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Thursday, November 12, 2020

So, You Want to Be a Voice Over Actor


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!

Corporate Opportunities

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.

Video Games

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. 

Questions to Ask When Hiring Voice Over Talent


Whether it is an e-learning video, a commercial, video, or any other project that you are creating, finding the voice over talent to fit may take more time than you had hoped.  If you ask the right questions, then you will get the talent you need and have excellent experience. 

What Type of Vocal Range Do You Have?

Before making a choice, ask the potential voice-over talent to record an audition based on your copy.  You can learn more about the vocal talent and find one who sounds the way you envisioned it.  Sometimes it is not about the resume, it is about the voice.

Also, check out all the voice demos a talent has on their page to consider whether they can deliver in a wide range of vocal styles before hiring them.

Do You Have a Recording Studio?

Most voice over talent have a home recording studio.  However, you want to know how the audio quality is.  While the talent can have an amazing voice and a mic to record on it there is background noise then it is not going to be what you are looking for.

Ask the voice over talent about the equipment, soundproofing, and are they able to edit their work.  It is important to know what they are capable of before hiring them.

What Other Projects Have You Worked On?

This question goes back to experience, but it also tells you what type of work they have done in the past.  If they have a lot of experience in one type of voice acting, and you are asking for something different that is good to know in advance. 

If they have a long list of projects and clients, they can tell you about these experiences. By learning more you can see if they are good at taking direction, are they used to remotely working, and understand deadlines? Their website should have information regarding this and several demos for you to listen to.

Knowing what clients a talent has worked for can also help qualify whether they can be the voice of your brand.  If they have been the voice of a competing brand, then you may want to choose someone else.

Can You Deliver?

When you have a hard deadline, the last thing that you want is a voice over talent that cannot meet it.  Do they have the equipment on hand in their own studio to meet the deadline themselves?  If they are outsourcing the job then that might make it impossible. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself about the potential candidate.  Do they respond to inquiries quickly and professionally?  Do they sound knowledgeable when quoting rates, and in line with the other voice over talent rates for the same job?  Are they available to speak during business hours?

Go to Voice Over Talent List

By asking these questions, you can determine which voice over talent will be the best for your needs.  Once you work with voice over talent you like it might be wise to keep a portfolio of them so that you have a go-to list.  It will make sure that you have top-notch talent you can rely on for future projects.