5 Biggest Mistakes Voice Talent Make

I’ve worked in voice over for 30 years and can honestly attribute the longevity of my business not to my supposed “talent” but to the failures of other voice actors.

Today, as I get ready to launch my first full online course I am prepared to share with you, NOT the secret of my success but the secret of other VO talent’s failures.


These are the top 5 biggest mistakes voice talent make.

 

5.  They Don’t Have a Financial Plan

We are in this business to make a living, but many voice talent have no plan for what to do with the money they’ll make or what to do when those inevitable dry spells spring up.

You should develop a plan to save at least 10% of what you make, every year and never touch it. As your business grows so will your “rainy day fund”.

I do this on 2 levels: (1) a corporate level. My corporation saves 10% of what it makes annually for any emergencies that may come up and in case business slows down dramatically, it can still pay my salary. And (2) on a personal level I save 10% of the salary that my corporation pays me in my personal savings account.

I’ve seen many voice talent not save for a raining day and have to go back to a “day job” and ultimately having to close their voice over business completely.

You should also consider getting an insurance plan for “salary replacement” in case you get sick, injured and can’t work.

With a proper financial plan you will be able to operate your voice over business with confidence and not be constantly wringing your hands waiting for the next job.

 

4.  They Don’t Have a Distinct Brand Identity

As more and more voice talent are competing for attention from engagers, what do you do to stand out?

In my course I suggest voice talent have a graphic artist on their speed dial. Use that graphic artist to help you develop a “look” for your brand. Pick colours, fonts, graphics and an avatar to build your brand identity. As part of that process, design a logo to bring the look of your brand all together.

The colour(s) you pick should somehow represent you. If your name were Rose what colours might you pick? Are you a serious voice over actor or do you do more fun things? Choose a font that represents who you are and make it memorable.

Now use those brand identifiers on everything you do from your website, to fridge magnets, to flyers, to post cards…wherever.

The key here is to stick to it and don’t change it every month or year. It takes time to build up a visual brand. Any changes you make should be small. Do you remember when AT&T changed the font of their logo? Or when Twitter gave their little blue bird a trim? Probably not. But everybody noticed when The Gap changed their logo, it was a disaster.

Create a distinct brand identity and stick to it.

 

3.  Thinking “Social Media” Is a Marketing Plan

I agree the tools are there and we might as well us them, but thinking that social media is a marketing plan is a huge mistake.

Some voice talent mistakenly believe that socializing in Facebook groups filled with other voice over talent will somehow get them work! You need to go where your customers are and socialize there.

Outside of social media you need to plan “real world” marketing initiatives. For example mailing out post cards with a compelling offer that represents who you are. Maybe send your demo out to production houses on a branded USB thumb drive.

What kind of non-social media marketing have you done lately?

 

2.  Not Charging Enough

This is really one of my biggest pet peeves these days, voice talent not charging enough for their services.

Most of us do this for a living, but when I see people selling their voice on Fiverr I feel sorry for them. There is absolutely no way they’re going to survive or build their client list that way.

As soon as you start selling yourself for cheap, those clients will always see you as cheap.

Don’t fool yourself, when those clients need a real voice for a project with a substantial budget they will not turn to you, because in their mind you are the “cheap” talent. Their perceived value of you will be $5…and not $500 or $5,000.

Understand your worth.

 

1.  Not including Usage When Quoting

Something I see all of the time are voice talent who forget to include the usage of their voice when quoting for a job.

If a commercial for a furniture store you voiced will be running for the next 6 months, it will be generating revenue for that furniture store for those 6 months. You need to calculate what that’s worth to you and your client and include it in your price. If it’s a national commercial you need to charge more than if it was just a regional or local commercial.

“Buy-out” is something else to seriously consider when quoting for a job. If you are hired to voice a regional restaurant commercial for say $800, buyout. But then another bigger restaurant chain wants to hire you exclusively for a year and is willing to pay you $1,000 a month you would need to turn it down because you wouldn’t be able to offer exclusivity, since you allowed your voice to be bought out for that other restaurant. If you agree on a buy-out make sure that you charge accordingly.

There are many factors to consider when quoting for a job don’t forget to include the usage.

 

Conclusion!

I realize that by giving away my secret, it may affect me in the short term, but I also believe that by doing it I am helping to raise the bar for all voice talent equally and that will be good for all of us in the long run. Don’t make these mistakes and we’ll be on our way!

What other mistakes would you add to my list?


David Tyler
David Tyler

 

David Tyler is a voice talent who works out of his home studio in Montréal Canada. He is the national voice of CTV News. He has recently begun teaching everything he knows about voice over success in an online course. Get the details here: www.UltimateVoiceOverGuide.com.

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m new to voice over and definitely do not wish to sell myself short.

  • Great list of “mistakes” here. In any group/profession that attracts “artists” for their talent, there are always a lot of “slackers” who think it’s just about being brilliant, or as soon as they get an agent, work will magically flow to them. For most, doing the day to day “hard work” of building a business is just too boring. As in any entrepreneurial venture, a good dose of Business 101 is needed, and fortunately for many of the seasoned pros in VO, the tenacity to actually make a business viable in the long term is too daunting for many. But it is unfortunate that with the way business revolves around the internet today, there are too many situations (like Fiver) that poison the water hole for the herd.

  • Jessica Lohmann

    YES, YES and YES! “What kind of non-social media marketing have you done lately?” You ask? I pick up the phone.

    There is nothing better for a B2B freelancer than personally talking to your potential clients… It takes time to establish a list and work your way down that list, but it is worth it! And don’t just stop at one call, it takes several calls and/or mails. They have to be reminded you’re out there, so Inform them of new projects a few times a year and don’t forget to send them Christmas/holiday greeting cards either! Happy Marketing!