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What Clients Really Want: Answers to the Million Dollar Question

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

August 3, 2006

Comments (34)

Firsthand account from a voice talent in the director's chair: tips for auditioning that you can't go without.

mike-on-stand.jpgThe following article was sent to me confidentially by one of your colleagues who has used our service to find voice talent for one of their projects.

This perspective is quite telling and may be a source of great insight for many of you reading this post.

Without further ado...

What Clients Really Want

I've been auditioning through Interactive Voices for over a year now, but recently had the opportunity to post a job, since I also run a production company. It gave me a valuable insight into the process of auditioning and submitting, as well as the dynamic between talent and client.

As a service to other talent who are auditioning on a daily basis, I thought I'd share my experience and give you some tips.

1) If a job asks for an audition, audition the copy provided. If you don't have time to audition, don't send your commercial demo. You won't be considered. Clients have a very difficult time making the leap from your demo to their copy.

2) If a job gives you a description or direction, follow it. If you don't match the casting specs, don't embarrass yourself or waste your or the client's time by attempting to cast yourself in a role that's obviously not even close to what they're looking for. For instance, if they ask for a young, 20-ish voice, don't audition if you're 50+. Be objective enough about your voice to pass on an audition that's not right for you.

3) If a client asks you to label a file in a specific way, follow the instructions to the letter, literally and figuratively. Every casting director has his or her own way of managing file names, and if you don't pay close attention to the template they give you, you can rest assured your audition won't be considered. If the template shows a dash, use a dash, not an underscore.

If the template shows all caps or upper and lower case lettering, follow the template! The reasoning is simple: If you can't follow labeling directions, you won't be able to follow real ones in a session! Also, if the client gives you a file labeling template like BJones-Annc.mp3, with your information, don't be an idiot and label it BJones-Annc.mp3. I work with agents all over the country, and they can't believe that they constantly get submissions labeled with the template they gave their talent instead of the talent's name!

4) If a client asks you to slate your name at the top, just slate your name. Don't give your phone number, don't give the client name, don't give a pitch! As long as your name is labeled correctly on the file, that's enough information!

5) If you're using this service, you should know that there are a lot of voice actors out there with great equipment in their home studios, with a great sound. Remember that you're competing with a lot of professionals who've been in the business a long time, so your sound needs to be competitive. Send some of your sound files to people you know in the business who can give you feedback (no pun intended) and constructive criticism about the sound you're getting out of your microphone. Bottom line: if your audition sounds like crap, forget about being considered for any job.

6) If you're auditioning daily, but you've never taken any formal training in voice acting I strongly suggest you do so. I heard many talent give totally inappropriate deliveries, as if they had no clue as to how to approach the script. It's more than just following direction; it's all about knowing how to follow direction, so you can give the client exactly what they're looking for.

7) If a job asks you to submit a specific demo, i.e. Commercial, Narration, Audiobook, make sure the demos you've posted on Interactive Voices are competitive. If you want templates, go to www.voicebank.net to hear hundreds of V-O demos from V-O agencies across the country. If your demos don't sound like these, you better think twice about submitting yourself for a job.

8) There were a range of bids offered in the budget category, some at the top of the range, many in the middle and surprisingly, many below the low end of the range. Of the factors that determine who is hired--voice, quote, turnaround time, studio equipment. etc.--I will honestly say that it's the actor's voice that matters most, and most importantly, how well the person acts. You can have the most beautiful voice in the world, but if you can't act, you won't get the job or last very long in this business.

9) Check your sound levels before submitting your audition. We heard a number of auditions that were barely audible, level-wise, or sounded awful, fidelity-wise. If you can't be objective as to the way your setup sounds, send a file to a friend and get their feedback. We even had a couple of auditions that didn't make it, i.e., there was an error in posting. We made those people aware of the problem, and hope they arranged to fix it.

10) If you think that submitting your audition immediately is important, in this case, at least, it wasn't. We waited until all the auditions were in to make our final choice.

I hope this information helps some of you out there who really want to be successful in voice acting. I'm sure you want your efforts and expenditure in time and money to pay off. By making yourself more competitive in this very crowded, talented side of show business, you might have a chance of succeeding.

--Anonymous


Related Topics: agents, hired, how to


Comments


    There are many quality suggestions in this post. Thank you to "Anonymous" for taking the time to share his/her thoughts.

    One of the suggestions made in the post is to audition copy if posted. Something that may help talents determine if this is necessary would be for IV to ask clients to specifically request whether or not a custom demo is required.

    I've noticed copy being posted, with it sometimes being unclear as to whether it is to be submitted as an audition piece, if it is being included for pricing, or both. With talents and clients being so busy, knowing the purpose of the copy being included may save everyone some precious time.

    Regarding time pressures that we all feel, it would be nice if talents were able to see how many other talents have answered a post before us. If I read that 110 people have already answered, and the client is requesting a custom audition, I'm likely going to let that lead go, and focus my energies elsewhere.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

    Cheers,
    Dana Negrey (I'm A Guy!)
    dnegrey@soundzright.com
    www.soundzright.com

    Posted by:

      I think he's bang on with a lot of the suggestions. The most important of which is quality. Putting out bad quality audio is a booger on the face of the talent. If you want to get paid like a pro, send professional stuff.

      As far as Dana's comment about the number of responses to a particular audition. Never let that deter you. I have auditioned for clients with over 175 people before me and still got the job on several occasions. Believe in your abilities and let the client decide. Any contact you get is potential for future work. So make every move count!

      Posted by:

        I have been in the voiceover industry for over 35 years now and realize that good voices are truly "a dime a dozen". What really sells is the voice artists ability to bring the copy to "life". I have managed to be totally independent for over 25 years now, following a successful 13 year radio broadcasting career...but the days are changing fast with the Internet and high quality mp3's. Competition is "tough" to say the least!
        You have to have more than a "good voice" to offer clients that are literally hearing hundreds of quality voices from all parts of the country. I often wonder how many voice demos are actually listened to before the client makes his or her final decision. It's a fast paced-hectic business, and the average production was needed "yesterday".

        Posted by:

          A lot of good comments from "Anonymous" to pay attention to as a Heads Up to us 'Newbies'. Thank you!
          Obviously the quality goes in before the name goes on. Wouldn't it be great if clients could comment on the audition submitted? I know that would be a great benefit to me.

          Cheers!

          Blair Wilson

          Posted by:

            The suggestions about submitting audition was very helpful. However, I have a problem with send auditions to perspective clients without being watermarked. I mean, if a client wants to hear what you sound like, then a VO demo in regards to the kind of read they're suggesting should suffice. Who's to say that if you send them a read of the copy they submit, they won't use it without paying for it. And if I do decide to send them an audition of their copy, I always watermark it or send it at a bitrate that can't be used.

            Posted by:

              Great article-- and dead-on. I admit to getting lazy sometimes and not always responding with a real demo. I know that the budget range, for me, is many times too low to have any interest, but no matter where in the food chain a v/o actor is, the back to the basics advice in "anonymous'" posting hits home. Thanks for taking the time to share these observations.

              Mike Weiner

              Posted by:

                Anonymous was helpful and interesting, very common sense oriented. Have to say, between reading the other comments and reading anonymous, it didn't make me feel any better about the odds of landing the job! (I'm new, can you tell?).

                Would love more of these types of observations from other IV professionals.

                Posted by:
                • Joanie Gehr
                • August 4, 2006 11:25 AM

                  Good info. It certainly re-affirms my thoughts on the clients end. One general question I would have is if the client is asking for a custom read of their script, how often in their decision making process do they also listen to the standard demos the talent has on file to get an even better idea as to the range and vocal abilities of the talent. I find that I rarely even use my standard demos when submitting for on-line projects. Just wondering.

                  Posted by:
                  • Chris Fries
                  • August 4, 2006 11:49 AM

                    I answer nearly every single appropriate lead with a custom demo. I spend two or three hours a day on this and other sites doing auditions. I have done literally thousands! I've gotten a few jobs but it sometimes can get frustrating not knowing what the winning audition sounded like. My equipment and sound are very professional (I've been doing this a long time.) Sometimes it feels like I am just doing a bunch of free work since I almost never get any response one way or the other. I don't like to use low bit rates or watermarks since they mask the quality of the demo. What I usually do is read just part of the copy or change the name of the client to "our company" or some such. Changing the phone number is also a trick I use. Sometimes I just go ahead and read it verbatim and consider it a "free sample." It's tough. I would really like to see what the winning bidder sounded like so I can learn what talent seekers are looking for. Sometimes I feel I "nailed" one perfectly and say to myself "I dare someone to do better than that?" So, I keep plugging away. Please though, consider posting winning auditions, or maybe allowing us to hear other peoples auditions for a given project.

                    Posted by:
                    • Colin
                    • August 4, 2006 12:09 PM

                      Excellent insight.

                      Just remember, every client is different. That's why it is important to follow instructions. It would be nice if IV gave the clients a template that requires them to be as specific as possible.

                      As to Watermarking. On :30 and :60 spots, u bet. On longer format stuff, not needed.

                      Dansvoice

                      Posted by:

                        This was an interesting insight but again - certainly not the norm. I have been at this for 25 years, running a top flight studio and following client instructions to the letter and it still hasn't helped me land a single gig from Voices.

                        I still firmly believe that no matter how good you are or how well you follow instructions - timing is everything... if you are able to submit within those first 5 to respond - the chances of landing it increase like 100 fold.


                        Posted by:

                          Yes, I too concur. I keep myself very busy with daily work and audition with Voices.com to pickup the extra work to fill in the holes. (And there are plenty of them) I haven't scored a job from the many auditions this year and I've even tried offering the base price of the range specified. I always do a clean detail-oriented and specific audition as requested and still have yet to land anything over the past several months.

                          I too watermark any auditions that "could" be lifted free and wonder if that is causing offers to go the other way. Hey, we're are just trying to cover ourselves and my background music chosen is usually appropriate and low volume as not to detract from the voice.

                          I would love to hear from the ones who ARE getting the work to find out what they may be doing differently. (I know...I'm asking to peak behind the curtain) I believe a lot of talents may wonder this too.

                          Thanks for the opinions and honesty.

                          Posted by:

                            Thanks, Anonymous, for your tips. AND THANK YOU for leaving your posting open until the end date. One of the reasons I rarely do custom auditions is that it's quite frustrating to go to submit a custom demo and see that the client closed the job already--before end date. However, with 30 years in VO, and frequently casting and hiring VO talent, I think if a client truly CAN'T hear what we sound like based on our professional demos, they need help. I reward clients by DISCOUNTING for those who DON'T REQUIRE CUSTOM!

                            In regards to how many people are auditioning against you... I agree. It's not about who submits first. I've auditioned against hundreds and gotten the job--time after time. AND I've gotten the job without submitting a custom demo!

                            So, new talent... be sure to have a very good professionally produced demo! It's your "free sample!" You can also read an extensive list of FAQs at my web site. www.voice-overs.com. GOOD LUCK!

                            OH..one more thing for newbies. Don't EVER send an unsolicited demo to a client via email. That's worse than SPAM! Always ASK FIRST!

                            God Bless!

                            Julie

                            Posted by:

                              God Bless "Anonymous" for posting this CRUCIAL info!

                              Although, I feel it is a sad indictment that it has be stated at all.

                              For those of us that have been in this "game" for a long time, it is frustrating to see the amount of people that put themselves out there for consideration when they are not qualified or ready.

                              This business was already VERY competitive with A LOT more talent than jobs, before the Internet opened it up to anybody with a PC and some marginal (or worse) recording capabilities.

                              I have become increasingly disillusioned with some of the VO sites because of this, coming to the belief that they (the VO sites) have done a dis-service to the business and those that have earned the right to work through years of training, experience and perseverance.

                              One other note on the subject of pricing...If you "bargain basement" your rate for a job, you screw all of us.

                              Posted by:

                                Regarding watermarking vs. using a low bitrate, my solution is to provide a partial read and/or fade out before the end. The client gets an idea of what I sound like with the provided copy, but doesn't get the entire read therefore making theft of my work a bit difficult.

                                Rich Roszel

                                Posted by:

                                  Thanks, Anonymous, for your commentary.

                                  I am sometimes not sure when responding to a lead with a custom demo if ALL of the provided copy should be included in the submission. There are sometimes a few hundred words in the sample scripts and that has caused some problems for me.

                                  First, and most obvious, is the amount of extra work required in preparing the demo. The other is ending up with a demo MP3 file that is huge. I recently submitted an MP3 file that even at the reduced bit rate of 96khz was 9MB. When uploading the file there was an error that prevented the client from receiving it. A subsequent submission was impossible and all that time and effort was wasted. I'm still not sure what the file size limitations are for MP3 uploads.

                                  I'm also not sure if only a portion of the script should be submitted in such instances. I mean, does the client really need to hear more than a minute to decide if the talent is right for the job? Any comments or suggestions are appreciated.

                                  Arthur Gerunda

                                  Posted by:
                                  • Arthur Gerunda
                                  • August 4, 2006 1:41 PM

                                    Arthur, I've heard a number of casting agents say that they know in the 1st 10 seconds of a read if a voice is right for the read, so :60 seems way too long. Thanks to the originator (and subsequent commmentators) for sharing their insights!

                                    Posted by:

                                      Arthur,

                                      You shouldn't need to audition more than a minute or so of a long script. Sometimes long scripts are provided with an audition, but that's so we can see the whole thing for the purpose of setting our bid at an appropriate level.

                                      Stephanie, reading this post and all of the above responses has been very helpful. I appreciate the work I've found through Voices.com and look forward to the many opportunities yet to come.

                                      Be well,
                                      Bob

                                      Posted by:

                                        Hi Stephanie,

                                        This note is in response to Dennis' comment regarding "unqualified people putting themselves out there for the job".

                                        Personally, in my view, I think just about anyone with a PC, a mic and a little creativity (not too mention a voice) is qualified.

                                        Secondly I don't think Voice Over sites has given a "dis-service" to the industry either. In fact, the opposite.

                                        Without a company offering a great opportunity to voice over artists or voice actors, there would not be this fantastic opportunity to network with clients and other voice artists in the industry.

                                        I am having fun and learning every day from valuable information submitted from IV and others that care to share as opposed to discriminate.

                                        So....thanks IV for being there! Keep up the Good work!

                                        Sincerely,

                                        Blair

                                        Posted by:

                                          We need some kind of feedback from the client whether it's a comment a phrase or even just a checkbox that says "your audition was heard." That would be better than nothing and never knowing if your demo got through to them or that they indeed listened to it. I've noticed an area here where talent is mentioned for winning jobs but we never know why they won or how they won. I've grown rather discouraged here also. Have been a member for a year now and have won one job. Although dozens of times I've wondered if my custom audition was used without payment. We need a form of feedback good or bad and hopefully on the new site we'll have something like that.

                                          Posted by:

                                            I think it would be a huge advantage to be able to preview our demos before sending them. I have no way to know if the transfer is successful, if the bit rate is of too high a quality for the site to handle, etc. And I agree with the comment that those of you who are working for peanuts undermine us all. This is a living for most of us and those of you who are just "playing" do so at a detriment to the rest. I think there should be some basic skill, experience requirements. If all it takes is a little cash to be on the site then the professionals get lost in the hundreds of submissions by those who are not professional.

                                            Posted by:

                                              I agree with what 'anon' had to say, although the majority of it is common sense. Based on the other postings and concerns, is it possible for a client to send a email out to all unsuccessful applicants letting us know who got the job and why? I have been with Voices.com for just under a year and have not received a single job yet. My demo's are of a high quality, as is my studio and I have received work from other sites that I'm subscribed to. I am Australian and unfortunately there are not many jobs posted that require my accent. If anyone has any suggestions, I would be very grateful. karly.interactivevoices.com

                                              Thanks

                                              Posted by:

                                                I too think that a minute is way too long for a client to know if a voice is right for their project and also clients should specify why they are posting scripts and whether they need a custom read. I think it'd be useful if clients were more able to listen to our existing demos first, and then maybe get in touch with a dozen or so that they want custom demos from instead of asking 300 voices to audition for them. Would that be more work for the client? I don't think so.

                                                Brian LeBow

                                                Posted by:
                                                • LeBow
                                                • August 4, 2006 9:29 PM

                                                  GREAT THAT A VOICE TALENT WILL GIVE OUT INFORMATION TO HELP OTHER VOICE TALENT SO THAT THE VOICE OVER BUSINESS WILL SOAR WITH TALENTED PEOPLE WHO CAN BE PROFESSIONAL AT THEIR CRAFT. THANK YOU. CAW

                                                  Posted by:
                                                  • Carleen Wood
                                                  • August 6, 2006 9:36 AM

                                                    Whilst I agree with some of the points raised, many I feel are off the mark.

                                                    As others have already said, sometimes the client posts a script for many reasons, without clearly defining that they want a custom demo. Maybe IV can put an option in the gig posting process to help us guys n gals identify if a custom demo is required.

                                                    Certainly where a customer gives specific instructions for file names or slates, they are doing it for a purpose as we should oblige (if nothing else show that we can follow instructions).

                                                    Low audio can be an issue, and sure if you know people in the industry you can get feedback, but remember these people are also your competitors so it is in their interest not be to much of a help. Maybe IV should run a little master class to aid us talent to better engineer our sound.

                                                    Sure you need to have professional training, you are just kidding yourself if you think you can wing it and get gigs. It takes time to develop your voice with proper coaching. And practice, practice, practice oh! and did I say practice!

                                                    I applaud customers who wait until the closing date to review submitted talent. But lets be realistic, these guys are running a business and time is money. Customers maybe listen to 3 - 4 seconds of submitted demos on the 1st pass, possibly only the 1st 30 or so of those submitted. Then filter it down listening a little longer each time until they get a voice that matches their requirements, or not as the case may be.

                                                    One final point, I think that it would be of help if IV can you put the option back on to the system to show gigs you have already submitted.

                                                    Ta Ra

                                                    Posted by:

                                                      I'm new to IV although I've been in the business for 25 years. I strongly recommend that new talent take some classes in voice, singing, acting, and more to develop their skills. You might get lucky if you just dive in to the business but if you're serious, and you want more versatility, you need training.

                                                      I liked the idea of clients listening to demos and then requesting custon reads from specific talent. It is a ton of work we do for not even knowing if they got it or better yet, actually listened to it! I guess over the years, I've gotten used to never knowing; you just move on to the next audition or job.

                                                      Back to the original post from 'anonymous'. Excellent advice albeit common sense, it needed to be said. Quality comments from others, too!

                                                      Posted by:

                                                        Just FYI, Voices does (new name, we might as well get next to it) let you know if your have already responded, in several ways - if you submit for something that you have already submitted for, the site tells you and doesn't allow it - what more could anyone want? I think we really need to be able to listen to our audio once we load it on. Regarding volume, etc. - if Voices allows us to hear the upload then the problem is ours - as it should be. Let's ask them to do that??? Training is an interesting conversation - I've made my living, union, for 15 years and have never taken a VO class. But my degree is in theatre and I have taken lots of acting classes and have ended up doing lots of work and becoming SAG/AFTRA/SAG, and surviving on that for a decade. So, I really do not think it is necessary - if you are booking - obviously - you figured it out. In LA, you need to take VO classes to work, as the casting directors are also the VO class people - very sick. So - classes are necessary in many cases, but not all. You have to know yourself and what you need - and believe that. To annon - thank you for the help, info and generousity of spirit. Best wishes.

                                                        Posted by:

                                                          With regard to the issue of punctual auditions: IV needs to do a better job of ensuring that e-mail notifications of new jobs are sent immediately to talents. Today alone, I've received three notifications for jobs that were posted two or more days ago. As evidenced by the responses above, it's generally useless to be the last auditioner on the client's list, as that read will probably never even be heard.

                                                          It's one thing if I'm otherwise engaged and don't get around to checking e-mail for a few hours; it's quite another if IV lags behind in letting me know about a possible job. To be sure, we VO talents have a personal responsibility to actively seek leads and see what's out there; however, it's simply not practical to go to the site and click the Jobs tab every five minutes.

                                                          Those of us who pay for IV's service should expect prompt notifications.

                                                          Sorry if this comes off as nasty or bitter; that's not my intent. The issue certainly needs to be addressed, however.

                                                          Posted by:

                                                            Hi David,

                                                            Thank you for your comment - great news for you!

                                                            All job notifications are sent out at the same time when a job is approved by Carol.

                                                            The date that you see on the job posting is actually just the job creation date and not when it was approved and posted.

                                                            For example, many jobs are posted over the weekend and approvals are not completed until the work week starts.

                                                            Some jobs lack detail, so we take extra time to follow up with the client in order to present you critical job details. This further extends the time from the creation date to the approval date.

                                                            We are working on a solution to this programming issue :)

                                                            Thanks David

                                                            Stephanie

                                                            Posted by:

                                                              Stephanie,

                                                              Thanks for replying. I appreciate the distinction made here; I'm still concerned about e-mail notification lag, but that seems to have shortened somewhat lately.

                                                              Posted by:

                                                                Talking to professional musicians and sound engineers with a lot of board time has helped, but I also agree with those that the "inner sense" of what will work is also very important. These forums are the feedback we all need, but it would be cool if those who were a winner would be posted on a site so we could hear winning auditions.

                                                                Posted by:

                                                                  I'm not a Premium member yet but intend to become one as soon as I can figure out how to set up FTP and my ISDN.

                                                                  I've done voice-overs for about eight years now but have only this year attempted to go full time.

                                                                  I've never had to work the equipment, always left that up to the studio engineers. Now I'm having to find the good quality sound I need all by myself.

                                                                  I'd love to be able to send some samples to someone and have them critique them for quality of sound--that's my biggest concern. We could do that for each other. Any takers?

                                                                  Posted by:

                                                                    I am not sure if I was meant to post this on the FB page or on this article to show I had read it, so I have done both. In response to the question for the Friday Freebie giveaway of what is the number one reason of what clients really want: 1) If a job asks for an audition, audition the copy provided. If you don't have time to audition, don't send your commercial demo. You won't be considered. Clients have a very difficult time making the leap from your demo to their copy.

                                                                    Posted by:

                                                                      I think getting your read in the top 40 or so will help because I've been awarded jobs before they even listen to the rest of the auditions, and I know I've been on the other side of the coin and spent a lot of time getting an audition perfect, to find they have already picked another voice. That said I never let the number stop me from doing an audition because with every read I do, I am learning and growing myself as an artist.
                                                                      I enjoy reading other talents experiences in this journey, so thanks for posting. I think voices.com is the best site for VO because they are always so interactive with the community and constantly finding ways on improving the site.

                                                                      Posted by:
                                                                      • Amanda Sellers
                                                                      • July 9, 2010 10:54 AM

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