10 Tips for Successful Online Casting

The world of online casting – sometimes referred to as pay-to-play – became a somewhat controversial topic in 2017.  Although not all voice actors utilize it, almost everyone has an opinion about it and many voice actors swear by it.

I happen to be one who endorses the usage of online casting and recently I had the pleasure of learning many useful tips and techniques from one of the industry’s most successful talents, J. Michael Collins.  Thanks to Anne Ganguzza and VO Peeps, J. Michael was able to bring his knowledge and insight of online casting to a group of voice actors eager to learn more about succeeding in this ever-expanding part of the industry.

If you’re new to voiceover, you might not realize that prior to about ten years ago, there were no online casting sites specifically for voiceover jobs.  “Back in the day,” voice actors had to have agents who let them know about casting opportunities and actors had to go to a specific studio and audition in person.  Home studios were unheard of until the advent of the internet and of course, the rest is VO history….

Now that home studios and voice actors are ubiquitous, online casting is a great way for talent to be heard and hired directly by clients and production companies around the world.  For those new to the industry, it’s a great way to slowly build a body of work and to increase your voice over experience.

Here are some great tips from J. Michael Collins that really stood out:

  • Online casting is a numbers game. You’ve got to “throw a lot of mud” against the wall to make some of it stick so a minimum of 20 auditions per day is a great way to start.
  • Being early does matter therefore, efficiency is important. With practice, you should be able to submit 10-15 auditions an hour.
  • Compose a form response to use on your auditions – don’t waste time with custom response for each audition. Oftentimes the person who posted the audition is not the person who listens to the responses.
  • Each audition should be from 15 to 30 seconds max. If there is more than 30 seconds of copy, try to get in an open, hook, brand name and sentence that closes.
  • The more people who hear you, the more jobs you’ll book – it’s that simple!
  • The “6-second” rule applies – that about how long you have to get the listeners attention so the delivery of your first line is very important.
  • Make sure you have enough energy in your delivery. Most of us think we have more energy in the delivery than other people do when listening – so bump it up!
  • Make the listener “like you.”
  • Obsess about the audio, not about the editing.
  • It’s okay to leave in “natural” breaths as many creative directors like the audio somewhat raw.

Some of his other pearls of wisdom included:

  • Voices are like entrée choices in a restaurant. Think of your voice as a “salmon entrée.” Some people don’t like salmon, they like steak.  In fact, about 93% of people don’t like salmon but there are people out there who do enjoy it and by reaching out and getting heard more and more, someone who likes your sound will connect with you.
  • Don’t be discouraged if a project already has 50 or 60 submissions. While it is best to be early, keep in mind that approximately 80% of the auditions are disqualified immediately (40% technical issues/40% performance issues) so if the project “speaks” to you, submit.  You’re probably actually only competing against 10 to 15 individuals.
  • Tag every category made available by the specific casting website and upload a demo for each category as well.

Thanks again to the VO Peeps for providing the opportunity to get J. Michael’s great insights and experience regarding online casting.  Audition away!!



Live Announce Pros Headline Seminar

The importance of continuing education and training in voice over really can’t be stressed enough.  And considering how many great opportunities there are to learn from and interact with other industry talents, you’ve got to throw your hesitation or your excuses out the window!

Yesterday I had the great pleasure to meet and perform for a couple of VO industry titans!  Randy Thomas is a voice you’ve heard on awards shows like the Academy Awards, the Tonys, the Emmys, etc, etc…  And Steve Ray is a seasoned announcer who just this year, accepted the high honor of becoming the official announcer for the Presidential Inauguration! But his credits also include many other notable events.

Hosted by Anne Ganguzza and the VO Peeps, Randy and Steve were the featured VO artists for a seminar on the ins and outs of live announcing.  They provided us with a fascinating look at what it takes to live announce the Oscars and the Inauguration of a President!!  The two of them were deftly able to convey to the attendees the ways in which the skills they need for those huge events are applicable even to a hospital charity dinner or a local fashion show.

Live announcing is something I love to do.  It’s not for everyone but if the thrill of performing live gets your blood circulating, there are lots of opportunities – especially if you’re motivated to “make it happen!”  And while the “big time” live announce jobs are generally in major urban areas, Randy and Steve talked about some of the ways that VO talent all over the country can make things happen…

  • Hotels in your area that host events will need live announcers
  • Sporting venues large and small use announcers for games (non play-by-play)
  • Convention centers throughout the country have to have talent for clients
  • Hospitals hold various charity events/dinners

Now if you find yourself thinking that these venues probably already have announcers, well they always need backups because sometimes the person scheduled just can’t make it!  That’s where making yourself available at a moment’s notice makes you invaluable.  Don’t let cold-calling intimidate you!  You’re offering a valuable service and nine times out of ten, people are happy to hear about what it is you have to offer.

Before you contact the folks you think might need your live announcing skills, get a demo together.  As Randy suggested, YouTube is a great resource for getting ideas on delivery and style.  Use those examples to write up some copy and voila – you can create a produced demo and then once you start getting some gigs, use those examples to sell yourself.  Randy Thomas has great blog posts as well like “5 Top Tips for Live Announcing,” so utilize the myriad of resources online to help hone your abilities within this niche!  The possibilities are limited only by the boundaries of your imagination and drive….

4 Important To-Dos When Establishing Client Relationships in Voice Over

Establishing good, strong relationships with your voice over clients is paramount to enjoying success in this business!  Ideally, you want them to come back to you and your voice as often as possible.  Now of course your VO skill level, the quality of your recordings and your ability to effectively deliver copy will comprise a great percentage of your success quotient.  But aside from the obvious skills needed, there are customer service skills that are requisite to establishing relationships that bring your VO clients back when they have other projects for which your voice may be appropriate.  But if you alienate the folks you work with, no matter how perfect your voice may be, chances are they won’t come back for more.  Let’s examine four of the most important:

  • Prompt Response When a client responds to you directly from an audition you’ve submitted, don’t wait around until it’s “convenient” to respond.  Even if you won’t be able to jump on the project right away, get back to the person, thank them for their interest in hiring you and get the dialogue going.
  • Be Realistic Never, never be unrealistic with a client regarding project delivery times.  If you can’t get it done in four hours, don’t say that you can!  Trying to impress a client by saying that you can get something done really quickly and then coming to find that you’re not going to be able to deliver will ruin a customer relationship faster than just about anything else.  Promising something to someone because it’s what you think they want to hear and then not delivering, does much more harm than good.  Unrealistic delivery assurances do not make for repeat customers!
  • Proofread Written Materials I know it may sound silly, but be sure to proofread all your email messages and written responses as well as the titles that you name your audio files.  Although it doesn’t impact the sound of your voice, if you make typos or incorrectly title files, it’s indicative of a general “sloppiness” that may be a red flag to a client.  The next time they think of you, they may pass because of the appearance of carelessness.  Remember that there are many people out there for whom this kind of correctness is important and it basically says that you’re careful and you review things before you send them.
  • Be Patient Don’t be over anxious about hearing from your clients.  Especially when you’re new in your voiceover career, it’s really exciting to be producing work and interacting with clients.  But remember that producers and artistic directors at agencies all around the country are very busy and the project that you’re voicing is probably not the only thing they’re working on!  Sometimes it can take days to hear back from someone.  Don’t pace the floor wondering when you’re going to hear back.  If they’ve said they want to work with you, they mean it and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.  The worst thing you can do is send emails demanding to know what’s going on.  Be patient and let the project take its course.

Make sure you keep an active email list of your clients as you work with more and more people.  It’s also a good idea to thank a client once a project is completed.  Good voice over business is like any other – establishing great relationships with clients will pay off over the long run!

5 Tips for Staying Healthy During Long Voiceover Recording Sessions

Whether it’s a long-form narration project or an audio book, spending consecutive hour upon hour in your recording studio can take its toll on your body!  In order to perform your best, your body needs to be in good shape too so here are some suggestions for staying shape during VO performance marathons…

  • Stay hydrated –  I know it’s said over and over again, but especially when you’re in your booth for prolonged periods, hydration is hugely important.  Water is of course the “transport vehicle” of nutrients to your muscles.  In order to move and flex your muscles, you need water.  And if you’re sitting for long periods of time, adequate water helps to get electrolytes to your muscles to avoid cramping.  So hydrate well for several hours prior to getting in your booth for a long recording session and keep that water at hand to periodically moisten the throat and vocal chords.
  • Nourishment – Although it’s not a great idea to eat right before a long sesh in the recording booth, make sure that at least a couple of hours prior you take in some food! Not only will this give your brain the energy it needs to comprehend the text you’re working with, there’s nothing worse than having to re-record because your mic picked up stomach growls!  That recently happened to me during an audio book recording session and I didn’t realize it until I was in post-production and of course that meant extra time correcting that awful noise!  You don’t want to have eaten anything too heavy though as that could lead to drowsiness.
  • Stretching – This tip is applicable to pretty much anything that requires prolonged periods of sitting, be it on an airplane, at a desk or in the recording booth.  But in any of those circumstances, stretching really helps the body make it through these periods of relative inactivity more healthfully.  Stretching improves muscle elasticity, helps to release toxins from the muscles and improves blood flow to the muscles – all of which are incredibly important for the voiceover artist who is working on a long project.  While working on an audio book recently, I started to make a lot of silly mistakes.  I realized that it was time to take a quick break so I stood up and did about three minutes of stretching.  My audio was pretty much error-free after that.  It really improves brain function as well!
  • Deep Breathing – I can’t overstate the importance of this tip! Deep breathing does so many incredibly beneficial things to the body and all of them help make a VO performance that much better.  Deep breathing releases endorphins throughout the body so you’ll feel even better about what you’re doing which helps you to do it well.  Deep breathing helps remove toxins from the internal organs and of course the increased flow of oxygen in the bloodstream increase our energy levels.  To make it successfully through hours of recording, energy is key so don’t forget to breath deeply!
  • Take A Break – When you’re focusing on pages and pages of copy, it’s easy to lose focus.  Taking a quick break helps us from getting bored (unfocused).  Some experts recommend working for 20 minutes and then breaking for 5 to 8 minutes.  If that’s too long for you, try recording for 20 minutes and then stand up, stretch and move around for at least two minutes.  This will help you stay focused, avoid back pain and just keep you stimulated and excited about your work.  I always know when a break is appropriate because my mouth starts to make mistakes.  If I step away for a moment and move around, I generally can get back to recording with no problems.

Long projects and audio books can be extremely rewarding and very fun to perform.  Just make sure that you take care of your body properly so that your voice can keep up with the pace.  Since we generally work by ourselves in virtual darkness for long periods of time, staying active and healthy – both mentally and physically – is very important.  Stay well and be of good voice!

Director: “Friendly and authoritative at the same time!” Seriously?

One of the primary responsibilities of the voiceover actor is to effectively convey the intent of the writer to the listener! If you think about it, it’s an awesome responsibility – through our voices comes meaning…

But those written words go through some processes before you, the voiceover actor, can start to convey that meaning. And that’s where the concept of direction comes in – because we all have different notions of the best way to get that “meaning” across to the listener, writers and producers will give you direction to indicate how they feel the words should be ideally delivered. And that’s where the fun starts…

Some of my favorite directions include the ubiquitous, “conversational, like you’re talking to a friend.” Really? Have you ever just wanted to yell out – I would never say that to a friend!

Then there’s another that makes me scratch my head, “friendly but with authority.” What? So, you want me to sound authoritative but in a friendly sort of way!

And who hasn’t come across the old, “articulate but not announcer-y…” Sound smart, like you know what you’re talking about but… not like you’re reading. Okay then.

Others that are used, dare I say too often, include warm, comforting, articulate and caring… The list goes on and on. Regardless of whether or not they’re overused, these are the current language tools directors and producers utilize to try and assist us voice actors to get message across in the way they want! If your interpretation of those directions hits a cord, then you get the booking and that awesome responsibility is yours!

Now imagine this blog post read in a conversational tone. Real. Not announcer-y. Almost like talking to a friend. Think Morgan Freeman or Allison Janney…

Tales from the Microphone…

This is an exciting time for me! I’m at the launch pad ready to send my voiceover rocket ship into space and I couldn’t be happier!

If you’re reading this, my very first blog post, welcome and thank you. This blog will focus on a little bit of life, some fun mixed in and lots and lots of voiceover.

I’m very excited to report that I have in front of me, my first ACX contract for narration services. If you have ever thought about narrating audio books, ACX.com is a great place to start. It’s the audio book “division” of Amazon so needless to say, there’s a lot of clout behind it!

Audio books are exploding right now. Sales overall of audio books increased from 2013 to 2014 by 13.5%. But check this out – by 2015, that increase went up to 24% so it’s clear that as people get busier and busier, they are utilizing audio books to entertain them in traffic, on public transport and at home.

Now I won’t enter into the debate about whether or not “listening” to a book is the same as reading a hard copy of it. I think enjoyment is the key. And in today’s busy world, people may be able to learn and experience more through audio books then ever before!

I don’t want to “spill the beans” about the title that I’m recording until it’s ready for primetime, but as soon as it’s available, I’ll let you know…