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Would you hire yourself full-time for a one-time VO job?

Edge Studio

If our headline seems a bit jumbled, it’s meant to be – because we’re about to take a skewed look at an article in Forbes magazine, called “Ten Things I Look for When I’m Hiring.” The article is about what to look for when hiring a full-time white-collar employee. Most voice-over jobs are on a freelance, contract basis, not full-time. Hence the jumble. How relevant are these criteria to your work as a voice artist? And how well do you fare with regard to these attributes? The answer to both should be, “very.”

First, some caveats …

  • Although a lot of VO clients hire the same voice actor repeatedly or on an ongoing basis, and that’s great, it’s not quite the same thing as being on-staff. Voice actors don’t get the benefit of training or acclimatization period. Not even rehearsal. You must be ready to perform at a professional level right away, delivering whatever it was that the client heard in your demo, audition, etc., and (as we’ll get to below) even a bit more.
  • The Forbes author states, “’Industry experience is a particularly stupid job requirement because having spent time in different industries is a good thing, not a bad thing!” But she is talking about typical white-collar jobs –in her case specifically, work as an editor or such. Surely she would agree that suitable experience or training is necessary to jump in as a plumber, electrician, nuclear engineer, or computer programmer. And as people in our industry know, certain experience is necessary to perform reliably and efficiently as a voice artist, too.
  • In turn, we would agree that for creative jobs, even those that also require some technical training, diversity of experience is often more valuable than having done the same ol’ drudgery year after year. It plays a role in many of the considerations here. Sometimes the ability to handle drudgery may pay the rent, and that’s good. But not if it sounds like drudgery. And other qualities are the ones that get new work and keep your business interesting

1. Are you curious? Whatever voice-over genre you work in, you probably weren’t born into your client’s industry. Get to know it. For example, if you’re in telephony, you should want to be aware of what various phone and messaging systems sound like. You actually enjoy being on hold, so you can hear what a range of clients are using, who they’re using, and how they do it. If you specialize in commercials, be an avid listener of commercials, for all the same reasons. Furthermore, be curious about all sorts of products and services, because you never know what industry you might be voicing next.

2. Are you an explorer? Curiosity doesn’t stop when you get to the mic. It merely takes a different form. Your training and experience have taught you to deliver a consistent, replicable performance, but how dull the world would be if all performers’ every performance sounded all the same! Whether working with a director or not, you should feel free to explore your creative options. How far can you take a performance idea without going over the top? What happens when you do go over the top? Be consistent, but at the same time, always be expanding.

3. Are you confident? Most clients won’t be confident in you unless you are. And we mean confidence, not arrogance. Confidence gives you the ability to explore, knowing that you have the range to do so, and the judgment to decide what works. Confidence, not arrogance, also enables you to take direction easily and accurately. Sometimes you will surprise yourself. Be confident of that, as well.

4. Do you have opinions and communicate your thoughts clearly? The window (or connection) between you and your client is two-way. Nobody expects you merely to parrot what they said to you, and your job usually does not include suggesting alterations to the script. But it does include adding whatever relevant quality(ies) you can — to make the read more expressive, credible, memorable or whatever. They hired you, not somebody else, for a reason. If you have an idea, communicate it, either in words or in your read.

5. Are you genuine? Communication is based on being real. Sounding “natural” is a saleable quality often missing in the work of VO beginners. The quality of being genuine is also important to the running of your business and working with others. Be genuinely curious, generally interested, genuinely confident, etc.

6. Have you investigated your clients and thought about them? This applies to prospective clients, too. It’s part of being genuine. Whether you’re hired for a quick, one-time read or an ongoing basis, you are part of your client’s business. Being familiar with what they do, what they make, and the people who buy their products or services will help you deliver more natural, more effective reads. And it will help them feel comfortable working with you.

7. Do you want to learn, and can you communicate what you’ve learned so far? Of all these traits, this one if probably more a propos of a full-time position. It assumes a period of acclimatization, as the new hire learns the ropes. But it’s also very helpful in any ongoing client relationship. In fact, the ability to learn and discuss things can help turn a one-shot job into a regular one.

8. Do you have a sense of humor? That this is important to many voice-over scripts goes without saying. So let us say this: Everyone likes to enjoy their work. And the easier you are to work with, the more other people enjoy working with you. That doesn’t mean you must try to be another Chris Rock or Robin Williams. It may just mean seeing the world – and yourself – in perspective.

9. Reliable and ethical. This one is pretty obvious. Show up on time. Know your trade. Be honest. Represent yourself accurately (including your demo). And don’t badmouth anybody.

10. Are you unafraid? In the Forbes list, this is given as being unafraid of one’s boss, other managers and anyone else. We’d extend it even further. Don’t be afraid of making cold calls. Don’t be afraid of a new client. (After all, they know their business, but you are the VO pro!) And don’t be afraid to do whatever it takes to say “yes” to the rest of this list.


Ten Things I Look for When I’m Hiring By Liz Ryan

Do you have a comment or suggestion? Please send to [email protected].