Planning Your Demos

Voice-Over Demos

In order to get voice-over work, you need a voice-over demo. Your demo needs to be your best work you can do at the present time to show prospective clients and potential agents what you can do. Furthermore, it also needs to be something you feel comfortable assigning your name to and marketing to the public.

Your prospective clients can listen to the demo and evaluate your services firsthand. Creating a variety of voice-over demos rounds out your portfolio, showcasing the styles of voice acting that you can perform.

Voice-over is ubiquitous, meaning that it’s everywhere. You can listen to professional voice-over demos online at to get a taste for what actors are using to promote themselves online to get work.

These sections explain the importance of voice-over demos and how they can help increase the chances of your getting work.

Knowing Why You Need One

A voice-over demo is like your business card and resume all wrapped into one. Your demo gives listeners an appreciation for what you’re able to do vocally and also provides a glimpse into how you can sound as the voice of their job.

Having at least one voice-over demo is essential to promoting yourself as a voice actor. How will people know if they want to work with you unless they can hear your voice?

In today’s digital world, a demo is typically hosted online these days with little reason to have a hard copy on a compact disc. Demos also tend to run shorter and narrower in scope. Having some copies on disc isn’t a bad idea because you may have some opportunities to hand out or send them to agents or casting directors that still accept CDs.

Serving Potential Customers At All Times

When you feature your voice-over demo online, your prospective clients can listen to it at their convenience, no matter what you’re doing. Listening to the demo doesn’t require any effort on your part after they download the file. Technology has definitely helped voice actors get their demos to potential clients. Before the digital age and the Internet, people handed out CDs or gave live reads at a studio or an agent’s office.

Having your demos available online provides a great amount of value to you. Not only are those demos working for you in your absence, they could be getting you bookings! How do you make this a reality? Produce a handful of one-minute demos that highlight your best work, each of which focuses on one application of voice-over. Keep reading for help in how to record demos that can do this for you. Chapter 8 can help you when you’re ready to actually record your demo and where to place it online.

Determining How Many Demos You Need

Having a variety of demos for prospective clients to hear is beneficial to you in many ways, not the least of which is that your voice-overs can appear in more searches when those clients are seeking a very specific sound or kind of voice sample when working on an online marketplace site.

Even though you may have a few different types of voice-over demos online that represent the type of work you can do, you also need to realize that a client may have a certain need, and just because the client is picky, doesn’t necessarily mean the client isn’t interested in you or doesn’t appreciate a good selection for future reference. The client is looking for something specific to cast a voice for his project.

For example, if you go shopping for a loaf of multigrain bread, would you pay much attention to pumpernickel, sourdough, or raisin bread? Not likely. You’re decidedly going for something very specific and only want the multigrain bread. Everything else is a distraction, no matter how good or healthy it appears to be. That’s exactly what clients go through when they’re looking to cast a voice.

If you post your demos on a voice acting marketplace site, what you can do to help attract customers to your demo is use as many accurate, descriptive words as possible in your text to explain what your voice-over demo is about. We suggest you start with three or four demos that best highlight your skills. As a beginner, you may only have tried a couple different styles of voice acting and may be most comfortable making a few short sample reads of material you found in the public domain or wrote yourself. If you post on your own website, you still need to make sure you include a detailed description.

These sections can help you to discover your unique abilities and leverage opportunities for your voice to shine. The voice is a flexible instrument that lends itself to many purposes and applications. Being able to release yourself from preconceived notions or pigeonholes can only be good for you and your business if you choose to run one.

Releasing Yourself From Self-Imposed Limitations

As a voice actor, you have the ability to create a variety of different reads and interpretations, and you’re able to fluctuate your voice to achieve a desired effect. As a result, you should exhibit your abilities and talent and offer your clients demonstrations of your abilities by uploading several different types of voice-over demos that show your range of ability.

Many voice actors don’t record or promote more than one voice-over demo, which is a detriment to being hired. In most cases they only present a commercial demo. By offering several samples of work, you set yourself apart from others.

Failing to Offer Something = Lost Potential

If you don’t have at least one voice-over demo (we suggest you start with multiple demos) online showing your abilities, you lose out on prospective jobs and ultimately money. Some people don’t have demos, at least demos produced by someone other than themselves, because they consider recording the demos too expensive. Although demos do cost some money to have someone else produce, the expense is relative to what your return on investment (ROI) will be from each demo you have produced.

If you talk to producers, they’ll certainly point you in the direction of recording a demo in a professional recording studio, which does cost money. If you do have a demo professionally recorded and produced, you need to be able to replicate the voices you did and the production values, such as music, sound effects, and so on.

An alternative is recording your own demo if you have the skills and technology. This option is limited by your abilities as an engineer. The time, creativity, and energy you invest don’t cost much, but you don’t have the benefit of a producer or voice director to coach you like you would if you professionally recorded your demo. If you decide to self-record your demo, you need to know a thing or two about production elements, such as music and sound effects, copywriting (or sourcing royalty-free or public domain material), and artistic direction. 

Setting the Ideal Duration of a Voice-Over Demo

The voice-over demo can range between 60 to 90 seconds to five minutes, depending on the type of demo. For example, commercial demos that promote your skills doing radio and television ads should be around 60 seconds. An audiobook or narration demo needs to last about five minutes in order to demonstrate your ability to stay in character for long passages in a story or possibly even to provide voices from different characters in a dialogue passage.

The optimum time for a demo to run with multiple spots is about 60 to 90 seconds so the listener has ample time to appreciate your voice and what you can do. Anything shorter than 30 seconds runs the risk of not being long enough to demonstrate your abilities. You may record a shorter demo if you’re not recording a compilation of spots but instead featuring a full 30-second commercial that you produced.

If you plan on uploading your demo to a marketplace website, you should keep your demo to 60 seconds, which equates to 1 megabyte (MB) in size. A 1MB file loads quickly for a listener, while still sounding great.
We want as many people as possible to listen to you what you can do. To help with that, in these sections we include a number of tips for how to keep someone’s attention when listening to your demo and ways you can present your demo material for the best possible results.

Cooking up a sample demo recipe

A standard demo should include five spots, which are between 5 to 15 seconds in length, give or take. Here’s a breakdown blueprint for a standard 60-second demo:

  • Intro monologue, known as a slate (who you are and the subject of your voice-over demo.) Skip to Chapter 11 for more info about what to include in a slate: 5 seconds
  • Spot 1: 15 seconds
  • Spot 2: 15 seconds
  • Spot 3: 10 seconds
  • Spot 4: 10 seconds
  • Spot 5: 5 seconds
  • Closing remarks (including your contact information and a plug for your website): 5 seconds
  • Closing music jingle (optional): 5 to 8 seconds

Always put your best spot at the beginning of the demo and choose to end your demo on a high note, leaving your audience pleased with what they heard but wanting to hear more. Not everyone has time to listen to an entire demo, so start off with your money voice. Your money voice is basically your signature voice, a concept we cover in the Professional's Guide to Voice Acting. Your money voice shines the most brightly, and is more than likely the one that gets you hired most frequently. Your money voice is the strongest read you can muster and deserves first billing on your demo.


Be sure to leave at least two seconds between tracks if you have multiple tracks. Keep in mind that you can include as many tracks on a demo as you want, but be sure to send people only the tracks that they ask for. For instance, don’t send an audio publisher who works strictly with narrators a sample of your voice that isn’t audiobook narration.

TIP! A demo isn’t just a bunch of spots thrown together, and you definitely don’t want to skimp or cut corners in producing. Your demo reflects your level of professionalism, your range, and the value you have to offer the client. It should provide just enough of a sampling to whet your clients’ appetites, draw them in, and leave them wanting more. It should showcase your range and versatility.

Working with Short Attention Spans

So why should most demos be around 60 seconds long? People, including your prospective clients, have short attention spans. Marketers now face a generation of people who are unable to budget more than a matter of seconds to advertisements. If something doesn’t grab a person immediately, the opportunity is lost.

You want to capture your prospective clients’ attention and keep it, while at the same time demonstrating what you’re capable of doing. If you ramble on for a long time, they’ll quickly lose interest. As a result, you lose out on being noticed. Being able to communicate in such a way that the listener cares about what you’re saying (as well as being able to retain the information and act upon it!) is the primary goal of a voice actor. You’re battling for space in their minds. If you want to get a piece of their attention, perhaps even their undivided attention (and their desire to hire you), what you’re saying and how you’re saying it need to be worth their while.

Producing Your First Voice-Over Demo

What is the importance of having a demo? It is a voice talent's calling card, business card, and resume all in one. It is the only way to wow potential clients or agents with your voice-over skills.

Your very first demo, the one you that you hopefully produced with a voice-over coach, will likely have multiple spots on it consisting of your strongest voice-over skills. But in the digital arena, having a wide variety of bite-sized demos to promote your voice, style, and skills is the best way to effectively market your voice-over services. Having a demo with multiple voice-over skills featured on it works when sending voice samples to agencies, but these days most voice talent have websites and use online casting sites, such as, to further promote their voice-over services.

Time Saver

Breaking Up Demos Into Bite-Sized Pieces

Today’s market and business place is hectic, and everyone is busy with little free time. You don’t get a second chance to impress. As a result, you have to be ready to show your skills when prompted. One of the ways of showing your abilities is to be armed with a good selection of your strongest work featured in bite-sized demos, organized by application or style of read.

The online breed of client tends to listen to voice-over samples in short 60 second snippets. Because of that it is good to plan on recording your different areas of interest on separate digital files, such as MP3 files. This allows the client to find their job category and listen to what you can do within their category. You wouldn't want a client looking for a majestic narration for their documentary to first hear your wacky radio voice-overs. If you can do it, and do it well, have a different demo for each niche of voice-over that you're interested in working in.

Presenting your demo in small pieces allows your prospective clients to pick and choose from what best applies to their needs. Opportunity is knocking for you here because people are looking for quick and simple solutions! If you create a number of short demos in a variety of styles, you stand a better chance of those demos being heard and listened to. Featuring those demos online and properly describing them for the search engines is paramount to achieving your goal. If you specialize in a given area, say narration for audiobooks, you may want to have a demo for each genre you read in (such as children’s literature, young adult, business, and so on).

Keeping Your Demo Focused on One Genre

Avoid recording montage demos because a montage usually includes many styles in one demo, which may turn off clients or fail to engage them as intensely. Some producers still do montage demos (compilation demos that present a variety of different reads for a number of applications, sometimes including bits of commercials, narration, character work, corporate work, and so on). These montages, by virtue of the vast material they cover, must by necessity run longer than the present standard time for demos (the standard demo time is 60 to 90 seconds) because talent and producers try to squeeze in as many relevant bits as possible to show versatility. Clients are busy, and they don’t have time to listen to a long montage to see if you can do a certain style.

The essence of the montage doesn’t need to go out of the window entirely. If your producer wants to use a montage, make sure the montage is more targeted to meet the individual client’s needs.

Inspiring Ideas for Voice-Over Demos

You don’t have to look far for a project in need of voice-over. A voice can be used in so many different ways, which means that you can create unique demos that zero in on a specialized niche or application of voice-over and voice acting.

If you stop to think of all the voice-overs you hear in a day, most likely in the hundreds, and list the different applications of voice-over that you heard, a shocking number of possibilities arise in terms of opportunities for your voice and voice acting in general.

We once asked people how many voice-overs they thought they had heard in a day. Some were thinking 50 or so, and others estimated more than 250. The number you do hear depends on how closely you’re listening and how much media you encounter.

Considering how vast voice acting is, you may be more attracted to or interested in a certain area of voice-over. The types of demos you record are endless. Here we look at the most popular categories for demos used online today.

What niches should you consider? We mentioned all the categories we have selected at, but let's review those again. Determine which areas you'd like to record in and then find scripts for that niche (more on that in a minute).


With the growing popularity of eReaders and tablets, audiobooks are becoming more and more popular with the general public. This is resulting in an increase of narration jobs for voice talent. If narration is something you feel passionate about, plan to record a number of different excerpts from novels in the ‘Public Domain' (Royalty-Free) to use as your demos. Select readings from different genres to display diversity and versatility. Try an excerpt of dialogue between characters to showcase your character skills. Look to your favorite genres for inspiration. If you like reading dramatic monologues, comedies, or intrigue record excerpts from those styles of books. If you record what you're interested in, you will yield the best performance for your demos.

Business, Educational, and Telephone

The corporate world needs voice-overs more often than any other type of voice-over and is, by far, the most prevalent type of job for online casting sites like These are the bread-and-butter jobs and can be an exciting way to establish yourself both locally and internationally. All businesses everywhere require some type of voice-over from telephone recordings to employee training videos, e-learning modules, to medical videos, and explainer videos, corporate narration to translation, and voice-overs welcoming visitors to company websites. To get ideas for your business demos, visit some big-brand websites and watch their videos. Think back on training videos you've watched in your previous employment and listen closely when you're on-hold with a company. Have a few demos in this area to showcase what you can bring to the table. Our recommendations would be to create a demo for a fun explainer video, another for telephone prompts, and finally an employee training video. These three will showcase different corporate styles and variety.

Cartoons and Video Games

The desire to perform character voices for animated cartoons and video games are often why people get into the industry. After all, how much fun would it be to see your voice personified by a cartoon character?! We're pleased to say there is a surprising amount of work available in this area. Think about all the different forms of entertainment where character voices are used: TV programs, animated movies, dubbing foreign cartoons, video games, computer games, apps, talking toys, and the list goes on. Your ticket in this area is not likely your best Daffy Duck impression, but mimicking the characters you hear on television will help you learn to develop your own characters, and the bigger the better. These jobs are where your acting skills really shine. To get the best performance, you'll want to use exaggerated facial expressions and move your arms a lot to give to give your character a larger than life personality. For your demos, try compiling a menacing video game voice, cute cartoon character, and a wacky off-the-wall voice.


If you're a fan of the Discovery Channel or the History Channel you've likely developed an admiration for the narrators documenting the shows. Documentaries guide, educate and entertain the viewers. They continue to have a widespread influence in education, entertainment and politics. The narrator helps keep the flow and pace interesting while establishing an emotional connection to the subject matter. There are many cherished narrators from Sir David Attenborough and Christopher Plummer to celebrity voices like James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Sigourney Weaver and more. The key to their successful narrations are their authoritative voices, which smoothly tell a story with suspense, emotion, depth, and clarity. If you're interested in voicing documentaries, watch them. Learn from them. And finally develop your own narration style. Record several types of documentary excerpts from the deep sea, to historic works, to the life and times of someone famous. As with any demo script, make sure you are not using copyrighted material. If you are using material from current documentaries for your demo inspiration, be sure to change names, places, and locations and use the given script as a framework for your new creation.

Internet and Podcasting

Internet voice-overs often fall under the same blanket as business because most organizations recognize the importance of having an interactive website these days. However, there is more to the Internet than meets the eye. There is an explosion of interest in self-produced television programs, radio dramas, and video games made solely for online consumption and it is gaining public interest each year as the quality of self-produced Internet programmes increases. Podcasting is another form of Internet voice-over and the range of podcasting material that's on the net is astounding. Many podcasters are business owners or someone trying to sell a thought, product or service. Most are free to download or come in at a small price. Because many of the people recording podcasts or Internet programmes are not professional actors they benefit from having a voice talent read the scripts for them. In this area for your demo purposes, try writing and recording your own script on something you're passionate about. That could be healthy living, cooking, gardening, child or pet care - whatever appeals to you.

Radio and Television

On cable there are approximately 10 full minutes of commercials per half hour program. Radio stations will have close to the same amount of commercials aired per hour, usually about 12 minutes or less. More than just commercials, there are "sweepers" needed in this category as well. These are short, pre-recorded samples used by radio and television stations to segue between songs or shows that give a brief station identifier or promo, generally 20 seconds or less. Sweepers are also known as liners, bumpers, radio imaging, station imaging, stingers, IDs, promos, shotguns and intros. Whatever you want to call them they include a voice-over. Next time you're watching TV or listening to the radio, practice imitating the commercials and sweepers. When recording Radio and Television demos, have a separate one for commercials and sweepers. Your commercials should have a variety of reads such as conversational (talking to a friend), hard-sell (car commercials), and soft-sell (financial). Sweepers should be a series of Station ID promos that are upbeat and show variety for the different types of stations you might encounter such as easy-listening, rock, and country. Listen carefully to the difference between the ones you might encounter on radio stations compared to TV. Design your demos accordingly.

Jingles and Music

Many voice professional talent, though certainly not all, sing or perform music as add-on services to regular voice-overs. If you are hired to record a commercial, for example, it is convenient for the client if you are able to record the jingle as well. You end up making twice the amount for the job and everybody's happy. If you can sing jingles or play an instrument such as the piano, violin, or guitar definitely make a demo of this as well… although, you may decide to leave out the heavy metal guitar solo. Clients also look for original digital recordings and mixes so if you are skilled at mixing your own beats and rhythms, create a small library and showcase it on a demo to indicate what you can do. This is a fantastic add-on service to offer clients.

Trailers (for movies and more)

Trailers are where the stereotypical announcer voice really shines. There is little doubt that many of you reading this think of that deep baritone voice of one of the most revered voice-over professionals on the planet, the late Don LaFontaine. He, along with Hal Douglas and many other voice talent of early notoriety helped the phrase "In a world…" become one the most famous movie trailer intros to ever exist but trailers account for a whole lot more than just movies. Trailers are made for just about any promo where the listener needs to be enticed without giving the whole story away. They are used for upcoming book releases, video games releases, new documentaries, even save-the-date videos for conferences and weddings. Try listening to a few trailer documentaries at to get an idea of the range and styles popular in trailers today.

Other Types of Voice-Over Demos

The following list contains a wealth of ideas for the other kinds of work available that can warrant having their own demos.

  • Announcing
  • Bilingual demo if you speak two languages
  • Celebrity impressions
  • Emotion-based demos
  • Husband and wife or multiple talent spots
  • Play-by-play or color commentary
  • Tour guide for museums, places of interest and local attractions
  • Voice age demos (senior, adult, young adult, teen, child, toddler, and so on)

If you’re interested in one of these areas, search for demos that other voice actors have done that fit in the category of demo you want to record. After you do your research, start planning for your new demo and locate scripts that you can record.

Once again, and we really can't stress this enough, when recording your demos, be sure to use fictitious movies, names, places, or objects to avoid infringing on any copyright laws.

Now that you have an idea of the types of demos you want to record, it's time to talk about actually recording your voice.