How to Land a Cool Voiceover Gig

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If you have the pipes that can stop traffic, a career in voiceovers may be in the chords for you. But first learn the inside tricks that the professionals use to land gigs — and avoid the ones that will leave you speechless.

It’s worth the effort, because the cash can be ample. According to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, radio “session fees” (a single recording gig) can pay $249.50. Every 13 weeks, you’ll earn the same amount as long as the spot is still in use.

If the spot goes national — what AFTRA calls a “wild” spot — you can earn $338.80, with an additional rate depending on the number of ads aired and the size of the cities the ad airs in.

Television pays even better. AFTRA says that a single session fee on TV pays $426.40, while a “wild” spot in a city like Los Angeles or Chicago pays $685.10, plus cycle fees.

The gigs are as diversified and plentiful as ever. After all, we live in a multimedia age where voiceover talent can find work not only in TV and radio, but also on the Internet, and in video games, phone messages, smart phone applications, television animation and book narrations.

How can you get in on the action? First, be realistic. Even if you think you have the smooth gravely tone of a modern age Orson Welles, that alone won’t do the trick. You’ll likely need a demo tape, maybe an agent and you might want to join an accredited union like AFTRA.

Before you get that far down the road, you need to prepare first. Start with these tips:

Budget for your new career. Like most entrepreneurial efforts, entering the voiceover game is like running a small business — and every small business requires capital and a budget. You’ll need money for good audio equipment, your marketing campaign and voiceover lessons and training courses, among other expenses. A few thousands dollar should go a long way here, but you’re not going anywhere on a shoestring budget.

Start your training. Practice speaking into a digital recorder or a live microphone (most electronics stores carry both). Warm up first by slowly reciting your favorite poem or lines of dialogue from a movie you’ve memorized (or just read the dialogue off a script). Focus on speaking slowly, and find a rhythm, pitch and style that’s natural for you.

Listen and learn. Pay close attention to ads on TV and radio. Focus on the voiceover specialist’s tone and enunciation. Take a good commercial and re-record it with your own voiceover, using the same script as the professional did.

Keep the message in mind. Clients don’t necessarily hire you for your dulcet tones — they’re more interested in how effectively you convey the most important component — the client’s message.

Join a voiceover group. You can learn a lot by joining an online bulletin board dedicated to voiceover careers. Start at Yahoo Groups, which has such a forum.

If you’ve checked all of the above tasks off of your list, then go ahead and submit audio demos to voiceover companies like SunSpot Productions or ProComm Voiceovers. You’ll need to research the companies that hire voiceover talent and that’s where the web forums and professional groups can really help.

If you land an audition, be on time and stay positive, helpful and cheerful. Keep hitting as many auditions as you can. Don’t “marry” yourself to one client or talent agency. A grocer doesn’t sell bananas to only one customer, so why should you?

The takeaway? Stay disciplined, stay professional and get your name out there as much as possible (a Web site, a Twitter address and profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn).

There’s money to be made with those golden pipes of yours if you follow the script above and keep your eyes, and your vocal chords, on the prize.

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