Getting Ready to Work in VoiceOver?
How To Play The Long Game
When I began my voiceover career over 35 years ago, the landscape and scope of work was completely different. We basically did Commercials for Radio and TV and some Cinema, as well as what we called ‘Corporate’ – today called Non-Commercial.
VoiceOver was so much simpler then.
I’ve ridden the crest of the wave that grew Commercial work, then swept up animation, audiobooks and games, and since the late 1990’s, the burgeoning world of non-commercial thanks to digital expansion and the internet.
And it sure has been a great ride…as I, along with others, learned on the job.
Since the 1980’s, the landscape of voiceover has changed a great deal. Working in VO is now a global proposition. Whereas at one time there were a few dozen voiceover artist in each city or state, who did that work mainly in that landscape, there are now thousands sharing that work.
But the good news is that there is an enormous amount of work in voiceover. You hear the disembodied voice everywhere. And those who cast are always looking for new voice actors, who have proficiency and talent.
So, if working as a voice actor gets your juices flowing, then one of the first things you need to be comfortable with and understand, is that carving a niche and building a profile in VO is a ‘long game’. And you need to be the one playing it; full-out.
Let’s look at what playing that long game will entail.
What Does It Take To Become a VoiceOver Artist
First up let’s do a couple of check lists.
You believe you have the skills, right?
You’re truly, deeply passionate about it?
You’re prepared to do whatever it takes to get there?
And, you have the tenacity and stick-with-it-ness that you’ll need to succeed?
They are all important questions that you need to answer fully and honestly.
But the most important of all is this one.
Are you a good fit for voiceover?
- a brilliant sight reader
- a lover of words and language
- gifted with an excellent vocabulary
- talented at creating believable character voices
- blessed with a clean, clear voice and great diction
- a trained performer who wants to add VO to their repertoire
- able to create characterful reads by jumping into someone else’s shoes, or
- a non-performer who has a natural gift for creating expressive ‘spoken word’ reads.
Okay. If you checked 3 or more of the above, then read on.
You may have read articles, blogs and seen online platforms that will promise you, ‘all you need to get into voiceover is a microphone and a computer’, or tell you they know how you ‘can get started in voiceover without any training’, or that you just need you just pay a fee to access auditions on any of the many online platforms, go ahead and audition and…like magic…become a voiceover artist 😃
You may also already know, or have found out, that in this case the old adage applies, ‘If it sounds good to be true’…etc etc.
The truth is there’s no ‘easy’ way into voiceover 🤷🏻♀️
But it’s possible to build a successful business in voiceover when you know what you’re doing, understand what you’re good at, where you’re heading and why.
So, what does it take to become a voiceover artist?
You need to do research, understand the landscape of the industry, understand what work voiceover artists do and how to navigate each different area of voiceover.
You may not need a University Degree but it is a specialised skill, a craft; a craft that demands proficiency.
And trust me, it all takes time and commitment to the journey.
So, How Do You Get to Know What You’re Doing
If you’re someone who’s been told they could be working as a voice actor, your research will tell you that voiceover is:
- not just about a great voice
- not just about the fact that you do funny character voices; although that’s a great skill
- not just about the fact that you mimic famous people, although that ability says that you have a great ear and can change your voice, and it’s
- not just about how well you read, although that is a must.
It’s about great ‘spoken word’ skills.
They’re the skills of looking at any piece of text, or any style of script, and knowing how to work out and understand what the language is saying.
- What’s the story?
- Who is your audience?
- What messages are there?
- What are you trying to convince them of, inform or teach them of, and
- Most important of all, who are you, and what do you sound like when you deliver this message or story?
So, no matter what you voice style is, what your age is, where you live, or are from, voiceover is about delivering the message or story so that it connects or resonates with the listener.
But how DO you get to know what you’re doing?
You research. You read blogs. You listen to others. And you train for it.
You get coaching and you do courses.
But always make sure you’re doing this with a professional, ‘well reviewed’ organisation whose coaches are well credentialed…or your coach is someone who’s working in the voiceover industry, either as a voice actor or voiceover artist or is a producer of voices.
Make a Study of The World of VoiceOver
Listening to, or watching, others work is a great way to learn, but unless you happen to work in any of the environments where voiceover is recorded, such as a sound recording studio, radio station, or the communications department within a company, you’ll need to look online to see how it happens.
Google and Youtube are your friends in that way, especially for animation and character voicing.
But just put in all manner of language related to voiceover artists working and you’ll get some examples.
I Googled ‘voice actors behind the scenes’ to get actors voicing for animation.
Reading blogs about voiceover is essential. There’s plenty of information out there. You can go to my blog page and trawl through for anything that resonates with you.
When you’re out there researching just be careful you don’t go down the rabbit hole of promises.
And before you spend any money, do the free stuff. Research. Research. Research. It’s free!
But research is not just about performances, it’s about the landscape. Once again, that’s where coaching will help. Great coaches will guide you to where you might fit and help you understand the landscape and how it all works.
They’ll give you information on how to create demos or will work with you on one.
A good coach is gold
Next, after you’ve worked with a coach and know what you’re doing and why, are you prepared to create an affordable home studio to increase your options for doing voiceover work?
And make sure you’re very clear that you’re committed to the long game. It never happens quickly and trust me, there’s a lot to know.
So don’t rush it. Make sure you know what you’re doing and you’re comfortable with the process before you venture in.
I advise anyone I coach that having the flexibility of a home studio is the way of the future.
Home Studios have been in existence for well over a decade in the Americas and Europe, but in Australia most of us still liked the trip to the studio.
That was until March 2020 when Covid hit and working from a home studio was the only way you could work.
We set ourselves up and we worked. Now working from a home studio is normal.
We still go to studios though and I always love the face-to-face connection, but we’re often asked which we prefer, studio or remote?
I really love the time I save, working from home.
If you’ve already been researching how to get into voiceover, you will have come across great information about home studios. They’re affordable and pretty easy to set up.
I suggest an affordable minimum spend with basic gear – except the microphone, make sure it’s a good quality condenser microphone. You’ll be glad you did.
This will allow you to continue your practice at home, as well as help you understand more about microphone technique and how your voice works on the digital medium and when you’re ready to work, you’ll be set up and comfortable with your gear. It really isn’t difficult to learn.
All you need is a quiet space in your home, even a wardrobe or cupboard that is well baffled, not necessarily sound proof.
I recommend a RODE NT1A kit which is excellent quality and very affordable at between $450 and $530 depending on where you’re looking, so do look around.
You’ll need to add a mic stand or a desk mic stand, or any of the varieties of free-standing or arm music stands, depending on your space and set-up requirements.
Then you’ll need a program to record into, called a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) There’ll be one on your computer that you can play with but there are many out there. Google is your friend.
Initially you’ll be teaching yourself how to record your voice and understanding the power of the microphone. Practice scripts are available free online. Chatgpt can even provide some.
When you’re practicing with scripts, you’ll need to focus on how these three things, pace, volume and energy, change your reads, change your style and change your personality or personas. This is the work you need to do to create some versatility for your reads.
Versatility is what you need to get a variety of work.
One good voice and voice style is great, but the more proficient you are at looking at a script at understanding what it needs, and creating the right voice performance, is what gets you on-going work and helps build your reputation.
Being prepared to set yourself up as a voiceover artist and seek work takes time and bucketloads of ability and commitment to the long game.
If that’s you. Then get prepared! And go for it!!