Why Voice Actors Should Learn to Think Like Producers & Directors

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There are two employment hot spots in the world of voiceover acting. One is the buyer—often identified as the producer, director, or account manager—who provides the job, chooses the winning audition, and pays the bills. The other is comprised of talent agents, casting directors, talent managers, and websites that facilitate relationships between buyers and voice actors. Let’s call this group the facilitators.

These two groups (buyers and facilitators) can be combined under one umbrella that covers the voice actor’s employment opportunities. Though the buyer is at the top of the food chain, it’s important to include the facilitators for two critical reasons. First, many buyers insist that the voice actor come through a known, credentialed facilitator, like a talent agent. Second, even if the voice actor gets the job through direct networking, he or she benefits from engaging a facilitator to manage the administration, leaving the voice actor free to focus on the creative. Of course, there are scenarios where anything goes, but we’re focusing mainly on high quality jobs with respectable salaries, long-term prospects, residuals, etc.

The buyer operates on behalf of advertisers, like Pixar, McDonald’s, Mercedes, American Express, Random House, Starbucks, etc. These advertisers are the ultimate source of the work and their influence governs the strategy employed by the front line buyers who interact with the voice talent. What’s important for the voice actor to recognize is that the buyers for whom they audition and with whom they work, are thinking about how to best accommodate the needs of the advertiser; they’re not acting in a vacuum. In this regard, they serve several masters, some of whom are in the room during the recording, others who are standing by to hear the result.

READ: 7 Effective Ways To Get Voiceover Work

The voice actor needn’t be thinking about all these moving parts when recording a project, but a general awareness of the buyer’s process breeds respect for the team of which the voice actor is now a part. The buyer is usually working on several time-sensitive projects on any given day, each requiring different voice types, different writers, music composers, artists, on-camera actors, set designers, budgets, etc. The buyer is the ultimate problem solver at the center of the creative process. The problem that matters most to the buyer is the one that has to be solved today.

Knowing this is important because it shapes the way you interact with the buyer when seeking to sell your services. When voice actors send demo reels to the buyer, for example, they’re assuming the buyer operates like an agent (or facilitator), taking the time to curate and categorize voices for later use. But buyers don’t do this—they hire agents for this purpose. It’s the agent and other facilitators who must think in terms of maintaining a relevant stable of quality voices actors from which to choose when the call from the buyer comes in.

Buyers divide into two camps: product type and production quality. On the product side, you have the actual projects, like TV and radio commercials, audiobooks, video games, toys, radio imaging and so on. On the quality side, you have various degrees of expertise and financial support. Some buyers are highly-trained, experienced marketers overseeing global brands, while at the other end of the spectrum could be a first-time, self-published author trying to find someone to record a book for a potential royalty share.

READ: A Voiceover Actor's Guide to Personal Branding

In other words, not all buyers think alike and the voice actor has to tailor his job searching tactics accordingly. Make the effort to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. The difference between how you approach a seasoned advertising executive versus the owner of a local used car dealership is in understanding what motivates each. Major brands take a macro approach to reaching large, multifaceted audiences from national to international. The used car dealer takes a micro approach to reach a specific local audience.

If the voice actor develops a personal brand strategy designed to impress the major league buyers, it will also impress the minor leagues. However, when making direct contact with the buyer, the voice actor benefits by adjusting brand messaging so as not to undersell the majors nor overwhelm the minors. If the buyer works exclusively through agents, for example, respect this etiquette. This doesn’t mean you can’t reach out directly, but make sure your agent’s contact info is appropriately featured. Even if a job doesn’t immediately materialize, your agent will appreciate the new contact and remember you fondly.

The buyer manages both the creative and the administrative process. However, the voice actor and agent split these duties. The voice actor focuses on the voiceover performance and agent handles the administrative issues like scheduling auditions and bookings and collecting payments. Because voice actors are in direct contact with the buyer during recording, they also play a critical role in cultivating a positive business rapport. Simple things like being punctual, attentive, friendly, agreeable, and flexible can mean the difference between one booking and twenty.

Buyers and facilitators are professional marketers. They are literally sales people. They are highly acquainted with day-to-day sales strategy and tactics. Don’t take their skill for granted. In fact, go out of your way to understand and appreciate what they do. When they choose you as the voice actor, it reflects on their expertise. As a voice actor, you must bring value to the table, not just gratefulness for the booking. When you book a job, you become part of a team. Be a team player. Knowing how buyers and facilitators think is the best way to earn their trust and build a lasting relationship.

Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins are the co-founders of That’s Voiceover!, an annual career expo, and the creators of the newly formed Society of Voice Arts and Sciences and the Voice Arts Awards. Follow them on Twitter @JoanTheVoice and @RGaskins1, and like them on Facebook: Rudy Gaskins At Large and Joan Baker Live.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Joan Baker
Joan Baker is the co-founders of That’s Voiceover!, an annual career expo, and the creators of the newly formed Society of Voice Arts and Sciences and the Voice Arts Awards.
Rudy Gaskins
Rudy Gaskins is the co-founders of That’s Voiceover!, an annual career expo, and the creators of the newly formed Society of Voice Arts and Sciences and the Voice Arts Awards.