As the voiceover industry continues to morph into a massive intersection of various genres and career types, I think it’s important that we hear from successful talent who have built careers in the trenches, booking daily local and regional commercial work, imaging, affiliate work, and copious amounts of corporate narration and eLearning. We hear all the time from VO celebs. In this new article series, I’d like to introduce you to some everyday VO heroes hustling their way to income goals and lifestyles we usually associate with industry glitterati.
Today’s guest: Rick Regan
JMC: How did you get into VO?
RICK: Christmas cassette player…13 years old recording myself doing Cheech and Chong bits and fake commercials…Now, I began using my voice for money at 15, working at a local radio station in St. Petersburg, Florida. My time in radio taught me how to speak to people and not at them. Many radio people it seems either thrive or completely falter in voice-over and the success factor could be the difference between announcers and personalities. You must be able to do both things as a VO talent, announce and emote as this is voice acting and it’s real tough for the one-trick ponies. After a long local radio run, I was bumped from CC, and with my payout in hand, I started VO from home full-time. I had been doing radio commercials daily as “the announcer” for years and as a “personality” recorded product and service endorsements where you use emotion and feelings. The transition to voice work couldn’t have been easier for me.
JMC: Those who know you know your career is thriving. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that your earnings meet or exceed a lot of talent with much higher business profiles. How did you get to where you are?
RICK: I started off with confidence and a few local clients in my pocket but surely not nearly enough to live on. I had a V123 membership while still in radio and landed my first regular client back then they are still with me today and invoiced this week. Armed with plenty of actual spots completed I went to the Pay-to-Play sites full time and did the deal…we are talking October 2011 and so headlong I went into auditions all day long. Let me say not a lot of fancy gear back then, just a cheap AT microphone a Presonus $99 interface, and the computer on hand with Adobe Audition. That corner downstairs started to take shape using second-hand office furniture, and room divider panels to make my space smaller, and then I pinned foam to the ceiling and the walls, (no it was not Auralex,) just eggshell-looking foam from a surplus supply joint. As time progressed so did my studio gear as I added a channel strip and a new microphone along the way, (plus some real fancy foam.) Now I have grown to a great space with wonderful gear and all the toys. Speaking of all the toys briefly, most are overkill, and to answer the question posed above regarding gear, I will say I’ve learned that a clean microphone sound into your editor is really all you need.
JMC: What’s the core work that drives your business? Does a single genre stand out?
RICK: I always look for repeat business opportunities. The goal for me is always to catch fish that are willing to just jump in the boat automatically weekly or monthly or even a few times a year. I provide ego-free customer service. Do not dismiss that last sentence as many VO folks do. We are a pure service business. The client can choose anyone they like, and we all do business with people we like. Core work for me is just about anything they are willing to pay for right? A car lot in Spokane’s Mega-Sale, a business seminar announcer guy in Aruba, a political ad running in Florida, two cool toy commercials for the Battle-Bots, 40 CTA tags, a concert spot read for a promoter in New Jersey, LFL Films story series, small market furniture store TV 30. That was today.
Not sure if a single genre holds its own place or not with me. Like many, commercials come in daily to the email from assorted auto dealers here and there and a Casino or Credit Union/Banks, but also the corporate reads for meeting and sales pieces, training modules (ask me about safety near alcohol plants or hazard placards,) IVR, cable TV show opens and closes and on occasional a big network promo read for ABC/ESPN/FOX. Not sure what to call it but narrating pieces that live on websites that are never broadcast or really seen by a lot of people is getting bigger daily. As more business websites become almost live entities of that business and not just a visual information sources our personal touch, (personality reads,) makes them genuine and friendly.
JMC: What would you say to people who see non-broadcast narration as non-glamorous or less exciting than commercials and character work?
RICK: Glamorous? Sitting here in the house for 4-5 hours a day is supposed to be glamorous?
Well then, I better change out of my bedazzled briefs and tee-shirt and put on my party clothes. This business for me is all about getting paid. YES, lower-end jobs exist and if saying thanks for calling Joe Blows’ office on a two-minute file ain’t glamorous enough for you then I will take that money. Please don’t mistake my comments as being a low-baller when it comes to rates. Quite the opposite as I’m picky and don’t audition for or accept jobs below my personal line, BUT with a grasp of reality there is plenty of work. Commercials can be effort-filled hard work and character work may be the toughest, so I say non-broadcast work is the best. It seems you don’t need to please a room full of people with their collective asses on the line regarding your read when you do corporate or non-broadcast projects. Let the person responsible for “getting it done” approve you with their boss and then cash the check. Less glamour sure but less hassle and less picky buggers definitely. Yes, it is very cool to hear your voice on network TV or have your family or friends tell you they heard you on something. Making an easy stack of cash is way better. I care about people and stuff sure…but we are talking about getting paid here.
JMC: Tell us about a day in the life of Rick Regan
RICK: Up early and straight to the email and V123 outbox. First I look for my agent’s auditions requests and then I do the worst thing by looking at those damn V123 review stars…….yes each morning starts that way. A quick note to you the reader from a friend, don’t look at the reviews just send and forget, BUT much easier to suggest than it is to do. When they want you they will email and not before. A quick perusal of the Voice 123 auditions the Luxembourg folks already visited while I was asleep and then a review of the day’s plan. Next, it’s not smart to warm up with an audition but I do that as well. The day then unfolds based on customer urgency with a mix-in of auditions that look good as they pop into the inbox and pump out paid-for audio. I try to not let things sit around so when work is booked it takes a priority in my head to get it done now because you don’t invoice until you hit send. Unless it is an ongoing deal or something that will take some real time I get it all done daily. My goal is to send out invoices every day. Lunch is important. I’m benefiting from “Lucky Lunch Tuesday and Wednesday.” I tend to get confirmation emails during those meals…so get out for a good meal and book jobs.
I auditioned into my phone at a BBQ joint last week and locked down the political read before we had the check, David Kaplan style. My day tends to end early with a good three or four hours in the morning, then a lunch break if there is time, and back to grinding out a few more hours in the afternoon. Not a fan of sitting here all day staring at this screen.
JMC: What do you do to burn off steam?
RICK: Taking all this stuff lightly tends to keep the build-up of steam to a minimum so a round of golf or a great meal brings me back to center often. Not into yardwork, camping activities, or building things with my hands, but I enjoy taking a break when the yard guy is here. I can watch other people work for hours.
JMC: Where can we hear your voice right now?
RICK: Late-night TV every night everywhere in America and in Canada doing CTA spots and tags. A bit more “glamorous” work can be found on various Hunting and Outdoor cable channels narrating a few shows or bragging about camo patterns, lodges, bullets, or bows and arrows. I have maybe a dozen commercials running nationally right now on cable. Always something new.
JMC: Where do you see your career in ten years?
RICK: Continuing as is really with a larger collection of regulars as that list grows every day. Lose one client every so often and gain a couple to keep growing. Sure being a big glamorous VO talent making a huge piece of coin for one simple project sounds great but it requires plenty of luck and time as well as money and location sacrifice. Sacrifice for glory doesn’t appeal in this scenario BUT I am crazy lucky and believe deep down inside that the MAGIC read is in me and will carry me to GLAMORVILLE!
I want to be the next big movie trailer guy in LA! I have the pipes now if I can just be discovered!
JMC: Leave the readers with one piece of advice to become an Everyday VO Heroes like you?
RICK: Be realistic and start with attainable goals, and keep that number rising dollar by dollar and client by client.
Honesty with yourself about skills and talent level is essential as this is not easy, (good people just make it sound that way,) and your folks like me aren’t just getting lucky; they are the good people and talented artists who have toiled for years working at this craft. I honestly try to get better each day and can cringe at audio I was proud of just a year ago. It has everything to do with having a nice voice and nothing as well.
Be honest, be nice to people, and if you are smiling it will sound that way.