Rank #1: Updates to SurePay and Fees
Shared success for both our talent and clients has been the foundation of Voices.com since day one. Now, we’re excited to announce some improvements to our payment structure that will enable voice talent like yourself to gain more control of your earnings.
In this episode, David walks us through Voices.com’s payment service, SurePay, which grants our voice talent the peace of mind to start recording with the knowledge that they’ll be paid for their work in a timely manner. David also explains some challenges with our current payment structure and introduces a solution that will provide you with increased flexibility and transparency to control how much you get paid, and how.
Learn more about SurePay, the payment service powering our marketplace.
Explore the Voices.com rate sheet.
About The Voices Experience: The Voices Experience is presented by Voices.com. Produced and engineered by Randy Rektor.
Hi, David here, the founder and CEO of Voices, the website that helps you find voiceover work. And as you know by now in each episode, my role is to be your guide, sharing the history of the industry as well as our company, while, at the same time giving you a behind the scenes, look at how things work here at voices.com. Now it’s that behind the scenes look mostly about how they worked in the past. Today, we’re going to be talking about how it’s going to be working going forward.
So for today’s episode, we’re going to cover a number of topics really all around SurePay. You probably gathered that from the title of the episode, but we’re going to cover understanding SurePay and its benefits to you. What’s working in what isn’t, I’m going to describe two scenarios that I know you’re going to be familiar with because they’ve been pretty difficult to quote around, and then we’re going to cover the fix. Really? What is our solution and how it’s going to provide you with more flexibility, some improvements to the rate sheet we’re making. In short, helping you get paid more, and then finally some ways that we can grow together. So that’s the plan for today’s episode. Buckle in.
Well, hopefully by now, you’ve come to recognize that voices.com really aspires to be the fastest, easiest way for clients to hire voice talent. We’ve strived to become that global marketplace for everything voiceover, all the different applications and it’s amazing. We’ve been used by the world’s most trusted brands, Shopify, Microsoft, Hulu, GoDaddy, Cisco, The Los Angeles Times. There’s so many amazing clients that have chosen to entrust you guys with their scripts, their brand, as you bring those scripts to life. Why might these clients be choosing Voices? There’s a lot of value that they’re getting, transparency and certainty of price. We’re going to be talking a lot about price today. Obviously, want good value for money, access to a diverse talent pool, really access to this secure system, this online platform that helps them complete their jobs.
Now on the flip side, of course, the benefit to you, you also get access to that same global market of clients who are really seeking your skills and services. One of the things that we’ve tried to instill into the platform is giving you flexibility and control over the negotiation of the deal terms if you will, the project. And control over the final pricing, both what the client sees as well as what they’re paying. So that’s manifested itself in this trusted payment service, which we call SurePay. It ensures actually that you are getting paid in a timely manner. And if anything comes up, we’ve got great customer service and help to guide you through and work through any potential challenges with negotiating that deal. Of course, there’s a lot of resources along the way that you’ve probably seen before. Videos about SurePay, frequently asked questions, access and our knowledge base. But I did want to just cover what those benefits are to you.
Now, if you haven’t already done so, go back a couple episodes because I actually go into a lot of detail about the technologies of voices.com, SurePay, voice match, the marketplace, how the search engine works, those kind of technologies. So I do cover SurePay there. And I’m going to in detail today because it’s going to be changing and improving for you. So the short version is that SurePay is our payment service. It powers the online marketplace. Simply put, it’s how we process the credit card payments. We hold them in trust until the work is done by you. And then when the client’s happy with the work that you deliver through the system, we’re actually going to send the funds to you, depositing the money into your bank account, sending you a check or wiring it through PayPal, whichever you prefer. So that actually is providing this risk free financial transaction, a critical part of an online marketplace like voices.com.
The benefits then are really trying to give you peace of mind that you’re going to get paid even before you actually start the recording. Once the work’s complete, you actually get to earn a rating and review from that client. And similarly, you can actually rate the client as well. You can further build your online reputation through what we call compliments. Really, they’re just one click options that the client, after they leave a rating review, they can let you know professionalism, speedy delivery, takes direction well. These kinds of compliments, they actually show up on your profile. You can check your profile if you haven’t seen them in a while and actually check out some other talents’ profiles. They get summarized in the feedback section.
The other benefits of SurePay of course, is that you get to choose how you receive the money. We’re going to be sending you a PayPal transfer and we actually pay the PayPal fees. We send it to you directly and absorb those fees. So whatever you put in, as your quote, and you see as your earnings, that’s going to be what actually gets deposited into your PayPal account. So there’s no further deductions along the way. Or if you opt to, you can actually choose to get paid by check. It is actually a lot slower, but that said, if that’s the way you want to get paid, we’re trying to provide flexibility to you. And speaking of getting paid, it’s not only how you get paid, but the timeliness of it. So you’re getting paid pretty quickly. The work that you complete the previous week, that’s actually all paid out the next Friday. So all of that means it’s our guarantee that you get paid for work that is procured through the platform.
We like to think that our business is based on shared success with you. And how this has worked for about the last 10 years is that the client’s going to start off with a job posting. They’re either going to state that they have a budget range, which is actually the most popular, or a fixed budget, this kind of specified amount. So let’s just for illustrative purposes, say that the client’s selected a budget range of between 100 to $249. That 100 to 250 range. You’re going to see that budget, both in the email notification that comes to you, inviting you to the job. You’re going to see it on the job posting as well, and you’ll see it on the audition page. So depending on the scope of work, maybe you decide that you’re going to reply with a $200 quote. When the client listens to your audition and they like what they hear, and they can see your quote, inclusive of the platform fee and they can click the hire button, landing them on a checkout page.
It’s where they enter in their credit card details, they see the full breakdown of the talent’s fee, the platform fee and the total. Sometimes if they’re a Canadian resident, they’re also going to see some tax, but they’re going to see the breakdown there and then the total. So the client is going to hire you with that 20% fee added on top of your quote for a full payment. And then the work begins. You complete the work as I said, you’re going to earn out your $200 that you initially put as what your earnings were to be. And then you’re going to be paid out on the completion of the work. And in that illustrative example, voices.com is going to earn $40, that 20% for a successful match and transaction through the platform. So that’s how it’s worked. I know there’s a lot of math to follow. Really just listening along, but hopefully that helps explains how it’s been working in the past.
Now, I did promise to identify a couple of problems and challenges with that particular situation. So let me go through those. Okay, let’s get down to it. Problem number one, despite our best efforts, sometimes both the client and the talent still believe that you’re both paying the fee resulting in what I would call a lose-lose situation. Some talent believe that the platform fee is coming out of their earnings on a job. This has been something that frankly we’ve been challenged with really right from the beginning, because that is how any commissions from an agent or on other platforms. Often the platform fee is deducted for successfully facilitating a match. And when all along, we’ve been adding it on top of your quote so that the client sees it. And they also believe that they’re paying the fee. So really we want to change that. We want to clean that up.
So next up is that some clients actually think that the platform fee increases their cost of working with a talent and provides them this kind of surprising situation on that checkout screen. And it would be terrible if they’re abandoning the job or discouraging them from hiring because they see that there’s an amount that’s additional, even though it was already shown at the outset and it was broken down. Sometimes it comes off as surprising when we’ve done interviews with clients and heard directly from them. Other clients actually think that the platform fee is higher than similar fees charged by competitors. There’s other online marketplaces out there that are more generalist and that they’re supporting all kinds of freelancers. As you know, voices.com is very specialized and focused on voiceover and audio production services. And so when they post their job elsewhere, they don’t see a similar fee and consequently, they may never return to hire you on voices.com. So we also want to fix that.
And for our larger clients, fortune 500 companies, global enterprises, they just aren’t comfortable with and really don’t want to be paying a platform fee, considering the volume that they’re running through the system. We want these clients to bring the volume name of jobs that they have available because they’re great opportunities for you, our talent. So those are really this kind of lose-lose situation that we want to overcome.
Problem number two, then are handling a very specific situation around fixed budgets. So talent quote above the client’s budget. When the client says they’ve got a fixed budget, it also comes up during revisions causing confusion on the payments page. So let me separate this into two parts. Fixed budget jobs. When the client, a job with a fixed budget, they expect the work to be done for their stated budget, inclusive of all fees. So if they say I have $500, they’re expecting you, the talent, to figure out how much your earnings are going to be, add on 20%. So it still gets within that $500 mark. In speaking with a lot of talent earlier this year, I did over 100 phone calls, video calls actually with the platinum talent on voices.com. And many of you have brought up this exact challenge, having to break out a calculator, kind of reverse engineer what this amount that your earnings should be in order to got to build up to that $500 mark.
So we will also want to fix that. You should never have to be pulling out a calculator or working around the system to figure out what you want to be earned and make sure it still fits within that client’s fixed budget. The other situation where that comes to is around revisions and additional payments. When you and the client are negotiating revisions, you quote an amount, and then the client gets surprised at checkout when there’s a platform fee that’s added on top. And it’s right, again at that final step where they’re about to make that additional payment for you, often because of a revision.
So if you say $50 for revision or $100 for a revision, they don’t want to see 120 at that last one. So revisions are often negotiated through the messaging feature on voices and then there’s just a final amount that the client is entering in. So we want them to enter the amount and that’s the exact amount that they’re going to be paying. So those are the issues solving this, let’s call it a lose-lose situation where both sides believe that you’re paying the fee. And then finally this quoting above the client’s budget when it’s a fixed budget or around those revisions.
All right. So I think we understand the problems. Let’s talk about presenting a solution. How are we going to fix these scenarios? Well, going forward, of course our business is going to be always based on shared success with you. Again, for discussion purposes, let’s go with that entry level range, it’s a first time client with a small project, 100 to $250. The client posts this job, you’re going to receive those details as you always do, both in email and on the website, you’re going to be able to reply with an audition and upload that. When you submit your audition, you’re going to have the flexibility to enter in either your earnings or the client’s quote. So your quote is going to be what the client sees, or you can enter in your earnings. This is going to provide you with the greatest flexibility. If you were to enter in $200 like that previous example, now like other marketplaces, the 20% is going to be deducted from your quote. You will always still see your earnings. In this example, it would be $160, but it would be deducted from your quote.
I’m going to talk about how you can raise your quote so that you can make sure that you’re earning more money, but switch to how things are working but we’re going to provide you with the flexibility and transparency to have full control over how much you earn and how much the client is seeing, that they’re going to be entering into the system. And as we’ve always been doing, work that you complete last week is going to be paid out this next week. So all of the payments cycle and all that staying the same, it’s just providing you with two options. Are you entering in your quote or your earnings? And the your quote is what the client sees, your earnings is, let’s call it money in your pocket, money in your bank account, if you will.
So speaking of seeing, I know that this is an audio podcast and there’s a lot of visuals, screenshots that are available on our website in the frequently asked questions. So I’d really encourage you to take a look at those because I think you’ll see that they provide you with that flexibility I was describing. Most notably though, will be on that audition screen. It’s completely redesigned from scratch, taking in all of your feedback with things like having this quote section, the flexibility to enter in your earnings. This is the amount that you’re going to be paid, or you can enter in your quote. This is the amount that the client will see. And you’ll also notice that there’s the 20% platform fee there with a little bit of a description, and you can also learn more.
Some other enhancements to that audition form that hopefully you’ll really enjoy are actually a better presentation of all the job details really along the sidebar. So you can see that at a glance and that client name, it will actually be right at the top of the screen. So you don’t have to scroll three times to the bottom when you’re typing out your proposal of kind of the cover letter, if you will, to that client. So bringing all that information right upfront. And finally back to this area of the quote, the budget range will be displayed right within the same area of the quote. So again, no need to scroll down or click the back button. So the takeaways here are on the audition form, all of the related information is grouped together. You can enter in your earnings or your quote. When it comes to looking at your agreement, in the conversations we had with talent many, and I’m going to even say most of you wanted just to know how much you’re earning at that point. So that’s going to be shown.
If you do click through into the detail, you will see of course your quote, the platform fee and your earnings all separated out. And to solve the challenge around the revisions, as I mentioned earlier, they’re discussed and negotiated through the messaging. Now to make sure, and really I’m going to say help you, provide the right number, the quote that you’re telling the client in the revisions, we actually have this cool little additional payment or revisions calculator that will pop up on the side, if you want to launch that and just sort out the math there. So you’ve got an additional payment calculator that’s coming to Voices. And in that calculator, it looks just like the audition screen. Your earnings, the amount that you’re going to be paid, your quote, that’s the amount that you’re going to tell the client what they should be entering in when they make that additional payment. So pretty straightforward. Hopefully you see that there’s a lot of flexibility there.
Now, from the client’s perspective, they’re going to have a redesigned job posting form with usage broken out and the budget better displayed. If they do have a specific budget at present, we still have a $100 minimum for jobs. So they’re going to receive a little pop up notice, an error if you will, that the minimum budget for that particular type of work. And really at this point, all voiceover work on Voices, the minimum is $100, but we’re also exploring ways that we can provide other guidance, perhaps some hints or recommendations that hey, jobs that look like this actually were budgeted higher. So provide them with some guidance to ensure that jobs are being budgeted appropriately by those clients. So that’s a bit of an inside scoop of what we’re working on to help you get paid more for the work that you’re doing.
Now, after the job posting form, of course, they’re listening to your auditions, they’re going to click hire, and they land on that checkout page. So on the checkout page, they’re going to see in this example, $480. It says voiceover services, Brian Caldwell, and it says $480. Inclusive in that would be your earnings plus the platform fee is your quote. Now the client is also, we’re introducing, what’s referred to as a processing fee, and this is more similar to every other platform that we’ve looked at out there. And the platform fee is charged to the talent. You have the flexibility, the processing fee’s charged to the client. It’s 3%, and if there’s tax that needs to be charged because of governmental authorities, then we do a show that there and remit the taxes accordingly. The payment receipt is the email that they get. Again, all that same information, broken down nice and clear for them. And finally, in the payment history, which is an on website receipt. So they got an email receipt and then they got an on website receipt where they can print the page, download a PDF, can access all that information there.
So hopefully you see that we’ve gone to lengths to speak with talent, speak with clients and apply these two principles, provide you with the flexibility to either enter in your earnings or provide you with the flexibility to enter in your quote. And it’s your quote is exactly what the client sees. If you want to be getting paid more, you’re going to need to increase your earnings or increase your quote. That’s how you’re going to be able to do it. And we’re going to provide you with some support along the way. I’ll talk about that through some improvements to the rate sheet, but we’ve spoken with talent, we’ve spoken with clients and we’ve even run a survey.
So I’m going to move on to this survey section and just how we validated this solution, make sure everyone was on the same page. And one of the first questions that we asked was, do you have a strategy when deciding on how much to quote the client for a job? Most of you, 65% of you, said yes and it changes according to the client and what the requirements are. Of course, some people say, not really a strategy, but more of a formula, maybe a rule of thumb that helps you determine. But looks like the vast majority, 88%, there’s some type of methodology. For the remaining, says, no, it’s not a strategy. I charge whatever I think my skills are worth. So regardless, there’s a methodology, whether it’s kind of a gut instinct, I charge whatever my skills are worth. That was only 12% of the people.
But the vast majority of you have either a strategy, a methodology, a rate sheet, some reference material that you take the input from the client, determine how much you want to get paid and then enter in also, and then how much you’re going to charge the client. Maybe you have extra costs. That final quote is inclusive of all of that, your services, any extra costs that you might have, any, in this case platform fee. And that’s the final quote that the client’s going to see. It sounds like we’re pretty aligned there, but most often everyone’s looking at that budget range. And I’ve always said that the budget ranges act as a communication mechanism between what the client can afford. That number that they might have in their head of what they’re thinking about and what you’re willing to do the work for. So when you see that budget range, most of you are again saying, hey, you’re bidding comfortably within the range.
In previous podcast episodes, I’ve referred to this as the Goldilocks Effect. Clients inherently hire talent within the middle of the range, not at the top end, not at the low end, somewhere comfortably in the middle. And likewise, when we asked you, that seems to be where you’re also quoting on that particular job. So perhaps that’s a bit of a self reinforcing effect. I’m not sure. The advice that we’ve been giving out is, hey, for the most part, stick within the range of the budget that’s stated by the client. That’s what they’re thinking. So you have in turn responded by saying that you quote comfortably within the range. There’s a minority, almost 20%, actually that do say no, regardless of what the client’s budget is that you’re going to quote what your skills are worth.
Now, that’s really interesting because in fact, those jobs do still get fulfilled. Clients hear the difference of quality, they know if it’s a tight turnaround time, if it’s really a private invitation sent only to you. Then don’t be afraid to go over if you feel like it’s worth it, the client is specifically outlining that they’re looking for you, or you feel like their budget is just off. You can let them know that. And one of the best ways to let them know that is signaling with your quote. And those jobs do get hired, but it does create a bit of a disconnect. Clients are expecting it to land within the range, but clearly there’s a group of you, 20%, that says, you know what? I try to actually use this as a education tool and inform the client that professionals, if the budget really is too low, it’s falling outside the norms. We’re trying to do our part, sounds like you’re doing your part to educate clients on what are appropriate rates for voiceover.
And one last key finding from this survey that we struggled with most when designing that audition form, do we put the emphasis on asking you as a talent to enter in your earnings, what you want to earn, or do you want to enter in kind of what the client sees? And in the end, we actually provide you with the flexibility to do both. The math is conducted automatically through the system. You can check it with a calculator if you want, but it’s all calculated there for you and completely transparent. So I think that’s a good thing. But when we asked the survey, when completing an audition form, which quote field would you like or most likely to fill in? And most of you have said the your fee. You just want to know, it was 88%, you want to know what’s the money going to be deposited into your bank account.
So you can do that. You can also enter in the client’s total. So if the client says I have $500, enter in $500. If they say it’s a fixed budget and what we currently call specified, will be called fixed going forward. If they say that, and it seems reasonable, then enter in the client’s fixed budget, I think it’ll solve one of those problems that we talked about earlier.
So I think we talked about the technology around SurePay. What it is, how it works, what some of those problems are, but also how we’re fixing them. So let’s talk about next steps and how you can be best prepared for these slight changes to the process. So we’re going to run through a checklist, use the my quote area to set the amount that you want the client to see. So write this down. Use the my quote, to set the amount that you want the client to see, or you can adjust the my earnings area to set the amount of how much money that you want to make if you’re hired. So my quote is what the client sees. My earnings is the money that you’re going to make if you’re hired.
You can, of course, always negotiate revisions and the messages. Now we’ve got that handy calculator that’s going to be available for you. And just tell the client, the my quote, my quote for doing a revision is X. That’s going to be the amount that they will enter in. And of course, as always, you can look forward to each Friday because that’s payday, and you’re going to get paid for the work that you completed the previous week.
So that’s the checklist on how you can be ready for these improvements, but also, and one of the best practices, if you really are new to quoting and understanding what the rates are, you can always reference our rate sheet. Now I’ve mentioned the rate sheet. It’s available at voices.com/rates. And there it has a breakdown of what the client is seeing for various types of projects. You can use that and consult it. It’s for guidance on what I would call industry standard rates, and we’ve actually been making improvements to elevating the rates. So the one particular area is that first one for non-broadcast work. So training videos, phone systems, corporate promotional work, that’s kind of not an advertisement. Maybe it’s a product launch or educational in nature.
All of that non-broadcast work, the real entry level range of zero to five minutes. That’s a pretty big gap. And so we’re going to break that down into zero to two minutes and then two to five. And so that first range, 0 to 2 minutes will be 100 to 249. And then the next one will be kind of that next tier up. So just breaking down that initial range, I think will actually elevate the prices for you and better inform the clients that 5 minutes of work for $100 at those extremes was not working. In fact, actually the talent were just quoting higher and out of that range. So we’re going to correct that entry-level range there as well. Over time, there might be other improvements to the rate sheet. So always reference that. Again,
And finally, in addition to providing better control over your earnings, we’re actually pursuing other ways to improve your experience. You’ve probably seen a number of these over the last couple of weeks and months, but let me just write them off for you. Of course, I just talked about providing education for clients on how to fairly price the jobs through the rate sheet, through some recommendations on the job posting form, we’re going to provide you with better clarity on the value that we deliver for the
memberships. So there’s an updated talent memberships page that you can check out. And one of the things coming very soon and possibly already live, if you’re listening to t his podcast is a program called Voices Verified. This is a verification program, similar to … That verifies the identity, quality and integrity and good kind of community membership if you will, of talent on the platform. So you can look out for Voices Verified.
And we also recently launched though, some additional features designed to improve your experience, the enhanced statistics, which went over really well. Hopefully you’re liking that. Almost attempted to do a whole episode just about the stats and maybe consulting some of you on how your statistics are, what’s working for you, what you look at. But check those out. They’re in your account under profile and you can see all of your statistics. Speaking of profile, we’ve made some new options available around live directed sessions, so you can check those features out and those boxes. So it shows up on your profile. If that’s capabilities that you offer, that live directed session, we display compliments. We’ve made improvements to the revision policy and added and redesigned the template. So we’re always innovating, that’s never going to stop, and I think it’s one way that we continue to deliver a lot of value for you and helping you pursue your career at voices.com.
And we can only do this together. So all of the things that we talked about today, I welcome your feedback. There’s a couple of ways you can do that. For sure, go read the blog post. There’s a webinar that’s going to be available, there’s a recording as well too. So make sure you’ve checked out all of that material, but definitely read the rate sheet and see what those improvements are. And if you have improvements or recommendations around the rate sheet, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or there’s a little widget on the side of every page. You’ve probably noticed it. There’s a little button there that says feedback, and you can just pop open that window, rate your experience from frowny face to happy face and type out maybe how we could make it better for you. So email@example.com or that little feedback widget. Of course you can email me personally, firstname.lastname@example.org. And we’re going to take all of that input and feedback from you to continually make your experience better.
So this actually brings us to the end of season one of the Voices experience. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know me a little bit better, getting to learn about the industry, allowing me to be your guide as you navigate this platform and giving us the opportunity to help you be successful. Now, I’d also love to hear your ideas for season two. And what would you like to hear? What do you want to learn about? Should we have some special guests on? Who might those guests be? So let me know, by sending your
ideas for season two to email@example.com.
Now, if you enjoyed the first season, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It only takes a second, it lets us know that you’re listening, it also lets us know that you’re liking what you’re hearing, the format’s working for you. So let us know through a review on Apple Podcasts. And speaking of Apple podcasts, if you haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to do so. You can just launch Apple Podcasts, either the installed app or going to the website of Apple Podcasts. You can go to Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you’re listening right now. Be sure to subscribe so you can get caught up on the past episodes, download it all to your app, or also be ready for season two. So until then, I really hope that you continue to be successful in your career and always be sure to use your voice to inform, entertain, and inspire the world.
Sep 08 2020
Rank #2: Quoting on Work
Do you understand voice over rates and the best tactics for quoting on your VO services? Knowing how to quote effectively and competitively is a key business skill for voice actors at all stages in their careers.
In this episode, David explains exactly what rates and rate sheets are, and why rate sheets can help determine how you should quote based on whether you’re doing broadcast or non-broadcast work. David also defines the terms ‘in perpetuity’ and ‘buyout,’ and he outlines our site’s ‘Goldilocks Effect’ (meaning that the actors who quote in the middle of a budget range are the most likely to get hired.)
At Voices.com, we came up with our own rate sheet because we wanted to answer the #1 frequently asked question: how much do I charge or how much does voice over cost?
Explore the Voices.com rate sheet.
About The Voices Experience: The Voices Experience is presented by Voices.com. Produced and engineered by Randy Rektor.
Hi, David here, the founder and CEO of Voices, the website that helps you find voice-over work. In each episode of the podcast, my role is to be your guide, sharing the history of the industry as well as our company, and while at the same time, giving you a behind the scenes look at how things work around here at Voices.com. In today’s episode, we’re going to be covering rates in rate sheets, how to quote effectively and competitively. I know this is a hot topic based upon the number of page views that our rate sheet gets. So we’re going to dive into that today.
So let’s begin by covering really just what is a rate. It’s the amount that you’re going to be charging a client for your voice-over work. Now, if you want to understand more about who the clients are, you can go back and listen to the episode called understanding the business of voice-over, where we cover the job titles, including casting directors, agents, and of course, the various creative producers who are really all the clients. So that’s episode two, you can go back and listen to that and then come back right here.
So the rate is the amount that you’re going to charge the client. Now in effect, it’s the cost that the client is paying for your services and it’s often quoted in a currency most likely US dollars because that’s the default at Voices.com. But if you’re working with international clients, the rate might need to be converted into their currency, such as Canadian dollars, the Euro or Japanese yen. Now don’t worry, this isn’t an episode about currencies or foreign exchange, but I figured I’d just mentioned that.
So for the sake of working on Voices.com, you’re going to be working in US dollars. That’s what you’re going to be quoting in. So then what is a rate sheet? Well, a rate sheet, or sometimes called a rate card, it’s really just a reference document that summarizes how much you’re going to be charging for the most common types of projects. Think of it as a tip sheet or a cheat sheet, if you will. So why would you even want one of these?
Well, it’s going to help you because it’s going to save you doing the math every single time a job comes in. It’ll save you from overcharging or undercharging the amount that maybe you previously quoted a client and all of this is going to save you time. Now, it’s okay that the rate sheet changes over time. You might want to update it maybe every three months or maybe even once a year, and you don’t even have to publish this on your website or even on your profile on Voices.com. Just consider it a reference sheet that you can have for yourself.
Now in Voices.com, we came up with our own rate sheet because we wanted to answer the number one most frequently asked question which was, how much do I charge and how much does it cost? So this is kind of the same topic here, all around rates. And you can see why it was such a popular question because the clients were asking, “Hey, how much does it cost to hire a voice talent?” And similarly, the talent, all of you were asking, “How much do I charge or how much do I quote for any given project?”
So that’s why we wanted to create a rate sheet, but how we went about it was pretty interesting. It’s about more than 10 years ago now, we actually initially sent out a survey just asking people how much do they charge for a variety of categories of work. And we also looked at that against the job data that we had of jobs that were posted to Voices.com. So we really saw kind of two things, what people were quoting through the website, as well as the survey information as well too. And then we rounded it each of those kinds of categories off. We rounded them off into these simple brackets.
We didn’t want to be too prescriptive by saying a radio commercial is just X number of dollars and it was this fixed amount, we wanted to encourage a quoting on the marketplace because everybody, there is such variety in terms of somebody either just getting started or how much they’ve invested in coaching, perhaps how much they invested or spent on the recording studio equipment. And so all of these factor into what a talent is going to quote themselves for any given project. So even within a particular category, as I said, radio commercials or internet videos, there’s going to be a range of what is acceptable. Let’s call it the industry standard rates.
After getting all that information in, we rounded off each of those categories and summarized it into a single document which can be found at voices.com/rates. It’s also a link in the footer of every page on our website. So you can scroll to the bottom of every page on Voices.com and just find rates, and you’ll see the document that I’m referencing here today. Over the course of your career, you’re going to be providing voice-over services to a variety of clients, from radio and TV advertisers, publishers of audio books, and corporate marketing departments looking to launch their new products through promotional videos, and so you need a methodology of how you’re going to be quoting for each of those.
The rate sheet is going to be your final deliverable, kind of how you put all this information together, but how you actually end up at those rates is another matter altogether. So let me just walk you through what that methodology could look like for you. And each of those clients that I just mentioned are going to need maybe a slightly different method for finalizing a quote. So let me just kind of break this down for you guys. Hopefully it’s going to be helpful. So the first decision that you need to be making in terms of understanding the project is, is this broadcast or non-broadcast? Let’s call that the media.
Then with its broadcast, you’re going to have geography, how big is the audience, and then duration, how long is this going to be airing for? Now, all the other work is, let’s just call it non-broadcast and it’s going to be a lot easier to quote because it’s just simply quoted by word or by page. Let’s start off by just talking about broadcast work. I mentioned there’s the media and then geography and duration. So the geography is really the market size. This is the method that’s most commonly used for radio and TV commercials, and the market size is really determined by the audience of who’s going to be hearing the voice-over.
So to make things simple, it’s really kind of three categories within market size. Is it local, regional or a national or major market? And so local and regional, they kind of fit in this like smaller market, if you will, where the area of the population that’s going to be listening to this is fewer than a million people. If it’s a major market or national spot, certainly major market would be like one metropolitan area, New York, Chicago, LA, Atlanta, or multiple of those, in which case it’s really a national campaign. The target audience that you’re reaching with this particular spot is going to be more than a million people.
Now, I noticed there’s a really simple way to look at it, but it’s a way to understand kind of how the impact that your voice is going to be having. So that’s the geography for broadcast work. Then I mentioned, there’s this concept of duration. How long is it going to be airing for? This is often referred to a billing cycle or an airing cycle, a play cycle. So really what we’re getting at here is, you want to consider this when quoting is, how long is it going to be running for this particular campaign?
The shortest campaigns are really one week usage, maybe two weeks, but most often it falls into 13 weeks, which is a quarter, three months at a time. It could be a half of a year or a seasonal license. Maybe it’s just for spring or summer or kind of over the Christmas holiday season. And then there’s a one year license that is often renewable. The longest term would be what’s referred to as in perpetuity. So you might’ve heard that term before that basically means that the client is gaining permission to be able to use this voice in this context forever. That’s what in perpetuity means.
Now, another term that you might see on a job posting that you need to factor into your rates is when a client is asking for what’s referred to as a buyout. So sometimes that’s called a full buyout. They really mean the same thing. A buyout is really a license, a permission to use globally, anytime, anywhere, really all medium. That’s really why they’re buying out the full rights and usage of that particular recording. Unless otherwise stated, most clients are going to assume that they own the rights for the finished product once they are paid in full for your work.
So just be cautious of that, that a full buyout is really you granting worldwide unlimited usage. It’s more appropriate for, let’s call it non-broadcast work such as a phone system recording or an audio book. Those aren’t built on any kind of cycle or there’s no royalties, ongoing royalties paid for a phone system work or a documentary. You kind of produce it once, and then the client owns it thereafter. Commercial work is the only time I’ve ever seen where there’s these cycles, these kind of market size, those factors kind of play into the quote. And then there’s this 13 week, a half year, one year, or full buyout in perpetuity. That’s when those come into play.
So we’ve talked about quoting for broadcast work. Let’s move on to non-broadcast work. This is really every other category of work that’s out there. It’s the explainer videos, the e-learning programs, the phone system recordings, more recently voices for different apps or podcasts. And a really simple way to quote on this is quoting per page. So for lengthy scripts, as I said, such as an audio book or e-learning program, medical narration would be another one technical tutorials. These are best quoted on a per page basis. This gives the client the ability to quickly ballpark how much your services are going to be, and also if the client suddenly adds another chapter to their book or another course to their e-learning program, you can refer to your initial quote that your services were built on a per page basis.
One important element though to keep in mind is having a standard method for measuring what constitutes a page. You might want to outline that one page is a word document in aerial font, size 12, double-spaced. You might need to be that specific. I’ve seen over the years, a few times a client’s try to go single space, tiny eight point font and cram a lot of words into that single page with no margin and no borders. Really what they’re doing is getting a lot more work done under this one page quote per page method. So just bear in mind, defining kind of what a page is.
If it’s reasonable, 10 point font or 12 point font probably doesn’t make all that much of a difference, but also one of those things just to keep your eyes out for. So by having an agreement of what constitutes a page, it’s going to eliminate any confusion and also let the client know what format you prefer to get that final script in before you go and record it. Most of those formats are going to be a word document or a PDF. So that’s quoting per page. Very similar we’ll be quoting per word, which is probably best used on very short scripts such as voicemail messages, maybe a few liners for website greeting, intros and outros to podcasts.
This method just makes it really easy. You can go into your favorite text editor, such as Microsoft word again, open up the word count, discover the total number of words, and then quote, accurately using your per word rate. For all that non-broadcast work that we covered that you can quote per page or per word, you might actually want to have a minimum that you’re charging, just so that you’re not going into the studio to record something because it’s 10 words and, or maybe even just 10 lines, but it’s not going to be $12 or $15 when you kind of run the math.
You’d probably say, “Look, I’m not going to do any work, unless it’s at least a hundred dollars or at least 250, or at least 500.” And you can work your way up as your career progresses as well too. But I know a lot of talent have a minimum that they’re going to be charging irregardless of how short that script is. So that’s the methodology of how you might want to consider setting up your own rate sheet categorized by broadcast and non broadcast, and that’s exactly how we did it here at Voices.com as well.
I mentioned, it’s at voices.com/rates is the document I’m going to be referring to. And so this is a breakdown, really category by category, and we start off with non-broadcast jobs. This is a reference tool that’s used by both clients and talent alike. And as I say, we start off with the non-broadcast jobs, because it is the majority of work that gets procured through the platform. And we actually categorize this into or tier it, if you will, into ranges of minutes. So zero to five minutes, 750 words or less, it’s based on speaking at a rate or a speed, if you will, of 150 words per minutes.
And the suggested budget is somewhere between a 100 to $250. Again, that’s probably about a page of work that is done. That just goes up from there all the way to, call it 40 to 60 minutes. That would be notes of a $1000 for that much of a runtime. So that’s non-broadcast. And then on the broadcast side, we actually have three categories here, television, radio, and internet ads, and then those are by geography, local, regional, and national. And within each of those, you’ll see in this table here that it’s 13 weeks, one year or in perpetuity.
So you can take a look at that rate sheet and that information is available at a glance as well as a downloadable rate sheet for you. It’s in PDF. If you’re interested in getting a word document version that’s editable for you, happy to send that along, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or myself email@example.com and we can get that over to you. So hopefully that’s going to be helpful tool that you can actually customize for your own use. Having your own rate sheet is going to help you quote more effectively when auditioning for work on Voices.com.
Now, many of you know that an audition on a platform like voices includes not just a sample recording of your voice auditioning for the client. It also includes a brief cover letter called the proposal of why you’re the best one for the job and the quote, the amount that you’re going to be charging that client for doing the voice-over work. For too long, a lot of people have believed that, that client is actually going to hire the talent at the low end of the budget range. Now, you know that when a client posts a job on Voices.com, there’s a budget range that they’re selecting for instance, between 500 and $750. So there’s this myth that’s been circulating out there that, “No, no, no. The client’s just going to hire the talent at the low end of the range. So I’m always going to quote at the low end.”
And the belief was that, it’s almost this race to the bottom, if you will, that’s been referred to. But I have to remind you all that our business is based on shared success. I’ve said this a few times on the podcast. We are rewarded and incentivized just like you are to actually have rates be not only fair and industry standard, but to be elevated because we generate our earnings just like you do on a per job and per transaction basis. So there’s no reason why we would be incentivized to actually be driving prices down. In fact, we want to maintain the rates as high as possible, and I believe that’s completely aligned with your interest as a talent as well.
In the research, what we found then was that even though the client had a budget between 500 and $750, invariably, they were hiring somebody within the middle of that range. And my hypothesis here is what I would call the Goldilocks effect. They don’t want to hire somebody too low. Maybe there’s a question of, is this somebody new? Do they have to go into a studio? There’s some hidden fees or some extras that are going to be charged on the backend, and on the high end of the range, look, if you’re over the budget or on the really top end of the range, there might actually be talent who are to their ear just as good, just as qualified, just as skilled, and might be a few $100 less expensive, so hence within the middle of the range.
And over tens of thousands of jobs that we looked at, this was a very common pattern. It seems that the market tends to kind of balance itself out within the middle of the range. And that’s the advice I’d give you. Quoting within the range of the budget that the client states on their job posting form, and then invariably probably quoting within the middle of the range itself. As you can see, determining your worth and your value that you’re delivering to clients for voice-over services that you provide, it’s a very personal choice.
And hopefully that you’ve learned today is that there’s a variety of methods in what you can quote, by word, by market size, whether it’s broadcast or non-broadcast, but to simplify all of this, that’s why you want to have a rate sheet. You don’t want to be redoing the math in your head every single time a project comes in. So develop a rate sheet, use that as a reference, you can choose to publish your rate sheet on your website or not, that’s okay too. But this rate sheet, if you develop it, whether it’s in a word document or a spreadsheet somewhere, it’ll help you quote more consistently, more effectively and more competitively on Voices.com.
Now, if you found this episode helpful, I’d encourage you to leave a review on iTunes. I’d really appreciate that. Send me a question or comment to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to in Apple podcasts, at Google podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening to this show right now. Until then, use your voice to inform, entertain and inspire the world.
Sep 04 2020
Rank #3: Building Your Profile
Do you know how to complete your profile to ensure you’re making the most of your Voices experience? As you’ll soon learn, talent profiles have come a long way since the launch of the platform.
In this episode, David explains how to best represent yourself using your Voices.com profile by setting your location and time zone, uploading the right number of demos and appropriately tagging them, and fleshing out the Overview, Service Description, and Experience sections of your profile. David also highlights the importance of the profile completeness score, and describes how the profile redesign was executed with the end user in mind: the client!
About The Voices Experience: The Voices Experience is presented by Voices.com. Produced and engineered by Randy Rektor.
Hi, it’s David here from voices.com, the founder and CEO of the website that helps you find voiceover work. In each episode, my role is to be your guide, and that means sharing the history of the industry, our company, and at the same time, giving you a behind the scenes look at how things work here at voices.com, on the website. And that’s what we’re going to do today, talk all about your profile.
Now, your profile is the single most important marketing tool that you have at your disposal on voices.com for a handful of reasons. First off, your profile is really where you get to describe who you are, all about your voice. It’s where you upload your sample of recordings of your voice, also known as your voiceover demos. And it’s where you also gather ratings and reviews. It’s a really critical tool. It’s the public version of what people get to see about you. And so we’re going to dissect what it means to create a profile and give you some ideas of how you can market your profile more effectively.
If you can, follow along. You can simply log in to voices.com with your username and password, and you can follow along the podcast with me, or you can simply go to the website. In the search bar at the top, you can type in really any search word you want and pull up somebody’s profile.
Now, how are we going to do this today is actually walk through somebody’s public facing profile and I’ll describe why each of those fields or areas and sections of the profile are so important. And so let’s do that now. Go ahead and log in. And I’ve got Brad Ziffer’s profile up. Brad is a long time friend, an old friend at that. He’s actually been hired on voices over 2000 times and maintains a 5 star rating throughout all of that. I mean, his demos have been listened to tens of thousands of times as well, too. He’s a real pro. We’re going to walk through Brad’s profile and just an example, but not going to speak to Brad specifically, but more to the sections on the profile. You can do the same with your own profile and just follow along, or really anybody’s that you see on the website.
At the beginning of today’s episode, I did promise to share some of the history of how we built the company. And in the earliest days, if you recall, from the first episode, I talked about how Stephanie and I, we went down to the local public library and took out Web Design for Dummies and learned how to hand code in HTML our own website. One of the pages we had to build over and over, and we eventually got a template for, was that of the profiles of the voice talent that we were showcasing on the website.
Now, one of the funnier things was because there was no login system, no account that you could sign up for and register, and then log in and manage your own account… instead, all of those changes to the profile, including uploading and swapping out demos, maybe updating information about who you are and maybe your address change, all of that needed to be done by email. We would get emails day and night about these simple changes that needed to happen on people’s profile and we would have to actually manually pull down the page from the internet, make the change in HTML and then reupload it and refresh the servers if you will, with this new, fresh content. We’ve come a long way since then and understand the importance of creating unique content and giving every talent, as much as possible, their own environment, their own ability to showcase who they are or the skills that they have and how they can best serve their clients.
As I said, the profiles have come a long way. And recently we actually updated the design of the profile, moving away from what I was referring to as this wall of text. You would have your picture and all of this text-based information. Yeah, there was one demo that you could click and listen to, but it really wasn’t designed for the end user in mind. Now, interestingly, you guys listening here today are probably not the end user of your profile. You create the profile, you edit it, but it’s the client who’s considering, “Hey, should I work with you? Yes or no. Do I like your voice? Do I save you as a favorite for later? Do I want to invite you to a job?” And so what we’ve done recently, as I said, is redesign the profile to better compartmentalize and group together similar pieces of information so that it’s best designed and used for a client to be able to scan through quickly, and most importantly, listen to your demos.
All right, let’s get into it. Let’s talk about the profile itself. Now, every talent on voices.com has their own profile. It’s accessed at voices.com/actors, and then your username. As I mentioned, I’m looking at voices.com/actors/bradziffer. Now, the top of the profile, we have Brad’s photo, just like you would have your photo, your name, and then a location, which is the metropolitan area. You can change this, how you want to. If you live in a smaller city, you can put a larger metro area… for those who want to search for just New York, maybe you live in a suburb, or for instance, Los Angeles, there’s dozens of smaller cities that make up the larger Los Angeles area. That’s why we have this kind of metro area fields up at the top. You also can set your time zone so that, again, the end user can see the relative time where you’re located. And so that lets them know the time zone.
And then every profile at the top, again, has these five stars and the ratings and reviews associated to that. None of that ratings and reviews are editable by you. No talent can change the ratings. That’s just what the client gives you, but almost everything else we’re going to talk about here today is completely editable by you.
Now, as we move down the page, you’ll notice that a great emphasis is put on your voiceover demos. We know that clients are coming to the website, really to do one thing, find a great voice for their project. When it comes to visiting your profile, we want them to be able to see and listen to a number of your demos. Most talent are going to have at least three demos, a commercial demo, a narration demo, and a character or animation demo. Those are the three big ones, but we can actually break those down into additional categories. There’s 12 categories of work on voices.com and we strongly encourage you, if you’re a premium talent to actually upload at least one demo in each of those categories. The profile I’m looking at has 18 demos uploaded. Commercial, it looks like a business recording and educational. Those are right on the main page here.
Clicking view all, lets you see all of the demos. And if you click into any individual demo, you’ll actually see the demo details page. This is where there’s additional descriptive information, the language, the gender, the age range, the category of work, as well as more recently, a transcription of the demo as well too. Transcriptions are either turned on or off. As of right now, you can edit them individually, but that’s going to be coming very soon.
All right. Let’s go back out to the main profile. One of the hardest parts to fill out of your profile is actually in the about section called your overview. These are your top three lines describing who you are and why you’re going to be a great fit for that particular client. You have more than three lines to fill out, but the only the first three lines are shown and then it says, “Read more.”
What would you possibly put in the overview? Well, let me give you some ideas. First, listen to a recording of your natural voice. Many of us don’t like the sound of our own voice. This is going to be a bit challenging, but try to describe the sonic quality of your voice, what your voice type is. If you work with a coach, you can ask them or family and friends to give you their opinion, maybe offer up some words that they would use to describe your voice. Ultimately, you’re making a list of these descriptive words that best reflect your own voice and then think of what your voice inspires people to do. Then consult with the source and find other colorful words to describe your voice. Try to avoid though common terms such as deep or funny or professional. They’re just a little too generic. If you have some words that are unique to you, that’s definitely going to set you apart.
You can write as much as you want in the overview section and you can break it up by paragraphs. And one of the things that’s great is that you can make it scannable, maybe a numbered list or a bulleted list. Make it easy on that prospective clients so they can read through who you are and how you can work with them.
And speaking of how you can work with them, that’s actually often listed in the service description. Now, many talent provide additional services over and above voiceover, maybe there’s audio production services, copywriting, translation. Maybe there’s some post-production services available as well. You can list and describe those in your services section.
After that, we have your experience. Now, you might recall way back when you sign up on voices.com, you can choose whether you’re a beginner or professional. That information is not shared here. That’s really just there to help us send you appropriate email messages and material and tips and tutorials along your journey with voices.
But in the experience, this is the information… as I said, it won’t be shared with the client, but it’s going to be a helpful free form text box, where you can, as they say, explain your experience. It’s a great place to highlight the number of years that you’ve been doing voiceover. And to explain the type of work that you have some experience doing. Again, it’s an opportunity for you to sell yourself and your business and make the client feel comfortable about working with you. Let the client know about the relevant and unique skills that you have, so if you’re an expert in medical terminology and have done a lot of medical narration, this would be a great place to do so. As you grow your business, be sure to come back to this section and update it as your career grows.
After the experience is the client list. Now this is probably not going to be your exhaustive client list of everybody that you’ve ever worked for, but it’s an opportunity for you to highlight maybe some big brand names that you’re particularly proud of. And the first three lines listed are going to show up on your profile here. Make sure the first three are names that are recognizable, not necessarily your most recent work, but probably work that you’re most proud of. And the client list is a particularly good spot for those who have just recently joined voices.com. You’re a professional, but you haven’t actually acquired or accumulated any ratings and reviews yet. You can see them, you can list some of your clients they’re in the client’s list.
And then after that would be your education. This is your formal educational background. You could also add in courses that you’ve taken or coaches that you’ve worked with. Sometimes I’ve even seen particular conferences that are relevant, that a talent has attended and they’ve listed those in their educational background.
All of that is the about section of your profile. Below that we do have the reviews. And as I said, these are not editable by you, but it’s a chronological order of the most recent work that you’ve completed through voices.com. And you can see all of them there by clicking view all. But if you have only three, the three most recent will show up in this reviews section.
If you haven’t won a job yet on voices.com, don’t worry. Maybe you’ve done some other work. You can actually include testimonials from clients that you’ve worked with previously, or maybe on another platform or a client that you landed or comment from an agent or a coach. You can include that all in the testimonials.
Now, moving over to the sidebar, we see your vocal skills. Vocal skills include the languages you speak, accents, ages and categories of work that you have expertise in. To make changes to any of your vocal skills, just log in and edit your profile. And you can click and choose and add and remove as many of these as you want.
Still on the sidebar and below your vocal skills is the section called studio. And this is an area for those technically inclined clients that want to understand what kind of microphones you have. What’s the software? Is it compatible with the software that they’re using? Is there any other special equipment that you have? And we’ve also recently just added a directed session. You’re letting the client know if you’re available for an audio or a video conference. If you have source connector, ISDN, you make sure that you’ve updated those because they are new fields to voices.com, new options for you to communicate what’s available in your studio and make sure those clients know that you can communicate in the ways that they want to.
And lastly, in that studio section would be the turnaround time. This is great just to set the expectations with the client, that when they reach out to you, is it going to take minutes or is it going to take hours for you to get back to them? And then how long, kind of depending on the project… of course it depends on the project length in terms of a final turnaround time, but it’s helpful to set that expectation upfront.
That rounds out your profile. Now, I know there’s a lot of information that we’re asking of you to contribute and describe who you are and upload your demos. But as we learned about in the episode about all the technology that powers voices.com, you’ll know that the information that you put in is very important. In fact, it’s critical for how the search engine works, as well as how voice match works, that matching algorithm that invites you to the most suitable jobs that match your profile. If you have a great completely filled out profile and you’ll know that by this profile completeness score when you log in. It’s about 100 points there that you can accumulate and just try to instruct you in and let you know what areas of your profile need to be filled out. Follow along that profile completeness score. If you can get it up to 100, it means you’re going to be seen in as many searches as possible and be invited to as many jobs as possible as well, too.
And going beyond voices.com, we’ve got to be thinking about Google and Yahoo and Microsoft, Bing search engine as well too. These are all search engines that visit voices.com. They index or catalog the profiles of the voice actors. Often what we find is somebody searching for a talent in a particular city or who has done work for a particular client before, they put those searches into Google and actually land directly on your profile page on voices.com. Having a completely filled out profile is critical, not only for your success on voices, but also landing work from clients who find you through Google.
Okay, hopefully you found this episode helpful. If you did leave me a review on iTunes and you can always send me questions or comments directly to me at email@example.com. If you have a general customer service question, there’s a toll free phone number on our homepage and in our help section, or simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please do so in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening right now. And until then, use your voice to inform, entertain and inspire the world.
Jul 27 2020
Rank #4: Understanding the Technology Powering the Platform
Voices is a two-sided online marketplace that is made up of a lot of moving pieces. So what technology is powering the platform, and how do all of the pieces work together harmoniously?
In this episode, David defines the platform business model behind Voices and so many other great companies, then provides a rundown of the site’s four central pieces of technology: VoiceSearch, VoiceMatch, SurePay, and VoiceRank. David also explains the ‘E for Everyone’ principle that guarantees a safe platform for both brands and talent, in addition to discussing the importance of ratings, reviews, and compliments.
Hi, David here, the founder and CEO of Voices, the website that helps you find voiceover work. In this podcast, my role is to be your guide, giving you a behind the scenes look at how things work here at voices.com, as well as provide insights on the industry, current trends and my perspective on the future.
Now I mentioned that behind the scenes part, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do today by unpacking our five pieces of technology. I’m not talking about the website technology like PHP and MySQL and HTML, nothing like that, or about the mechanics of the website, how it all works. Those pieces of technology, I’m going to rhyme them off right now just so that you can be familiar with these terms, it’s the Voice Marketplace, Voice Search, Voice Match, SurePay, and our VoiceRank.
Now I’m going to go through those one at a time and let’s start with the Voice Marketplace. But before I can dive too deep, let me first explain what a platform is because sometimes people hear the term platform and marketplace and use those terms interchangeably, but I think that’s a good place to begin.
There are four characteristics that define platform business models. First off, they bring platform participants together. These users could be buyers and sellers or contributors and consumers. If you think of buyers and sellers, that’s virtually every two-sided marketplace, could be from eBay to Airbnb, Uber, and of course, voices, or contributors and consumers. Even YouTube or Twitter would be considered a platform. There’s people who publish content and there’s other people who consume the content.
Aside from the platform participants, the users, there’s always this exchange of information. Now you could be exchanging product detail or availability or location or pricing, but it’s this exchange of information that flows freely through the platform that’s an important criteria here.
Now why certain platforms exchange that information is because ultimately they’re going to be exchanging services. Now again, this could be goods delivered seamlessly over the web, like eBay, where you’re buying something, or Amazon would be considered again, a platform, or it could be services rendered online, like voices.com. Now the transaction could start online, but ultimately be rendered offline. If you think of Uber or Airbnb, these are both initially online experiences, but where you really feel the magic, it’s actually in the offline or kind of the real world.
Now finally, the fourth characteristic that defines platform business models will be the exchange of currency. Payment is done on the platform, which acts as the trusted intermediary between the buyer and seller. Plus, there’s often some ratings and reviews where these platform participants can establish an online relationship. That’s the platform business model.
Now, that differs from the traditional pipeline business model that we’re organized in a very much a linear fashion, and likewise, they have, let’s call them four characteristics of their own. First off is this value chain concept where the flow of goods and each player along the way gets their cut. Consequently, it can be quite a costly endeavor. Each of those players in a pipeline business model serve and act as gatekeepers so each party in that value chain is really focused on self-preservation and therefore kind of keeps the information to themselves. They’re unwilling to disclose who they’re working with, pricing information. It’s really kind of hard to get that out of them because they’re information gatekeepers.
They’ve also set up control mechanisms. These control mechanisms could be editors or managers or supervisors, and they’re trying to ensure quality and ultimately shape the interactions, but that can be really slow and costly. Now the problem with these pipeline business models is that they’re really not scalable from printing books to building hotels. I mean these pipeline businesses, they gain no economies of scale as they grow.
If you’re comparing pipelines to platforms, it’d be like comparing Encyclopedia Britannica to Wikipedia or Hilton Hotels to Airbnb or taxi cab companies to Uber. Now in a lot of ways the traditional pipeline businesses have actually figured out how to participate in those online platforms. With the voiceover space, I’d say the traditional business would be the traditional talent agencies and casting directors and so forth, and many of them have figured out how to participate on a platform like voices.com.
I wanted to set that up because it’s important to understand what platforms are. There’s actually two kinds of platforms. There’s ecosystem platforms. Think about Netflix, there’s content creators and there’s content consumers, like all of us, or Android or Windows. These are ecosystems. They’re not facilitating transactions, but they are a platform in and of themselves. Then of course, there are these marketplace platforms that do bring together buyer and seller.
We’re going to talk a lot about marketplaces because that’s what voices.com is. It’s the online marketplace that connects the voice buying client with the voice selling talent. What’s really challenging about building up a marketplace like this, as that it’s often known as the chicken or egg issue, what do you start with the chicken or the egg? Do you start with building up a community of talent that ultimately attracts the clients, but why would the talent come if there’s no clients looking to hire them? You can see the dilemma that plays out in building up a two-sided or an online marketplace. That’s just one of the many challenges.
Now, if you heard in the first episode that Stephanie and I actually started by building up the talent side of the marketplace, it actually happened somewhat organically. The talent would reach out and say, “Hey, can I be listed on your website,” and we always said, “Yes.” Concurrently clients would also find the website and say, “How do I get in touch with so-and-so?” That built this positive feedback loop that we were able to leverage over time and continue to invest in the technology of the marketplace itself.
Now, when I say marketplace, I’m referring to the entire overall experience, it’s all of this kind of underlying technology we’re going to get to in a minute, but it’s really that facilitation of buying and selling or transacting online. I think that’s one of the key takeaways here.
Speaking of those challenges in which side do you build up, that’s the first question, but then it’s understanding the needs and wants of each side of the marketplace talent. You guys you want visibility, you want access to opportunity, you want to have payment facilitated seamlessly through the platform. That’s often what the talent are looking for. The clients, on the other hand, they see this experience much more utilitarian. They want to find the right voice for the project, yes, but they want to do it as quickly and as easily as possible at a reasonable price. Naturally that leads to, well, who are these platform participants, the marketplace users, if you will, and on the sell side, that would be you as the talent, it’s aspiring talent, it could be professional talent, those that are celebrities that are associated with the talent agencies who’ve also signed up and subscribed to voices.com, and you have a background of everything from kind of artistic skills, technical skills, and of course, business and marketing skills. That’s what’s needed to be a successful talent on voices.
The clients, on the other hand, they can range from those at ad agencies and small to medium sized businesses, even large Global 2000 or Fortune 500 companies. They often hold the title, something in the kind of a marketing or creative sense. It could be a creative director. They could be video producers or even casting directors as well.
All right. I think at this point you’ve got a pretty good idea of what a marketplace is, what are the participants, kind of who you guys are, what the challenges are in building a marketplace, and ultimately, what are we trying to solve for, which is to bring all the participants together and help them do business online.
The first thing that we need to do is actually build up that community of users. Often [inaudible 00:08:01], this referred to this chicken and the egg challenge, who do you start with? Now, the marketplace of users, users aren’t just signing up kind of anonymously. In fact, to have a real transparent marketplace that people understand who are they actually doing business with, you really need to have some kind of user profile. Once people start registering, we encourage them to fill out their profile as much as possible. There’s lots of information on your profile as a voice talent.
In another episode, I’d love to kind of walk through what makes a great profile, what are those attributes of those profiles that seem to be visited a lot, listened to, all those demos, but it’s important to know that you have to fill out your profile, because that actually leads to this first piece of technology. I’m going to try to describe this through from your perspective as a voice actor, why is this important to you?
Voice Search is really our search engine. It’s a search engine that looks for voice actors who might be suitable for a job. It’s used by those clients, those producers that are looking to hire you. Now, of course, just like you would type anything into a Google search, you can type anything into the voices.com search engine as well, but very quickly you are going to want to refine your results, could be by gender, male or female, it could be by age, child, teen, young adult or middle-aged or even seniors. Then we’ve got languages and there’s a whole dropdown list of languages as well that compliments the languages. Maybe there’s a more specific accent.
We find that a lot of clients, when they’re looking for you as a talent, they want to either find somebody who’s in kind of that area that they’re ultimately releasing the content for, so kind of matching their target audience by language and accent, and then another search criteria could be by location as well. They can look by country, by state or province, and then ultimately, even right down to the city.
In addition to searching by the criteria I just kind of mentioned, they can further refine thee results by a particular category of work. That makes a lot of sense. If I’m looking for somebody to record my phone system, I don’t want to hear monster truck rally commercials. I just want to hear people who have uploaded phone system recordings, so that’s why the category selection is important and having demos in as many categories as we have listed there.
Then finally, one of the ways that a client can refine their search results is by rating. We’ll talk about the ratings and reviews in a few minutes, but the rating is also something new that we’ve added to the search results and how that clients can actually refine those further.
Now you might be wondering how the search results actually ordered. We try to do really natural language processing to understand both the intention and kind of what is this person ultimately searching for. We do try to serve up the most relevant results scanning across the demos and all of the information on a talent’s profile, so anywhere where there’s texts, that’s something that the search engine can read and understand, and then serving up the most relevant results.
Now at present, we do search and order by membership type, so the platinum members first, and then within that the premium members, and then below them, the guest members. Now over time, I’m sure we’ll change that. There might be some further improvements, but that’s how it currently works. That’s the importance of the search. And again, the reason why that’s so important for you is because that’s a direct link to be able to be invited for a job. A client can click invite to job right off your search results, or they can click into your profile where they can read more about you, and then they can invite you to a job from your profile as well. The search is a really powerful aspect of the voices.com platform.
Next up is Voice Match. Voice Match is a recommendation engine that you can use to identify how qualified you are for a particular job, and then prioritize your audition time just to those jobs that are most suited for you. Similarly, clients actually receive auditions back, further job, and the auditions are sorted by Voice Match score with the best match talent on top.
Let’s go deeper on that. The Voice Match compares the talent’s profile with the client’s job postings. It all begins with the client filling out their job posting, really saying kind of what they’re looking for, things like the language, the accent, the age, the gender, the role, the style, and then they describe the project details itself. But it’s those kinds of criteria of who they’re looking for that we use to match up the job criteria against those talent profiles, so your profile. That’s again, why it’s so important to have a 100% complete profile.
It just makes sense that the more attributes between your profile and that client’s job posting, the higher your Voice Match score is going to be for that particular job. The maximum possible Voice Match score that you could get is 100. There’s 10 points assigned for each of the following elements. You’ve got language, accent, voice, age, and gender. That’s all information that’s actually located in your bio of your profile. Then we look at the attributes that are actually on your demos, because we don’t want you just to be able to say that you can do certain things. We want you to be able to demonstrate that you can, and most people are demonstrating that through having a demo in a particular category, language, accent role. If you have some styles on there as well too, we look for those. That’s going to be totaling up to 100 points.
When you receive an email for a job that does match your profile, you’re going to see right in that email notification that there’s a score. The higher the score, the better. You’re going to definitely want to get on those 100s and 90s. Then because that’s not only an indication of how well suited we think you are for the job based upon your profile, but it’s going to determine where you rank when you actually submit the audition. If you have 100 and you submit an audition, you’re going to show up on top. Naturally you might notice that there’s a number of other talent also auditioning. Maybe some of them have 100 score as well too.
What we’ve done is we actually capture the time and date stamp right down to the second of when your audition is submitted. The tiebreaker, if you will, does go to those that submit first honoring the first come first serve rule or principle, and so if two or three or five people all have 100, it’s then going to sort within that grouping, the audition list will be the time and date stamp of when those auditions were submitted.
Hopefully that gives you a better understanding of how Voice Match works. We think of it as a recommendation engine. We’re recommending jobs to you, and then we’re recommending talent in a particular order for the clients when they’re listening through all of those auditions in response to their job posting.
Now that leads us to talk about SurePay. SurePay is the payment service that powers our online marketplace. Simply put, SurePay processes the credit card payments, holds them in trust until the work is complete by you, the talent, and then when the client’s happy with it, we disperse the funds to you, depositing the money into your bank account, or sending you a check or wiring it to your PayPal account as well.
SurePay helps ensure a risk-free financial transaction, both for you as the talent and the client, by protecting the client so that they can ensure that they get the work that they paid for and protecting you the talent so that you actually get paid for your work.
Now, going back years and years, there were some, before we even had SurePay, there was some instances where we actually always advise the talent to at least get 50% deposit upfront, or even get paid upfront. Unfortunately, sometimes the talent would get hired, do the work, deliver the files, and then the client would just disappear. Now, it’s really hard to trace somebody down if all you have is an email address. They could be next door, or they could be around the corner, or they could be around the world. You just don’t know. All you have is an email address.
Often those talent that were unfortunately taken advantage of would come back to Voices and ask us to intervene. Well, we didn’t really have any additional powers, and frankly, no more additional information than the talent had at the time. We saw this as a problem to be solved and an opportunity to deliver, again, more value to you as a talent.
Likewise, there was even a few instances or the client had paid the talent in advance and the talent was unable to do the work, or they took longer than expected, or they were unsatisfied with the work. There was a number of kind of areas of friction, let’s just say, during that process. Again, what we came up with was a means for us to act as that trusted intermediary between the client depositing the funds with voices.com first, we hold onto them until the work is complete, and then only once the work is complete, meaning it’s either delivered and uploaded through voices.com or maybe there’s an outside kind of recording studio that you go to, or some recording session, or in the odd situation, even kind of a live event, such as an award show or some kind of public speaking attendance or an announcement that needs to be done, but ultimately the work’s going to be done, and then we disperse the funds to the talent, meaning that we’re actually going to wire that, send that money to you.
That’s SurePay. It’s been a tremendously beneficial and valuable tool and piece of technology that we can provide on the platform. Again, hopefully that gives you a better understanding of how that works.
At the end of that, let’s call it the financial transaction, there is kind of one more step. The client’s got the files, but often many of you are asking, “Well, I’d like to hear how did I do?” Maybe perhaps you want to give some feedback to the client as well. These ratings and reviews is a really important part that is going to build up credibility and trust and ultimately your reputation on a voices.com. These ratings and reviews are our way of instilling further trust and building up reputation online.
When a transaction is complete, what you’ll see is be prompted actually to leave a five star rating and a review of how did you like working with that client, could be great direction, prompt payments, good communication throughout the process, express your gratitude for working with the client. And likewise, the client will let you know how they liked working with you. They can give you a five star rating and type out a brief review.
More recently, we actually added what we call compliments. Now this has been gathering behind the scenes for probably the last year and a half or so. You’ll start seeing those show up on your profile, but compliments are kind of a one click way for the client to describe their experience. They’re still going to be providing you with a five star, but then we have things like professionalism or speedy delivery or takes direction well. It’s kind of a one-click badge, if you will, that captures the sentiment. If they want to expand on that, of course, they can still by describing how the experience was, what worked, what didn’t, maybe what could be further improved in that review section.
Now, the reviews, as you know, are super important for you as a talent because they show up on your profile. There’s a whole section there. The star shows up really across the board in the search results, on your profile, and you’re listening when you actually do the audition. Building up reputation, ratings and reviews on voices.com is critical to your future success on the platform. Do what you can to get those first handful of positive ratings and reviews. I think that’s going to go a long way.
Now we use those ratings and reviews as one of the things that’s going to power our last piece of technology, that is VoiceRank. These are really just lists or leaderboards where we’re aggregating thousands of interactions, such as listens, favorites, hirings, ratings and reviews, to rank the talent, that’s you, that helps you kind of stand out from the crowd. We want to honor those and provide some recognition of those who are really engaged at Voices.
You might be wondering, well, what exactly is VoiceRank? VoiceRank is just a collection of lists. It lists the talent by the top 100 newest talent onto the platform, most recently hired and most favorited. In that order, the new voices, this is a list that features members of voices.com who have recently joined or renewed their memberships. The names on the lists are going to frequently change in real time because memberships that are renewed or activated really all the time. That updates really, I think in every five minutes.
Then we have the top 100 favorites. Clients can favorite a talent from the search results, from your profile. Every time they click that heart, that’s kind of adding another favorite. Again, the difference here is that this list can actually be viewed top 100 favorites this month, well, actually this week, this month, and then all times. There’s three different time dimensions that you can look at and be on a different favorites lists.
Then finally, most recently hired. This is the top 100 most recently hired. This list showcases the talent who’ve completed a job through voices.com and paid using that SurePay system as well. Talent who’ve completed work outside of the platform, you’re not going to appear on the list. We can’t kind of override it in any way. Hopefully this serves as a bit of a encouragement to actually make sure that the transaction stays online because it’s giving you some really valuable visibility by showing up on the most recently hired list as well.
Perhaps over time we’ll have other top 100 lists. We’ve got some ideas in the works, but VoiceRank is kind of the engine behind the scenes that’s powering all of those lists.
Well, we started with the Voice marketplace and we’re going to end with the marketplace as well. Now there’s one other principal I’m going to call it that’s not exactly a piece of technology, but it’s a guiding principle for how we operate the entire voices experience for all of you, and that’s what we call this E for everyone concept. You’ll be familiar if you’ve ever played video games what E for everyone means. It’s a rating of a suitability in terms of acceptable content, let’s say. It’s kind of a rating of what people can expect. E for everyone is simply put, our way of communicating what we have as for our content guidelines. We’re going to continue to offer a safe platform with this E for everyone rated content. It’s going to be safe for the brands because they want to have brand safety, knowing that then when they post a job on voices, it’s going to be posted beside a next job that’s also posted by a reputable company or a reputable organization. Brands want to be affiliated with a platform that has these kind of brand safety type guidelines.
Likewise, it’s also a safe environment for you as a talent. I’m sure you want to be doing encouraging and uplifting and edifying content. There’s enough, let’s say, garbage out there. I don’t think we want to participate in it. Well, I know we don’t and in fact, that’s why we have these content guidelines in place.
If you think of this as a safeguard to make sure that we have healthy content, then what are we kind of trying to guard against? I would say there’s six actual different types of content that we see out there that hopefully you’ll agree is, yeah, you know what, that’s not kind of thing I want to lend my voice to. Do I really want to be putting more kind of extreme content and extreme violent material out there? Not likely.
Extreme violence is one. Adult content where it’s sexually explicit, profanity or profane content. Then we have racism material, which unfortunately continues to persist. We have a hate speech that tries to get posted every now and then. These are just not content that we want to be pushing out to you and really inviting you to audition for. We’re going to filter that out before it even gets to you to the best of our abilities. We have a content filtering system, but really that is, the black and white is the easy stuff. It’s the gray area that sometimes is challenging. I think we’ve continued to have work to do there, but for the most part, we’re able to filter out the content.
Those are the first five. The last one is one that we’ve added more recently, I’m going to call it false impressions. I mean, this is where somebody is going to really put words into somebody else’s mouth, providing an impersonation, saying something that they would never say. It could be for commercial, it could be for political reasons, it could be just to manipulate or cause harm to someone else’s reputation. These false impressions can be tremendously damaging. That’s kind of the six elements there, extreme violence, adult content, profanity, racism, hate speech and these false impressions. That’s all the kind of content that we’re going to filter out of the marketplace.
Now I wanted to end with that because it’s not just technology that powers an experience like Voices, it’s also the guiding principles. The content guidelines are what are those that I think are really important for the future success for everyone.
If you want to learn more about our trust and safety policies you can do so in the company section or in the footer of every page on the website, just look for the link called trust and safety. Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s show. If you have any questions or comments, just send me an email to David@voices.com. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or to Google Play to catch the next episode, well until then, use your voice to inform, entertain and inspire the world.
Jul 13 2020
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Only two decades ago, some of the tools we now consider bedrocks of today’s voice over industry had yet to come into existence.
In this episode, David takes us back to a time before home recording studios, when voice over talent without agency representation had very few opportunities to book work. Listen as David recounts the rise of Voices, including the expansion of the platform as it moved upmarket, David’s journey to New York City to participate in the Canadian Technology Accelerator, the acquisition of Voicebank, and ultimately uniting Voices and Voicebank under one brand.
Hi guys, David here from Voices, and thank you for joining me for another episode of The Voices Experience. Over the last couple of episodes, we’ve dug into a lot of data, from our annual trends report that revealed the buying behaviors from ad agencies and brand marketers, as well as in a separate episode, the stats behind how to become a successful voice actor. So if you haven’t heard those already be sure to go back and catch up, at least on those last two episodes.
On today’s show, we’re going to go back, but not back in time a few episodes, this go around, we’re going to go back really to a day when home studios were non-existent and talent didn’t get much voiceover work unless they had an agent. So we’re traveling back in time, more than 20 years ago, to the dawning of a new era of voiceovers, and that is Voicebank, a site you’ve probably heard of maybe through The Grapevine, or people have some great fond memories of it.
Well, we do too, as company co-founders, Stephanie and I, we always looked at Voicebank as a company that first opened the doors to online voice casting. They led the way as pioneers, connecting ad agencies with talent agencies to audition, really mostly union talent and agency represented voice talent, in general. Now their founder, Jeff Hixon, he was Voicebank’s founder, he was a real visionary. His ambition was to bring voiceovers online, and that meant building his business from the ground up. Literally Jeff told me stories of the early days when getting customers for him, meant installing internet connections by crawling around on his hands and knees, and literally plugging in DSL lines and dial up lines into the agencies just so they could get online and use his website. So that’s how early days it was.
Now, another way that Voicebank helped change the business was by inspiring those same talent agencies, not just to get connected, but actually install recording studios and sound booths so that talent could come into their place of business and do an audition for jobs that were sent to them from Voicebank. So if you think about it, Voicebank played a pretty significant role in shaping how you do your work today. So in a lot of ways, Voicebank was the gold standard. By introducing this new concept of online voice casting, Voicebank also gave talent a glimpse into the agency world, industry trends and access to a variety of talent agents who maybe one day would change the course of their careers. So it was often known as a place where you go to hear great demos. If you ever talked to anybody in the industry, they always said, “Oh, just go to Voicebank. You’ll hear agency rep talent, you’ll hear the celebrities.”
And so not only did fellow talents tell each other that, but coaches routinely sent their students to study the demos of agency rep talent and hear what a real, quote unquote, professional demo sounded like, and then hopefully they would be inspired. Well, simply put Jeff and his team ushered in a new era of voice casting, one that would pave the way for generations of voice talent, ultimately using Voices.com, not just to audition, but also do work from home. Well, when we built our company in the early 2000’s and gradually became more immersed within the voiceover world, Voicebank of course came on our radar as well.
Now, our business served two ends of the same spectrum of voice casting. We were connecting freelance voice talent with the businesses that wanted to hire them. And those businesses were often ad agencies, creative producers, Fortune 500 companies, yeah, and in the earliest days, a lot of small businesses. But over time, we were also able to move up market into bigger and more meaningful projects as well. Now, Voicebank, they were able to connect people that had union jobs and connect them with the union talent, as I said, often were represented by those talent agencies. So years went on, it seemed like we both kept doing our own thing, over time though, we acquired bigger and bigger clients, and they had different needs. The clients had needs of, there were sometimes seeking union talent, and they wanted to work with a talent agent in some cases.
So we asked yourself really, what were we to do? Are we going to enter in this space? How would we go about that? So in order to meet the needs of our biggest clients, we had to up our own game. What we needed was a broader talent pool, that not only offered freelance professionals, that’s many of you on the podcast today, but also expanded to include union represented talent, so union affiliated talent, those who are affiliated with the Screen Actors Guild, or ACTRA here in Canada. Now there really wasn’t an easy way to go about this. I mean, we always struggled with how to get the best work for voiceover talent, but also how to bring union work into the fold, and it wasn’t until acquiring Voicebank that we were not only in a position to entertain those inquiries, we were able to actually carry them through as well. Although union talent had created profiles on Voices, we weren’t able to connect them directly with union jobs, job postings that explicitly stated that they needed to hire somebody part of Screen Actors Guild, as an example.
And we also couldn’t process union payments through a paymaster. So there was clearly a big gap of where we were, and where we wanted to be. At one point, we actually did explore becoming a union signatory, and at the union suggestion, however, it meant that all jobs posted on our website would need to become union jobs. Now we asked a lot of the clients how they felt about that, and frankly, they felt quite differently, so it was this all or nothing approach that ultimately caused that to fall apart. Now, fast forward a couple of years, in 2015, we were invited to participate in the Canadian Technology Accelerator, it was a program put on by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, it’s now known as Global Affairs Canada. Well, the CTA, as we call it, helps Canadian companies with existing technology or products or services, explore new opportunities in foreign markets.
The CTA provides mentoring, workspace, and introductions to potential partners, that could be investors or customers. In fact, a few years earlier, we had spent time at the CTA in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, where I had lived for a while and had the mentorship of a director of marketing at Facebook. Stephanie spent time, during that same period, visiting Twitter, Google, and other tech companies. I mean, we learned a lot in those early days. So when the CTA program came up again, this time it was in New York city and that led to us applying for the program and ultimately getting accepted. Now getting accepted actually meant that I was going to be living there for the better part of a year, I mean, Stephanie and I were like two ships in the night. I mean, we had one apartment in New York, I lived there for a month, then we’d pass each other briefly over a weekend or leaving an airport, one person coming, one person going. So it was a really tough time, but very rewarding from a business experience as well.
Now, my time in New York city, it was all about business development. I mean, I was setting up meetings, literally pounding the pavement, walking up and down Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue, where all the ad agencies are, creative producers, and a lot of talent agencies. So I was meeting with the ad agencies and talent agencies, those town agencies were particularly insightful, I mean, despite showing Voices.com, our own website, nearly all were actually disinterested. I mean, I uncovered that they relied so heavily on this other website, Voicebank, to get all of their leads on a daily basis, they really didn’t need us. And that’s just how the industry worked, especially for union work.
So meeting after meeting, I was getting a lot of no’s, or, “No, thank you, sir. We’re good.” And then it just dawned on me that no one was going to change from good enough to, well, maybe better. I mean, Voicebank was good enough for a lot of the talent agencies, despite it being decades old. I mean, it was founded in 1998, it really hadn’t been updated since then. And it wasn’t mobile friendly, it wasn’t a modern web experience, there’s no usability testing or user experience that was invested into it, it was there, it always worked, and the fact is that it was functional and it just works. So the maybe better, that was us, Voices.com, we can have a fancy, modern, mobile app and web experience, but it just didn’t matter. So maybe we were better, maybe we’d become better, but it wasn’t worth the hassle of changing or switching or really adding to the operation of so many of those talent agencies that I spoke with firsthand.
Now I did ask them if we could bring you more union work, would that be of interest to you? Of course they all said yes. So I figured maybe that was our approach. How do we bring talent agencies more union work, perhaps that would invite them to join Voices.com? So at our next strategic planning session, we explored a number of avenues of growth, from new products, new geographies, but it seemed that the conversation always kept gravitating back towards the desire to move into the union space, and bring union work and celebrities and agency rep talent onto the platform. And by our vantage point, there was really only two options, and those two options were build or buy. So in one scenario, we would be in direct competition with Voicebank, an established industry player, where we would need to build a 10X better solution. Again, no one was going to switch to maybe better, it had to be 10X better, so significantly better.
Now the other approach saw us coming together under the same banner to achieve a common goal of moving the industry forward. So we much preferred the latter, Voicebank and Voices shared so much of the same clientele, it only made sense for bringing those customers together and giving those, many of the same customers, the ability to get everything they were looking for in one place. The solution seemed really obvious to us, we wanted to partner. So after a few phone calls, Stephanie and I arranged for a meeting with Jeff Hixon, the founder of Voicebank, we flew out to Los Angeles, I mean, it was one of those odd moments where in life you realize that you’re flying 5,000 miles in one direction across the country, just for a 60 minute meeting and then pretty much turning around, hopping on a plane, and coming home.
So in that meeting and speaking with Jeff, we heard his vision for creating a single portal where producers could pick between union and non-union talent, agency rep talent, or freelance professionals. And after exploring the partnership for a while, I floated the idea of, “Hey, what do you think about Voices actually acquiring Voicebank?” And he seemed to be pretty interested, and I said, we’d follow up with an offer. And that prompted Stephanie and I to line up the financing and reach out to our network of investors who had actually expressed interest in investing in us over all these years, I actually kept all of these investors in a big list, so we had really some people that we could approach, a pursuit list if you will. So I reached back out to those investors, with a simple email, just informing them that we were considering raising around capital. And if they’re interested, let us know we should hop on a call.
I’m sure I did, goodness, over a hundred calls, I narrowed it down to 20 in-person meetings that Stephanie and I then did on a road show. Now, for those of you who don’t know what a road show is, it’s when the founders, again, hop on a plane, travel from city to city telling the founding story, and it’s the same one that you heard in episode one, so if you haven’t heard the founding story, go back and listen to that. And then we’d would walk through our investor pitch deck, there’s lots of information out there about investor pitch decks, but really it’s a 10 slide PowerPoint, if you will, that just walks through, again, the story and the nuts and bolts of how the business works.
In addition to that investor pitch, we also incorporated a product demo. I mean, Stephanie gives a great product demo, really putting the investor into the mindset of being a casting director for a fictitious Walt Disney world resort project. Now, one of these meetings was with Bobby Bassman, I mean, Bobby’s a managing partner at Morgan Stanley, the global investment banking firm, and Bobby’s a legend, he really championed us within the firm. And so fast forward by a couple of months, we were able to close the deal with Morgan Stanley, and in July of 2017, we announced this $18 million Series A investment from Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, their private equity group that’s based out of San Francisco, serving the broader Silicon Valley area. Now at the same time that that investment was closing, we were also concurrently engaged in due diligence with Voicebank, and due diligence is just really the looking through the business operating procedures and manuals and all the legals and financials, just to make sure that the house was in order. And of course it was. It was in order, in which case the deal went forward.
So about a month after Voices was invested in by Morgan Stanley, we also acquired Voicebank in August, 2017 I believe, bringing both union and non-union worlds together, all is one, online. So just before that announcement actually happened, though, Stephanie and I did spend some time with the Voicebank team, shared our vision, our philosophy, and then we also invited them to come up and fly up to London for some additional training. So we felt like, not only did we get the deal done, but we we’re really trying to fuse the two teams to work collaboratively together as well. Now, regionally, the desire was to actually keep the brand separate for a couple years and then merge them together slowly, but things didn’t go according to plan, as sure as some of you who were around at that time may have noticed, and we actually opted to accelerate the timeline by a matter of months.
There was just a lot of confusion, a lot of distraction happening, and we figured, look, let’s just bring these two brands together, sooner than we anticipated, but we ended up in a great spot, nonetheless. So we took the next year to migrate everybody onto Voices.com, and in June of 2018, Voices and Voicebank were united under one brand. Voices.com is the first ever platform with the power to offer both producers access to unionized SAG-AFTRA members and claim freelance voice talent. So I think we’ve done that in a pretty good way, and I’m super proud of the team for doing so.
So that’s the behind the scenes look of how it all happened. Today Voicebank, in case you’re curious, you ever type it in to Google, it’s just going to automatically redirect you to Voices.com, but that’s the story of how it all happened, the financing, the acquisition, the merger of Voicebank and Voices.com. And it was a really challenging time for us, of course, as you can imagine, but I believe that we’re stronger for it now, I mean, there’s more opportunities for talent than ever before, and we’re realizing the full potential of bringing the brands together and all of these producers under one roof.
So this is part of The Voices Experience story, and it might even be part of your Voices experience too. So if you ever wanted to learn more about how we brought the Voicebank and Voices together, I’d encourage you to visit our help section on the website at voices.com/help and just type in Voicebank, I’m sure you’ll get a lot of background information as well as some tutorials, and I’ve even written a couple open letters on the subject, there’s an open letter to voice talent, and separately there’s an open letter for talent agencies sharing with them how we hope to work together with them in the future.
So if you ever have a question, simply send it to email@example.com, and I’ll do my best to get back to you right away, but please be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play to catch the latest episode, well until then, use your voice to inform, educate, and inspire the world.
Jun 29 2020
Rank #6: Becoming a Great Voice Actor
If you’re listening to this podcast, there’s probably one key question on the tip of your tongue: How can I become a more successful voice actor?
You’re in luck! In this episode, David walks us through Voices.com’s very own How to Become a Successful Voice Actor report, which addresses developing your talent, identifying the right coach, home studio technology, the amount of time you ought to spend auditioning, and the most effective marketing strategies for voice actors.
Hey guys, it’s David, the founder of Voices, the website where hopefully you’re finding a lot of voice over work. On this podcast, my role is to be your guide, giving you a behind the scenes look at how things work here at Voices.com and as well as provide insights on the industry, current trends that I’m seeing as well as my perspective on the future. On today’s show, I’m going to answer one of the questions that I’m sure is on most of your minds. How can I be a more successful voice actor? Now, if you’ve ever found yourself asking that question, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, many voice actors are constantly attempting to answer just that. How can I be more successful? While there’s no doubt that becoming a professional voice actor takes time, training and of course, dedication over the long haul, what success actually looks like in practice is a little bit harder to quantify.
Well, over the last year, we developed a report by doing research on both through surveys, as well as reaching out to a number of talent and coaches, just trying to get to the bottom of it. What makes up a successful voice talent? So we’ve compiled a report, it’s accessible and for free on Voices.com. If you go to the bottom of every page on our website, you’ll see a little link there called reports. And the one I’m referring to is literally called, How To Become A Successful Voice Actor. So I’m going to walk us through that today. The report compile survey data from voice actors and coaches from around the world, along with our own internal data, as well as in house expertise. And what we’re trying to do is illuminate what successful voice actors are doing, how are they engaged? What are they investing in an order to foster a thriving business of their own? Specifically though, we examine how advanced voice actors operate in their business in regards to a couple of different dimensions, first off talent development, what are they doing in the area of coaching and training?
What do coaches even do? And then how do you identify the right coach and specifically, what are the differences between an in-person coaching and online voice over coaching? So after talent development, we cover home studio technology. Of course, there’s a wide array of technologies that are out there, but we do want to cover the basics. Of course, what are your home studio setup needs? Of course, microphones, software recording, headphones, and then any other special equipment. Now it’s often been said that the work of the voice actor is the auditioning.
So let’s go deep on understanding how much time do most talent do auditioning every day? How many is a good number of auditions to go for? And then pull out a few ideas about how to make a successful voice over audition, and finally pulling it all together, what are the marketing strategies that successful voice actors find to be effective? How are they branding themselves online? How are they filling out their profile on Voices.com? Do they have their own website and how they’re using social media? The critical role of voice over demos and how to get clients to give you referrals as well too?
And so that is what we’re going to cover today in the episode of the Voices Experience. All right, let’s dive in first to talent development. I mentioned that starts with training and coaching. Well, natural talent is a great starting point, of course for anyone interested in a career in voice acting. However, the impact of training on the success of one’s career can really be significant. And we just looked at the data, those who have training or credentials listed on their profile, they’re making 13% more on a job-by-job basis. And those who have listed a coach, are booking 21% more jobs overall.
So as a further testament to the importance of ongoing education, voice coaches also put their money where their mouth is. 71% of coaches receive training themselves. Susan Berkley, a voice actor and coach in New York says, “I’m always sharpening my saw, I invest tens of thousands of dollars a year in my own training and education so I can bring the most up-to-date information and marketing and business building methods to our students in a market that is always growing and changing.” So, there is someone who’s telling it just like it is, she definitely lives out her own career and craft. And you might be wondering, well, what do voice coaches do? Well, coaches offer a wide range of services, including audio production education, the demo production, either accent training or accent reduction, often character development. Those who don’t have a background in acting, getting into character can be somewhat difficult and the coach can help out with that.
And once you have those basic performance skills down and those technical skills, you might want to get some guidance on how to market yourself more effectively. So as you see, coaches don’t only help voice actors with vocal technique, they also help with the technical and business side of the industry as well. Coaching is a tried and true way to gain the necessary skills to start and grow your voice over business. So how do you identify the right vocal coach? In order to achieve success with a coach, your training needs have to be aligned with the coach’s expertise in kind of area of offering. So, your styles need to match with theirs. The best way to find your coaching fit is to do a trial session or maybe an interview call. Often a lot of them have podcasts or videos that you can view on YouTube.
There’s a number of podcasts here at Voices.com that are provided by coaches. So you can listen to those and find somebody that clicks with you. Bruce Carey, one of the voice coaches that we work with and he says, “Even during an evaluation, you should be impressed by the coach’s method and immediate results.” So they should be giving those insights right off the bat and that’s when you know, you’re going to get a lot of value in working with them. Now, in our digitally connected era, it’s allowing voice actors to access some of the top coaches from around the globe by doing remote or online sessions. Remote or online coaches offers the same benefits as working in person, plus though it has the added benefit to strengthens the students’ level of comfort using technology, which of course is an important and integral part of the industry. 85% of coaches that we surveyed, they actually indicated they do offer some type of online coaching.
So, if you reach out to a coach and they say they only have workshops from here and there, they probably also do one-on-one sessions that you can take advantage of. Ellie Devers another coach that we’ve worked with from time to time and says, “I think, in some cases, my students are uncomfortable with the technology involved with Skype or FaceTime, but that initial discomfort usually is overcome quite rapidly. Then I find it’s useful for my students to become more familiar with the technologies because they’re going to be involved when it comes to auditions and working with the clients remotely.” That’s actually a really good point that Ellie makes. You’re not always going to be in person and in studio. Oftentimes, the recording sessions are these live directed sessions that are done remotely. Now, more than ever, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Microsoft meeting, there’s a whole plethora of these remote kind of directed sessions. It’s really just a communication method that that client can give you some artistic direction.
So you can see coaching is a great way to get more familiar with those technologies. Building a home studio can feel like one of the more complex and perhaps even expensive aspects of launching or running your own voice over business. Many of those who’ve been in the space a while, know that they’ve invested thousands of equipment that make up their sound. What gear to purchase, what software to use and how to set up your own studio are among the most widely discussed topic in the voice over industry and that extends far beyond into musicians and other live performers as well and really anyone that does recording.
While the investment doesn’t need to be substantial to yield excellent results, understanding what gear the other professional voice actors are using, can actually act as a bit of a guidepost for those who hope to acquire the equipment over time, and that meets or exceeds an acceptable standard. Voices.com did our own research and looked at what are the pro actors on the platform using? And it seemed to fall into each of these three areas, microphone types and brands, the voice over recording software itself, and then some headphones or playback speakers.
Let’s start off with the microphones. The type of mic and the brand that each voice actor prefers, really does vary quite widely. It’s important to understand which mic works best for one’s vocal abilities. Meaning somebody’s mic might be good for their voice, but it might not be great for yours, or you just don’t like how it interprets your sound. So, 25% of the respondents to our survey said they actually chose their microphone through trial and error. That means they just tried out a bunch. Often, I’ve heard it said that you can maybe contact your local music store and ask to borrow a microphone over the weekend or even rent one. They’ll do that in advance of expecting hopefully a purchase.
So, that’s a great tip right there. Make sure you try out a number of microphones before investing hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Erica Cain is one of the voice actors on Voices.com and she says, “Right now I have a Rode NT1 that I use in my studio.” That’s what she has in her studio now, but the first mic that was ever recommended to her was the Samson C01U Pro. And in fact, that’s actually the microphone that I’m using today, the Samson C01U.
So, it shows you that there’s a variety of equipment that’s out there. You’re going to have to make your decision particularly on those microphones, but more specifically than a particular brand, despite how personal that microphone selection process is, some microphone types are going to be much more popular. Of course, a condenser microphone is going to be the most popular at 41% of people filling out the survey said that that’s what they had. 40% surprisingly, actually had a USB microphone, which is again, what I’m using today. Not going to be the greatest quality if you’re knocking out voice overs day in and day out, but that’s what a lot of us are using.
And for my purposes, it’s just here on the podcast. Then we have the cardioid microphone at 8.5%, dynamic microphones, ribbon, omni, or other kind of configuration microphones just less than about 3%. So, most often if you hear something like referred to as a Neumann microphone, that’s again a brand. And then, most of those are condenser microphones. So, take a look at that. Now, the microphone that Anatol is using, he’s a professional voice actor, and he says… He’s actually currently using an Audio Technica AT4047. It’s a cardioid condenser microphone. It’s got a large diaphragm, really captures a lot of sound and he’s obviously tested that out himself and landed on one that works best for him.
Now there’s a lot of other data about microphones, the brands, the styles, as well as the manufacturers themselves. And so I’d encouraged you to go to Voices.com into the report section where you can see all of the data of what people are using there. So the last thing I’m going to say about microphones is that it’s totally okay to start out with the best microphone that you can afford and then upgrade later as you start to book more work, that seems to be the path that most other voice actors on Voices.com have pursued as well. All right, let’s talk about the recording software. Just like microphones, there’s a wide variety of audio recording software options, and they vary in range and complexity from completely free to a few hundred dollars per year, like Pro Tools.
So, Chloe Taylor says that, “I use Audacity. It’s free. It’s downloadable. It’s really easy to use. And since voice over you’re really just working with one track, you don’t need a whole multi-track software program.” So, that’s one of the appeals of a Audacity. Someone else says that they started with Audacity and then a couple of weeks later switched to Adobe Audition, which is available from the Adobe Creative Cloud that you can download as well online. Now, preference of recording software is one of these personal choices and low cost or free options can be in fact just as effective and competitive as the more expensive packages. Sometimes voice actors may find that an investment in the software is worth making for various reasons, from the program’s capabilities, its plugins, or maybe even a opinion over the sound quality.
So, what are those voice actors using on Voices.com? The five most popular audio recording software brands, according to data that’s listed on the voice actor profiles, these are the most popular programs. Adobe Audition is on top. It’s a subscription, it’s $29.99 a month. Then we have Audacity, completely free. Pro Tools, which is again an industry standard, but more for music and audio post-production, but definitely the big heavyweight in the space. It ranges from… There’s a free lightweight version, all the way up to about $600, $700. You can buy that on a onetime fee or on an annual subscription. Logic, eight, which is actually made by Apple that’s $279. And then we have, of course, another Apple product GarageBand, 5% of respondents said they use GarageBand, it’s free. It comes standard and pre-installed on all Macs. Still on home studio technology. Let’s talk about headphones for voice actors. Do you use them? Do you not?
Well, compared to microphones and audio recording software, headphones don’t really get nearly as much discussion or attention, but they can be arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment in a voice actor’s toolkit, especially deciding whether you’re not, you’re going to be editing with headphones on day in and day out. And speaking of editing, imperfections in your audio, prevent you from really booking work. Good quality headphones are important because they allow you to catch those imperfections or oddities that maybe you wouldn’t hear normally just coming through speakers, but your client’s ears might pick them up. So, find the perfect pair of headphones. You can test them out at your local music store. Again, borrow or rent them, maybe ask a friend or colleague, if you can take some headphones over the weekend, then just start by listening to the lowest cost pair of headphones and then work your way up there in price. It’s really a fun way to determine with the headphones, meet your budget and kind of quality. And if you can kind of really perceive if there’s a difference between each of these sets of headphones.
So, it’s going to allow you to find not only a pair that sounds good, but also one that’s comfortable and kind of sits on your head. We don’t want your ears to get too squished over time and just kind of have more ear fatigue. So, be conscious of what your headphones selection is going to be. The top five headphone brands preferred by voice actors in our survey, not necessarily listed on their profile, because maybe headphones don’t seem as important there, they’re more of a behind the scenes tool, but the brands that most people are preferring are Sony, Sennheiser, AKG, then Audio-Technica, then a whole variety of miscellaneous headphones after that. But Sony and Sennheiser both have 13% of the respondents said that those were their favorite headphones to choose from. So still on headphones, can you believe that 95% of the voice actors that we surveyed were their headphones while recording and for playback and editing. Only 5% just wear their headphones for playback and editing.
So the vast majority of you are going to be having your headphones on day in and day out throughout the day, during the recording, as well as during the editing phase. So make sure you find a good pair of headphones that sits well on your head, is comfortable and sounds great. Now, up to this point, we’ve been covering the home studio technology, but there’s some other important areas that you might want to be paying some attention to, not necessarily the recording, but more specifically the room that you’re recording in. You can spend thousands of dollars on the recording and then have a really vibrant room that sounds kind of reverberating and kind of the slack back sound. Now that can be avoided in a couple ways. Yes, of course soundproofing your room but one technique that most people don’t realize is the closer that you get to your microphone, the less of a room tone, a room sound that you’re picking up. So make sure you’re really tight and up there on that microphone. So there’s articles of course, on the Voices.com blog on how to soundproof a room.
You can spend a lot of money or little money, but some talent, even say that they just use a guest room, they have a large cloth over a beach umbrella and some heavy down comforters that makes up the walls. So, that’s one way to do it. Other people put up acoustic foam that they’ve been able to grab from a musician friend. So there’s lots of ways to acoustically treat your room. The important part is that you want to have it as quiet and contained as possible. Now, if you’re not going to treat your room yourself, maybe you’ve upgraded and you’ve landed a few more jobs and you’re looking to invest in your space, sometimes it can include actually putting in a booth. And so that might look like a out of the box booth called a whisper room or a studiobrick. These are ones that are prefabricated and you can install right in your space or you might have a construction or carpenter friend who can help you put one together.
Now there’s lots of other equipment that can go into a home studio or maybe some tips on how to soundproof a room. If you’ve got advice on home studio equipment, like your favorite piece of gear, or maybe something that really changed or improved your sound, take a minute now just to add it to the comment section below and help out one of your friends. All right. Well, we’ve been talking about how to become a successful voice actor, begins with the coaching, then you got to have a great setup, but at some point, you actually need to be starting to do some auditions. So, how much time should be spent auditioning every day? There’s no two ways about it. Voice actors need to be auditioning often in order to become successful. But the tricky part is, what is often exactly once a day, twice a day, how much time should you spend actually doing the auditions?
Well, in that survey, I’ve been mentioning, it revealed that professional voice actors divide their time equally between auditioning and then completing the jobs that they’ve actually won. Approximately let’s call it a one-to-one ratio between recording auditions and recording jobs. However, when you get started though, in order to build a business, beginner voice actors have to spend at least two times as much time recording those auditions. So, this groups ratio looks a lot closer to a 2:1, two times as much recording auditions for every one job that you’re actually doing. So if that’s the ratio, what does that kind of break down in terms of hours per week. Well, in our survey, 87% of beginning voice talent spend just under 10 hours a week doing auditions and then less than five hours a week, actually recording those jobs. Of our most successful talent though on the platform, are actually the ones that are auditioning daily.
This is especially true to newcomers on the platform, but even those who’ve been working with us for years and landing hundreds of jobs, they’re still auditioning daily. And out of this whole podcast, if you remember anything, I want it to be this key piece of data, that our information shows that voice actors who audition seven or more times a day, make approximately 20,000 more dollars per year than voice talent, who audition less than seven times per day. So, if you’re going to have a personal goal, make it be seven auditions or more per day. Now, I mentioned Anatol earlier, but he says again in the comments here that, “Most of my day is spent auditioning. It depends on how many auditions come in, of course. But a typical audition could run you from five minutes to 10 minutes, depending on the research and the effort that’s needed to put in.” So do it as best as you can and as quickly as you can. And that actually could be 20 auditions to up to 50 auditions per day.
I’ve heard some talent at the height of kind of just getting going at the beginning, really enthusiastic, doing 60, 70 auditions per day. That is completely crazy. That is total machine, but you do get better in how to figure out how to do them faster and really improve your workflow through that. So when it comes to doing the auditions themselves, one of the tips that we often give out is, of course the recommended length of the audition, you don’t want to record the whole script of course, but the length is approximately 15 to 30 seconds of actual recorded time. Now, if a script is longer, for example, for an audio book or maybe a documentary, then really those first few seconds really quite matter and they tend to seal the deal for the clients. And if it is a little bit longer of a script, you actually might want to record a bit of a longer audition so they can hear you stay in character for longer, or have a long piece of narration that you can really capture and keep the listener’s attention.
So, maximize your time efficiently by sticking to the timeframe that matters most. Most often though, it’s going to be that 15 to 30 seconds on the audition and make sure those first few seconds matter. Now, I mentioned that magical seven number, those who make $20,000 or more than their counterparts, because they’re doing seven or more auditions. However, most of the premium talent that if I just kind of a down select to them through the data and both through the comments, it looks like at least 10 auditions a day seems to be a pretty standard goal.
So if you have a goal, I’d love to see it in the comments below what’s your auditioning goal every day? Or maybe you think of it every week. Do you have a goal? And if so, how many auditions are you doing every day? So if you have a goal for the number of auditions that you want to do, you might be asking what’s the most important aspect of the audition itself? Well, the first consideration may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. You just must be the right voice for the job by being selective in auditioning for jobs that you’re qualified for. The language, the style, the age range, your capabilities, even the right accent. That’s going to be the first key. The client is… You’re not going to fool them by trying to pretend to be somebody that you’re not. And in fact, it’s probably a waste of your time and their time too unfortunately.
So, stick with jobs that you feel are really good for you. But beyond those basics, creating an emotional connection with your performance is what seals the deal. It’s not the lowest quote or the lowest bid on the job. It’s not even the first one that gets in. In speaking with over 100 talent on a number of Google Hangouts over the last couple of weeks, I’ve asked them kind of what’s working for them, what isn’t working for them? And I did actually get some questions about, is it the lowest prices the talent is quoting? Are they the ones getting it? And I described this kind of Goldilocks effect when it comes to quoting. I’ll probably do a whole other episode on this in the future, but really your quote needs to come within the range, the middle of the range that the client has selected as their budget.
So not too hot, not too low, but just right in the middle. So I refer to that as the Goldilocks effect. So you got to be right for the job, you’ve got to create an emotional connection and more than that, it’s… Or as important I should say, is actually having a quote that’s solid within the middle of the range. Because in fact, the statement that our clients let us know is that the performance or vocal qualities that connect emotionally with my audience, that’s the number one factor. So really the artistic performance and 70% of clients agree that this aspect of the audition was the most important part of their casting decision. So my final tip for this section is if you don’t know, you can actually choose the criteria for jobs that are best suited for you. You just get emailed only those jobs and you can go into your account settings, you can select the budget, the type of job, and then just get only those ones sent to you. So go check your account settings at Voices.com.
So, during this whole episode, we’ve been talking about what makes a successful voice actor? And successful voice actors market themselves differently than everyone else. So voice actors that are on top have a number of marketing strategies in their back pocket. Some of the most effective marketing tools that they leverage include in having an online presence or brand. Making sure their demos are top notch. They always have client and referrals from other voice actors that they work with. So they’ve got their own mini network that they’re referring business to, that doesn’t fit them. But then, the reciprocal happens as well too where they get business inbound. So there’s an informal referral network, and then they’re always looking for ways to actually expand their offerings. What else can I offer in addition to voice over? Perhaps it’s translation, maybe the client needs some help just fine-tuning their copy a little bit. “Hey, do you want me to sync that voice over up with some music?” Even just offering those either afterwards, delivering that voice, those can be great. Let’s call them upsell opportunities for you as well.
When we asked voice actors to rate the importance of various marketing tactics, the professionals rated having a great website as the top tactic for them. So, that’s their own website on their own URL. So myvoiceactingwebsite.com, whatever that might be. All right. Then after that, it’s actually having clients talk about past projects, being able to talk about other clients’ projects. And then of course, amplifying that message through social media. When it comes to the beginners though, they’re really just trying to get up and running and off the ground and they’re trying to find their own feet in which case actually offering audio production services in addition to doing voice overs seem to be the tactic that they found to be most effective.
So if I were to interpret that approach from some of the beginner talent, it would be under-promising and over-delivering. I’m going to promise to do a great voice over for you, but I’m also going to edit it, I’m going to maybe mix in some music, add sound effects if that’s what the client wants, and maybe even deliver it in a couple of different file formats. That’s how you can deliver excellent service. So those are the marketing tactics that talent are using off of Voices.com, but many of those elements actually relate to your profile on Voices.com as well. Now, again, probably we have a whole episode dedicated to optimizing your profile on Voices.com, but with the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are posted here every year and by reputable and the most loved brands, it’s really no surprise that this is another great way to market yourself.
So it sounds simple, but creating a great Voices.com profile, we find that voice actors increase their chances of successfully landing work because their profile is completed. It means that a search in can find them and then they can be invited for all the jobs because it’s the profile information that’s essential in calculating an actor’s VoiceMatch score. Now, VoiceMatch and VoiceSearch, these are two technologies that we’ll save for another day, but the key takeaway here is that your profile really needs to be filled out completely. And so there’s even a profile completeness score. That should be 100%. If you don’t know why it’s not 100%, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or questions about how you can make your profile even better, just leave that in the comments below. Now, one of our product managers, Cornelia actually says that an incomplete profile will cause you to miss out on VoiceMatch points. That’s really our algorithm that determines how we invite you to job opportunities. And it means you’re not going to show up as in as many searches as well too.
So it’s kind of like keeping your website from not appearing on Google. You want to make sure you’ve optimized it for Google. Well, similarly, you want to make sure that your profile is optimized for the VoiceSearch as well. So VoiceMatch, this matching algorithm for the jobs that needs to be complete and accurate to ensure that you’re getting invited to all the work possible. And we’ll let you know how well-matched you are for specific jobs. That’s a score out of 100. The higher your score, the higher you appear in the client’s list of audition responses. So, the key takeaway here is that you not only do you want to have a complete profile, but for the jobs that you do get invited to, the ones with the highest VoiceMatch, that means that you’re going to get to kind of bump up to the top of that audition list.
All right. So we covered your Voices.com profile, but one of the aspects of your profile is also your demos. Now, your demos don’t need to be produced just for Voices.com. You can, of course, you’re going to have demos on your own website, maybe upload them to SoundCloud or maybe other sites that you’re a part of. So the demos are often referred to as the best business card for voice actors. When it comes to adding voice over demos, more is more. A couple of years ago, those voice actors who had seven or more demos uploaded to their Voices.com profile, increased a… Get this, 290% increase in their higher rate. That’s the times of the percentage of jobs that they win, 312% increase in their earnings and 300% increase in being favorited by listens. So favorites is when the clients use that favoriting tool of that heart that are listed in the search results and on your profile and so forth.
You got to be logged in as a client to actually see the heart, but you will definitely get notified every time that you’re favorite. So if you have seven or more demos, then you’re getting basically 300% across each of those different metrics. So, really important. So we’ve heard seven auditions or more per day and seven demos uploaded to your profile. So you might be wondering, why is having seven demos important? Well, one explanation might be that creating a voice over demo in each of the specific skill sets, for instance, having a French demo, a commercial demo, a narration demo, and then properly tagging each one of these, that’s helping our search engine ultimately find you.
The tags that voice actors select on your demos, they’re the same tags that the clients are using to search for voice actors. So it makes sense, the more demos you have, the better that you’ve tagged them, the easier you are to be found in the search engine. The more properly and thorough that you’ve tagged your demos, then really the more opportunities that you’re going to have to show up when a client is looking for that particular skill.
Cornelia, I mentioned her earlier, one of our product managers, she says that, “Clients perform over 70,000 searches for voice talent every single month. Now what they’re looking for and what our search engine returns is all based upon the demos and that demo that matches their search criteria. So it’s incredibly important to ensure that your demos are varied, they have a great title, they have a great description and they’re tagged accurately. Nothing’s more frustrating for a client than running a search and then having results that are kind of different from what they’re expecting.” Now, in addition to having all the kind of attributes listed on your demos themselves, voice actors typically only have a short window, perhaps of even seconds to win over potential clients.
Now, this next tip might be a little controversial, but one easy way to build up a bank of demos is by asking clients’ permission to use their audio samples as far as completed projects. Never use auditions for your demo, that’s definitely a no, no. But what you do want to do is if you’ve completed work, the client’s happy, you can ask them, “Hey, can I include that in an upcoming demo?” Most of them are going to say, “Yes.” In fact, 75% of voice actors stated that they sometimes are always asked clients to repurpose their audio files as demo. So, that is definitely a common practice.
So if you’re curious how often you should refresh your demos, Christi Fabbri says that she actually tries at least every year and perhaps even every six months to listen to her own demos, making sure that they’re still relevant, especially if you’re using years in demos. If you said, “The 2003 Honda Accord.” Well, it’s 2020 or beyond, depending on whenever you’re listening to this podcast, you don’t want to have music that’s dated. You want to make sure that your demos are evergreen. And actually I often see talent who have labeled their demo titles in years that have gone by. This is the simplest editing in a way that you can kind of stay current. You don’t need to change the content of your demo, just make sure it’s not saying 2015 or 2012. If the year is 2020 or 2021, then make sure you have the most accurate and up to date demo content, but also the way that you titled your demos as well too.
Great demos highlight your skills. Instead of having one long demo reel that contains all the various reads, languages or even characters, well, cut them down, have one demo for each skill set or style. The investment in your time is going to pay you back dividends by showing up all those searches. As you can see, becoming a successful voice actor requires a lot more than just having a great voice. You have to have business acumen, you have to have technical skills and the performance need to all come together. The data in the report that I’ve been mentioning, just paints a picture of what it takes to become a successful voice actor. Can you see yourself as an individual who is organized, you’re focused, you’re business savvy as well as in possession of well-developed talent and you also maintain in continued education? Professional voice actors spend almost half their time auditioning for work, and they’re actively engaged in self-promotion via personal website and on social media, Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter, at least.
On Voices.com however, the additional keys to success, lie in a complete and accurate profile by tagging at least seven demos and then when it comes time to doing those auditions, doing at least seven auditions a day as well. Now, for those of you who are just beginning your voice acting career, this report highlights some of the many strategies that you can learn from, adopt and adapt from the established professionals in order to increase your overall success in the industry. For those of you who are more seasoned in your careers, hopefully this report and the data in the podcast that we’ve talked about today, serves as a benchmark for you. You can always be upping your game.
Once again, remember to go to Voices.com and download the full report. It’s called How To Become A Successful Voice Actor. If you have questions or comments, leave them below in the show notes, or actually comment to me by sending me an email email@example.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play to catch the latest episode. Well, until then, always use your voice to inform, entertain, and inspire the world.
Jun 15 2020
Rank #7: Learning About Current Trends
Do you want to know more about trends in the voice over industry? David walks you through the Voices.com 2020 Trends Report that outlines the five most important media and advertising trends to impact brand marketers and creative agencies and offers predictions on the trends to expect in creative industries.
Hi again, David here, and thanks for joining me on The Voices Experience. My role as always is to be your guide, giving you the behind the scenes, look at how things happen at Voices.com as well as provide insights on the industry and current trends. And that is what today’s show is going to be all about, the current trends in the industry. Each year, the team at Voices.com does an annual trends report. And we leverage proprietary data along with an annual survey sent out to our clients and we explore trends in media production, advertising, and of course, how voice is being leveraged to engage and delight audiences around the world.
This year, our survey included the input of over 750 creative professionals across North America and the globe, including brand marketers, ad agency executives, producers, instructional designers, those are the people who produced that e-learning content, filmmakers, commercial directors, and many, many more. The report is actually available on our website, but for those listeners out there, I’m going to run through it pretty quickly, and then you can download it afterwards, completely for free.
This report contains the five most important media and advertising trends that impact brand marketers and creative agencies throughout the last year. Then we’ll provide predictions on these trends and how they’re going to play out over the next year. I’m going to provide you with some insight on how the industry has pivoted and changed in different media and the overall landscape to ultimately find success. And then how they’re using voiceover, and it’s being leveraged for a tool for creating connection as well as information retention.
Okay, I’m going to go over the top five trends impacting brand marketers in ad agencies. You see, we asked survey respondents to identify which broad trends were impacting their work and their industry. And so here are the top five responses ranked by popularity, along with some quotes from survey respondents. Number one, increased demand for training content. Here’s what clients said, “E-learning and podcasts have become extremely popular. Growth is good in this sector.” In the past couple of years e-learning and online training courses constituted the majority of our work and more small businesses are asking us to create training videos and product demonstration videos. Number one, increased demand for training content.
Number two, the growing digital audio advertising space. Clients said, “Radio and TV projects are becoming more rare thanks to the emphasis on digital and social media.” Clients are increasing their video content so it leads us to producing more content with voiceover. And we’re doing a lot of digital advertising now that we never did before. That requires videos that are done quickly and require quick turnaround on the voiceover.
Number three, podcasts are rising in popularity. The client said, “We’re shifting away from doing radio productions and talking about starting podcasts instead.” Podcasts are seen as a way to grow an audience that has targeted needs.
Number four, voice powered applications and devices are gaining adoption. It was a few years ago that Amazon made a big push into the smart speaker space by deeply discounting the Amazon Echo Smart speaker around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. At the time there are hundreds of millions of people who now have these smart speaker devices in their homes. Google home is another one as well with the Google Assistant as the digital assistant there, but they’re absolutely out there.
So this trend that voice powered applications are definitely gaining adoption, certainly is true. Some of the clients said that we’re so dependent on technology and the growing usage of voice powered applications and devices has seen an increase in its popularity. The ability to do things seamlessly and easily without even getting up. And just by speaking to a technology device is pretty amazing. We have to adapt to these new technologies and the changes that they introduce. And so the power of voice is becoming predominant in this world. And this comment from a brand advertiser, “Voice assistance and interactive voice capabilities has allowed us to break out, out of the linear 32nd spot”.
And number five, the upsurge in brands are creating or revising their Sonic branding. Now it’s the time for every brand big and small to take their knowledge of Sonic branding to the next level and hone their unique sound. With the emergence of countless new Sonic channels, from smart speakers that we were just talking about to podcasts, the era of voice is firmly upon us and audiences are listening. Smart speakers can be found in nearly half of all American homes.
Audio books are the fastest growing sector of the publishing industry. And over one third of Americans aged 25 to 54 listen to podcasts monthly. Voice based platforms and messages communicated through audio are predicted to become more and more desirable for audiences, especially those looking to reduce visual stimulation throughout their day. For brands, this means that crafting a distinct and identifiable Sonic identity is as essential as harboring a unique visual identity. This upsurge in brands creating or revising Sonic branding, that’s the big trend that we’re seeing here. An audio producer said that they’re revising TV theme songs to match Sonic branding trends. And someone else said Sonic branding has become pivotal in this age. A good VO, voiceover, can make or break a company in this regard now.
Those are the top five media trends impacting brand marketers and ad agencies. But now we wanted to understand how brand marketers and advertisers are responding to those trends. What are they doing differently? Are the allocating their resources, time, energy, and money differently to different media types because of that? Well, we asked our survey respondents to tell us what kinds of projects they’re producing now and whether their work on those projects has increased, stayed the same or decreased over the last year.
The top three media projects on the rise are digital audio content proved to be the media darling of the last year, podcasts are 57% up year over year, digital audio ads is up 55% and internet videos are up 54%, really indicating that more people are creating content that can be shared and consumed easily and distributed through social networks. If that’s what’s increasing, then what’s decreasing? Well, traditional media continues the downward slide.
The top three media projects on the decline are actually movie trailers, radio and television. 40% of respondents reported making fewer movie trailers, 37% less radio commercials and 34% less TV commercials. Now, clients who post jobs on Voices.com indicate the intended and use of the voiceover, example, whether it’s a radio commercial, movie trailer or TV spot. The data that we see from our job postings corroborates with the survey respondent’s insight in terms of which projects are increasing and which projects are declining.
And at Voices we’ve seen a significant decrease in the number of jobs posted on movie trailers, documentaries and television. Now, interestingly, while movie trailers and documentaries have been declining over the last two years, this is the first year that we’ve seen a decrease in television jobs. Our prediction throughout the next year is that podcasts and audio advertising and internet videos will continue their meteoric rise, but podcasts will be the real leaders in growth, especially as more brands realize the benefits of producing a branded podcast. And well it might look dire for traditional media, in truth documentary and movie television content, it’s not going to go anywhere, except maybe onto online streaming services.
A few years ago, Ad Age reported that the production of scripted shows for streaming services had surpassed that of the traditional cable for the first time. The appetite for content is there. What may be shifting though is who’s producing the content and what platforms does it ultimately end up on. Take, for example, that Netflix spent $12 billion on content in 2018 while also purchasing a $30 million, 28 acre production center and New Mexico to scale up its output.
Another way that brand marketers and advertisers are responding to the trends that they’re seeing is that Gen X and Baby Boomers grow as an important demographic. Last year marked a significant shift in target demographics with survey respondents indicating significantly more focus on Gen X and Baby Boomers. Here’s a deeper look at Wood’s driving the change. Content is being created for Baby Boomers four times more than the previous year. Could it be because of the growing influence and incredible spending power of the wealthiest generation in all of history?
Well, Baby Boomers currently control over 70% of all disposable income in the US, and they’re brand loyal, and they’re also very tech savvy. This is an audience that can be easily reached both by traditional and new media, including those smart speakers. According to VoiceBot.ai study, just over 20% of Americans over 60 own a smart speaker. And of those that do, over 50% also have other smart home devices too. They’re definitely tech savvy.
While brand advertisers are reaching Baby Boomers, they’re also trying to reach Gen X, the middle aged demographic. Now Gen X makes up approximately 30% of the US population and are at an age where they’re in their best earning years, making them powerful consumers. Deloitte has reported that Gen X mobile video consumption has increased steadily over the last five years. They’re also avid gamers with over 50% playing a video game at least once a week. 77% of this demographic has a streaming subscription and they’re big podcast listeners too. Plus, Gen X is set to experience the greatest increase in terms of their share of national wealth. By 2030, their net worth in the United States is set to grow to $120 trillion.
But what about the Millennials you might be asking? Well, the Millennials are still the golden child. Despite the lucrative opportunities represented by Baby Boomers and Gen X, Millennials are still getting the most focus with 50% of respondents targeting this demographic with their content and ads. And Millennials are the biggest audiophiles. They still comprise the largest demographic consuming podcast content beating out even Gen X.
If we understand the mediums that are being used by brand advertisers and marketers, and the age demographic that they’re targeting, well then how has voice played a role? Well, previous Voices.com trends report research demonstrated that voice age typically selected to match the target demographic of the content. For instance, if Gen X was the target of a particular ad campaign, then middle-aged voiceover would be selected, makes sense.
Our internal data, which tracks voice age is selected on every job posting and it indicates that in the last year, the following where the most requested: middle-age, 35 to 54, was requested in over 50% of the job postings. Next up young adult, 18 to 35, that was 30% of the job postings. And then senior voices, 55 plus, it was requested in 4% of the job postings. Then all the other categories combined requested the final 16% of the job postings. These ranking support the survey findings that show the greater focus on Gen X and older Millennials followed by the younger Millennials and then the seniors.
Our own data shows that younger voices saw an upsurge in demand too, with teen voices, 13 to 17, growing demand by 20% year over year. And child voices are going up too, 25% respectively. So if marketers and advertisers are honing in on Gen X and Millennials, why would there be an increase in teen and child voices? One reason may be simply the medium the audience engages in, the overall effectiveness of your voice. Younger generations are digital natives growing up with video content, voice devices and other media always in their hands.
Plus children may be more likely to respond to voice instead of text, as they may not yet be at an age where their reading level would allow them to receive messages quickly and effectively, or perhaps at some other reason. By and large, though, the production of internet videos, digital ads and podcasts and other entertainment content will attempt to capture Gen X hearts, minds and wallets. But the challenge for marketers and advertisers will be breaking through an increasingly noisy and fragmented market.
And now that we understand that a brand marketer or an advertiser is trying to match the age of their audience with the age of the voice talent, likewise goes for gender. And what we fin at Voices.com and through our data is that females are now making more than males. Overall, women are paid 4% more than their male counterparts on a job by job basis. And female voice actors moved up from winning 44% of the jobs to 46% of the overall jobs.
Here’s where men and women differ in the world of voiceover. Women are more likely to win telephone and voice assistant jobs. And the largest pay discrepancies where women made more than their male counterparts were in voice assistance, with female voice talent earning 33% more than the male. The voiceover jobs most likely to go to the men though are still movie trailers, documentaries and video games. Male voice talent are hired for more jobs overall, 54% of the jobs, though I expect that this gap is set to close within the next year.
Pulling this all together then. The media production landscape will continue to shift throughout the next year, in response not only to the increasing importance of Gen X and Baby Boomer consumers, but also to the changing preferences of audiences in general, who are increasingly gravitated towards more audio and video content. For companies to survive and thrive, they’ll have to remain nimble, keeping a close eye on how the tactics they employ are contributing to the overall marketing and campaigns that they’re running, ensuring that they’re working with top-notch production tools and professional voice talent. That’s going to be key for a company’s ability to pivot quickly.
All in all this year will be an exciting time where audio driven content and video will continue to proliferate at a blinding pace, enabling audiences across North America and beyond to satiate their desire to learn and be entertained on the go. This will be a year when brands deepen their usage of technology, hone their Sonic and overall branding and explore new advertising avenues to engage target audiences like never before.
That’s the trends report. It’s available on Voices.com. If you scroll to the very bottom of every page of our website, you’ll see a link there in the company section called reports, and you can click on that and you’ll find, not only this year’s report, but a number of them from the previous years. There’s some really great stuff in there. As always, you can send me a question or comment about today’s episode, just simply send it to David@Voices.com, and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play to catch the very next episode. Until then, use your voice to inform, entertain and inspire the world.
Jun 01 2020
Rank #8: Getting to Know Your Voice
How did you first get into voice over? Whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned professional, successful voice actors hail from all walks of life. In this episode, David articulates the human element that comes with communicating a message through voice, and guides you through the five primary character roles voice actors are regularly hired to portray.
Hi, it’s David here. Thanks for joining me on The Voices Experience. My role is to be your guide, giving you a behind the scenes look at how things work at Voices.com as well as provide insights on the industry, trends and my perspective for the future. However, today is all about you, the role of the voice actor. People get into voice acting from all walks of life. Most often though, voice actors were actors in the performing arts, either on stage or on camera at some point. We also see those that have a background in radio and television and surprisingly, not always the on camera talent either. Sometimes it’s a producer or a scriptwriter or an editor that ultimately gets into voiceover. And even musicians have made the leap from playing an instrument to using their instrument, their voice. Now you probably have your own story of how you got into voiceover and I’d love to hear it. Just send me an email, David@Voices.com.
Voiceover’s been around for a long time and while there’s many ways for a client to communicate a message, the art of voiceover, it’s just the best way to deliver that message because of the human touch. Now, trying to match up your style and your performance with the nature of the project, that’s where these roles come in. A lot of that depends on the copywriting and the type of job but that brings us to five different character roles that you can perform as a voice talent, to get the right message across to clients in a direct and an effective way. Let me go through the five and then I’ll go into more detail. The first one is the instructor, formal and didactic voiceover. Then real person, informal voiceover. Spokesperson, they’re the advocate or an authoritative voice. Then the narrator, they’re omniscient and a storyteller. And announcer, they set the stage and they give those calls to action.
So let’s explore each of these types of character roles in detail. First, the instructor. When teaching someone on what to do for example, a corporate training video or maybe a children’s game. This is the voiceover that’s best suited for this kind of project and it’s pretty straightforward. It has an educated and helpful tone. The role of this particular voice talent is to instruct and provide information and to fulfill that person’s specific goal or purpose. In addition to that voice being the helpful guide, they’re also there to share information in a way that is retained by that listener. Okay, next up we have the real person. Projects requiring a little bit more of a, let’s call it a casual approach, often benefit from a relatable, genuine voice. These voiceovers are referred to as the real person and commonly known as the guy next door or the girl next door. So this character’s pretty homegrown, that’s sensible, they’re friendly, with a touch of familiarity that provides a more intimate interpretation that ultimately, is going to instill trust with the listener.
Then we have the spokesperson, they can be on camera or off camera, meaning you don’t see them on screen, depending on the content that’s being produced. The role of the spokesperson is generally played by a confident, charismatic person, able to promote a cause or introduce a new product or service with ease and authority. A voiceover of this nature needs to be driven, optimistic and assured. Okay, we’ve got the narrator. Storytelling is where the narrator is most at home. Omniscient, courteous and honest, the narrator’s job is to provide an audio landscape for a listener. Briefing them on background information, posing questions and providing solutions as they guide the audience through a program or documentary. Narrators can be male or female and the most important factors are that they can communicate clearly and engagingly.
Finally, we have the announcer, the announcer is often heard at live events, sports shows or even award shows, on commercials and promos. Maybe even introducing a segment of a podcast. It is a product of the broadcast age and most celebrated at its height in the Golden Age of Radio and early television broadcasts. Announcers can introduce an idea assertively or make a call to action at the conclusion of a commercial or advertising and even a short video. One common misconception though, is that an announcer has to sound like the announcer of decades ago, that’s just not the case. Modern announcers act more like narrators and in many case, adopt the real person approach.
Now, great voice talent are flexible. You’re versatile that you can do any one of those at a drop of a hat. So the next time that you look at an audition, try to discern which of these five most commonly hired for roles does that audition sound like. The instructor, the real person, the spokesperson, the narrator or the announcer. Now, today we talked about the five voiceover roles. Next episode, I’m going to cover five key trends that we were able to identify in our annual trends report. So until then, send me a question or comment about today’s show and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify or Google Play, to catch the very next episode. Now, as I always say, use your voice to inform, entertain and inspire the world.
Jun 01 2020
Rank #9: Understanding the Business
The voice over business is abounding with job titles: including casting directors, agents, and of course, voice talent. In the second episode of The Voices Experience, David provides a handy overview of all the key players in voice over. Peeling back the curtain to reveal the wide range of industries where voice over is sought after, David outlines the function of an online marketplace like Voices.com, shedding light on the types of clients and talent that the platform seamlessly connects with one another.
Hey guys, it’s David here. And thanks for joining me on The Voices Experience. My role is to be your guide, giving you the behind the scenes look at how things work at voices.com and in the voiceover industry. In today’s episode, I’m going to break down who are the key players within the industry. Now as a voice actor, in order to be successful, you need to understand the importance of voice acting and how the industry functions as a whole. This includes learning who are the clients and understanding the types of jobs that exist, then how all the different key players within the industry work together to get those projects done. First, let’s understand who is a client.
Simply put, the client is the person that hires the voice talent. They could be somebody at an ad agency or somebody at a large corporation, like a Fortune 500 company. Often, they work within the creative services department at the ad agency, or perhaps the marketing department in a large business. They could also be someone at a book publisher or filmmaker or a game studio producer. There’s lots of people that fall under the umbrella of being the client. Clients are going to have a script that needs to be read and that’s why they’re coming to you as a voice talent. And our most recent industry report show that clients believe that voiceovers are a critical part of the project. Most importantly, more than 70% of clients agree that using voiceover helps them capture the targeted audiences attention for longer than not using voice at all. Clients fundamentally understand a great voice makes a difference in their project.
The industry’s always evolving with a variety of interesting voice acting jobs. The categories of jobs include the traditional voiceovers for radio and TV commercials, and then voice acting roles like in animated films or audio book recording, podcasts, and perhaps some dubbing projects as well. Then there’s new types of work like internet videos, smart speakers, digital assistance. Any of those technologies usher in new opportunities for voice talent. To establish yourself as a voice actor, you must understand the voiceover styles that these projects include and then as well, practicing your voice acting skills to make yourself more diverse enough to tackle those projects.
Now, I mentioned off the top that the industry is made up of a number of key players, and it’s really the client that kicks the whole project in motion. But the clients don’t do this alone. Often, they have some help. One of the first types of people that they often go to is the role of a casting director. Now, before a client kicks off a project, they have to make an important decision. Is this job going to be a union job or a non-union job? So the difference between the two is often decided at the client because they have certain requirements or maybe certain preferences of how they like to do business. Non-union work is all that freelance work that happens on voices.com predominantly as well as any other site that doesn’t need to go through the traditional union processes.
Unions that exist in the voiceover industry include the Screen Actors Guild, often said SAG-AFTRA, which is an acronym for the American Federation in Radio and Television Artists. And SAG and AFTRA actually recently merged together, well, probably more than about a decade ago now. And then there’s ACTRA in Canada and there’s other performing arts unions like Equity in the United Kingdom. Only actors under these unions are allowed to audition for jobs that fall under the union category of work. In contrast, non-union or freelance voiceover jobs, they’re open to all voice actors. So where are you going to find these voiceover jobs? Through agencies, casting calls, newspaper ads maybe, online marketplaces. Sure, these are all different places where a client could post their job. Just make sure you’re looking out if it’s a union or a non-union job, and really only go after those non-union ones unless you’re part of the union.
Now, the client doesn’t go at this alone. Often, they’ve got help. One of the people that they go to get help from is the role of the casting director. The casting director is the person who has those golden ears that facilitates the project. But really at the beginning, they’re there to help design the specifications of what that client is really looking for. One of the hard things about voiceovers that a client hears the voice in their head, but they don’t know quite how to articulate it. The casting director can really draw some of those artistic direction terms out of their mind and formulate a character as well as identify the audience that the voice talent is ultimately going to be speaking to. So the casting director is going to help shape the project itself and then go through their contacts of who they might think would be a good fit.
So the casting director has a great memory. They know who are the talent at what agencies, who are the talent that they have within their own Rolodex, if you will. And they can match it up right away. Now, casting directors are mostly based in New York and Los Angeles and for a large part, a construct of how the industry had operated for, let’s call it the first 50, 60, 70 years. Really since the advent of the internet though, a lot has changed. We’re going to talk about that in the upcoming episodes. But for now, I just wanted to mention the importance of the role of the casting director because they are very influential in down selecting and choosing who are the talent that they’re going to put forward for an audition or a callback, which is when you come back to do a second audition. The casting directors are great people to know.
Now, I just mentioned the agents. An agent is a person who works at a talent agency. Talent agencies are located around the world, but again are concentrated in big geographic centers like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, pretty much every city that has, let’s say, over a few million people. There’s a whole arts and entertainment and media production hub that can be there. And so agents often have a roster of talent that they represent that they can put forward for new job opportunities, often given to them by a casting director. Talent that I’ve spoken with, most of them want to have agents, or perhaps they already do. The benefits of working with an agent is that they give you new job opportunities, of course, auditions being sent to your inbox, but they also help you develop in your career by providing you advice. And when it comes time to getting a contract, they’re going to work through a lot of those details and they’re always going to be working in your best interest as well.
In upcoming episodes, we can talk about the best way to get an agent, but for today, it’s just important to know who they are and how they can be helpful. Now, some talent agents have a recording studio in house and other ones need to partner up with an outside studio. That’s another key player you might want to be familiar with. The recording studios and the engineers that work there. You see sometimes, clients send work directly to a studio and skip right over the casting director or talent agency. In which case, people at recording studios are probably a great group of folks for you to get to know a little bit better. Nowadays, it’s almost imperative that a voice talent has their own home-based recording studio, where they’re using something like Pro Tools, Adobe Audition, or even Audacity, I think a free version of the recording software.
Their set up probably includes not only just the recording software, but an audio interface and a microphone. And most importantly, a soundproof space. But those home studios that so many of you are setting up, they’re really just smaller versions of a much grander studio that maybe you’d visit again in some of these big centers like New York, Chicago, and LA. Recording studios are most often used by musicians or when it comes to voiceover, you’re recording multiple voices at the same time. You need to all be there in person and interacting with one another. Suffice to say, home studios are definitely the wave of the future. All that said though, big recording studios in cities across the world, they’re great people to get to know.
Lastly though are the marketplaces. Marketplaces connect buyers and sellers together and they’ve been around for thousands of years. Just think of a farmer’s market or perhaps an auction. Really any time where you get buyer and seller together, that’s a marketplace. Now, there are online versions of marketplaces, like voices.com, that facilitate the transactions enabling the client and the talent to do business with one another. Talent have been joining these marketplaces because they want visibility and access to new opportunities, and they want a simple way to get paid for the work that they complete. Clients also like them because it’s easy for them to find the right voice for their project as quickly and as easily as possible at a reasonable price. Now at voices.com, we operate an inclusive online marketplace that connects clients and the talent.
Now, the talent that are on Voices, their aspirational talent, those who are just beginning and starting out their career, professional talent, many of whom have been in the industry for a number of years already and have won dozens, if not hundreds of jobs. Celebrities are on Voices and celebrities are listed by their talent agencies. Talent agencies are also on voices.com. And the thread that weaves through all these talent are what we call the triple threat. It’s the artistic skills, the technical skills and the marketing skills. Those are the three skills that you really need to be a successful talent, especially one on an online marketplace. Now, the clients I mentioned off the top, but the type of clients that would use an online marketplace would again be these advertising agencies, small to medium sized businesses and even large enterprises.
The people who are at those organizations, they’re often creative directors or video producers. And yes, there’s even casting directors that have signed up to voices.com. So as you can see, there’s a lot of people that you got to get to know within the voiceover business. Now, if you’re new to the business, that’s probably going to seem pretty intimidating and those of you have been around for a while, it’s important to keep up those relationships. Now, you might have noticed, we’ve talked about everybody but the voice actor. So in the next episode, we’re going to talk all about you, you as a voice actor or a voice talent, often those terms are used interchangeably. And in that episode, I’m going to break down the five most common voiceover roles that we see posted at voices.com and then how you can make sure that you have demos for each of those roles.
All right. Well until then, if you have questions, you can send me a comment or a question to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play to catch the latest episode. Until then, be sure to use your voice to inform, entertain and inspire the world.
Jun 01 2020
Rank #10: Meeting David Ciccarelli
Sound has had the power to captivate since the dawn of time. David Ciccarelli, founder and CEO of Voices.com, transformed his passion for sound into his full-time career. In the first episode of our new podcast, get to know David as he chronicles his childhood fascination with music and the human voice, recounting how it inspired him to launch what would become the world’s definitive destination for professional voice talent. In his own words, listen as David takes you behind the scenes to explain the simple idea that Voices.com is still pursuing today.
Hi, it’s David. Thanks for joining me on the show today, I figured one of the best places to start is getting to know your host. And that’ll be me, I’m going to be your guide and you’re the hero in this journey, this experience. So to that end, I figured I’d share some earliest memories about voice and sound. For me growing up, I was always fascinated with sound, I’m sure many of you were as well. My mom had this old record player, I’d listened to spoken word recordings and of course music by the Beatles mostly. And then my dad had this short wave radio where I could tune into radio stations from around the world, it was almost like reaching an unknown or un-found people group. And I could listen to these foreign languages often being spoken. I learned to play piano and drums. I actually got some recording equipment that I was able to borrow from our church, and I started recording on my own.
And it wasn’t before long where when I graduated high school, I was looking for what to do afterwards. Would I go to college or university? And I found a school called the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology, OIART is how it’s pronounced. And it is just that, a school that specializes in the recording arts. And it’s there where I learned to record and edit and produce music and sound and voiceover. And so that’s really my educational background, is that technical aspect of it. During that time at OIART, one of the assignments was actually to put together a career plan of what you would do upon graduation. And so I actually devised a plan of building out my own home studio. Actually it was a mobile recording studio, this was in 1999, I know I’m dating myself here.
And the best mobile recording studio equipment I could find at the time was for the first reality TV show survivor. And I looked up on the forums to figure out what kind of equipment they had. And I really just mirrored exactly what the location sound recorder had. It was a Pro Tools setup, which those of you that are wondering, that’s what I’m using here today. And so with that recording equipment, my big idea was to be a mobile recording engineer. I’ve recorded bands at events, live shows, churches, political events, anytime that they needed professional quality recording onsite, that’s what I would offer. So upon graduating, I opened up a small recording studio called The Flying Disc, and that studio was here in London, Ontario, just right by The Grand Theatre, our local performing arts center. I actually got my name in the newspaper on my birthday of all days, just announcing the opening of this new recording studio.
It turns out that Stephanie’s mom read that article. And for those of you who don’t know, Stephanie is now of course my wife and the co founder of Voices.com as well. Well, Stephanie’s mom read that article. She left it for her on her bed and encouraged her to come down to the studio and get her singing repertoire done. You see, Stephanie, she’s a classically singer. She’d sing at weddings and funerals and special events. And I think maybe her mom was looking for her to have some marketing collateral, that she could get her next gig. So Stephanie comes down to the studio and we really hit it off. But because of that same newspaper article, there were other small businesses that wanted some recordings done. One of them was a hair salon, another one was an event management company, and both of them actually wanted a female voice.
So I figured, well, I can’t do that, why don’t I give Stephanie a call? I just met her the other day. My call to her was really, “Hey, I’ll be the engineer and you’ll be the voice talent, and we’ll split the money 50-50.” And that’s how it all began. We started doing voiceovers with Stephanie as the talent and me as the engineer, for a while we put up a pretty primitive website actually. We actually went to the local public library, took out a book called Web Design For Dummies, and taught ourselves how to code our first website. And it was basically just a brochure website, but that site soon attracted freelance voice talent from all around North America. People who spoke French and English and Spanish, people who did cartoons and animation, those who specialized in doing just commercials and promo work. Now, if those terms are new to you, I’ll explain all that in the upcoming episodes, but just imagine there’s a whole world of voiceover opportunity and we kind of just stumbled upon it.
Now, this talent that found the website, they reached out to us and said, “Hey, I noticed that you don’t have somebody who sounds quite like me, or has a service that I can offer. Could I be listed on your website?” And we figured, sure. So we started adding links to their own website, or if they had an audio clip, we could actually upload that so you could listen to their voice right away. Now of course, that naturally attracted those clients, those people who are looking to hire the talent, and they would soon find the site as well. And they would say, “How do I get in touch with so, and so can you connect me with them?” Of course we always said yes, but that actually was the really big idea. What if we didn’t do any of the production ourselves? What if instead we pivoted? Rather than being a recording producer and engineer in a studio, why don’t we sell all that equipment and reinvest into a website that brings these two parties together?
And that’s precisely what we did. It’s really been the same idea from the get go, Voices.com is what we often call an online marketplace. And what that means is that you’re connecting the buyers and the sellers. In this case, the buyer being that client and the seller being the voice talent. So that’s how it all began. I figured it would be a good place to start this podcast. So with a few dozen voice talent listed on the website and clients looking to get in touch with them, we really felt that there was a good business opportunity here. Our pitch to the talent was, in exchange for a small annual membership fee, which at the time I think was just $49. We said that we would effectively market them online. Something that was actually pretty difficult to do then. Tthis is before the days of LinkedIn where you could create a resume, or sites like Wix where you can put up a website pretty quickly, or even WordPress. There was none of that.
So it was pretty much a novelty to be able to have your own page where you could feature audio samples of your voice, as we call them now, voiceover demos. And we weren’t just going to effectively market the talent online by sending new job opportunities every day. In addition to that, we were going to provide great customer service. We had a toll free phone number installed in our small apartment at the time. It would ring day and night and we would always offer help whenever we could. And that’s the same toll free phone number that we have in our office today.
Thank you for calling Voices.com, the online marketplace that connects you with professional voice talent.
So it was really just a simple idea of connecting needs and wants together. The talent need to find new opportunities for work and the clients were wanting to hire somebody for a particular project. That’s really the essence of an online marketplace.
Today we have a much bigger vision. We believe that the human voice can inform, entertain, and inspire. Voice makes our world a more positive and accessible place. Our mission is to create the definitive destination that connects people with professional voice talent. So you might be asking, why do a podcast? Well, over the last couple of months, I was able to speak with 100 of our top talent. These are people from around the world, they speak different languages, they have different areas of expertise, and they really inspired me to be honest with you, not that I’m looking to become a talent. I found that during those conversations, I learned a lot, but there was also a lot of advice that I could give. Advice about the industry, about where it’s going, about new ideas, about the things that we’re working on Voices.com.
There’s of course, lots of questions about things I felt like I could clear up. Now of course, doing thousands of phone calls like that would take a while and maybe a podcast is just a more efficient and effective way to do that. Perhaps that’s the engineer in me. So that’s what I have for you today, I figured I’d just introduce myself, share those earliest memories about growing up around music and sound, and then how I moved into professionalizing those in with a formal education. Then finally, how Stephanie and I started Voices.com. In our next episode, though, I’m going to talk about the key players within the space, what each of their roles are, how they interact with one another, and that will at least give you my perspective. All right, well, that’s enough for today. Send me your questions or comments to David@Voices.com, and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play to catch the latest episode. Until then use your voice to inform, entertain and inspire the world.
May 31 2020