Actors: You Already Have Most of the Skills Needed For Voiceover Work

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Last week, we talked about the different ways actors can get voiceover work. Here, I’ll fill you in on why, as an actor, getting this kind of work will be easier. Let’s take a look at what a professional voiceover artist’s skills actually are, and why as an actor, you likely already possess most of them:

1. They need to have a good grounding and experience in microphone technique.
There is no getting around this one. At Gravy For The Brain, we’ve trained over 34,000 students to become pro’ voiceover artists. The starting point of all our training and the bit you really need to get right is the mic-technique. If you don’t have this nailed you will forever be tripping yourself up. As an actor, you’ve been to drama school and the chances are you have already done a little on-mic work.

2. They need to have a good grounding and experience in the technical aspects of delivering dialogue in a voiceover capacity.
Alongside your mic technique, the delivery of dialogue is also obviously important. This includes how to frame your mouth when preparing for a line, how to inhale, pause and deliver, committing to the sentence until the end, how to properly project for the subject material, and how to create range in your vocal performances.

3. They need to know how to run their own voiceover business, branding, and marketing.
You’ve all been doing this for years with your headshots, spotlight pages, promoting yourself and more! You probably also already have your own portfolio, website— and maybe even your own logo. You’re used to dealing with media-based employment contracts and the terminology, working inside and outside the unions – the job’s nearly done!

READ: How to Actually Get Voiceover Work in a Crowded Industry

4. They need to have a professional outlook, a professional appearance, and conduct themselves in a professional manner.
As an actor, you’re used to being in the media industry. You are either already employed as an actor or you’ve tried to get acting work. At the very least, you know that a professional outlook is mandatory and you’re going to get nowhere without it. You know how to respect your clients, move within the industry, and not piss people off!

5. They need to know how to act. (By which I mean, “Acting, darling,” rather than how to behave.)
This is the key skill in your armory and the one that sets you apart from the majority of voiceover artists who haven’t had dramatic training.

You don’t know it yet (because you’re not a pro voiceover artist), but you are already directly suited to work in gaming, animations, radio plays, and more. Even more than that, you’re suited to many more types of voiceover than you think because you’re already an actor. What is being a Voice of God if God is not a character that can be played?

6. They need to know how to properly develop real characters with depth, and conversely, how to develop and manage caricatures when appropriate.
See above. If you can’t do this as an actor, then you aren’t an actor. Again, this is where those who haven’t had dramatic training fall down—they can create characters but they tend to be relatively superficial and sound like they are trying to do a voice rather than being that character (at least at the start of their careers). As actors, you know there is a world of difference. It’s looking quite good for you so far isn’t it?

READ: Ready For Your First Voice Acting Coach? Here's What To Know

7. They need to know how to approach, perform, and convert castings.
Isn’t it amazing how similar the worlds of acting and voiceover are? You’re an actor, you get roles by casting for them. You have this in the bag. Well, you nearly have this in the bag.

Casting is the key to jumping the queue on all the voiceover artists who aren’t actors. As a casting director, 90 percent of what comes across my desk is rubbish, which means it’s very easy for you to stand out.

8. They need voiceover subject-specific training.
This is one you probably don’t have already, but that’s ok! The most important thing to remember is that there is a huge difference between each of the field (audiobooks, gaming, commercials, etc.), and each requires a different approach that you just can’t (and shouldn’t) learn in front of clients.

The approach to gaming, for example, (and I’ve cast and directed over 190 of them, from Harry Potter to the Olympic Games) is completely different from the approach to audiobooks. If you approached an audiobook the same way as a game, the producers would look at you very strangely and say, “Poor thing, he just doesn’t get it.” They are worlds apart.

The beauty of this, however, is that it makes your job and your career as a voice artist massively varied and interesting! One day you’ll be playing a ship’s captain on a game, the next you’ll be rousing an audience in a high-flying hotel as the voice of God, for five days after that you’ll be recording the latest romance novel, and then it’s on to selling beauty products.

9. They need experience and a résumé to back them up.
I suspect as an actor you have quite a lot of experience, even if it’s not in voiceover specifically. But listen. Come close, I’ll tell you a secret: Your acting experience is not differentiated as acting and voiceover on your resume by casting directors and voice directors. We see it as all the same. So if you already have experience as an actor, you already have experience as a voice artist!

Great! So I can go and get voiceover work now?

While it’s quite easy to get a voiceover job, it’s much harder to get re-hired. If you aren’t on the money the first time a client sees you, you won’t get hired the second time. First impressions count.

Reputations are easily broken in this industry and as casting directors, once bitten we are way more than shy—we almost never hire that voiceover artist again. So learning on the job is an iffy solution. What do I recommend instead? Using those skills you already have as an actor (likely six of the nine mentioned above), and spending some time getting voiceover-specific training to get you up to speed. More on that next week!

Hugh Edwards is an active voice director and casting director with over 190 game, film, TV, and cinema titles to his name, including Harry Potter for Kinect, “Iron Man 2,” Captain America,” the Beijing Olympic Games, and many more. He is also the CEO of Gravy For The Brain, which specializes in voiceover education, events, and mentoring. Hugh has won numerous awards for his work including Best Audio at the RDC, Best Post Production House at the TMT Awards, and was nominated for no less than seven Best Audio Outsourcer awards at the Develop Awards. Follow Hugh on Twitter or Facebook.

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Hugh Edwards
Hugh Edwards is an active Voice Director and Casting Director with over 190 game, film, TV, and cinema titles to his name. He is the CEO of Gravy For The Brain who specialize in Voiceover Education, Events and Mentoring.