The voice over industry has changed dramatically in recent years and it continues to evolve every year. Debbie Grattan a US based voiceover talent in her 2018 blog, spoke of five key emerging trends that I felt were important to outline further in 2019.
Firstly, more voice over jobs are opening up for specific accents, dialects and different languages. I noticed this from clients that I worked with for example, I voiced a Jamaican-Patois accent for a radio commercial. Whilst another client recently asked me to voice an African-English for a client in Australia. In terms of languages, Spanish is the greatest in-demand non-English language for voice over work, however, English still remains the top language for voice over work. Australian-English is also increasingly becoming a popular request from voice-seekers.
Secondly, the trend to voice actors making an emotional connection is a top priority. This has been reflected by the increasing number of videos that voice seekers are asking voice actors to provide reads that engage and communicate with the audience, rather than simply talking at them. For example, I voiced a engaging short motivational film, that was aimed at emotionally connecting with the experiences of staff, who worked for a London based housing charity.
Thirdly, budget is no longer the key determining factor. Being able to make an emotional connection, trumps budgetary concerns, followed by the ability to add personality, match the brand voice, reflect the sound of the target market and sound aspirational to the target market. So as Debbie points out ‘having the lowest rates won’t necessarily snag you the highest number of gigs’. Being professional, producing high quality audio with a fast turnaround time are equally important factors.
Fourthly, age matters no it does not matter, as long as the voice talent can ‘tailor their voice’ to align with the target group. One of my voice agents got me a job that required me to tailor my voice for a Dutch garment company video. Fortunately, this was a Skype session and the client was listening in so, it actually made the process a lot easier to accomplish.
Fifthly, real voices still beat robot voices. Even though there are more voice-activated virtual assistants and technology is more commonplace, 93% of humans prefer the human voice to robotic ones. As voice actors, it actually opens the door to work on opportunities related to AI, VR, MR and computerized voices.
So, there are numerous trends that are emerging and changing the landscape of the voice over industry. As voice over actors, I believe that it is important to be kept abreast of such evolving changes as they will directly or indirectly affect the types of jobs we do, in an increasingly changing market.
Well back in January of 2019, I wrote a blog highlighting why It was important to understand your niche as a voice over artist. Since writing that blog, I recently watched an online video with an African-American voice over artist, called Earl Hall. During the 15 minute session, Earl spoke about knowing your ‘micro-niche’. For example, if you were an audiobook narrator, that was your niche, but if you specialised in narrating romance novels, that was your micro-niche. Earl really spoke to me and it made me consider what my own niche was, but perhaps more importantly what was my micro-niche? So after carefully reflecting on these questions, it became apparent that my niche was animation and my micro-niche was character animation. As I have recently voiced various character animation projects.
Earl also outlined that our websites, other wise known as our ‘business cards’ would not really resonate with our target audiences. In my case animators, creative directors and stop motion specialists. Earl’s reference to creating a landing page, was truly a ‘light-bulb’ moment. In other words creating a landing page that was separate from my your own website, would be where I could create my micro-niche. Why had I not thought of this before? Perhaps because as with so many other voice over artists, we tend to generalise and rather than specialise on our micro niche. This is why I am booking a strategy session later this month to discuss the importance of developing my own micro niche, with Earl. Following that I also intend to focus on creating my own landing page, that will reflect my essence, whilst driving potential leads to the landing page. So it truly is important to know your micro-niche as a voice over artist.
I had come to the realisation that I needed to have a closer look at how I could provide further clarity of vision for my business and life. Then, whilst doing some internet-based research, I came across Natasha Marchewka, a US based voice talent who happened to be offering a course that reflected my very needs. The aptly named ‘Master VO To-Do-List,’ offers a very structured approach to planning, with a range of practical hints, tips and strategies, whilst organising your business into a series of lists. For example, one of the very first area of focus was on ‘what does a freelancer voice talent need?’ What I really liked about this was the simplicity in which Natasha breaks down what you need, into easily understandable areas such as the craft, systems, relationship building, content and publicity. Each area has a series of bullet points that you can check through to see what still needs to be done.
As I went through this three-week online course, I personally felt more focused, organised and able to really look at how I effectively used my time, whilst minimising doubt and frustrations related to getting enough done in a day.!!! The beauty also of this course are Natasha’s videos, as she eloquently talks through each topic in a very relaxed and calming manner, whilst providing some opportunities for you, to add personal comments and feedback for other members. What you quickly realise is that through the sharing of comments and feedback, it felt more like you were part of a voice over community, rather than an ‘isolated’ voice talent who is continually trying to figure out what you should be doing next within your business. The other benefit of the course was that it felt that she had pitched the course at the right level, primarily at voice talent with experience in the voice over industry and those voice over talent, who wanted to take their voice over business to the next level.
Overall, as a result of doing Natasha’s course, I now have a greater clarity of purpose and understanding of what I need to do in order to fulfil my desired goals and objectives.
I realised from the outset of when I decided to dabble into the world of voice over, that to get really noticed, having demo reels would be an important part of my overall marketing strategy. So back in 2009, I did some market research into the top demo producers in London at the time, where I could get a corporate, commercial and narrative reel. By 2010, I got each of the reels professionally recorded, edited, with all the music and special effects. Whilst at the time I was very pleased with the end product, I was still uncertain as to whether or not I would be able to get any voice work. With a bit of effective email marketing to local, regional and national clients, networking at local events, I slowly began to see progress in my own voice over business. However, surprisingly, it was not in the corporate, commercial or narration genres, but rather I was getting work across the radio and e-learning markets. So whilst there was a steady growth in corporate voice over work, I thought to myself, let me continue to target more radio and e-learning clients and then re-invest the money in order to get specific radio and e-learning demo reels developed. It was one of the best moves that I made at the time, because as I result of these reels, I began to land more national and overseas radio and e-learning work. One prime example was a client from India, who found me on Linkedin and I continue to receive on-going voice work, for nearly 6 years.
I also do quite a bit of accent work and decided to create a specific accent reel, which had a Jamaican, Russian, Nigerian and Cockney voice clips. Each of those accents, has landed me both national and global work and I firmly believe that you never quite know when your demo reels will come in handy for a potential client.
Whilst the demo reel is a key part of your marketing strategy, there are other factors that are also very important too, like your ability to take direction well, being technically competent, being reliable and working to very tight schedules.
So, demo reels are really important in the world of voice-over, but as one mentor used to say to me, always continue to work on your craft, by keeping yourself relevant.
One of the areas that I have focused on as a professional voice-over artist in recent years, has been to embrace my own core values. This perhaps has become more apparent when developing relationships with new clients. ‘Trust’ is a value that I often hear from clients and I can personally relate it to an existing client of mine who emailed me about several e-learning voice projects. The first thing that she mentioned was that the deadline would be tight and wondered if I could get the projects recorded as a matter of urgency. I believe that because I had previously voiced other projects with tight deadlines, she trusted in my ability, to get the job done ahead of schedule.
I was also reflecting on some of the reviews from my own website, which provide further clues as to the importance of core values. Perhaps what struck me the most, was the review from one client who mentioned importance of ‘professionalism, dedication and reliability’ I believe that these core values are not just important within the voice-over industry, but in life in general. I firmly believe that developing one’s core values, should be at the heart of everything voice-over artists do as part of their businesses.
Often I draw from the wisdom of my own parents and elders from the African community that I originate from. One of those sayings that always sits well with me was to ‘know thyself, understand your essence and let it shine in the world.’ These poignant words, were echoed by my parents and are cemented in my heart. Hopefully as voice-over artists, you will continue to strive to stand by your own core values as part of your own tool-kit, when developing and nurturing relationships with those new leads or clients.