The Things Newbies Don’t Understand
By: Paul Strikwerda
If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know I tend to give a certain group of people a hard time. They are the people who, with barely any training, experience, or decent equipment think they are the new generation in voice overs.
Many of them seem to believe that doing voice overs is easy, you don’t need a lot of money to get started, and you’ll be up and running in no time.
When I warn newcomers about these things, they often respond:
“You’re just saying that because you feel threatened by new talent, and you want to scare off the competition.”
GOING HEAD TO HEAD
Scare off the competition? I am one of the very, very few native Dutch VO’s in North America. Apart from my colleague Hans in Florida, there isn’t anyone else from the Netherlands doing what I do. If you believe I am your competition, you are ridiculously misinformed!
Secondly, with forty years of experience, I do not feel threatened by newcomers at all. In fact, I don’t feel threatened by anyone, no matter how long they’ve been in business. I have enough work coming in each week, and sometimes hand jobs over to colleagues because my voice cannot handle the volume.
Lastly, I believe there are enough jobs for every talented and well-trained voice actor who is willing to work hard. Besides, there’s no one who talks the way I do, and who has a similar European background and accent. So, if you feel you can match what I do the way I do it, good luck to you!
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, I have a suggestion.
THE DEAF AND THE BLIND
Head over to a voice over Facebook group this afternoon, and spend an hour looking at newbie questions and answers. You’ll be surprised by the basic level of most inquiries and the laziness of the person asking the question. But your jaw will drop to the floor reading the uninformed answers that follow. The deaf are indeed leading the blind. [And yes, of course I am generalizing to make a point.]
And I should feel threatened by these people? Give me a break!
VO Pros who know what they’re doing make things sound easy. Because they have a lot of experience they usually work faster than beginners, and they charge more for their services.
When you’re getting your VO career started you must accept that you don’t know what you don’t know. You have to invest massively, and you’ll take longer to complete your jobs. That should give you some respect for those who already are where you want to be, as well as humility in terms of your own place in the community.
Or did notions like respect and humility leave the stage together with words like “please” and “thank you”?
You tell me.
So, what if you can’t compete on training and experience? How do you “break into the business?” For many newcomers the answer is easy. They…
COMPETE ON PRICE
Don’t get me wrong. Everybody shops for price, but it’s just one of the many factors determining a sale. It is our job as VO Pros to prove to the customer that the added value we offer is more than the price the client pays.
You see, the guys who try to compete on PRICE; the ones hoping to win the job by being the cheapest, don’t get it.
If the lowest price would be the determining factor in every sale, we all would drive KIA’s instead of BMW’s. We’d buy no-brand name jeans instead of Levi’s, and eat at fast food joints.
And, by the way, nobody would buy Apple products. Ever.
But as you know, that’s not the case, so there must be other factors customers take into account when they make their purchase decisions. One of those factors is -of course- the QUALITY of the product or the service, and this is where things get interesting.
THE POWER OF PERCEPTION
I should really say PERCEIVED quality. A large part of marketing and advertising is spent on convincing clients that they are buying high-end products they can trust. And you know what? CHEAP products and services are never seen as high-end and high quality.
Scientific studies have demonstrated the undeniable link between the price of a bottle of wine, and how it is rated by the consumer. Wines people believe are expensive, get a better rating than ones they think are cheap. Mind you, it’s the BELIEF that determines the evaluation, and not the quality of what’s in the bottle (unless you’re an experienced sommelier).
It’s the same with microphones. Many colleagues are convinced that a thousand dollar microphone sounds better than a three hundred dollar one. Most of the time I cannot hear the seven hundred dollar difference.
What’s the lesson here?
SURVIVAL OF THE CHEAPEST?
If you willingly put yourself in the bargain basement, you literally price yourself out of higher paying jobs. You’re cheap, and cheap can’t be good. If, on the other hand, your rates are, let’s say, at union level, you set your clients up to expect something highly professional.
Clients who pay more, tend to be more satisfied with their purchase. Cheap clients, on the other hand, are usually the biggest pain in the you-know-what, because they don’t think you are worth much.
The clients with the highest satisfaction rate are the ones who paid good money, and who believe they got a good deal. Your value exceeded their expectations.
That’s why I say: My added value is always higher than my rate.
Mind you: just as a higher price tag does not make a mediocre bottle of wine any better, charging more for a mediocre voice over isn’t going to make you sound any better either.
KNOW YOUR PLACE
But you know what? The people who need to hear this the most won’t read these words. I mean, why take advice from an old hand? I am so yesterday. In a few years I’ll be completely irrelevant as the Fiverr generation takes over, and sites like Voice Bunny rule the Pay to Play universe.
But don’t come to me complaining that there’s no money in voice overs!
Not every newcomer deserves a kick in the pants, though. There are many super talented freshmen (and women) who take this profession very seriously, and who are doing everything they can to turn this into a profitable career.
They are making sure that -once they’re ready to sell their services- they won’t have to be on display in the Dollar Store.
You don’t have to be a genius to realize that you usually get what you pay for.