A voiceover demo reel is a headshot, an audition reel, and a business card all in one. It is often the only introduction and audition for a client who might hire you. So, yeah, it needs to be good—clean, clear, branded, well-edited, and under 60 seconds. Also, you should have separate reels for each genre you perform (your commercial client doesn't need to hear your wacky animation reel, and vice versa). Choosing the order and length of spots to put in your reel can be a bit daunting, so here are a few guidelines.
1. Put your biggest stuff first. In an ideal world, all your footage would be from a major brand or show, display your range, and have aired in the past 30 days. If you’re not living in that magical VO land—and who is, really?—you have to take stock of your priorities. Your first spot should be for the most recognizable brand (for commercials), project (TV and film), author/publisher (audio books), or company (narration, IVR, educational, PSA). A recognizable brand or character will show you are reputable and trustworthy. It impresses the client, who will be more likely to keep listening. If you truly believe your lesser-known spots are better examples of your talent than your big-name stuff, skip to the next step.
2. Put your best stuff second. After you get your razzle-dazzle spots in, focus on material that you love the most. These should be tracks that sound amazing and make you really proud. If they’re also for recognizable brands, all the better. If they’re for a local bank commercial, a PBS pilot, or an indie movie, put them after the big stuff. It’s important that each spot is of the highest quality and is edited at a smart point. Thirty seconds of the same line repeated over and over probably doesn’t show much. So you want to spend enough time (10-20 seconds) on each spot to give the listener a feel of what you can do. Seduce with your talent second.
3. Use the rest of your time to show you have range. You want to create a brand here, but you also want to show you have range. All of us have an essence—a particular combination of styles that suit us. A “bubbly” voice can also go to sweet, informative, friendly, and casual. A “deep announcer type” could also be a funny dad or an authoritative construction worker. Offering the client your variety gives different ideas to work with. Fill out the rest of your reel with different voice styles.
4. Make sure your reel flows seamlessly. Last, edit cleanly so there are no abrupt cuts, choppy transitions, or drastic volume changes. The last thing a potential client or new agent wants to do is blow an eardrum listening to your reel. If you’ve hired someone to create your reel, this should have been done already. You can also normalize the volume with programs like Audacity, Pro Tools, and GarageBand. Remember that you are selling yourself, so you want to seem professional. The more polished your reel sounds, the more trust you inspire in the client.