Now that you’re a working voice actor who has identified their signature voice, have thrust some skillful demos into circulation, and have begun to establish yourself in the industry, it may be time for you to take that next step forward in your career. You’re ready to book bigger and better jobs, and get taken more seriously. So what does this step entail, you ask? It’s time for you to get yourself an agent.
How do you know if you’re truly ready for an agent, and whether having one on your side will help you book the jobs you desire? This guide will lead you through the process of seeking out agency representation, what to be on the lookout for when you meet with prospective agents, and how you can expect your career to evolve with a talent agent on your side.
What Does a Voice Talent Agent Do?
Agents serve the purpose of being part marketer/part manager. They maintain robust relationships with various agencies, networks, and production companies, and will help you get auditions that you would have never otherwise heard about. An agent presents you with opportunities and will only put you forward for jobs that they believe you have a chance to book.
Agents handle money discussions so that you don’t have to. An agent also takes care of legal contracts and maintains relationships with producers. An agent refers to their voice talent (or the person they represent) as their ‘client.’
* Note that how an agent’s use of the term ‘client’ is different from how ‘client’ is defined at Voices. At Voices, a client is a buyer of voice over services (someone who posts a voice over job and hires a talent). For agents, the voice actors they represent are their clients.
Voice Talent Agents Differ in Minor vs. Major Markets
The way you go about finding agency representation can differ depending upon which market you’re hoping to break into. You may beeline straight to one of the 5 major markets for voice over in North America, where the bulk of the money, jobs, and big names reside: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto. Alternatively, you may try to establish yourself as a big fish in a smaller pond, such as your current city of residence.
The thing is, with the advent of Internet communication and online marketplaces like Voices, you no longer need to catch the next flight to Hollywood in order to build a career in voice acting. Now, more than ever, you can work from anywhere around the world. However, your location may have an effect on the voice over agency that takes interest in you.
While some agencies have expanded their purview to include talent from locales beyond their own, there are a number of benefits to working and seeking agency representation in the market nearest to where you’re living. In many cases, clients take no issue with listening to a talent’s audition, providing notes and direction, and coordinating and receiving the final product all via an online marketplace like Voices. Yet the major markets are still broken down by region, and it can be quite helpful to be nearby, so you can periodically meet with your agent, or attend auditions in person (it’s still a requirement sometimes).
Also, a voice talent agent in a major market won’t be looking for the same attributes as a voice talent agent in a market that isn’t as bountiful. For one, most major market agents won’t consider taking on new talent unless they’ve already gained some notable experience in the industry. In smaller markets, on the other hand, agencies are more willing to take you on if you’ve received some form of professional training or have produced an expertly recorded demo, but have yet to get your big break in the industry.
How to Get Voice Talent Agency Representation
So how in the world do you find the right voice talent agent or agency for you? Here are some instructions to follow when you’re reaching out to the agency that you believe may be the perfect fit:
- Do a deep dive into your agency of choice. The way different agencies operate can vary widely. You’ll find that some agents work exclusively with union talent, while others are specifically non-union, and others have no preference. Agencies can represent all types of talent—from models to film and TV actors—and have a separate voice over division, while there are agencies that are devoted solely to voice acting.
- Conduct additional research into the kind of voice talent the agency represents. Does the agency you’re hoping to sign with seem to only represent commercial voices for TV and radio, while your goal has always been to get into audiobook and medical narration? This may work either in your favor or against it. Perhaps that agency just doesn’t represent voices like yours because its specialties belong to a different sector of the voice industry. On the other hand, the agency could be in need of a voice just like yours to round out their ensemble of talent.
- Email your demo to the agent/agency. Treat this like you would a proposal for a job. Tell the agent who you are. Outline your work experience, your expertise, and make sure to mention your ability to record from home, if you live in a different city. Being able to record and make use of studio bridging technologies will set you apart, especially when so many people are now working remotely.
Once you’ve singled out the agency you’d like to work with, you’ve reached out and made a strong impression, then you’re probably ready to meet with a voice talent agent and discuss what you hope to accomplish in your career. Here are some things you should consider and bear in mind before meeting with an agent:
- Agents should never ask for upfront fees. Be wary of anyone who claims you must pay them before you can begin to book jobs.
- There are two standard contract lengths in the voice industry: 1 year and 3 years.
- However, it’s possible that you’ll be asked to take part in a 3 or 6-month trial period before signing a full contract. This is not uncommon.
- Request to see a list of clients that the agent’s talent has recorded for in the past.
- Typically, once you decide to sign with one voice talent agent, your relationship is exclusive. You’ll no longer be permitted to work with other agencies in your jurisdiction. Some talent have multiple agents, but those agents are usually in different parts of the country, or in a different country altogether.
- Agents generally take a cut of any range between 10-15% on paid jobs, but some occasionally ask for more. Always do your research. If you run into an agency that is taking more than the standard 10%, find out what other talent have shared on the topic. The voice over community is a helpful one. If you’re unsure of a commission rate and whether it’s too high, get something to compare it to.
- Read your contract very carefully and never be afraid to ask questions.
- Remember that agents are there to help you get auditions you wouldn’t otherwise find, but after they’ve done their job, it is up to you to work hard and use your talents in order to try to land the gig.
Benefits of Getting a Voice Talent Agent
As a professional voice actor who is no longer approaching your voice work as a mere side hustle, developing an enduring relationship with an agent can be the principal change that sets your career in motion.
It’s the agency’s job to stay on top of trends and continually seek out fresh, vibrant voices. To stay competitive and current in a competitive industry, the agency will do its best to ensure that you are kept in the loop and constantly auditioning for new work.
Job payments are typically sent straight to the agency, the agent’s commission is deducted, and the remaining amount is delivered to you. So, at the end of the day, agents make zero profit unless their talent are booking work. It’s a win-win relationship. The bottom line is that your agents want you to get hired for as many high-quality jobs as possible.
It is important to remember, though, that agents aren’t there to do your entire job for you. There are things you can do to foster a mutually beneficial relationship with your agent.
Check in every few now and then, but be respectful of their time. Always be professional and courteous. Let your agent know when you’re going on vacation, and send them holiday greeting cards. Do what you can to stay at the forefront of your agent’s mind. They have not forgotten you, they’re just busy trying to get more work in the door. Like any relationship, keep the doors of communication open and add value where you can. If something feels like it isn’t working or you’re not getting as many auditions as you thought you would, don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your agent and work through any challenges together.