With many years on both sides of the microphone, we’ve accumulated vital knowledge about creating a successful voiceover career. More importantly, we’ve learned from journeying with our students from their first lesson to their first agency booking. Ultimately, every successful voice actor learns from working with an assortment of competent teachers. Below we are joined by several VO pros who know what it takes.
Pat Fraley, Teacher/Performer
Follow passion first, rather than practical. Many will tell you that there is so much competition in voiceover. Really? Try getting a job with the U.S. Postal Service.
My father used to tell me, “Son, nothin’ is easy, and nothin’ pays enough.” Truism. Work and train for what advances your God-given talents and passion. After that, work on your weaknesses—which for me was commercial performance. You will be hired for what you do best, and not hired for what you do poorly. If commercials or whatever are not your cup of tea, get better. Address the polar ends of your abilities in this order: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Joan Baker, Voice Actor, Teacher, Author
Breaking into voiceover is a challenging endeavor. Look deep within yourself and ask if the possibility of this career truly lights your fire. The degree of expertise needed and mastery required can be daunting. Basic acting is essential. This is where you learn to perform a script with authentic inspiration and then replicate or revise that performance as directed. Find a teacher with at least five to seven years of full time teaching. Additionally, ask your teacher for references from students who have gone on to secure agents and jobs. Cultivate the skills that will inspire an agent to invest in you. Learn the business. Remember, you’re not the only one trying to get ahead, so look for where you can be of service to others.
Dave Walsh, Voiceover Coach
As a voice actor and coach, I feel the key to getting work in the voiceover market of 2016 is by maximizing the power and identity of your brand—your craft, your demo, website, and social media presence—and truly understanding its unique value. I always tell my coaching clients that they have more power in booking by proactively focusing on the specificity of how they tell a story rather than reactively worrying about how someone else tells theirs. Creative execs still desire our originality. We don’t fulfill that need by simply having the perfect voice. For story doesn’t originate in sound, but in the soul. Trust your gut and the voice will follow—and so will the bookings.
Scott Parkin, Voice Actor/Teacher
Put down your phone. Put down your damn phone! It takes us everywhere to see everyone at once, and it’s amazing at taking us away from where we really need to be: in a state of preparedness. Yes, know your lines and possible paths for improvisation, but be yourself. Many auditions start with an interview. Have something interesting or entertaining to say, and be prepared to say it in half the time. Think less about everything. When I think hard about a role, I tend to get locked into one path. It can make you less nimble and directable. Be nice to everyone—casting assistants, actors— everyone. Justifiably or not, being upset takes focus and energy. We are acting, take it, seriously but not yourself…so much.
The Price of Success
Chuck Duran and Stacey J. Aswad
Hosts of VO BUZZ Weekly
Achieving the rewards of success in any relationship or business we feel comes at a worthwhile price. In the end, instant gratification is never as rewarding as lifelong success.
The non-negotiable ingredients for success are: knowing your worth, dedication, hard work, persistence, passion, quest for knowledge, sacrifice, discipline, creating short and long-term goals, accountability, gratitude, humility, confidence, focus, visualization, stretching outside your comfort zone, taking risks, perseverance, and of course, a sense of humor.
Realizing success is like compounding interest. Making daily investments in your dreams over time, no matter how small, brings abundant returns. After all, a penny doubled every day for 30 days is over $10 million. Always remember that the price of success is much cheaper than the cost of regret.
Social Media Marketing
Nancy Wolfson, Virtual Casting Director and VO Coach
- Congratulate to connect.
- Follow influencer gurus; never beg follow-backs.
- Share stuff beyond your business.
- Know this industry and study trade publications.
- Voice a positive disruption.
- Avoid painfully inauthentic pre-scheduled tweeting; “Hear my toe spray spot!” can’t pop amid “Breaking News: Bowie Dead.”
- Work harder than retweets.
- Enough emojis already.
- Learn who welcomes contact where.
- Check spelling/grammar—twice.
- Engage during major media broadcasts.
- Invest in proven top market advice.
- Comedy is a risk.
- Bake actions into every day.
- Play with purpose in your brand plan.
The Demo Reel
Rudy Gaskins, Creative Director/Producer
The demo reel is a living, breathing, traveling showcase. It circulates among the desktops and mobile devices of agents, producers, and buyers. For an agent, your demo answers one question. Is the actor marketable to my client base? There is no little league. All demos compete for the same ears. Highly produced, professionally written, thoughtfully targeted demos cut through. To do this, you must replicate the production environment that produces “actual” work. For best results, create your demo with a seasoned director and audio engineer in a state-of-the-art recording studio.
Inspired by this story? Check out our voiceover audition listings!
Joan Baker is the author of "Secrets of Voiceover Success," and the winner of multiple Promax and Telly awards for commercial and documentary voiceover performances. She is an actor, voice actor, and teacher. Baker trains individuals and groups in the craft of voice acting and VO career management. She has written trade articles for Backstage, Adweek, Multichannel and Broadcast & Cable.
Rudy Gaskins, is an Emmy Award-winning creative director and branding expert. He launched Push Creative Advertising in 2001, after holding executive roles at Court TV and Food Network. His accounts span American Express, Tribeca Film Festival, Lexus and BET. Rudy has written, produced and directed hundreds of commercials, promos, and marketing campaigns and has directed documentaries for PBS.
Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins are the co-founders of That’s Voiceover!, an annual career expo, and the creators of the newly formed Society of Voice Arts and Sciences and the Voice Arts Awards.
The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.