference between a talent agent and a casting director? Once you know the difference, it becomes very clear. But many people new to the acting business, and even more of those outside of it don’t know the difference. So, in a few words: Essentially, a talent agent is hired by the actor to represent the actor. The actor’s agent looks out for talent’s interests, working on their behalf (the very definition of “agent”). A casting director is the agent of a producer (or an ad agency, etc.). They are hired by the producer or the end-client, and their allegiance is to that side of the production chain. But is the distinction really so simple?

No. We’ll need a few more words ...

First, let’s clarify the word “agent.” In the business of product marketing and marketing communications, there are all kinds of agents. There are casting agencies, advertising agencies, media agencies, marketing agencies, sales agents, and so on. Some agents have virtually nothing to do with voice-over. For example, although a sales agent (also known as a sales representative) might state the need for a commercial to help their selling efforts, they are unlikely to be involved in casting.

So who does decide what voice talent to hire? The answer to that is “it depends.”

Talent Agent: As noted above, the talent agent’s client is the talent, and they generally handle more than casting. They also negotiate for you, oversee contracts, handle invoicing and payments, etc. And yet, although the talent agent is paid by talent (generally via commission), they must also satisfy the producer to do their job successfully.

VO freelancer, do you know about Freelancers Union?

SAG-AFTRA, Equity, and other unions are important to many actors. As a voice actor, you should at least be aware of them. And as a freelancer, you should also be aware of Freelancers Union (freelancersunion.org). A non-profit organization founded in 1995 as “Working Today,” it now has reportedly more than 300,000 members nationwide. And it states its goal as to benefit the almost 54 million independent workers in America, by making “freelancing better now and in the future through joint benefits, live member events, expert guides, and online networking opportunities.”

Working Today morphed into Freelancers Union in 2001 (by the way, there’s no apostrophe in the name), to provide group healthcare insurance to people who didn’t have access to employer-based insurance. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, Freelancers Union no longer has group plans but does have a private exchange that offers some individual healthcare coverages through major suppliers in most states.

The organization continues to offer various other coverages, including Dental, Term Life, Liability, and Disability. They also have a Retirement Plan. (We don’t necessarily endorse these or any specific Freelance Union program or proposal. You might find better or more economical plans elsewhere. But they are worth considering.)

Membership in Freelancers Union is free. The only fee connected with enrollment is optional if you enroll in an insurance program.

There are other benefits to joining, including a Member Directory, discounts on products and services used by freelancers, member-to-member discounts, connections to services, a newsletter/blog, social networking online and through meetups, guides and templates, and legal advocacy.

Want to make more of your time? Make a list!

Lists are important to voice-over in many ways. You encounter lists in copy, and there are various ways to read them. There are lists of characters you may want to develop. Don’t just keep them in your head, write them down as you watch their characteristics grow. In a past article, we’ve even advised making a list of things you want but don’t really need or can’t afford – for some of them, somehow, writing them down decreases the distractive yearning. But most of all, making a list will help you make the most of your time. For example ...

Schedule your day. What’s a schedule if not a list? Not only will it help assure you do everything that needs doing, but it will also remind you that there's more to do when you've gone long. If you're going long on one scheduled task, it's generally time to move on to the next. (That is unless it's a job that needs to be recorded now!) Be sure it includes some time each day for practice.

Make a list of what you’ll practice at. Practice isn’t just for novices. A professional VO talent should practice every day, for many reasons. To help keep the voice and breath in shape (preserving and enhancing range, stamina, limberness, etc.). To explore potential new genres and specialties. To critically listen and spot bad habits (and good ones!) and much more. On the subject of practice, see these articles by Edge Studio coach Danielle Quisenberry (“Improve Your Daily Practice”) and former Edge Studio coach Kristin Price (“How to Keep Your Sanity”). [As well as one we've added since: "Up your game: What to include in your daily VO practice." -- Editor]

Follow your VO passion? Or love the one you’re with?

Do you dream of doing voice-over work? Should you pursue your passion? Let’s talk about that, starting with the other extreme.

If anyone knows about occupations that are not typically considered “dream” jobs, it’s actor, presenter and voice talent Mike Rowe, the host of TV’s “Dirty Jobs.” Although those pursuits may not be dream jobs, the people he profiles seem pretty enthusiastic about their work and are careful to do it well. Rowe has noted their dedication. It’s why he says, “Don’t follow your passion.”


Rowe has been making this point for years. He says, “'Follow your passion' is terrible advice.”

We hasten to elaborate – he means it’s bad to give such advice to someone you know nothing about. People shouldn’t follow their passion blindly. His point is that only being passionate about something does not necessarily make you good at it. Passion alone is okay for a hobby, but not necessarily for making a living.

Using his own life as an example, Rowe relates how his grandfather was a natural carpenter. Mike took all the shop classes in school, but by age 16, it had become obvious that he didn’t have his grandparent’s genius with lumber. On seeing a project that Mike brought home from wood shop, his grandfather advised him, “Mike, you can still be a tradesman, but only if you get yourself a different kind of toolbox.”

So, as an adult, after trying his hand at various types of performance jobs, he found a trade that he does excel at: Narration and hosting (although he characterizes his on-camera “Dirty Jobs” role more as being a stand-in for the viewer).

Financial planning for the voice-over professional

Where will you be financially 10-20-30 years from now? If you’re a U.S. taxpayer, you may or may not be confident that the Social Security system will still be around when you retire. In any case, it’s best to think of Social Security Income as a foundation, not your full retirement income. So you most likely want to do some additional retirement planning. Whatever your age, the time to start on that is now.

We’re not financial advisors, except to advise everyone to educate themselves on financial planning issues, or seek the advice of a reputable expert. If you use an accountant for your taxes, they may be able to advise you, but be aware that a tax preparer may or may not also be a financial planner. Or they may not view overall planning to be what you hired them for, so they might not give you important guidance unless you ask. Discuss that with them – ask if there is anything that you as a solo practitioner should be aware of, or should be doing, that they just assumed you have covered elsewhere. Meanwhile, here are a few more planning tips ...

Reading is good. With the Internet, self-education has never been easier. But so is self-inundation. Be sure what you’re reading is current, and that the author has no particular axe to grind. For example, the array of self-employed and employee retirement account options (IRAs, 401(k), etc.) has changed over time. So has your age. For a dry but dispassionate overview or your options, breeze over to IRS.gov, starting at www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-sponsor/types-of-retirement-plans-1. And while you’re there, click around further.

How do you spell voice-over? Does it matter?

In the voice-over world, what does it matter how you spell stuff? We’re audio, right? So who cares how anyone spells the word “voice-over”? Should it be “voiceover,” instead? Or two separate words, as we’ve spelled it at EdgeStudio.com for many years?

Well, we care. So, as you may have noticed over the past couple months, we've revised our spelling of “voice-over” in new content. (Existing content will take a while to convert.) It’s a decision born of long, painstaking research, involving, ... uh ... involving a phone call to our web developer and a quick check of a few dictionaries. Sorry we didn’t check with you, but let’s do that now ...

First, it may help to review the typical evolution of a “combination” word in the English language. Usually, it begins as one word modifies another, and the combination becomes popular for whatever reason. For example, the term “solid state.” When semiconductors were invented, this combination was coined to describe them, and the term was spelled as two separate words. But when used as an adjective, that can get confusing. Suppose you’re talking (to quickly grab a tortured example) about a really well-planned, publicly-owned transportation system within, oh, Nebraska. You might say the region has a “solid state railroad system.” In other words, it’s a robust system, within that state. It has nothing to do with semiconductors, but the phrase could be mistakenly read that way. So, to avoid confusion, two-word phrases often gain a hyphen over time. That way, if you refer to a “solid-state railroad system,” it’s clear that the trains are somehow run electronically.

A Strategic Approach to Voice-over Industry Networking

Some years ago, Edge Studio conducted an informal survey of our newsletter readers, asking their most effective strategy for securing new clients. “Referrals” came in first. Second was “Networking.” Actually, these amount to one and the same.

How well do you network among voice-over industry professionals? Successful networking requires as much effort as anything else in your career-development activities. By networking more purposefully, you’ll increase your odds of success. Here’s how:

To continue reading, click here.

Personal networking might be the oldest communications media of all. In Neolithic societies, one social group would seek out another social group, if only to find suitable spouses for their daughters.

Networking has become quite a lot more sophisticated since then (and a person might argue that today it’s the sons who often need special promotional effort), but a person who metaphorically makes arrowheads still often benefits from meeting someone who has an oversupply of feathers and shafts.

So it is in the voice-over industry. No person can meet every casting need, so by connecting with other voice-over talent, you may eventually find yourself being referred for a job that another voice actor isn’t right for, or doesn’t have time to do. And vice versa.

But, all too often, people just show up at a schmoozefest, chat a little, exchange cards, and fail to keep in touch. No real connection. It amounts to a little bit of effort, producing even less results.

So here’s the plan ...

Approach Networking with Purpose.

A Strategic Approach to Voice-over Industry Networking

Some years ago, Edge Studio conducted an informal survey of our newsletter readers, asking their most effective strategy for securing new clients. “Referrals” came in first. Second was “Networking.” Actually, these amount to one and the same.

How well do you network among voice-over industry professionals? Successful networking requires as much effort as anything else in your career-development activities. By networking more purposefully, you’ll increase your odds of success. Here’s how:

Personal networking might be the oldest communications media of all. In Neolithic societies, one social group would seek out another social group, if only to find suitable spouses for their daughters.

Networking has become quite a lot more sophisticated since then (and a person might argue that today it’s the sons who often need special promotional effort), but a person who metaphorically makes arrowheads still often benefits from meeting someone who has an oversupply of feathers and shafts.

So it is in the voice-over industry. No person can meet every casting need, so by connecting with other voice-over talent, you may eventually find yourself being referred for a job that another voice actor isn’t right for, or doesn’t have time to do. And vice versa.

But, all too often, people just show up at a schmoozefest, chat a little, exchange cards, and fail to keep in touch. No real connection. It amounts to a little bit of effort, producing even less results.

So here’s the plan ...

Approach Networking with Purpose.

Got a VO swipe file? Your secret source of fresh ideas!

Cartoonists do it. Copywriters do it. We don’t know if educated fleas do it, but we do it. So should you. Let’s talk about building a swipe file.

A swipe file is a collection of thoughts, ideas, observations, practices, whatever potentially inspiring information you happen to encounter in your daily activities. You’ll probably have no particular use for the thought or observation at the time you save it, but since it’s interesting or different, it might be useful sometime in the future. Make it your constant pal.

Something “interesting” could be anything – voice, a mannerism, promotional idea, turn of phrase, occasion, situation, tactic, motivation – simply add it to your file. Then, when you’re stuck for an idea, it’s the first place to look. You’ll probably find a bunch of prototypes you can swipe, improve and adapt to whatever need is at hand.

If the idea of “swiping” an idea doesn’t appeal to you, you can call it a “tickler” file, or an “idea” or “inspiration” file. But really, it’s not simply about “swiping,” per se. It’s about freshening your memory, getting out of a mental rut, planting seeds, and synergy. It’s about adaptation and creativity. It’s about taking an existing idea (or more than one) and combining or modifying it to make it your own. And yes, sometimes in a pinch, it may remind you of something to copy.

Even Newton needed an apple.

Whatever, when you add to and draw from your swipe file regularly, it becomes a treasure trove of fresh ideas. Also review your file from time to time just for the heck of it; with the different perspective and a more open mind, you may notice yet another seed for a new idea.

Here are some ways to use your resource:

How to avoid procrastination -- The answer is finally here. Part Two.

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

Last week we sorted through some common reasons people have for procrastinating when it comes to furthering – or beginning – their voice-over careers. But recognizing “reasons” for what they may really be – excuses – is only a start to the solution. Here are some practical things you can do, based on way, way too much practical experience.

Procrastination can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you’re not prepared to make your move – particularly if you (and your demo coach) are not able to produce a competitive demo that expresses your particular capabilities, goals and personality – it’s good to wait. A poorly produced or lackluster demo, or one that doesn’t truly represent your current capabilities, can destroy a career before it gets rolling. But meanwhile, keep at the process of developing your skills. Make that first demo a goal. The fact that you’re not ready to record it should not be an excuse to take things easy. After all, having no demo will also keep your career from getting off the ground. That would be bad.

Ready, Set, Ready, Set, R... How to stop procrastinating. Part One of Two.

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

Just about everybody procrastinates at something, to one extent or another. Including voice talent at all levels of experience and stages in their careers. What have you been putting off? Do you have good reasons for delaying? Sometimes there are some. But are yours really good reasons, or just excuses? If the former, when does a delay turn bad? And if the latter, how can you get off that dime and start making more dollars?

What are we talking about really?

If you’re experienced talent, maybe you’re putting off freshening your demo or expanding your genre capabilities. Or, you’re coasting on your current client list, you’ve been putting off plans and activities for finding new clients. It would be wise to start. New-client marketing can boost your career, or improve the quality of your client list, or readily fill the hole when a longtime client goes away.

If you’re a budding talent, maybe you’ve put off making your first demo. Have you become a perpetual student? In VO, as we say, “learning never ends.” But learning alone is not a VO career.

Or maybe you’ve pulled the trigger but delayed doing your marketing homework. A voice-over career is (roughly) 20% recording, 80% business activities. Don’t put off the latter. Unless you’re doing the business stuff, you’re either very lucky or probably don’t have a sustaining career.

Or maybe you’re still eyeing the possibility of a voice-over career, but haven’t begun to work with a coach.

Let’s take these in reverse order. What are some excuses, and solutions to them?

EXCUSE: I don’t have time for voice-over training. I have a full-time job and/or other responsibilities.

A checklist for DIY SEO’ing your voice-over website. Part 3 of 3.

NOTE: This is the third in a 3-part article. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

In previous posts, we talked about how (and why) to make your website more interesting to search engines, in order to turn up higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). We also cautioned about heeding some of the SEO advice you’ll find online, as some of it is outdated and doesn’t reflect some of the major search engines’ current practices. And we noted several sites that do have good advice worth following.

Now let’s take a look at specific steps you can take to optimize your site, things that won’t quickly be outdated.

NOTE: Remember that optimizing your own site is only one of the three important SEO components. The other two are cultivating inbound links, and social-media presence. See Parts One and Two regarding those!

Website SEO

Start with the basics. Have a plan to expand your site, but don’t begin by tasking yourself with a big project. Priority #1 is for you to have a site that will speak quickly and clearly to your prospective clients about what you do, what benefits you offer, and easy links to download or play your demo. This can be accomplished with merely a home page, a bio page, a link to your acting and/or VO resume in PDF format, and a contact page.

NOTE: SEO is important to all search engines, not just Google, Bing and Yahoo. But, since Google holds 2/3 of the U.S. market, and a comparable share worldwide (including China’s Baidu and Russia’s Yandex search engines), we’ll focus on Google’s practices here. The principles are generally the same for other major search sites.

If you haven’t yet built your site:

What goes into Search Engine Optimizing a VO website? Part 2 of 3.

NOTE: This is the second in a 3-part article. Click here to read Part 1, and Part 3.

In our last post, we introduced the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for voice talent websites. Now that we’ve explained generally what “organic SEO,” is, why it’s important, why not to obsess over it, and things to watch out for, let’s look at specific concerns.

What are the elements of organic SEO?

Organic SEO rests on three legs:

  • The content of your own website. How it’s organized, what it’s about (including the presence of keywords), and some of the content-laden HTML codes within its source code.
  • Links to your site from other sites of value. Just having a fair number of legitimate inbound connections is probably of value to you – it suggests that other people think your site is important. But the focus of those other sites is also relevant.
  • Social media. For example, you might regularly participate in forum discussions (if the forum is publicly accessible, a search engine most likely catalogs it). Or you might have a blog. Or you might have a professional Facebook page. Or you tweet, etc. Whatever works for you. If it relates to your voice-over services, it reflects on your site. And just as important, it makes you directly visible to prospective clients.

You can pursue these tasks in parallel, or you can do one, then start on the other. We suggest you first focus on your website, making sure it’s every bit as professional-looking and easy to use as it should be. If it’s not yet ready for prime time, attracting people to it via links and social media could be counterproductive.

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