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A Guide To Getting Started as a Voice Actor


If you’ve wanted to get into voice acting, this is the year to start. It’s one of the coolest things to be able to hear yourself on Saturday morning cartoons, in your favorite video games or in a commercial. Getting into this niche, however, can be tricky.

Casting Networks adds voiceover casting calls and auditions daily to help you get there, but you’ve got to learn to crawl before you can walk. To help you in your journey, we’ve put together a quick guide to getting started as a voice actor.

Here, you’ll learn about the types of training you’ll have to take, the different genres of voiceover, setting up your home studio and how to get work as a voice actor. Every voice actor’s career roadmap is different, but this should set you on the right path to hit the ground running.

What is Voiceover?

The most important—and perhaps obvious—thing to understand is that voice acting is acting. Many aspiring and beginner voice actors will focus too much on the voice half and forget the acting part. Your voice is the instrument by which you deliver your acting ability. Your job is to give life to the words in front of you with your instrument.

Think of it like a musician performing a score on a soundstage for a movie. The performance is being recorded, but there’s no live audience. They’re playing what’s in front of them and giving the sheet music purpose through sound.

Like music, there are lots of voiceover genres. Animation and video games are some of the most popular. There’s also commercial, audiobook work, dubbing, e-learning, corporate narration, events, interactive voice response (IVR) that includes phone prompts or text-to-speech, promo and radio imaging (e.g.: “You’re listening to Radio Y for all things music”)—and that’s just scratching the surface.

Your voiceover career can go in several directions, so don’t expect to work in one or two areas. Aim for the genre you’d prefer to work in, but think about the big picture and all the other sectors you’d be able to work in as well. There will be some genres where you’ll find more work than others. Sometimes they choose you based on your range and voice type.

For example, you might want to pursue voice acting for animation, but due to your smooth, baritone voice, you end up doing lots of car commercials between animation gigs.

Education is Key

Before you do anything, educate yourself on the world of voiceover. There are plenty of free resources, such as voice actor blogs and e-books available from reputable coaches and voiceover sites. There are also lots of voiceover podcasts to learn from, such as Terry Daniel’s Voiceover Sermons, and The VO Breakfast Show, hosted by Carin Gilfry and Jamie Muffett. Casting Networks also has plenty of helpful voiceover articles for you to check out.

Physical books will help you as well. Voice-Over Voice Actor by Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal is a gem for beginners. So is Rob Marley’s “So You Want To Do VO?“.

The documentary I Know That Voice, directed by Lawrence Shapiro, is another excellent tool. It provides a general scope of voiceover animation through the words of top voice actors.

YouTube and Reddit can be good resources, but be wary of snake oil salespeople. There are content creators and bad actors (for lack of a better term) out there that offer bad information, sometimes by design. That also goes for the rest of your research.

Examples of bad advice from charlatans include suggesting you self-produce your demo, telling you that you don’t need training, recommending you take every voiceover job regardless of pay scale or explaining why you “need to take their courses to succeed.” These are the same folks who claim that you can start voiceover today and make a bunch of money overnight, which is also not true. All of this will kill your career before it begins.

If you’re not sure about the validity of the information you’re getting, ask a voice actor, acting coach or acting teacher.

Voiceover Training and Coaching

Going back to the acting part of voice acting, be sure to get your acting chops first. Before you think about touching a microphone, look into acting classes and programs. Train as if you were going for on-camera or theater acting. This will help you understand the importance of movement and how it will still carry over to audio-only settings. Once you’ve got a solid bit of acting lessons under you, you can move on to your voiceover training.

When vetting a coach, ask other voice actors and acting teachers for their recommendations. Do your research on their reputation and the types of voiceover work they’ve done. Make sure your coach is a working voice actor who keeps current with the industry. You don’t want to spend your time and money on someone who hasn’t done a voiceover project in over a decade.

Many voiceover coaches offer free consultations before working with them. Take advantage of those to help you know if you gel with a potential coach. This is important, as working with a coach you don’t connect with will cause more harm than good.

Your VO Demo and Website

Once you’ve done your acting training and voice coaching, you’ll need your demo. This is your calling card as a voice actor. Some coaches offer packages where you’ll record your voiceover demo(s) at the end of an agreed upon amount of coaching sessions. Others will even help design your website to host said demos as part of their packages.

You can choose whichever voiceover genre you like for your demo, but most coaches will prefer your first demos to be commercial and narration, as they’re the most common forms of work you’ll see. If your voiceover coach doesn’t offer demo packages, ask for their recommendations on demo producers to work with. Chances are your coach will direct the session.

Once you’ve got your demos, get your website ready. You’ll need a place to house your demos and show off your portfolio once you get some gigs under your belt (get consent from whomever you worked for to showcase your work on their projects). You can work with voiceover-specific website designers, or if you’re savvy, design one yourself after researching what a voiceover website should look like. If you need a recommendation, ask your coach or other voice actors.

Headshots and logos, however, are a gray area when it comes to voiceover. It’s up to you.

The Home Studio

Once all those ducks are in a row, it’s time to set up your home studio. If you have the budget, you can buy a voiceover booth for your home like a WhisperRoom or Studiobricks, but most voice actors will need to make a DIY booth. You’ll want to record in a quiet space. A room with no windows is ideal, but a walk-in closet will do.

To treat your space, you’ll want to deaden the sound bouncing off the walls, floor and ceiling as much as possible. A shag rug or carpet can help with the floor while putting up as many acoustic foam panels along the walls and ceiling that fit will help (make sure the foam is at least two inches thick). Adding hanging clothes and heavy moving blankets can also work to a degree. You can even make a booth out of PVC pipes and some heavy moving blankets if the space is quiet enough.

If you’re unsure of what to do or how it’s going, ask a sound engineer. Many offer their services to help voice actors with their setup.

Now it’s time to get your gear. High-directionality or condenser microphones are best because they’re designed to capture the sound in front of them and bring out more life from vocals than other mics. You’ll also need an interface and a fanless laptop to record off of (remember, the goal is about eliminating as much sound as possible so that only your voice is heard). The DAW, or digital audio workstation (aka recording software) you use doesn’t matter as much as your knowledge of the program. Choose whichever one you like and learn it.

Getting Work as a Voice Actor

Now that you’ve crossed off the main items of your “getting started as a voice actor” checklist, it’s time to start booking work. You can do this in several ways. Cold outreach to targeted companies always works, as do sites like Casting Networks that post voiceover projects daily. You can also sign with an agent and get work that way. Casting Networks has a feature called Talent Scout® that connects agents with actors who are looking for representation.

If you’re going the cold outreach route, a professional domain such as Tim@VoiceoverTimmy.com is preferable. That being said, having a dedicated email address on Gmail is fine until you’re ready to take that step.

Do not do cold outreach to casting directors. This can hurt your chances of working with them in the future. Casting directors are very busy casting actors that have been submitted to them through the proper channels. They don’t have time to go through unsolicited requests. Agents can help bridge that gap when you’re ready.

The Long Chess Game

Even if you’ve got all the tools to start your journey as a voice actor, it doesn’t mean you’re set for life. Voice acting is a long chess game. You’re going to want to sharpen your skills with more coaching, webinars, conferences, online and/or in-person voiceover communities and acting classes over the years.

Every new demo you make, regardless of genre, will need coaching. Those demos will also need updates every few years. Remember, being a voice actor also means being a business of one. Pay attention to industry trends and never stop learning.

Although every voiceover artist’s journey is different, these are the similarities that bind them. As you begin your voiceover career, try your best to follow these steps in order and avoid putting the cart before the horse.

Steps for Becoming a Voice Actor:

  • Educate yourself about the voiceover industry
  • Take acting classes
  • Work with a voiceover coach
  • Get your voiceover demo
  • Get your voiceover website (and a pro email address)
  • Set up your home studio
  • Get your gear
  • Find work via sites like Casting Networks, cold outreach to targeted companies, or your agent

 

If you’ve been thinking about pursuing a voice acting career, now’s the time. Start taking action and check off some of these items to start your journey!

Voice acting casting calls and auditions are added to Casting Networks daily. Get in your booth and start auditioning today!

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Chris Butera is a voice actor specializing in commercial, eLearning and corporate narration voiceovers. When he’s not helping clients achieve their goals, he’s playing guitar and bass.



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