Due to this post being quite long I’ve made it into two parts. Before criticizing the negative title of this post please know that it’s not meant to discourage; it’s meant to explain what you need to be doing today to be a voice over and the reasons that MIGHT be stopping you.
More and more my colleagues and I are encountering people who ask how to get in VO. And that’s nice. It’s perfectly normal. I encourage it. Now there are times when I might get too busy to answer, but one thing I’m hearing from my friends is the lack of work people should be doing to stay active in this business. If you want to treat it as a hobby that’s great. I guarantee there’s always a need for volunteer voice over artists. You can record books, magazines, or newspapers for the blind. You can donate time to recording some free e-learning programs or PSAs. However, if you want to compete with professional talent that you hear in commercials, promos, anime, video games, cartoons, narrations, audiobooks, industrials, political ads, etc. You HAVE to do the work!
Yes, that was blunt, but for a good reason. My colleagues and I get emails and messages on social media time and time again from people wanting to enter the world of voice overs. As I said above, that’s nice, nothing wrong with that whatsoever. The downside is once they learn all that’s involved just to get started, they either quit, ask for free help at “getting in” or say they don’t need training or demos (yes some have actually said this!). The last two excuses are what irks the professionals, including myself. Working VO talent have worked really hard to get where they are and a lot of us are still working hard to stay in the game. If you’re not willing to work just as hard then you’re wasting our time, which is not free. I will gladly donate time for a letter with links or suggestions on where to start, but wanting free lessons or leads into projects I’m working on? The answer is a flat no.
If you’re truly willing to commit the time you have to training, getting a good home studio set up, networking like a boss with a solid website and auditioning hundreds or thousands of times before booking something, then you’re welcome in the VO Community. And it is definitely a wonderful community. A lot of VO talent compete for the same jobs, and a few don’t like to acknowledge those who are starting out or who are capable of eventually booking jobs they normally get. The vast majority though become like family over time. You can have a place in all of it if you’re willing to do the work. If you think you don’t need to do any work, see a list of reasons why you won’t make it as a voice over.
- Training: It’s a must. I know Talent who have worked for Disney, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros., major TV networks and national commercials who still attend workshops and classes to stay sharp and keep up with what’s current. If you think you’re too good for all that, see ya!
- Taking direction: ALWAYS leave your ego at home. ALWAYS!! (you’re going to see this word a lot). Your job is not to like how the script is written, your job is to show up at the studio prepared for feedback and sometimes long hours in a booth. If you won’t acknowledge what the director or client wants out of your read, you’ll be fired and likely not hired again or worse, blackballed.
- Egos: As said above, ALWAYS leave your ego at home. I know of people in the industry who think they’re God when it comes to voice over. It’s almost literal. They’re demanding when it comes to projects (lead roles only, no minor parts and no background voices) and disrespectful to those who aren’t as elite as they like to think they are. One person I hear NONSTOP horror stories about will refuse to work on shows that don’t have a high-profile presence among viewers. Nor will this person perform as a supporting or minor character, it has to be a lead. This person has been seen first-hand by working professionals as well as fans behaving like a diva with ridiculous demands, loving the attention he/she gets from others and won’t hesitate to take advantage of it. Instead honoring the opportunities he/she receives with gratitude, he/she is purely in it for the fame, and the money received for making appearances. On the internet, however, you find people posting all kinds of negative comments which in due time could stall or end your career. If you become like this person, eventually it WILL come back at you.
- Not having a solid space or recording equipment at home: Folks, this is the age we live in. You have to have a home studio. If you live near recording studios and are willing to pay money per hour to audition or record sessions then by all means stick to it. However, clients these days don’t want to pay a studio fee. So, consider finding a place in your house or apartment that’s really quiet. Talk with recording engineers about ways to dampen or sound proof the area (a corner, a closet, even a bathroom) so there’s no echo. You can totally have a good studio on a low budget. Do your research online. Some great people I recommend for help are George Whittam, Dan Lenard and Dan Friedman. Google their names, and email them. Be aware though, their time isn’t free. Time is money, so don’t expect free evaluations or advice.
- Marketing: If you assume people will find you right away on social media you’ll be waiting a LONG time. Even if you sign with an agent, you still have to do your part. Never call an agent to ask why you’re not getting any work. You can, however, ask what you can do to help your agent get you noticed. If you won’t take their advice or give them a hard time, you could be dropped and then your name would get around as someone difficult to work with. I’ve seen it happen. The internet is a goldmine of great info and assistance but also a curse. Use it only for good. Join Facebook VO groups, Twitter Chats, create a YouTube page, get a nice website (HTML is recommended, not flash), create a LinkedIn page and join groups there. Find out if there might be a meet up group in your area. Or join online VO workout groups who use Zoom to interact. Be a positive role model and not someone who belittles others.