If you are just starting out in voice acting, you may have heard the term Pay to Play websites, and are wondering what that means. Pay to Play sites, like Voices.com and Voice123.com, charge voice actors a yearly fee to submit auditions for commercials and all genres of voice work. There are many Pay to Play websites, but these two are the most popular.
First let’s look at the benefits of joining a P2P site:
- Joining a site like Voices.com or Voice 123, when you have your finished demos in hand, gives you an immediate launching pad to start your small voice-over business. You get your own webpage and web address where you can upload your voice demos, a picture of yourself and vital information/bio pertinent to the voice-over industry. Your voice-over web address is listed in search engines like Google! So say someone Googles “Your Name voice over.” If you are a member of one of these sites, your web address at this site will appear.
- With paying the yearly membership fee of about $395, you have the opportunity to audition for hundreds of voiceover projects.
- One of the biggest advantages of P2P sites is the fact that they give all non-union voice actors, whether they have an agent or not, an opportunity to immediately work in their desired field.
- Getting the opportunity to audition daily cannot be overstated. At the beginning of your career, it’s not about booking (although you can book a gig, and that’s what’s so great); you need to gain experience and confidence more than anything else.
- It’s important to learn what you don’t know yet, and “work the bugs out” before you try for union jobs or try to get a voiceover agent. These P2P sites afford the opportunity to submit auditions, learn how and what to charge, learn how to protect your intellectual property, and very important; how to deal with advertising agency folks.
- Here’s another awesome advantage to joining a P2P site: you will have exposure to ad agencies and voice projects all across the globe. The knowledge you gain about voice over needs and trends across the country and the world will be invaluable.
- When you start booking gigs from a P2P site, you will be able to build a list of clients. In addition to creating a client roster (which shows you are a working professional) on your website, you will be building ongoing relationships with the companies who are using your voice over services. It is important to nurture those relationships to keep the repeat business coming in!
How to Prepare for the Best Experience on a P2P Site:
There are steps you can take to make sure you are prepared for the challenges and rewards of participating on P2P websites:
- First, make sure the presentation of “you” on your webpage is as professional as possible. Get a professional headshot taken – do not use a selfie or other photo that does not put you in the best possible light. Make sure the photo captures your uniqueness and the essence of who you are. When the potential client listens to your demo and looks at your photo there should be an obvious “connection.” The client should be able to get a really good idea of “who” you are; your “type.”
- Your commercial and narration demos posted to this site should be professionally produced to the highest broadcast standards. I highly advise against homemade demos – unless you are a professional studio engineer and voice actor, and even then you need to make sure you have your finger on the pulse of the current style and trends for commercial demos.
- There will be a section on your P2P website where you can upload a description of your voice and your resume/bio. When describing your voice, make sure to be as clever, creative, specific – and honest as possible! Use descriptors you, your voice coach and friends and family have offered up: sassy street smart, slightly sarcastic girl-next-door, harmless, ‘wise guy’, grandfather with a hippie bent; approachable, corporate-sounding woman with sensual undertones – you get the idea. Don’t just say friendly, professional or happy-sounding. Do as Robin Williams once said: Be personal and specific – that way the audience can relate to you!
- When adding your resume/bio, focus entirely on any voice over, acting, theatrical, improv, singing, and dancing experience you have. Do not mention that you are currently a waiter or car salesman hoping to break into the business. Do not mention anything unrelated to the arts, unless you humorously mention how your cat insists on being at every audition. In other words, if you can cleverly weave funny, personal quips about your life into your performance-focused resume, do it – but make sure the focal point is your talent, love and experience in voice acting.
Note: don’t discount any voice projects you have done. No matter how long ago. You do not need to mention when or where you did them. But make sure you mention them! This gives you credibility as a voice actor!
Once your webpage is completed, it’s time to jump into the world of auditioning.
- Pick scripts/projects that you know are in your wheelhouse. Be discerning. If the description says they’re looking for a man or woman in her 30’s and you sound like you’re in your 50’s, do not audition for the spot. If the client is looking for someone who can do an authentic South African accent, and you just goof around with accents but can’t be sure yours is authentic – do not audition for the spot. There is a saying heard over and over in the auditioning world that directors, talent agents and casting folks have memories like elephants – do not blow your chance by not being fully prepared.
- Make sure your acting chops are up to speed. Practice reading everything you can get your hands on daily – do coaching, and/or take acting classes. The saying “when we aren’t working, we’re training” is excellent advice. Be ready for your big break!
- Are your technical skills at a professional level? You must make sure that you will be able to provide broadcast quality recordings, in the client’s desired audio format, in a timely manner. Make sure your editing and recording skills are up to par. Remember: most files are too big to simply email to a client – you must be familiar with the various types of file delivery methods.
- Do copious research on what to charge for each type of recording. This is right up there with keeping your acting talents fresh! Do not undercharge just to get the work – this is detrimental to our industry and makes you look less professional than you are. Voice actors deserve to be paid well for their work! Unfortunately because many voice over folks want to work so badly, they sometimes charge too little for the privilege. Don’t be one of these folks. The Such A Voice Website has a comprehensive list that will give you a good idea of what your time and talent is worth. It’s important to invest your time in thoughtfully constructing your rate card based upon educated input.
- Make sure to “protect” yourself when auditioning on P2P sites. You can either watermark your auditions by occasionally mixing music under your recording, or mixing some other “sound” that makes it hard for the client to rip off your work (take your recording and use it without paying you for it). Or, perhaps record just three-quarters of the piece – instead of sending the entire script as a demo.
- Finally, make sure that you are diversified. Don’t rely entirely on P2P sites for your voiceover business. Reach out to production companies, agencies, and TV and radio stations as well. Keep track of who you’ve approached and when; do follow-up emails about every three weeks. Make sure your emails are brief, friendly and professional. Respect the client’s time – but don’t fall off their radar.
Finally, be tenacious. Voice acting is a marathon, not a sprint, and the rewards are worth all the effort!
Nancy Wilson is a busy voice-over actor in Los Angeles and has trained with the legendary comedy group ‘The Groundlings’. She will be directing SAG/AFTRA’s Old Time Radio show, Gunsmoke. You can find her on Facebook and on her website: www.nancywilsonvo.com.