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Perform like a pro, in more than your VO performance.

Edge Studio

What goes into being a voice-over professional? An obvious answer is, “training in voice-over performance and lots of purposeful practice.” But that’s far from a complete answer. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Being a true pro means performing professionally in every respect, from the way you get work, to the way you bill your services and the way you help your clients all in-between. Professional voice performance is just part of all that.

If you’ve taken even just Edge Studio’s introductory course, you understand that voice-over performance isn’t only a matter of reading well or even good acting. Being a professional actor doesn’t automatically make you a voice-over pro.

VO professionals have specialized knowledge and capabilities. Professionalism entails everything from knowing the specialized jargon of our trade (“give me a pickup at ‘really,’ a wild trio on the call-to-action, and watch the sibilance”) to understanding the importance of enunciation and emotion, and how to achieve them without sounding artificial.

And as we said, that’s just the core.

Professionals are methodical and businesslike in prospecting for jobs. It’s all too easy to take the first jobs you encounter and then coast in that vein. When you’re starting out, it’s great to be working, even if it’s not using your full capabilities. And those relationships might grow. But some peter out, some never having reached a truly professional level, and as a result you find your business in a downward spiral.

The true professional behaves like a business, with specific client acquisition goals and a plan to achieve them. In creating your demo, you chose a genre and/or niche, presumably after careful thought and advice from knowledgeable coaches. Always be working to parlay your existing clientele into a client list of the sort you planned. Some or all of your early clients may not fit that game plan. In any case, actively market yourself, setting aside a specific time each week for marketing tasks. And if your first clients don’t fit your plan, if they’re mostly wasting the time you need for pursuing other opportunities, that’s all the more reason to take up the challenge and find more profitable clients who will help reach your goals. How you perform determines how your business performs.

Professionals look to one another for guidance. Your clients are professionals – they are presumably successful businesspeople. And if your clients are professional A/V producers, they are probably very knowledgeable about the voice-over production process.

But many clients are not. Some are print or web-copy oriented. Even among audio casting and production professionals, some are new at their job. Other clients have always done things a certain way, for no reason other than that’s how another provider once did it. Some clients are the actual marketer — they know their businesses inside out, but they might not know much at all about yours.

In those cases, they may be expecting you to lead them in matters of producing their voice-over, and/or in your business arrangement. They may expect you to be able to self-direct. They may give you a standard contract that they found, but would be open to modifying it if you consider it not mutually agreeable. They may tell you what they want, but not realize how much more you can bring to the performance (and other aspects of the project). So be proactive. When you’ve been properly trained, you already have experience — even before your first paying job. And once you’re a working pro, you have even more experience to offer. Your confidence is well deserved, and a good client will respect that. Act like a pro, and don’t be shy about delivering your insight – be ready to confidently fill in whatever elements of experience your client may lack, in a professional, businesslike way.

Professionals run professional operations. Do you work at VO a full eight hours every day? Not just performing, but also practicing, marketing, learning your software, professional development, and (for that matter) shredding and filing and backing up your computer? Work out your calendar and stick to that schedule. Each day, for example, if the allotted time is up for browsing the trade papers (online or off) and blogs or whatever, move on to your next scheduled task. Sure, the first thing was fun or interesting, but it’s over and can probably wait (or was not essential). Pick it up again as scheduled tomorrow, or this evening on your “own” time.

Professionals are efficient. Make optimal use of your time. Got a mailing to get out? Don’t waste time on trips to the post office. The US Postal Service will deliver stamps (so will other services) and in most cases will accept mail for pickup. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, you might rent a mailing list or pool your prospecting efforts with other VO talent who don’t compete with you directly. If you’re terrible at bookkeeping or taxes, hire a pro, or a family member, to handle that important responsibility. And so on. Even if you don’t bill by the hour, keep a timesheet for a while, just to help you see where time is wasted.

Professionals behave professionally. Whatever you encounter, be fully professional in dealing with your client. If they are unprofessional themselves, or just plain wrong, be diplomatic, and be sure their sloppiness doesn’t bring your behavior down to their level. Bill correctly and promptly. Get your terms agreed – in writing – before you record. Don’t be shy about asking for money up front. Read the script as soon as you receive it, so you don’t discover some glitch at the last minute when your client may be unreachable. And if you haven’t received the script when promised, check with your client as soon as it’s overdue.

As the saying goes, for people to treat you like a business, you must treat yourself like one. And to take it a step further, to build a profession, you should perform like a pro.