Recently, I did a review of some of my voice jobs that I had done over the past few months and I began to notice a bit of a pattern emerging. Interestingly, most of the roles, included an ability to ‘drop’ an accent and do so convincingly. These included Cockney, South African, Neutral, Received Pronunciation (RP) and ‘International’ (British). I along with many other UK based voice over artists, are now operating in a global market and there is even a greater appetite from clients to use voice actors, who possess strong accent ability. You only have to look at genres such as gaming and animation, where there is an expectation that you are skilled in voicing several different characters and do them with consummate ease.
I have personally had to do this myself a few years ago for an online character video, where I had to voice three different accents English, French and Australian for the performance. On my own accent reel, I have Cockney, Nigerian, Russian and Jamaican Patois. This versatility came in very handy for one of my most recent clients in the Dominica Republic, who had listened to the reel and her client immediately wanted me to record a radio commercial for a global brand in Jamaican Patois, that was then aired across Trinidad and Tobago!!! I believe that having been brought up in the UK and growing up in a variety of culturally diverse communities in Nottingham as well as attending the University of Manchester, where 95% of all the students on my course at the time, were from over 15 different countries, helped shape my ability to deliver a diversity of accents as a voice actor today.
So the answer to the question of whether accent ability is a relevant skill? Is yes I believe it is, as the demand for different accents grows, more actors like myself will also need to keep developing and building on our repertoire., in order to remain relevant and marketable. Also at the end of the day, doing accents is also about having a bit of fun, challenging ourselves and growing as actors, surely that can only be a good thing.
So recently, I decided that I would like to explore ‘Thinkubator Challenge’. This is where hubs of academics, alumni fellows, undergraduate, postgraduate and research students, solve a business problem as identified by myself.
My voiceover business is growing, yet I have not had time to focus on key aspects of the business such as my social media presence. I have a voice over website, which I regularly update and have recently updated my Lin kedin profile, by adding new videos and links to recent projects. However, my presence on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram are areas that need future development.
With ‘Thinkubator Challenge’ you are invited to attend for a day to present your business challenge to the hub, returning at the end of the day to hear suggestions and practical next steps. Whilst my social media challenge is worked on by the hub teams, I am invited to attend a free Business Master class aimed at inspiring and empowering me as an entrepreneur.
I recently was informed that I was one of the successful businesses chosen to participate in the ‘Thinkubator Challenge’ scheme in November 2019. I am really looking forward to hearing ideas that can enhance my voice-over business, from a cross-section of academics, particularly as it continues to expand globally.
Next month, I will provide an overview on how the day progressed the learning that came from the event and the practical hints, tips and strategies that the hub team shared as part of my voice-over business.
Recently, I have been quite busy with castings, voice over jobs and creating new video demo reels for my voice over website.
However, I decided that I also needed to take some much needed ‘time out’ from voice over work and pursue other interests. I have over 18 years experience of working in the charity sector and 3 years ago, I had finished my previous role as a Business Development Manager for a drug and alcohol charity. My job involved project managing staff, on local and national funded projects, as well as writing local, regional and national funding applications.
I really felt it was time to explore what potential Freelance opportunities existed, to write bids for local charities. So, an artist friend of mine, invited me to a networking event, that was full of creative and business entrepreneurs. Whilst I was there I met some very interesting people, including a business consultant, who actually knew one of my previous bosses, very well. So we got chatting, exchanged business cards and he called me a week or so later. He told me about an organisation who were recently on the lookout for a Freelance Bid Writing Consultant, who could help a local organisation write a bid. So armed with the details of the organisation, I contacted the Director on numerous occasions to try an organise an initial meeting, but each time I tried, the meeting got cancelled. Despite this initial setback, I eventually managed to get an appointment with the Director.
Fortunately, I was also able to spend some quality time, getting to meet the team, volunteers and details of the idea that the Director wished to develop. We agreed on one potential funder, who I felt based on the description of the project would be a good fit.
Over a period of 5 weeks, I closely worked with the Director to develop the bid. During the course of this process, I was also asked by his Business Development Manager/DJ, if I was interested in using my voice over skills for a music project they were looking to put together, which I gladly accepted. This unique experience taught me such an invaluable lesson.
Firstly, the importance of networking and meeting people on a face to face basis, this cannot be overlooked. Secondly, persistence is key and in my case it paid off, despite having to wait nearly 4 weeks to get an initial meeting. Thirdly, building relationships is crucial in any business and gaining the trust of a potential client is at the heart of it.
So, never under-estimate the importance of trying out new approaches, this is what I did and now it has led to a client who will be utilising my expertise for both bid writing and future voice over work.
When I started out doing voice overs, I remember that getting as much experience was my initial goal. As the years passed and my confidence grew understanding what areas to focus on in voice acting became more of a focus.
I struggled with this because although I kept a ‘resume’ of all the work I was getting, across corporate, commercial, e-learning and gaming. I knew that I could not do it all. I also knew that I had to specialise in certain areas and become known for those genres of voice work. So I positioned myself within the corporate, commercial and e-learning sectors and what I have noticed over the last year or so, is that not only has there been a significant increase in the amount of work that I am getting within these three genres, but perhaps more importantly more repeat work.
A good example was about a year ago, I decided to create an accent demo reel, because I was getting requests from clients for more accent work. So on my accent reel were the accents that I knew I could do well, they included Nigerian, Cockney (London) Russian and Jamaican-Patios. I recall seeing a casting in 2018, for a radio commercial that required an ability to do a convincing Jamaican-Patois accent. I recorded 3 takes and emailed it across to the client. I got shortlisted and then heard that I got the commercial, which incidentally was for the global brand Mastercard.
As you can imagine I was pleased to have gotten the part. 6 months later, the same client asked me to audition for another radio commercial, also for Mastercard. After two rounds of auditions, I was successful. 2 weeks later, I was asked by the same client to audition for the same global brand, but this time, the commercial if successful, would be aired across the whole of the Caribbean market. After waiting over week to find out whether I was successful, I got the role.
Reflecting on this I do put this success down to a variety of factors, investing in great training with a voice coach, listening to the guidance of the client also played a key part, but I also believe that working on improving my performance skills also contributed to me getting repeat work, which I believe has enhanced my personal brand. I continue to use this experience to build, develop and enhance my voice over business. I would also say for other budding and experienced voice talent, try to continue to build and nurture your relationships with clients, invest in on-going training, and above all believe in your own abilities.
I remember about 3 years ago, I looked at the key areas of my voice over business that needed to be improved. One element that I considered to be a weakness, was my technical skills and ability. For years I would go to my friends flat who was a DJ and Audio Engineer and record there, but the inconvenience became an issue. So he told me that if I really wanted to build a voice over business, technically, I would have to learn the basics from him and eventually do a mix of dedicated specialist courses and use YouTube videos on how to set up a home studio set up. Alongside my friends comment, a client also advised me that if I wanted to be booking more voice work on a consistent basis, then both my home studio set up as well as the audio quality of my recordings had to become so good, that clients would not even notice. It was after hearing those words, that I decided to make some drastic changes to both my home studio set up and technical abilities. I enrolled on ‘setting up your own home studio course’, run by Gravy for the Brain (GFTB), an online voice over training resource. This was a very effective step by step course, that took you me through the various elements of setting up my own home studio. Whilst GFTB’s course focused on the studio process, one of the most important and perhaps the most difficult elements for me, was to get my home studio space right. I had a quiet room at home, which I treated in order to create a ‘dead space’ beneficial for quiet audio recording. I used acoustic blankets and soon I had a fully functional professional home recording studio. This was all done before focusing on investing in new technical equipment. Again I did extensive research and tested out different microphones, audio interfaces, recording software and headphones.
Looking back over the past 3 years, I am so glad that I listened to my friends and took on the advice from my client, because what I previously considered to be a weak aspect of my business then, has turned into a strength. This now means that not only do I possess the technical skills and abilities to self-record, mix and edit, but I also have the flexibility to generate a higher volume of voice over work, from the comfort of my home with clients both in the UK and globally.
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.