Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Chief Brand Officer and Co-Founder of Voices.com, the largest voice-over marketplace in the world.
What are the biggest mistakes you see actors make when transitioning from on-camera acting to voiceovers?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: There are a few things that on-camera actors can think about before they get into voice acting. The first thing is that their voice plays a central role in booking a job. This may seem obvious, but it can be easy for an on-camera actor to neglect certain aspects that contribute to voice-over performance. Dressing appropriately is one of those things. You don’t want to wear clothing or jewelry that makes noise. The microphone captures every little sound you make, so dressing for success is helpful in that regard. Also, many actors who come from theater think that everything they do with their voice needs to be ‘big.’ For actors gracing the stages of Broadway and beyond, it can be harder to dial back the volume because they are used to projecting, even belting, their voices to reach the back of a crowded theater or auditorium. Voice-over is more about subtlety and oftentimes, less is more. Don’t be afraid of starting big though, because it’s easier to pull a performance back then it is to draw out more from a talent. Lastly, voice-over is not so much about the voice but how it is used. When talent keep their voice type in mind and develop a signature voice (just as they might perform certain types of roles on-camera), they’ll find that making the transition to voice acting is a lot easier because they’ll know which kind of vocal roles they are better suited to.
What tips do you have for actors for creating their own home studio?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: Good questions! As someone working in voice-over professionally, you’ll want access to your home studio at any time of day. That said, make sure your studio space is properly treated to create an optimal environment for audio recording. Buy gear that you understand and seek guidance on determining which microphone works best with your voice. Not all mics are created equal! Test a variety of microphones out before settling on one that captures the core of your voice and highlights its nuances in the best possible light. Learning microphone technique is paramount, so don’t neglect to ask for help in that area. As you invest more time in voice acting and start seeing results, other doors may open to you. Down the road you’ll want to seriously consider investing in an isolation booth. You can build your own or may opt to purchase one and have it installed in your home. There are other solutions for cutting down on noise (think of mini vocal booths that you can take with you on the road), so be sure to shop around a bit regarding soundproofing or room treatment options. The bottom line? Having a space you feel comfortable and confident recording broadcast-quality audio in will empower you to audition more and get work done. Productivity is important! Don’t let external factors (like the neighbor’s lawnmower or the dog barking next door) dictate your work schedule.
Social media is becoming an essential part of an actor’s marketing toolkit? How can an actor use social media for their voiceover career?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: Pick a few channels and stick with them! You’ll inevitably gravitate toward certain social channels which is a good thing. Liking a platform makes social networking on the site easier to commit to. So long as the platform is productive for your career and you’re enjoying it, maintain a regular presence there and contribute to community as you see fit. Actors in particular seem to enjoy Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all of which are good spots to be provided they are helping you to achieve your goals. Putting the business hat back on now, there is a non-negotiable social network that you’ll want to create a profile on -- that being LinkedIn. All professionals, even creatives, should have a LinkedIn profile. This is particularly important if you see what you’re doing as a business (not all actors do which is why I’m pointing this out). If you want to succeed using social networks, realize that building relationships (just like when networking in person) is more important than self-promotion. Be sure to add value to conversations and talk about things that are relevant to the people you want to gain traction with. Be authentic and show genuine interest in others and their work. Whatever you choose to do, remember that there is such a thing as social media burnout which is why you need to be selective with where you’re planting yourself, what sort of discussions you participate in and how you’re using your time.
How do you feel the industry has changed and how does that impact an actor breaking in today?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: Everything has gone online. From ordering your groceries to buying a voice-over, the world has become a more virtual and digital place. We opened our voice-over marketplace 12 years ago (in February 2004) and even in that space of time, we’ve seen numerous changes to how things are done. One observation? There are definitely fewer barriers to entry for someone aspiring to become an actor (or a voice actor). Audio recording technology has come down in price (making it far more feasible to build a home studio), there are multiple venues to be found (in the past, only agents for the most part could open up doors of opportunity) and never before has information been so freely available (learning the art of voice-over was primarily limited to private coaching sessions). What was once a small (though loving) community of people in VO has turned into a large family of talent spanning the globe who are collectively learning how to navigate change (both business and technology wise) while striving to educate newcomers on the art and science of voice-over.
The voiceover industry (like any part of the acting business) is very competitive. What marketing strategies should a voice actor employ to make them stand out?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: Know yourself! I can’t stress this enough, but you really need to understand who you are, your instrument and the kind of voice-over work you want to do. You might really love creating characters, but if you are hired mainly to voice corporate telephone systems, purposefully seek out more around those opportunities. Earlier in this interview, we briefly talked about the concept of having a Signature voice. This is basically the voice you are known for doing. Some talent call this their bread and butter voice. When you’ve determined what your Signature voice is, you’ll be able to brand your business and make strategic decisions that will help you attract the kind of work you’re best suited to. Many talent think that they can do any voice-over, priding themselves in being a chameleon of sorts. This mindset generally doesn’t bode well. Versatility is important but so is knowing where your strengths lie and being honest with yourself. Something I like to do is encourage talent to think like an agent. Ask yourself questions like, “If I were an agent, would I send me in for this job?” Being objective about your talent is important and will only help to position yourself well. You’ll save lots of time, energy and emotional resources by only auditioning for work that you believe you can actually book.
It’s important for young actors to have role models. What masters of the craft, past and present, come to mind that young actors can listen to for inspiration?
Stephanie Ciccarelli: Look to people who are acting in your area of work for inspiration. You can learn a lot from observing what successful actors are doing! That said, don’t overlook other people in the creative process like writers, directors or producers for guidance. Some of my mentors are people I’ve never met. Their impact on me through words and deeds has been significant to my growth. Someone all actors should know about is the late Marion Dougherty. She was a groundbreaking casting director who knew how to identify an actor’s gifts and cast based upon what they brought to the table holistically.
It’s so important for actors to find their own work and be their own agent (even if they have one). Tell us about how Voices.com can help actors accomplish this.
Stephanie Ciccarelli: There’s nothing more empowering for a freelance actor than being able to submit yourself for qualified work opportunities that you are interested in. The beauty of promoting your talent and auditioning online is that you can get yourself out in front of people in a position to hire you around the world. New markets will open up to you and you’ll gain access to opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise have. The biggest benefit for you here is scale. To be on a platform like Voices.com means that you are on the world stage and directly benefit from the company’s brand equity. With over 100 jobs posted daily on the site, there will be dozens of opportunities that will appeal to you personally and line up with your skills. Imagine being able to audition for a steady stream of jobs every day and to have the freedom to quote what you want to be paid for the work. For many talent who rely solely on agency representation, joining Voices.com is like opening the floodgates so far as the number of auditions they are sent on a regular basis. As the character Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker in the Spider-Man franchise, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Being objective with your talent and learning how to think like an agent will create balance and sharpen your focus when marketing yourself online and finding the right jobs for you.
Thank you Stephanie for sharing your time and knowledge with us today!
The basic membership to Voices.com is completely free. However, I've got some great news! Stephanie has been gracious enough to offer $100 off any premium membership to Voices.com exclusively for my readers by using the code MARKETING4ACTORS299.
Want me to interview someone? Let me know at #ShowbizExperts!