How To Become A Successful Voice Actor

Voice actors are constantly attempting to answer the question, ‘How can I be more successful?’

While there’s no doubt that becoming a professional voice actor takes time, training and dedication, what ‘success’ actually looks like in practice is harder to quantify.

This report compiles survey data from voice actors and coaches around the world - along with Voices.com’s internal data and in-house expertise - to illuminate what successful voice actors engage and invest in, in order to foster a thriving business.

Specifically, we examine how advanced voice actors operate their business in regards to:

Talent Development

  • Training/Coaching

  • What VO Coaches Do

  • Identifying the Right Coach

  • Online Voice Over Coaching

Home Recording Studio Tech

  • Home Studio Setup Needs

  • Microphones

  • Recording Software

  • Headphones

  • Other Home Studio Needs

Auditioning

  • Time Spent on Auditions

  • Number of Daily Auditions

  • Keys to Successful Voice Over Auditions

Marketing Strategies

  • Voice Actor Online Branding

  • Voices.com Voice Actor Profile

  • Voice Actor Websites and Social Media

  • Voice Over Demos

  • Client and Voice Actor Referrals

  • Expanded Service Offerings

Conclusion

By highlighting these tried and true strategies and practices, as well as providing expert tips and tricks, this information aims to help every voice actor along their journey to achieve new levels of success.

Talent Development

Training & Coaching

Natural talent is a great starting point for anyone interested in a career in voice acting, however, the impact of training on the success of one’s career can be significant.

On Voices.com alone, voice actors who list that they’ve received training:

  • Make 13% more on a job-per-job basis.

  • Book 21% more jobs

As a further testament to the importance of ongoing education, voice over coaches also put their money where their mouth is.

71%

of coaches receive coaching themselves.

"I'm always sharpening my saw, I invest tens of thousands of dollars a year in my own training and education so I can bring the most up-to-date voice over marketing and business building methods to our students in a market that is always growing and changing." - Susan Berkley, Voice Over Actor and Coach

What Voice Over Coaches Do

Voice over coaches offer a wide range of services, including audio production education, demo production, accent training or reduction, character voice development, marketing your voice over services, and so much more.

However, coaches don’t only help voice actors with vocal technique; they also help with the technical and business side of the industry as well. Coaching is a tried and true way to gain the skills necessary to start and grow your voice over business.

Identifying the Right Vocal Coach

In order to achieve success with a coach, your training needs have to align with the coach’s expertise, and your styles need to mesh too. The best way to find your coaching ‘fit’ is to do a trial session or interview call, where you can get a feel for the instructor’s style and whether or not you really ‘click.’

Bruce Carey

"Even during an evaluation, you should be impressed by the coach's method and immediate results." - Bruce Carey, Voice Over Actor and Coach

Online Voice Over Coaching

Our digitally-connected era is allowing voice actors to access top voice coaches from all around the globe. Remote or online coaching offers the same benefits of working in-person, plus the added benefit of helping to strengthen students' level of comfort with using technology, which is an integral part of the industry.

85%

of voice over coach survey respondents indicated that they offer online coaching.

Ellie

"I think, in some cases, my students are uncomfortable with the technology involved with Skype or FaceTime, but that initial discomfort is usually overcome quite rapidly. Then, I find it is useful for my students, because so much auditioning involves working with technology now." - Ellie Devers, Professional Voice Over Actor & Coach

Home Studio Tech

Home Studio Setup Needs to Meet Your Needs and Standards

Building a home studio can feel like one of the more complex and expensive aspects of launching and running a voice over business. What gear to purchase, which software to use and how to set up one’s studio are among the most widely-discussed topics in the voice over industry.

While the investment doesn’t need to be substantial to yield excellent results, understanding what gear other professional voice actors are using can act as a guidepost for those who hope to acquire gear that meets or exceeds an acceptable standard.

Voices.com research looked at what pro actors used in each of these areas:

  • Microphone types and brands

  • Voice over recording software

  • Headphones

Microphones for Voice Actors

Most Popular Types of Vocal Microphones

The type of mic and the brand that voice actors prefer varies widely. It’s important to understand which mic works best for one’s specific vocal qualities.

25%

of respondents said that they chose their microphone through trial and error.

Erica Cain

“Right now I have a Rode NT1 that I used in my studio. The first mic that was recommended to me was Samson CO1U Pro.” - Erica Cain, Professional Voice Over Actor

Despite how personal the microphone selection process is, some types of microphones are more popular.

Top 5 Most Popular Types of Microphones for Voice Actors

In order of popularity based on what talent have listed in their Voices.com profile:

  • Condenser (41%)

  • USB (40%)

  • Cardioid (8.5%)

  • Dynamic (7%)

  • Ribbon, Omni, Figure 8, Other (3.5%)

Types of Microphones Used by Talent
Anatol Silotch

“The microphone I’m currently using is an Audio Technica AT4047/SV [cardioid condenser microphone] with a large diaphragm.” - Anatol Silotch, Professional Voice Over Actor

Top 3 Most Popular Microphone Brands for Voice Actors

Blue appears to be leading the popularity race - with 23% of respondents saying that their mic of choice is one of the brand’s popular models - like the Snowball or the Yeti.

Not far behind is Rode (almost 20%), and the miscellaneous category, which captured a mixed bag of brands from AKG, Fluoreon, Electrovoice and more.

Top 3 Microphone Brands

  • Blue (24%)

  • Rode (19%)

  • Audio Technica (13%)

Top Microphones Pie Chart
Madison Brunoehler

“I have two different mics, the one that I mainly use for recording jobs and stuff is a Blue Yeti and a pop filter. I found it very cost effective, where I wasn’t breaking the bank but I was still getting good quality material.” - Madison Brunoehler, Professional Voice Over Actor

Chloe Taylor

“I didn’t start out with this microphone. But now I have a Neumann TLM103, which was standard in the brick and mortar studio I was working in.” - Chloe Taylor, Professional Voice Over Actor

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Voices.com Pro Tip: It’s okay to start with the best mic that you can afford, and then upgrade later on as you start to book more work.

Recording Software for Voice Overs

There is a wide variety of audio recording software options that range in price range from free to hundreds of dollars.

Chloe Taylor

“I use Audacity. Free. Downloadable. Easy. Since with voice over you’re just using one track, it’s an easy program to use.” - Chloe Taylor, Professional Voice Over Actor

Erica Cain

“I started with Audacity and then a couple of weeks later switched to Adobe Audition.” - Erica Cain, Professional Voice Over Actor

Preference of recording software is personal, and low cost to free options can be just as effective and competitive as more expensive packages. However, sometimes voice actors may find that an investment in software is worth making for various reasons, from the program’s capabilities, to personal opinion over sound quality.

5 Most Popular Audio Recording Software Brands

According to data on voice actor profiles on Voices.com, these are the most popular software programs:

  • Adobe Audition (38%) (subscription $20.99 USD/month)

  • Audacity (26%) (Free)

  • Pro Tools (16%) ($24.92 - $599 USD)

  • Logic (8%) ($279.99 USD)

  • GarageBand (5%) (Free - Standard on all Macs)

5 Most Popular audio software brands
 

Headphones for Voice Actors

Compared to microphones and audio recording software, headphones don’t get nearly as much discussion or attention, but, they are arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment in a voice actor’s toolkit.

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Voices.com Pro Tip: “Imperfections in your audio prevent you from booking work. Good-quality headphones are important as they allow you to catch imperfections before they get to your client's ears. Find the perfect pair of headphones by testing them out at your local music store. Start by listening to the lowest cost pair of headphones and work your way up in price. It's a really fun way to determine what headphones meet your budget and quality goals. Plus, it allows you to find a pair that's also comfortable.” - Julianna Lantz, Talent Manager, Voices.com

Top 5 Headphone Brands Preferred by Voice Actors

Voices.com survey data reveals that the most popular brands of headphones used are:

  • Sony (13%)

  • Sennheiser (13%)

  • AKG (9%)

  • Audio Technica (7%)

  • Other/Miscellaneous (58%)

Top 5 Headphones Brands

How Voice Actors Use Headphones in the Studio

  • 95% wear headphones while recording voice over and for playback/editing

  • 5% only wear headphones for playback/editing

Other Home Recording Studio Equipment and Setup

Home studio setup often involves creative and budget-friendly solutions.

Read more about Voice Over Recording Equipment and How to Soundproof a Room.

Erica Cain

“In a guest room, I have a large cloth beach umbrella and heavy down comforters that make the walls, and then I have some acoustic foam from a musician friend of mine which is within the booth, on the doors, some of the walls and by the window because that’s a big source of noise.” - Erica Cain, Professional Voice Over Actor

Anatol Silotch

“Initially for my booth I used a washing machine box. I put up sheets at the beginning.” - Anatol Silotch, Professional Voice Over Actor

Auditioning

How Much Time Should Be Spent on Voice Over Auditions

There’s no two ways about it - voice actors need to audition often in order to become successful. But what is ‘often,’ exactly? And how much time should you dedicate to auditioning?

 

A Voices.com survey revealed that professional voice actors divide their time equally between auditioning and completing voice over jobs (spending approximately a 1:1 ratio recording auditions vs. recording jobs).

 

However, in order to build a business, beginner voice actors have to spend twice as much time recording auditions. This group’s ratio is closer to a 2:1 division of time between auditioning and working on jobs they’ve won.

87% of beginner voice over artists spend just under 10 hours a week auditioning and less than 5 hours a week recording jobs.

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Voices.com Pro Tip: “Our most successful voice talent are ones that audition daily. This is especially true for newcomers to the platform.” - Evan Wiebe, Talent Team, Voices.com

Number of Daily Auditions

Voices.com internal data shows that voice actors who audition 7 or more times a day make approximately $20,000 more per year than voice talent who audition less than 7 times a day.

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Voices.com Pro Tip: The recommended audition length is approximately 15-30 seconds (recorded time). Even if a longer script is provided, it’s those first few seconds that tend to seal the deal for clients. So maximize your time and efficiency by sticking to the timeframe that matters most.

Here is what successful talent on Voices.com have to say about the frequency of auditions:

Anatol Silotch

“Most of my day is spent auditioning - it depends on how many auditions come in. A typical audition could run you 5 minutes, 10 minutes depending on what research or effort is needed to find out how you can deliver it as best as you can. It could be 20 auditions, could be 50 auditions a day.” - Anatol Silotch, Professional Voice Over Actor

Erica Cain

“I try to do about an average of 10 auditions a day, depending on the day, I don’t always get there, but sometimes I do almost 20.” - Erica Cain, Professional Voice Over Actor

 
Madison Brunohler

“I do somewhere between 10 and 20 auditions a day. That number will probably go up in the future because I keep a statistic of how many I want to get done a week, because I’m always trying to go above the number I did the previous week.” - Madison Brunoehler, Professional Voice Over Actor

The Key to Successful Voice Over Auditions

So what’s the most important aspect of your audition - if you want to book the job?

The first consideration may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked - you must be the right voice for the job. Being selective in auditioning for jobs that you’re qualified for (e.g. noting language, style, vocal age, etc.), is the first key.

But beyond the basics, creating an emotional connection with your performance is what seals the deal (not bidding the lowest).

In fact, the statement “The performance or vocal qualities connect emotionally with my audience,” emerged as the top consideration in a Voices.com survey of clients, with 70% agreeing that this aspect of the audition was very important to their casting decision.

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Voices.com Pro Tip: You can choose the criteria on a job that creates an email notification (e.g. if a certain client budget is most important to you, you can choose to be notified for only jobs that meet that budget threshold).

Marketing Strategies

Successful Voice Actors Market Themselves Differently

Successful voice actors have a number of marketing strategies in their back pocket. Some of the most effective tools that they leverage include:

  • Online Branding and Presence

  • Voice Over Demos

  • Client and Voice Actor Referrals

  • Expanded Service Offerings

Here's how voice actors rated the importance of various marketing tactics:

Creating a Professional Website Having an Online Social Presence Talking About Past Clients and Projects Offering Audio Production Services
Professionals 78% 52% 60% 71%
Beginners 45% 38% 41% 50%

Voice Actor Online Branding

There are many elements to online branding. For voice actors, some basic elements include:

  • Voices.com Voice Actor Profile

  • Personal Website

  • Social Media

Voices.com Voice Actor Profile

With hundreds of thousands of jobs posted by the world’s most reputable and loved brands, it’s no surprise that Voices.com is the world’s largest marketplace for voice actors.

It sounds simple, but when it comes to creating a great Voices.com profile, voice actors increase their chances of successfully landing work by having completely filled out all the fields. A complete profile (each field filled in) is essential in calculating an actor’s VoiceMatch™ score.

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Voices.com Pro Tip: VoiceMatch™ is a recommendation engine that voice talent can use to identify how qualified they are for a particular job, and to prioritize audition time to jobs they are more suited to. When a client receives auditions back on their job, the auditions are sorted by VoiceMatch™ score, with the best matched voice talent (those with the highest VoiceMatch™ score) on top.

Cornelia Klimek

“An incomplete profile will cause you to miss out on VoiceMatch™ points, Voices.com search results, and even keep your profile from appearing in Google. VoiceMatch™ needs a complete and accurate profile to ensure that you're getting invited to work, and to let you know how well you’re matched for specific jobs. The higher your score, the higher you appear to clients in their audition responses.” - Cornelia Klimek, Voices.com Talent Product Manager

Voice Actor Websites and Social Media

When it comes to the online channels that voice actors use to promote themselves, professional voice actors behave quite differently than beginners.

Online Channel Professionals Beginners
I use a professional website to promote myself 78% 45%
I use Facebook for self-promotion 75% 48%
I use LinkedIn for self-promotion 71% 36%

Leveraging promotional channels online may also lead to an increase in the number of voice over jobs talent book, as an established, consistent, online presence is a signal to prospective clients that they are working with a professional.

A voice actor’s online presence helps a producer feel great about their decision to hire that specific talent, and can inspire even more clients to seek them out.

Voice Over Demos: the Best ‘Business Card’ for Voice Actors

Voice over demos have been referred to as a voice actor’s calling card.

When it comes to adding voice over demos, more is more. In 2017, those voice actors who had 7 or more different demos uploaded to their Voices.com profile experienced:

  • 290% increase in hire rate

  • 312% increase in earnings

  • 300% increase in being 'favorited' by listeners (Clients use the 'favoriting' feature when they want to shortlist demos as a way to stay organized and connected to voice actors whose voices they like)

Why is this the case?

One explanation may be that by creating a demo for each of their specific skill sets (e.g. a French demo, commercial demo, narration demo, etc.) - and properly tagging each - these voice actors are helping Voices.com’s search engine find them. The tags that voice actors select on their demos, are the same tags that clients select from to search for voice actors. The more properly and thoroughly tagged demos a voice actor has, the more opportunities they have to show up when a client is looking for that skill.

Cornelia Klimek

“Clients perform over 70,000 searches for talent on our site each month. What they're looking for, and what our search engine returns, is a demo that matches their search criteria. So, it's incredibly important to ensure your demos are varied, have a great description, and more than anything, are tagged accurately. Nothing is more frustrating for a client than running a search and having the result be different from what they were expecting.” - Cornelia Klimek, Voices.com Talent Product Manager

Additionally, voice actors typically only have a window of seconds to win over potential clients. If the listener doesn’t hear what they’re looking for right away, they’ll move on. By serving up clearly labelled and focused demos, these voice actors are hitting two birds with one stone: getting the most from the listener’s attention span while also meeting their expectations.

One easy way to build up your bank of demos, is by asking clients for permission to use audio samples from completed projects.

75%

of voice actors stated that they ‘sometimes or always’ ask clients if they can repurpose audio files as demos.

Madison Brunohler

“Right now I think I have seven or eight [demos] but I’m actually wanting to completely redo all of them. I’m wanting to get even more specific because the more specific you can get with your demos, the better off you are.” - Madison Brunoehler, Professional Voice Over Actor, via webinar interview.

Katie Harrington

“You can ask [clients] that you’ve completed [jobs for] to use part of the work you did for them, as a demo if you’d like.” - Katie Harrington, Professional Voice Over Actor, via Voices.com webinar interview.

Christy Fabbri

“I usually try about every year, every 6 months, to listen to my demos… your demo is your calling card and sometimes somebody will click on it and hire you based on that. You don’t necessarily get paid for working hours and hours on a demo [...] but if I put the best I possibly can into this demo, it could get jobs for me.” - Christi Fabbri, Professional Voice Over Actor

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Voices.com Pro Tip: Great demos highlight your skills. Instead of having one long demo reel that contains various types of reads, languages or even character voices, cut (and tag) a demo for each skill set or style. The investment of your time will pay you back in dividends.

Client and Voice Actor Referrals are Key to More Voice Acting Auditions and Jobs

Building a referral network among both clients and other voice actors can be a powerful marketing tool - helping voice actors land even more jobs and auditions.

Networking a Crucial Element in Voice Over Business Plan

50%

of respondents said that when they feel they’re not quite right for a job, they will sometimes recommend another voice actor.

The bigger your network is, and the better your relationship is with peers, the more you stand to gain as a voice actor.

Cold Calling isn’t Likely to Win New Connections

If you’re thinking of growing your network with old fashioned cold calling, you may want to think again.

60% of voice actors stated they never make cold calls to potential clients in an attempt to sell them on voice acting services.

Client Testimonials the Key to New Business

Leveraging goodwill from your previous clients can be incredibly beneficial towards building your voice over business.

85%

of voice actors agreed that sharing client testimonials was important to growing their success.

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Voices.com Pro Tip: If they've had a good experience, most clients are extremely willing to share a testimonial. Be sure to ask just as soon as the project is completed, while both you and the work are top of their mind. If asking feels uncomfortable, then the next time a client compliments your work, simply ask them if you can use that exact statement as a testimonial. You'll be surprised how many people are thrilled to endorse you and your work!

 

Expanded Service Offerings

Voice actors who provide additional services, like translation, voice over in various accents, languages and dialects, or post production services, increase their overall earnings, even when they outsource the tasks to third parties.

4-5x

Voices.com talent who offered and listed additional services on their profile, earned upwards of 4 to 5 times more.

A Voices.com survey revealed that the most common additional service offered is post production services (60%), such as splicing a recording into several files. However, 52% of the time, this service was actually coordinated with a third party. This is good news if you’re a voice actor without the time or skill set to offer the service, but are willing to outsource the tasks.

60% of Voice Actors provide post production services. Of that 60%, 52% use a 3rd party service.

60 Percent of Voice Actors provide post production

Conclusion

Becoming a Successful Voice Actor Requires That Business and Performance Come Together

Data in this report paints a picture of a successful voice actor: an individual who is organized, focused, and business savvy, as well as in possession of well-developed talent that they maintain through continued education.

Professional voice actors spend almost half their time auditioning for work, and are actively engaged in self-promotion via a personal website, Facebook, and LinkedIn (at the very least). On Voices.com, the additional keys to success lie in a complete profile and creating and accurately tagging over 7 demos, to maximize Voices.com’s search algorithm, as well as deliver immediately on a potential client’s expectations.

For those who are just beginning their voice acting career, this report highlights some of the many strategies that you can learn, adopt and adapt from established professionals, in order to increase your overall success within the industry and embark on an exciting and fulfilling career, on your terms.

About the Data

Data supporting this report has been assembled from four main sources:

  • A 2018 survey of a sample group of over 100 Voices.com voice actor members and affiliated coaches.

  • 2017 Voices.com data collected from information hosted on public profiles of voice actors (e.g. profiles that list equipment used, additional skills, etc).

  • A 2015 survey of voice actors from around the globe. Approximately half of the respondents self-identified as a professional (52%), and half (48%) identified as a beginner.

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