Voiceovers.com is the web site of Bill Murray, who does voiceovers from the Appalachian mountains of Georgia, USA.
Call 800.229.2046. Email bill (at) voiceovers.com.
I get e-mail every single day asking how to get into the business. Well, I'm trying to DO it, not TEACH it. Still, just maybe I can give you a little nudge in the right direction. What follows is strictly nothing more than my opinion.
First thing to know is, it takes a long time. It's not really as easy as it seems. I don't know of any shortcuts through the heavy lifting part - you just have to constantly, I mean constantly, market yourself.
Isn't there an adage something like 'a hero is reviled in his own land,' or something like that? In this business it means that once a year or so there's a fresh, new voice discovered that everybody in the market flocks to.
You work with your established clients, but to continue to prosper you have to be that fresh, new voice somewhere, by always expanding into new markets.
(Ad guys, don't read the next line) Ad agency people who pick talent can be like cattle - listen carefully to the national ads and notice how they flock to the 'flavor of the month' - the currently fashionable vo person or type of read. So you have to stay top of mind. Keep stuff in the mail. Technology changes and where I started out mailing cassettes, then CDs, this year I'm sending custom, reusable USB memory sticks with video demos in both .mov and .wmv formats. Then mail a card, then mail more demos, then do it again. A demo cold emailed? Use your judgement. Don't be intrusive.
But I'm going too fast, aren't I?
Okay, first: Get printing done. Look legitimate in print. Try to come up with a logo or at least a distinctive type face that you'll "brand" yourself with. Do letterhead, envelopes, cards, etc.
Then do a demo.
It's not really all that daunting. Call a smaller radio station, ask for the traffic department, explain what you're doing and ask them if they'll save the scripts from some of their commercials, and go pick them up. Practice reading them, then find a little studio, book two hours ($60 - 70/hour probably), read them and have the studio guy put music behind your voice and edit what you've done into a demo. He'll know what to do, he's done it before (and if he hasn't, go somewhere else).
Your final demos should have a few different kinds of reads (did you listen to my demos on my front page?) and last not much more than a minute per track. Maybe you do one for commercials, one for narration, one for characters, whatever you do). Nobody will listen much past a minute. Get that demo done first, because talent agents won't want to hear from you until you have that.
If you don't have the gear to make copies at home, ask the studio guy to put you onto a duplicating house. Maybe there's a retail store in your town that does it - there is one here - but in any case get a hundred or two - not thousands because ideally you'll get some work with the first batch. Then you'll want to include the real jobs on new, revised demos.
Spend a little time to design what they'll print on the demo. Use your logo, or make it reflect the printing you've had done for your letterhead, etc. Mail them to all the talent agencies in town. Get a list of recording studios in town, or to some of the starter online agencies. They may have ways to submit demos online, too. If you don't get any action, do this more than one.
Now, at this point, a few weeks will go by and nothing will happen. Don't be discouraged. Just do it again. Then start to work the phones. Eventually you'll get a relationship with an agency or two.
This is important: Unless you're in a market that demands it, don't go exclusively with any one agent. In many places, all the agents can book all the top voices. No need to limit yourself to one agent.
Later there's the issue of whether or not to join the voice union AFTRA or the Screen Actors Guild. One of these days I'll address the pros and cons there, but that's for later.
We haven't talked about pay rates, and we haven't gotten into alternative potential employers. You have to do the first things first.
Thing is, there's really not that much pre-preparation necessary. You just start. And when you do, be free with your demos. Try to have physical copies lying around every studio in town. People have to see them to know about you.
I do coffee mugs and sticky notes. I mail a mug to all new clients and, when I used to go to studios, I'd leave sticky notes and mugs behind everywhere, so they're just lying around. I used to do mouse pads, and I try to mail postcards to my biggest list of prospects, a thousand pieces at a time, quarterly.
There is one thing you could be working on; One of the things an employer will appreciate is your ability to be easily directed. If you can take a script, look it over, and read it the first or second time in :30 or :60 (or whatever), this can reduce the money they have to spend on studio time. So once you get some scripts from a radio station, buy a stopwatch (athletic store or Radio Shack) and just read scripts over and over to develop this skill.
Tips on demo content:
1. Keep your demo short. I've been told countless times that producers, casting people, agents get a glazed look in their eyes after much more than a minute. In the old days, when I used to actually go to the station to do voiceovers, I was doing daily news topicals for the local NBC affiliate. I would get the copy and read three takes onto a tape and bring it to the producer. One day I asked which read she had put on the air for that particular promo, and she said something like, "Bill, I always use the first one. I just don't have time to listen to them all."
2. Vary the types of reads. Don't let the same style read occur twice in a row. If you have the same type read back to back on your current demo, pick the one you like best and either delete the other one or move it to elsewhere on your demo. Alternating the types of reads you can do, say first a frenetic then a sad then a calm then a tense read, seems to me to make your demo more dynamic.
Now go get started.
The latest print ad. Click for full size.
Have a look at the others
Use Bill Murray for Voiceovers
Here's the two faces of Owen the Octopus - an online character Bill plays for