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Advanced Mythbusting 201. So you don’t bust your b**t in the wrong direction.

Edge Studio

When myths in our industry are discussed, the misunderstandings are usually those held by VO wannabe’s. In other words, Mythbusting 101. For example, “you need a deep voice” or “you’ll make a lot of money really easy.” Edge Studio students (and readers/users of our website) are quickly set straight about such things, right from our Introduction to Voice Over classes. (We don’t accept everyone, and among those we do accept, we want our students to be realistic in their aims and expectations.)

But some major myths still lurk among experienced VO pros. Here are some of them, of interest to voice over professionals and students alike. Think of it as Mythbusting 201.

“It’s all about acting.” Yes and no. What makes this interesting is that the statement is a valid response to “you need a deep voice.” What most clients and agents seek is real voices, from people who can relax and express genuine (and relevant) emotion while talking into a metal tube. That’s acting. But success in a voice over job – and especially in winning auditions – is not ALL about acting. There are also various practical technical techniques that help make a performance effective and distinguish itself from the friendly competition. Our Chief Edge Officer David Goldberg often surprises even established voice actors with observations about things such as pausing, sibilance, timing, etc. — small changes in technique that, once you’re aware of them, can make your acting a whole lot more impressive to voice over casting people.

“I need the latest, expensive equipment.” If you’re a tech j****e and can afford it, have fun. But keep in mind that the most important thing is simply to be at the professional threshold. A consistently professional performance requires a significant amount of training, education, commitment and practice. But as far as hardware and software, the threshold is relatively low. After all, it’s not the equipment, it’s how you use it. (Where else have we heard that?) As long as one’s software and hardware is not obsolete (and by “obsolete” means that other components no longer work with it), even an experienced pro might be better off spending less time and money on researching and buying equipment … and using that time to market themselves and expand their performance capabilities.

I need an elaborate website. No, you don’t. Sure, it’s great to have a fun, unusual website that expresses your personality and reinforces your professional image. But most VO jobs come from your other, active marketing efforts. For a website, what you really need is at least one highly professional demo, possibly some targeted subsets of it, and a meaningful VO resume. Your site can even be just one or two simple pages, with the demo and a link to your resume on your home page. In fact, the easier it is for visitors to find and play your demo, the better. And the sooner you have a website, the sooner you can demonstrate that you are a business, intended to make a profit (that is, you’re not just a hobby or trainee), which you need demonstrate before you can deduct your voice over business start-up costs. (Consult your tax advisor for important details regarding your particular situation.)

But as Edge Studio always advises, first impressions are often last impressions, so don’t market your demo unless it represents you at your best, tailored to you, at a truly professional level.

I need an elaborate demo. In a vein similar to the above, no – what you need is a demo that a) sounds fully professional, b) is truly representative of your capabilities, and c) targets a genre and/or market where you have potential. As your capabilities grow, you can add to it, segment it, and whatever.

My weekly income goal is my yearly salary target before taxes, divided by 52. Whoa, don’t you deserve a vacation like everyone else? Better divide by 50 at most. Then, there are the usual paid holidays. Count ‘em up – there are at least 10 of them per year. That leaves 48 weeks of workdays. Have you ever caught a cold, had your electricity go out, dealt with computer problems, needed to learn new software, been distracted by personal matters or some other local emergency? Make that 47 weeks, just to be safe. Mmmm, let’s see. There are the usual slow periods, like this holiday period. (Good news: things pick up in January.) And remember that, in each week you work, you should allocate time for marketing, billing, professional development and other un-billable activities. If you’re so busy that you can’t get to those efforts for a while, you may need to take a time off so you can. If you plan well, you can do some of that stuff during slow periods. In any case, when you consider all these factors, 44 is a more realistic number of billable weeks per year. By the way, when you’re figuring your goal, don’t forget to include “optional” expenses such as an insurance to cover your professional equipment, liability and disability. As a voice actor, you own a business. Run it in a businesslike manner.

A school can’t be as personal and professional as a personal coach. Oh? Tell that to Julliard or the Actor’s Studio. In our particular performance-art specialization, we’re just as dedicated and industry-respected. So, whether you’re starting out or looking to tune your skills or expand your range, we can tell you what to seek in a voice over coach:

  • Effective, peer-reviewed teaching experience
  • Ability to adapt to whatever way you best tend to learn things
  • Current, active work experience in the VO field
  • Personal chemistry — someone who “gets you”
  • Thorough knowledge of the industry, as it stands today and is trending, at all professional levels
  • Knowledge of the full range of voice over genres and market opportunities
  • Full familiarity with the genre(s) you specialize in
  • Affordability and payment options
  • Ability to meet your schedule
  • Ability to guide you in running a voice over business
  • Ability to coach you in producing a representative, professional quality, competitive demo tuned to your particular abilities and goals
  • The technical ability to produce your demo, or refer you to an expert at producing and engineering not just voice over demos, but also major voice over productions.
  • A contingency plan if they are no longer available to coach
  • A wide range of industry contacts, including the ability for you to network with other voice artists at your professional level

We know a lot of great independent coaches, but what one person is all that?

Edge Studio puts it all together in a curriculum geared to various levels of experience. Collectively, our coaching team covers all the above. What’s more, our coaches work as a team. They conference to discuss your progress, get to know you better, coordinate and fine-tune your game plan, etc. And, just as we are selective accepting students, we are very selective in choosing a coach. Our coaches love teaching, and have time to give students the attention every one deserves. In addition, our time- and industry-tested curriculum includes business and marketing skills and guidance, to assure your career keeps running on all cylinders.

So that’s a lot of myths busted. You need aptitude and dedication, but you don’t need a deep voice. What you need is a really deep resource.