6 Myths of Voiceover Acting

After more than 50 combined years in the entertainment industry, examining the unique nature of the voiceover business and craft of voiceover acting, we find ourselves mystified by the persistence of various myths perpetuated among those seeking to break into the voiceover acting industry.

  1. I already have a great sounding voice so voiceover acting should be easy for me.
  2. I’ve been doing kooky voices since I was a kid. I’d be perfect for animation.
  3. Everyone tells me I should do voiceovers.
  4. I’ll be able to quit my job and finally do something I love.
  5. Once I get an agent,I’ll be on my way.
  6. It’s easy work and the money is great.

One of the reasons these myths persist, even today, is the historical inertia of the teachers or voiceover coaches that practice through perpetrating the myths. Again, many will turn away if they hear that voiceover acting is more challenging and competitive than they thought, and that the monetary investment can be substantial. One of the best things about human beings is that we tend to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, that’s also one of the ways by which we are so easily duped by promises of success.

We’ve met many excellent voiceover teachers who are the real deal. They have both theoretical training and practical experience on the job and have maintained long and successfulcareers. They mostly come from the ranks of acting, agenting, casting, and directing. They have three things in common:

They have a knack for imparting their relevant knowledge to others in a meaningful way; they are clearly ethical in the performance of their service to others; and their students move on to compete in the workforce.

The “knack” is everything. We can all recall a special teacher or two who made a huge impact on our lives. Often this knack is a gift that cannot be taught and may take years for the teacher to develop. As a student, you know it when you experience it and you learn of these special teachers through word of mouth. They don’t perpetuate myths or play into the student’s naïveté. They set out to teach you how to get yourself working. Period.

For these teachers, there is nothing more rewarding than to guide a dedicated student from an awkward novice to a confident professional—to witness the student securing an agent and booking her first job. In fact, it is not until the teacher experiences this kind of success, through his students, that he comes into his own as a teacher. One’s experience teaching is at least as important as his practical work experience gained prior to teaching. A teacher without successful students is still learning to teach.

Getting back to the persistence of myths, and assuming we all got good grades in Ethics 101, let’s look once again at the facts behind the myths listed above.

  1. There’s no denying the gift of having a voice that naturally draws positive attention. This fact, however, does not in any way lessen the training you will require to become a voice actor.
  2. Having a handful of kooky voices is great. You’ll need dozens of kooky voices to impress a casting director, and each had better be fully fleshed out with an authentic emotional range. Training is in order.
  3. When people regularly respond positively to your voice—(“You should get into voiceovers!”)—know that it’s your natural speaking voice that they’re hearing. You want to carry over your natural voice into voiceover acting, not the idea of what you or they may think voiceover acting is.
  4. Keep your day job. You won’t be making lots of money in the near future. The results of talent, preparation, persistence, and personal relationships are promised to no one.
  5. You definitely want to acquire an agent, but doing so does not produce jobs. It produces auditions. The voice actor must book the audition in order to have the job.
  6. Voiceover acting is fun and the masters make it look easy, but it is not easy until it becomes easy. Prepare to work through some major ups and downs before you truly get a handle on the craft. Then prepare to work more.

The myths, as we said at the beginning, are persistent. This is the reason we come back to them from time to time. This is why That’s Voiceover!™ and the Voice Arts® Awards are vitally important events to attend. They bring together the world of voiceover acting from the actor to the teacher to the agent, producers, casting directors, and buyers. This is where you have the opportunity tobegin your journey in earnest and on solid footing. Even if you’re an experienced pro, this is where you hone your understanding to the utmost degree and meet key industry players who can forward your career. There’s no GPS system for reaching your destination as a voice actor. The sooner you learn to read the map, the sooner you’ll get where you want to go. Now, get out there.

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.

Follow them on Twitter: @JoanTheVoice and @RGaskins1, and like them on Facebook: Rudy Gaskins At Large and Joan Baker Live.

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.

Joan Baker
Joan Baker is 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.
Rudy Gaskins
Rudy Gaskins is 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.