I was a little shocked a few weeks ago when coaching a relative newcomer to the voiceover industry (working part-time for 18 months). I discovered they marketed themselves as a voice over coach. When I expressed my surprise, they said, “Oh, but I only coach the real newcomers. You know, people who don’t know what to do first or don’t have any idea how to go about it.” I’ve got to admit; I’m still kind of reeling. First, from the shock that someone with little experience has the bravado to promote themselves as a coach. And second is the dismay that newcomers would seek out and hire someone with so little to offer.
As an industry heavy-weight (earnings in the top 2% of the voice over industry) for over 30 years, I only recently (past five years) began coaching. I made the decision not to coach until later in my career because:
- I was happily busy producing voice over content, and I still am.
- I did other things in my spare time, like home-schooling my kids, writing a novel, etc.
- I believe that good coaches should have a foundation of success in whatever they are coaching and also have the skills to pass on that info.
Like any voice over pro worth their salt, I reinvest some of my hard-earned business dollars into polishing my craft through coaching and workshops every year. And I will not toss any of those dollars at any Bomb, Shtick, and Fairy who calls themselves an expert before they are one. Buyer beware. How can you tell if the person or group you are about to get voiceover coaching from is legit?
Question to Ask Yourself and Your Voice Over Coach
How big is their body of voice over work?
Some voice over artists and coaches specialize in certain areas of the industry (my areas are eLearning, Commercial, Narration, etc.). Still, if you are just starting, you are going to need someone with a broad portfolio. If you’re an established voice over artist looking for a tune-up in a specific area, then specialized voice over coaches can be a great resource throughout your career.
What is the quality of their body of work?
One of the first things you should check out is your potential coach’s demos. If they have bad demos with poor sound quality and delivery, then strike them off the list. If they can’t get their demo right, how will they help you prepare yours? Have they directed, spoken publicly, or hosted workshops?A coach who has experience in directing will better grasp what your future directors will be looking for. They’ll know the lingo and be able to teach it to you, giving you that slight advantage over other voice over artists.
How long have they been in the industry?
Ten to fifteen years is my benchmark. Any less should be reflected in their (coaching) rate, and even then, I would seriously consider looking elsewhere.
Do they have voice over and coaching testimonials?
Any good coach should be able to provide references and testimonials. Verifiable ones!
Where did you hear about them?
Word of mouth, internet resources, and professional groups are usually reliable. If you google your potential voice over coach and nothing much comes up, they likely don’t have sustainable industry experience.
Have they taught?
The best voice over artist in the world, stuffed to brimming with experience, might be a terrible teacher. Teaching is a skill, and good teachers are hard to come by. Finding a coach who has experience teaching is a significant benefit.
Does their price match the experience they offer?
Voice over coaching costs and pricing can be tricky. Pay what you can afford and not less than that. Voice over coaching is an investment in your future. It’s something you can add to your bio, and it indicates to potential employers that you are a professional, not a hobbyist. Don’t bankrupt yourself by paying for something that’s out of reach financially. You can build toward better coaches as your voice over career starts paying dividends.
As I said before, a less experienced voice over artist may charge less, but watch out for diminishing returns – you get what you pay for. I’m not a fan of set sessions. Some coaches may have found that a minimum of X number of sessions is necessary to see results, but the learner should still be in the driver’s seat. You should be able to cancel if it’s not working for you and not be locked in with someone you may find you dislike or aren’t learning enough from.
Have you done your research?
I get it. You are raring to go, you want to jump right in and get down to work, but you need to take your time finding a coach. Ask questions, research and google.
An Inexperienced Coach Won’t Know How to Stay Relevant
Voice over is an ever-evolving, fluid industry, and a good voice over artist and coach is constantly polishing their skills. What was popular last year is over this year. The buzz words of the voice over industry are a map of what’s trending right now. What’s in demand. A voice over ‘coach’ who has only been in the industry for a year or two will have no concept of staying relevant in the industry. They might be able to help your career flash up, but they won’t know anything about longevity, like the parable about building your house on a foundation of sand.
Every subcategory of voice over has its trajectory. It’s our job as voice over artists to stay up to date and current on those trends. Then we need to make sure we deliver on those trends. The conversational, authentic voice is big right now. Nothing seems sillier than a voice over artist still pumping out the old announcer style when the market primarily wants real-person conversational sounds.
Voice Over Coach Red Flags
It can be hard to spot a scammer and even harder to spot a ‘coach’ who doesn’t know enough to know they don’t have the experience to be a coach.
- Crash courses or sales pitches that involve ‘limited time offers.’ Voice over is broad and far-reaching. It’s doubtful that you’ll ever learn everything you need to know in a weekend, let alone manage to retain it. This skill takes time to develop.
- Guarantees. There are no guarantees in voice acting. Ever. Period.
- Too many sessions. The world of voice over is more complicated than it might seem to a layperson, but you don’t need 100 sessions just to get off the ground. Particularly if the coach in question charges per session.