Whether you’re just starting out or an established Voice Over Artist, chances are you’ve dipped your toes into a Pay-to-Play (P2P) site or three. They’re called Pay-to-Play because Voice Actors must pay in order to have access to jobs. P2P sites like Backstage, or Voice123, are big search engines for people looking for voices, and they’re a great way to gain experience and clientele for Voice Actors. P2P sites like Voice123 are one of the many tools you should have in your toolbox for getting clients . It should not be the only one. (For ways to increase your bookings, click here.)
Wanna Play? Gotta Pay: How to get the most out of Voice123
Voice Actor Boot Camp
When you’re at the beginning of your VO career, P2P sites are great for training and perfecting your system: You’ll practice your performance skills, recording skills, editing skills, put rates together, and be exposed to what clients like and don’t like, along with the types of budgets you’ll typically be working with. If you’re on the right P2P site, you’ll also get the opportunity to audition, a lot, so you’re going to get tons of practice.
Before you sign up to any P2P site, make sure it has jobs that are a good fit for you: If you’re in Europe or Latin America, Voice123 may not be the best fit because a) it’s based in the US, and b) most of the jobs require American accents. Occasionally clients will request foreign accents, but these jobs are far and few between (though they are becoming slightly more frequent). Ultimately, you’ll have to evaluate whether the site is worth your time and money for the number of auditions available to you.
So Long, Farewell, I’m Taking This Voice Over Job Off-Site…
One of the reasons I really like Voice123 for Voice Actors is that you’re allowed to take the transactions with clients offsite. You get to communicate with your client directly via email, you can bill, get paid, send new demos, send cool work, share when you’ll be unavailable – all directly, no middlemen. This keeps you in control of the relationship. This also means that if the client doesn’t pay you on time or (worst-case scenario) bails, you don’t have any recourse. While not common, it can happen.
Clients Pay Less When You Take Things Off-Site
Another reason I like the option of taking the transaction off-site is transparency. If you say the job costs $500, that’s what the client pays, and what you’ll receive. If you choose to stay within Voice123 for bookings, the client will pay the site the agreed-upon fee, plus 10% more in an escrow fee. So if you charge $500, the client will end up paying $550 – $500 to you, and $50 (or 10%) to pay you through the site (this is the escrow fee). The site will hold the money until you do the job and send it to the client. Once the client approves the job, the funds get released to you. It provides some payment security for you, but on the flip side, the client is paying more, AND you’re not in control of the relationship… (Note: Voice123 is encouraging on-site bookings these days. How aggressive they’ll be about this remains to be seen.)
Breaking down the breakdowns
When it comes to auditioning, pay careful attention to the breakdowns (Voice Over industry jargon for the description of the project). A few things to look out for:
- Number of desired proposals: If a client is wanting to receive 200 proposals, I guarantee you most of those will go unheard. So try to audition for smaller pools of talent.
- Number of received proposals: Ideally you want to audition when fewer people have submitted a proposal. Avoid overages (when the client wants 50 proposals and has received 85), because that’s usually a situation where the client didn’t close casting and they won’t get through the backlog.
- Time left to audition: You don’t want to start the audition and run out of time to finish it up. Always look for the time left to submit your voiceover audition, and take your time recording auditions.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find Me My Niche
Pay close attention to the description of the audition. You’re looking for the kind of voice and kind of read that the client is requesting. For example, if I saw something that said bubbly mom, that would not be me. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I’ve never booked a proper “mom” job in my career, so I’m going to skip it.
At first it might be hard to know what you’re a fit for. Over time, as you’re auditioning and practicing reading scripts, with coaching class and bookings, you’ll start to figure it out and find your niche, and you’ll be able to manage your energy and audition for things that you’re actually right for.
Experimentation: Pros + Cons
What if there’s a really high budget and it’s not exactly your type of voice, but you want to audition anyway. Who knows? They might like you. Experimentation is usually great, right? Not so fast. The problem is the way that Voice123 rates Voice Actors in relation to others
Likes And Ratings
Ratings on Voice123 indicate the Voice Actors who get the most likes on their proposals, in percentage tiers. You’ll see things like “top 30% of Voice Actors”, “top 20% of Voice Actors”, “top 10% of Voice Actors”. But if you experiment too much and go out of your casting, there’s a higher chance that your proposals won’t be liked and you may get downgraded from the tier you were in. If, on the other hand, you’re not in the top 30%, then you’re not actually rated, so you have much more leeway to experiment away.
As with anything, exceptions abound: When I’ve done castings, if I love the voice, I don’t care about the percentage. The person is right for the job, I hire them. Period.
The percentage tier could simply be a way for Voice123 to control the number of people auditioning on jobs, so do take it with a grain of salt.
A note about breakdowns and gender: A lot of times clients will ask for both male and female voices (I’ve started to see requests for NB voices too). I can tell you from experience that when you see two genders, male usually wins the job. I’m not suggesting this is always the case, it’s just often the case.
So, if you have a lot of auditions and a particular audition is receiving a lot of proposals and you’re not sure, or not quite a right fit for the job, and you see male or female, and you’re female – you may want to pass and spend your time on an audition that’ll be a better fit. If you’re male, go for it!
Do’s & Don’ts of Auditioning:
- Don’t say your name at the beginning – unless you have an unusual name and you want people to know how to say it
- Do say “two takes” if you’re doing two takes (this way they’ll know there’s something else coming)
- Do record two takes if it’s a short script, or they ask for it
- Don’t record two takes if it’s a longer script
From Audition To Portfolio
Voice123 is a great repository for demo material. One of my favorite things about Voice123 is that at the bottom of a lot of voiceover breakdowns you’ll see the sentence “Allow Voice Actors to add this audition to their public portfolio.” If it’s followed by a yes then you have permission to use that audition as a demo!
On some breakdowns, that line won’t be there, which means the audition is confidential (usually the client will also say so in the description). If the line is there though, save those auditions, save those scripts, put them in a folder, and later on you can rework them and convert them into your new Home Brew demos.
The demo section on Voice123 has wonderful tools to help you tag your demos so that you’re easier to find in the search engine. Take your time and look this over. Having more demos is good, so keep collecting that material. Your goal is to have a lot to showcase to clients because you want to be able to have them choose one of your samples as a reference.
The last part of the Voice Acting breakdown to pay attention to is the budget. Some clients will set a budget of how much they’re willing to pay, and some clients will look for a quote from you. Keep in mind that cheaper is not always better. If you’re looking for something special, do you always go for the cheapest option? It’s good to get familiar with industry rates. This is something I talk about in my business book and I will write another article about rates, so stay tuned for that.
All Pay to Play sites have a profile section and this is where you can inject your personality. A lot of people just write their achievements and leave it at that, but having a sense of who you are – especially when you’re not there to sell yourself – is a great way to create a connection with the client. People want a real human connection. They want to know who you are, especially if they like your voice. So don’t be afraid to inject your personality into your profile. And if you don’t have achievements yet? Definitely let your personality take center stage!
All Roads Lead To Coaching
With a crowded marketplace like Voice123 it’s easy to get discouraged. If your particular niche isn’t trending right now, or you’re not booking, don’t despair. The best thing you can do for your career is always coaching. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a coach. I’m saying that because I was coached as well, and because the people I know who are booking a lot have been coached too. No one does this alone. Finding a coach that will help you find your niche will help you build the business you want.
Dot The I’s, Cross The T’s, And Send It!
You’ve gone through the site, tagged a handful of demos, added some personality to your profile, and recorded the perfect audition. Now it’s time to send the proposal! This is the part where you:
- Write your email
- Share what gear you use
- Let them know if you’re using Source-Connect.
- Optional: Share the environment you’re recording in if it’s a professional setup. (Have an iso-booth? Say so!)
If you have anything in particular that you want to state, your proposal is the place to do it. By having something in writing, you have protection. Let’s say the client wasn’t clear about the length of the script they posted and you quote a certain rate, but what if the script proves to be double the amount? That rate isn’t going to work. So you might say something like, “This rate is for X amount of text. If you have more, I will have to reconfirm the rate.” Taking this step is insurance: It’s a way to help you out of a tight spot if you need it later on.
Pay To Play: One Of Many Options
Pay to Play sites are a great way to get your feet wet, get some experience, and build your clientele. Don’t make P2P your only source of clients though. You should also have an outbound marketing strategy. You want clients to be coming from multiple sources because if something happens, like Voice123 goes down or they change the algorithm, you’ll have other client sources. And in the meantime, work on your craft, find your niche, and don’t wait to shine your light!
Want some VO advice you can hang your hat on and act on TODAY? Don’t do it alone, piggy back on my success by joining my “Everyday VO” newsletter here to get exclusive tips from me, so you can do VO the Clever Way, Right Away. My name is Lili Wexu. I’m an actress, a voice talent and an author. To learn how to make $$$ in VO, read my e-books about Voice Acting & Announcing.