Are voice actors really “competing” with each other?
One thing that I hear a lot in the world of voiceover is the idea that voice actors are in competition with one another.
One voice actor ended her podcast, in which she related some great advice about auditioning, with – “Good luck! Well, not too much luck. We are competitors, after all.”
Another aspiring voice talent contacted me to ask if I had any resources for beginners trying to get started in voiceover. “I hope you don’t mind me asking,” he said, “because another voice actor out there in the world would mean more competition for you.”
Another voiceover artist posted in a facebook group that I’m part of, lamenting the large number of audiobook narrators on ACX, relative to the smaller number of authors offering quality books to be turned into audiobooks. “How can I stand out amongst all of this competition? And from second-rate talent, too!”
When I hear these statements, I can relate to the sense of worry, annoyance, uncertainty, or even fear, that some voice actors may be feeling. The world is changing and the voiceover marketplace is now totally global. Sound equipment can be obtained on the cheap. And every day, droves of people quit their day jobs and try to “make it” in voiceover. I know, because I was one of them! But, unlike some new voice actors, I researched a career in voiceover very carefully and tested it by volunteering my voice for lots of projects before I decided to “quit my day job.”
Anyway, back on topic. Look at a site like VoiceBunny or Fiverr and you’ll find a seemingly endless supply of (mostly beginner) voice talent, offering to do reads for staggeringly low rates. For beginner voice talents and even established voice talents, it can be intimidating to see this. Why would someone pay me $200 for a 2-minute explainer video narration when they could go on Fiverr and hire someone for just $5 (maybe with an extra $5 tacked on to get the file in WAV format)?
Quite simply, it’s because if the client is looking for your specific sound, they can only get it from you.
Each of us has a monopoly on our own voice! Sure, there are celebrity sound-alikes and voices that just sound similar to one another. But there are always creative ways to differentiate yourself. Not only does your voice have its own unique fingerprint, that not even a twin or a vocal impersonator can precisely replicate… but you have a unique set of skills that are all your own! Maybe you have an authentic Australian accent. Maybe you’re incredible at serious, poetic style reads. Maybe you have outstanding customer services and answer your clients’ emails within minutes. Maybe you speak French and English. Maybe you can write a persuasive 30-second radio commercial. Whatever it is, you have something about you that makes you stand out from the crowd. Not every client will be looking specifically for you, but some will! Your mission is to find them and give them the sound they’re seeking, that only you can do best.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” holds a lot of truth in voiceover.
I won’t say that every $5 voiceover is of poor quality – some are great – but they tend toward lower quality. By lower quality, I mean robotic reads, low audio quality, background noises, and generally Murphy’s Law type stuff – anything that can go wrong audio-wise, will go wrong! Unless the person is like this guy, making fifty grand a year doing $5 reads on Fiverr, the $5 voice talent probably doesn’t do this full time, and just can’t dedicate the focus to practicing voiceover enough to be really good. Sites like this can be a great way to get experience and build your portfolio as a beginning voice talent, but eventually as the talent grows they will probably move on. The clients you want will understand this. They know that the best voice talents are the ones dedicating some time each day to auditioning, building a very professional studio with excellent sound quality, and honing their acting technique through lots of practice and perhaps vocal coaching. These talents not only take the time to put in a quality audition, but they take the time to nail the read (which never happens on the first take!) and deliver an outstanding voiceover that makes the client happy to pay for it.
There are abundant voiceover clients out there – of all different types. Some are right for you, and some are not. Some are looking for your voice… some are not. Some don’t know what they’re looking for until they hear it! Sometimes clients have a general idea of what they want – for example, a young adult female narrator with a New York accent who is willing to record a 100,000 word audiobook for $4500 within the next 8 weeks. In that case, an older male voice actor, for example, is not in competition with the young females from New York who fit the profile that the client described. And really, even some of the actors who do fit the general idea of what the client is looking for just won’t be hired for whatever reason – maybe their voice is too low pitched, or too high pitched, or they submit their audition too late, or they can’t complete the project within 8 weeks… or, put simply, they just don’t have what the client wants.
The point is, we (voice actors) are a hugely diverse group of individuals. I’ll go ahead and go so far as to say we’re all “unique snowflakes!” We’re really not “in competition” with each other as much as some of us may think. We don’t need to think of voiceover as such a competitive industry, because there really is an abundance of jobs out there – including some that fit for each of us.