A recent article from Backstage.com about carving out and maintaining a voiceover career presents one of the most honest and sobering views of the industry that I’ve read in a long time. This excerpt from the article should be required reading for anyone working in (or considering working in) the industry. The last line of the excerpt should be a required reality check for anyone who complains that all the gigs are either going to newbies with a USB microphone and a laptop, or to celebrities. [Contents in brackets added for clarity.]
Still, the voiceover performers Back Stage spoke with report an economic downturn in the business. [Voiceover artist Mandy] Steckelberg admits she had more gigs years ago, when she was in New York, suggesting that part of the problem is the large number of people trying to get into the field on the West Coast. [Atlanta-based voiceover artist David] De Vries observes that at one time there was a viable market in Atlanta for commercial voiceover artists, but much of the work has dried up, in part because of the consolidation of advertising agencies under huge corporate umbrellas, “which has had the effect of centralizing accounts back in L.A., New York, and Chicago, leaving secondary markets like Atlanta, Dallas, and Minneapolis with crumbs,” he says. “And technology has in some ways contributed to the centralization.”
Wherever you’re located and whatever stage of the game you’re at, the experts say you must treat it as a business. And “there are no guarantees,” [L.A. voice actor Brian] Cummings points out. “The people who hire you today may or may not hire you tomorrow.” [Veteran voice artist Sara] Krieger agrees, calling the whole field “a crapshoot.”
“Have flexibility, patience, and enjoy what you’re doing,” says Berland. [Terry Berland of Terry Berland Casting in Los Angeles.] “Keep a positive attitude. People say it’s a closed field and wonder if there is a possibility of getting in. Yes, and there are lots of ways to get in. It’s a tough field, so you have to have another means of income. But even when you are established, you can’t rest on your laurels. You have to constantly assess how you sound and be aware of the trends.”
Put simply: It’s no different from any other part of the industry.
My point in sharing this isn’t to scare folks away from the industry. If you have the training, talent and passion for the work, voiceovers are a fabulous (and fabulously rewarding) line of work. I can’t imagine doing anything else. If you can imagine doing something else. Do it.