In 2016, Nathan McColm took an introductory voice-over class with us in Salt Lake City. After the class, he received a positive voice evaluation from his instructor, Brian Thon, and decided to move forward with training with Such A Voice. Since graduating from our VIP voice-over training program, Nathan has gotten as many as three jobs in a week to work on from repeat or new clients. He’s here today to tell us more about his journey as a voice-over artist.
SAV: Hi Nathan, thanks for joining us! What about voice-over first caught your interest?
McColm: I had a career in radio at the time which wasn’t really moving anywhere, but I’d been told by multiple people in the industry I had the right voice for it. I went to a class hosted by Brian Thon and it was just an immediate and natural fit.
SAV: What would you consider your niche in voice-over to be?
McColm: My first job was an explainer video for a multi-level marketing company and that genre is largely what I’ve stayed in. The overwhelming majority of my work has been explainer videos and E-learning training as I seem to have the right voice for it.
SAV: What advice would you give to voice talents who recently completed their training program?
McColm: Don’t go into this industry thinking you’re going to be the next Don Lafontaine or David Attenborough overnight. It took me nearly 200 auditions on Voices.com to get my first job and a LOT of cold calling with no reply back to land my first consistent client. If you expect to get the majority of the jobs you audition for, you’re going to get discouraged very quickly, especially when you’re new and that coveted first five-star rating on Voices.com seems impossible. But if you push through all the rejection and discouragement and manage to get that first job, you’ll look back and think it was all worth it. The validation it brings is incredible.
When contacting clients, proofread absolutely everything you’ve typed out twice before hitting send. Nothing screams amateur more than typos in an initial contact email. On that note, one of the first things you should invest in when you’ve started to make money is a customized email address. It comes across much more seriously than a Gmail domain.
Finally, don’t sell yourself short. You may be new, but that’s no reason to undervalue your talent. I know the temptation is very strong, but you don’t need to resort to sites where you sell your talent for as little as $5 and try to nickel and dime your way into a better rate through additions they can purchase. That stuff is for the amateurs and the “success stories” they tout are the extreme minority of those who do work there. Chances are you’ll work twice as hard for a quarter of what you could make elsewhere if you’re lucky. You’re a professional now, so value yourself like one.
SAV: Do you have a particular quote/motto that keeps you motivated?
McColm: I have two quotes:
“Which do you want: the pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?”
I have that quote right by my desktop so when I’m tempted to slack off while I’m contacting businesses for potential work, I stop and remember that I’m trying to grow, not stay complacent.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
I have that quote right by my studio so that whenever I pass by it, I remember that if I let discouragement and rejection drive me away from what I’m trying to accomplish then all I’ll get it is nothing. But if I break outside my comfort zone, make those cold calls, do auditions that stretch me, and just mass email or connect with people on LinkedIn, I can and will see success.
SAV: What does your vocal warm-up routine consist of?
McColm: I start hydrating at least two hours beforehand to make sure my vocal cords are nice and slick. When I’m about to audition, I usually go through a range exercise where I hum every octave I can go from lowest to highest and back again. After a few rounds of that, I open my mouth and repeat. Finally, I usually bite down on a pen before I read a script to get my articulation muscles all ready to go. Then I read through a script twice before even attempting to record just so I know the right intonation, emphasis, and emotion to convey.
SAV: Since graduating from our program, what kind of voice-over projects have you done?
McColm: Mostly explainer videos and E-learning materials. They’ve run quite the gamut. My biggest work to date has been for an E-learning client I contacted last February that contracted me to be a freelance talent and has sent me work on topics ranging from an annual training for a hospital staff to large scale multi-module projects on things such as workplace safety and farm insurance. Admittedly not the most exciting of topics, but it pays well and I get work so I can’t complain. Apart from that I’ve done work in seven countries and spanning four continents on various projects. So, I’m international now I guess.
SAV: How would you describe your voice?
McColm: Smooth and easy to listen to. A little on the deeper end, which helps to carry an air of authority with it. Young, charismatic, and connectable with an easy to grasp sense of emotion underneath.
SAV: Have any VO goals that you’d like to complete by the end of the year?
McColm: Honestly given how the year is almost out that’s hard to say. Ideally I’ll keep my streak of at least a few jobs every month going. Next year, I have a goal to try and surpass what I was making at the part-time job I walked away from to focus on VO work.
SAV: Anything else that you’d like to add?
McColm: Seriously don’t get discouraged with this industry. As I’ve said to many people before this is a marathon and not a sprint. The work and money is out there, but it’s up to you to find it. Nobody is going to do it for you. You will succeed or fail entirely on your own merit.
Keep learning and don’t ever think you know everything. Listen to webinars, read books about the industry, practice your skills, and even take simple courses on sites like Udemy to keep things fresh for you. Everyone sees things differently and the input of others could be what is the difference between you getting ahead of the pack or just staying a part of it.
What goes around comes around. If you start to get ahead in the voice-over industry, make sure to be there to encourage and help new and/or struggling talent. Remember, at one point you too were in the newbie shoes and looking up at the success of others wishing you could attain it as well. Plus, you never know how their own path to success will play out and it’s entirely possible they could come across a lead or a company that, while it may not be the right fit for them, works perfectly for you. That’s happened to me before, and all because I keep in touch with people who are still getting themselves established.
Finally feel free to add me on LinkedIn if you’d like. Also you can email me from my website if you ever want to just chat about getting started or expanding (or Star Wars…I’m a MASSIVE nerd and I’m always happy to talk shop about it). I’m also happy to be an accountability partner for anyone who’d like a buddy to hold their feet to the fire with their business goals. Keep on keepin’ on!