Woman with various facial expressions
What’s one of the biggest challenges for voice actors in today’s industry?
It’s not getting work… it’s self-direction!
Find out more about how you make each performance a dynamite one here at VOX Daily.

Working As a Voice Actor From Home (Alone)!

Before the phenomenon and boom of the professional-grade home recording studio, people in this profession used to go to studios to do auditions and also went to recording studios to complete work they were hired to voice.

Recording at the studio was:
1. Far less of a technical process for the voice actor
2. More social and interactive than being alone at home
3. An environment where voice actors were coached and directed while performing

A Changing Landscape and Career

The role of the voice actor has changed dramatically over the years, mainly because recording technology has become more economical and easier to use.
Since then you’ve been required to take on additional roles and responsibilities such as becoming an engineer, business person, manager, you name it.
What else do you need to do now that you’re working from home?


Most voice talent think that they are just delivering a message, but the truth of the matter is that you’re acting, just as an actor would on stage or in film with the key difference that you are reliant entirely your voice to communicate subtleties, objectives and context.
When you read a script, you need to prepare yourself for a role, and not just deliver a regurgitation of what is written on the page.

This applies to all applications of voice over, not just animation or commercials; every job that you take on is another role you will perform, even work that you may perceive to be corporate including telephone system voice overs, podcasts or business presentations.

Back to Basics – Understanding Your Role

Decide who your character is and give them a life history. What makes them tick, what do they like, and what kind of person are they? Is your character an influential person?
If you’re really keen, write a character sketch, including physical attributes and personality traits. By setting the stage for your character and developing a persona for them, you’ll be able to slide into the role and create a more authentic, organic performance.

What is your character trying to say? Whose attention are they trying to get? What makes their message important and worth listening to?
If you can distill what the main objective of your character is in relation to the people they are trying to reach or persuade, you’ll have more purpose and authority behind your words.

Why should people listen to your character? Why does your character need to share their message? You really need to get inside the head of your intended audience for this one. Make them care about you and help them to grab hold to your cause by way of artfully communicating the message.

Where is your character when delivering their lines?
You might not think it’s all that important, but for context’s sake, you need to know where your character is while they are delivering their message. It will affect your read and also make it easier for you to create an ambiance if you are using sound effects or a music bed.

How is your character relevant to the people they are speaking to? How is your character motivated? Remember that character sketch you created earlier? Go back to that now, identify the target market / audience for the message and then piece together how your character relates to the audience they are speaking to. What would inspire your character to speak to this audience in particular? How much do they have invested in successfully delivering the message to those people and what is the desired outcome?

Making Art and Having Fun

Now that you’ve formed your character, know why they are speaking and to whom they are speaking, you’re ready to start experimenting with the copy and make meaningful art.
By giving each line a few different kinds of reads and feeling out the copy, you’ll be able to direct yourself with greater confidence and achieve the kind of performances you might get when directed by another person. As many great voice actors have said, it’s all about the process and having fun while you’re at it.

Series of Three

Using the Series of Three (courtesy Pat Fraley) is an excellent way to self-direct. Essentially, you prepare 3 takes when auditioning or delivering lines for your character when working at home. The first is your primary interpretation (A), the second is different from the first (B), and the third is mix between takes one and two (C).

Most directors will end up casting your third take, in other words, your C role.
You could think of this as the Goldilocks method: Too hot, too cold, just right.
To add my thoughts to that, you could easily make your C role how you interpret the copy for any voice over job, not just character voice work. You’ll certainly notice a difference in how you perform and I’m sure your clients will, too.

How Do You Self-Direct When Recording Voice Overs?

Looking forward to hearing about any tricks or special things you do to help you deliver your best performances!
Leave a comment 🙂
Best wishes,
©iStockphoto.com/Rhienna Cutler


  1. Hi Stephanie,
    First time I’ve e-mailed you, but I do enjoy your Vox Daily every morning, it’s the first thing I read in bed when I wake up. I get it on my blackberry 🙂 After a big Lay Off from a radio station I was working at in NY, I wasn’t able to find a job, (non compete period and then there were not jobs available) so a decided to build my home studio and have been working on my own with quite a success! And yes, you are right about becoming an engineer, producer, in my case translator too, and sound editor! 🙂
    Anyways, I just wanted to tell you what I do, to self-direct myself.
    I basically record twice. A standard read, then a more “high energy” read and then what I do ( I know it will sound crazy but it seems to work ):
    I hit play but leave my studio. I step out to the next adjacent room and walk around the house with the volume up, as if I’m a customer just listening to a voice far away, not paying too much attention. If something in the read really grabs my attention or I think “that sounds right”, I go with that take.
    Sometimes when you are recording, you are so close to the computer and the speakers that you lose a bit of the “real” sound of it. But I have noticed that when I walk away and hear it from a distance, if the read has no flow, no high and lows, no feeling to it, it will show. It’s like when you are at the park and you hear a band playing far away, sometimes you just hear a sound but nothing more, but sometimes you can single out the lead singer’s voice and say, “hmmm where’s this band?, she sings good”… It may be crazy, but, it works for me.
    Also, and this is very important, I always make sure to research what the product is about, if its a video, i look at it in its completion, not just the part i have to record, I always make it a point to know as much as I can about who is the audience and what is their age demo. It works…
    For last, self directing for me is about getting out of your comfort zone. We as talents get comfortable with our voice and sometimes just record in our regular/standard comfort level thinking “Oh this is good enough”. However, we need to shake it up and try new reads, be spontaneous, and then listen back, most of the times, you will “hit” a new flare that you didn’t know you could do that is just what the client needed.
    Thank God, I have been very consistent with my self directing, my clients always appreciate the 2 or 3 takes, and I always get things done and give them options even before they ask.
    The main thing for me is:
    I think as my client, not as their employee. And that’s the best way to Self Direct myself!
    Gotta go to record, but had to put in my 2 cents…… And Thank you so MUCH for your Vox Daily, would love to meet you some day you guys are the best and like I said, me working from home, this Vox is my motivational e-mail every single morning, to keep going and never give up!
    TransVoice LLC
    Spanish Voice Over and Translations Services

  2. Great thoughts on this subject. I am of the Pat Fraley school of more than one take unless asked for only one. Flexibilty is key–be prepared to perform any one of your ‘test takes’ as the actual performance. Don’t lock yourselfe into just one, because as soon as you do, the customer will either not like it at all or prefer one of the takes you didn’t really like.

  3. Im relatively new to the voice over scene, but I did make it a point to record many takes for my client. The last commercial I did I took 20 takes of 2 spots. 5 in a regular speaking voice, and the other 5 in a high energy voice. The first take of these spots were not acceptable to my client, so it was a learning experience for me to make sure my voice is not tired, and that I am well rested and on top of my game.

  4. Thank you Stephanie for sharing your insight w/us. I am new to the “Home Recording studio scene” and I found your tips and advice very helpful. I also learned some useful info from the comments made by Liliana. What she said made a lot of sense and I am going to try it out from home for sure. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to find a job where if they like my work. They will use me repeatedly. This also hinges on how well my recordings work from home, so, all of this advice and sharing of info re: Home Studios is extremely helpful.
    Thanks again,
    New York, NY

  5. Hi
    I am writing a manual for mainly disadvantaged Early Childhood Development Teachers in South Africa and would please like permission to use the composite photo of the lady in pink with lots of facial expressions on your blog.
    I will give credit to you for it.
    Thank you in advance
    Robyn Wienand


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