Voice Acting

Meet the Voice Over Industry

Tara Parachuk | July 23, 2007

This week, we’ll be looking at all the different people and the roles they play in the voice over industry.
If you’re new to voice overs, consider this a tour of the community that you’ll be part of for years to come where you’ll get to know who is who and how each person in the mix plays a contributing role that propels the voice over industry, and, even your career

Voice over is a very distinct niche within the entertainment and audio recording industries. Similar to an ecosystem, there is a natural order of things and diverse relationships that take shape, many of which are symbiotic, or, mutually beneficial to the parties they involve. 

In this article

  1. Voice Actors
  2. Voice Over Coaches and Instructors
  3. Audio Engineers and Producers
  4. Voice Over Agents and Talent Agencies
  5. Casting Directors
  6. Unions
  7. Voice Over Marketplaces
  8. Clients Who Purchase Voice Overs

Take humans and trees for example. Trees produce the oxygen we need to breathe. When we exhale, or breath leaves our bodies, carbon dioxide is produced as a result.

Following our exhalations, the trees then breathe in our CO2, which is their source of air, and the cycle thus continues as they instinctively produce more oxygen rich exhalation for us to inhale. We then exhale carbon dioxide and the tree is nourished… you get the picture. Just as in nature, many relationships within voice over are complementary and there are very few self-serving relationships.

For those that do exist, they are a necessary part of our voice over ecosystem, and without them, there wouldn’t be a balance.

That is just the nature of things.

Let’s take a look at the roles we’ll be profiling this week with a brief overview on each, starting at the base of the ecosystem.

Voice Actors

A voice actor is the producer of the creative vocal work that is recorded and used for a variety of applications including commercials for radio, television, telephone, podcasts, audio books, video games and more. The voice actor uses their natural gifts, predominantly their voice and mastery of it, to infuse life into the written word. A voice actor is a creator of voice overs, and a voice over is the audio component of a media application commissioned by a client. Voice actors are also known as voice talents, voice overs, voice over artists, VO, VA, narrators, announcers, orators, and so on.

Voice Over Coaches and Instructors

A voice over coach is a person who is either a teacher of voice, instructor of voice acting, or has extensive practical experience working as a professional voice actor who applies their knowledge and methodology through the teaching of their craft. These people are trained to educate and are often associated with beginning voice actors or voice actors who are seeking to enrich or expand their voice over abilities through private coaching or workshops. There are fewer voice over coaches than there are voice actors and their profession is in many cases related to the theory of Publish or Perish. The nature of a voice over coach is to teach but this person may also perform, direct or cast (pick) voices for other projects.

Audio Engineers and Producers

An audio engineer is a person who is highly skilled in the field of audio production, including recording, editing, mixing and mastering. As an audio engineer, this person is usually employed by a larger recording studio or can also be a freelance producer who works independently, running their own production studio. There are schools where people can be trained to acquire skills in this technical aspect of the voice over business. For voice actors who are not as savvy technology wise, recording engineers and audio producers are heavily relied upon to help them produce their voice over demos or record broadcast ready work for clients.

Voice Over Agents and Talent Agencies

A voice over agent is a person who promotes and represents a voice actor, presenting their voice over work for consideration when a job that the voice actor is suited for becomes available. An agent can be independent or part of a voice talent agency that operates similarly to a quintessential talent agency, meaning a company that employs several people as agents to build a brand and manage a variety of talent, not just voice actors.

Agents usually represent voice actors who are either union or non-union depending on the agreement an agent has and if they are affiliated with a union. Agents take a commission on the work they acquire for their voice actor clients, usually in the 10% – 15% range for their services; this could be a commission on top of what the voice actor makes or taken from the earnings directly. A Finder’s Fee is also a term that applies to some agents and agencies.

Casting Directors

A casting director, specifically a voice over casting director, is someone who has an ear for picking the best candidate for a particular job. It is the responsibility of the casting director to “cast” the right person in a role for a client who usually has little interest, ability, or lacks the confidence to “pick” the right voice to represent their company, project, or brand. The casting director wants to get the best possible performance out of an auditioning talent. It is their goal, in fact, to make a voice actor feel at ease because they need to evaluate all of their options in the best light to pick the most appropriate voice for their client’s campaign or project. A casting director charges a fee to the client for their time and expertise.


A union is a governing body that regulates terms of employment for their customers. Unions may take action on the behalf of their clients in cases where agreements are breached. A voice actor pays union dues or fees to be affiliated with a union in order to receive particular services, benefits, or opportunities exclusive to the union. While some unions have an open door policy allowing anyone to join so long as they meet membership fee requirements, there are other unions that are “invitation only” or other criteria. Being part of the union is not mandatory and there are more non-union voice actors in the world than there are unionized voice actors.

Voice Over Marketplaces

A voice over marketplace is a location, typically based online, where voice actors can feature their voices and audition for job opportunities to acquire voice over work. As the term “marketplace” implies, portals that perform this function connect buyers and sellers, for the purposes of this article, buyers and sellers of voice over services. Voice over marketplaces serve both the buyer and seller, and in some instances, facilitate communications and or transactions between the two. As a voice over marketplace consolidates both talent and job opportunities, it is an integral part of any voice actors marketing efforts as well as the most convenient and effective source for clients to find voice actors and buy their services.

Clients Who Purchase Voice Overs

Clients who purchase voice over services can be from any industry, country, and speak a variety of languages. Since the need for audio production is universal as well as the need for voice overs, the global market of clients creates an enormous demand for voice actors who provide quality voice over recordings to represent their company, organization, or event.

Clients hire voice over talent to record for television, radio, podcasts, video games, audio books, film, animation, telephone, corporate presentations, and other purposes. Stick with us this week as we take a closer look at each of these designations, their crucial roles within the voice over industry, and also how each affects other parts of the whole.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Avatar for Paul Dzugan
    Paul Dzugan
    February 19, 2008, 6:24 pm

    How do I get started as a voice over actor? Any direction would help.

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    February 19, 2008, 7:09 pm

    Hi Paul,
    Thank you for commenting. My advice to you is to subscribe to Voice Over Experts and VOX Talk.
    Sign up at Voices.com as a Guest and take advantage of every free resource you can. Read everything that you can and ask questions. There are many people in this industry who have laid the groundwork for you online and it’s an exciting time to get into the biz.
    Good luck!
    Best wishes,

  • Avatar for Shawn
    August 12, 2008, 10:24 am

    This is a great article. I have aspirations of working in the voice over industry, I learned a lot in this article.

  • Avatar for Bill Davenport
    Bill Davenport
    November 18, 2009, 6:10 am

    Excellent primer for the industry. Just exactly what I was looking for. Thank you. Nice job Stephanie. One of the few sites I will bookmark.