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A discussion about voice-acting, the gig economy, and hardships faced during growth
In today's most obvious statement, the internet and connectivity changed everything. It changed how we conduct business, how we connect with friends, and how we catch a ride in the city.
How we apply for work also changed and for those of us in the gig economy, it simultaneously made things easier and more competitive in one fell swoop. For me, it was writing and freelance editing, for others it was web and graphic design, and for others, voice acting work changed when online services began popping up to connect companies with actors.
Voices.com is one such company and I had the chance to interview David Ciccarelli, co-founder and CEO of Voices.com. You can check out the interview in its entirety below.
Care to introduce yourself and your role with Voices.com?
My name is David Ciccarelli, the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Voices.com.
In just a few sentences, what is Voices.com?
Voices.com is the online marketplace that connects business clients with professional voice talent: you know, the people who do voice-overs for radio and TV commercials, podcasts, audiobooks, online videos and more.
What inspired the creation of the company?
After opening a recording studio in London, Ontario, I got my name and photo in the local newspaper introducing me to the business community. The article caught the eye of a singer named Stephanie, who came to my studio for a tour in hopes of recording a demo to promote her career. At the same time, a number of local businesses approached me to record voice-overs for their businesses and they wanted a female voice.
Naturally, I called Stephanie up and asked if she’d consider returning to the studio and recording the commercials with the understanding that we'd split the money. Shortly thereafter, we put together a website offering voice-overs which attracted freelancers asking to be listed on the site. We always said yes (and somewhere in here, Stephanie and I also got married).
We realized then that voice talent needed an innovative, intuitive platform to record and audition for jobs online, rather than the traditional method of recording in-studio or mailing tapes and CDs. Likewise, clients needed a fast, easy way to find talent, hear what they sounded like reading from their script, and hiring them to complete the job.
The internet has been a huge catalyst for the gig economy (obviously), do you think it will continue to grow or will it plateau soon?
There are always more opportunities when new technologies emerge; the gig economy is a beneficiary of that for sure. We’ve seen it most recently in AI with synthetic voice.
What hardships did you encounter in the early days?
Some obstacles we overcame in the early days included getting loans from banks as a young couple running a business. Back then, it wasn’t easy walking into a bank with a baby stroller to ask for a business loan as the owner of an online business selling a digital product.
We also learned the hard way that it isn’t a good idea to continue to employ underperformers that aren’t paying their way in a sales role while neglecting to pay ourselves as owners of the business. We would decide which of us (either myself or my wife/co-founder) would cash their check first and the other spouse would wait a couple weeks to go to the bank and deposit their check.
After too long of a time doing that, we drew a line in the sand and decided that we would never do that again. Doing so was not only foolish personally, but it also put the business itself in jeopardy.
The voice acting process is not something I'm really familiar with - why should a company look for actors through your service? What is the alternative?
Simply put, finding voice talent on Voices.com is fast, it’s easy and you’re going to find what you’re looking for. We have quality talent on the site working around the world, so barriers of geography and time are pretty much non-existent.
The alternative that people use if they’ve not yet entered the world of online casting is to call up an agency to find talent. That takes time and as a client, you have less connection to the work that is being done.
If you are someone who wants to maintain control of the creative process, jumping in the director’s chair yourself is one of the best options. If you like the idea of finding exactly what you want but are strapped for time and energy to run through a casting yourself, working with an account manager on our Full-Service team is a resource you won’t want to be without.
Flip it, why should voice actors use your service?
Freedom. Voice actors want the freedom to work from home studios, the freedom to choose what jobs they audition for and also control what they charge for their voice over services.
You don’t need an agent these days to get opportunities that only a decade ago were well beyond the reach of the workaday actor. It’s amazing how far a voice actor can take themselves when they sense they are in control of their business.
Stories of very successful voice actors who launched their careers at Voices.com (often booking their first job with us!) are common and it’s a privilege to serve them on their voice over journey.
What is the monetization structure? What do you make money on?
We have a few revenue streams. Clients can post jobs for free, and when they have found the voice actor they want to work with, the transaction is completed on Voices.com. The talent quotes what they want to be paid and we add 20% platform fee on top of the talent fee.
If a client wants to work with an account manager (along with the account manager comes access to a project administrator and finance associate), we also charge fees for project management. Another revenue stream is voice talent subscriptions. Our flagship voice talent membership, called Premium, presently retails at $499 USD per year.
Anything new or exciting coming to the service in the coming months?
To help marketers and creative people stay on top of the latest trends, we’ve been surveying our community and publishing the results of the key findings.
Recently, we surveyed almost 2,000 creatives and scoured the Voices.com database to reveal future trends in voiceover, including the gig economy, gender pay equity, the most sought after vocal qualities and more. You can download the report for free here.
I'd like to thank David for taking the time to answer some of my questions.
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