I started my voiceover career over 30 years ago when the main markets were pretty much LA and New York. For a large part of that time, you either got work from your agent or through people you knew. I had a top voiceover agent for 25 years, but their main focus was mostly movie trailers, spokespeople, narration, etc. They were never very big with animation. I was able to book commercial spots with them, but most of the animation work I did was through a group of people I worked with all the time, mainly in anime. I also did background voices for films (ADR) for several years working with a top loop group. When my husband got sick and died, I never heard from them again. That was sort of weird. My voice is very specialized. For looping, I was always brought in to do the kid’s stuff when real kids where in school and the producers didn’t want a studio teacher in the booth. It was awesome and lucrative work, and I was able to sweeten up the background on some big films like Antz, Dr. Doolittle, etc. The problem was, I could never do scenes that required just adults because I always sounded like a kid was running through the scene.
Life is definitely different now for most voiceover actors. We’re basically holed up in our homes attempting to send out recordings via email or Dropbox and hoping they get noticed. The competition is fierce, because not only are people able to audition from virtually anywhere in the world, but there are also tons of voiceover actors working for peanuts.
Check out this Bozo on a certain site who’s offering to do a voiceover for $5?
The reason he’s a Bozo is because he’s driving the rates down so far that it makes it impossible for many actors to compete. Forget about union representation. It hardly exists anymore in the voice over field.
On the other hand, working from home has big advantages.
You don’t have to plow through traffic. This is particularly great for auditions because clients basically just want to hear your voice and the recording doesn’t have to be spot on perfect. When you’re sending in a recording that will actually go LIVE somewhere, there’s a lot more pressure to suddenly be a techy engineer. Some of us creative types have not been trained in sound engineering with all of its nuances.
In the olden days, I would get called to come into my agents office to audition. I don’t know how many times I walked into the office, recorded the sides with my agent and then never heard a word. When they would send me to a studio to audition and meet the clients in person, I would often book the gig. They could see that I wasn’t an axe murderer or psycho and thought I’d be pleasant to work with. The personal touch is definitely missing these days. Oh, I can talk to them on Skype, but not being 20 anymore, I usually have the video portion turned off. With video I’d need makeup and wardrobe or maybe a bag over my face. (Ageism does exist in the film industry)
Another thing I love about working from home is getting paid through Paypal, or other online pay sites. Payment is immediate. No waiting for some company to send you a check and then having to go to the bank to cash it. Fill up the meter and my mouth starts to speak.
I’m working on a project right now, that I got simply by having my website up and available. The client contacted me directly and so far, it’s been a great experience. We can work at our own pace without pressure. It’s important to have your own website and not be dependent on simply having a profile on an online audition site.
Speaking of home studios, I’ve seen everything from freaking state of the art, to downright funny. One guy has his recording studio in the bathroom sitting on the throne.
I recently downsized, as my kids are now out of the house. My boyfriend and I have a passion for traveling so we didn’t want to waste money on keeping up a big house like we had before. I now live way up in the hills overlooking the San Fernando valley in a mobile home park. It’s beautiful up here, fairly quiet, and maintenance free. I just have to contend with an insane Russian neighbor woman who suddenly starts screaming like a Dostoevsky novel, her squealing 4 year old, coyotes howling, my retired boyfriend snoring in the same room as my “studio”, my two dogs barking and the occasional plane or UFO overhead.
My “studio” is tucked into a tiny little closet in the bedroom.
For some reason my boyfriend has the big closet because he has way more clothes than me and his Motion Picture pension is paying for this place. I have to move my computer back and forth from my desk to the “studio.” I use an IPAD to read the script, (opened from Dropbox,) which is cool because it has a built in light. The bedroom can get dark sometimes. It’s a little closer to the window than I’d like, but my only other option would be the bathroom too.
I have to admit, I love the convenience of recording voiceovers from home, but miss the interaction of actually being with and meeting clients. I love that it can be done from anywhere, but I have to contend with the fact that there is now a humongous amount of competition. I wish I had paid more attention to how to set up a mic instead of just letting the engineer do it automatically. I love the fact that I can establish my own celebrity by using my website, YouTube or whatever without having to wait for my agent or a job to call. I hate that we have to pay to audition on online sites and that other actors are content to work far below minimum wage. Oh well. . . life isn’t perfect. Doing voiceovers is still a totally fun way to make a living. (or mad money)
PS as of 1/2/14 I have since reclaimed my closet. I didn’t have room for any of my clothes. Now looking for another corner to stick my equipment. Maybe I need to pitch a tent.