As a seasoned voice-over actor, I get asked about breaking into the business, what to do, where to start, and how to be successful at it. Here is a guide for anyone that wants to be a voice-over actor and needs a starting point.
Is This for You?
Focus on the fun and enjoyment of acting. If your only goal of becoming a voice-over actor is for the money or fame, you may want to rethink your choice. There's a lot of misinformation out there about this profession. It is NOT a get rich quick venture where anyone with a cheap podcast mic can make an instant full time living at while sitting at home in your underwear. Well... the underwear is optional! You have to put in the time and effort. Learning all you can along the way to become a professional. You will know if it is for you or not. Do you love to tell stories, create characters, entice others to do something. Do you have the patience, time and skills it takes to perfect your style and business acumen? If it is your passion and you want to perfect your voice, then it's for you.
Find Your Niche
The voice-over industry is multi-faceted. There are a variety of work options and most of it depends on your voice quality and style. Here are some of your job options.
Voice over for Film
Producers and directors use voice-overs to help a struggling cast member or accelerate the movie’s narrative. It is used to add depth to a scene or a character. Narration can also be used to explain the history of the lead or story.
Voice over for Promotional Ads
Voice overs are used in commercials all the time and can be very lucrative. For an actor, the voice needs to grab the attention of people. You will need a charismatic voice that is interesting and has a trustworthy appeal to make the audience believe in what you are saying about that brand. In other words, you gotta sell it!
Many companies make corporate videos for their customers. For these videos, they need a voice to tie their message together. Companies prefer a voice over actor to come in and do this instead of an in-house employee.
E-learning is booming, and it allows people to gain knowledge and preserve what they have learned. It can also be used to inform staff and customers about a wide variety of topics. This tends to be training and tutorial videos. The voice-over actor helps people understand the information better. The skills needed is to be able to read the entire material consistently, clearly so the module flow is seamless.
The audiences these days expect stories behind the video game characters. Every piece of dialogue in a video game must be able to stand on its own since it does not come in full scripts. Voice over actors needs to evoke emotions and make a character come to life. Some real acting is required here!
Integrated Voice Response
This the automated voice system that interacts with callers to gather information and route calls to recipients. IVR requires quality and gives an impression to their customers. A professionally done IVR will capture the audience and improve customer service. It requires a voice actor to have a clear voice that is professional, warm and very "real".
Audiobooks have increased in popularity and have also increased job opportunities for voice over actors. This is similar to e-learning voiceovers, but it also depends on the type of book. Fiction or nonfiction, books for children, how-to’s, historical, biographical, the genres and styles all differ. Which makes this a great option as an additional source of revenue.
Study and Hone Your Craft
Study the history of voice over actors and learn from them all. There is something to be said about studying your craft. Learn from other voice over actors, take classes, and seek out coaches. Practice reading... everything. You need to get to a point in your reads to where you are not distracted by your own voice. Getting used to the sound of your voice , while embellishing your VO is the real goal. Believe it or not, the job at hand is NOT to promote "your beautiful voice". The job is usually to get the message out to the listener... whatever that message may be! I 've heard coaches say to students... "get over yourself because it's not about you!" Also, connecting with others in the field will allow you to embrace your skills and provide the tools for learning. It is always about continuous learning and evolving.
Create Quality Demos
Your voice over demo is your calling card. It validates your description of your voice by showing potential clients that you can do exactly what you say you can.
Have a demo for each style of voice over you provide, as well as each language, accent, or dialect. Keep in mind that you only have a few seconds to hook the listener so give them your best voice-over reading at the intro.
If you have some samples from jobs, make sure you can use them as demos clips. Get permission from the clients so that you have real work to showcase. As your voice progresses over time, listen to your demos and critique which one’s showcase your voice the best. This can become the key to finding your "signature" sound. Which will become the basis for developing your brand.