How to Start a Voice Over Career
If you’ve thought about a career as a voice actor, you’ve probably come across articles either saying it’s impossible to ‘break in’ or it’s something everyone can do from the comfort of their own home. Like most things, it’s a little bit of both. I’ve been interested in making voice acting my career for a few years now. I’ve always enjoyed using my voice to mimic people or sound like a different version of myself. But being a voice actor is so much more than just having a nice sounding voice. It’s a business. That’s something that I think a lot of creative people forget; to be a successful artist (any kind of artist) you have to have the skill set to compete, but you also need
First, a little bit about where I’m coming from.
Let me start by saying I am in the infant stages of my voice acting career and I am using this site to showcase my voice over ability, but also to allow people to follow along with me as I build a successful voice over business.
My journey started as a kid. I would mimic the voices I heard on TV and try to make up funny accents to entertain my family on long car rides and I would re-enact all the Jim Carrey scenes I could remember. I also have always loved to sing, whether it was Dean Martin or John Legend, I would drive my parents crazy singing throughout the house. That combination of things led me to have my first ever career goal at the age 5: I wanted to be the next Jim Carrey. I loved the ridiculous humor and crazy voices he did and I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing when I grew up. My other career goal as a kid was to be a singer. I didn’t realize it at the time but both of these careers interested me mostly because of the way they allowed me to manipulate my voice.
I took some singing lessons when I was little, but besides that I never took these dreams too seriously. Fast forward a few years - 2012 - and my sister gave me a birthday gift to an info session hosted by Voice Coaches (voicecoaches.com). This was a major eye opener to me and for the first time in my life, I realized that people made a living using nothing more than their voices.
It never occurred to me that those guys talking on the TV or movie trailers actually made money doing that.It’s a strange concept, but many people don’t really notice the voices they hear. They kind of just blend in with the commercial or whatever project they’re voicing. That’s a good thing, since you don’t want to be focused on the voice. You just want to use the voice to help get the message across to the viewer/listener.After the info session, I signed up for the course which included coaching and demo production. The coaches were great and helped me understand the ways to use my voice to convey the message to the audience in an effective way.
I recorded my demo and was ready to start my career. I got my logo made, business cards, made CD copies of my demo and was ready to go. The one thing that confused me was how to actually use that demo to get voice over work. My marketing strategy was to send out those CD’s and business cards to media production companies with a cover letter and hope for a response. The other thing I did was sign up with voices.com. I figured I could at least practice by auditioning through that website and maybe get some work while I was at it.
So, I got a $100 mic and started auditioning in my living room. I had no idea how terrible my audio quality was until much later. I auditioned for about 100 jobs and I got one. Even with the bad quality I got a job. I recorded that job and made $385 in about 30 minutes. That was a great feeling. It showed me that there was money to be made with voice overs.I kept auditioning, but eventually put voiceovers to the side since I was building a personal training business at the time and I had to focus 100% on that. I knew that eventually I would go back to voiceovers and give it a real shot, but for now it had to wait.
What am I doing now?
Now, it’s 2016 and I’m all in. I am now a full time voice actor and working on building my client list through media production companies and online sites. I told you my whole story because I think there are not enough “follow along” voiceover stories out there. It would have been great if I could have followed someone’s voiceover career from the beginning. I hope that you’ll join me and build your own career in voice acting or any other business. With any business, there is a common theme to success as I see it - effort. That may sound corny or cliché, but the truth is that there are enough voiceover jobs out there for me and anyone reading this to make it a full-time career. If I’m not working as a voice actor 1 or 2 years from now, it’ll be completely because of a lack of effort. How did I start?
Technology has improved so much that it is now possible to run a voiceover business from home. The barrier to entry is much less than it used to be. Years ago, to make it as a voice actor, you had to go to the studio and record in person and if you wanted to really be successful, you had to live in a big city like LA or New York. That’s not the case anymore. There is a ton of work that you can get from home, and that has been my plan so far.
The first thing I did was buy the equipment I needed to record and make professional quality voiceovers. My first purchase was a Neumann TLM 103 Condenser Mic which costs about a thousand bucks. I don’t think I necessarily needed a mic this good just yet, but I wanted to start with the best. This way I can just worry about improving my skills as a voice actor and not worry about upgrading my equipment. Next, I needed a digital sound interface, so I got the Scarlett 2i2 and I edit my voiceovers on TwistedWave. I also got a mic stand so I can record standing up and a pop filter.
I chose a small room to record in (11x12), filled it with bookcases to diffuse the sound. I also invested money in the room acoustics. I covered the window in the room with noise reducing panels and hung acoustic panels around around the wall to reduce the room echo.
This is probably the hardest/easiest part. That might sound like it makes no sense, but here’s what I mean. It feels ‘scary’ to call and talk to someone on the phone that you’ve never met and my guess would be that most people would rather not have to do this - that’s the hard part. The easy part is that anyone can do it and develop a simple script to use to talk to creative directors on the other end of the phone. Even though it’s scary, it’s easy to pick up the phone and make a call. For a lot of my business planning and marketing strategies, I look at what Bill Dewees is doing. He is a very accomplished voice actor and also a great voice over coach for developing skill and a marketing plan. He has great advice for making cold calls. As he always mentions that marketing is about volume, not individual calls. I’m making 50 cold calls a week.
Pay to Play Sites
There are two main sites that people turn to when they are looking to audition online: voices.com and voice123.com. I have a voices.com account and I audition every week for 40-50 jobs through that site. I think of it as a great way to practice and get experience reading copy. It’s also a numbers game. If I audition for 50 jobs a week and 200 jobs a months, I should be able to get between 2-5 jobs a month through voices.com. This may sound like a small return on all the work that’s put in, but the more I audition, the better I’ll be for jobs I find outside of voices.com.
Something that seems to be overlooked by a lot of people in voice over is acting skills. I recognize this because at first I didn’t truly understand the importance of being a good actor as it related to voiceovers. You don’t necessarily have to be a good actor to be successful with voice acting, but in my opinion it can be very helpful. Luckily for me, I live close to New York City, so I have a lot of options for acting classes. I’m currently taking a class at The Barrow Group and I think it’ll go a long way in improving my acting for voiceovers.
This is one that took me a while to truly understand. One of the most important aspects of business marketing is exposure. The more people that know who I am and what I do, the faster my business will grow. That means blogging, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram should be key components of my business plan. The first step is introducing myself to you through my blog, with this article. That way you know who I am before I start marketing on all of the above apps and sites.
This is a major part of personal or business growth. If you want to improve at anything in life, it makes sense to reach out to people that know more than you and who are already successful. A great way to do this is by reaching out to people and starting a dialogue with them. I’ll use this blog and the apps I mentioned to reach out to people for interviews and conversation about voiceovers and business. My goal is to produce the content that I wish I had before starting. That way I’ll give other aspiring voice actors and business people useful information and develop relationships along the way.
There’s the plan and strategy I have for becoming a successful voice actor. I hope you’ll follow along in my journey. Let me know what you think of my strategies. Are you also pursuing voice acting or another business? Let me know in the comments below.