Boy howdy did the voiceover landscape change since I got started! Voicebank was swallowed whole by Voices.com, curated audio became all the rage, more and more (and more and more) P2P sites cropped up, and it seems like everyone and their brother wants to get in on the action. I recently started cutting proto demos with a couple of friends getting into the field, when the question on my mind all day every day popped up: "Where do you find work?"
People think I'm really busy all the time, and I guess that's true to some extent. It takes a lot of work and focus to run your own business, although there are days where I pretty much don't do anything. Or at least, it feels like that, but I almost always get all of these things done, even when I "don't do anything".Drink coffee, read comic books, play video games, and screw about on the Internet.
Part of my marketing strategy involves combing Craig's List on a daily basis for leads on gigs. Big thanks to Bill DeWees for that tip, by the way. While I have indeed gotten gigs that were worth doing this way, and met (over the phone, at least) enough oddballs to supply an anecdote or two up my sleeve for dinner parties, the vast, VAST majority of what's posted there is total crap. I'm sure this isn't news to anyone who's used the site to look for jobs, or gigs, or hookups, or anything else, really. But it's hard not to yell at my screen every time I see an ad that wants to offer only credit and a copy of the project, like that's some sort of incentive. Pro tip, assholes. If you can't pay for work, don't ask people to do it. A copy of your project is not payment. Credit on a project nobody is ever going to see or hear is not payment. You're stealing work from people, and that's not cool.
I'm not saying you need to pay a union rate for your zero-budget grad student movie. But as a content creator myself, it is absolutely bewildering to me how people expect complete strangers to work for them for nothing. Oh, I'm sorry, for the "fun" of it. Fuck you. Recording in my own studio that I've put thousands of dollars into, never mind what I've paid in coaching sessions, books, singing/elocution lessons, seminars, marketing, and on and on and on, for your stupid project that you don't have enough faith in to put ANY MONEY INTO is not "fun". Yes, voiceovers are fun, but only because I get to continue not starving to death afterwards.
If you want an actual voice actor to do anything for you, pay something. I don't care if it's $25, at least that makes you look like you have any respect at all for what you're doing and what you're asking of others. Just because recording setups are way less expensive than they used to be doesn't mean voice acting has become worthless. If you can't put a single dollar toward your project, then it's worth nothing, especially not my time.
And for the love of God, if you're trying to work in this industry and not just screw around because you like doing goofy voices, don't support this garbage. Demand to be paid for your work, or else you're just a hobbyist.
PS - This rant is not aimed at passion projects or working with friends, which I do for free all the time because my friends are amazing and we have a mutual vested interest in the art and presenting that art to our community. This came about because of today was like the fiftieth time I saw an ad to do a spec commercial for free. Nobody should ever do commercial work for free. It is absolutely insane that anyone has the balls to even ask for that.
As one of the founding partners of fledgling podcast network Thunder Grunt, I do a lot of research in my field. As a voice over actor, I want to study my craft as much as possible. I highly recommend shows like Talkin' Toons with Rob Paulsen, Voice Over Experts, and Voice Over Marketing Podcast. However, I've just stumbled over Crispin Freeman's Voice Over Mastery, and I have to say, it just stole the #1 place in the VO podcast chamber in my heart. And it was all due to the four part interview with Steve Blum and follow up episode. [audio src="http://traffic.libsyn.com/vam/46_VAM_046___Interview_with_Steve_Blum_Part_1.mp3"][/audio]
I've been particularly interested in Steve Blum's story, as hearing one of the pre-eminent names in the video game and animation industry started out learning as he earned is very inspiring. Hearing his full story in-depth has given me hope that I too can overcome my shortcomings and continue to grow as an actor and as a working voice artist.
The first year of any business can be extremely difficult, and this career is certainly no different. I've felt the elation of a successful day, week, and month, and I've dealt with the lows of literally months with very little of note to do when it comes to paid work. But, overall, I absolutely love what I do and no matter what it takes, I'm going to stick it out. I'm at a point recently where that resolve is really being tested, and thankfully I listened to this podcast in that time.
While the whole story is well worth listening to, Mr. Blum's emphasis on the effects of meditation on his career and his life led me to start practicing the next day. It's now been two days, and I've felt the effects almost instantaneously. I feel more energized, more at peace with myself, and looking forward to each day again. As hokey as that sounds, it's true. It's been two days and I already feel a profound resurgence in my body and spirit.
So thank you, Mr. Blum for your inspirational story, and Mr. Freeman for hosting a consistently fantastic podcast. So long as you're still podcasting, I'll be listening.