By Stephanie Ciccarelli
June 4, 2008
The age of the agency is crumbling and the rise of the marketplace has begun.
In our present day the reality of freelance work comes with new and exciting opportunities. Those who are part of this paradigm shift will reap what they sow.
What will you be harvesting?
The moniker "Wild West" has been applied quite liberally over the past year to the voice over industry as immense growing pains continue to expand the girth of the industry and refine the definition of what it means to be a successful voice actor and how success as a freelance professional is to be achieved.
Although attainable, success depends greatly upon how voice actors adapt to the changes presented in the industry, both technology and business wise.
The old ways are passing and those who are not on the bandwagon need to realize that attitudes of former eras are also becoming a hindrance to survival in today's voice acting profession.
Meet Gloria (fake name but a very real situation), an agency represented voice actor and member of both SAG and AFTRA, who hasn't procured work online through the voice over marketplace in well over a year.
Gloria is becoming discouraged and has no idea why no one is hiring her via her own efforts.
There are two fundamental reasons why Gloria isn't getting work through her auditions, those reasons being:
1. Gloria is of the mindset that she is entitled to work because of her caliber of talent
2. Gloria doesn't know how to run her business online and faces basic business challenges
Does that sound like anyone you know?
For all the Glorias out there (or for those of you who aspire to join the ranks of professional voice actors) you can overcome these obstacles by reading and listening to everything about the industry that you can get your hands on, taking advantage of free resources and connecting with a voice acting teacher or business coach.
Freelance work is independent work. If someone can't work independently and market themselves effectively perhaps the freelance voice acting profession is not for them.
Gloria not only has trouble getting work on her own, she also isn't having much luck with her agent, notwithstanding her talent.
Does it make sense for Gloria to continue on this way or does she need to make some changes?
How many people out there are in this predicament?
Will those people make it in the new reality of voice acting without their agents?
I say will they make it without their agents because the harsh reality for many of these agencies is that they are fighting tooth and nail with their own clients to acquire work that they are bidding more for than their own roster of talent is willing to do from their home studios.
Most of a union franchised agent's time these days is spent saying "no" to leads that are below scale and hustling for their clients by trying to convince people to pay a premium for their agency services on top of the standard union fees when the voice over is all the client really wants.
This isn't just affecting small agencies.
The big boys and girls are feeling it too, and more and more of them are seriously considering the possibility, nay reality, of representing non-union talent in addition to their union talent to make ends meet.
As we've heard before and have understood for decades, it's in the best interest of an agent to get work for clients who they know stand a better chance of getting the gig, because that's how they make their money.
If we were to connect the dots and put the pieces of the puzzle together, it becomes obvious that fewer talent will be represented (or at least promoted) by agents, and those who are will be among the minority and are probably the people who are most in demand already.
Should you not be getting any work from your agent now it's time to start looking at alternatives that you can control.
There's issues. This industry is facing big issues.
Sadder still, there are talent who are afraid to take work that they need to survive because they feel threatened by either their union or their agent.
This was even the case four years ago. I know because I had a phone conversation with a talent who had just landed a national radio commercial gig for a behemoth US company through their agent. That person was worried about potential backlash and lost opportunities from their agent should they get work at our site and not give them a commission for work that the agent didn't even get them.
Talk about intimidation! That boggled my mind four years ago and it makes less sense now than it did then.
The new reality is that many people who have representation need to find work on their own because dollars don't stretch as far as they used to and there are bills to pay.
If you feel like you need a change make a clear decision about how you want to succeed in the voice over industry.
There are many options nowadays as you have likely noticed, including for those who are qualified, teaching and consulting. Some people are going into other streams such as demo production, for example.
The last position you want to find yourself in is one that will become obsolete.
Some agents have admitted that they are among a dying breed. A number of agents are also using their foresight and listing their talent at Voices.com to generate more leads and opportunities for their clients to contribute to their bottom line.
When's the last time somebody became a voice over agent? True, there are some newer agencies out there, but most of those people took experiences they had working for other agents and decided to give it a go on their own with their acquired knowledge.
There are also former agents who are now making a living consulting and teaching. They have insider knowledge that you can't find anywhere else and are able to give a unique twist and education to their students.
These people, for whatever reason, decided that they needed to change paths and are leveraging their years of agency expertise and applying it to other areas of the industry.
One thing about freelance voice over is that it's liberating and that there is no shortage of work for those who look for it. Another thing all must remember is that voice acting is a business and needs to be treated that way.
Our audience at VOX Daily is predominantly made up of voice actors so this change in the wind is to your benefit.
Those who are dedicated and have the talent and skill will make it. As always, the cream rises to the top, and those who find this profession isn't right for them will weed themselves out.
Please add your thoughts below to join in the conversation.
Â©iStockphoto.com/John PitcherRelated Topics: AFTRA, agents, Financial Core, how to, industry, Non-Union, radio, union, unions, voice acting, voice overs, voice talent, voice-overs, voiceovers