How to Make a Voice Over Demo
Beginner's Guide to Voice Acting

An impressive voice over demo will lead casting directors to hire you for voice over projects and help launch your voice acting career.

Almost every professional voice actor has a high-quality demo that exhibits their strengths and works to establish their personal brand.

Here, we’ll explore how to produce your first voice over demo and, as a result, how to strengthen your chances of getting hired for the best voice over jobs.

What is a Voice Over Demo?

A voice over demo is a short audio clip that best showcases your voice acting capabilities. It is essential to record a voice over demo in order to attract prospective clients who are seeking the precise vocal qualities that you possess. A voice over demo is like a business card, headshot, and résumé all wrapped into one.

Why You Need a Voice Over Demo

The voice over industry is immensely competitive. In order to land the roles you want, it is crucial that you do all you can to stand out as a voice actor.

A strong voice over demo will help you achieve exactly that. They are an essential marketing tool in order to individuate yourself in a crowded industry. If you don’t have at least one voice over demo online and readily available for prospective clients to listen to, you’re very likely to lose out on valuable work.

However, you should never settle for creating just one demo.

The truth is, when you offer several samples of your work through a variety of voice acting demos, you set yourself apart from others and give clients a sound to remember you by and allows you to demonstrate your versatility as a voice actor. In some cases, a demo can also serve as an audition for a job, although the majority of clients will incorporate script excerpts into their voice over job postings that they will request applicants read as part of their audition.

Your voice over demo should be hosted online, where it is convenient to access.

With a voice acting profile on Voices.com, you’ll additionally have the ability to upload numerous demos to your account and showcase the entire range of your vocal specialties. Whether you have the perfect voice for audiobook narration, cartoon animals, the guy next door, or more, the possibilities are endless.

How to Make a Voice Over Demo

You can make your own voice over demo by recording yourself performing a read of a sample script.

Browse our selection of sample scripts and try recording your voice while you give them a read!

Ideal Duration of a Voice Over Demo

Your voice over demo can range between 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on the type of demo. However, the ideal length for a demo that features multiple spots is 60 to 90 seconds, so that the listener has ample time to appreciate your voice and what you can pull off. Anything shorter than 30 seconds runs the risk of not granting you enough time to fully demonstrate your capabilities.

In terms of understanding when demo length should vary, consider that commercial demos that showcase your skills performing radio and television ads should last around one minute. However, an audiobook demo will likely be longer, up to four or five minutes, in order to demonstrate your ability to stay in character for extended passages in a story, or possibly to provide voices from different characters in a section of dialogue. It makes sense to settle on a shorter demo, however, if you’re not planning on recording a compilation of spots and instead hope to portray a compact read of a 30-second commercial.

If you plan on uploading your demo to an online marketplace, you might want to keep it within the one minute margin, which equates to about 1 megabyte (MB). A 1MB file loads considerably fast and sounds crisp.

Your goal is to get as many people as possible to press play and listen to what you can do.

Sample Demo Structure

A standard demo that’s a minute in length should include about five spots, which are between five to fifteen seconds in length, give or take.

Here’s a blueprint for a standard 60-second demo:

  • Spot 1: 15 seconds
  • Spot 2: 15 seconds
  • Spot 3: 10 seconds
  • Spot 4: 10 seconds
  • Spot 5: 5 seconds

Be sure to leave a quick pause between tracks if you’re using multiple tracks. You can include as many tracks on a demo as you like, 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 telephone prompts.

Tip: A demo isn’t simply a bunch of disparate spots mindlessly thrown together. Your voice over demo will reflect your level of professionalism, as well as the value that you have to offer your client should they hire you. Consider separating your demos by themes, or by skill sets that you wish to show off. For instance, create a ‘commercial’ demo that is different from an ‘elearning demo,’ which is different from a ‘French language demo.’

Working with Short Attention Spans

Why should most demos be 30 to 60 seconds long? Well, most people, including your prospective clients, have shorter attention spans now than they used to. These diminished attention spans are then exacerbated by the fact that clients are skimming through numerous auditions in search of the right voice for their project. If your demo doesn’t grab your listener immediately, the opportunity is lost.

You want to instantly grip your prospective client’s attention and keep it firmly in your grasp, while succinctly demonstrating all that you’re capable of doing. If you ramble on for a long time, your listener’s interest will wane. As a result, you lose out on being noticed and contacted for an audition.

The skill to communicate in such a way that the listener both cares about what you’re saying, and is able to retain the information and act upon it, is the primary goal of a good voice actor.

You’re battling for space in the listeners’ minds. If you want to get even the slightest piece of a client’s attention, or, ideally, their undivided attention, what you’re saying and how you’re saying it both need to be worth their while.

Producing Your First Voice Over Demo

While it’s likely that your first demo will have multiple spots on it ,consisting of your strongest voice over skills, having a wide variety of bite-size demos to promote your voice, style, and expertise is the optimal way to effectively market your voice over services.

Here’s how to approach production:

Breaking Up Your Voice Over Demo Into Bite-Size Pieces

When it comes to impressing a potential client, you often only get one opportunity to show off your skills. You have to be ready to prove your capabilities when prompted. You should always be equipped with a selection of your strongest work compiled in bite-size demos, organized by genre, or style of read.

Slicing your demo into smaller, more digestible pieces allows prospective clients to pick and choose what best applies to their needs.

Clients are always on the lookout for quick and simple solutions.

If you produce a number of shorter demos in a variety of styles, you stand a better chance of those demos being listened to. Promoting those demos online and describing them for search engines is paramount to achieving your goal and being heard. If you specialize in a given domain, like audiobook narration, you may find it best to have an individual demo for each genre (fantasy, sci-fi, young adult) that you read in.

Popular Voice Over Genres

If you step back and really reflect on all the voice overs you hear in an average day, you’ll realize that voice is everywhere.

Considering the vastness of the multibillion dollar voice acting industry, you’ll likely find that your voice is more fitted for one area than another. After you have cut your teeth in the industry and fleshed out your career goals, you’ll likely want to determine your signature voice (more on that in The Professional’s Guide to Voice Over: Identifying Your Signature Sound.

While you’re still getting to know the capabilities of your voice, play the field. It’s not a bad idea to test out various categories of voice over work to practice.

However, when you’re producing your first demo, you should zero in on the medium where you believe you’ll thrive the most, and on the vocal qualities that make your voice shine.

Animation

A yearning to voice zany, over-the-top cartoon characters is a major reason many people get into the industry in the first place. After all, who wouldn’t want to see their voice personified by an animated character? We’re pleased to say that there is a large amount of work available in the field of animation.

Consider the broad range of entertainment where animated characters come into play: TV programs and animated films (both for children and adults), dubbed foreign language cartoons, video games, computer games, mobile apps, talking toys… and the list goes on. Your ticket in this field likely won’t involve honing in on your best Daffy Duck impression, but rather by developing your own unique voice by mimicking and being inspired by the kinds of characters that speak to you from movies and television.

Working in animation really allows you to unleash your acting chops. To achieve the most vivid performance, you’ll want to use exaggerated facial expressions and arm movements to give your character a persona that is larger than life.

When you’re producing a demo to show off your skills voicing animated characters, try putting on a menacing video game villain voice, a cute cartoon character, or a wacky off-the-wall voice.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks have experienced a recent surge in popularity, resulting in a larger market for voices that specialize in narration: soothing, engaging voices that can be listened to for hours on end.

If narration is something you feel passionate about, try recording a number of excerpts from royalty-free novels that are in the public domain. Search for excerpts across different genres so that you can display your versatility, and try performing an excerpt of dialogue between two characters to showcase your ability shifting between different characters in conversation with one another.

If you like reading dramatic monologues or fiction, for example, perform reads of that literary style and see how you sound. Record the genre of literature that you would normally read for pleasure, and you’ll yield the best performance for your demos.

Business

Voice over is highly sought after in the corporate world, and these bread-and-butter jobs can be a thrilling way to establish yourself locally and internationally. Every business requires some type of voice over, from telephone recording to employee training videos, elearning modules, medical videos, explainer videos, corporate narration translation, and voice over welcoming visitors to company websites.

In order to source ideas for the script of your voice over business demo, visit the websites of the big brands you aspire to emulate, and watch their videos. Reflect back on training videos that you’ve viewed at past jobs, and listen closely when you call a company and a laid back voice places you on hold.

Try to produce a handful of various business demos to showcase everything that you can bring to the table. Our recommendation would be to create a demo for a fun explainer video, another for telephone prompts, and an employee training video. A combo of these three shows that you can serve a variety of corporate needs, and proves you have what it takes to act as a company’s voice.

Documentary

Even if you’re the most casual fan of the Discovery or History Channel, you must be well-acquainted with the familiar, informative voice that details what is happening on screen.

If you’d really like to break into the documentary voice over industry, watch as many documentaries as you can, and attentively study the voices used. Some of the most celebrated documentary narrators include Sir David Attenborough, Christopher Plummer, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Sigourney Weaver.

For your demo, record a number of excerpts that sound like they’re pulled from an actual documentary film. Try to cover everything from a scientific phenomenon, to a historic subject, to the life and times of a famous figure. If you happen to be using material from existing documentaries for your demo inspiration, be sure only to use the script as a framework, and change the names, places, and locations.

Elearning

Like several other sectors that rely heavily on voice over, elearning is an industry on the rise. The number of students who are completing either a portion or the entirety of their education online is at an all-time high. Elearning voice over needs to be engaging and upbeat while distilling information in a concise and instructive manner. Elearning can encompass everything from video and audio lectures, to interactive learning and educational games, to elearning modules, medical videos, explainer videos, and more.

If you’re recording an elearning voice over demo, let these elearning sample scripts, which cover elearning podcasts and employee onboarding, lead the way.

Podcasts

Podcasts have become a dominant cultural form. They’re the primary medium through which so many people nowadays stay up to date with current events, get their storytelling and entertainment, have their horizons broadened, and are exposed to advertising.

Podcasts have grown ingrained in the sonic background of so many everyday lives: listeners turn them on during the commute to and from work, while they run errands, while they cook dinner and complete tasks around the house.

Needless to say, polishing a voice that listeners find trustworthy, relaxed, or engrossing is highly important in the world of podcasting.

You can write your own podcast script, or simply speak about something that you’re passionate about in a casual yet compelling manner. Podcast voices are meant to sound natural and off the cuff.

If you can think of a topic, there’s sure to be a podcast about it, so a major benefit to pursuing work in this industry is that you won’t be limited to a narrow area of interest.

Radio and TV

On cable TV there are approximately 10 full minutes of commercials per half hour program. Radio stations air close to the same amount of commercials per hour, usually spanning just under 12 minutes.

More than commercials, there are ‘sweepers’ needed in this field. Sweepers can also be known as liners, bumpers, radio imaging, station imaging, stingers, IDs, promos, shotguns, and intros. Next time you’re watching TV or listening to the radio, practice imitating both the commercials and sweepers. In fact, if you’re pursuing a career in radio voice acting, it would be wise to create a voice over demo for radio commercials as well as one for sweepers.

Your commercial demo should contain a variety of styles of delivery, such as conversational (chatting with a friend), hard sell (car commercials), and soft sell (e-commerce). Meanwhile, your sweepers should be comprised of a series of station ID promos that are upbeat and could work with a variety of stations, like easy listening, rock, and country.

Other Types of Voice Over Demos

There’s no limit to how you can apply voice over. There are countless avenues of work in voice over that you can pursue and record voice over demos to showcase your skills in.

Here are some other fields that may be of interest to you (note that this is just a sampling and not an all-inclusive list!):

  • Live announcement voice over
  • Multilingual demo showcasing the different languages you speak
  • Celebrity impressions
  • Emotion-oriented demos (showcasing your ability to read in different vocal styles)
  • Tour guide for places of interest, local attractions, and museums
  • Age-specific voice demos
  • Movie trailers
  • Jingles and musical work
  • Digital video ads

If you’re interested in any of the aforementioned areas and would like to hear what a well-produced demo for any of them can sound like, peruse the demos on our voice acting profiles for some inspiration.

Once again, and this cannot be stressed enough, avoid the prospect of copyright infringement by using fictitious movies, names, places, etc.

Now that you’ve got a sense of what it takes to record a demo, as well as the kind of demo that will show off your range and make your voice shine, it’s time to talk about what it takes to actually record your voice.