Getting an Agent

Getting a voice-over agent should be a part of a voice talent's three tiered marketing plan (Marketplace, Personal Website, and Agent). An agent's job is to promote their voice talent to potential clients and find them auditions. Agency representation doesn't guarantee you'll land work but they often have close connections with major studios and advertising organizations that send them exclusive auditioning opportunities you wouldn't otherwise hear about.

Seeking Agency Representation

The best time to seek agency representation is after you've taken some training with a voice-over coach and have a professionally produced demo to promote. You more likely to sign with an agent after you have landed a few voice-over gigs first, but ultimately, experienced or not, your demo speaks for you. If you've got an awesome demo at your disposal and you're the right voice at the right time, they're more likely to take a chance on you.

Some agencies are known as ‘full-service." This means they represent talent in theatre, film, television, voice-over, and modeling. Others specialize in one particular area. Specialized agencies are located mainly in large city centres where there is a larger talent pool to draw upon.

Agents are very selective about who they choose to represent, so getting agency representation can take some time. Don't let that discourage you. It all depends on their preference and business goals. Do your research to see who's accepting new voice talent and if there's an opening for a voice like yours. Some agents prefer to work with talent located in major markets like Toronto, New York, Chicago or L.A. Others represent talent by state, region, or union affiliation. After some evaluation, meet with a few different agencies, if possible.

So you landed an interview at Big Name Agency. That's great! Your demo's really working for you. But you go in and discover the agent is not as they appeared to be. DON'T SIGN. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask to see testimonials or references, ask how many talent they currently represent, and how they see you fitting into their agency. If you still get a bad feeling, move on and don't look back. Go with the agent you are most comfortable with, who is excited to work with you, and offers the most reasonable contract.

Agents should never ask for any upfront fees. Some will try to set you up with a photographer for headshots, acting lessons, or what-have-you. If the agent arranges it at your cost, they will likely inflate the amount and take a ‘finder's-fee' cut for themselves. Don't buy into this trap. Unless they're paying for the cost, arrange for these things on your own.

Once you do receive an offer of representation, they will typically want you to sign either a one-year or three-year contract. Some will ask for a three to six month trial period first, particularly if you are new to the industry. It's critical that you understand what's required of you before signing with an agent otherwise you could literally be "signing away" some of the freedoms you could enjoy as a freelance voice talent. Contracts contain a great deal of "legalese" so don't be afraid to ask questions.

They may request complete exclusivity. This means that they you don't want you to take any work from any other source unless they've arranged it for you. This could extend beyond your local area and attempt to harness jurisdiction over the Internet, making the three-tiered approach to having a successful voice-over career null and void.

In most cases, they will present the terms of your contract in absolutes but the terms should be open for negotiation. Voice-over work from online sources can come from anywhere in the world so try to retain your right to take work directly from clients online. As a compromise, offer to include the agent's contact details on your web properties.

What an Agent Will Do for You

Agents are part marketer, part manager. They find opportunities, book auditions, and are strong negotiators. They are well connected with studios and casting agencies and are informed, sometimes exclusively, about particular upcoming auditions. They submit their talents' demos for roles they're suited for. When they land you a chance to audition, your agent will get in touch with you to describe the job and see if you're interested. If you're excited about the opportunity, they'll give you the script to audition with, the date, time, and location of the audition. Essentially, they act as a liaison between you and the client.

Negotiating terms of your employment and collecting on overdue payments is where an agent really earns their stars. Their strong negotiating skills validate their earnings, which are commission-based. Agents generally charge 10-15 % commission. This may be a total sum of services and/or on each job you land. If they charge more than that, be sure to ask why their commission structure is higher than the norm and how their services differ from others to validate it.

Once a job is completed, payment typically goes straight to the agency. The agent's commission will be deducted from your earnings and the remaining amount will be sent to you. So unless the agent is successful in getting their talent work, they make zero profit. This is a huge incentive for them to keep working hard on your behalf.

Agencies need to stay on top of trends and get fresh voices that represent the changing needs of the industry. This means they're often on the hunt for fresh new voices. That is the only way that their agency can remain competitive and viable. Since they represent a number of talent at any given time, stay relevant and keep in touch with your agent.

Check in with them every couple weeks to see if they have any auditions available for you but be respectful of them and their time. Always be professional, personable, and courteous. Think of the relationship you have with your agent as a business to business arrangement. If you are good to them, they'll be good to you.

If you're going on vacation let them know when and call or email them when you return to let them know you're available again. When they've helped you land a role you're really proud of, send them a thank you card. When a holiday comes up send them a greeting card. Stay in the forefront of their mind and they won't forget about you. Show your agent that you're invested in your career and they will be too.

So, you've landed an agent, and they've landed you an audition!

What happens when you get there?

That's next.