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What is voice over - voice talent inside booth
What is voice over - voice talent inside booth
Alex Mcomie 107x107
Feb 11, 2024

What Is Voice Over? What do Voice Actors do?

You might think of “voice over” as another term for “voice recording,” but the truth is that not all voice recordings are considered voice overs.

You might consider a radio interview a voice recording, but it wouldn’t make sense to call it a voice over.

Voice actors work on a wide range of projects including TV shows, video games, audiobooks, and more.

They also contribute to other kinds of content such as e-learning, public service announcements, and corporate videos and presentations.

Creating a voice over might sound as simple as recording yourself on your phone or computer, but voice actors are trained professionals who use high-end equipment for the best possible sound quality.

At the same time, decreasing equipment prices, combined with growth in relevant fields, has made it easier than ever to enter the voice acting industry.

In this article, we’ll go over the history of voice acting and the difference between voice overs and other types of voice recordings.

We’ll also cover the current state of the industry as well as the skills and equipment new voice artists need to reach their professional goals.


What is Voice Over?

What is voice over - voice actor using reflexion filter

As mentioned above, all voice overs are voice recordings, but simply recording your voice doesn’t make you a voice actor.

While voice overs come in many forms, there are a few key characteristics that separate them from other types of recordings.

The most obvious one is that voice overs are recorded by professionals who are paid specifically for their voice.

A late-night TV host needs to have a great voice, but that isn’t the main focus of their job.

Professional voice artists take their work seriously and devote time, money, and energy into improving their vocal skills.

Whether you’re listening to a dramatic voice over in a movie or TV show, or an informative one at an airport or train station, the speaker was likely compensated for their work.

A professional voice actor hones his or her craft by developing speaking styles that match the tone of the subject matter.

Of course, they also need fundamental skills such as clarity and versatility regardless of their unique style.

Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones, for example, bring a distinctive tone to each of their projects.

Their voices are immediately recognizable, which makes them a great option for movie trailers or TV shows that need voice over work.

Another crucial distinction is that voice actors aren’t visible in the way they would be when giving a speech or lecture.

A public announcement is no longer a voice over if it is displayed on a screen, and voice overs in films and TV shows need to be delivered by someone off-camera.

That might sound easier, but it can be surprisingly difficult to get invested in a role when you’re sitting in front of a computer screen.

Actors who are used to physically acting out scenes often have trouble adjusting to the voice over format.


When Did Voice Acting Start?

What is voice over - a simple home studio set up

Voice overs became possible when we developed equipment for recording and playing back voices.

The 1928 Disney cartoon “Steamboat Willie” is one of the earliest examples of a voice over in mass media.

Most Americans recognize this as the first popular cartoon, and it was a key step toward today’s massive animation industry.

That said, voice actors had been hired for informational purposes well before they began to appear in cartoons and films.

Reginald Fessenden, the first voice actor and possibly the first radio broadcaster, gave a weather notice from the coast of Maryland in 1900 — 28 years before “Steamboat Willie.”

That said, home radios weren’t commonplace until much later, and the recording was only sent to a single recipient, so it’s easy to see why “Steamboat Willie” is the first voice over in popular memory.

“Steamboat Willie” was arguably the first well-known voice over in American media.

Since then, the voice over industry has consistently grown due to both technological and social trends.

For many years, only dedicated studios could produce professional-quality recordings.

This limited the availability of voice overs and also made it difficult for new actors to enter the field.

Modern equipment makes it easy to record and transmit your voice to anyone in the world on a relatively small budget.

Today, even freelancers can create amazingly clear recordings from a home studio.

Similarly, the rapid growth of the entertainment industry increased demand for professional voice actors.

The most famous voiceover artists are known for their work on video games, movies, TV shows, and more.

While the market is now intensely competitive, it’s clear that voice acting is more accessible to new and unrecognized talent than ever before.


What Do Voice Actors Do?

What is voice over - voice actor recording

In 2024, voice actors work at different scales and on a wide range of projects. 

Some voice actors are known specifically for their voice work, while others start as conventional actors before branching out into voice overs.

Actors who are still looking to break through may have a day job while recording professionally on the side.

It can be challenging to get full-time work as a new voice artist, and freelancers often move from one project to another with little continuity. 

Voice actors are split among a variety of fields, and the market is continuing to adjust to the growth of new types of media.

E-learning, for example, is expected to grow by about 14% per year between 2023 and 2032.

Narrating e-learning content isn’t necessarily as glamorous as recording for a blockbuster movie, but it’s a great way to get started as a professional voice actor.


While some TV and film voice artists earn millions of dollars per year, you don’t need to work in entertainment to have a successful career.

More and more voice actors are moving away from conventional agencies to pursue voice over work as freelancers.

Freelancing is sometimes unpredictable, but it can also be highly lucrative.

It gives voice artists more flexibility than ever when it comes to applying for and working on voice acting projects.

This aligns with a larger trend toward freelancing in the American economy, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An estimated 38% of US workers freelanced at some point in 2023.

Professional voice actors cultivate various skills in order to take different kinds of jobs.

A radio commercial announcer needs to be able to speak quickly and clearly in order to narrate the entire script during a short ad slot.

However, the same actor may need to speak more slowly when recording for corporate videos or public service announcements.

Dramatic and comedic work will require the same kinds of voice skills used in live-action films and TV shows.

While every voiceover artist relies on some fundamental vocal and technical abilities, their specific skillset will depend on their experience and career direction.

Dubbing and Localization

Dubbing is a form of voice acting in which an actor records lines for a character whose lip movements are synchronized with the voice over.

It’s commonly used when translating videos from one language to another.

Content localization often involves hiring new voice actors to record lines in new languages along with scriptwriters to provide a natural translation.

Voice professionals need to develop their range in order to be marketable for different opportunities.

Working on a wider range of projects makes voiceover artists more likely to find well-paying voice acting jobs and make a name for themselves in the field.

An artist might record voice overs for any of these forms of media:


Many voice actors work on TV commercials, online ads, radio spots, and even movie previews.

Depending on the project, promotional work may be dramatic, comedic, informative, or more conversational in tone.

Clients will look for an artist whose voice matches the content of the ad as well as the brand’s .

Similarly, different ads can run from as short as a few seconds to as long as several minutes.

The advertising industry had seen a decade of consistent growth until the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, and it’s expected to keep expanding in the near future.

TV, Movies, and Video Games

Entertainment work can be incredibly lucrative for professional voice over artists, and it also gives them a chance to be more creative.

Like conventional actors, voiceover artists have the opportunity to explore their range and perform in both dramatic and comedic contexts.

With that said, entertainment can also be very competitive — this is a tough field for novice voice actors to break into.


The audiobook industry is growing rapidly, nearly doubling in size in just four years from 2018-2022.

Books range from informative and technical to comic and dramatic, so different voice actors are naturally suited to different types of audiobooks.

In many ways, recording an audiobook is similar to other projects, including narration for TV, movies, and video games.

Narrators convey a story without acting out a particular role.

Skilled narrators know how to match the style of the script they’re reading and keep their audience interested in the content.


As mentioned earlier, e-learning is another rapidly growing field that often requires clear voice overs.

E-learning content depends on narrators to help students understand and retain course material.

These are some of the most well-known voice acting opportunities, but voiceover artists might also be involved in other projects including:

Among many other applications.

Some of the most well-known (and well-compensated) recent voice actors include Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), Billy West (Fry), and Mark Hamill (the Joker).

Stars in popular animated shows like the Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy can earn tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode.


What Equipment Do Voice Actors Use?

What is voice over - condenser mic headphones and recording software

Freelance voice actors often invest in their own equipment and work from a home studio.

Basic recording equipment is relatively inexpensive today compared to ten or twenty years ago.

Rookie voice actors can easily buy a new microphone, headphones, and a sound card (or “interface”) for less than $1,000.

On the other hand, professional-grade equipment can go well into the tens, if not hundreds of thousands.

It comes down to how much you’re willing to invest in recording quality.


Microphones are one of the most important pieces of voice acting equipment.

New voice actors often upgrade from a USB microphone to an XLR mic after some career development.

Many of the best options cost several hundred or even some thousands of dollars, while budget mics are available for less than $100.


Headphones offer great audio quality for voice actors who need an isolated listening experience to identify any imperfections.

High-quality headphones can run from under $100 to $400 or $500, particularly for studio-grade models.

Soundproofing and Acoustic Treatment

Even the best equipment won’t compensate for background noise, poor acoustics, or other fundamental issues with your space.

Soundproofing and acoustic treatment are vital to any home or professional studio.

Soundproofing is the process of minimizing exterior noises from entering the recording space.

This is accomplished by applying specialized, heavy barriers on or inside the studio walls.

Studio windows are often double glazed and specifically designed to prevent outside noise from coming in.

Acoustic treatment is also essential in order to achieve audio that is “dry” or echo-free.

When you speak inside an empty room, the sound bounces off the walls and creates reverberation.

To avoid this, the recording space is covered with specially designed acoustic panels.

These panels are built to absorb sound waves, and different types are placed strategically depending on the frequencies they are meant to absorb.

Isolation shields are an inexpensive alternative, but they aren’t always enough on their own.

Professional voice actors generally use isolation booths.

These are equipped with both sound-proofing and acoustic treatment and are extremely effective in getting a balanced, dry sound.

While most professionals now record from home studios, they may still find themselves working in a professional studio for certain projects.

This is particularly common for big-budget movies and TV shows.

Recording studios dedicated specifically to voice overs (as opposed to music, for example) are available in many American cities.

Major production companies would rather work with a consistent in-house setup rather than trusting each actor to record from home.

Of course, this only applies to a small fraction of voice over projects.

If you’re interested in becoming a professional voice actor, you’ll need to invest in your own equipment.

Even if you have an incredible voice, your audition tapes will probably be thrown out if they contain background noise, reverberation, or other imperfections.

What Skills Do Voice Actors Need?

What is voice over - female voice actor holding microphone

Unsurprisingly, the top priority for voiceover artists is to improve their vocal skills and range.

A naturally great voice is a big advantage, but even the most gifted actors need constant practice and training to stay on top of their game.


Speaking clearly is a fundamental skill for any voice actor (or conventional actor), and our normal speaking voice isn’t always well-suited to the recording studio.

Maintaining clarity while emphasizing the right syllables and providing a suitable tone can be surprisingly difficult.

Voice actors of all skill levels work with vocal coaches to improve their clarity and build other critical skills.

Clarity is particularly crucial for voiceover artists because it’s important in every single recording.

Voice over work calls for much more clarity than we are accustomed to using in everyday conversation.

Whether you’re doing voiceover work for an e-learning class, a corporate training seminar, or a video game, the listener needs to be able to make out what you’re saying.

Coaches are especially helpful when it comes to improving your mindset and learning to speak clearly in different contexts.


Flexibility is another important skill when it comes to nailing auditions and building your reputation as a voice actor.

The more projects you can work on, the more likely you are to find voice acting jobs and develop your career.

You’ll also be able to craft a unique and engaging demo reel when you can demonstrate a greater variety of talents compared to the competition.

New voice actors often aren’t used to the process of quickly reading a script and performing it without prep time.

Cold Reading

Some clients will give you plenty of time to prepare, but it won’t always be this way.

Cold reading refers to the process of recording a script without having seen it before the session.

Skilled cold readers sound completely prepared even when they’re recording a script while reading it for the first time.


Finally, consistency is a fundamental aspect of professional voice acting.

Recording a script a single time is one thing, but performing the same lines over and over can be very challenging.

Voice actors are often asked to do multiple takes until they get the result the client is looking for.

Like taking multiple pictures to make sure one comes out perfectly, recording several takes is always a good idea.

The best voice actors can maintain the same tone, clarity, and emphasis whether they’re working on take #1 or take #100.


Having a great voice isn’t enough to succeed as a voice actor on your own — you also need to be able to market yourself to clients.

In this sense, voice acting is similar to conventional acting.

Producers aren’t looking for abstract skills, they’re looking for a particular person who they want to work with.

Your personal image, communication skills, and experience are just as important as your actual voice.

Like freelancers in any other field, voice actors need to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection.

The important thing is to continue persevering even when you’re having trouble landing jobs.

You’ll also need marketing and networking skills to get your name in front of the right people.

Creating a portfolio website, posting on freelance sites, and connecting with other voice actors will help you get more work.

How Much Do Voice Actors Make?

What is voice over - woman hands cash to another person

Voice acting pay varies widely from one project to another, and professional voice over rates depend on quite a few parameters.

Some famous TV and movie voice actors make millions of dollars per year.

This isn’t representative of the average voice actor’s experience, but you don’t need to become a celebrity to have a successful career.

As a self-employed voice talent, your income will ultimately come down to how much your clients are willing to pay.

Novice voiceover artists often take some time to learn the ropes on relatively low-paying contracts before building a reputation and moving on to more lucrative ones.

Those disparities make it uniquely difficult to estimate the median or average salary for professional voice talent.

ZipRecruiter, for example, places the national average at $100,198 per year, but there’s more variance than in some other industries.

25% of salaried American voice actors make $81,500 or less, while the top 25% earns $125,000 or more.

Of course, many voice actors don’t have a salary at all, but rather get paid for each individual project.

You shouldn’t approach voice acting as a full-time job until you land a salaried gig or start to generate consistent income.

Actors can only work for a limited number of hours per day before straining their voice, so it’s usually not realistic to approach voice acting as a 9-5 or full-time job.

How Big Is the Voice Acting Industry?

Voice acting intersects with many other fields including film, TV, radio, and more.

With that in mind, it’s also tough to estimate the voice acting market as a whole.

Still, it’s clear that there skilled voice actors have more opportunities than ever.

The audiobook industry, for example, was already worth more than $5 billion in 2022, and it’s projected to grow by over 26% per year through 2030.

The recent increase in remote work and school has also driven growth in other key sectors such as e-learning (16%).

While the specific content types may change over time, there will always be demand for skilled voice actors.


Voice acting has grown dramatically over time, and there’s no reason to think this trend will slow down anytime soon.

The field has adapted to customer preferences, technological developments, and other factors since its inception, so it’s impossible to predict what it will look like in five or ten years.

Here at Voice Crafters, we work with amazing voice actors who have a diverse range of talents.

We pre-screen all of our talent, so you can rely on us for a professional result – every time.

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