The familiar faces and voices on voice over casting websites often appear and reappear whenever new websites launch. This stands as testimony to the hard working, entrepreneurial spirit of online voice actors.
It may be easy to conclude “because these voice actors are everywhere online” that “they must be working”, but this is not the case. Voice actors often pay the most attention to the websites they have the most success with, or even clients garnered from websites. This makes sense, but with all the voice casting websites in existence with varying stories of success and failure you may wonder, “How the heck do I know, before spending time or money on a website, which one will be worth my time?”
Let me tell you based on my experience at several websites. You have to think deeper than what you read online. Remember the playground you are working in: Tech companies. Your industry connections offline may know nothing about technology and avoid websites based on hearsay, making “offline work” another playground to find work in.
Five Key Indicators
5) SEO Ranking
Keep in mind Google saves searches, which may affect your search results. But if you do a search with the mindset of a ‘Google searcher’ and type in “hire professional voice over talent online”, and the homepage of a website is nowhere to be found (or you see no ads from the company), you can trust the same will apply to your website profile.
It is not easy to rank well in Google. It takes an investment both in knowledgeable staff, marketing, and advertising. If the website is paying for it, that is a good sign.
You can also trust with a high SEO Ranking that they have someone in marketing who understands what he/she is doing. It helps when you have a profile on a website and the right people are marketing the website.
I have met many in the voice over business, who think, “Because I am experienced in voice overs and have connections I can start a website and it will be instantly accepted.” It would be nice if that were true, but even the least tech savvy person picks up a mobile device, or uses a laptop, and has high expectations it will work a certain way. There is a big difference between a website that serves as a “contact portal” and a “casting website”.
Casting websites usually invest in offering a new technology for casting to streamline the process and they pay attention to things like “responsive web design” or “user experience and optimal viewing across devices”. Things like slow website speed, or being difficult to view on mobile devices, may be a sign the website’s IT is lacking. Contact portals are really just storefronts for businesses.
Even though I come from a voice actor and business background, I have learned over the years if I could only hire one person in a casting company it would be a “full-stack developer” (ie. People who understand every layer of building websites).
3) Business Model (ie. How you pay, they pay you, amount of jobs etc.)
I am not sure when or how it happened, but people generally believe, “Websites should always be free!”, even though web developers are paid very well. In the case of voice overs, many voice talents often tell me, “Talent should not have to pay until they actually book work” and “Paying upfront is a rip-off.”
Either way, nothing is free when it comes to casting sites because no business runs on “happy thoughts”, alone. But what voice actors should think about when it comes to “business model” are these few questions:
- “How does the website’s business model affect how much I will end up being paid?”
- “How many jobs a week do they offer for my voice?”
- “What is the average weekly rate for these jobs?”
- “Does the website discern between voice talents, if one talent starts to book more work than others, while others do not?”
Why these questions? We are in an era of “UBER everything”. The online casting business has reached a point many voice actors said they wanted 10 years, “The cream has risen to the top.” Just like 25 years-ago when I started, online casting is tougher to break into because there are so many skilled voice talents booking work across platforms. It is not the all-inclusive party it used to be. Websites have to worry about providing a quality experience from start to finish. Voice talents are part of the equation.
2) Communications offered on how to use the website
There are some websites who still firmly believe telling people, “Why you do it”, is enough to explain the website’s casting process. People today need more. They need to know “why” and “how it works”. Such information is usually offered through FAQ pages or social interactions, but if the website just seems to let people guess what to do, you can assume the people posting jobs are also guessing. This will lead to possible negative client interactions, which means jobs lost due to confusion.
The most important #1 thing to me: Transparency
Transparency is a funny thing, especially in the United States, which is a “customer service first” society. We all want transparency, but when the news is bad, we complain about a company or accuse businesses for providing poor customer service.
The fact is, if a business tells customers bluntly, “We work this way”, and customers respond, “I do not like it”, that is a pure sign the customer is in the wrong store. The odd thing is that the more a company shows its level of transparency, the more you will know whether or not you will like the website. This makes the decision to use it much easier.
There are some signs a website in the voice over industry is lacking transparency, and given the voice over community is relatively small even on a global basis, this applies mainly to voice casting sites:
- You have no idea who works at the website or who owns it
- Contradicting corporate communications
- No presence in online communications
- When asked questions, they respond truthfully, for better or worse.
Think about it: The more transparent a company is about how they operate, the easier your decision will be as to whether or not you should use it. Even if you dislike what they say, at least they did not try deceive you.
After all, in a career with so much rejection day-to-day it is better to be able to handle bad news than crave being told what businesses think you want you to hear.