Earlier this week, as often occurs, I received more e-mails from people wishing to break into voice-over. I endeavor to respond personally to everyone who writes to me, but I rarely get an acknowledgement. I don’t know whether the information I provided was helpful. I don’t know if they received my reply since I send it from a different e-mail address than is shown on my web site. Sometimes I think people can’t be bothered to say thank you to people who help them along the way. I’m honest and sometimes blunt; I tell people what they need to know, which may not be what they wanted to hear.
One of the e-mails this week was from a person who wrote lines typical of so many messages that I receive:
my entire life I’ve been told that I should do something with my voice….I can also emulate just about any language, dialect, or style in a very short amount of time. I’m getting more and more curious about doing voice over work.
The person wondered if I would be interested in working with him. While I’m flattered when people ask me this question, I don’t teach or hire others to work with me. I’m a voice talent who is actvely marketing myself. Occasionally, I need to recommend a fellow voice artist for a role to work with me or as a contact for a job that I need to pass on. However, I have a short list of talent in that category.
At this time, I do not mentor anyone
outside of any help they may receive from my blog entries and my advice page. Since voice-over is a business, you need to have a business plan consisting of education, demo, marketing, MORE marketing, gigs, on-going education and maybe an agent….in that order. I hope that people are using this blog as part of their education, so I refer newcomers to these particular posts:
Voice-over books on my bookshelf
A Voice Actor’s Business Address Won’t Be on Easy Street
No such thing as a free lunch or demo critique
Before you do anything else, I recommend that you pay the $49 to download the teleclass titled Your Voice Over Business at braintracksaudio.com. Nancy Wolfson is an incredible LA instructor and casting agent; Anna Vocino is an established v-o talent. They thoroughly know the industry and give you a business plan, which starts with the right education.
If you decide to study privately with Nancy, please tell her that I referred you. I have chosen her as my new coach, and I would get a free session with her for the referral. I also highly recommend my former coach Susan Berkley, who has terrific teleclasses and boot camps. I wrote about her inner circle program in this post:
Susan Berkley’s inner circle and upcoming masterclass
She also sponsors masterclass opportunities in New York for such wonderful teachers as the amazing and delightful Pat Fraley.
Another person wrote to me this week about a particular company’s workshop “package”. This company offered package price for a workshop on DVD, production of a :60 demo and hosting of the demo on their site for 6 months.
If I were spending my money for training, I would look elsewhere. For any company offering to host your demo, my answer to them would be “so what?” Are they also involved with casting? What kind of stats can they provide to you about searches made on their site and traffic patterns to it? In other words, what benefit does the talent receive from hosting a demo there?
If you don’t have your own web site — which is yet another necessity of doing business — I would want to have my demo on-line where it might actually be heard by someone casting a project. Of course, having it hosted by this company would be better than nothing. I am only pointing out that you need to research your options, any other providers and actual service/benefit received before investing any money.
I thought that that the aspiring talent in this instance was really paying for a DVD of undetermined length that doesn’t provide you with individualized instruction and practice. A DVD might be a good start, but you really need both individual direction and practice before creating a demo.
This company advertised that they will send music and scripts for your demo. However, you don’t know whether that same copy and music is used for other talent. You want your demo to reflect what is UNIQUE about YOU. You can’t get that sound from what appears to be the voice-over industry equivalent to a diploma mill, where they don’t know your individual strengths and vocal characteristics and tailor a demo to match them.
A couple of the producers listed on this site have only been voice talents for the last 2-3 years. They have had great career success and developed extensive client lists due to their own talents and marketing. However, I’m not sure about their experience on the production and casting side. I would wonder if they could provide enough guidance to make a competitive demo that showcases my individuality and strengths.
My first voice-over teacher was Paul Armbruster. He had about 20 years of experience at the time I studied with him. He made it clear in the first session of his 4-week intense workshop (24 hours of instruction and practice) that he would make recommendations at the end whether a person was ready to produce a demo. Only 25% of the participants in my workshop group earned his recommendation for demo production. In addition, he was selective about whether he would produce a demo for someone. After all, his name and reputation were being attached to the newcomer’s demo.
Know that you will always need training, and you will always need to make new demos if you want to have a thriving voice-over career. In the end, you must take responsibility and make all decisions about your path, including your training, as it is your money, your business, your goals and your life at stake.
i discovered your website while i was searching for voice over jobs in the animation industry. I just whether there is any way someone that is not in America can get work in animation. I really would love to do voice over work. Could you give me some advice?
Hi, Mart. Thanks for the comment. My question to you is:
You said you really would love to do voice-over work, so what’s stopping you?
Any answer that you would provide to my question (no money, no time, no knowledge, no contacts, etc.) would all point back to the same thing — fear.
The steps for getting started in voice-over remain the same whether you’re in America, the UK or anywhere else. I have given no shortage of advice in this post alone, not to mention in the rest of my blog.
No shortcuts exist when starting any new career. It’s up to you to take the first step and to keep taking them. Remember, you have to learn to crawl and then walk before you can expect to run.
If you really would love to do voice-over work, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
Best wishes for your success!
Jim Lawyer says
you mentioned on your blog that many people do not thank you for your advice.
I never asked you directly for advice but I’ve received a wealth of excellent information from your website and the range of topics and quality of information is worth much more than a simple “Thank You”, however for now that will have to suffice.
Thanks for caring enough about our profession and about those of us who are entering or in my case, re-entering the industry to provide such a tasteful and enlightened resource.
Wow, Jim, thank *YOU*! You made my day! I don’t think or expect that people will write to me just for reading my blog. My comment was meant where I have answered someone in e-mail. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you writing your wonderfully kind note to me.
Thanks again so much for sending me this note, and best wishes for your continued success!
Nancy Wolfson says
Anna Vocino says
Because you write this blog, I have a wonderful resource to refer people who email me asking me the very same questions. Thank YOU! And thanks for the Break Into Voice Over propers.
BTW, my very first VO teacher was Paul Armbruster…love the ATL!!
Karen Commins says
Nancy and Anna,
Thanks for stopping by my blog! I enjoyed the teleseminar you both created and know that others will find the information to be useful in their careers. I’m learning much with every private session with Nancy. She’s giving me a new way to think about the copy so I can make better choices in my interpretation.
Thanks, Anna, for the nice comments about the blog. I think we all receive similar questions, and I’m always happy to know when other voice talent direct people to this blog for some answers.
Best wishes to both for your continued success!
Kelli Henderson says
I want to thank you also. Your website has been very helpful. I appreciate all of your efforts to enlighten, eudcate and encourage us.
This post has great advice. I have tons of questions so I’ll be reading your blog archives (probably aloud) for more information.
Hi, Kelli and Andrea. Thanks so much for the kind words. I am happy to know that I have said something that may be useful to you as you start your careers. Only you can live the life of your dreams, so why not get started today?
Best wishes for your success!
Ginna Brody and I have exchanged a few e-mails on this subject. She gave me permission to quote the following part of her message:
Dear Karen……HOLY COW BATMAN!!!! Thank you for the time you took to answer my email. I feel a little naive. Had I known that you get these emails on a consistant basis…..I never would have bothered you. You must be thinking “oh no…..not another one!”
Ginna, thanks for writing to me. I don’t consider query e-mails
from newcomers as a bother. I prefer to think of them as reminders
about how far I’ve come in this career I love and my desire to be
grateful for my many blessings! 🙂 I think that what you put out in
the world comes back to you. If I can help someone on their path,
somebody will help me on mine.
I wanted to post that snippet and my reply here because it applies to this topic. I no longer have time to write in-depth answers to individual questions, so I usually refer people to an article here on the blog.
I really do appreciate the interest from people. I sincerely hope that the wealth of information on this blog and my web site is helpful on your journey.
Keep the letters coming, as they may be material for a new entry! 🙂
I would like to first start by stating that I don’t know where you find the time to run this blog as a busy small business owner but I am grateful that you do. It has been both interesting and informative. I appreciate your candor and honesty in your posts and responses.
A bit about how i stumbled upon your page…. I was a nightclub DJ in Detroit for about 6 years. I got my first steady job in a club @ 16 years old. I was very good at beat mixing and programing a crowd to create both energy and atmosphere. I was also on my High School radio station where i was an on-air personality (as much as you can in 9th grade anyway) and was introduced into production. I would do PSA’s (commercials for non-profits) and other voice over work for the station. This is where i learned the basics of cutting tape on real to reals, soundproofing, dubbing, etc. The station manager said I would make it Big in talk radio. This is the last thing I wanted to hear. I wanted to move to New York and be a superstar DJ. The aspirations of a child! Well I ended up spinning records @ night and doing sound system installations for nightclubs during the day and soon that led to computers.
I got involved in computer networking and then abandoned the music / radio business for the money of the Information Technology world. I now own a small computer consulting company specializing in Microsoft and Citrix technologies. Last year I did over 400K. I don’t say this to brag but to lend credence to my next statement. I am board and loosing my enthusiasm for life. The money is not as important as it used to be. So I went out and bought a pair of CDJ-1000 MK3’s and a Pioneer DJM 800 mixer. I found Serato scratch live and beatport.com. I always wanted to move from novice at vinyl scratching to the level of a true turntablest so I then went out and bought a pair of Technic 1210’s (my old familiar) and the Rane SL57 mixer with a video from bearkleymusic.com.
Well to my point… I ended up wanting to do some personal music creation and production so I bought a Digidesign 003 and Pro tools LE. This has been a great escape for me and has got me wondering about voice over work.
You mentioned many resources for individuals looking to start a career in voice over work and again I thank you for the time that this must take to run this blog and I plan on checking out some of the recommend reading.
My question is two fold. First, is it realistic for someone like myself that currently runs a business to do some moonlighting in this field? Second, What is the average to above average annual income range of an individual in the voice over field?
Currently I am just inquiring and thank you for your time in both reading and future response to my curiosity.
Lastly, I would like to say that many “bloggers” on the internet are very happy with themselves and enjoy to read their own opinions. Your blog struck me as eclecticly genuine. As I went through the topics and comments, I noticed the amount of people both interested in your profession and those who are colleges leveraging your advice. This speaks volumes about your character and I wish you much success!
P.S. I found you blog by searching “how to configure a track for voiceover in pro tools”. I was looking for recommend track configurations for removing room noise and maybe a good plug-in specific to voice overs. Im glad I stumbled into your page!
Wow, Brady! Thanks for the wonderful letter! I apologize for the delay in my reply. My webmaster has been upgrading my blog software.
In answer to your questions:
1) Yes, it is totally realistic to begin in voice-over on a part-time basis. In fact, I think it would be completely unrealistic — not to mention HIGHLY stressful — to turn your life upside down by stopping one full-time job or business and starting another one. I think a lot of people have other jobs (either full- or part-time) that bankroll things like mortgage payments, health insurance and on-going voice-over training!
Like any business, it takes time to learn the skills of voice-over and start gaining clients. It takes even longer to make voice work your sole source of income. Some people can make the transition in a matter of months, while others never do, for a variety of reasons.
I can honestly say that whatever you are doing now will prepare you and have meaning for whatever is to come in your life. You may be interested to know that I also went on a long detour from my love of voice-over into highly technical positions in the IT industry. You will be amazed how your expertise will serve you in the future in ways that you never dreamed possible.
2) I really don’t know the average annual income for voice talent. While we may talk among ourselves to decide how to price a job, no one really talks about their income. Like the IT field, incomes range all over the map and are dependent on many factors, like your skill level, your marketing plan and your time devoted to your business.
Brady, I hope this info helps. Thanks again for the nice note, and best wishes for your success!
Evan Wright had written questions in e-mail to me and kindly gave me his permission to quote our correspondence on the blog as other people may find this discussion helpful.
I noticed that you’ve used Nancy as your coach. She’s got quite a reputation (she’s all over the internet!), and I tried to get into one of per in-person classes last month, while attending to family business in LA, but my schedule did not work out. Nancy had recommended that I sign up for one of her “phoner” courses, as she says its just as effective… but some of the books I’ve read have suggested to be careful in doing a phoner vs. in-person classes.
How did you work with Nancy? If on the phone, did you think that was effective… or is that more of a “step 2” process in your training experience? Did you have your studio (or a preliminary version) up and running before working with Nancy? Or is there any real “logical” what-to-do-first in terms of training?
I’m in Atlanta, and I call Nancy in Los Angeles for our phone sessions. Since she provides printed material, I can read about the concept prior to call. She discusses it a bit, and we spend most of our time going through copy. I perform the scripts and take direction from her to improve them. Our time has been extremely effective, even more so because I record the calls [with her permission and knowledge] and listen to them for reference. I would have loved to have this kind of intense personal attention when I started in voice-over. I think working with her would have been an awesome first step in training.
Evan also asked:
I am also torn at the moment about plunging into setting up my home studio…. the cart before the horse sort of thing. Being a video editor (huge experience in promos, sound editing with narration and effects), I already have the software and experience for recording and mixing. I’ve produced hundreds of promos in professional recording studios in Hollywood and NYC. I know the drill. I simply need to invest in a mike, digital interface, headphones, and some “poor man’s” soundproofing (yes, I’ve read Harlan Hogan’s book), and I believe I can skip hiring a “professional” studio to get my demo done.
Setting up a studio and creating a demo are 2 separate processes and decisions. I would think that with your background, you would be doing yourself a dis-service if you didn’t have studio equipment. You can use it to practice your scripts for your classes and perhaps start auditioning on sites like Voices.com or Voice123.com.
However, I would strongly encourage you to hire someone to produce your demo. We simply are not objective about our range and styles; we do not hear ourselves the way others hear us.
I hope this info is useful. Best wishes for your success!
Carey Balistreri says
I have an interest in becoming a narrator for the blind. I am wondering if you know of the process related to this area of interest. Is a voice over training a requirment? Where would I be able to get training? I have a long carrer of providing high quality training and education programs, motivational seminars and have a very good voice related to speaking and reading. I appreciate your response to this request. Thank you for your time. I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
[e-mail and phone number removed by Karen]
Hi, Carey. Thanks for the question. Most organizations that produce recordings for visually-impaired utilize volunteer narrators. Therefore, professional voice-over training may not be required. You would need to check with the organization.
Before beginning my voice-over career, I volunteered for 5 years as a reader with the Georgia Radio Reading Service. Before I was accepted as a reader, I had to pass a pronunciation test of about 50 words and read 2 articles out loud.
In addition to providing an appreciated service, volunteering helped me prepare for my voice-over career. You might want to check this page on my web site for more information about audiobook narration. Resources on that page include some on-line dictionaries.
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic has nationwide locations. Check the site for a location near you.
To find other organizations in your area, query Google with the search term
“recording for the blind” statename
where statename is the name of your state. Also, including the quotation marks makes Google search the phrase. You can also try “books for the blind” as your search term.
I hope this info helps. Best wishes for your success!
Mark Petito says
Thank You so much for all the info on your site, I will keepursuing this. I’m a high school guidance counselor/girls basketball coach, married with three children, I would love to read audio books to supplement my income. It will work out for me, I’m currently on the witing list to read for the blind, and I’m really looking forward to that. Thank You again.
Hi, Mark. Thanks for the nice note. If you are interested in audiobook narration, this page on my web site may be helpful to you.
Stay focused on your dreams, and keep walking toward them!
LoriAnn DuBose says
ur sincere aura prompted me 2 check out ur blog… kudos 2 you for honest from the heart replies 2 souls guided 2 u for a much needed insight into a complicated so 2 speak industry… peace,love,and all that… and if u ever need.. a friend..loriann dubose,massage therapist by trade..here 2 assaist by universal decree..you have friends in high places…. jus keep doin what ur doin girl… u make a bigger difference than u may have been led 2 belive….key word.. BELIVE…always…. 88
Hi, LoriAnn. Thanks so much for your most wonderful message! I have received a beautiful gift and feel humbled to be the recipient of such kind remarks. I am pleased if anything I’ve written is helpful to you or other people.
I agree with you: BELIEVE in yourself and your talents! Best wishes for your success!
Carey Balistreri says
I so very much appreciate your response!!! Thank you! I have been out of town without computer or would have responded sooner. I am reading the info on your website and find the info very helpful . Are you familar with the group Edge Studios Voice Design groupo in NYC. The training starts with a $159 evaluation placement program and then moves on to odulther training programs. I have a adult children in NYC and would atten the evalution program if I knew this was a good program. I recently left my position as Ex. Director of a non-profit in Milw. and wonder if age is a consideration is this field? I am 59 years young. I would prefer not to set up a studio in my home and was considering an agent. What do you think?? You are providing a most valuable service!
Hi, Carey. Thanks for the follow-up note. I know that Edge Studios offers a lot of training classes, has a newsletter and seems reputable. However, I haven’t taken any of their classes and therefore cannot personally recommend them. I suggest you read this blog entry about selecting a class or coach to assist you in your training decisions.
Voice-over is a career that can be performed at any age. The majority of commercial scripts that I see are for younger women (age 20-30), primarily because the script writers are young and use their contemporaries in entertainment for vocal reference. You may find it difficult to find and land a lot of commercials for that reason. So many other markets are open. Regardless of age, you need to evaluate your vocal characteristics and define your target and niche markets.
I wouldn’t expect to find an agent who will represent you before you prove that you are getting work on your own. Bob Fraser has written an excellent blog entry about getting an agent. While he writes about stage and screen actors, his wise advice applies to people in voice-over.
Note how Bob emphasized the fact that you must work and hustle to get the attention of the busy agents. To get work these days, a home studio is a necessity. You don’t have to build something on the scale of my stunning studio. I worked in 2 closets — a tiny one with an accordion door and then a small walk-in closet — before we built the soundproof room which houses the WhisperRoom isolation booth. You can get started for a minimal investment. Pat Fraley walks you through the steps of creating a studio for $500 in his The Gypsy’s Guide to Professional Home Recording Workbook and Companion CD.
I hope this info is helpful. Best wishes for your success!
To everyone reading this post — Since I always refer newcomers to this article, I decided to add this comment because I find myself frequently suggesting the following:
Read everything ALOUD — newspapers, magazines, books, cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, placemats, etc. Record yourself and listen to the playback. Not only will you develop your cold reading skills, but you will hear your voice as others hear it. You will hear where you need to improve.
You will never get to the point in the a voice-over career where you don’t need to practice. And if you don’t like reading in general and reading aloud in particular, voice-over isn’t a field you should enter!
I can not tell you how thankful I am for your blog, and your selfless giving of voice over artistry information.
I am at turning point in my life and realize I’ve been working 20 years in a industry I have NO PASSION FOR! In thinking, “how do I change this?”, I remembered the excitement I felt when asked to record automated attendant messages twice in my career. I’ve always been told I have a good voice and can’t wait to become a part of the community.
I know a lot of hard work will be involved but one day I hope to be successful and pass on my knowledge just as you.
You are wonderful,
Greetings, Veronica! I’m so delighted to know that you have found inspiration and information from my words. In fact, your sentence about passion inspires me to write another article, so I hope you’ll check back soon to read it.
Thanks again, and best wishes for your success!