How to Start Voice Acting: Making a Career Choice in 2021
Starting Your Voice Acting Career
Has it been your heart’s desire to make money with your voice? If so, buckle up and hold on tight: you’re about to experience our new series of mini-articles that will help you make your transition into the world of professional voice over! But first… let’s identify the biggest misconception about voice over…
“I have a great voice, and that means that I can do voice over, no problem!”
Needless to say, a great voice is not the only factor that breeds a solid career in voice acting. A voice talent is not just a great voice, but a person with endless ambition, polished talent, and good business sense.
If you have a naturally enthusiastic, smooth, or otherwise attractive voice, then you may have been considering getting into voice acting for a while—and with good reason. Voice acting is one of the most exciting and rewarding careers available today, especially when you consider the diverse range of clients, flexible work hours, and the ability to audition and work from home.
The global pandemic has accelerated many industries’ need to be able to work and collaborate remotely. The voice over industry was uniquely positioned to adapt to this challenge, because so many voice actors and the clients that hire them have been joining forces with the help of creative services marketplaces, such as Voices, for some time now. Technology has even enabled voice actors to receive creative direction by taking part in live directed sessions, and voice over performances have been used to refresh existing footage and tell new stories in periods when larger commercial crews aren’t able to come together to shoot video projects in-person.
If you’re on this page, you’ve likely asked yourself ‘how do I become a voice actor?’ because you’re curious about how to become a voice actor.
However, the decision to embark on this career path requires careful consideration. Just like with any major job change or any new endeavor, you need to evaluate whether or not it is right for you.
To help you understand what it takes to kickstart a successful career in 2021 and become a voice actor, we’ve created this comprehensive article, which covers all the information you need to get started, including:
- Pros and cons of voice acting
- Coaching and training
- Voice over salaries
- Setting up a home studio (and how to save money in the process)
- Software requirements
- How to choose the best voice over microphone
- Choosing the best headphones
- Finding voice over work
- Tips from professionals to beginners
The Pros and Cons of Getting Into Voice Acting
The Pros of Voice Acting
The Impact You Can Have by Lending Your Voice to Projects Around the World
Even small voice over projects can make a big splash. Every client you work for, whether it’s an international powerhouse or a local small business, is being made better by the voice over you provide. It can be extremely fulfilling to witness what success is achieved with your help.
The Voice Acting Community and the Amazing Clients
As you begin to book projects and build a portfolio, you’ll be connecting with producers and coordinators who can very easily become repeat clients if you employ some simple rapport building tactics. Before you know it, you can be working with the producers responsible for Coca-Cola’s international campaigns.
Networking also extends to fellow voice actors. It’s quite important to pursue this particular kind of networking, too. Not only to expose yourself to others who are open to sharing business, technical, and artistic tips, but also because voice actors frequently refer a fellow talent in situations where they’re not quite right for a job.
Many voice actors report feeling that the voice over community plays a major role in the fulfillment that they experience as a voice actor. Attending VO conferences and events of the like are great ways to start meeting other VO artists to build your support and referral network.
The Ability to Work from Anywhere, on Your Schedule
By far, one of the most appealing aspects of the voice over industry is the ability to work from anywhere that has an internet connection, and on a schedule that works for you. Some of the most successful freelance professional voice actors on Voices have expressed gratitude for their ability to create a work-life balance that works for their family, as well as their personal schedule.
The Freedom to Make as Much Money as You Like
Voice actors are often entrepreneurs: their voice is their business, and they treat it as such. When you’re your own boss, the sky’s the limit on how much you can make. Although, that’s not to say that becoming a successful voice actor is easy. As a business owner, be prepared to work hard and learn a lot in the process.
Cons of Voice Acting
Starting a Voice Over Career Comes with a Variety of Costs
Getting started in voice acting has its costs, not all of which are monetary. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to invest in:
From getting coaching, to setting up your home studio, to learning about audio production, to prospecting jobs and auditioning, the amount of time you’ll spend preparing for your first booked jobs may be longer than you anticipate.
Sometimes, beginner voice actors book their first jobs within their first month, while others can spend much more time seeking out those first few gigs. Be patient, self-reflective, and willing to explore your vocal capabilities.
Isolation and Emotional Costs
Being inside the booth for hours a day has been described as isolating, even by voice actors who are well into their careers. That’s why it’s important to balance your booth time with other activities, and engage in the voice over community through social media groups, conferences, Meetups, etc. There are other ways to protect your mental health as well.
Audiobook narrator Ilyana Kadushin recommends taking frequent tea breaks, taking time to close your eyes and rest your mind, and paying attention to your posture and positioning in the booth. All of these suggestions not only help protect your voice, but also help to protect your state of mind and help you to avoid burnout.
The monetary costs of running a voice acting business can vary depending on your lifestyle and whether you’re looking to make voice acting a full-time job or a part-time side income. If you’re looking to pursue VO in a full-time capacity, a high-quality home studio, professional-grade equipment, and an understanding of general business and marketing practices are all investments that are required when launching this exciting career.
For Countless People Around the World, the Pros of Voice Acting Outweigh the Cons
There are so many other advantages to being a voice actor, like being your own boss, working from home, and going to work in your pajamas. For many people, these attractive working conditions outweigh the sometimes stressful situations posed by working in an industry known for high competition and lightning-speed turnaround times.
At the end of the day, becoming a voice actor is a unique career path that is sure to expose you to new people, new thoughts, and knowledge in new areas that you would have never expected. It’s the perfect career for the never-ending-learner.
Voice Over Coaching and Training
When getting started in voice acting, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. You may have a natural talent for voice over, but the most successful voice actors will attest that education is still crucial to success. There is so much value in attending training sessions and hiring a voice over coach.
Vocal coaches are industry gurus who can expose you to techniques, concepts and tactics you would have never thought of otherwise. They can broaden your horizons in ways that help you become more connected with your talent, and then turn your upgraded skills into dollars.
What’s more, is that in this digital age many voice coaches are making their services available via video phone chats – so voice actors and coaches can connect like never before, from anywhere around the world.
Voice Over Coaches Provide All Types and Levels of Training
Many voice over coaches offer generalized training for beginners, but there are a plethora of coaches who offer specialized training in every niche you can think of. They can help with audio production education, and demo production, accent training or reduction, character voice development, marketing your services, and so much more.
Whether you’re just starting out, or if you’ve had many years of experience in the voice over industry, everyone can benefit from continuous learning.
Voice Over Coaching Tips
Voice actor David Thackara shares his thoughts on voice over coaching, as well as his 3 best tips for voice actors who are getting started, including: (watch the full video for all 3 tips).
- Taking care of your voice.
- Ensuring you have the stamina to complete the job you’re auditioning for.
- Getting coaching – no matter where you are in your career.
To learn more about how to choose the best voice coach, and what services voice coaches offer, check out our Selecting a Voice Coach article.
Voice Over Salary Considerations When Getting Into Voice Acting
It’s a tough topic – voice over industry rates and how to quote for jobs. Yet, it’s a vital part of the equation when getting started in the voice over industry. The fact of the matter is that you’re in control of your salary figures. If you’re asking yourself, how much do voice actors make, then you might want to see an estimate of voice actor salaries.
Especially when you’re just starting out, there can be a temptation to quote lower in an attempt to edge out the competition, but your voice over skills are worth more than the ‘low-ball’ rate – and clients know that too!
In a recent voice over trends report, clients expressed that they’re willing to pay when they find the right voice for their brand. The budget was the last factor on their mind when deciding to hire a voice actor.
There are many considerations to take into account when calculating what you should charge for your services. The best place to start is by understanding the voice over business model. From the perspective of break-even and profitability, you need to factor in the costs associated with running your business and managing your career.
- Your studio space and the equipment you use
- Your education and training
- Your industry experience and portfolio
- And more.
Only once you understand your expenses, will you understand what it will take to make a profit.
At a bare minimum, the salary expectation you set for yourself needs to account for those costs (and others) associated with conducting business.
How Voice Actors Are Able to Increase Their Rates
From the perspective of building your business, as you gain experience, build your client base and referral network, and complete jobs for more notable brands, your salary can increase too. Voice actors who have more developed brands, higher reputations, and more notable clients in their portfolio are able to set higher rates.
And sometimes it comes down to confidence. It can take some self-assurance to recognize when you’re worth more, and follow through on increasing your minimum rates and command a higher salary.
Other Considerations for Voice Over Job Quotes
Beyond the business scope mentioned above, some quote considerations need to be weighed repeatedly for every voice over job you go for:
- Post-production services provided (if any)
- Niche services offered (accents, languages, character voices, etc.)
- Time commitment of the project
- How the voice over will be used (national broadcast, non-broadcast, etc.)
Ensuring you get all of the necessary details from the client ahead of time will help you to provide your most accurate quote. You can also read more about how to crunch the numbers into your very own voice over rate sheet.
Setting Up Your Home Recording Studio
A voice over home studio is essential to enabling you to produce high-quality work for your clients. If you’re interested in building a recording studio in your home, step one is to assess which rooms or locations would make the most suitable recording space.
This may not be as daunting as it sounds, because a recording studio only needs to be large enough for you to comfortably sit in. People can get quite creative with which spaces they convert into voice over studios – from garages to closets.
Additionally, creating a professional-grade studio doesn’t have to break the bank. In this article, audio experts offer sound advice on where you should spend money and where you can save money when setting up a recording studio on a budget.
Tips for saving money on your home studio build:
- Soundproofing and insulation don’t have to be expensive – you can use really heavy blankets or comforters to absorb any unwanted sounds.
- With recording equipment, more expensive doesn’t always equal better. Plus, recording gear can also be purchased secondhand and/or upgraded as you go.
- Your home studio space can be as simple as a closet – as long as it is quiet and allows you to give a professional quality read everytime.
Soundproofing Your Home Recording Studio
Regardless of whether you choose to spend or save on the cost of building your home recording studio, there is one important step that is often overlooked – and that is soundproofing your studio.
Soundproofing is one of the most important considerations for those who wish to set themselves apart with professional sound quality, as well as those who wish to save valuable time. Imagine how much time and frustration you would save if you could reduce the number of unwanted sounds you had to edit out after recording your track.
3 Keys to Effective Soundproofing in Your Recording Studio
It helps to remember that soundproofing has three key phases – all of which must work together to create the perfect voice over environment. Specifically, soundproofing needs to address:
- Filtering out unwanted external sound
- Insulating the studio space
- Setting up measures to handle any remaining noise
Soundproofing tips from an audio expert:
Choosing Your Voice Over Microphone
There are a lot of different microphones available on the market and about ten times as many opinions over which microphone is best. However, the process of choosing a mic must be tailored towards which one best suits your unique voice. You could have a low pitched voice, a raspy voice or a booming voice. Each may need a different microphone.
It’s worth shopping around to discover all of the options before making such an important purchase. Keep in mind that the most expensive mic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best for your voice.
4 Tips to Find the Best Voice Over Microphone for Your Voice
- Try many types and brands of microphones before you settle on one
- Test out your mic in the space you will be using it
- Choose one that highlights the great details of your voice
- Stay away from handheld mics
You can also get advice from savvy audio experts who will be able to steer you in the right direction when it comes to choosing the right microphone.
A Note on Why Mixers are Important
Typically, the cable on your microphone (XLR cable) is not compatible with your computer and cannot be plugged in directly, so you will need a mixer that you can plug your microphone into. The cable you need will vary depending on the type of computer and software you plan to use.
Choosing the Best Headphones
You want to spend a bit of your studio setup budget on a good set of headphones. Recording with headphones will allow you to hear if you are making unwanted sounds with your mouth, or if there is any other interference being picked up by your mic.
You will want to get a good pair of over the ear headphones (don’t use earbuds!) that are comfortable and allow you to hear yourself at a comfortable audio level. A decent pair of headphones will cost anywhere from $100 and up. A great example is the Sennheiser HD-200 Pro, or the Sony MDR-7560 headphones.
You should also be aware of the difference between closed-back headphones (used for recording tracks) versus open-backed headphones (used for mixing) to know which ones will work best for your needs.
Here is a list of other reputable headphones that voice actors recommend:
- Extreme Isolation EX-29
- Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro
- Focal Spirit Professional
- Shure SRH 1540
- Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro
- AKG K 701
Software Requirements for Getting Into Voice Acting
Once you have your perfect microphone, it’s time to think about the software you will use to create professional-grade recordings. Recording quality is incredibly important, as your voice over demos and auditions need to highlight your vocal skills, underscore your professionalism, and ultimately ensure that you stand out.
Recording Software for Voice Actors
Some of popular recording programs/software include:
- Adobe Audition
- Audacity (Free)
- Pro Tools
- Sound Forge
- GarageBand (standard software on Macs)
Choosing the Right Recording Software for Voice Acting
A number of factors need to be taken into consideration as you source the right audio recording program, including cost and compatibility with your computer and equipment.
Because there are a number of options on the market – ranging from free to notably pricey, we prepared an article specifically on voice over recording software for those who want to go in depth.
Pro Tips for Voice Over Business Development When Getting Into Voice Acting
Successful voice actors engage in very specific activities that help set them apart from the rest. They have a definite focus on marketing their skills and business, as well as diversifying the services they offer (which complement their voice over business).
Marketing Yourself as a Voice Actor
Build an Online Presence that Mirrors Your Professionalism
A Voices survey among voice talent showed that voice actors who considered themselves to be successful, full-time voice actors, invested significantly more time into developing their own website and social media accounts to build a solid online presence.
This online presence building includes sharing happy client reviews and being active in relationship management (with clients and voice actor communities alike).
An established online presence helps a potential client feel more confident in their decision to hire the voice actor, because it serves as further evidence of their professionalism and skill.
So if you’re auditioning for voice acting jobs, expect potential clients to research you online – and make sure your online presence reflects your professional persona.
Don’t Make Celebrity Comparisons
When you’re attempting to market your sound, it can be tempting to make comparisons between yourself and celebrities. For example, listing out known actors that you sound like may seem to be an easy way to help potential clients understand what you bring to the table – except, what it actually does is pigeonhole a voice actor into a typecast niche net.
So, rather than compare yourself to a celebrity, consider what vocal qualities made you want to draw this comparison in the first place. These descriptors are your ‘vocal archetype.’ For example, rather than saying you sound like Cate Blanchett, round the description out to say that you have a warm voice, deep voice, or authoritative voice.
Ask Clients for Use of Final Projects that You Contributed to
A great way to build your portfolio is to request permission to use a final project you’ve contributed to, as a demo that prospective clients can hear. Many successful voice actors say that they always ask!
Remember – the answer is always ‘no’ unless you ask.
Choose Networking Over Cold Calling
Gone are the days of cold calling producers and advertising agencies in an attempt to book work, according to a Voices survey of voice talent. In fact, 60% of respondents agreed that this tactic is no longer an acceptable business practice.
What is a viable option, however, is networking with other voice actors – heavily. Research shows that when a voice actor isn’t quite right for a job that they’ve been approached with, they’re quite likely to recommend another voice actor for the spot. Of course, picking up on that mindset and referring other voice actors to jobs you know aren’t quite right for you is a great way to build goodwill between you and that client, as well as you and the other voice talent!
Take a read through the compilation of awesome ideas from other voice actors if you’re looking for more on how to market yourself as a voice actor.
Diversifying Your Service Offerings
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when you’re able to offer extended services, like post-production editing, you can make more money.
Plus, your client will also be delighted to save money by not having to pay another third party for those additional services.
Two Ideas for diversifying your service offerings:
- Deepen Your Audio Production Abilities As a voice actor, you most likely already have an introductory to intermediate level of knowledge about audio production. Invest in your new revenue stream by taking community college night courses to get some professional level training. Or, study online. There are countless websites, blogs, and forums that discuss audio production and post-production at length.
- Find a Post-Production Partner. Start by researching newly-graduated audio production engineers via LinkedIn, Facebook Groups and even College Alumni boards. Establish a working relationship with a post-production partner and agree to working terms, so that they can make a living, while you get to offer valuable services to a client who needs them.
The same thing can be done for offering translation services! Find out more about translation, and other business development strategies.
How to Find Voice Over Work
Getting started in the world of voice acting takes a bit of research and a lot of practice, but if you have the right tips on hand, and sound advice (pun intended), navigating the industry is possible.
The voice over industry is rife with a diverse range of job opportunities. While you’re probably already familiar with voice acting as it pertains to radio and TV advertising, animation, or video games, there are actually plenty of other industries that commonly hire voice actors when they need a professional delivery of a script.
One of the fastest-growing fields of voice over is actually in the education industry. Voice actors who specialize in educational reads are increasingly sought after to voice content for eLearning courses and corporate training.
Speaking of corporate training, business jobs regularly abound in the voice over space. Whether a business needs a brand voice to perform their IVR and telephone voicemail system, or to speak for their brand across all of its internet ads, business voice over will always be in demand.
In today’s world, consumers are also always yearning for compelling narrative content. As a response to screen fatigue and the growth of audio streaming services, such as Audible and Spotify, audiobooks and podcasts are becoming even more popular venues for storytelling and advertising—and you can easily find a plethora of voice over opportunities in either field.
As we’ve mentioned, being a voice actor often means that you are a freelance artist and as such, you will have to put time and effort into marketing your skills and building up your brand. Essentially, you are a small business and have to treat it this way to make the most out of your career.
Great Voice Over Demos are Essential to Getting Into Voice Acting
Your voice over demo is your calling card. It validates your description of your voice by showing potential clients that you can do exactly what you’re saying you can.
Say you can speak five languages. Do you have a demo in each? If not, then you should. Showing, rather than telling, is incredibly powerful.
6 Tips on How to Produce an Incredible Voice Over Demo:
- Plan to have a demo for each style of voice over you provide (e.g. radio announcer voice, narrator voice, blue collar voice, etc.), as well as each language, accent, or dialect.
- Don’t waste valuable time slating or adding long intros. You only have a few seconds to hook the listener – hit them with your best voice over read instead.
- Use your real voice – leave stereotypes behind. Provide an authentic performance.
- Make sure that your recording levels are properly set. The last reason why anyone should pass you over is because they can’t hear you!
- Ask previous clients if you can use samples from their work as your demo.
- When creating a demo from scratch, make sure you choose the right script.
A Fully Set-Up Voices Profile is an Incredible Asset to Finding Voice Over Jobs and Getting Into Voice Acting
Prospecting for clients on your own can be tough. Many voice actors sign up for a Voices account in order to put themselves in front of, and be matched with jobs from some of the world’s biggest brands and best-loved clients.
However, if your profile isn’t complete – or accurate – you could be missing out on incredible opportunities.
You can make it easy to be discovered by the right clients and voice over jobs, by ensuring that your Voices profile is complete and accurate. You’ll know that you’re missing out if your profile score is less than 100, but just in case – here’s more information on how to create a great Voices profile.
Other Ways to Find Voice Over Work and Auditions
Once you’ve set up a Voices profile and have some excellent demos, you can start looking for work and auditions. If you are new to the industry, you may be wondering how to seek out voice acting gigs. There are numerous avenues available to new voice actors that are free or inexpensive to access.
As discussed, voice acting careers are no longer constrained by geography or proximity to a recording studio. Platforms like Voices make it easy for voice actors to work around the world, in any location with an internet connection.
3 Ways that Voice Actors Land their First Gigs
- Sign up with an online platform like Voices, which will email you jobs tailored to your skill set regularly.
- Find an agency to represent you.
- Volunteer or audition for voice work in your community: Look at community job boards online and consider auditioning – remember to only audition for jobs that you think your voice will be a good fit for.
You can find more specific details on what you need to know about finding voice over work by visiting our Online Voice Over Work article.
Tips on Auditioning for Voice Over Jobs
Finding auditions used to be like trying to find a needle in a haystack – but now, finding voice over jobs is much easier. To help voice actors get matched with only the best opportunities for their unique voice and skillset, Voices use a proprietary technology called VoiceMatch, which uses an algorithm to ensure that voice actors only get jobs that they’re suited for and/or interested in.
Here are some time-tested tips on how to nail the voice over audition, and set yourself up for landing the job:
- Audition for jobs you’re well-suited for: If the job is for a bilingual actor who can speak fluent Spanish and English, but you have rusty language skills for either option – don’t audition. Be selective and audition for voice over jobs that truly match your sound and ability.
At a bare minimum, you should evaluate auditions by paying attention to:
- The language, accent, and dialect specified in the job posting
- The rate of pay
- The deadline to submit auditions
- How the files should be delivered to the client
- If the client posted a script, read 10-15 seconds: Nothing will sell your voice better than if the client can hear your audition with their script. However, make the most of your time by only reading for 10-15 seconds. It’s just enough for the client to get a taste of what you can do, while still allowing you to be efficient with your time.
- Audition often: If you can, try to audition for seven or more jobs each day. You can’t win jobs unless you audition for them, and even if none come through, you’re still gaining valuable experience while giving yourself a daily vocal workout.
Learn more about Making the Most of Your Voice Over Auditions.
Putting the Pieces Together
Here at Voices, we often refer to the 3-legged stool that is a voice acting career:
- Business Skills
- Artistic Skills
- Technical Skills
Investing time into developing these three very separate – but complementary – skill sets is a great way to start your voice over career off on the right foot. You need to work on all three in order to be successful.
Having talent is a great starting place, but when you build a more developed business acumen and become a little tech savvy (for recording), you’ll really start to see your career take off.
To sum it all up, to getting into voice acting online:
- Get voice over training or coaching
- Practice reading out loud, constantly (see our sample voice over script library)
- Seek out pro bono gigs to build your resume
- Record several voice over demos – each one should highlight an aspect of your ability
- Build your professional brand online (including a Voices profile, of course!)
- Audition often, reading 10-15 seconds of the client’s script, when provided
- Ask previous clients for permission to use past projects as part of your portfolio
Through this introductory article, we hope that you feel more empowered on your journey to becoming a voice actor. However, the information here is just the tip of the iceberg. Voice acting is a profession and a craft that requires continuous learning and dedication.
Subscribe to our blog (through the sign up widget on the right), and/or come back often to read more in-depth articles and expert interviews – all aimed at helping you continuously learn, improve, and become more successful than your wildest dreams.