You’ve heard it your whole life: “You have a remarkable voice. You should be doing voiceover!” Problem is, none of them are in the business, or have had any longterm success in voiceover.
So, how do you get started? Like all things acting, voiceover can appear elusive at the onset, if not downright secretive. In part because your experience, or lack thereof, leaves you vulnerable to assumptions, hearsay, and clichés such as, “The same 10 people get all the work,” which is literally impossible—especially when you consider the average American hears approximately 9,000 voiceovers a day. And, according to one study, the demand for professional voiceover talent, otherwise known as a vocal brand, has increased by more than 2000 percent since 2009.
Perhaps you come from a corporate business background, but you have a remarkable capacity for accents and original character voices, or you’ve been in radio and broadcasting for a number of years. If you’re an actor looking to expand your employment opportunities, mastering voiceover is imperative considering it’s required in every manner of recorded media: film, TV, animation, games, corporate industrials, and commercials. Whatever your specific experience has been to date, getting started in voiceover most often requires the following:
1. You need to get oriented with the industry. You need an education in this business prior to investing in it—especially if you hope to be valuable as a voiceover talent. You need to understand who your core clients would be and who you would eventually create a voiceover demo for, namely, producers. If you’re not servicing them, then you’re not servicing your self. This is precisely why I wrote, “The SOUND ADVICE Encyclopedia of Voiceover & The Business of Being a Working Talent.” You need insight as to what’s needed and wanted of you in this field, and how professional sessions are run, otherwise you’ll likely frustrate yourself with unrealistic expectations.
2. You need training. “Winging it” isn’t professional because it’s unreliable, and could explain why there are so many one-hit wonders in this profession. You need a professional approach, mic technique training, and time dedicated to practice, practice, practice in order to build your skills. Your confidence will build from there. Much like circuit training fine tunes your physical acuity with continued use, technique training conditions your performance muscle. You can’t expect to run a marathon if you don’t train. Every skill level of talent benefits from proper coaching.
3. You need a simple, reliable, home-recording setup. Keep in mind: Your objective is on being the best voice talent you can be, not the best production studio or recording engineer. Nevertheless, you do need the ability to record, edit, and turnaround a proper audition. Do not run out and purchase a mic! You can’t return it, for hygienic reasons. Besides, there’s a bit of a learning curve to this and recent industry advances have made having a home “studio” easier and more affordable than ever before. You could have the best gear and the coolest toys on the block, but if you can’t use them it’s a waste. (Tip: What you’re recording on matters less than where you’re recording. Find a quiet place like a closet full of clothes to record in.)
4. If you expect to sound professional, you need professional demo production. Please don’t attempt to do this on your own. A music producer produces music, a voiceover demo producer… I think you get the idea.
5. Promote yourself to agents who specifically handle VO. Agents, just like talent, typically specialize. And not every hat fits every head.
6. Audition like crazy! Let’s face it, voiceover, like so many things, is a numbers game. The best audition doesn’t necessarily book the job. Beyond a well produced demo, consistently offering the best of your abilities with every audition will further establish your professional career.
7. Make sure your demo is posted online in as many places where lots of voice talent can be found and hired. You will increase your opportunities by a great margin if you make your professionally produced demo accessible to anyone and everyone who may hire you.
That’s a great start. And as the adage goes, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great!”
Check out Backstage Voiceover Jobs and get cast today.
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.