I recently encountered not one, not two, but three weird situations which involved both the perception and the reality of voiceover coaches.
Weird Situation #1
Two weeks ago I posted a blog about storytelling. Here’s a comment that was posted on said blog entry from a “Rick Jonie”:
I agree with you on being a storyteller over trying to be the story. It’s an important reminder for voice-over actors. Did you have any training done? I’m only wondering because I heard about this voice-over acting school in New York I wanted to try. It’s called The Voice Shop at CMD. Do you know much about them?
The comment struck me as…odd. The other thing that struck me as odd was that he listed his website as Voice Shop Coaching dot com.
I did a little Google-izing. He has no voiceover website, demos, or seems to be listed on any online casting site. All I could find online about Mr. Jonie is him commenting on various blogs over the years and mentioning The Voice Shop at CMD on some of them. This was my reply:
All I know about them is that you have been extolling their virtues in blog comments for years on multiple platforms (even though you said that you want to try them out) but I can’t find any information about you as a voice talent. Are you really Rick Jonie? If so, I’d love to see your website and listen to your demos. Feel free to reply with a link.
Shockingly, there was no response.
I think there is no Rick Jonie. I think it’s a fake name used by someone to promote The Voice Shop. That’s my opinion and if I’m wrong I will be happy to post a retraction. But I think I’m right. If I am right AND “Rick Jonie” actually works for The Voice Shop, that is some shady garbage right there.
NOTE: “Rick Jonie” did make a comment on another blog post of mine a few weeks ago and it seemed perfectly normal. Maybe he (or she) was buttering me up for the Voice Shop sell, but who knows.
Weird Situation #2
Last week, an aspiring voice talent posted some good questions in a Facebook group. A number of voice talents gave some great advice. Concerning the question of finding a good voiceover coach, one voice talent said that finding an ethical voice coach is like finding an ethical used car dealer. I don’t think he was kidding. I voiced my umbrage and, well, it didn’t go well. He continued to question my integrity and disparage all voice coaches.
NOTE: the “coaches hater” either left the Facebook group or was kicked out shortly thereafter the conversation.
Weird Situation #3
Also last week, someone posted on the same Facebook group about how wonderful a particular voice coach is. It turns out the someone who made the post is the business partner of the lauded coach. A highly-respected voiceover pro called him out and the poster took umbrage. Umbrage is my new favorite word. Am I using it right?
NOTE: The next day the poster posted another post lauding the voiceover coach in question, but this time he included a disclaimer acknowledging his business relationship to the coach.
What do we make of all this?
TIP OF THE WEEK
There are a lot of voiceover coaches out there, too many if you ask me (read this recent blog entry to get my views on that). Many charge reasonable rates and comport themselves with integrity and class. Many others are hacks that only want your money. It’s pretty clear that the crappy coaches are making it harder for the rest of us to ply our trade. How can you tell the difference between a good voiceover coach and a shyster?
Do…Your…Research. Why do I find myself writing this tip every freaking week?
Here are some things to look out for when researching voiceover coaches:
Their online presence. Go to their websites and listen to their demos. Read their testimonials. Go to various casting sites and look them up. Are they on Fiverr? Voices Dot Com? Notable exceptions include folks like casting directors who may not necessarily have a background in performance but can get the right performance out of you (e.g. David Goldberg, Mary Lynn Wissner)
Interaction: good voiceover coaches are good listeners. They will ask you good questions (your previous experience, training, your goals, etc.) and listen to your answers carefully to determine if they are the right coach for you and what kind of coaching you need to get you to the next level. For example, when I do a VO Strategist Diagnostic Session, I spend the first 30 minutes doing nothing but asking the student questions about every aspect of their voiceover business. That’s the only way I can help find the holes in their business model and help them to patch them up.
If they’re a demo coach, the number of sessions before demo production: this number varies, but in my experience 4-6 sessions is the average amount of time. Any coach that tries to give you only one lesson before a demo session is not setting you up for success. Any coach that tries to string you along with too many sessions is taking you for a ride.
Price: if the price is too good to be true for a demo, it probably is. As to coaching, look for positive signs like free 15-minute consults and single-session rates. Be wary of coaches trying to sign you up for multiple sessions from the outset, especially if they didn’t ask you good questions.
To give you a head start, these are just some of the coaches/demo producers/mentors that I trust & recommend:
Commercial: J. Michael Collins
Automotive: Cliff Zellman
Narration: Carol Monda
Audio Books: Johnny Heller
Audio Book Business Consulting: Jeff Kafer
Animation: Kara Edwards
Video Games: Jay Snyder
Toys/Games/Kids: Lisa Biggs
Business & Marketing: Anne Ganguzza
If you want to recommend any other coaches that you had a great experience with, feel free to comment.