Hey, Mick, what do you think of the VO pay-to-play sites? You know, the ones where you can pay a membership fee and have real auditions for paying jobs sent to your inbox?
I’m glad you asked.
For those who don’t know, there are sites on them thar interwebs that can connect professional and armature VO talents to gigs from all over the world. Sites like Voice123, Voices.com, Bodalgo, voicebunny and others serve as person-to-person job boards connecting voice actors across the world with potential jobs in markets near and far from home.
Subscribers pay a monthly fee and then have access to auditions for real, paying jobs through these sites. Rates will differ with each project, but significant chunks of change lie out there like the proverbial low-hanging fruit, tempting the voice actor wanting more work to reach out and grab for them.
Sounds great! But is there a catch?
I’m glad you asked.
I could write an entire book on the Pay-to-Play sites, as there are significant pros and cons to consider before joining. But, the long and the short boils down to this:
It never hurts to try your hand (or voice) in the free market, but be aware of the factors at play before you put any money on the table.
1.) Lengthy Subscriptions
When trying out a subscription to a pay-to-play site I personally would avoid any long term commitments. Certainly the price per month goes down as the contract term increases. However, joining a pay-to-play is equivalent to forming a new business partnership. It is always wise to sign up for 1-3 months only, to see if my skills are a match for client needs.
VO is about credibility and not all voice actors are credible on all types of reads.
For example: I’m a cartoon voices guy. Gimme a 22-minute script about a panda who uses kung fu and I’ll make magic for you. However, if you give me a sheet of medical narration for a web video aimed at doctors, I’m probably not going to book that. I certainly can sound competent, but I won’t sound nearly as credible as someone who does that kind of narration more often.
If you sign up for a year of service at a pay-to-play and find that most of your auditions are not in your sweet spot vocally, then you will have made a significant investment in a service that is not effective for your product.
2. Sound design
In order to fulfill the job requirements of remote recording, you MUST have a credible sounding set up of your own to record. If you are not able to produce high-quality audio from a home or office studio, do not invest your money in any of the pay-to-play sites. When you submit auditions through these sites you are actually auditioning your equipment as much as your talent. You can have the best read on a script, but if it sounds like you recorded it in an empty room in an apartment, the client cannot use the audio.
3.) The Numbers Game
The benefit of booking from the internet is that you will get access to VO jobs that would not be available if you stuck to building your career in your home market. The drawback is that the same job postings are available to thousands of talents from all over the world who are just like you. Know that if you do join one of the pay-to-play sites, it will take significant hustle to book work from them, as hundreds of people submit for the same job.
Often, a necessary edge in auditioning is early submission. If you’re not in the first 50 submissions, pack it up and go home, as you will likely not get heard.
Playing to Win
Now, having spelled out all the pitfalls, I will still say that I do know voice talents who have made a significant living from effectively using these pay-to-play sites. However, I've noticed that these talents all have a few things in common:
As a believer in the free market, I have to say there is nothing wrong with these person-to-person job boards, and there is certainly nothing wrong with them setting their terms and rates any way they see fit under the law. And, there is legitimately significant money to be made.
But, make no mistake, the revenue you make on a pay-to-play site is by no means “easy” money, and without the right tools in your toolbox you could end up throwing good money after bad in the effort to make it big in VO.
This is the Mick Wingert Website. The blog is by Mick unless otherwise specified. Mick's Bio can be found here.