Friday, May 25, 2007

Evolution of the Voice-over Career.

It’s my guess that most voice artists start their careers telling prospective clients that they do everything – commercials, corporate narrations, on-hold messaging, documentaries, audio books, you name it, they can do it. I know I did. As I got more comfortable with my new life (which is a vastly different life in so many ways from my old one as a biology professor, researcher and museum curator), I discovered what worked well for me, what I was particularly good at and what I did less effectively, as well as what I really loved and what I hated (but will still do, so I won’t mention the kinds of VO work that I don’t enjoy). Pretty early in the game I was marketing to several niches, particularly to the medical and museum narration market, while continuing to approach advertising agencies since I have always loved the energy of commercial voice-overs (and there is much less editing required). I don’t expect to give that up, ever. I guess you could say I was specialising from the beginning, while still offering to do everything.

For several months now one of my voice-over friends, whom I will not name to protect his privacy but who is doing spectacularly well himself, has been “on my case” to ramp up my targeted marketing and focus on one market. This is something that is working well for him in a very specialised VO niche. I have had my doubts about it because there are several areas of VO in which I am very happy. These have always been medical, health care and museum projects, and increasingly I have begun to focus on dialect work. And on top of that, my dream is to produce a kick-butt character demo and get a TV series. Will I really prosper more if I choose one of those to the exclusion of the others? My friend insists that this doesn’t mean giving up the other areas, at least not permanently – that they will take care of themselves and opportunities will arise to work in those areas as well. And probably all I really have to do is lead a double or triple life – have several websites, each one marketing to one of those specialties. With business cards and other marketing materials to match. One for the medical and health care market, one for museums, one for characters & dialects. And then there’s MCM Voices itself. Not to mention my consulting business to keep avian bloopers off the large and small screens. I confess it is tiring just to think about it. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about it – and my friend would not agree with me about leading a double life – time spent in one area means less time for the other.

No matter what the niche, it’s important to identify its hub. Last weekend, I came across an article in a business journal that spelled it out for me for one of my markets. It even told me the number of employees at each of the agencies mentioned. All of them were large companies, which told me that my usual approach of sending an email of introduction wouldn’t work, because once a company is over a certain critical mass you need to pick up the telephone in order to find who you’re looking for. Of all the agencies mentioned I had only heard of one, a company I had emailed over a year ago (without results). I started my telephoning campaign with that company, was transferred to the appropriate person’s voice mail and left a message. While I was dialing the next company, the first one called me back and enthusiastically asked me to send her my materials, which I have now done. Two calls exhausted the telephone-shy MCM, so I put off the rest of the calls until yesterday. All but one company had a live receptionist, and each receptionist transferred me to the appropriate person, and none of those persons was in, so I left a detailed message in my loveliest voice and marked my calendar with the date on which I will try them again, after the holiday weekend has come and gone. So there, I have made a superhuman (for me) effort in one of my targeted areas.

There is no question that success requires a concentrated investment of time and marketing effort. I don’t know where my various paths are going to lead and when or whether or exactly how to focus the effort. For now I'm still focussing on all of my favorite niches. I guess I’m waiting for a sign and am just not quite ready to make a decision. I like to think that I’m in a period of “creative chaos”, and that soon the way will become clear. I dare say you’ll read about it here when it happens.



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