While many beginning voice actors have heard of voice talent agents, one of the most common questions is “What will getting a voice talent agent ultimately do for my career?”
An agent should act as part marketer, part manager. Their primary role is to promote their talent to prospective clients, as well as help them find promising auditions and jobs.
Getting agency representation doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll land more work, but agents are generally closely connected to studios and ad agencies, who forward them exclusive audition opportunities.
Setting out on the hunt for a voice talent agent shouldn’t be the very first move that you make in your areer.
Before you begin dialling the numbers of every voice talent agent you can find, you should consider a handful of critical questions regarding your career and your goals. These may include:
- What stage are you in your career (e.g. Are you still hunting for your first voice over job, or are you inundated by so much work that it’s hard to determine what the right opportunities are?)
- What type of agency is suited to your needs (e.g. boutique or full-service )?
- What can you expect when meeting with agents and signing a contract?
- How do you want your career to evolve once an agent gets involved?
While it is definitely possible to sign with an agent before completing any notable gigs or amassing a hefty portfolio, you will at least need to have produced a simple voice over demo: a short audio clip, composed of a variety of ‘spots,’ that best showcases your voice acting capabilities.
If you’ve got an impressive demo and you happen to be the right voice at the right time, a voice talent agent is far more likely to take a chance on you than were you to suddenly emerge with nothing to show for yourself.
Once you start to look into a series of voice talent agencies, you’re bound to notice that there are two primary types: full-service agencies and boutique agencies.
Full-service agencies represent a wide range of talent working in a number of fields throughout the entertainment business, including theatre, film, TV, modelling, and, of course, voice over. Boutique agencies will typically zero in on a particular domain, and they’re largely based in city centers (also known as ‘major markets’) that have an extensive pool of talent to draw upon. Some agencies exclusively sign talent who live within a certain radius and are able to attend in-studio recording sessions, while others are on the lookout to sign talent regardless of their homebase.
Before you contact a talent agency, it is imperative that you conduct some research and single out the type of agency (full-service or boutique, based nearby or faraway, etc.) that will best represent you and your career objectives. Note: you should be clear on your career objectives before meeting with any agents. Setting your goals is your responsibility, not an agent’s. Put out some feelers and try to meet with more than one prospective agent.
When you’re drafting messages and reaching out to agencies, read each of their submission guidelines thoroughly. You’ll realize that certain agencies only request that you submit an mp3 file of your demo reel, while others may be looking for a link to your personal website or a written statement.
Practice putting yourself in the agency’s shoes: Why should they want to sign you? What can you offer by joining their roster of talent?
Landing agency representation won’t necessarily come easy, so remember to remain patient and don’t let rejection discourage you. Different agencies will harbor their own preferences and business goals.
So you’ve scheduled a meeting with an agent. Ahead of your rendezvous, keep the following in mind so that you come off as an adroit businessperson who knows their own worth:
This may result in you selling yourself short, leaping into a contract that doesn’t align with your expectations or value, or agreeing to conditions that you aren’t fully comfortable with.
Ask to see testimonials or reviews from others who have worked with them, query about the talent they currently represent, and where they see you fitting into their agency’s roster and overarching vision.
We advise settling on the agent who is genuinely excited to get to work with you, and who proposes the offer that makes the most sense to you.
Tip: Agents should never ask for upfront fees. Be wary of anyone who tries to pressure you into getting headshots or acting lessons at your own expense. The agent will likely inflate the amount and take the ‘finder’s fee’ for themselves. Don’t buy into this trap.
When you sign with a voice talent agent, you’ll most likely be presented with the option to choose between the two standard contract lengths: 1 year or 3 years.
If you’re an industry newcomer, it’s also possible that an agent will request you undergo a 3-6 month trial period before signing on for a full-length contract.
It’s critical that you comb through the entire contract and comprehend all that’s expected of you before signing with an agent. Otherwise, you may fail to realize that you have ‘signed away’ some of the liberties enjoyed by freelance voice talent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as you parse through the ‘legalese.’
Before your agency representation is a done deal, an agent may request complete exclusivity. If this is the case, then you won’t be permitted to take work from any other source unless your agent was the one to arrange it for you. Your contract’s terms may be presented in absolutes even though they are open to negotiation. Take your time before signing anything that you feel apprehensive about.
A good agent will essentially serve as the liaison between you and your clients. Agents are strong negotiators who seek out work opportunities and book auditions. They’ll submit your demo for roles they believe you’re suited for. If you’re interested in the opportunity, they’ll forward you the script, the time, date, and location of the audition.
Once you’ve completed a job set up by your agent, the payment will likely pass through the agency. 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. The agent’s commission will be deducted from your earnings and the remaining amount will be sent to you. Unless the agent succeeds in securing you valuable work, then they won’t make a profit.
Agencies stay on top of the latest trends, and habitually seek out fresh voices that represent industry changes. They’re perpetually keeping an ear out for new voices that complement their existing lineup of talent, since it’s the only way the agency can remain competitive and viable.
All that being said, your agent will likely have a number of voice actors who they are constantly working to maintain a strong rapport with. Stay relevant by keeping in frequent contact with your agent.
Make sure to let your agent know if you’re going on vacation, and contact them upon your return to let them know you’ll be available to audition and take on new jobs again.
When your agent helps you land a role that you’re proud of, take a moment to send them a Thank You card. When a holiday comes up, send them a greeting card. Do what you can to stay in the forefront of their mind without pestering them.
If you show your agent that you’re invested in your career, they will be too.