What Does It Mean to Be a Voiceover ‘Pro’?

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Training for the average actor, voice or otherwise, typically categorizes talent into one of three camps: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. But the truth is that nothing in this business is lumped cleanly into those three categories. When it comes to voice acting, you’re either a professional or you’re not, right out of the gate. 

Anyone who might hire you, even from the very start of your career, needs and wants your very best. They expect professionalism. No one looking to hire talent says, “This project needs a beginner voiceover.” Or, “We could really use an intermediate actor for this commercial.” Never gonna happen.

A pro is a pro is a pro, regardless of experience level.

So, at what point do you consider yourself a professional? Once you start auditioning? Once you book your first gig? If so, what happens during that session that flips the switch and changes everything? Once you join the union?

The truth is you’re expected to instill confidence by making your potential client feel stable about hiring you in the first place. The convincing is in the doing. You’ll only undermine your authority after scoring the job if you suddenly state, “This is my first booking!”

READ: How to Get Paid What You Deserve in Voiceover

Listen, I get it. Some of the greatest lessons you’ll learn will occur on the job, but you also have to expect to train—a lot—especially when you’re just starting out. 

When you train, much like when physically working out, you’re discovering new things, new muscles, new ways to expand your abilities so you can offer greater options with your performance. You’re expected to continually develop and sharpen your skills with new techniques that may not initially be intuitive. Coaching, by design, challenges your comfort zone and demands more from you than simply showing up and winging it. This is the case throughout your career.

The industry isn’t static and neither are you. It will continually evolve and so will you. Therefore, developing and maintaining your skills rather than leaving them unchecked without a yardstick or ability to self-assess lacks critical thought and foresight. Personal taste is one thing, ignoring industry demands and standards is another (and a recipe for disaster.) This has been and always will be the case, regardless of your experience.

And yet I’d venture to guess, with all my experience and insight into this industry, better than 85 percent of all talent attempting to “make a go of it” are doing so by the seat of their pants, which would account for the terrific failure rate.

Training is a given at every level. It doesn’t go away. It’s required of every talent if you hope to remain competitive and sharp. It keeps you current with changes, insights, and updates. Learning to self-direct is equally important to mastering the ability to take direction if you hope to succeed. These are standards. This is what a professional understands in any field, not solely the entertainment industry.

How you conduct business speaks volumes before you ever do. How you think of yourself, how you remain inspired, curious and hungry to continually improve are all factors that determine your mettle. Its what determines your value. These are all elements that define any professional, regardless of whether you’re just starting out. 

Check out Backstage’s voiceover audition listings!

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.

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Kate McClanaghan
Kate McClanaghan is a casting director, producer, and founder of both Big House Casting & Audio (Chicago and Los Angeles) and Actors’ Sound Advice. She’s a seasoned industry veteran and actor who has trained actors and produced demos for more than 5,000 performers over her 30 years in the business.
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