Woman singing on stage in a gownHave you ever noticed that there isn’t an amateur tradition for those aspiring to be professional voice over talent?

My friend Pat Fraley has some thoughts to share, as have I, in hopes that this article opens up discussion for how we might establish an amateur tradition for our industry that we can be proud of.
We’d love to hear your thoughts too, so be sure to read the entire article before commenting with your ideas. Thanks!

Why Voice Over Needs an Amateur Tradition

Submitted by Pat Fraley
When you think about it, most all performance genres except voice over, have an amateur tradition. Voice Over was brought into existence with an implied collaborator: Voice Over What?

This presents a problem: Where and how does the voice over hopeful get training and experience prior to losing their “amateur standing?” Work out groups are one of the few ways I know of where performers may practice voice over, or voice performance with like-minded performers.

Another way is to come up with amusing fake spots, jingles, narrations, sketches, etc., and share them with the voice over community. I’ve done this my entire career.
Recently I recorded a brief lesson and posted on my free lesson page (here’s a link to the lesson) http://patfraley.com/Free/FreeLessons.html

It is called VO for Free. In it I give examples of doing free stuff. I was pleasantly surprised to receive several brief recordings from colleagues who do the same thing.
I think it would be wonderful to have a site somewhere, which would post our “amateur efforts.”
Pat Fraley

Amateur Tradition in Voice Over? Some Objection Handling, if you Please!

I asked for some opinions on the topic of amateur tradition for voice over on Facebook and received a response from one person who shared some valid concerns about how this may be received.

Her fear was that by identifying an amateur tradition, it may present an even larger gap between aspiring talent and professionals, opening another can of worms that may result in further disdain voiced by certain voice talent in forums and berating of talent whom they may regard as “beneath” them and unsuited to compete with established professionals.
While it is true that there are some people who feel it necessary to tear others down, we need to remember that there is a far greater number of people who work toward building others up. Thank you to those of you who stand among the encouraging lot.

If there is one thing that we should be able to agree upon (corrupt examples, in sport for instance, aside), the difference between an amateur and a professional is that the amateur is not or has never been paid for their efforts in a given discipline or art whereas a professional has received payment or is paid for their services.

Once you have performed and been paid for your services, you are no longer technically by definition, an amateur. Depending on how much of your income you derive from the art, you become a semi-pro or a pro.
To make another distinction:
Just because someone is an amateur, that doesn’t mean that they are any less talented than some of the people who provide services professionally, in fact there are instances where an amateur may be more talented than a given professional.

Good Examples of Ways to Gain Experience in Voice Over

I’ve covered this before but it never hurts to say it again.
There are sites such as LibriVox.org that give people the opportunity to record audiobooks and upload them to the public for free consumption. You can also volunteer at libraries to read to children or narrate for the blind. You can learn more about similar opportunities by reading this article about building your voice acting portfolio through volunteer work.

An Opportunity to Start Something Amazing

I believe that amateurs should be nurtured and that there should always be a constant stream of people who want to become involved in voice acting. We want our industry to grow, mature, and be comprised of people who are properly trained in the art and business who have a deep respect for what they do. Oftentimes, achieving that kind of reverence and eventual willingness to give back to community stems from a person’s experience in the amateur tradition.

That being said, amateurs need to be mentored. There is a great deal of mentoring going on already that you rarely hear about and this article has given us another opportunity to explore making mentors available to those who are seeking guidance.
When I was talking with James Herron, he agreed that it would be a great idea to offer some kind of service that matches up mentors with novice voice over talent, a formidable way to connect those who wish to mentor with those desiring it.

Would this kind of opportunity interest you?
I would like to explore offering such a program for the voice over community through Voices.com.
Please keep subscribed to VOX Daily for more information. If you have any feedback or ideas for how we could do this, you are welcome to comment here or email me directly at stephanie@voices.com

Any Thoughts?

You are welcome to comment and share what you think. I know this was a long, perhaps complicated article, but as I discovered this afternoon through many, many conversations, this is a complicated topic!
Looking forward to hearing from you,
©iStockphoto.com/Tracy Whiteside


  1. Great idea Stephanie.. 🙂
    I have another thought.. First, I’d be happy to help any way I can.
    Second, not only are we talking about the art of voice acting, but in many ways, (me being the Tech Talk Guy) the technical aspects of how to setup and work from your own studio can be quite intimidating.. especially to the non technically inclined.. My Blog tomorrow is on that very subject. I love coincidence . 🙂
    The art of capturing the sound is a topic in and of itself. What kind of environment will they create for their home studio, what kind of gear, and of course actually Talking into the mic itself… so much to learn.. 🙂
    I think that’s why I have so much reverence for Pat Fraley.. he takes so much time to teach and share his advice with those that don’t even make his seminars, posts free lessons on his website, takes time to answer emails and questions.. what a great person for this community to have and just an all around great guy!
    There’s so much to this art, that many of us have been learning and training our whole lives in a variety of different disciplines to bring them to bear on our careers. No one should ever feel bad about “Not Knowing” and we as a Voiceover community have a responsibility to help them find their way.
    Not only does this help the individual, but it helps to raise the quality of the field as a whole.
    Let me know what I can do to help,

  2. Hello!
    I think the mentoring community would be a wonderful idea. Jumping into the realm of voiceover has been a terrifying and exciting experience at the same time for me, and while I’m getting immense amounts of help from folks on the voice-overs.com forum and through my instructor, you can’t pick fruit from too many trees. 🙂
    There’s so much this community has to offer – with their talents and with their expertise.

  3. Thanks to Pat and Stephanie for starting this topic – good choice…
    One thing that needs to be mentioned is Radio Drama, or Fan Audio groups. There are quite a number out there on the web with podcasts, and some are even broadcast on radio. A few work in person, but the vast majority operate completely through the internet. One person writes, others record, and an editor puts it all together.
    Two that I’ve worked are:
    Dream Realm (www.dregold.net). This group produces fan audio and original radio dramas. The shows have been broadcast on the radio in Canada and the US.
    Wormwood (www.wormwoodshow.com). This one is LA based and meets in person. Great story line. Lots of positive feedback from listeners too.
    There’s also Pendant audio, which I listen to from time to time. They’ve got a lot of shows running and are worth a look into.
    One final note: Voice acting is… well… Acting! Get into community theatre as a way to hone your acting skills and even develop some new characters. Granted, you won’t get any mike experience, but it’ll lay a good foundation for your performances. Improv’s another way to learn the acting ropes. Most communities have groups that audition for productions – Go on, Google it up 😉
    Joe J Thomas

  4. I love the idea of a mentoring community. Though I have been in radio for the last decade, I consider myself a relative new comer to the voice acting world. My experience so far, like Lea, has been exciting but scary at times. Scary, because I’ve lacked some knowledge and have had to learn a lot by trial and error. I have found lots of help from postings like this and resources on voices.com but also from other professionals who have been kind enough to offer help.
    I am also a Music Director/Leader at my local church and I have trained lots of people (mostly young people) in the art of leading worship in a church or just leading a band with their instrument. It has been a real pleasure for me to watch them grow in their abilities and begin to teach others what they have learned. I think that in part is why we are on this earth, to give back.
    While I can certainly understand some of the issues from a professional’s view point of starting a mentoring community, for me mentoring in this musical realm has been a rewarding experience and has even led to extra compensation and opportunities.
    I would certainly welcome a program like this. I would also like to add that in my overall experience, the voice over community has been very kind, generous and encouraging to me.

  5. Greetings All you VO folks,
    First I must thank Stephanie for all of the work she does for the entire VO community. Thank you. The services you offer, the daily emails with advice and words of support are greatly appreciated by myself.
    I am an amature VO, hells bells I haven’t even made my demo yet. There is no shame in being an amature, all of the athletes in the Olympics are, so that can’t be bad; however, we are not in this profession for our health–though chasing the money (somebody else said that) may not be the best reason to get started in this business. Bottom line, most amatures in this business are trying to become professionals. I know I am.
    For us other amatures, Mr. Fraley’s site, with a wealth of free information for us aspiring VO Artists, http://patfraley.com/pf/free , has some wonderful advice, very useful tips and is free. FREE just like the stuff Stephanie does for us. Check it out, it’s great.
    So now I’m rambling so I’ll make my point. If anybody, a professional VO talent or service set up for amatures, would offer mentoring I would certainly take every opportunity to gain as much knowledge from that person/service as I possibly could. Further, I would appreciate it with all my heart.
    I’m done now. Thanks for letting me voice my thoughts.
    Michael Anthony Petranech
    The Voice Of Temptation.
    isn’t that cute?
    Be well and I wish you all success and happiness.

  6. Mr. Fraley,
    What a wonderful topic and so timely as well. I was just talking with my wife just the other day about how disgruntled I was about figuring out my “next step”. She said to me, “It sounds like you need to find a mentor”.
    Please keep this idea alive. I suspect there are a lot of people like me out there.
    John Miles

  7. First thing I thought of when I saw this headline: businesses like car dealers and furniture stores where the owners talk on their own radio commercials. Does this count as “amateur”?
    We all know these commercials! They’re typically “bad” by professional VO standards. I wonder when they are ego trips that aren’t as effective as professional work, and when the down-home style of them makes them more effective sales tools than professional work ever could be.

  8. A mentor program? I’ve been thinking about this all afternoon, and thought I’d reply. You should know I’ve had a professional career in education for many years, and the one thing I can say with certainty is there are so ways to learn. (I bet that didn’t come as any great surprise!) Did you know about 80% of us learn best by visual and kinesthetic cues? What that really means is that if we hear something only (like lectures, podcasts, readings), we’ll usually retain about 30% if we’re lucky, but if we learn in person, practice, practice, practice with the human connection, the comfort level and emotional support, coupled with a positive attitude, rockets that learning curve up to the 85-100% level. If you truly want to help voice artists become successful, a mentor program is the way to go! I count my blessings because I have a wonderful mentor through Such A Voice. I have learned an incredible amount, that the restricted time/curriculum of a “formal” class could never allow, especially when the unexpected glitches occur. Knowing there is someone out there that cares about my voice over career as much as I do is the best feeling in the world. Learning new things can be quite a struggle, but what a relief to have someone in my court! Matching up established talents with aspiring talents? Awesome! Let me know if you’d like to discuss this further…

  9. An amateur tradition already exists thanks to the internet which has a subculture of radio plays, anime fan dubs, and other fan projects via YouTube.com, voiceactingalliance.com, and voiceacting.co.uk, and those are just the more popular venues.
    And the concept of a mentoring community is already being done through these sites because professionals have joined up and besides occasionally participating in projects they offer mentoring and advice via the forums.
    However, a mentoring community hosted by pros would indeed be unique. I spent many years researching the VO industry in the late 90’s, and having such a resource available would have saved me many years of researching.
    But I personally despise the term “amateur” when it comes to voice acting. While I have minimal voice-over work to my credit, I’ve spent many years as a singing and stand-up impressionist, storyteller, and radio theater actor… as a paid, professional performer. And due to my presence in fandom associated with voice acting, I regularly get questions of an “amateur” nature, which is why I refer to them as “aspiring voice actors” or “beginners”. “Amateur” seems to generally have a derogatory meaning.
    As for how to implement this with voices.com, a forum seems the obvious choice, but please don’t make it exclusive to paying subscribers only as *another* site similar to voices.com has done where only paying members can post in the forums.
    You could use a forum model similar to such sites as vo-bb.com, voice-overs.com and voiceactingalliance.com where each sub-forum covers specific topics. One of the sub-forums could have members submit projects for evaluation by doing monthly/bi-monthly contests where both peers and pros can submit votes via email (but please avoid giving users the opportunity to “rate” projects publicly).
    You could also develop a point system whereby those who submit quality projects regularly and/or the contest winners could score discounts on VO workshops or an opportunity to audit a class, receive a free instructional VO product, or get a free private voice coaching session via skype or phone.
    I would be willing to help assist in such a project.

  10. Hi I noticed my site was mentioned here. I’ve been voice acting in an amateur capacity for nine years. There’s been a big debate whether the term amateur is appropriate .so the word aspiring has often been used. This has meant the abbreviation AVA is pretty common.
    There’s a massive community producing not only fan work but original audio drama, particularly nowadays in podcast form.
    Mentoring is certainly good for career development, but I certainly think it’s very healthy just to get experience.


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