Perhaps because it’s Thanksgiving weekend, or perhaps because it’s almost December, but it seems like the right time to reflect on 2020 and think about what I want for my voice over business the last month of the year. While I am delighted that my puppy has now learned to behave as well in the booth as my older dog, I have many more reflections about how 2020 is unique and the implications this year has had on my voiceover work. So, here is my countdown of observations of what has surprised me in 2020:

5.  The Ways in Witch People Connect for Live Sessions

In 2020 live sessions have been more important than ever. Sure some clients still want us to self direct, but as no one or Direct Bookings preferencebarely anyone) is recording in person, the live session is more important than ever. What surprises me is that I would have guessed that every client would want the quality offered by Source Connect. This is not the case. Surprisingly, I am asked for zoom and given phone patch dial-ins more often than I am asked to use Source Connect. As a professional voice actor, most live sessions are for commercials, but I have done a few for eLearning clients recently. Interestingly, it has been so long that I have been asked for ISDN that I gave up my direct bridge through ipDTL as no one seemed to want that anymore. So, despite the quality that some connections offer, clients seem to like what is easy for them and what they are comfortable with.

4. Rates

Rates have been all over the place in 2020. I have had to turn down more jobs in 2020 than in the past 5 years combined. Rates changesThis may be because I am being found more, or it is because more people who never cast a voice talent are now casting and are not familiar with industry standard rates, or budgets are changing. As a working voice over professional, it is one thing to be flexible and have a range of acceptable rates, and it is another issue entirely to compromise one’s worth to pick up a new client. I have found that the biggest area that clients lack understanding in is usage for social media. They do not understand the difference between organic usage and paid placement, and they do not understand that usage across multiple platforms matters. My hope is that if voice talents continue to work together to educate clients this will shift in coming years.

3.  Buzz words

Buzz wordsThe specs are changing and the buzz words that we are asked for have changed. When I started the millennial conversational  read was the go to read. Now it seems that, for commercial voice overs, the authentic, natural read is what is wanted. A real person who sounds believable is the go to read. Interestingly, I think there has been a backlash from millennials who do not like or enjoy a lot of the characteristics that have been assigned to their generation, and the shift that we see is a direct response to that.

2.  Abundance

For those of us professional talents who are putting in the hours of work every single day, I am pleased and grateful for the Abundance in 2020abundance of work in 2020. Initially when the pandemic hit my business slowed in March and I panicked that everything would change. By April it seemed to bounce back and castings had picked up again. According to industry friends who are as established as I am or have been in the industry longer, this is the best year they have had yet. I realize it is Thanksgiving weekend, but I typically have an attitude of gratitude all year, whenever the bookings gods shine down on me. I realize that my clients have a choice and I am thankful when the choice goes my way, and this year it has happened more than last year. When so many businesses are struggling, in our industry and around the country, this is truly something to celebrate.

1. Direct Bookings

My direct bookings, bookings where clients come straight to me, are triple my pay to play bookings in 2020 and up 14% from Direct Bookings2019. I am really pleased with this. These direct bookings are a combination of clients that find my website, rosters that I am on because I found them, or repeat clients who were initially from a pay to play but not they continue to come back to me.  I also have direct bookings from social media, including instagram and LinkedIn. The number of direct bookings being so high means that I am not dependent on pay to plays to survive. Instead, I use the pat to plays to add to my client pool. I am extremely thankful for all of the direct bookings.

A Lot of eLearning Trends In 2020

Whether it’s because of the Covid 19 Pandemic or the industry just continues to boom, there is more eLearning work than ever! The demand for female voice over roles is continual, and as a full-time professional voice actor, every time an eLearning job arrives in my inbox I am delighted. I have always loved working with the instructional designers and project managers to bring their content to life. Before I became a voice actor, I was a teacher, so perhaps that it was I feel so at home with this genre. At the moment, there is a huge amount of eLearning content and based on the work coming in I have noticed a lot of trends in the type of work being sought, rates, tech needs, and what books the work. If you are looking to expand your eLearning bookings or to work more in this genre, these are questions you should be asking:

What gets your foot in the door with eLearning content creators?

The Demo MattersYou need a solid demo that represents both a range of your abilities and your understanding of the industry. My vocal range is from teen to middle age, and that is demonstrated in my eLearning demo, which goes from tech industries to pharma to medical. My demo switches gears from upbeat and engaging to serious and professional. My demo is set to music, which is controversial is often eLearning is dry. I wanted my demo to standout and by pleasant to listen to, and I believe it meets that goal.

What are you typically asked for when cast in an eLearning role?

It has been a while since I was cast as a generic third person narrator in eLearning. Instead, for the last sic months, ever booking to land on my desk is a character role, where the instructional designer wants an authentic, genuine role that is You need tobelievable for their training. For example, this week I was cast as  a college student who had gone down the wrong path and had a drug problem and was now in recovery. I had to be sensitive and relatable. It had to be believable. I was telling this girl’s story in this university’s training scenario. Last week I was a caller in a pay roll company’s HR training. I was the good caller this time, but in the past I’ve been the bad caller. In both instances the character had to be believable, authentic, and sincere. As a female eLearning narrator, this is a big responsibility: to continue booking work for clients you have to be able to switch gears and maintain whatever character you are playing for them that day. The character must be consistent throughout and must have nuance.

What Rates are you booking at?

Maintain Industry Standard RatesRates are really important. My bookings typically range between $0.25/word and $0.45/word with a $150 minimum and $1 per split. I charge for splits if there are more than 10. I prefer to quote the price per word and not per finished minute as I speak quickly. Last week I had a potential client reach out and ask me if I was on Upwork. I told them I was not. They wanted to know if I would honor Upwork’s rates, and I explained that at this point in my career I could not work for those rates. I then referred the client to GVAA and Gravy for The Brain, in hopes of keeping the conversation going. They did come back to me that if they had flexibility they would let me know, but in the mean time it is important to be willing to walk away. The next day I had a job come in that was 617 words and paid of $400. It is important never to settle.

What technological requests do you get from clients?

The Tech MattersMost typically, my eLearning clients want MP3s that are split and fully edited.  I typically add EQ, compression, and a d-esser. If you are booking eLearning work for big companies, it is expected that you should have a professional grade studio at this point. Especially because they often do not have music or effects behind their training, the quality of the audio that you provide matters more than ever.

Final Thoughts:

There is a lot of eLearning work for voice actors at the moment. If you intend to be booking it, you need to have great sound and be able to maintain a character consistently for the duration of the script. Your demo gets you in the door, but if you can’t sound as good as that on every single job, then you are not ready to work.