Individuals have asked me about listening to demos and passing them along to agents. The following is a breakdown of the logistics involved for recording your demos to sign with an agency.

Your first VO demos, particularly if they were recorded and edited by you, will not be good. They will not reflect your strengths, they will not show off your technical editing abilities (even if you are a seasoned audio professional). The reason for this is because voice over demos aren’t meant to appeal to you, they’re meant to appeal to agents and potential clients. You are incapable of stepping outside your own body, outside your opinion of yourself, to be able to hear and distinguish what is viable in the marketplace. You are not an accurate judge of your own abilities early on because you are still (and always will be) learning. Artistic self-objectivity is nearly impossible.

Additionally, voice over producers and agents will know what is sought after by clients. Whereas you’ll stitch together whatever kinds of scripts and characters you think show you off, in reality you may not be picking roles and sounds that are wanted. Trust professionals to help you figure out what it is you have to sell that clients might buy.

Having said that, in today’s market there are a variety of websites that, for a fee, will invite you to post your demos of whatever quality to audition for posted jobs. Personally I recommend doing this only because if you agree to do low paying non-union jobs, you’ll be earning experience and the clients will be getting exactly the quality of VO that they’re paying for. At some point you must acknowledge that you are competent enough to move on from the amateur scene to signing with an agency so that you’ll be eligible for the union rate market.

The key is to have accumulated enough experience, confidence, and education prior to your reaching out to agencies with demos. If you present your first round of self-produced demos to an agency, do not be surprised if you are met with rejection. Even talent and experience are not enough to guarantee an invitation to sign with an agency.

You owe it to yourself to work hard and take the time necessary to build yourself up with performance experience and education, so that when agents first hear your name you can prove that you are more than ready for the job. You can do better than to shoot yourself in the foot by sending amateur homemade demos to an agency who will then write you and your name off as novice and naive of what it takes to be a voice actor.

When you are ready to become a voice actor (Which may be determined by you or by an instructor, depending on how much reassurance you need. Teachers will be thrilled to take your money for as long as you’re willing to pay it.), hire a known and vetted individual to produce your voice over demos. The monetary investment is akin to hiring a plumber. You can watch a video on the internet and learn how to fix your toilet, but in the end you’ll probably pay a professional to fix your mistakes anyway.

To address personal requests directly: I will not listen to your demos, I will not pass them along to my agency. Here’s why:

  1. If I have never witnessed you working in the booth, I am unable to vouch for your ability as an actor under pressure to please a client.
  2. If I have never met you, I’m even less able to confirm what kind of person you are and whether you are reliable as a human. On time, polite, etc.
  3. The agency that’s right for me may not be the agency that’s right for you. Signing with an agency is like getting married, you both hope it’s going to work out and last a long time. But if one of you isn’t living up to the other’s expectations, you’ll eventually be headed for divorce.

Work hard, pay for someone who’s experienced and known for producing demos to do yours, and reach out to agencies when you can present your best self, not your premature amateur self.

If you’re looking for contact information for agencies, I’ve posted several resources on my How to Become a Voice Actor page. Though I can promise you, if you are unwilling to click and seek the information, you lack the tenacity required for show business. No one can do your homework for you. When you’re ready to to apply yourself, success will follow.

Once you have your professionally produced demos, display them on the landing page of your website. Do not post them to free service sites full of distractions and advertisements like YouTube or SoundCloud. Use a simple template that puts your demos front and center, they should be the first thing eyes will land on after having typed your URL. If you bury your demos and information, do not expect visitors to your site to hang around for long, much less contact you.

A friend contacted me to ask how to go about becoming a composer for video games. Here is my advice to him:

If you’re looking at composing for games, get involved with the indie scene. Look at indie-attractive sites like Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter and see if anyone’s looking for composers. Search for game jams. Regularly check sites like Tigsource and Meetup. Rack up shipped title credits to use for your portfolio. When you feel ready establish yourself with real living wage fees.

Reddit at your own risk:

gameDevClassifieds

I need a team

You’ll have an advantage if you do your homework before asking for a demo review. It behooves you to know who you’re making music for and what they’re expecting. On the technical side be aware you’re expected to deliver stems and loops, google articles and get practiced with those.

Be a professional and have a website ready with your work and contact info on it. Set up a real website where the URL is your name and your demos are plain to see and use! Your portfolio will attract similar work. Do work for pay and if you feel it’s not what you’d rather work on, in your free time make a portfolio that focuses on your preferences.

Examples of game composer websites:

Mick Gordon

Jesper Kyd

Sonic Mayhem

Jason Graves

Go to events like Gamesoundcon and GDC. Have business cards ready, nice ones. Meet people and get to know the community. If you plug into  on Twitter you’ll see a lot of the community as well.

Understand that as a freelancer you are a business owner. Learn how to manage your business! And if you’re American have a tax person who knows what they’re doing. If in doubt, use mine: Alyce Bonura (No I don’t get a commission for recommending her.)

Most obvious of all, if you want to work on games, you’d better be playing lots of games. Know your medium.

Additional contributions by @mattesque and @ashtonmorris.

More from Ashton Morris, Freelance Game Audio: Getting Started and Finding Work

How would you recommend both preparing for and protecting your voice when given roles that require screaming/yelling/etc? I can imagine any anime actor would have their vocal cords torn to shreds when shouting for battle scenes, is this something that would just require regular practice to strengthen cords, or is there a particular way to shout and bluster that will do less potential damage to the voice?

The easy warm up is to sing on your way to the job. Or if you’re not in the mood to sing anything in particular, just do as many scales as you can squeeze into your range.

While in session, err on the side of doing theatrical projecting for yelling. Which is basically speaking as loudly as you can just on the verge of screaming, without screeching. If you listen to the callouts in Call of Duty, those are pretty good examples of a stopping point for how far to push the yelling.

If there’s particularly screechy stuff where you’re going for broke like deaths or burning, they should always be at the very end of the session. If an amateur director tries to make you do strenuous yelling before the end of the session, stand up for yourself and tell them it’d be better for the client if there’s an effort made to conserve your voice and you’re not yelling till it’s the last thing left to do.

For the inevitable aftermath of a tough session, these are my favorite goodies. I combo them up into a single giant serving of tea:

Sometimes Throat Coat tea and the loquat honey combo are necessary to get through a strenuous session. I always have tea bags on me and if I know it’s going to be a rough day, I’ll bring my own bottle of loquat honey.

There’s no such thing as “strengthening vocal cords” with yelling. Repeated yelling to the point of abuse results in scar tissue and creates nodules, which can only be removed with surgery. I don’t recommend trying to toughen up your throat, it’s not that kind of organ.

To learn how to metal scream with minimal damage, Melissa Cross is well regarded for her method and training materials.

In reply to a thread on Facebook about a freelancer being contacted for a job:

Her story:

So this guy just contacted me out of the blue about some programming for a project.

I told him that I don’t do that anymore, but asked him what his budget was, to see if I could refer him to some of my contacts.

He mentioned hourly rates between $18-30. I told him that my contacts charge around $75, and wished him the best of luck with his project.

He responded with a long tirade calling me rude and the worst negotiator ever.

My response:

It’s their attempt at guilting us by making us feel like we’re “stuck up bitches” for asking what we believe to be a fair wage.

Example: My favorite was a man who approached me very early on when I started doing VO, years ago. I still had a full-time job and was just starting to take classes and tinker. Because I was still learning, I was happy to do whatever just for the practice, it wasn’t how I made my living yet. This particular casting guy would give me spots to do in Spanish, which was great practice for me since I don’t get to speak it often enough. The spots were for large corporations, like Wells Fargo. He would pay me all of $15 – $30 per spot, tops. Not including Paypal fees. You read that right, $15-$30. Again, I didn’t mind it at all, I just wanted access to the copy for practice.

After a couple of years when I felt ready to start establishing myself, I gave him my new rate, said thank you very much for your time and I understand if you cannot afford me. He sent me the most wretched email, telling me “You’ll never make more money than I pay you for any spot.” Isn’t telling someone they’ll never find better the definition of an abusive relationship?

I guess I should be glad my agency and all the clients I’ve worked for since don’t know I’m only worth $30. Lucky me!

I’m so used to voice actors yelling at me for selling myself short but I DO WHAT I WANT WHEN I’M READY. I certainly have a bottom line now, and if I do work for free it’s because 1) I can afford to because I’ve made my money elsewhere, and 2) It’s a favor or a passion project for someone who deserves it. My time is worth something. It’s worth something to me, therefore it will be worth something to anyone else who wants a piece of it.

But back then, like any good entry level person, I wanted to eat up all the experience I could. People get upset when you realize you no longer have to settle for less. Again, like in any abusive relationship.

I received this email from a friend’s daughter:

I’m in college deciding on a major. I was thinking about going into game design but know that it’s an incredibly difficult industry and very hard for women in general. I was hoping you could share your insight with me to maybe help me chose whether or not this major, this lifestyle, is the right decision. I love video games, creating art, writing stories, and have since I was five but I sometimes feel that passion with a little bit of talent won’t be enough to push me through into the gaming industry which I sometimes hate.

My response:

I’d say that in life, in general, women have it tougher. That’s certainly no reason to not pursue your interests. If you want a career badly enough, you’ll have it, regardless of the environment. For advice on how to navigate in male-dominated arenas, I’d recommend these books:

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

If you do decide to pursue games for a career, I suggest you read as many Gamasutra articles as you can. Particularly to think over which specific aspect of game design appeals to you.

You’re fortunate that you live in an era wherein if you want to practice making games, there’s any number of game engines you can download and experiment with:

https://unity3d.com/unity

https://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/SDK_Installation

https://www.unrealengine.com/what-is-unreal-engine-4

However if you have decided before attempting the job that it might be too difficult for you, then it might be too difficult for you. Only you can determine what you’re capable of. I hope these links are helpful to you, good luck!