Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How Voiceover Success is Like a TACO

Everybody likes tacos....some of us a little too much, (just ask my doctor!) Whether loaded with beef, chicken, cheese, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, or other healthy things, a good taco can turn a bad day around.

What does this have to do with voiceovers, you might already be asking yourself? Has J. Michael finally lost his mind after countless hours locked in a small booth talking into his Neumann?

Well, possibly.....(my wife is shaking her head, "yes," in the background,) but, just like my waistline, voiceover success can be defined by a taco as well....actually, not a taco, but TACO.

What is TACO? TACO is an acronym that is everything you need to know about how to make it in this business. Remember these four simple letters, and you will be on the right path.

T-stands for TALENT

Well, J. Michael, that's obvious, isn't it? Not as obvious as you think. Natural talent is an essential part of making it in the voiceover industry. Talent is comprised of two things: 1.) A voice people want to listen to, and 2.) Some inherent ability to deliver copy in a manner that connects with your audience.

This is why having your voice heard by an established industry professional BEFORE you go out and buy fancy microphones, preamps, and spend thousands on building a rocking home studio is a good idea. Find a local studio where you can attend workouts, and get yourself heard. Or, schedule a one hour copy-reading session with a reputable coach who will give you honest feedback. There are hundreds of coaches, (including myself,) who would be happy to work with you, and provide a frank evaluation of your raw abilities.

Voiceover is kind of like sports. Coaching can make an average talent good, and a good talent great, but some measure of natural ability, a good voice, some delivery instincts, and a bit of acting skill, has to be present from the beginning. If they aren't there, your path will be long and frustrating.....so get a qualified opinion BEFORE you build a home studio, spend hundreds or thousands on demo reels, join the P2Ps, or purchase a 6-month coaching package. An hour of copy reading is enough for a professional to tell you if the building blocks are there or not, and to prescribe a course of instruction if they are.

A-stands for AUDIO

So, your evaluation went well, eh? Got the chops, do ya? Great! Now, the hard part.

Somewhere along the way, people started to believe that plugging a Blue Yeti into your laptop was all you needed to do to call yourself a pro. Really, it's true. I cast for many of my clients through Voices.com & Voice123, and folks, if your sound isn't up to par, it doesn't matter how good your read is. I press STOP after less than ten seconds on about 40% of auditions I hear because the audio just isn't good enough.

This doesn't mean you have to spend ten grand on acoustical foam and soundproofing, but here are some simple steps to get you pointed in the right direction:

1.) Make sure your signal chain is passable. The RODE NT1A is a good entry-level PRO microphone, and it will fit into most budgets. Based on the design of the Neumann TLM 103, it is a popular mic among radio stations throughout the US, and many VOs use it as well.

A decent preamp will make you crisp and clear. There are many varieties in the $200-$500 range that will be a good start.

2.) Listen to a commercial on TV or the radio. Do you hear any hiss, echo, line noise, or room tone? Are there dogs barking in the background? Probably not. If these things are present in your audio, you will have trouble booking any work.

Your audio needs to sound warm, clear, and as unprocessed as possible. It needs to sound like what you hear on the air. If it doesn't, more work needs to be done to treat your space, whether that means expensive soundproofing and acoustical paneling, or homemade solutions like memory foam & clothes racks...it has to SOUND like you are in a professional studio, even if you are recording from your wife's walk-in closet!

There are so many talented folks out there who are having their auditions discarded because the audio quality is poor...don't be one of them! If you are in doubt, consult with a pro, whether an audio tech or an established VO professional.

C stands for COMMITMENT

Becoming a successful voice talent is a process. Whether you are looking to build your career through the agency-based VO world, or online through the P2P sites, it takes time to get noticed, no matter what your talent level is. I arrived on the P2P sites with fifteen years of full-time VO experience, and it still took me six months to book my first ten jobs. For many, it will be slower than that.

Success in this field is a result of talent combined with extreme persistence and commitment, as well as strong business building skills. Looking for agency gigs in a major city? Be prepared to send out dozens, even hundreds of demos.....and the demos better be AWESOME! Have a strong cover letter and a compelling headshot, (some still require these,) and be prepared to wait months for a reply. While you're at it, start networking. Attend every local VO event you can find. Get known, and get noticed. Market yourself to local studios, production companies, and businesses. Book gigs through old fashioned legwork. Besides, if you bring a great client to an agency, that can fast track you for representation.

Want to be successful on Voices.com & Voice123.com? Be prepared to ride your computer like a champion thoroughbred. If you aren't doing twenty auditions per day, you aren't doing enough. The highest booking talents online are landing no more than 10% of their reads, and that is on a good week. The more ears you get your voice in front of, the more work you will book. Simples.

Market yourself online. Write a blog, join in discussions on the various fora, get your NAME, and your BRAND out there. The more visible you are, the more seriously you will be taken.

Never stop. If the talent and the audio quality are there, you WILL book work eventually. Every third client you book will turn into a repeat customer. It may take two or three years, but eventually the hard work will pay off, and jobs will walk in the door as often as you have to chase them. There IS light at the end of the tunnel....even if it is a long tunnel.


Repeat after me. "I am not a performer. I am a business."

This is rule one of voiceover success. Assuming the first three parts of your TACO are in order, this is the hot sauce that will make it a meal.

Create systems for every part of your VO business. Administrative, accounting, auditioning, production, communication, marketing, networking, and so on.

I have a structured process for filing my audio, keeping my books, sending payment reminders when necessary, and doing the other VO grunt work in a manner that minimizes time lost to administrative and accounting functions.

Become proficient with your audio editing software. A dry :60 should take you five minutes max to edit. If you aren't there yet, go online and find tutorials to help you get there. Efficiency is key. If you do a lot of long-form narration, consider hiring outsourced audio editors to help you save time to focus on booking more work. I employ four people almost full time in this capacity. Found them on Elance and Freelancer. They do GREAT work...for $15-20/hour. Why edit a 60 minute training module yourself, when you can pay a professional $30-60 to do it for you, and have 2-3 extra hours to dedicate to booking the next job?

Have an auditioning strategy. Be decisive about which jobs to audition for. Make sure they are a good fit budget and spec-wise. If they aren't, delete and move on. Audition as the jobs come in if you are working online, (the same goes for agency castings looking for remote-recorded samples.) If you are recording something for a client, keep an eye on your email, and when the auditions are posted, pause and POUNCE! Early submission is essential both online and with your agents. Don't wait! If you have a day job, clear the auditions in order of newness, (least submissions,) and budget/work ratio. If you aren't on a tight deadline for client work, do your auditions FIRST!

Answer your emails as they come in. If this means pausing in the middle of a long project, so be it. There's nothing worse than recording for an hour and having twenty new messages to answer, which will take time away from other booking-critical functions. Furthermore, your clients will love your responsiveness if you get back to them in a matter of minutes, and you will gain customer loyalty.

Market yourself every day, if you have time. It's 3PM and there are no auditions left in your inbox..no client work to do? Write a blog post, send emails to production companies and businesses, create a newsletter for clients...whatever you do, DON'T go watch that old Seinfeld rerun, (am I dating myself here?) Make every hour of your workday count!

Have a networking strategy. Attend local events, and get active online. Find the resources that fit your situation best, and spend time getting to know people every day. Connections are EVERYTHING in this business.

Ultimately, have a PLAN. How do you intend to build your business? If you can answer that question conclusively, you have just added the perfect topping to a very profitable TACO.

Good luck, my friends!

All the best,

J. Michael Collins

Friday, February 22, 2013

Success Stories, and My Voices.com Webinar

Some Great New Success Stories from Former P2P Success Course Students

I love seeing the continued success of some of the superstar alumni of my Pay-to-Play Success Course, like Michael Brang, Brady Hales, (and his wife Elizabeth, who just broke my consecutive days streak at the top of Voices.com's weekly Favorites List, with over two weeks at #1,) Rachel Darlene, et.al.... but it is always rewarding when more recent student talents start to break through. To that end, here's a look at a couple of new success stories....

Andrew Randall, http://andrewrandall.com/ is a talent with a distinguished British voice, and since taking the course in January, he has closed three February jobs on Voices.com, with 5-star feedback all the way, and seen his numbers improve on Voice123.com as well!

Denise Jennings, http://www.voices.com/people/djkewu, just closed her first gig online, also through Voices.com, a couple short weeks after taking my course and upgrading her equipment. Denise has a dynamic and versatile voice honed by years of radio experience, and is now ready to take her VO career to the next level!

Send me an email at jmichael@jmcvoiceover.com to find our more about how I can help you make your mark in the online voiceover industry!

A Fantastic Story


In this article posted by Voices.com's Buzz Weekly, new talent Ken Eastwood discusses his journey into the voiceover business, and talks about the steps he took in order to book his first job. It's a great read!

Want a FREE Taste of the P2P Course that Has Led to So Much Success?

As Ken mentions in his article, I recently teamed up with Ashley Davidson from Voices.com to host a webinar that adapted some of the material from my course to a Voices.com-specific presentation. This hour long chat details some of the finer points of mastering Voices.com, and has already helped many new and struggling talents increase their bookings and their visibility on the site. You can find the webinar here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU30rbsNUAw

My full course expands upon the points in this webinar, makes them relevant to each individual talent, and of course includes strategies for success on Voice123.com, bodalgo.com, and the other online casting sites as well. Feel free to contact me for more info.

All the best,

J. Michael Collins

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Rewards of Being a Voiceover Coach

We all enjoy our own personal success as voice talent. Booking work, building a brand, and reaping the gains of our tireless efforts is what this business is all about. For those of us who have hung out our shingle as voiceover coaches, however, watching the incredibly talented people we work with achieve great things is somehow even more rewarding than the success we enjoy ourselves.

In this first post of the new year, I want to bask in the glow of the accomplishments of those I had the privilege of working with in 2012. Have a listen to these folks. Hire them. You won't be disappointed.

First, the ladies....

CHRISTI BOWEN, www.christibowen.com/

Christi has one of the purest, clearest, and most pleasant voices I have heard in a long while. Her career has blossomed over the past year, and she books regularly both online and offline. I also had the privilege of casting Christi for a project after working with her, and she nailed it on the first take. Christi has become a regular on the Voices.com favorites list as more and more voice seekers are paying attention to her exceptional talent and pristine audio. Whether you are looking for a commercial voice that will help your bottom line, or an informative voice for your next e-learning project who will deliver warmth, competence, and authority, you can't go wrong with Christi!

MOE ROCK, www.moerock.com/

In addition to the coolest name in the business, Moe has a spectacular vocal range that makes her perfect for almost any project. A long-time radio professional, Moe has made a name for herself in the voiceover business with her ability and professionalism. There's not much that Moe can't do, and if you are looking for a savvy, experienced professional who will get it right the first time, Moe Rock is your gal!

MARY ANNE CALLAWAY, www.voiceofmac.com/ 

Mary Anne has been such a pleasure to work with. She has a smooth, clear delivery that marries a youthful sound with wisdom and competence. Her narration skills are top notch, whether for training, corporate imaging, children's audiobooks, or complex medical scripts. Mary Anne's ability to nail a challenging script the first time through is stunning. In the past few weeks, Mary Anne has incorporated the skills we have worked on in our lessons to increase her P2P site bookings, and has become a fixture on the Voices.com favorites list. Mary Anne is a quality talent, with a very bright future!

MEREDITH PEIRICK, www.voicesofmeredith.com/

I can't say enough about this young, up-and-coming talent. Every now and then, a voiceover coach encounters a talent who has something extra special, and who is destined for stardom. Meredith is that talent. Her inspired, youthful delivery is one of the most natural I have heard in years. She is simply gifted, delivering commercial reads that make you want to go shopping, and embodying characters so effortlessly that I have found myself smiling from ear to ear the moment she opened her mouth. She is a classically trained actress, and it shines through in her delivery. Few talents I have encountered have Meredith's ability to evoke feeling in the listener, and I have no doubt that Meredith will find success after success in this business. In fact, I have no doubt that I will be casting her regularly in the future.

RACHEL DARLENE, racheldarlene.com/

I love Rachel's description of her voice...."School girl cute, college kid cool, new mom approved." That pretty much sums it up. She is an exceptional professional talent with real commitment to her craft, and is capable of delivering reads across the spectrum. Rachel is a bit of a wunderkind....within days of taking my P2P course, she grabbed the #1 spot on the Voices.com favorites list, and stayed there for days. She has become a permanent resident in the top 5, and as a newly minted Platinum member on both Voice123.com & Voices.com, I expect Rachel will soon have more work than she knows what to do with!

Now, for the gentlemen....

BRADY HALES, www.bradyhales.com/

I think of Brady kind of like Luke Skywalker. After a bit of coaching, and my P2P course, I've been fighting with him for position on the Voices.com favorites list ever since. The student has become the master. Brady has a young, hip, competent, and crisp delivery that makes him perfect for explainers, e-learning, narration, and all sorts of commercial work. He is professional, dedicated, and technically proficient, and it is no surprise at all that Brady now lives in the top 5 on Voices.com, and that I see his face on the Recently Hired list almost every day. This guy is a superstar, and you should hire him right now!

MICHAEL BRANG,  www.mikedoesvoices.com/

Michael was one of my favorite people to work with in 2012. His enthusiasm is only surpassed by his talent, and both are considerable. Michael has a polished, precise delivery that ranges from youthful and cool to powerful and authoritative. Michael takes his work seriously, and the people that hire him always walk away happy with their decision. He has become a permanent member of the Voices.com favorites list over the past year, often in the top 5, and people across the industry are taking notice of his immense ability. I'm looking forward to casting Michael over and over again in 2013!

KEN MAGUDA, www.kenmaguda.com/

Ken has one of the broader ranges of talents with whom I have worked, able to convincingly tackle reads from 25-95. His voice conveys power, strength, intelligence, and urgency, and if you don't believe me, just ask Ellen DeGeneres, whose show hired Ken in 2012! Ken is a consummate professional with both talent and experience, and is also a regular Voices.com favorite. If you want a voice who will move your audience to action, Ken Maguda is your guy!

JASON HUGGINS,  www.therealcoolguy.com/

Jason's tag line is right on. He is a real cool guy! His youthful energy permeates his reads, and you can hear how invested he is in his clients' message as he delivers their copy with character, emotion, and precision. Jason is hip and fresh, with a voice perfect for those Epipheo-style explainers, or to promote your latest gadget. Jason makes regular appearances on the Voices.com favs list because Jason cares about his clients, and makes sure they are always satisfied. Want a cool young voice to sell your product? Hire Jason Huggins!

KURT FELDNER,  kurtfeldner.com/

I loved working with Kurt in 2012. This is one of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever meet, and very talented as well. Kurt has a delivery that is unique and distinguished. Like something from a Ken Burns documentary, Kurt can make a story leap off the page or the screen with his patient, rhythmic voice. He is a painter of audible pictures, and is simply a pleasure to listen to. If you are in search of a narrator who will bring class and dignity to your production, you can't beat Kurt Feldner.


I love seeing the success of the talented people I coach, or those who take my P2P course. This list isn't comprehensive by any means, but watching these ten fine talents achieve success in 2012 has made my year. They are fantastic people, and I highly recommend their services to any and all who would be so lucky as to work with them.

Happy New Year, everyone!

All the best,
J. Michael Collins