So you want to be a voiceover artist?
Maybe somebody once told you that you have a nice voice? Or perhaps you enjoy reading bedtime stories to your kids and you’re wondering if you could do it for a living? Or maybe you think it would be an easy way to work from home and earn good money?
Hold it right there!
I don’t want to burst your bubble…..but, I’m going to burst your bubble!
A nice voice is only one small part of voiceover success – and it’s really not the main ingredient at all. That would be hard work – oh and a dose of luck too (though you have to make a lot of your own luck).
If you really want to be a voiceover artist you’ve got to be prepared to put some work in – to say nothing of a significant amount of money too.
I am contacted by would-be voiceover artists all the time – at least once a month – and I always tell them the same thing. You need to start with some training. The voiceover industry is very varied (as you’ll know if you read my blog post ‘what do voiceover artists do’), and your voice may be great for cartoon characters but not so great for a corporate presentation, or vice versa. Without some guidance you probably won’t know which direction you should head in.
Investing in yourself by taking some classes or 121 coaching is a really good way to start. You’ll get honest feedback on your abilities, and where your voice fits in the voiceover spectrum. Most voiceover artists work across multiple genres, but we all have our niches where we feel most comfortable, and sound most natural.
There are a number of voiceover training providers out there, but do your research before you part with your cash. Training companies that I have had a good experience with include Gravy for the Brain and Voiceover Kickstart in the UK, and Edge Studio in the USA. I also recommend having a look at the Voiceover Network as a place for help and support.
Once you have figured out where your voice might fit best, you might want to consider one to one coaching. This can be expensive but is also the best way to learn quickly. There are coaches for every aspect of the industry so you will be able find someone who caters to your interests.
When you have some classes and coaching under your belt, and you’re at the point where you feel ready to work without embarrassing yourself with rookie mistakes, it’s time to make your first demo.
A voiceover demo, or showreel, is your calling card – it shows what you can do – and production houses and agents will ask for your demos to help them decide whether to take you on or add you to their roster.
Don’t be tempted to make your demo too soon – getting a demo made is an investment and you don’t want to waste your money by recording it before you’re really ready.
These days most voiceover work is recorded from home, so you are going to need to invest in some recording equipment. The most important thing – more important than a microphone – is an acoustically-treated space to record in. Without this, the best mic in the world is going to sound bad…
You don’t have to run out and spend £5k on an isolation booth (though it’s very nice to have one!), but you are going to need something, even if it’s a frame of plastic pipes with acoustic blankets over it – and you are going to need to spend some time getting the audio quality as good as you can.
A decent mic is a given of course, and there is plenty of info on the internet about what kind of mic to buy so I won’t go into that here. You probably need to be spending at least £300 on your mic, plus an audio interface, cables, pop shield, microphone stand, headphones…
As well as being able to record yourself, you are also going to need to be an audio engineer. Gone are the days when voice talent turned up at a studio, did their thing in front of the mic and went away again, leaving the audio engineers to make it sound amazing. These days you have to know how to do this yourself. And learning how to use recording and editing software can be a bit of a steep learning curve, that takes an investment of time.
Once you’ve got your home studio and your demos, and you’ve learned how to edit your audio, it’s time to start marketing yourself – and to keep on doing so for the rest of your career!
Rejection is a big part of a voiceover artist’s life, so you have to get used to it. Nobody’s voice is right for every project, and that’s something you have to accept. You also have to learn to take direction and see it as a positive thing – not feel like the client is having a go at you! Even if you think they’re wrong – the customer is always right!
You might think that getting an agent is the way to get a steady stream of work without having to do all the marketing yourself. Wrong. You are unlikely to get an agent straight away (unless you have a very unique voice), and agents will want to see that you are booking work before they will take you on. Even when you have an agent, you are unlikely to get many jobs this way – it’s certainly not possible to make a living through work from an agent (unless you are at the very top of your game perhaps).
So, in conclusion if you really want to be a voiceover artist you’ve got to be prepared to put in time, money and effort, and realistically it’s not something you are likely to make a full time career out of for a few years.
If you still think it’s for you – good luck and do keep me posted with how you are getting on!