How to Launch an International Voice Acting Career
The voice over industry continues to grow. It can be a lucrative career that affords you flexibility and fulfillment while you make a living. For those just getting started though, breaking into the industry can be a daunting task.
It’s almost time for the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Have you ever wondered what the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) slogan “Citius, Altius, Fortius” means? When literally translating from Latin, the motto means Faster, Higher, Stronger.
What’s the connection between the Olympic motto and Interactive Voices? We believe that our service and voice-over talents perform with the same ardour, intensity, and agility as the athletes that compete at the Olympic Games.
Let me let you in on a secret… voice talents are vocal athletes. So, if that’s the case, what defines athletics and what are athletes?
Athletics are games or sports that result in a victory of some sort. An athletic person is physically strong, fit and active; a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.
If you look closely, you’ll see a simple correlation between both the team at InteractiveVoices and our voice talent at the voice-over marketplace, and the Olympic athletes and their governing body, the IOC.
First, let’s start with the voice talents and Olympic athletes themselves. Voice talents up first.
Do these professionals not work hard every day to maintain their vocal health, improve their lung capacities, and push themselves to their artistic limits? Each talent is responsible for their physical well being and know that it directly affects their performance. This includes the foods they eat, the bad habits they avoid, right down to their choice of herbal remedies, Echinacea, Ginger Root and Zinc among their favourites. Everything that they put into their bodies, including the amount of sleep they get and the exercises that they routinely perform, affects their voice-overs. Oh yes, warming up their voices and plenty of H20 ~ more than enough to make even the Water Boy proud!
Similarly, athletes adhere to the same code of ethics with regard to their well being. Rest, warming up (stretching), exercise, healthy eating, lifestyle… it’s all relevant to their success as well. Although the olympic athlete does quite a bit more of the extensive physical exercise and sporting aspect, the voice talent is not far behind.
Vocal marathons are run everyday – no lactic acid thankfully, but vocal folds can fall victim to several unexpected ailments, hence the voice talent’s vigilance regarding their health and personal habits. The overuse of a voice, coming into contact with someone who has a cold, eating or drinking certain foods and beverages, inhaling second-hand smoke, or exposure to the elements can all play a role in breaking down the talent’s immune system or wreaking havoc with the tender vocal folds (these used to be called vocal cords, but that didn’t really make sense ~ believe me).
Voice talents wake up everyday with the goal of being the best that they can be, just like Olympic athletes. Their craft is nurtured through workshops, private coaching sessions, and by connecting with their colleagues. Athletes attend clinics, are coached, and also train with each other.
Athletes compete against each other in friendly competition as do voice talents. Even though the auditioning process seems highly competitive, these same talents often exchange website links with each other in order to promote their services to a larger audience, some even endorsing talents that have different skills other than their own to help their clients find what they are looking for.
Brian Thon is a national producer, international voice actor and owner of True Tone Studios, LLC. If you’re looking to become a voice actor, Brian shares how he made his way and what you can take away from what he’s learned.
The First Steps to Becoming a Voice Actor
Brian encourages you to start off by reflecting; ask yourself if you have a voice that can be developed. “Do I have an aptitude for this? Do I have a talent for this?” he says. There are coaches that can help you assess your ability if you’re not sure.
If you can say yes to those answers, next you need training because raw talent isn’t enough. “All the athletes that we admire at the Olympics; of course they have lots of talent but they got developed, they got coached, they worked at it,” he says. You can have natural talent, but you still need to know how to use it properly.
Once you’ve received coaching, Brian advises having demos professionally produced – one for commercial work and one for narration.
Having the Right Mindset
It’s essential that you avoid thinking your career is based solely on what you can do vocally, and shift to thinking as a business professional.
First you need to consider the client, as a surprising amount of people do not consider what clients want. “People lead with what the have, hoping for a favorable result; sometimes it lands. A lot of times it doesn’t,” warns Brian.
Having a client-focused mindset is all about meeting the expectations of the people that you’re trying to do business with. Recognizing you fill a need for them will help you realize that serving your customer is key.
Cast a Wide Net at the Beginning of Your Career to Help Figure Out Where You Fit
Another key to having a successful career is figuring out what voice work you’re suited to.
“It’s true to say voice over is a niche business, and you may have a sense of what niche you fit into or that you want to pursue, and that’s fine…not, however, to the exclusion of other opportunities,” says Brian.
The reason for this is that you can’t be sure where you’ll end up fitting. “The market may well have an opinion about where they favor you,” he says. While you may want to do cartoon voices, if you keep getting hired to perform explainer videos, don’t turn those opportunities down.
You can keep seeking the work you want while being supported by the work that comes to you.
Try out commercials, narration or whatever comes your way.
The Way You Pursue Clients Could Be the Difference Between Failure and Success
A lot of people don’t know where to start or what to ask when they begin voice over. There are many people who will begin, not see success immediately, and move on. This can have a lot to do with how your seek out work.
Clients are putting together ads with agencies. The agencies are looking to advance their clients’ messages – and one thing that they draw on is star power.
The celebrities have perceived value for larger agencies; newer voice talent doesn’t have that yet. So, Brian advises that you don’t worry about them. “A lot of people in the world are trying to vie for that business, so there’s a lot of competition; it’s heavy where opportunity is limited.” Instead, he suggests seeking out work with smaller companies.
“There are little companies, cinematography companies, videography companies, everywhere. They need voice talent all the time!” says Brian. He advises talking to them directly when you’re starting out. Whatever area you’re from, seek out a smaller market and offer yourself as a voice talent.
You’ll come to learn that your voice is important, but it’s not all that matters. He says that “a lot of times it’s about the relationship.” If you’ve come through for them before, they may choose you just because they like you. Never underestimate the power of professionalism.
You Need to Seek Out Opportunities and Realize Your Worth
He recommends taking initiative by contacting creative directors or agencies and says, “A lot of times you’ll hear nothing at all – you’ll hear crickets – but it doesn’t mean they’re not listening. Often, what it does mean is that they are listening and they tuck it away in their file for when they need it.”
Brian has heard back from people years later and went on to do business with them.
While you can’t make someone need your voice over, you can make them aware of you and what you can offer them. That way, they can act when the time is right.
One of the things you need to realize is how much you matter. “There’s value in you; there’s value in your uniqueness, in your unique sound, but you’ve got to know how to leverage that. That’s the key.”
Lastly, the athlete and voice talent are both driven and focus on their skills perpetually. They eat, sleep, and breathe what they do and are passionate advocates of their art in their homes and on the world stage.
About Brian Thon
Brian Thon (pronounced “Tone”) is an international Voiceover Artist whose credits include Amazon, Fox, GE, MetLife, Clarion, NYU, UCLA, Raffies Originals, and others worldwide. He has narrated independent film, appeared on camera in several, as well as written and produced in collaboration with an Emmy Award winning cinematographer and best-selling novelist.
A respected national Producer, Brian has worked with best-selling authors, musicians including a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and fellow Voiceover Talent. His portfolio spans Broadway performers, a Tony Award nominated composer, and Hollywood movie actors. Longtime feature film standout Bill Rodgers (Switchback, Walt Disney’s Tall Tale) declares Brian “…one of the best producers I’ve ever worked with in my career.”
About the IOC
The IOC is the international governing body serving the athletes who are competing in the Olympics and countries hosting the Olympic Games. InteractiveVoices is the trusted neutral party serving voice actors at the InteractiveVoices website and clients who are seeking voice acting services.
Both organizations successfully provide opportunities for world-class talent to prove themselves and go for the gold. Whether it be on the ski hill or from behind the microphone, potentially life changing career plateaus can be reached via the Olympic Games and InteractiveVoices. If an athlete wants to be recognized as the best in the world, they need to compete in the Olympic Games for their sport. If a voice actor wants to be affiliated with the #1 voice-over marketplace, they need to have a Profile at InteractiveVoices.
The IOC and their national counterparts, (for example, the Canadian Olympic Committee amongst other national Olympic committees), are responsible for consolidating the world’s best athletes from every country that has athletes eligible to compete. Similarly, InteractiveVoices has consolidated the finest freelance voice actor database in the world, including voice actors from North America, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, Oceania, and more. These talent are able to meet the voice-over needs of international clients.