How to Enhance Your Personal Branding as a Voice Over Freelancer
Standing out is important if you want to capture multiple gigs as a voice over freelancer. One of the easiest ways to do this is through your personal branding because this is helps clients and audiences to remember you. Enhancing your personal branding can be easy, but requires consideration, contemplation, and goal-setting.
Telling your Story to Sell Yourself
I’ve always thought one of the very best questions to get to know anyone was “what’s your story?” Even for someone you know, asking them on any given day “what’s your story?” will fill you in on what’s going on for them, what’s real for them in the moment.
As a “singing server“ back in the ‘90’s, I was often amused by how much more my customers respected me when I opened my mouth to sing. Even more interesting to me was their reaction when they found out more of my backstory – who I was and how I came to serve them their dinner and sing them a song. Watching their faces shift as they took in my singing voice, transforming people’s perception of me, was an interesting experiment in psychology.
Turns out, telling your story is really the best way to sell yourself, your product, your service. Telling your story personalizes your brand and identifies how you, in your unique way, can serve someone else. Forbes suggests crafting a personal brand story by first determining your goals, passions, strengths, and weaknesses.
Having a narrative also helps possible employers see how your past fits into your present, and how you are different from other voice over freelancers. Voice acting is rarely a first career pursuit for many people – voice actors often come into it from related fields such as acting, radio, or any number of industries. One example is one of the lead cast members in the Disney film Encanto, Stephanie Beatriz, who started out in theater acting. Beatriz is known for her love for animation, and has cited how the world of unfamiliar-looking heroes has always felt most accessible to her. This allowed her to find an audience in people with similar, deeply-resonating beliefs.
dConsider these storytelling axioms as redefined by Michael Margolis, a business guru who has explored the “frontiers of transformational storytelling” and author of “Believe Me: a storytelling manifesto for change makers and innovators”. (Download a free copy here.)
- People don’t really buy a product, service, or idea, they buy the story that’s attached to it.
- Your brand is far more than just a name, a logo, or a tagline; it’s the stories that people tell about you.
- Every story exists in relationship to everything else around it.
Can you write a compelling synopsis of your story, or your business’ story? There is great challenge in this exercise – to simply tell the story…briefly. Michael Margolis offers in-depth, thought provoking questions and ideas to more than find our own answers. Whether to sell oneself in business or to make new friends, sharing our backstories helps to build a personal bond…among other things!
Explore Different Gigs, but Know your Niche
Knowing thyself, in the voice over business, is as important as anywhere else.
Never is that more true than when branding yourself. (See Celia Siegel’s, VoiceOverAchiever, for much more info on branding yourself as a voice talent.)
It’s easy to feel intimidated by larger employers or projects as a freelancer. However, many successful Hollywood voice actors started out as freelancers as well. Joe Zieja, for example, is well-known for playing the voice of Claude in the video game Fire Emblem, but actually came from a military background with no formal acting training.
Zieja did not have any personal branding to begin with. He had to audition over 40,000 times in eight years to cultivate his strengths, weaknesses, and passion before his talents were finally recognized with persistence, practice, and patience — the previously discussed Three P’s are critical for a voice-over career.
Like Zieja, don’t be afraid to really put yourself out there. The learn-by-doing approach, which includes failure, will allow you to thoroughly understand what you need to enhance or improve to draw in success.
I attribute much of my success in my business to knowing who I am as a voice talent and therefore, where I fit in.
Fortunately for this business, voice over work is available in so many directions! Indeed television, radio, and documentary films are where one traditionally might find voice overs. However, voicemail has been around for decades now, and business narration is absolutely exploding…not to mention overhead voices, tour voices, video games, audiobooks. SO many directions!!
But, every voice is not meant for every job, nor is every person and personality. When I began my business, I figured out very quickly where my niche was, given my strengths and abilities. As I gained more experience, I figured out even more about my voice style and was therefore able to audition for suitable jobs, market myself appropriately, and look deeper for jobs that would fit me.
Further, knowing myself helps me face competition. With 1000’s of other working voices out there, competition is daunting. What saves me from serious self-doubt is knowing what I am good at and remaining realistic about what I am not.
Create a List of Unique Selling Points
Creating a list of unique selling points is important to help you stand out as an employee, an interviewee, a company. What makes me stand out from any other female, middle-age voice talent?
It’s taken me years to know why and how I was in any way different from another. Standing out in a crowd of other voice talent, voice actors, and radio announcers is no easy task. In digging deep and truly thinking about what I uniquely offer, I came up with a list of a dozen points that I can confidently state as my Unique Selling Points.
I support anyone in creating a list for themselves, whether for business or personal. We all have something unique to give and forget that too easily…while it can feel a little uncomfortable and egotistical, the truth is that our gifts are meant to be shared. As Marianne Williamson says,
“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
There’s a good chance other talent and freelancers can match my unique selling points. That’s okay! Shine on….
Create a Branded Online Profile
Once you’ve determined your personal brand story, now it’s time to figure out how it can reach your audience.
Out of high-school, I was obsessed with writing my resume…making it look and read not only professionally, but also making it stand-out. I would copy it on bright blue paper, or add anything I could to make it shine. I think I probably spent more time finessing my resume, than looking for jobs.
Now it’s all about working on my bio and online profiles. Have those in tip-top shape, that is, your work experience, services, testimonials, client list. All those things that used to fit on a one-page resume, must now be elaborated upon, streamlined, and optimized…constantly.
To convey your personal brand, your story should include career stories that give your results and achievements context, such as specific projects or data that covers the impact of your work. For example, if your voice was previously in a commercial, how well did that commercial do? Use percentages and numbers, and always start each sentence with an action verb such as “increased” or “created.” This makes it easy to illustrate how you add value while using relevant keywords for ranking higher in search engines.
Whether on your business’ website, your company’s About page, or on LinkedIn, it’s super-important to be up-to-date. The more remarkable, the more interesting, the more engaging, the better…
Use Video in Your Voiceover Branding
Voice Actor John Kuehne states,
“Speaking with many voice actors recently, I’ve noticed a recurring theme. Most still don’t understand the importance of having video as a part of their personal brand marketing. Granted, in the past, voice talent were able to get by with having their “audio only” demo as their primary marketing calling card. In today’s visual world, voiceover talent must take the opportunity to capture the additional impact of igniting the additional visual sense to convert their brand message into bookings.”
Read more of what he has to say, here.
Do You Look Influential, Capable, Likeable?
If you are building a career or a business, you need headshots. Our online image is highly relevant in expressing (and subjectively determining) our credibility. Yes, this is unfortunate, but proven.
A professional headshot is key on LinkedIn and on other mediums where you need a profile image. Even on personal social media, we are (definitely) judged on how we look and a competent or decent looking photo can go a long way. Despite the fact that voice talent are all about audio, having a professional headshot has always been important to me because I’ve understood the psychology of presenting a good 1st impression. (I’ve certainly experienced being treated vastly differently because of how I looked.)
I was tickled to find this really interesting website, Photofeeler, to help decipher what makes a good photo for a social media profile, especially in business. They have an amazing test feature! You submit your photo(s) and can gain votes on whether or not you look “competent”, “likeable”, and/or “influential”.
Several years ago, I tested three different photos for comparison (I’ve since updated all my branding on my website!). All three photos were taken the same day, at the same session! I wanted to use them all, but thought I would test them out at Photofeeler to find out what might work best. Of course, we need to take it all with a grain of salt, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I became slightly obsessed with finding out the results.
Headshots can be a huge investment, so you need to plan ahead to ensure success and, therefore, make use of your photos for as long as possible. I can’t tell you how many pics I didn’t end up liking. That’s why I put a lot of effort into preparing for any photo shoot. I want to make sure I look and feel my best and have all the elements in place for that very short hour. It honestly takes me 2+ months to plan and 2+ weeks to prepare.
With a hair stylist on-site, and a location with several options – lighting and background, you can create many different scenes and receive A LOT of bang for your buck with photos that will last a good long while.
Interested in my tips for preparing for your headshots? Click here.
What’s Your Branding Vibe?
Whew! There’s lots to consider when heading down the path of personal branding.
I’d love to hear what you think about branding and if you’ve been through the process or are just considering it.
No matter where you are in the undertaking of personal branding, remember…branding is the “Story of You”. So, what’s your vibe?
For more to consider, check out the following:
Branding – Can it Really get you Hired for Voice Over?
What’s My Brand? What is a Brand? How do you find your Brand?
Article written by Natasha Marchewka, Carolyn Robson, and Rena Jamison