Do you have a voice as smooth as butter? What about a raspy voice perfect for introducing jazz tunes? Or maybe a loud, booming voice that’s meant for describing action movies?
Voice acting might be the job for you. It’s a diverse, expansive industry growing as the world turns increasingly toward online entertainment. With more broadcasts and animated and digital content than ever, there are a plethora of opportunities for voice actors. Maybe you want to voice video game characters. Maybe you want to be the buttery voice of a new brand of butter. Maybe you want to voice the next big murder mystery novel. Regardless of whether you’re interested in online games, commercials or audiobooks, there’s a kind of voice acting job that’s right for you.
What does a voice actor do?
Voice actors perform voiceovers to relay information for all different kinds of projects. For example, a voice actor may simply read information about the side effects of a new drug to play at the end of a commercial. Voice actors can also represent characters, using specific accents or dialects to voice a character in a video game, film, radio or television program. Because the industry is so large, they work for a diverse range of clients in a diverse range of mediums. Some voice actors may only voice cartoon characters; others may stick to TV commercials.
As more voice actor work is online, voice actors often work from home on flexible schedules. While some clients may have recording studios in which they record voice actors, these professionals often have their own in-home recording studios with their own equipment. They’ll work with clients online, first receiving the script, then recording at home and then sending the audio to the client—who will use it in their production.
While voice acting can be a lucrative career with flexibility and exciting job prospects, it’s about much more than having a naturally exciting voice. Building up not only your voice talent but also your voice actor persona is extremely important. If you think you’ve got the voice of the next generation, here’s how to start your journey to becoming a successful voice actor.
7 Steps for becoming a voice actor
1. Get training or coaching.
Your friends may go on and on about how lovely your voice is, and your girlfriend may tell you she just wants to listen to you read bedtime stories. While it’s flattering to know people like your voice, becoming a voice actor requires much more than natural talent. Before embarking on your career journey, it’s important to get training or coaching. If there are no vocal coaches in your area, many offer training online via video chat. Getting connected with a coach will help train your voice for work generally and can also provide insightful advice on other aspects of the business. Some coaches can help educate you on audio and demo production, while others may help you develop your British accent or character voice. Most importantly, the training will give you confidence and help you understand what kind of voice you have — ensuring you can start marketing yourself in the most successful way possible.
2. Set up your studio.
Because most voice actor work is done from home, you’ll have to have an in-home studio. While having your own studio sounds expensive, it doesn’t have to be the wallet breaker you may expect. Your studio needs two things: sound-proofing and equipment.
- You’ll want to start with soundproofing the space, because you’ll need to test your equipment out in your space. Your recording studio doesn’t need to be large — it just has to fit your equipment and yourself! Even a closet space can work. When soundproofing, you’ll want to insulate the space to filter out unwanted external sound. While there are soundproofing materials you can purchase online, heavy blankets can also do the trick.
- Once you’ve soundproofed the space, you can start testing out your equipment in your studio. Because there are so many different types of voice talent, there are also many different types of equipment — and you’ll need to pick the best one to fit your voice. You’ll need three things: a microphone, headphones, and software.
When picking out a microphone, choose one that works well with your particular voice. You’ll want to try out different brands and types; a microphone that works for a raspy voice isn’t going to produce the same quality with a booming voice.
You’ll need headphones next. Headphones, unlike earbuds, can help you both hear yourself when you record and make sure you’re not recording any unwanted external sounds. There are closed-back headphones that are used for recording tracks and open-backed headphones for mixing. Like microphones, you may want to try out a few pairs before deciding what’s best for you.
Finally, you’ll need to pick out software for recording. Choosing the right software will ensure your recordings have good production quality and increase your professionalism. Popular programs include Adobe Audition, Pro Tools and Sound Forge. If you don’t want to pay, you can use Audacity or GarageBand if you have a Mac computer.
3. Produce a voiceover demo.
Now that you’re trained and have a place to record, it’s time to produce a voiceover demo. A demo demonstrates your voice acting capability and shows off your talents. Your demo should feature each type of voice acting you provide, including languages, accents and dialects. Choose a script that fits not only your vocal range but also your emotional range. You should look for scripts that are current and come from the type of projects you’d like to be working on. If you want to get into commercials, read commercial scripts; if you want to try your hand at audiobooks, you may want to pick something literary. No matter what you’re reading, have the recording show off your best work at the best recording quality, meaning you’re checking your recording levels and producing the best final product.
4. Market yourself.
You’ve got a solid demo—now you need to start showing off your talent! While your talent is the most important part of the job, you’ll have trouble finding work if you’re not marketing yourself online, too. Because most voice actors work from home, clients may only see your online persona. Setting up an online profile will give you a place to share your portfolio and show off your talent and resume. It can also connect you to other voice actors in the community or even point your way to auditions and job opportunities. Make sure your profile is complete, accurate and professional. It should show clients the kind of voice acting work you’re qualified for and highlight your unique strengths.
5. Audition, audition, audition.
The best way to find voice acting work is to audition for numerous opportunities. However, that doesn’t mean that you should audition for just any opportunity. Audition for jobs you think you’re the right fit for, evaluating them based on the nature of the work and the language, accent and dialect required. Auditioning often, even if you don’t get many jobs, is great practice and will help prepare you when the right opportunity comes your way.
6. Expand your network.
While auditioning is a great way to try and get voice acting jobs, as in many career paths, networking is key to getting more experience. Having an online voice acting profile can help connect you to other voice artists, and working with a coach or trainer can also help you find other voice actors or clients. Once you’re established in the community, you might get recommended for jobs that other voice actors think you’re right for. Because there’s so much diversity in the industry’s job opportunities, not everyone is right for every job — and if you’re right for a position your voice-actor acquaintance is not, they may pass along the opportunity to you.
7. Take care of your voice.
Voice acting is a flexible career, but when you’re just starting out, you may be focused on producing a lot of content — and fast. While dedication’s the key to succeeding, make sure you’re not burning out. Take care of your voice by taking regular rests, hydrating and doing voice exercises. Your voice is the key to making it big in this career, so you’ll want to make sure you never lose it.
• Your health is most important.
While taking care of your voice physically is an important aspect of being a voice actor, you’ll also need to pay attention to your mental health. While working from home gives you flexibility, it can also be isolating, especially if you’re recording in a small, cramped space. Take regular breaks from work to protect both your voice and your mental state.
• Get to know the industry well.
Because the voice acting industry is growing as online content grows, stay updated on the types of opportunities voice actors have access to. This means communicating with other voice actors and keeping track of what kinds of auditions are offered.
• Keep learning and training.
Even if you’ve had coaching, there’s always room to improve your talent. If you’re able to, schedule regular training sessions with a coach to keep working on your skillset. With more coaching, you may be able to add new accents, dialects and characters to your range.
• Practice, practice, practice.
You never know when a client might need a wacky character you’d love to play or if there’s a commercial advertising something you truly care about. When you’re not auditioning, practice reading from old scripts as if you’re recording another demo. The more you utilize your voice talent (in a healthy way), the better you’ll be when your dream opportunity arises.
Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoeakaplan.com.