By Donna Summers

Everything is perpetually changing at the speed of sound and as we speak in the world of VO.

As in real estate, the name of the game for a successful VO talent and agent, until recently, was location, location, location. Only those relatively few talent located in NY, LA, or Chicago, got a shot at the big jobs.

Since the Internet has taken us all virtual, the VO marketplace has exploded from local to global in the click of a mouse, making VO bookings more competitive than ever before. Not only does one have to be a consummate professional VO, but also a great marketing director, an audio engineer, and a website designer. VO talent and those who call themselves such seem to be a dime a dozen out there in the “wild west” of the Internet, and it is getting more difficult for clients to discern who is experienced and who just knows how to build a good web page with an MP3 sample attached. This seems to be the challenge for today’s professional VO talent as well as her agent. How does one stand out in a sea of voices and remain a big fish in an ever-growing pond?

Today the key is no longer location. It is preparation, preparation, preparation.

Prepare yourself with the newest audio technologies. Cyber-land now seems to be the location of choice, making physical location a secondary consideration, as long as the VO talent is high quality with a preferably free high-quality studio. Research the newest and best technologies for delivery of dry voice, thereby making you more readily available and competitive. Clients are now accustomed to instant access of VO talent for auditions and jobs. Upgrade your studio equipment as new technologies become available and new jobs come in the door to pay for them.

Prepare your craft as you would in any business. Study with the best coaches you can afford. Their job is to keep up with the latest marketing trends and inform you how to stay on top of what is selling today. Invest in yourself as a hot commodity.

Prepare your marketing team, using your agent as one of your best assets. One might be led to believe that the relatively new practice of talent without representation now drives the VO business. This appears to be a short-lived trend. For those of you who have done due diligence in this business for so many years and have managed to keep up with the ever-growing technology, this is good news. After all is said and done, clients will always need a trusted resource for a variety of reliable, professional, experienced talent for ongoing projects. Get with the best agents in the business. They are your connection to the most powerful and professional clients and can help shield you from the “fly-by-nighters.” When choosing an agent, quality versus quantity. Agency experience in “VO Cyber-land” counts. Most of the top ad agencies do not book talent directly and rely on talent agents exclusively when booking VO talent.

Prepare yourself with the knowledge of what other VO talent are doing. Search the web and see who’s working for whom. Also search for what online and other marketing technologies and systems are being used to make it easier/faster/friendlier for clients to access talent.

Be knowledgeable about your clients, potential clients and their clients. Go to client websites to understand the tone of their current advertising campaign. Read Adweek and other pertinent publications to stay on top of the trends and the marketplace. Search for and read websites related to VO audio marketing.

Prepare a website and keep your newest audio demos posted for clients to hear. Link your site to your agents and other reputable sites. The more you are heard linked with reputable resources, the better chance you have of being hired. Generally speaking, paying 10% agency commission or a small fee to be posted on a reputable site is better than never having a shot at the job at all. Even if you don’t get that “one” job, you will most likely be considered for several others by the client and the agent. Good exposure is always a good thing. Remember, we are going after the “big fish” theory, and perception is everything! Consider agency and website fees an investment in your own business and use it as a tax deduction.

Prepare an updated resume’ and display it on your website. Keep it short and sweet. Humor and personal interest stories are also good here as long as they remain brief and non-offensive. Update often.

Prepare letters of recommendation from happy clients and agents, and use them on your website.  (Get permission first!)

Be prepared, friendly, professional, flexible, available and punctual. Timing is everything. There are so many choices now; clients don’t have to wait for you to return their call.

Prepare your strategy. Use your e-mail as a marketing tool and a way to stay in touch with your agents. Be careful of crossing over into the “spam” category. Send your agent new MP3’s as you upgrade them.

Remember to have integrity at all times. In this exploding marketplace, honor is still the name of the game and will put you ahead of the pack in the eyes of your clients, agents and peers. “Honor thy agent, thy client, thy peers and thyself.” Your reputation WILL precede you.

Stay prepared emotionally by being good to yourself. Loads of down time and idle vocal cords can be the devil’s playground! If you are going to talk to yourself or others, keep it positive. The name of the game is to creatively wait and prepare for that next audition or job. 

Now prepare yourself for all the compliments, auditions and jobs you will get by being ready, ready, ready. I’ll keep an ear out for you!