Going Global with Your Voiceovers Business
by Peter Drew
Working out of a personal studio located anywhere there is an Internet connection, itís possible for a voiceover talent to work with producers in the farthest reaches of the planet. Marketing you voice-over services to the world is similar to marketing to your own region, but there are a few differences to keep in mind.
Hey, world. Iím here!
A good place to start your international marketing efforts is a web site. If you donít have one, put one up. Many web site hosting firms offer simple, template-based designs that make it easy to do. Youíll need to optimize your site, too, for the best shot at high rankings in the major search engines. Do a search for the term ďsearch engine optimizationĒ to locate sites that can show you how to do it. Make sure to put your demos up on the site, both as .mp3 downloads and streaming audio, if possible.
Of course, you canít just sit and wait for the world to come to you. Search the Web for production houses, talent agencies, and casting houses in countries where you think you might get some work. Contact them to see if they accept demo submissions. If youíre reading this, youíre probably a native speaker of English, which means starting with the English-speaking countries is a natural first step. Remember, though, that other countries still need productions voiced in English because itís the de facto language of international business and diplomacy. Be sure to market your services in these countries, as well.
Email is the least expensive means of marketing to producers. You probably should not send an .mp3 file of your demo without asking permission first. Many email servers do not accept .mp3 files or the recipient might have a policy of deleting any unsolicited attachments of any kind. If the producer wonít accept an .mp3, direct them to the demos on your web site. Donít discount sending a CD demo. Putting a hard copy of your demo in someoneís hands is always a good idea and worth the money spent. Itís quite common for producers to go through the demo CDs they have on hand, looking for a particular voice or just to eliminate the weak demos to make room on the shelf for new demos. In doing so, they very often discover usable talent they didnít realize they even had in their library, maybe you.
Whichever way you eventually send your demoóafter first making contact and getting permissionófollow up to make sure the contact person received the demo and thank them for accepting and listening to it. Do not ask for feedback on the demo. Producers, talent agents, and casting agents donít have time to give everyone a free demo critique. Ask for one and youíll most surely mark yourself as inexperienced.
Time is of the essence
If you live in the United States, then youíre already familiar with accommodating four continental time zones, plus Alaska and Hawaii. Working internationally, you have to get used to dealing with people in countries that are up to 12 hours ahead or behind your time zone, depending on how you look at it. Obviously, working across time zones can prove a challenge in scheduling and delivering your voiceovers. Be sure to bookmark a time zone calculator like this one. Use it to determine the difference in hours between you and your prospective client. Be sure to refer to that time difference on your first contact. It shows youíve done a little homework to find out where they are in the world.
Money makes the world go Ďround
Another important consideration is making sure you get paid in your own currency, e.g. United States dollars, UK pounds, and euro. Fortunately, there are online currency converters that make this very easy. In the converter, indicate your currency and your clientís currency, letís say US dollars and UK pounds respectively. Insert the US dollar amount in the box, click the button, and up pops the conversion into your clientís currency. Of course, you can do it the other way around, too.
Discussing currency conversion leads us to setting and/or negotiating a rate thatís acceptable and equitable to both you and your new client. Rates vary from country to country. On the whole, though, expect to receive less compensation when dealing with producers outside the US. How much lower? Major markets in Europe and Canada tend to pay more than comparably sized cities in other parts of the world, but overall the highest rates are still probably found in the US. When you contact a foreign producer, candor is the best policy. Ask for the typical budget in US dollars for different projects, e.g. commercials, narrations, and telephony. Most producers will tell you the truth. You can always contact a competing producer in the same city or region and ask the same question if you think youíre not getting an honest response.
The bottom line to negotiating an equitable rate is your bottom line: the lowest rate for which youíre willing to work. Once you figure that out, then you can determine where to price yourself going in, knowing youíll have to haggle a little and hopefully end up above that lowest rate youíve set. Also, be aware that for long-form materialónarrations, industrials, books, etc.óproducers in many countries prefer to pay by the word or finished minute, which includes providing voice tracks edited clean of any flubs, coughs, excessive silence between tracks, etc. This means youíre not just providing a voiceover, youíre providing some production service, too.
As with any Internet transaction, protect yourself from unscrupulous operators. Ask for credit card payment up front via PayPal or a merchant account. Or, provide a low-resolution or watermarked (1 kHz tones inserted periodically) .mp3 of the voiceover for approval purposes. Once approved, get payment in full, then email or ftp the high-resolution file. Be aware that PayPal does not operate in every country. Investigate a merchant account that will allow you to accept credit cards from virtually anywhere.
You might not get rich serving the international market for voiceovers, but itís a lot of fun getting to meet folks from other countries and cultures, and pretty cool knowing your voice is being heard in some far off country, a place you may never visit.
© Peter Drew