So, maybe you’ve heard the intimidating stories about life on the big “Pay-to-Play” (P2P) sites like Voices.com (VDC) and Voice123.com (V123).
You know, that one about Dorcas (your cousin’s friend’s neighbor) who paid the $300-$400 fee to get a premium membership, auditioned 1,200 times, and never once booked a single job? Dorcas knows (and will tell anyone who will listen on Facebook) that it wasn’t his fault. The system is rigged! He never got a fair shake at the best auditions because he wasn’t working full-time.
So this raises an important question: is it worth it to try and compete on P2P sites when you are still working voice-over part-time? Can you win jobs and make a profit (or at least break even)?
And I truly believe you can, too, if you are willing to be two things: 1) Objectively Self-Accountable, and 2) Strategic.
The truth is, if we were to look at Dorcas’ account, I would be willing to bet that of those 1,200 auditions, only about 300 even got listened to by the job seekers, and it probably had very little to do with the hours that he was working. My guess is that he didn’t have a full understanding of how the system works and how to strategically play the game.
Being Objectively Self-Accountable
P2P is competitive. Very competitive. There is no denying that: it’s a top-tier source of voice-over leads on par with talent agency-won work. As of this writing, there are approximately 500,000 registered users and 5,000 jobs posted each month.
Those are the facts, and you can think or feel however you choose to about them. If you are still in a place in your voice-over journey where this sounds overly intimidating, and not like a meaningful challenge that you are up for because you know it will springboard your growth as an artist, then P2P may not be the best choice at this time. The important thing here is that you are informed, and you are walking in with your eyes open, spirit at the ready. #AllHandsOnDeck
The first way to be ready for this caliber of competition is to have quality demos (yes, multiple demos—more on this later), plus auditioning, self-directing, and customer service communication skills that are top notch.
**Self-directing and auditioning skills, like most, are developed with commitment, time, feedback (from clients, trusted peers, mentors, and coaches), a certain willingness to sit with discomfort, and persistence.**
Second, the proposal you attach to your audition needs to be courteous, professional, clear, and concise. It needs to be long enough to answer the top questions clients want to know about your service (namely: turn-around time, revision policies, and in some cases, whether you offer directed-sessions, etc.) and not a sentence longer. Remember, the client, in most cases, won’t read or even open the text portion of your proposal unless they have listened to and liked some aspect of your audition audio file.
Finally, when you are still building your business on part-time hours, you need to be aware and really honest with yourself about how much time you can realistically devote to these auditions. I also strongly recommend scheduling these blocks of time in your calendar. This will be invaluable for the second requirement for winning on P2P…
Even the best quality audition or demo isn’t going to serve you if no one listens to it. You need to be placed in a prominent enough place where clients can find you. This, my friends, is where strategy becomes your best friend and most valuable tool.
P2P sites are basically niche-specific databases (like a mini-internet only for voice-over) and just like you Google nearby or recommended restaurants, job seekers search for the best-suited talent for their projects. They do this in two ways: 1) using the search bar and 2) posting audition notices that have been tagged and categorized. You see these terms in different fields on the audition and on the demo upload page: young, middle age, female, male, conversational, authoritative, sounds like Sam Elliot, and so on.
You need to research and know what these terms and tags are and make sure that your profile description, demos, and demo descriptions are utilizing as many of these terms as possible. And this is one of the reasons that having multiple demos is an asset. You can only include so many terms on one demo, so you have a choice: Do you want to upload the same demo 10-15 times? Does it even fit all the categories you want to be found under? Or do you want to cull through other jobs, auditions, or quality samples that you have in your files that can give you more versatility?
Now, you may be saying at this point, “Okay … so I get how those tags might help my profile be more prominent, but how does that help me when I am doing cattle call auditions?” And I say, you are one smart cookie!
This is where it gets fun: either how quickly you receive an invitation to audition for a job (V123) or how close to the front of the queue your audition is for the client to review (VDC) is based on how well the platform thinks you match the project. How is this determined? Do they listen to everyone’s samples and personally know your style and range? Nope. They have algorithms that analyze the terms that YOU have provided on your demos and profiles!
If you can get a higher percentage match to the project, your audition will get to the client ahead of other talent with lower percentages. Now, this leads to an interesting question: Does this mean you should use ALL and EVERY keyword that you can?
You should use as many as your voice can fit the bill for (which may be more than you are giving yourself credit for), but if you list yourself as a voice type that you clearly are not, how does that serve you? Sure, you’ll get tons of demo listens, but it isn’t going to budge your booking ratio or even how many “favorites” you get.
At the end of the day, it is your business, so you can decide. A really fun exercise is to go to the top 100 actors and check out what they have listed on their profiles. Compare how many have word-vomited keywords and how many have kept it classy by strategically using the keywords that match their brand.
Bonus final tip: You want to use your (precious, limited, and valuable) time to home in on the auditions that give you the best chance to be heard. Even if you don’t win *that* particular job, the client may have other projects in the pipeline that you are perfect for. This happens more often than you think and can lead to some beautiful repeat client relationships. This means you do one quick sweep of what is currently available and bypass either jobs that have more than 50 proposals (VDC) or more proposals than the client asked for (V123).
Happy hunting, friends!