Are You a Pro? How Do You Know?

by | Dec 3, 2014 | Professional Voice Over Organizations

professional-expYou may think that’s an elementary question. 

There are plenty of arguments you could make to claim legitimacy as a professional voice actor.

For instance, you might say you’re a professional voice-actor ’cause:

  • you depend on it for part or all of your income
  • you’ve been at this for years
  • you have lots of clients
  • you’re SAG-AFTRA
  • you’re serious about your commitment
  • you’ve created a VO LLC or a Sub-S corp
  • you have a website, business cards, and demos
  • you’ve spent thousands on equipment and training

 Wanted: Formal Definition

But what if you were responsible for formally setting down the parameters that DEFINE a professional voice-actor?  Could you do that in objective, measurable, quantifiable terms?

Organizers of the highly-respected FaffCon unconferences clearly state their definition of a “working” voiceover professional as:  “We consider you to be a working pro if you’re hired by others on an ongoing basis to do professional-level voiceovers;  being paid spendable money, by non-relatives, to work on recorded, spoken word projects”.

Fair enough.  But what if you’ve been paid $25, 10 times on Fiverr, earning a total $250?  What if you’ve narrated 10 audiobooks from 10 unique publishers on ACX under their Royalty Share program, and total sales so far on all those 10 titles is less than $100?

We all start somewhere, but do the above examples make you a “pro”…or an intern…an apprentice…a newbie?

Where do you draw the line?  Do you combine the Fiverr payments with the fact that you have a website, and call THAT a pro?

Objectivity Needed

The temptation is to be subjective in the assessment of a professional voice actor.  Could a committee of voice-over peers decide pro-or-no based on objective evidence, and such things as reputation?  In this scenario there are too many fears of cronyism, human judgement miscalculations, and despotism. 

No.  To be serious, fair, and credible, a defendable definition of a voiceover pro needs to be OBJECTIVE, MEASURABLE, QUANTIFIABLE.  The integrity of the process matters.  In any case where a human assesses the professionalism of another human, there had better be a strong set of defining rules to fall back on.

Another proposal is to grade the “pro” on hard dollars earned in the last year.  Fine.  Is that gross or net?  Where would you set the line?

Why This Matters

So what CourVO?  Who cares?  Well…we care.  We, meaning WoVO (World-Voices Organization, the only industry trade association for voice actors).

Our search for ethical, fair, and transparent leadership in this business takes us to THIS debate over what constitutes a pro.  We already accept two levels of competency as full members:  associate and pro.  Obviously, the preference is to rise to the level of “pro”… and that’s where the grey areas start to appear…that’s where the Fiverrs and the objective criteria begin to be questioned.

So it’s not just a rhetorical intellectual exercise.  People’s reputations are at stake.  Not only do we need the definition, but we need to set a STANDARD.  That’s what industry trade associations do…’cause no one else does…not the union, not your agent, not your mom.

We think we’re dealing with some serious issues no one else has dared tackle before.  Not SAG-AFTRA.  Pay your dues and you’re a member.  Yes, they have stated minimums (scale) for a host of defined jobs, but does that make you a pro?

See?  Not as easy as you thought, huh?

I welcome your thoughts on this.  Better yet, join WoVO ( and join in the debate first-hand!





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