First, let me say that I’m a voice talent who only markets myself. I don’t teach, mentor, coach, or hire other voice talent. Since I am a firm believer in the mindset that it is better to give than receive, I write this blog specifically to answer questions and help others achieve their dream of working as a voiceover talent.
This article contains numerous links to my other articles to give you an organized pathway through the blog and structured approach to investigating and planning your career. I encourage you to read all of the articles in the archives.
Many people become interested in voiceover because they’ve been told they have a nice voice. Most people have nice-enough voices; it’s what you DO with it that matters.
Declaring your intention is the first step toward changing your reality, so I applaud you for realizing what you want in life and having the courage to go after it! Like any other dream, success in voice-over requires continuous, deliberate action. I described how I got started on this post in my blog.
A voice-over artist needs to be able to be transparent when interpreting the author’s words and intent of any script so that you are the best service provider to the client. I think anyone who “evaluates your voice” would tell you that you have potential and then would be more than willing to take your money. A voice talent must be able to create their own characters rather than mimic someone else.
Read, Read, Read…..then Read Some More
You can’t be successful in voiceover if you don’t like to read. Therefore, I refer you to the wealth of information I have written on my web site and blog, especially this entry titled A plan to break into voice-over.
Note that it includes a link to my recommended reading list. I always recommend that people start first with a book to get a broad overview of the industry. I continue to read voice-over books even though I’ve been working in this industry for over 12 years.
I also read a lot of blogs from my fellow voice talent. I’ve listed several I like on the lower right panel on my blog under the Links heading, but a quick search on-line will show you plenty more. The Vox Daily blog from Voices.com is one of the best in the business. I also listed numerous on-line voice-over forums that you can join.
Take Classes and Develop Skills
As I explain in this post about mentors, people often ask me to be their mentor when they really need a teacher. If you decide to take a class, this post has 10 questions you should ask a prospective voice-over teacher. When researching teachers, beware of 5 techniques of the “information marketer”.
You can research coaches online, starting with the Coaches Directory maintained by VoiceActorWebsites.com.
The Edge Studio Career Center contains practice scripts, podcasts with experts, and helpful tools like a word calculator and rate card.
Create a Demo
Voice-over is a business that is built on self-promotion and marketing. As with any business, you can expect it to have start-up costs. Before you can market yourself, you need to have a demo. Separate demos are needed for each target market (commercials, narrations, games, audiobooks, etc.). Before spending time and money to make a demo, you need appropriate training.
A good coach will tell help you select material for your demo that matches your voice and your style. You don’t want to be in a rush to make a demo because:
1) You only have 1 chance to make a first impression
2) You need to be able to instantly perform like the person on your demo.
3) Your demo is competing with those of professionals who have been working for decades.
Establish Your Home Studio
Although you will want to record auditions from home, I wouldn’t rush out to buy equipment immediately. I would first buy a digital voice recorder for daily practice. It’s important to read everything ALOUD and practice every chance you can! I have used and can recommend the Olympus WS-300M (only records in WMA format), the Olympus WS-801 (records in MP3 or WMA formats) or the Zoom H4N (professional audio equipment which records in MP3 or WAV). I like the Olympus recorders for practice because they are small, lightweight, only use 1 battery, and plug directly into the USB port of my computer.
Then, after you have developed some skills and are ready to market yourself, you can set up a home recording system. Pat Fraley outlines an economical setup in his The Gypsy’s Guide to Professional Home Recording Workbook and Companion CD. You may also want to read Harlan Hogan and Jeffrey Fisher’s excellent book The Voice Actor’s Guide to Home Recording.
Once you’ve taken classes, created a demo, and established your home studio, you’re ready to develop a marketing plan. The books and resources listed in this post will help you start marketing yourself.
Also, I know that it seems like voice-over is not work, but you should realize that it takes a lot of work to generate jobs and a steady client base!
A voice-over actor must market herself and perform auditions continuously in order to get attention and jobs from others. To gain experience, you can:
- Sign up with an on-line casting service (called a pay-to-play, or P2P, site within the industry) site like Voice123.com or Voices.com (create your own recordings contains more information about these sites.)
- Perform voiceover for presentations (e-learning, marketing, etc.) on your day job for no additional pay
- Volunteer to read for the blind
- Contact production companies and radio stations
- Network with professional associations
You also can create your own recordings. Practicing in this manner has a lot of value in terms of artistry, improvement and self-esteem. These recordings may or may not be used for promotion or payment.
You’ll find many more ideas for marketing yourself and your business in my blog archives.
Only after you gain some professional experience will you be ready to look for an agent. At that point, you will want to read the article Trying to get a voiceover agent?
No one can tell you the exact path you must follow, but just know that the dictionary is the only place where SUCCESS comes before WORK! 🙂
However, taking continual steps on your dream — whatever you decide to do — will bring fulfillment to your life! In any case, you must be the one to put forth action to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN!
As I don’t get paid to write and dispense so much helpful advice, I’d be grateful for a donation to my PayPal tip jar.
Best wishes for your success in all of your pursuits!
Tracie Brown says
I’ve always wanted to be a voice in a cartoon. Don’t know why but love to hear the different voices. I just have not a clue where to start so I’m going to do as your blog says and start with a book!
Greetings, Tracie! I’m glad you found the book suggestion to be helpful. You can spend a small amount of time and money to learn a great deal about an industry by reading a book about it. With the knowledge you gain, you’re in a better position to decide whether voiceover represents a good career choice for you.
Best wishes for your success!
Todd Waites says
Karen, I’ve just begun to submit my auditions on ACX; and your website and blog have given me so much advice and suggestions, I know I’ll be doing this for years to come. Thank you so much for all your blogs and articles.
Greetings, Todd! Thanks so much for the nice comment. I apologize for the extreme delay in posting and replying to it. I’ve been chin-deep in audiobook production, with 2 books due next week! (gasp!)
I’m so happy to know that something I have written has helped you. Patience and persistence are the keys you’ll need along the way. Just keep taking those steps forward and stay focused on the end outcome that you want. It will all be worth it!
Best wishes for your continued health, prosperity, and SUCCESS!
I’m in Grade.7 and I’m working REALLY hard to become a voice-actor, your article helped A LOT. Thank you SO much! (Gonna start flipping through the books now.)
But just curious, (and you don’t have to answer this if you don’t feel comfortable.) did you attend an acting school? If you did, did it help you in your career?
Thank you again for this, and have a nice day!
Greetings, Sharon! Thank you so much for such a nice note! I’m delighted to know that I may have helped you move toward your dream.
You asked a great question! Like you, I knew in the 5th grade that I wanted to be a voice talent. I didn’t attend any acting classes in high school or college. However, I did take numerous public speaking classes, first in high school and then as a journalism major in college. All of those classes were very helpful.
Once I decided to start my voice-over business, I took a workshop with a voice-over coach. I continue to take classes and do workshops as I progress in the field. Also, know that each kind of voice-over work requires a different performance style. For instance, I went to an audiobook narration workshop in the fall.
You can see the list on this page of my site:
I have often thought about taking some acting and improv classes. You see, you never get too old to outgrow a need for more knowledge and a way to improve your skills! 🙂
In short, I think any class you take will help you in your career. If I had the chance to go back to your age, I’d definitely take all of the acting and speech classes in school that I could.
I hope these thoughts help. Best wishes for your success and happiness in all that you do!
Tiffany Rose says
Who is a good voice over coach in the atlanta area. This information is very helpful. Thanks.
Greetings, Tiffany! The article includes a link to Atlanta voiceover coaches. Best wishes for your success!