Voice Acting Tips for Beginners

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From the sonorous sound of James Earl Jones to the versatility of Tara Strong, recognizable, powerful voices tend to thrive in voice acting. But before you fully commit to becoming a voiceover actor, it’s important to understand the work involved and how best to break into the field. This article gives advice on voice acting for beginners and discusses voiceover tips to help you get started.

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What is a voice actor?

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A voice actor is an auditory performer who uses their voice to inform, advertise, and entertain. They create character voices, impersonate others, and provide narration for content including:

Why should I pursue voice acting?

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Like traditional acting, voiceover work is both difficult and rewarding. You may choose to enter the field for any of the following reasons: 

  • Innate ability: Following Steve Spitz’s appearance on “Love on the Spectrum U.S.,” fans of his soothing voice took to the internet to land him a voice acting job. If your voice can similarly comfort the masses, or if you have excellent vocal control and can produce a variety of sounds, you might consider making a career out of your innate vocal capabilities.
  • Flexible schedule: Work whenever, wherever. Most voiceover work is conducted separately from the rest of a production, so gigs can be recorded anywhere that works best for you: in a professional studio, at home, or even on the road with a voiceover recording app. This means you can pick up freelance voice acting work to test your aptitude without needing to make a full commitment to the career.
  • Demand: Between the growth of remote work and advances in film, TV, and video games, voice actors are needed now more than ever. According to Digital Agency Network, job growth for the position is expected to rise up to 15%—notably faster than most occupations.

How much do voice actors make?

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ZipRecruiter reports that the average voiceover salary is $81,166 per year, or $39 an hour.

Voiceover actors are included in several SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreements for guaranteed minimum rates on union productions. 

What skills does a voice actor need?

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The skills required to work as a voice actor include:

  • Versatility: Since listeners can’t see you, full emotional range and technical abilities help carry the weight of a performance and give a variety of characters and scenes emotional depth.
  • Voice quality: Proper pronunciation and enunciation are key. Ensure that you say every word clearly so listeners can understand what you say.
  • Endurance: Voiceover work can mean long days in the recording studio and multiple takes of the same script. You need grit, guts, and gumption to succeed.
  • Confidence: Confidence in yourself and your abilities allows you to elevate the copy and deliver better recordings.

Voice acting advice

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If you want to try your hand—or rather, your throat—at this type of performance, you’re probably wondering how to practice voice acting. These steps will help you refine your craft and start landing parts.

1. Study acting

Since voiceover is, at its heart, acting, it’s crucial to understand the fundamentals of the craft. Enroll in acting school, attend acting workshops, take classes, or watch (and listen to) the greats through an analytic lens. Voiceover-specific programs are offered at institutes including:

  • New York Film Academy
  • Temple University
  • Hofstra University

Tom Keegan, a talent director for animated and performance-capture projects and video games, including “Call of Duty,” “Need for Speed,” and “The Mummy,” tells Backstage that studying acting should be the first step for any voice actor: “All good voice acting has, at its base, a character, an action, and circumstances.” Pamela Fahey, a commercial voiceover casting director who has worked with National Geographic, Listerine, Motorola, Dove, and Ford, concurs: “My first piece of advice is to take some acting classes,” she says. “Then go to classes or a coach for voiceover — it’s a unique beast!”

2. Read aloud

Become familiar with your own voice and its various elements (pitch, pace, pause, tone, volume accent, emphasis, and intonation) by reading aloud. Try injecting characterization into dialogue if reading a novel (is the character happy or sad? young or old? engaged or disinterested?), or perform your best professorial narration if reading e-learning modules.

3. Follow along

Practice scripts that fit your voice and style. “Watch commercials. Listen to them carefully,” Fahey advises. Pay attention to delivery elements such as breathing, articulation, and inflections, and try it out yourself. “Create some scripts from the ones you like and think are right for your voice, and then practice like crazy,” she adds.

4. Hire a coach

Since voice acting is extremely complex, consider working with a voice acting coach to refine your skill set and connect you with casting calls and industry contacts. 

5. Record yourself

Our voices sound vastly different on recordings than they do to our own ears. “Everyone has the capability to record him or herself—even if it’s on your smartphone—just do it,” says Fahey. “See what kind of range you can create by reading one piece of copy.”

6. Find your type

With so many different types of voice acting roles available, it’s helpful if you can focus on what really highlights your skill set. “There are big differences” in role type, says Terry Berland, who did casting for Nickelodeon’s “Invader Zim” as well as Red Bull and Baskin-Robbins commercials. “Generally, a TV read supports the picture, a read for radio is bigger in that it creates the picture, and video games are even bigger and more dramatic. If you have a flair for the dramatic, you might be more inclined to take on video game voiceover jobs; if your voice has been compared to David Attenborough’s, you may find yourself more often in the educational narration realm. Lean into the role type that feels best for you and always keep improving your technical capabilities.” According to Berland, the common factors throughout voice acting are “acting ability and knowing how to make choices.”

7. Create a demo reel

The demo reel is a one-minute collection of brief excerpts that you can send to agents and directors to showcase your talents. “Don’t rush to make a demo too soon. You’ll be wasting your money,” says Berland. “First, know your strengths, know how to analyze and execute a piece of copy, and know how to take direction.” Once you have those skills locked down, edit together snippets from any professional recording jobs or from your own amateur recordings if you haven’t landed a gig yet. Include your biggest and best roles, your range, and create the perfect voiceover demo reel.

8. Audition

Search for casting calls on audition databases and dedicated voice talent sites. Look for roles that fit your voice type and capabilities and practice the part thoroughly before your audition. For your audition:

  • Rehearse: Practice your lines before the audition so you know how you want to play the part.
  • Hydrate: Your vocal cords need to be lubricated to deliver your lines properly.
  • Follow directions—but improvise as needed: “Listen to the casting director’s direction and then be open-minded and creatively free-flowing,” Fahey says. “There are many who will be auditioning for the same role. Make it yours.”

9. Market yourself

Get your voice heard by marketing yourself as a voice actor in the following ways.

  • Create a professional online presence: Make a voice acting website and post voice reels on your social media pages using hashtags like #voiceover, #voiceactor, #voiceacting, and #vo. This will help you engage in the community, highlight your work, and discover new clients.
  • Bank on social capital: Network to learn about job opportunities and make a name for yourself as a voice actor. Attend industry networking events and conferences such as One Voice Conference, VO Atlanta, Audiobook Publishers Association events, and That’s Voiceover Career Expo—and be clear about your desire to break into the biz.

10. Get representation

voiceover casting agent can help grow your career by connecting you with casting calls and advocating on your behalf. You can get a list of franchised talent agencies from our Call Sheet, SAG-AFTRA, or the Voice Over Resource Guide.

11. Keep at it

Once you’ve landed a few voiceover gigs, continue your voice acting practice by trying out different scripts, auditioning, and building your portfolio. Before you know it, you could be the voice (actor) of a generation.