A word you’ll hear over and over again in your voice-over career is “niche.” You’ll find yourself being advised to “find your niche” and admonished to do “niche marketing.” (You can pronounce it “neesh” or “nitch.” Either way is fine.)
A voice-over niche describes a very specific area of the voice-over industry. In other words, a drilled-down segment of an overall market.
For example, one market in the voice-over industry is narration. Niches in that market can include:
- corporate narration
- documentary narration
- medical narration
- e-learning narration
Another example is audiobooks. Niches in that market can include:
- romance novels
Another is television commercials. Niches in that market can include:
- senior citizens/retired persons issues
- teen and tween products and programs
- automobiles, men’s toiletries, power tools
- hospitality, travel, and tourism
If you’ll look at each example here, you can imagine that the voice, the delivery, the gender of the voice actor, the tone of voice, the age, etc. are all very important considerations in the creation of each of these audio products.
A self-help audiobook on overcoming anxiety for senior citizens would require a very different voice and delivery than a television commercial for back-to-school clothes for teens. A PBS documentary on World War II would require a very different voice and delivery than a television commercial for laundry soap.
Your actual voice, that is, how you sound, your gender and your delivery will certainly influence which niche you can apply yourself to.
For example, if you naturally have a high, squeaky, quirky voice, you may be perfect for cartoons, animation, or video games. However you may find it challenging to find work in corporate narration which may require a more mature, authoritative, or business-like tone. So taking into account your natural talents and strengths can be a great help in finding your niche.
Your personal background can also play a part in what segment of voice-over you apply yourself to. If you have familiarity with technical or medical terms, counseling or therapy experience, teaching, equestrian, or travel experience for example, your own life experience can be a great help in determining your niche, or niches.
Your expertise in a particular field can lend itself very nicely to finding a niche in voice-overs.
And the idea of having a niche is a VERY good one. Again, a “niche” being a genre of voice-over that you specifically target, as well as a particular clientele that you formulate your marketing efforts around. For instance, if you excel at medical narrations and wish to specialize in that market specifically, you need only aim your marketing strategies at medical clients.
This is not to say that a voice actor can’t have numerous delivery styles and work in many different types of voice-over. Many voice actors work in a number of different niches. However, generally speaking, you’ll find the most successful voice-over artists usually focus on one or two specific areas of the business. For example movie trailers, animation, or fiction audiobooks.
Focusing on a specific niche also makes delivering your services more streamlined.
If you do the same kind of work every day, you know exactly what to do and how to do it. You know the delivery style the client wants, the recording and editing techniques necessary, and what rates to quote that the industry will bear.
The obvious advantage of having a niche (or niches) is that you can appeal to a very specific voice-over client: High-end beauty spa voice-mail recordings. In-store radio networks. Employee safety videos for human resources. Mass transit voice-overs (bus, train, etc.). Web-based product descriptions. Meditation and relaxation videos. The list is endless!
And many voice-over clients these days are looking for very specific demos from voice actors. If a client is looking for a soothing voice for a relaxation video they’re creating, they won’t want to wade through your detergent commercials or corporate video spots on a demo. You’ll be much more appealing to them if you have a demo that is specifically formulated for their needs: Five or six different spots highlighting your wonderfully soothing and calming voice in a showcase of relaxation audio.
So if you’re wondering whether having niched voice-over demos will benefit your career, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Now, here’s the other side of the coin: Not all clients want to hear only one type of voice-over from you. Many clients will want to hear your range. They’ll want to hear what you’re capable of, from the warm friendly next-door neighbor to the hard-sell automobile ad, from the thoughtful nature documentary to the sexy fashionista.
An ad agency is a good example of a client who’ll want to hear more of your complete range. They have a lot of different customers with many different needs so they’ll want to hear a broad range of your abilities, not just one specific talent. A prospective agent will also want to hear more than just one specific type of read. Having demos that also showcase your entire range is a very good idea.
So here’s your best strategy:
- Have a number of niched demos. That is, demos that specifically target a particular market and contain only recordings that fit into THAT particular niche: Corporate voice-mail recordings, high energy retail commercials for teenagers, romance novel audiobooks, political ads, etc.
- But ALSO have demos that showcase your range of abilities within each market: A narration demo that includes corporate narration, documentary narration, medical narration, and e-learning narration. And a commercial demo that includes high-energy spots, thoughtful health-related spots, dialogue with the opposite sex spots, spots that include wry wit, humor, and emotion.
Expand your voice-over client base by appealing to both voice-seekers: Those who want to hear only one type of delivery from you, as well as those who want to hear your entire range.
Maxine Dunn, voice-over artist and award-winning motivational writer.
Maxine was named one of 2011’s “Top 10 Most Influential Voice-Over Writers” in a Voice123 online survey and named a winner of Constant Contact’s 2011 All-Star Award for her weekly online newsletter, “The Creative Business Advisor.”
Her voice-over marketing advice is featured in the premier voice-acting book “The Art of Voice Acting 4th edition” by James R. Alburger, and her articles are featured regularly on VoiceOverXtra, the voice-over industry’s online news, training and resource center.