“People tell me I have a nice voice, how do I get work as a voice-over actor?”
If I had a dime for every time someone asked me this question I would be retired in a mansion on the beach in Malibu… made completely out of dimes! Having a nice voice isn’t enough – there is a lot of work involved in being a voice actor. It is not just an ability to make funny voices or having a natural deep authoritative baritone (though those things help), it takes a ton of dedication, time, hard work, and a extra large helping of persistance. However, if you are willing to put in the work voice acting can be fun and profitable.
Where to start? Take a voice-over class.
The first thing I recommend to every person who inquires about the voice over industry is to take a class! Of course, in Los Angeles and New York there are many industry veterans teaching great classes and workshops. (Find some here-voice over resource guide). But if you aren’t in LA or NY, I bet you can still find a class in most of the major markets around the country. If you absolutely can’t find a class in your area there are also online classes available. However, being in an actual physical class is truly the best option! You will learn things about how the industry works, microphone techniques, voice exercises, session tips, cold reading, etc. More importantly you will become more comfortable performing in front of other people and taking direction. This is a big hurdle for a lot of wanna-be actors. I call it microphone shyness.
Along with the great knowledge you will gain from a class another huge benefit is the relationships you will make! A beginning network of people who are pursuing the same thing you are. People you can both learn from and learn with. As in any business networking is a necessity and taking a class will create the foundation of your voice over industry network.
Research and more research.
If you are reading this blog post you probably have all ready started the research process. There are blogs, webinars, and websites dedicated to voice over all over the internet, plus book after book on how to get into the world of voice over. A quick Amazon search comes up with many books on the subject. If you’re lucky, there might even be one at your local library. Remember – There is no single way to break into the industry. Every successful actor has a different story, a different path. The more you know about how others achieved their success, the more you know about the industry in general, the more you will be able to recognize these opportunities when you see them. Knowledge is power.
Practice on your own and be yourself!!!
How do you practice on your own? I have provided a six step list below. Not only is this what I always suggest but I have heard many other veteran voice actors recommend the same practice technique. For this list we will use radio commercial voice-overs but this also works with narration, cartoons, promos, etc.
- Record some commercials off the radio. Choose quality commercials. Pick the top station in your market, record several ads from drive time that feature national brands like Coors, McDonalds, or Southwest Airlines.
- Transcribe the copy from the commercials you have recorded.
- Listen carefully to how the actors subtly emphasize words and phrases. Where they are relaxed. Where they add urgency.
- Read along with the ads. Feel the pace and absorb the patterns.
- Now practice reading them alone. (Even recording your practice reads if possible to listen back to.)
- Rinse and repeat.
Just like any creative work you can learn a lot from the ones who do it best! Even though you may want to sound just like your favorite voice-actors it is very important to not force a voice – BE YOURSELF!!!!! I can’t stress this enough. Do not mimic the voices you hear. Do not try to copy them exactly. Feel the inflections and emphasis of the other actors but do it in your own voice!! One of the things that really turns a producer or casting director off very quickly is hearing a voice-actor trying to sound like someone they are not. We have heard thousands of demos and can always tell when actors are faking it or pushing it to hard. Be yourself!
Voice Over 101 in review.
Take a class and start your voice-over network!
Research, research, and more research!
Practice at home and get comfortable controlling your voice!
Working hard on all the steps in this post will prepare you for the next step in your voice over career – getting work! Stay connected with “Working Creative” and watch for the next post on this subject “Voice Over 102 – how to get work as a beginner”
(Photo courtesy of imagery majestic / freedigitalphotos.net)