Another day, another city.
I’m typing this from a lovely hotel suite in Miami where I’m about to host another round of my Get Your Voice Elected political commercial workshop. Tomorrow, I head to Cartagena, Colombia to appear as a speaker at the Viva Voz conference, which I believe is Latin America’s biggest voiceover event. This trip has also taken me to Cincinnati, and New York.
A Twitter commenter, seeing a 5AM shot of me on another piece of American Airlines metal, wondered, “how do you find time to record?”
It’s a great question. More to the point, how do I find time to maintain a thriving VO career, which still accounts for around 70% of my income, when I’m hopping around the world doing workshops, running conferences, and generally living the Life of Riley?
Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible. Yes, I traveled and did events even then, but I either schlepped a bag full of gear or, in many cases, just lost out on work. And, don’t get me wrong. When I’m traveling around today, I do pass on auditions that aren’t high-dollar or aren’t red hot demands from agents/manager/buyers, and I do often turn down smaller jobs when I’m on the road.
However, I have a tool today that I did not have ten years ago that more than makes up for it. My website.
Yes, I did have a website ten years ago, and a good one. But it was not nearly as visible as the one I have today. My original designer did a great job, and my first SEO guy got the ball rolling to where I popped up on page one of search from time to time, but it was never a priority or major investment. About 6-7 years ago, when I decided it was time for a thorough redesign of my website, I had a domain authority in the high teens or low twenties. Now, I’m speaking as an educated layman here, but your domain authority is essentially the measurable metric of credibility that Google and other search engines assign to your website, and it affects how highly you rank when someone searches for things that are matches for your content or business. You can see yours at https://ahrefs.com/website-authority-checker
So, six or seven years ago, with a domain authority in the high teens or so, I popped up reasonably early in some searches, later in others, and was landing a buyer or two per week through my website, which is functionally a voice actor’s storefront. Not bad, but certainly not enough to keep up with the work I booked through agents, other rosters, casting platforms, and marketing. It was a nice extra.
When I first reached out to Joe Davis and Karin Barth at voiceactorwebsites.com it was mostly about freshening up the look of my site, which they did an amazing job of. But, I quickly came to realize that their true killer app is their understanding of search engine optimization and helping make my page rank highly.
After a process of refreshing and rebranding the site, we turned our attention to search. Ultimately, I settled on a monthly budget of $1,500 for SEO, including acquiring backlinks that would help give my site more authority and credibility. I’ll be having Joe on a Gravy for the Brain workshop in October to talk about what all that means in more detail, but the bottom line is that the skill of my SEO team and the investment I’ve made have lead to my domain authority more than doubling, to what at last check was a robust 42 (out of a possible 100.) Consider that billion dollar companies and institutions typically rank in the 90s, and the top casting platforms, with tens of millions of dollars behind them, are in the 70s, and that gives you an idea of what a domain authority of 42 means for an individual voice actor.
This also coincided with a very distinct shift in the way younger buyers are hiring voice actors.
We are in the midst of the second casting revolution. Almost twenty years ago, online casting platforms popped into existence and changed much of how the game is played. Today, for the first time, they are in decline, either running fewer jobs through their platforms or experiencing far slower aggregate growth than in the past. This is because younger buyers have shifted their preferences when it comes to hiring voice actors.
Having been nibbled to death by extortionate commissions and fees on casting sites, and having grown up being subjected to unfair labor practices by gig economy companies, greedy landlords adding more fees and charges to their rent, out of control tipping culture, and service fees for walking across the street or just existing, today’s 25-35 year-olds are tired of everyone having a hand in their pocket. So, over the past 5 years, they have started to come directly to us and have actively begun bypassing any and all middlemen, including casting platforms which were popular with this age group when they first appeared in the mid-2000’s. As such, voiceover artists with sites ranking highly in search have been seeing an exponential increase in traffic and business.
Seven years ago, I booked an average of a job or two per week through my site with around twenty unique visitors per week. Today, with nearly twenty unique visitors per day, (and most of these being LA and NYC IP addresses,) my website is acting as a spiderweb that is collecting on average almost two bookings at market rates DAILY. And with this, I’ve discovered a newfound freedom.
Today, I’m working from storefront brick and mortar pro studios more than at any time since the early 2000’s. I was on a workshop tour in Seattle when one of my more recent big national jobs came in a few weeks back, and I popped in, banged out about a dozen spots and several dozen tags, took the opportunity to hit a couple high-priority auditions, and then went to a 1PM Mariners game because Wednesday. This is becoming more and more standard operating procedure. Landed in Cincinnati this past weekend for another workshop, and hit a friend’s studio before I even checked into the hotel, (thanks, Bobbi!) Workshop Saturday, Bengals game Sunday, then on to Miami and beyond, with more studio stops along the way to handle the work that comes in, and no terror over missing small or medium-sized opportunities. And all because my own storefront, my website, is doing the work for me after a concerted period of effort and investment into making it a booking engine. It’s like I’ve reverse-engineered a voiceover career from days gone by, where we weren’t tethered to home studios or bags of gear. It’s incredibly liberating.
The best part? YOU don’t need a $1,500/month budget. Joe and Karin recommend $500 as a good monthly SEO budget to move the needle, but even less will get you started. If you’re voice is more niche, or your genre focus less broad, you can find yourself ranking in search even more quickly, especially in undersaturated genres like political commercials and medical narration.
Whatever your budget or ability to invest both time and effort, there’s no denying that the industry is once again undergoing a substantial shift in casting habits, and your web presence will drive your ability to compete in the future. What are you doing to make that happen?