Without trying to wax too poetic, life is about relationships. Business is about relationships and to really drill down, the voice-over business is about relationships to the extreme.
Like freelance graphic designers or boutique advertising agencies, a voice-over talent is basically selling his or her unique voice and cognitive skill set to help promote or inform a potential client’s audience. There are millions of designers, ad agencies and voice over talents. Using marketing tools like advertising, social media, branding and networking each business owner works to entice individuals or companies to buy their services.
Generally, ad agencies and designers do not have representatives outside of their own business to help drum up business. Voice-over talents do (as do others in the performing arts like actors and musicians). But having a voice-over agent does not guarantee new business success for a voice talent. Being on an agency roster is not the completion of the job – it’s just the beginning.
From an agent’s perspective (and these are only observations of the VO agency business from a talent, I am not an agent) they need to have a roster of voice actors who offer the versatile talent services most desired by potential clients and talents who have the work ethic to get the job done professionally and consistently. That’s a large part of how voice-over agents make money – without the right talent, an agent doesn’t have much of a business.
The other part of how agents make money is their relationships with the business community who hire voice talents.This allows them to either directly get a VO job for a voice talent or have selected talent audition for a job.
I’ve had many agents over my career and the if you think the voice over business has changed since I started in 1982, you really ought to consider how the voice-over agency business has changed since then. Holy cow!!! As just one example, for the majority of voice-over talents today, we have a team of regional voice-over agents where in the old days you had one or two. Sure some folks still do it that way, but not most.
For me, the biggest and most obvious, change is how the relationship between the voice talent and voice talent agent has changed. Voice talents didn’t use to market themselves as aggressively as they do now (part of the reason for that is that there didn’t used to be so many voice-over talents) but now voice talents are their own marketing machines with voice-over agents a cog in that machine.
But to my way of thinking, it’s a vital cog.
While a voice-over agent can’t make or break a career like in decades past (with a few exceptions) their role as an ambassador to a voice-over talent’s abilities has never been more important. In all of business, the technique of relationship selling has become extremely important. More and more often, clients want their vendors to serve as resources not just providing Service A for Cash Amount B. Clients want insight, direction and advice on trends – most clients want the knowledge base that comes from a particular company. Secondly, they want people that they LIKE doing business with, they want to work with people with whom they have a good chemistry. It doesn’t mean they’re in love, it just means when all is said and done, friends will prefer to do business with friends.
It should be the same with voice talents and their agents. It should also be the same with agents and their voice talents. I wrote that specifically to illustrate that this particular relationship a two-way street. And I’ll only exemplify this in how I try and work with the agents I’ll still work with (yes, I am saying something there to the point of this blog post without saying it).
I look at my agents (sometimes to their annoyance) as my key business consultants, not just new business development managers. They hear more from such a wide variety of sources and have such a wider network of contacts, that for me not to occasionally tap into that resource with a phone call, email or even a lunch (I’ll buy) would be crazy. They key here is to respect voice-over agents as more than just sales people (although, yes, that continues to be their main responsibility).
The secondary outcome of these occasional agent calls is that you as the voice talent come back to top of the mind awareness for your agents, not only for showing sincere respect for the agent’s abilities, but also that you are an active part of their roster. You’re sharing new information about your career, your achievements and your industry insights which one would hope make a positive and memorable impact on the agent. For many quality agents, as long as you’re not obnoxiously frequent in your call or email communication – this kind of update is important.
For other agents, the call serves as a reminder you ARE on their roster. These are likely the agents you NEVER hear from and who can’t be bothered to return your phone call. They are always so incredibly busy with calls to prospects or driving their kid’s school car pool that your call is clearly an inconvenience to them but they “love your voice, great sound!” These are among the reasons you’ll want to walk away from that agent – nothing of value will ever come from being on their roster. At best they are lazy and at worst they are indifferent. In fairness, there are voice talents with those traits too and the smart agents drop those voices fast.
I’m fortunate that I have good relationships with my agents (I think, anyway – their mileage on me may vary). Like any dating or marriage situation — it’s ever evolving and there are good days and bad days. But for me, I trust they have my best business interests at heart and if they needed me to make changes to my performance etc., they would tell me. I count on that feedback. I’m still driving my career but every performance vehicle still requires a master mechanic or two to keep things running smoothly.
I’ve got a good team. I hope you do too.