On Friday I had a great lunch with an amazing producer and aspiring full time voice-over performer and the subject came up… “Do I need an agent?” That subject is coming up more and more often these days and the answer is incredibly nuanced. So how does a voice-over performer know when the time is right or whether they need an agent at all? Hopefully, this short guide can help. I am going to ask some rudimentary questions and depending on how you respond, you will have your answers.
Are You Just Beginning Your Career?
If you are, you generally do not need an agent. Agents don’t have time to develop careers like they did in the past, plus you are likely to only see very narrow casting specs which you fit. Instead, you will need to “beat the bushes. ” Fortunately, you have the Internet and social media so you can ask others what they recommend.
The exceptions to this rule are if you are roughly between the ages of 20-30, sound your age, and have fairly good technical skills to audition at home. Agents all over the country are always looking for the next “big thing,” and those are usually men and women who can “grow into their voice.”
Where Do You Live?
If you are in NY, LA or Chicago, you have an advantage, because the agents in those cities are handling the lion’s share of the most lucrative business. By living in those cities, you have an opportunity to meet those agents personally, and develop relationships and build your business. If you don’t live in those cities, I would pursue agents in smaller voice markets like Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco etc. They will not necessarily have the “biggest” jobs, but they will have some excellent opportunities while being more tolerant that you are not local.
Are You Making Money?
Whether you are working consistently with PTP sites or smaller agents, almost any agent wants to know if you are having success. Demos, regardless of how great they sound, are often misleading. As much as I trust my own ears, for instance, I’d rather know what the market has to say about a talent than bet on my instincts alone. Past and present earnings end up being a vital barometer for future success, so make the leap when you are ready.
Are You Looking to focus on SAG/AFTRA commercials and/or Promos?
Both high-end commercials and promos are dominated by the NY, LA, and Chicago agents. In fact, so are narrations, and to a much smaller degree, trailers. If you believe you are ready to jump into those incredibly competitive waters, then you have no choice but to pursue the big market agents.
Are You A Collaborator?
This is a final point. If you micromanage your career and want undivided attention paid to you and your future, you don’t want an agent (nor will agents likely want to work with you). Having an agent is a collaborative process but your relationship is at best a 90/10 partnership. Agents are generally consumed with hundreds of clients and they do their best to service as many as possible. If you can’t accept that kind of relationship, then you will always have “problems” with your agent and may not want to even go down that road.