You might not recognize them on the street, but that doesn’t mean voice actors can’t enjoy the same demand and variety of work as their on-camera peers. After all, “The tongue can paint what the eyes can’t see”, as the Chinese proverb goes.
While the voiceover industry is still burgeoning in Australia, it’s one that’s growing at an exponential rate. And if the U.S. and European markets are anything to go by, it looks set to continue doing so. In this guide, we’ll break down how to become a voice actor in Australia—everything from voiceover training to the top agencies for voiceover artists across Sydney and Melbourne. If you’re ready to get started with voiceover work, you’ve come to the right place.
Voiceover is an ever-expanding field of work that relies solely on an actor’s vocal performance. It’s work that’s often somewhat overlooked and under-valued, but actually encapsulates a wealth of storytelling opportunities that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to on stage or screen.
Voiceover currently comes in many forms, and with the way the industry is evolving, will likely take on many others in the years to come. However, the most common examples at present include:
- Animated TV and film
- Video games
- Scripted podcasts and audioplays
While many individuals choose to pursue voice acting exclusively, it’s an open and very inclusive arena. Bringing a “pure” acting background to the table is advantageous as you’ll already have a thorough understanding of story and character, but voiceover is still a different playground with its own demands and nuance. Think of it like stage and screen: two different playgrounds, but the ability to play in both is absolutely possible when you know the rules.
Like many artistic endeavours, formal training isn’t a mandatory prerequisite to starting your voiceover career. That said, building, developing, and maintaining your instrument and skillset will increase your chances of success.
Drama schools now tend to include at least a module or two of voiceover work within their voice curriculum, so if you happen to be studying at WAAPA, NIDA, or VCA, you’ll get a solid basic introduction here.
If this isn’t you, finding yourself an external group voiceover class is a great alternative. Once you have this initial foundation, you might choose to then work with a vocal coach one-on-one—especially in preparation for an audition or gig.
Another approach to training is to hone your ear by consuming a wide range of content from the mediums you’re interested in. Are you dying to voice the next Xbox or Playstation blockbuster? Set aside some time to play. Ask yourself, “What works? What doesn’t?” Find out how closely you can mimic these performances.
For those that would instead prefer to follow in David Attenborough’s footsteps, what subject(s) does your voice most naturally lend itself to? Perhaps you have that same extraordinary capacity to bring the world’s oceans and rainforests to life. But perhaps you narrate true-crime effortlessly. Study, study, study—it’s never been easier or more affordable.
Just as in the acting world, there are several tools that become necessary to acquire as you progress. A voiceover-specific CV is one. Don’t worry if you don’t have much (or anything) to show in the beginning, we all start somewhere. Keep it simple and include your contact details, playing age, vocal quality, and any relevant training.
Similarly, you’ll want to start working towards piecing together a professionally produced voice reel to send off with your submissions. The principles are exactly the same as your “traditional” acting showreel: lead with your best material, and aim to keep it concise (around 60 seconds is ideal). As you get more experience, having a separate voice reel for each medium is standard practice: a video game reel for video game castings, a commercial reel for commercial castings etc.
Eventually, you may also decide to invest in setting up a home voiceover studio. This not only enables you to work from home (and as voice actor Nicholas McKay points out, “in your pyjamas”), but also makes you more attractive to potential clients. However, this is a move probably best to save until you have built some interest or momentum, as it does require upfront costs.
The amount a voiceover actor can make in Australia depends on a number of factors, but it’s an unquestionably lucrative industry now worth millions.
Yet, as a result, it’s a highly competitive field and should be thought of akin to acting: only a small percentage of artists make their living from this work alone.
However, when you do book that coveted first gig, you’ll notice several fees listed in the contract. This can include a day rate and residuals for animated projects, while commercials will be paid per the ad length and proposed usage.
In Australia, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance website is the best resource for checking the latest legislation around minimums and requirements, but to provide two examples for illustrative purposes, a six-hour day on an animated TV project would come with a base pay of $990.46, while a 15–30 second radio commercial with a 12-month usage would start at $1,190.
While having a voiceover agent is not a be-all-end-all, they can certainly help get you into rooms you’d otherwise struggle to find your own way into. Fortunately, Australia has a number of highly-respected agencies across the country that represent our most beloved Aussie voices (think Nicholas McKay, Lee Perry, Jim Pike, Jo Van Es and Matt Wills).
The most dominant are EM Voice and RMK Voices. You’d almost have to be living under a rock to go through a day without hearing from a good handful of their clients.
Breakdown: Sydney and Melbourne offices. 3 agents, 196 clients.
Submission policy: Direct email submission with a professionally produced voice reel attached as an MP3.
Breakdown: Sydney and Melbourne offices. 5 agents, 121 clients.Submission policy: Direct email submission with a professionally produced commercial voice reel attached as an MP3. Must be Sydney or Melbourne based.
Beyond this, many of our leading acting agencies have dedicated voice departments too, and are absolutely worth a look. Yael Stone, Lisa McCune and Sam Worthington have all opted to be represented this way, for instance.
Lisa Mann Creative Management
Breakdown: Sydney office. 7 agents, 88 clients.
Submission policy: Direct email submission with a CV and voice reel attached as an MP3.
Breakdown: Sydney office. 1 agent, 42 clients.
Submission policy: Open to RGM represented actors only.
Breakdown: Sydney office. 7 agent, 135 clients.
Submission policy: Direct email submission with a CV and voice reel attached as an MP3.
Online casting websites can be a beneficial investment too, regardless of whether you’re represented or not. Some popular casting sites in Australia do occasionally list voiceover roles, but they tend to be for major productions only. Therefore, creating a complementary profile on Backstage, Starnow, and/or Voices.com, could be a good move if you’d like to be considered for a wider range of smaller and independent projects too.
Building your own network is an empowering practice, no matter where you are in your career or whatever medium you’d like to work in. Having your own contacts and connections not only acts as a safety net should you move from one agent to another (or decide to go out on your own), but will stand you in good stead over time. After all, we all prefer to work with people we already know, like, and trust.
Circling back to our earlier point, knowing the particular voiceover mediums you’re most attracted to, and spending some serious time in these spaces, will equip you with a level of familiarity and insider knowledge that will separate you from the pack.
So, if you have your heart set on voicing video games, research and reach out to the gaming production houses in your state and around the country. Introduce yourself. Compliment them on their work you like. Ask how they’ve previously sourced voiceover talent, and get yourself on their books if they have them.
Ditto if you dream of bringing to life the latest audiobooks. Who are the production companies behind them? How do they typically find talent? Are you able to meet with anyone in these buildings?
The wonderful thing about being a voiceover actor is that you can enjoy a comparatively long “life span” in the game (provided you take good care of your voice!), and you can do the work while on or between screen and stage jobs, so it makes sense to start cultivating a strong network of your own today.
If you’d like to dive deeper into the world of voiceover, check out more on Backstage about voiceover, including interviews with industry professionals, advice on how to market yourself, and the latest audition opportunities around Australia.
Check out Backstage’s Australia audition listings!