An Agent is Not a Magic Wand
Apr 30 2014
There’s no magic wand in show business.
Few voice over artists land a lot of jobs by merely hanging out their shingle (putting up a website), posting a demo and waiting for clients to call. It also takes “legwork” and continual professional development over the years.
Your website is simply “home base.” From there, you branch out and promote yourself, via email, mail, phoning, networking, all that “marketing” in our business entails.
Ah, but if you have an agent, no more legwork, right?
Wrong. If representation makes sense for you, you’ll still want do your own self-promotion. In fact, your agent will probably expect it.
While the agency will provide guidelines for your collaboration, within those bounds you should continue doing much or all of the self-marketing and prospecting that you did as an independent.
In short, an agent is not a magic wand; you don’t just sign, give them your demo, and wait for your agent to call.
Another common misunderstanding regards who to promote yourself to:
You should start out by promoting yourself to potential clients, not to potential representatives. Any agent, manager, etc., wants a marketable entity. They’re not in business to be mentors, coaches, business managers, teachers, parents, etc. (all of which can also be helpful, of course).
That’s not to say that you can’t actively seek representation at some point in your career. But if you’re not already successfully self-promoting, your career is probably not at that point.
An exception to this is if you are seeking VO work and are already a stage or screen actor.
But in that case, you’re already self-promoting and networking yourself as a legitimate actor. In addition, you have a performance track record that demonstrates your acting ability, versatility and imagination — all qualities that translate well to voice acting. And through your successful self-promotion, you’ve also demonstrated your dedication and marketability … which are also qualities that agents want to see in their partners. So sometimes a legitimate actor with these qualifications can get signed without having a track record in voice over, maybe even without a formal voice-over demo.
But more often, you won’t don’t land anything (let alone anyone) without a demo and footwork. (What constitutes an effective contemporary VO demo is already extensively described on many pages of EdgeStudio.com. Learn about VO demos.
Assuming you have a great demo, one that truly reeks of professionalism, one that matches your capabilities and meets a VO-market need, then you find an agent?
Not necessarily. In fact, you may never need or want to have an agent. Many people do fine just by self-promoting.
An agent is likely to think of you in relatively restricted terms. That’s fine for their needs, and it’s one reason to hire them. They know specific markets, they have producer relationships, and they know where you’ll fit within that puzzle.
But the VO industry is wide, constantly expanding, and as a professional, you need to monitor trends and keep yourself in tune with them. While good marketing practices say to market yourself in a specific VO genre (e.g., industrial narration), or as a certain type (e.g., a pixie voice), or for certain needs (e.g., fast turnaround), you should also continually explore additional opportunities, be alert for new microniches, expand your range.
That’s where the “continual professional development” comes in. An agent will expect that from you, too.
So, if you’re not yet represented, don’t begrudge having to spend 80% of your time finding gigs. Agents want people who have experience. More importantly, YOU want to have experience. And representing yourself is the way to get it. Having an agent may pare your work requirement a bit, but won’t necessarily relieve you entirely of your self-marketing responsibility.
If you’re new to this, take heart. Although there’s no “magic wand” in marketing yourself, the promotional part of your VO business does get easier once you develop a sound business plan, pull together your marketing materials and get it down to a system.
And at that point, guess what? By having built your VO business into a going concern, you might find it easy to land an agent. Almost as if by magic.
“Do I need a voice over agent?” This is one of the most common questions we receive, and the answer depends on you, your needs, goals, and ability. We can advise you on the pros and cons of having a voice over agent, tell you how to select one, and provide guidance on voice over casting directors, agents, and talent agencies. To learn more about consultations with our agent specialist Elena Berger, click here or call our studio at 888-321-3343.