I want to get into Voiceovers - how do I do it?
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You don't have what it takes.
Are you sure?
Before you jump right into it and scream to the world from the rooftops, "I'M GOING TO BE THE GALAXY'S GREATEST VOICEOVER TALENT AND THAT'S THAT! HEAR ME ROAR, WORLD!!!" have you sat down and asked yourself if you really have what it takes?
So. Do you have what it takes?
First, let me congratulate you on even *considering* taking such an awesome plunge. You're about to dive into a pool full of wonder, accomplishment, hopes fulfilled, character-driven flamboyancy, awesome networking, incredible dreams realized, and endless possibilities of being chosen.
"How do I get started in Voiceovers?" is a question that has been asked by thousands and thousands of people over the past few decades. Home studios crop up all the time and voiceover artists dot the planet numbering in the hundreds of thousands. And that question has been answered by many of these people with "I did it, and it worked."
Maybe you're asking this question because you've been told "you have a good voice." Many people have told me that people have told them that. I want to start by saying something that might surprise you. Here it is: "So what?" And yes, I meant to say that. Is it a mean question? Not really, when you think about it. Every field needs to validate its entrants, and the voiceover industry is no exception. Do you have an awesome voice? Maybe. Maybe you've been told you have a "face for radio" (yuk yuk yuk). But an awesome voice does not a good voiceover artist make. So, with that said, what makes a good voiceover artist? If you were going to make a good batch of voiceover artist cookies, here are the ingredients you would pour in, in heavy doses:
- A lot of skill
- The ability to network
- A sense of humor
- The willingness to fail...and then try again
- Allowing yourself to be coached and trained
- Business acumen
- Mastering technique
- Reading ahead
- Being passionate
- Lifting words off of the page
- and most of all, being committed to goals.
Speaking of Goals!
If you have a goal of growing a successful voiceover business, then you must check out my video training series or my book series. They are minimal investments to ensure that you start off with the right inspiration and information.
But here's what I say, and many would agree. The very first thing that you need, is to contact a voiceover coach. Don't wait. Check out this highly rated coach today. He'll give it to you straight, he'll tell you how it is, and he's incredibly generous with his time, his humor, and his passion. His rates are reasonable, and he's a wonderful mammal. You would do very well to learn from Scott. After all, he's my coach, and I speak from experience.
Coaching > Demo > Website > Marketing. Get coaching. Get instruction on how to do this right. Everything else hinges on that. Do NOT skip coaching. Then have a demo made by that coach. Then have a website made when you’ve got a viable demo to present. Then, start telling people. Follow this foundation and you’ll succeed.
Scott will tell you if you have what it takes...and if you don't, he'll help you get there.
Aside from that, network with other voice talent. Join groups online. There are Facebook groups aplenty like VO Tech Talk, VO Peeps, Global Voiceover Artists Network, and more. There are coaches and experienced voice talent like Paul Strikwerda, Tim Tippetts, Tracy Lindley, Marc Cashman, Everett Oliver, Pat Fraley, Dave Fennoy, Paul Strikwerda, J Michael Collins, Anne Ganguzza, Jon Bailey, Kay Bess, and many, many more, who would be willing to sow into your lives.
Join local voiceover Meetups. Talk with others in online communities. Network, network, network. Rub shoulders with greatness, and greatness will rub off on you.
Don't quit your day job
Ever heard that phrase? Lots of people the world over have been told "don't quit your day job." It's a phrase that is not meant to deter, and is often said in a spirit of humor. Ultimately, lots of actors (voice and regular actors alike) have to find a way to pay the bills. And voice acting won't do that right out of the gate. There are celebrities in the voiceover world who make a fortune in voiceovers. There are legends, whose voice you've heard in movie trailers. Or masters who have held you captive, spellbound, as they have narrated audiobooks to you.
All of these people have invested into their craft, and spent countless time and dollars perfecting what they do and how they do it. Their names are synonymous with celebrity, because they've paved the way.
But they didn't just make a killing in voiceovers right away. They worked very hard to pay for the things that they needed, such as equipment, coaching, software, training, and marketing. So after a coach, remember that you need to make sure to find a way to pay for the things that you're going to need to be successful in voiceovers. To do that, you're going to need to make or save some cash, and invest that back into what you need to succeed.
I've heard it said that a career in cosmetology costs you between fifteen and twenty-five thousand dollars. And what do you get paid for a haircut? $18? $40? $80? You can voice a national television commercial in a directed session requiring about 30 minutes, provide them the raw audio and not need to do any pickups (changes) or even touching it up, for thousands and thousands of dollars. Which one will you choose? Take your time, I'll be here.
Are you a self-promoter?
There's nothing wrong with a little shameless self-promotion here and there. In this industry, the clients aren't going to necessarily find you. You have to work for them. You have to humbly put aside your humble. Stick your chest out. Inhale deeply and know that you're a force to be reckoned with. After all, will the sheepish "Sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if ________" approach get you anywhere? Methinks not.
Know deep inside, or at least start down the path of knowing and accepting, that you are a contender. That you are talented and have something to offer. That you can really contribute and help bring a company's message to life as their brand ambassador. There is nothing outside of the realm of possibility when you take on this mantle and don this cape. You are a Voiceover Superhero. Believe.
Take the time to figure out where and how you're going to market, and know that there are people who will help you. I'm one of them. A paid way to go would be my video training series for voice talent. It's, ahem, really good. It's not an expense; rather, it's an investment. Consider it...because it will change your marketing and business approaches.
Be bold. Know that you're in the ring and you have something to offer.
Yoo-hoo! Voiceover work....Ollie Ollie In Come Free!
So where is all that work you've heard so much about? Where can you find it? Where is it hiding? The answer....everywhere you look. You might be surprised to know that your company-owning uncle needs to have a new IVR (Interactive Voice Recording) system put in place for his business. Or that your dentist just had a promo video produced and needs narration. Or your sister's company is producing E-Learning and needs a voice.
Voiceover. Work. Is. Everywhere.
Look for it, because it's out there waiting for you to find. All you have to do is to look:
- The Voiceover Marketplaces - Voice123.com, Voices.com, VOPlanet.com, Bodalgo.com, and the newest, arguably the best player out there, is Voiceovers.com. This is a HUGE topic for another blog, and needs to be handled with grace and thought, so we'll circle back to this one. This is the easiest way to get work if you're non-union. Keep away from sites like The Voice Realm, JustSaySpots, SpeedySpots, Cheapvoiceovers, GigNewton, and Fiverr. Bargain basement pricing coupled with juvenile mistreatment of voice talent = a recipe for failure and frustration...and in some extreme cases, getting blacklisted.
- Google Ads
- Direct Emails
- Blog posts & outreaches
- Instagram ads
- Facebook ads
- Local networking groups such as Meetup, BizBuilders, LeTip, BNI, and Chambers of Commerce.
- Video Producer directories
- Casting agent directories
- Video production company websites
- Talk to other VO talent about where they get their work from
- The phone book. (Huh???) Yes. The phone book. And you don't even have to be a telemarketer.
Everywhere you look, possible clients are swarming around you, under your nose, rubbing shoulders with you, sitting next to you, driving in front of you (or tailgating you), on the bus with you, on the phone with you, in your life with you. Voiceovers can be plugged into every area of your life. One of the best ways you can reach out is by getting vinyl lettering on your car...or having branded T-Shirts made that instruct people to "ask me about voiceovers." Seriously! Think I'm crazy? I've done both, and I've driven that car and worn that T-shirt out on date night. You never know who you might run into - and even if it's not a business prospect, what better subject to talk about than your exciting career?? (Or perhaps your amazing children, time permitting...)
Seriously, they're all out there.
Ooops - I need voiceover equipment too, don't I
"How do I get started in voiceovers?" Let's talk about equipment and software. Here's what I bought. This is NOT the end-all-be-all, nor is it exhaustive. This is simply what I bought for me, and how I roll. I've upgraded here and there, and purchased different equipment and software:
- Sony Vegas Pro 15 - used to be a video editor, so this is what I started out with, as it has a great audio editing interface.
- I then upgraded to iZotope RX6 Advanced audio editing software
- I then upgraded to Reaper audio editing software for $60. SIXTY DOLLARS. An incredible purchase that has made my career. It is northing short of incredible, and easy to use. I no longer use Sony. I will never leave Reaper.
- Grace m101 PreAmp
- Yamaha HS5 reference monitors
- Acoustic foam
- Acoustic noise blankets
- Scarlet FocusRite 2x2 audio interface to connect with my computer
- AudioTechnica AT2020 mic
- I then upgraded to a Neumann TLM 102 mic from the sale of my AT2020
- I then upgraded to a Sennheiser MKH416 mic from the sale of my Neumann.
- Vocal Booth To Go for mobile recording
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones
- Lyx Pro Acoustic Backwall
- Custom-built iso-booth home studio for $1800
- I then upgraded to a StudioBricks home studio for $8000
As far as mic and equipment, you can get a great mic like a Rode NT1A, an AudioTechnica 2020 or 2035 (or even a 4040), an Apogee Mic 96k, Rode NT-USB, MXL 990s, Neumann TLM102 or TLM103, Shure SM7B, etc.. I'd also recommend a Scarlet Focusrite 2i2 interface. Of course it goes without saying get a great pair of reference monitors that allow you to really hear your material crystal clear.
What I might recommend is the following starting out, for the budget-conscious:
- AudioTechnica AT2020 - $169
- Mic & headphone cables - <$50
- Reaper - $60
- Scarlet FocusRite Solo interface - $109
- Decent headphones (LyxPro is a good inexpensive set of headphones) - $50
- Acoustically-treated space like a padded clothes closet - $50?
- Computer or laptop for editing - price varies
Check out Booth Junkie's YouTube channel for information on building a great booth from scratch!
For DAW's (Digital Audio Workstations), it really depends on your flavor. I LOVE Reaper. But there are also:
That little thing called "Business Savvy"
So, here's where a lot of voice talent fall short and drop off the map. Business savvy. Acumen. Do you know what means? What does it take for you to run a successful business? Surely, you can't run it with just your voice. You need a system in place around your voice to ensure that that beautiful little product you're trying so hard to pedal is getting heard, getting estimated properly, getting invoiced properly, and reaching people. You need to have a structure around this enterprise called your voice.
Over the years, I had a Microsoft Access database designed, and I've built on it over and over throughout the years. It runs my business. All of my information is in there. I can see how many people I've estimated and how many people I've actually booked. I can see my marketing ROI. I can see my income. I can see how much I've got to pay in taxes. I know which of my ad sources are bringing in the most money. I know which voiceover marketplace is bringing me the most money.
I've invested back into it over and over again - and that's a key point, all of this is an investment, not an expense - and now it's everything. It's part-CRM, part-accounting, part-marketing. It's truly amazing. I also designed stationery. This includes:
- Business cards
- Invoice templates
- Estimate templates
- Bumper Stickers
- Thank you cards
I've needed to treat my business like a business. If I treat it like a hobby, it's destined to fail. If I treat it like a business, I can make some very good revenue. There's a huge chasm of difference between some extra chump change, and genuine hard-earned, measurable revenue. One is a side hustle; the other is a thriving enterprise. You need to think about what your business is going to look like. Can you envision yourself as, instead of a voice talent, rather, a successful businessperson who just happens to do voiceovers? If you can do the latter, you're going places. Failure to plan is planning to fail.
Do I need to be union or non-union?
Now let's not put the cart before the horse. You don't want to even approach agents or producers yet. Get yourself some coaching, then demos, then a website, and then establish yourself, and THEN market yourself to agents. But the short answer is that when you're ready, you don't "need" to be either. There's no requirement. If you're union, you open yourself up to having to pay dues...BUT...you also open yourself up to some potentially super high-paying jobs...and some good health benefits. But if you're non-union, you just may chance upon some of those super-high paying jobs as well, there are no dues, and there is much more work available to you. Much.
There are some exclusivity problems with doing both, so navigate this field carefully. You are under no obligation to join a union. In fact, the overwhelming amount of voice talent out there are non-union, and are making a great annual income soliciting and finding their own work.
But again, there is no requirement to being either, and you're not limited. The main drawback is that if you're union, and you're starting out, remember - there are talent in that union pool who have been talent forever - and a lot of these agencies know them, love them, and are used to them. You'll be trying to carve out some space for yourself in what is commonly referred to as granite. So good luck there.
What's your next move?
Get some great books to help you learn! These are SUPER books:
- Making Money in Your PJ's, by Paul Strikwerda
- Voice-Over Voice Actor by Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt
- V-Oh! by Marc Cashman
- The Art of Voice Acting, by James R Alburger
- How to start and build a 6-Figure Voiceover Business, by Bill DeWees
- The Voiceover Startup Guide, by Chris Agos
- Voice Over Man, by Peter Dickson
- Voiceover Achiever, by Celia Siegel
And remember what I said? Contact Scott Burns. That's your first step. He's a great coach. And there are others just like him who want to invest into your life. When I first launched solely into voiceovers (after having done them as part of other projects for close on two decades) I was so shocked to find such a community of such sustained support, and an environment of help out there. Voice talent genuinely want other voice talent to succeed! It's such a strange industry that way - where you encourage your competitor to get a job that you're in the running for. Plumbers don't do that. Automotive shops don't do that. Electricians don't do that. Realtors don't do that.
Just know that you can do this. The caveat is that you both have an equal footing. Just because Joe Voiceover has 26 years experience, and you have 26 minutes, doesn't automatically grant Joe Voiceover fait accompli. The client just may have YOUR voice in their heads...not Mr. Voiceover's, regardless of your lack of experience. If you sound like you can lift those words right off the page and breathe life into them, and NOT sound like you're reading, then you just might beat out an industry pro.
You can do this. It is an industry that is tremendously fun. They hold incredible annual events like this and this. You can join regular local voiceover Meetups and be inspired by your fellow colleagues and this mutual race of shared joy and pursuit. Cheer on and be cheered. Encourage and be encouraged. Voiceovers are a rewarding career on a number of levels, even before you score your first job.
The Benefits of being a Voiceover Artist
- Work from home
- Work as much or as little as you like
- Set your own hours
- Spend time with your family and your own pursuits
- Have a career that you can call your own
- Be creative
- Call your own shots
- Choose your own clients
- Constantly grow and innovate in performing and marketing
- Take longer-than-2-week vacations
- And, the most awesomest....work in your underwear. (Ew.)
Sound appealing? It should. It's the best life ever.
You can check out my full list of services and products I offer at my "Services" page.
Or - subscribe to my blog for more info and tips/tricks on the voiceover industry and successfully marketing yourself.
I hope this answers your question about "How do I get started in voiceovers?" Ultimately, just start. It's fun in this sandbox.
All this goes without saying that this is from my experience. Everyone's experiences are unique to them. However, if you would like a much more robust experience than this one - and a much longer, comprehensive resource guide - check out Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know about Going Pro in VO".
Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Talent for hire