Is there a voice over agent in your future? by Elena Berger
Aug 29 2013
So, you’re considering signing with a voice over agent. You’ve been freelancing, getting your feet wet and generating your own voice over bookings, and it seems time. From now on, your new agent will do all the leg work. You can simply sit back and wait for the phone to ring. You’ll watch your rates increase, and the number of auditions will grow exponentially. Your career will explode. All you need is that agent.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but that isn’t reality.
First off, odds are that you, like many self-represented VO artists, are non-union. Most VO agents are union-franchised and cannot work on non-union projects. This is a big consideration when signing with an agency. The job pool shrinks.
On the other hand, union actors have entrée to better-paying jobs. Rather than earning a one-time buyout for a non-union spot, union actors are paid residuals, which over the life of a commercial can be quite substantial. Also, VO talent agencies have access to projects and opportunities that are usually not available to unrepresented VO actors. This long list of union gigs includes commercials and campaigns, animated features, animated television series, audio books, and more.
Even so, an agent isn’t a magic wand, nor does an agent have one. If you decide to opt for representation, you’re essentially taking on a business partner. For any partnership to work best, the partners need to collaborate — each pulling their share of the load, each focusing on what they do best.
In a voice over situation, here are ways to enhance the relationship.
Let your agent take full responsibility for what they do best.
While part of an agent’s job is to procure auditions for you and to bring new business your way, his or her main function is to negotiate on your behalf. Let them fully exercise their skills.
That includes letting them handle any ongoing business that you’ve already landed. Yes, you cultivated it yourself, through years of networking and hard work. It seems only fair that you continue negotiating with those clients yourself, keeping that business from your agent and keeping the agent’s commission in your pocket.
But it’s not a good idea.
From your agent’s viewpoint, that’s like getting married and keeping a lover on the side. It may sound wise at the time, but it often doesn’t end well. Put your existing business under their wing. If the agent is worth signing with, they probably already have these contacts anyway. You will be more valuable (and more trustworthy) in the eyes of your agency. And when they have full responsibility for finding you rewarding employment, that responsibility, combined with the perspective you’ve given them, will help them bring additional business and opportunities your way. In any partnership, you help each other.
Give your agent tools, not orders.
The more information you give your agent, the better armed your agent will be to pitch you to new prospects. And to producers, directors, ad agencies and others you already have relationships with.
For example, you may hear of a friend going out on an audition that you haven’t been called in on, so you ask your agent to get you an appointment. That is fine once in awhile, but this kind of instruction can seem unhelpful to the agent and could be ultimately frustrating for you. Agents are aware of project opportunities. He or she may already be aware that the casting person doesn’t think you’re right for this job. Or, if they make that call on just your say-so, the agent would be pitching blind. And maybe your agent has a better alternative opportunity in mind.
If this hypothetical audition nevertheless seems worth interrupting your agent’s busy day, a better approach would be to arm your agent with helpful information: “So-and-so is casting a new ______ campaign and is seeing people tomorrow. The ad agency booked me previously on my ____ spot, and the producer and I have a nice rapport.” Now your agent has very useful information to bring to the table. You both benefit.
If VO’s are supplemental income for you, then you don’t really need an agent. If you want to make voice overs a career, ultimately you will need one. Be sure your agent is a full member of your team. It can become an exciting and rewarding relationship. But remember: an agent takes a 10% commission, the other 90% of the responsibility for that relationship’s success will rest on you.
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