We’ve all heard the saying “Variety is the spice of life.” What does it actually mean? I take it to mean if you do the same thing over and over you can get in a rut and perhaps ultimately get bored with what you are doing. Toss in something different and it tends to work as an energizer.
How does it apply to the voiceover business? As a voiceover performer, there are two basic schools of thought how to approach the business. Do one thing well and market that. Do a lot of things well and market all of them.
Do One Thing Well
I think this works when you have a truly unique vocal style and delivery. People come to you because of your proven record doing this type of delivery. You might be a “personality” and what they want is you – your unique style – your pacing – attitude – tempo – rhythm. This happens to movie stars and local DJs. The difference in the paycheck is considerable.
OK, so you are not a movie star – and you don’t really want to stay in your local market doing low budget commercials in your branded DJ voice. What are your options. Well, if you truly are a one trick pony, you need to dig deep to find clients who want to buy your specific delivery. There is work to be found, but perhaps the time spent digging will off-set the actual work.
Consider taking a refresher marketing 101 class – one that understands the new ways of connecting with people – and kick start your career using online and off-line methods of networking and marketing.
Does doing the same kind of read lead to boredom? Well, if you are making thousands of dollars every time you open your mouth because you are a branded super-samer, then perhaps not. (I am not a branded super-samer, so I really don’t know how they feel. Perhaps at every level, the “grass is greener?”) Now, if you are working in a local market cranking out the same kind of work day after day after day for small dollars, I would think that the boredom factor would set in. There is an in-between level, where talent prefers to do one kind of thing and is versatile within a small range.
Telephony and standard eLearning projects are two genres of VO work that come to mind.
Do Several Things Well and Market All of Them
A lot of “working class” voice talent do a lot of things well. They don’t have just one style of delivery. Certainly they may have a style that is uniquely them, but they know how to make adjustments to the vocal placement, pitch, pacing, tempo, rhythm, characteristic – all within a realistic, non-character space – so that they can be a lot of different voices to a lot of different clients.
This opens up their marketing efforts, but it can complicate things due to the sheer number of people that end up in their contact list and client files. And a lot of time can be spent on marketing in this scenario as well – simply because of the amount of research and follow up that could be involved.
My personal work load each week includes telephony, commercial (radio and TV), eLearning, animation, marketing, informational, documentary, and motivational projects. Some of the producers I work for specialize in one kind of media – others are like me and will produce a variety of projects. Sending my corporate producers my latest commercial demo is not really going to benefit either of us.
Which is Better?
Well, the answer is – that depends. This is where you own personal self-evaluation comes in once again. Plus an understanding of the business and the trends. It all goes back to knowing what you can do well, creating something that proves it, and then getting it into the hands of the people who want to buy what you have to sell.
Having a broad range can be a double-edged sword. There has been discussion on several of the voiceover networking sites I frequent that the top agents signing commercial talent are seeking that something special, that single unique sound (with versatility within that sound), rather than a jack of all trades.
And if you are not signed with a major agent and are marketing yourself using your website and other avenues, then you need to be uber-organized to make sure your multi-pronged approach is addressing the right people. I have a couple of smaller agents across the country who like versatile voice actors – but even the versatile voice actor needs to understand that they can’t be all things to all people. I don’t audition for everything that comes into my In Box.
Get in the Know
Know yourself well. Know your “competition” well. Know what is selling. Know who is buying. Know your clients. Know how to network. Know how to encourage referrals without being pushy. Know that what works for one person will not necessarily work for another person. Know how to adapt to the changes in our business. Know when to say “no.”
Variety is the spice…
In reality, even if you find that you are doing the same kind of work day in and day out – unless you work for one single client who hires the same writer for every project – you will have different subjects/topics to read, different styles of writing, subtle differences in attitude, different audiences with different perspectives. All of these things are variety – and if you approach it with that attitude, it will spice up your day just as much as a voice talent who flits from character, to promo, to commercial, to documentary.