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How to become a voice actor - voice talent records in studio
Jan 26, 2021
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How to Become a Voice Actor

Becoming a voice actor is undoubtedly more accessible than ever.

While digital recording was once prohibitively expensive, any aspiring voice actor can create professional-quality recordings in 2021 on a relatively limited budget.

With that being said, accessible isn’t the same as easy.

In fact, the decreasing costs of voice acting equipment have only led more and more people to enter the market. If you’re serious about becoming a voiceover actor, you’ll need more than a microphone and a pop filter.

To turn your goal into a reality, you’ll need to focus on training and invest time and effort into perfecting your vocal skills.

Of course, that’s not all.

Having a good voice is obviously critical for success as a voice artist, but you’ll need more than that to establish yourself as a professional.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about what voice actors do and how you can get into the voiceover industry.

By the end, you’ll have a better idea of what it takes to become a voice talent and whether this field is right for you.

 

Voice Acting—Pros and Cons

How to become a voice actor - studio engineer talks with talent

Voice acting is an exciting field, but it has its pros and cons just like any other profession.

With that in mind, it isn’t necessarily for everyone, and you should carefully consider your interest in this field before investing too much time or money.

 

Pros

  1. More people are looking for remote work than ever, and voice acting is the perfect field for anyone who’s tired of working in an office. While recording at commercial studios was common in the past, most voice actors now record from their home studio. Professionals often keep travel gear with them so they can record when away from home.
  2. Furthermore, a voice acting job gives you the opportunity to take control over your career path and broaden your horizons by working on a wide range of materials.  Of course, reaching your goals is never easy, but how you try to reach them is up to you. You won’t be accountable to any bosses or managers other than the clients you choose to work with.
  3. Since voice actors mostly cater to businesses, clients very often return to the same artists for multiple projects, so you’ll have the opportunity to generate repeat business rather than constantly reaching out to new clients.
  4. The voiceover community is incredibly supportive, helping newer voice actors learn the ropes and get their careers on track. Tips from more experienced voice over artists can be a valuable resource when you’re starting out.

 

Cons

On the other hand, there are some notable drawbacks that you shouldn’t underestimate if you’re thinking about getting started with voice acting.

  1. First, there’s the time you’ll need to invest in order to get off the ground. That includes training, auditioning, interviewing, building a recording space, and everything else that comes with changing career paths.
  2. Professional voice recording equipment can also be expensive for an aspiring voice actor and there’s no way to know in advance whether your investment will pay off.
  3. Starting a career as a voice actor has become more accessible than ever, but this has also led to a saturated market. With tens or even hundreds of voice actors competing for the same project, you’ll have to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection. No matter how skilled you are, you’ll need to find a way to stay positive through the process of recording auditions and understanding that they may be thrown out anyway.
  4. While we mentioned some of the advantages of voice acting and remote work in the last paragraph, working from home isn’t always easy. Telecommuters often have trouble keeping their work and personal lives separate, and some people find it more difficult to stay focused on work when they’re at home. You’ll also have to find other ways to stay socially active, especially if you’re used to seeing coworkers throughout the week.

Of course, whether you’d enjoy voice acting ultimately comes down to your preferences and priorities. The obstacles we’ve mentioned can pose a real challenge, but most voice actors wouldn’t switch to any other profession.

 

How Much Do Voice Actors Make?

You might be wondering how much voice actors make in a year, but it’s tough to estimate the expected salary in such a unique field.

Famous voice actors, like the ones recording animated character voices for The Simpsons often earn millions of dollars per year, but that obviously doesn’t represent the average salary.

While clients are generally willing to pay more for established professionals, new voice actors often struggle to develop their portfolio and attract enough jobs.

You’ll gradually find it easier to get involved with new projects as you spend more time in the industry, develop your skills, and network with clients and other voice actors.

As mentioned above, it’s also important to consider the cost of equipment, coaching, producing demos and anything else you’ll need to get your new career started.

You’ll need to earn that money back just to break even, and there may also be opportunity costs associated with dedicating yourself to becoming a professional voice actor.

In other words, you should take your financial situation into account when deciding how much time and money to invest in voice acting.

With that being said, you shouldn’t accept below market rates to get jobs more quickly when you’re starting out.

Some clients try to take advantage of novice voice actors (and freelancers in other professions) by paying less than a fair wage.

You should never take a job that doesn’t offer reasonable pay.

While you might be able to increase your rates further over time, it will be very difficult to do so with clients who’ve gotten accustomed to paying lower rates.

Use industry-standard rate guides like the GVAA guide in the US and Gravy for the Brain in the UK to learn how much to charge clients for voice over projects.

 

What Equipment Do I Need?

No matter how skilled you are, you’ll need professional equipment to ensure that your voice comes through clearly in each recording.

While you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on your starter setup, you should spend enough to get reliable equipment. There’s no sense in spending money on something you’ll have to upgrade in a few months.

Along with a decent microphone and a good pair of headphones, you’ll need to invest in a stand, pop filter, and shock mount, as well as a sound interface, and unless you already have one –  a computer or laptop.

Most importantly, you will need additional equipment to soundproof your home studio and isolate your space from external noises.

You will also need to acoustically treat your recording environment to minimize reverb and delay in your recordings.

Professional acoustic treatment is by far the most optimal, but you can get decent results (especially if on the go) by simply draping comforters or duvets on surfaces in order to dampen their reverberation.

Keep in mind that your microphone will pick up the fan and other noises from your computer. Unless it’s completely silent, you should consider keeping it outside of your recording space.

Once you have these tools, you’ll be ready to craft professional recordings at a moment’s notice.

You can buy starter recording bundles on Amazon on the cheap nowadays and produce great audio recordings in no time at all.

Of course, you aren’t really saving money if you need to upgrade soon after the initial purchase.

It’s okay to pay a little more for something with reliable quality.

A dedicated vocal booth for your recording studio, for example, is probably one of the best investments you can make for your future as a voiceover artist.

In addition to your physical equipment, you’ll also need to download software to create and edit recordings that are good enough to use on a professional level.

Attention to detail is a key element that often separates professional voice actors from enthusiasts or hobbyists.

A few of the most popular recording platforms for voiceover actors include Pro Tools, Studio One, Logic, Audacity, and Adobe Audition.

Both Audacity and Garageband (Mac) are free to use, making them great options for voice actors who are just getting into the industry.

Even if you’re relatively new, it’s still critical to consistently produce flawless recordings that demonstrate your talent and are free of imperfections that would give the client a negative impression.

 

What Voice Skills Do I Need?

How to become a voice actor - female voice talent recording

While a great voice isn’t the only thing you need to succeed as a voice over artist, you’ll obviously need strong vocal skills to make it in such a competitive field.

Even people with naturally charismatic voices have to work on their delivery and style in order to reach their full potential.

1. Clarity

Clarity is the most fundamental skill for aspiring voice actors.

Nothing else matters if your listeners can’t make out what you’re saying.

While different roles call for different speaking styles, effective voice actors can easily maintain clarity regardless of the context or tone of their voice over script.

We’re accustomed to speaking with enough clarity for the purposes of everyday life, but colloquial speaking styles can come off as unclear and monotone during a recording.

You won’t have a clear idea of how your voice will sound to clients until you record yourself speaking and listen to the results.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes you some time to improve your clarity-even though it sounds simple, speaking clearly can be surprisingly difficult in practice.

2. Consistency

Recording a line a single time is one thing, but recording it more than once can be tricky.

During a session, you may be asked to re-record certain sections to improve on particular areas without losing any of the force of your original recording.

You may also encounter projects where the client changed some of the wording in the copy.

In those cases, you’d need to punch in the new takes while maintaining the same energy, inflection and pace to make the changes sound seamless.

Minimizing variation across takes is a fundamental skill for both conventional actors and voice over artists.

If you’re having trouble matching your delivery on every attempt, work on your consistency by giving yourself the same lines multiple times while practicing.

If you have a voice coach (more on that later), they will also be able to help you improve your consistency along with other voice skills.

3. Cold Reading

You may have access to the voice over script in advance for certain projects, but copy usually changes multiple times prior to the session.

Therefore voice actors are often asked to read a script that they’ve never seen before right at beginning of the session.

The ability to quickly review a script and find the right tone is important for any voice over artist who wants to build their career.

Of course, one aspect of developing your skills as a cold reader is simply developing more confidence.

This process may feel overwhelming at first, but you’ll gradually get a feel for how to match your reading style to a new script.

You’ll gradually gain confidence as you spend more time in the industry and develop your voice acting skills to a professional level.

What Technical Skills Do I Need?

How to become a voice actor - back view of sound editor at his workstation

Vocal and marketing skills are obviously vital for professional voice actors, but you will also need to develop an array of technical skills in order to maximize the quality of your own recordings.

Microphone placement, for example, is a seemingly simple issue that causes problems for a surprising number of voice actors.

Experts often recommend recording from roughly six inches to one foot away, but you should experiment with different placements and angles to determine what works best for you.

Processing and editing your recordings is another important facet of voiceover work.

In the old days when voice actors worked at external studios, skilled sound editors or engineers would quickly remove breaths, noise and other  imperfections from the audio.

They would clean up harsh sibilant consonants like S, X, F, SH and remove plosives that can occur when pronouncing consonants like P, B, T and K – if needed (a good pop filter during the recording stage usually helps prevent plosives in the first place).

Sound engineers also know how to apply EQ and the right amount of compression to the recording, for a more professional final product.

Nowadays, unless you’re asked to deliver “raw” (unprocessed) recordings, typically requested by production houses or sound engineers – it’s all expected of you.

Your job as a voice actor is to deliver audio that is edited, processed and ready for final production.

What Education Do I Need?

How to become a voice actor - voice coach and female voiceover student in sound booth

Even if your voice is perfect for voice acting, you’ll still need to take some time to develop your skills before trying to make it your career.

No matter where you are now, you can make a lot of progress by investing in your own talent and finding ways to improve your voice acting skills.

If you’ve never worked as a voice actor, you should definitely work with a professional coach to help you develop your technique.

If in-person coaching isn’t accessible, you can get a similar experience through online tutoring and digital events.

An experienced voice coach will pick up on your tendencies and raw talent, helping you improve on weaknesses you didn’t even know you had, from proper enunciation to delivery with a sensibility that matches the copy’s message.

That kind of one-on-one education can be expensive, but it’s hard to overestimate the impact a qualified coach can have on your voice acting career.

Coaching is particularly critical for beginners who don’t have as much experience in voice acting, but many professional voice actors continue seeking training even after they’ve developed their careers.

Ongoing education is the best way to keep your skills sharp over time. Even the best voice over talent has room for improvement.

Your acting coach may also be able to help with other areas of your career such as marketing, networking, and audio production.

With that being said, private voice lessons aren’t the only opportunity to consider if you’re wondering how to become a voice actor.

Acting classes, conferences, and voice acting forums and events are incredibly valuable resources, especially for those who are just starting out.

Voice acting classes are incredibly valuable on their own, but you may also learn valuable skills through a conventional acting class.

Even though you won’t be physically acting during voice over projects, some of the same principles can easily transfer to voice acting performances.

Things like understanding your character, breaking down scripts, and gaining confidence in your own abilities transcend any individual acting discipline and will strengthen your own skills as a voice actor.

Traditional acting classes will also give you the opportunity to network with actors who aren’t involved in the voice acting space, and they may end up being valuable resources throughout your career.

While vocal skills are obviously fundamental to long-term success as a voiceover artist, it’s just as important to learn how to effectively pitch yourself to potential clients.

What Fields Do Voice Actors Work In?

How to become a voice actor - voice coach and student in sound booth

Commercials, corporate videos, audiobook recordings and video games are some of the most well-known voice acting opportunities.

The allure of these fields brings many new voice over artists into the industry.

When most people hear the words “voice acting,” they think of cartoon, movie, and video game characters as well as the actors who played them.

Of course, it helps that famous voice actors are often paid millions of dollars for each project.

With that being said, you can find voice over work in a wide range of other forms of media, and you don’t have to be a dramatic or comedic actor to enjoy success as a voice talent.

Furthermore, most successful voice actors are neither celebrities nor millionaires, so it’s important to set reasonable expectations.

In fact, pigeonholing yourself into these kinds of roles can be counterproductive, especially given how competitive entertainment projects tend to be for aspiring voice actors.

It’s worth examining some of the other opportunities out there if you’re looking for a way to break into voice acting.

1. Digital Education

With more students learning online than ever, for example, digital education is a rapidly growing field for voice over talent.

Voice actors who specialize in educational content are in extremely high demand, and this trend will likely continue to grow throughout the 2020s and beyond.

While educational voice acting involves some of the same skills that are applied in entertainment, there are also key differences between recording for training courses and recording for a movie or TV show.

Longform Narration – the ability to engage a listener for an extended period of time, is one example.

2. Corporate Training

Corporate training is another lucrative opportunity for voice actors who can offer professional delivery.

Organizations invest a lot of resources in producing e-learning material for their employees and these are constantly being updated as new products and services are developed.

3. Commercials and Marketing

Companies in a wide range of industries hire voice actors for commercials, explainer videos, and other promotional content.

While you may work on promotions for clients that also need voice overs for internal communications, commercial content requires a different tone since it targets customers rather than employees.

Clients with ongoing marketing needs may work with the same voice actor over time, and it’s always good to find ongoing projects as a new voiceover artist.

Explainer videos are typically short demonstrations or tutorials designed to showcase a brand’s product or service.

They can appear anywhere from websites to marketing emails and social media pages, and often mix animation and voice over for a top-level audiovisual explanation.

4. Entertainment

Of course, many voice actors work on entertainment projects including video games, podcasts, and audiobooks, so there are many different opportunities out there for every kind of voice actor.

The right way to look for jobs as a voice over artist depends on the kinds of projects you’re interested in.

How to Land Voice Acting Jobs

How to become a voice actor - voice talent happy to get new recording project

Once you have the necessary equipment and skills, the next step is applying and interviewing for voice acting roles.

This is a big step if it’s your first time working in the industry.

Furthermore, voice acting can be highly competitive, and novice voice actors can get discouraged when they have trouble landing the gigs they’re interested in.

Persistence is key to success in any career path, so keep making an effort even if you’re struggling to gain any momentum.

There’s no shortcut to becoming a successful voice actor, but there are some steps you can take to get your name out there and improve your personal brand.

Jobs are often filled online, so a strong digital presence is foundational to marketing yourself as a voice actor.

That includes social media pages plus a professional website that gives potential clients an idea of your skills and range.

You should include voice samples from your portfolio as well as testimonials and anything else that demonstrates your voice acting talent.

A strong demo reel will illustrate what you can do for your clients and give you a chance to display any successful projects you’ve been involved with.

Your demo reel will only become more impressive as you spend more time in the industry, so don’t worry if you only have a few personal projects to display at first.

Of course, you should always get permission from the client you were working for before using the project in your portfolio.

Agencies are another important resource for new voice actors to take advantage of.

Agency representation can help you connect with jobs that may be more difficult to find on your own.

If you’re new to the field, consider taking it slowly rather than jumping into the deep end.

Part-time projects are an easy way to start out, and you won’t have to quit your day job or rely on voice over work as your only source of income.

That said, you should think carefully before entering any exclusive agreements that could cut you off from other sources of work.

Aspiring voice actors often compare themselves to established actors in order to help potential clients understand their work.

While having a role model is never a bad thing, you should try to avoid marketing yourself based on someone else.

Establishing your own unique brand is a vital aspect of positioning yourself for long-term success in the field of voice acting.

Finally, take some time to interact with other voice actors, especially ones with more experience.

Networking is one of the most reliable ways to learn, find new projects and expand your horizons as an aspiring actor.

If a voice artist doesn’t feel that they’re right for a particular project, you want to be the first person they think of to refer to the client.

Don’t underestimate how many jobs you could get by being recommended by other voice talent who can vouch for your skills.

When you do get a job by means of a referral – give 110% to the client.

Remember that the person who referred you has their reputation on the line just as much as you do, if not more.

As in any other field, networking should be a consistent part of your career plan.

Even if you don’t need any new leads right now, you should still be actively reaching out to voice actors and others who are involved in the voice acting industry.

Tips on Auditioning for Voice Over Jobs

Clients often audition ten or more voice actors for the same job, so preparing for auditions is one of the best ways to land more voice work.

In this section, we’ll cover a few ways to increase your odds of nailing your next audition.

1. Keep Auditioning

Simply auditioning more often is a great thing you can do to improve your skills.

You’ll learn something new every time you try out for a new job, and you’ll also build your confidence as you work with more clients.

Getting jobs as a voice actor often takes time, so keep working at it even if you don’t hear back from the prospective client or the casting director requesting the audition.

2. Focus on the Right Projects

On the other hand, it can be tempting for new voice actors to audition for as many jobs as possible in order to maximize their odds of success.

While auditioning is good practice on its own, you shouldn’t waste time or effort on jobs that don’t fit your skill set.

Prioritizing projects that would provide a chance to display your unique talents will help you win more jobs while carving out a niche in the voice acting community.

With so many professional voice actors auditioning for each project, there’s no reason to spend time on an audition that you don’t feel confident in.

3. Read a Small Part of the Script

If a client posted a full script for the audition, don’t record the entire thing.

Unless required as a guide, casting directors will only listen to a short section of each audition.

Recording anything longer is a waste of time and energy you could be putting into another audition.

20 or 30 seconds should be more than enough for most recordings.

This also gives you the opportunity to select the portion of the script that you feel the most comfortable with.

You’ll have more time to work on your material if you limit the audition to a small section of the full script.

When recording, feel free to jump straight into the script rather than slating your name or the part you’re auditioning for.

We highly recommend adding a water mark to short auditions, especially when working with a client you aren’t familiar with.

This will prevent them from using your audition commercially.

In Summary

Building a successful career as a voice actor doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a more realistic goal than you might think, and it’s more accessible than ever in 2021.

These tips will help you get the equipment you need, improve your skills through training and education, and connect with the voice acting jobs you’re looking for.

Did you like this article? Have any questions? Please feel free to comment below.

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