This is, after all, the foundation of your career!
Recently another local mom who I am connected with on LinkedIn reached out and asked me if I could “point her son in the right direction” so that he can consider pursuing voiceover. After 5 plus years as a full time, professional voice over talent, I know better than to name names, but I can give you some pointers to think about when you are considering which voiceover coach to work with. It is a big decision, one that will hopefully shape the trajectory of your career, so you should think about these points.
1.Is there a demo on the horizon?
Whether you are a newbie or an established talent, you will likely be coming at this from different angles. You may just be honing your skills, so a demo is not in play. If a demo is on the horizon, that changes things. I find it helpful to find other talents who worked with that coach. Listen to their demos. Are they booking? Do they have agents? Who are their clients? Do you actually like their demos? Do they sound current? Is this the sound you want for yourself? I have some demos that I am very very proud of and others that I am not happy with. I was not happy with the coach and for a multitude of reasons I still moved forward with the demo. I very much regret both the money that I spent, the time that I spent, and my own inability to see this coming, especially because it did not happen at the start of my career, but instead when I was a seasoned professional. It is what it is but I will not make that mistake ever again.
2. Does this coach give feedback in a way that you respond to feedback? Do you actually know how you learn? I am sensitive and while I wish that I could say business is business, I do best with positive reinforcement and constructive guidence. In my career I have worked with a few coaches who are harsh. One of them I could not tolerate and had to stop after several sessions. Another one I did persevere. The result is possibly my best demo. That coach was not mean, he was just also not sweet, and every session was very hard for me. Some coaches use a lot of acting techniques. Others have their own inventive, creative approaches. See what works for you and what you enjoy. Since you invest a lot of time and money in this, I actually believe it should be pleasant.
3. Is the cost within reason? The reality is that this is a business and you need to earn money. often we hire coaches either while we are still working in other jobs and segueing in to voiceover. We all want to avoid demo mills that promise a demo after 5 lessons; but, at the same time, we don’t want to be on the hook forever. I once worked with an amazing coach who said a “demo is a reflection of where you are now.” So in a few years when your work changes you make a new demo, right? I like that, especially when I was starting out. But we all have room to learn and to grow, so at some point we can pull the trigger and move on. I have also supplemented coaching with classes. I have attended online classes through groups like GVAA and VO Peeps that are amazing. I have taken live classes at our local theaters in advanced acting and improv. I have gotten a lot out of these classes and just like with coaching, the classes are only as good as the teacher.
4. Think outside the box- there are known coaches and then are new folks and are plusses and minuses to both! I have worked with the biggest names in the industry and I have worked with folks just starting out. When you work with a proven coach who has a curriculum, you benefit from years of experience. You hope that they see your potential and that they correct your flaws. But this does not mean that if someone is new to coaching you should run for the hills. I have had coaches that I think are brilliant and they have had very few students. As long as they are committed to the process and to your success it can work very well. Their success as a coach is inextricably linked to your success after having been their student, so they typically want to the best for you.
5. Think about who is choosing the scripts- you or the coach.
I have had this work both ways for lessons as well as for demos. I have had to come up with scripts and write scripts. I have also had to work on scripts that I have never seen before, just like in real life. I think ultimately, for me, I prefer to have the scripts given to me. As a working talent, we don’t pick our scripts. And when they are well written, it seems like a miracle. An absolute miracle. So why would we write scripts that are brilliant, witty, pithy, and not at all like the majority of our actual day to day work? It’s practically a farce. I also think when the coach here’s our raw read it helps with audition technique too.
When you are working with a coach, the question you have to ask yourself is are you continuing to learn and grow or have you plateau? Once you have plateaued, you either stop, or if the goal is the demo, you do the demo….