Written by Casting Director, Barry Shapiro!
Booking a voiceover whether it be a television commercial, radio commercial or promo is very difficult because everyone wants to do voiceovers. It is extremely competitive. For some, you can even audition from your home. Bookings are quick, usually done in an hour or two. This allows voice bookers to actually have several bookings in a day as opposed to on camera commercials which usually take all day or several days. I have been casting voiceovers for nearly forty years and here are some tips to help you book.
1) HAVE A GREAT VO REEL
This is so important. It's a quick showcase of your talent. There are two schools of thought here as to what you should have on your reel. One school says to find the area you're best at and have several spots to show that. My advice is to show range with your reel and to not have several of the same types of spots. I would much rather work with an actor who can do a great deal of things. For example: If you have a strong hard sell announcer spot, also have a more conversation testimonial spot. Also if you are adept at comedy, also show that on your reel. It's quality over quantity. I think it should be 60 seconds or less. However, some people have up to two minutes. Keep in mind that generally the person listening will make a decision fairly quickly, so have your absolute best spot first. Also make sure it is as easy for someone to listen to as possible. I suggest you have it professionally done. They can put in music and sound effects to really make it easy to listen to. If you are very adept at accents, you might add that to you reel or have a separate reel just for that. I know several voiceover artists who have four or five different reels covering audio books, promos, narration etc. Also keep upgrading you reel with new work.
2) GETTING AN AGENT
This is of course helpful and of course difficult. Agents are more selective about VO talent than on camera talent. Often clients want to see new faces on camera but with voice they usually want a pro who can do it quickly especially if there are many tags for the commercial. Your goal when meeting an agent is to be so good, they want to sign you before their competitors do. But if you don't get an agent right away, there are many sources for self submission. Voices 123, Actors Access and there are several others. Many people get a VO agent after they have booked something on their own because they've shown that they are a booker. But having a good agent will get you access to the better voiceover jobs.
In today's world you need to have great equipment because not only are auditions done from home but sometimes the bookings are as well. Ideally you will have a makeshift booth of some kind so you can not hear any outside noises but if not, find a quiet place in your apartment or house. You need a great microphone. It doesn't have to be the most expensive on the market but don't get the cheapest either. Once you start booking you can upgrade to a better microphone. And just like with wine, hotels and food, the most expensive is not always the best. Also very important....make sure your internet is great. I've seen people with great equipment but it didn't matter because they had poor internet. Internet service not where you want to try and save money.
4) LIVE AUDITIONS
Back in the day when I started, this was the only way to audition for voice overs, so voice actors became adept at going from casting office to casting office sometimes up to ten auditions in a day. The big advantage of this is that you had someone to direct you at your audition. It really helps to have someone who knows what the client is looking for. Also if the read wasn't great, it could be erased and redone. It was a big advantage for the actor as opposed to trying to guess at this during self submissions. So if you do get the opportunity to do a live audition, don't decide to just send in a recording. Come meet the casting director and maybe even the clients. Then possibly you will get hired again without auditioning. Also when you are at live auditions be cordial and respectful. The casting director wants you to get the job. I can't tell you how many rude comments have come my way from voice talent. Remember that casting director will determine whether you come for another audition, not your agent. Even though the live audition is becoming less a part of the business you still need to be ready for it. In the waiting room, even though you are reading directly from the paper, go over your script and think of choices you might want to try. I had two people once who asked the client if they could try it with a British accent and the client let them try. She liked it so much she booked the couple and aired the British version on the air as well. Smart creative actors are usually the talent that books the job.
5) THE BOOKING
Well the hard work is done. You got the job.. Now the recording is all about making the client happy. They are usually paying per hour for studio time so if you can get the job done quickly and efficiently, they will love you. They are looking for a pro and someone that can knock this out fast especially if there are several spots. This is less about what you think the spots should be like and more about taking their direction. Because if they are happy with you, they may use you again and again plus consider you for other projects..
Get a great VO reel and be proactive. Even if you don't have representation you can seek out work using the many resources at your disposal. Your goal is get skilled and make it look easy. Work will help you get other work. Often clients will hear a voice on a commercial and find out who the talent is. Also voiceovers for narration, animation, audio books and video games is out there as well. Try as many avenues as you can.