Today, ten things to avoid doing when you create a demo, or have one created. Not necessarily in the order of worstness. Worstitude? Worstivity? Whatever. But I am saving the biggest, most common problem until last. And that one is the mistake nobody should ever allow themselves to make in this day and age.
I know you’re already expecting some self-serving advice that says you should always hire a Dane, or a Bill DeWees or a Don Baarnes to produce your voiceover demo, but I’m not going to say that, because I don’t believe that’s really necessary, especially for someone early in the process. But I will say this…that if you’re going to produce your own, you need to be ad least moderately skilled at audio pr
oduction. Signs of bad production are uneven levels, bad edits, and mistakes in how cuts transition from one to the next. Voiceover demo production isn’t a good DIY job for somebody who is just starting out. The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars if you do hire it out. There are people, like me, who are as much into it t help people as they are to make money at it, so a few hundred will get you a perfectly good starter demo.
Until you have solved issues with room acoustics, you’re not in a position to be able to do a credible demo. You’ll hear people talk about software that can help to eliminate room echo, for example, but anything like that is going to affect MORE than just the target problem. You WILL impact the sound of your voice as well. Your recordings need to be free of distracting reverberation, and the only two ways to effectively address it are to change to structure in the room (or move to another location), and to use a different kind of mic. Home voiceover people often choose to go with a more directional mic, like a shotgun mic, to minimize the problem. But again, the best solution isn’t to hide the problem or use software to put a bandaid on it, but to actually address it. In several of my other YouTube videos, I talk about ways to address this without having to go to the ultimate extreme of building a booth. As you can see from my background image, I don’t use one here, so I’m living proof it can be done. But whatever you do, get that problem solved first and foremost.
Lack of Variety
A typical voiceover demo is close to a minute long, and if it’s all done in one style. it kind of wastes clients’ time. But when we first start out, this problem isn’t always 100% addressable, because we’re still finding the things we can do with our voices. My advice is to first find your most comfortable natural style, and to build out from there. But whatever the styles are you should try to have at least three distinct in your demo…even if it’s just you speaking normal energy, you speaking soft and low-key, and you speaking with high energy and excitement.
Clips That are Too Long or Too Short
The next one is one of the most common errors I hear in demos. There are clips that are way too long, or clips that are way too short, or a combination of both. Here’s the way you can think about it. Think of a favorite dessert. For me, that’s a turtle sundae. When I dip a spoon into a turtle sundae, I know what it tastes like before I’ve even swallowed my first mouthful. If I had any doubt, a second spoonful is more than enough to be sure. It’s the same with voiceovers. A sentence or two is PLENTY of time to know what a voiceover style sounds like. More than that, and you’re just
eating more of the same dessert. My suggestion is no more than two sentences, around 8-10 seconds max per clip. The flipside of that are clips that are no more than a few words long. The dessert hasn’t even reached the back of their tongue before we’ve moved onto the next thing. Not enough time to taste it. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be in exactly the right place. One or two sentences, total of 8-10 seconds, and that’s it. You’re moving on.
Things They’re Not That Good At
Another thing I hear are styles the person just isn’t that good at. They may think they are, but that’s the problem you run into with lone wolves. They think they can figure it all out on their own, and consider themselves the best judge of what they are and aren’t able to do. Granted, there are some who are better at that than others, but most people starting out would really benefit from at least one solid reality check session with a voiceover pro, so they have some perspective on where their strengths really like, and where they should improve before they try to offer a style for public consumption. So don’t hesitate to get some feedback, especially at first. It’ll help you get off to a much better start, and assure your first and succeeding demos represent the very best, most useful vocal styles you’re capable of.
That leads me to the problem of offering voiceover styles few people are going to be that interested in. If you can do a great imitation of some actor few people have ever heard of, that’s not going to be very marketable. Neither are certain zany styles, or unusual accents. My advice is to make your main, general demo more meat-and-potatoes styles that are in high demand. That’s more than we can cover here, but just kind of keep it in mind. Again, a voiceover coach can help steer you to the most marketable styles.
Misrepresenting What They Can Do
I once heard a guy say he could speak four languages. To prove it, he said, “yes” in English, Spanish, French, and German. Of course, if someone had asked him to read a poem in one of those languages, he’d have to decline, unless all the poem said was “yes yes yes” over and over again. Or someone is asked if they can do a French accent so they say, “ho ho ho, but of course.” But if they were presented with the actual role of an English speaking Frenchman in a drama, they’d never be able to pull it off convincingly. By the same token, you or I might be able to pull off a line or so in a special delivery style, maybe with the help of a coach, and put it in our demo, but if we were ever asked to do it for real, we’d have a panic attack. Don’t make the mistake of putting half-baked, underdeveloped styles in your demo because it’s a great way to back yourself into a corner with a client.
The same thing applies to audio processing. Personally, I’m a great believer in delivering my voiceovers raw, meaning no audible processing whatsoever. I chose a mic that loves my voice, made sure my room is good acoustically, and what the computer records is what the client gets. For that reason, I don’t do noticeable processing to my voice on my voiceover demos. I want the client to hear what they’re going to get when they order from me. I deliver the lovely model without make up, and leave it up to the client to apply whatever makeup they see fit.
Demos That are too Long
Next, let’s talk about demo length. Fiverr gives us at least 90 seconds for an audio demo, and 75 seconds (a minute 15) for a voiceover demo that contains video. That’s plenty long. In fact, I’d say, 75 seconds is about the max I’d recommend for any demo except something more unusual like an audiobook demo. For the rest, we’ve already served them a bellyful of ice cream by the time we reach a minute 15.
Bad Clip Order
This is Number 10, and I’ve saved it until last because I want it to really resonate. Probably the worst mistake we can make is to lead our demo with the wrong clip. What people need to realize is that most potential clients have already made up their minds about us before they swallow the first spoonful of ice cream sundae. If that first clip isn’t your absolute best style, and one that’s been selected for general appeal, a style that is in commonly needed, we’ve already blown it. That’s especially true now on Fiverr, where buyers can skim across thumbnails and listen to just a scant few seconds of each person before moving to the next. What I’d s
uggest is, if you’re absolutely determined to make your own demo, at least get feedback from others in the industry about which clip they consider the very best, and consider that advice when arranging the order of the style clips in your demo. I have a free Facebook page called “Rate My Voiceover” where you can get some nice feedback.
BONUS: And here’s a bonus #11 item. Audio only demo. There are places where an audio-only demo is fine, even required. But on Fiverr, an audio-only demo is a guarantee of less work. Why? Because people these days don’t care to sit still and stare at a gig image for 60 seconds. The more changing imagery and interest your demo can present, the longer they’ll stay with you The longer they stay with you, the more variety of styles they’ll hear from you. And the more styles they hear from you, the better chance you’ll have of their ordering from you. Fiverr actually says, straight out, that a video demo causes 40% more buyer engagement than a demo without video. So if you’re audio-only so far, even if the audio demo is great, consider
turning it into a video.
Before you throw in the towel on that idea, the good news is that you don’t need to be able to edit video or to spend much at all to get this done. There are websites where you can hire it done for about $375. They take your audio and choose great video clips to go with it, and it’s job done. I kinda hate the idea people having to spend even that much, so I’ve just created a Fiverr gig where I’m doing it for $75. And since the gig is brand new and I want to promote the heck out of it to get it really shining in the search results, I’m cutting that in half and doing it for half price, $37.50. So that’s what? A tenth the price at the websites? And I’m going to throw in my GigWinners demo creation course free. That includes comments from five of the nation’s top voiceover demo people, including Bill DeWees and Marc Graue. I really don’t mind kind of giving away the store on this. I’m thinking long-haul. If I can get a lot of people to order at this price, Fiverr will take notice of the activity and I’m going to guarantee you, right now, that the gig is going to go right to page one, and very possibly become Fiverr’s choice, in an incredibly short period of time. And actually the promotion doesn’t start until June, so I’m letting my YouTube buddies slide in under the wire on this thing.
I’ve decided to do one more thing, just for fun. If you follow the link in the show notes from today, and hit the Contact Me button, even if you don’t order a video demo from me, but just say hi and mention you heard about it, I’ll send you my “12 Pro Tips to Help You Grow as a Voice Actor” book free.
So what’s your reaction to the tips today. For kicks, let’s have you comment with “Guilty” if your demo has one or more of the problems I mentioned. No judgement on anybody’s part. It just shows you stuck with me till the end, and learned something helpful. Also please like and subscribe!
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