Finding Your Niche: A Venn Diagram

At the end of my final coaching session with students, we have a chat about finding one’s niche in voice-over, especially as you begin the process of looking for work. Initially, for most new voice actors, corporate work is often the lowest hanging fruit, for a number of reasons:

  1. There’s an abundance of corporate work out there – more now than ever before.
  2. Corporate work is (very) generally easier for new voice actors to be competent in. It’s less nuanced than, for example, commercial work, and doesn’t often require the same range as an actor.
  3. A voice actor can approach and build a relationship with corporate voice talent buyers directly, without having to rely on – or wait to get signed by – talent agents for access.
  4. Corporate work is less competitive than some other genres such as promo, trailer, and commercial.

This is not to say that newer voice actors shouldn’t pursue commercial work. If that’s in your sweet spot, then, by all means go after commercial work.

So what’s this sweet spot I’m talking about?

When trying to determine your genre niche, consider the following:

  • What You’re Good At: Power
    The work you believe that you’re especially good at.
  • What You Love To Do: Passion
    The work you enjoy and love to do.
  • What People Will Hire You For: Pay
    The work that other people, ideally decision makers, feel that you do well and are willing to hire you for at a professional rate.

The sweet spot I’m talking about is at the intersection of all three areas above.

Not all the work you do will be in the sweet spot if you expect to have a successful business. But that’s not the point. Often the work you do will be outside your niche, especially as you expand your competency in more genres.

The point is knowing what work satisfies all three criteria for you in order to determine the work that you’ll spend most of your time, effort, and resources pursuing.

The work offered to you will differ from the work you pursue. You may chiefly decide you’re pursuing commercial work as your sweet spot. You may reach out to a production house, for example, and provide them with your commercial demo, but they may reach out about an explainer video.

My advice to newer voice actors is to not limit yourself in the work offered to you. Your only criteria should be, “Does it pay a professional rate?” (Pay) and “Can I provide a competent professional product for this job?” (We assume that the work does not violate your code of ethics.) This is not the same as “Power” – or work you believe you’re especially good at –  competent and professional are lower bars than especially good.

If the answer to both of those questions is, “Yes”, then take the work, provide the best product you can, and cash the check.

As your career evolves, I encourage you to branch out and explore other genres that you think it’s possible you might have a passion for. Usually, each year I pick a new genre I want to explore, get coaching in, and find out if I’m any good at it and/or really have a passion for it. This year, that focus for me is animation. I got coaching, learned about the intricacies of character development, and booked a huge corporate animation gig. 

And it turns out, I do find it fun and challenging. In other words, it satisfies two of the three criteria for the sweet spot.

Ideally, you’ll pursue the work in the sweet spot, but the work you’ll take should satisfy at least two of the three.

Most often, the work must pay a professional rate. If it doesn’t, then you’re making a conscious decision to do the work because you’re good at it and passionate about it. For me, this is select pro-bono work I do throughout the year.

If you’re passionate about it, but it doesn’t pay a pro rate, my advice would be to pass. Do not let your passion be an excuse to take less than you deserve.

If you believe you’re especially good at it, but aren’t booking in that area at pro rates, the market may be telling you that you may not be as good as you think and more training may be needed.

When you can book work that satisfies your heart, your talent, and your wallet, there’s not a better feeling in the world. Here’s to you hitting that sweet spot.

Check out our free PDF with pro-tips from real working voice-over actors here!

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