Have you ever been told you have a voice that belongs on the radio? That the way you talk, you should be announcing baseball games? If so, you are a prime candidate to put your golden-voice gift to work as a well-paid voice-over artist.
And even if you haven’t ever been complemented on your pipes, so to speak, there is still opportunity out there for you. Companies and businesses need all sorts of voices and “types” for voice-over work. There’s sure to be a niche you can fill.
Personally, I’ve done some voice-over work. I’m primarily a writer and marketing consultant. And I love building businesses. But when I had a deadline for an online video coming up and no voice-over artist in sight… I ended up narrating the thing myself. It was fun and easy. And, if it hadn’t been my own product, I would’ve paid myself quite a bundle for the trouble.
The Life of a Voice-Over Artist
If you’ve ever had aspirations of becoming an actor but maybe had a problem getting in front of a camera or onstage, voice-over acting is the perfect fit for you. Because as a voice-over actor, your performance will be done completely in the cozy confines of a recording studio. Your audience? An engineer, maybe. The director, too. And that’s it.
I’ve seen some behind-the-scenes footage of voice-over actors at work, and believe me, it didn’t look much like work. Laughs, jokes, outrageous improvs going off-script… it looked like a blast.
And the pay isn’t too bad either. The average salary for a voice-over actor is $47,000 a year. Like I said, not too shabby for spending a few hours in a recording booth and reading from a script!
The Types of Voice-Over Work Available to You
Unlike traditional acting, which is limited primarily to Hollywood and New York, voice-over actors live and work across the country. That’s because you don’t need a big studio backlot, a Broadway stage, or all the little necessary components that go into producing a live-action movie.
Here are a few (just a few!) of the voice-over jobs you can expect to find wherever you live:
• Audio books
• Video games
• Employee training videos
• Radio spots
• Sports announcer
• Online marketing videos
And the list goes on. Some of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood made their money from animated movies by doing voice-overs. Ever hear of the Shrek franchise? Shrek The Third alone made $800 million.
Now, I’m not suggesting you can expect to be working on a film like that right out the gate, but the potential is out there for extremely lucrative voice-over careers. Even starting out you could expect to make several hundred to several thousand dollars per job, depending on its reach and the medium.
Getting Ready to Land that All-Important First Job
So how do you break into this industry?
First, you need a demo reel. Many industry folks will tell you it should be professionally made – and it should – but there’s no reason for you to spend thousands of dollars in a recording studio when you can get nearly the same quality (no one will be able to tell the difference) of audio and fidelity from a simple home-based setup.
I can assume that since you’re reading this, you own a computer. Thus, you already own an audio studio. Computers have made leaps and bounds in the multimedia department and one of the things consumers have been clamoring for is audio recording capabilities.
Chances are, if you check the back of your computer, you will find a jack with a little microphone icon on top. A USB plug – which I know you have – will work too with many high-quality mics (there are plenty of options under $20 – just check out Amazon.com). That means you have a recording studio.
Next, you’ll need some audio recording software. If you own or have access to a Mac, there’s an application called Garageband that comes preloaded. And even though it comes free with your Mac, you’d be surprised by how many professional musicians, broadcasters, and yes, voice-over artists use it as their go-to audio software.
If you own a PC, don’t worry! There are a bevy of options for you to choose from that will deliver clean, pristine, and most importantly, professional audio. I recommend Mixcraft 6 (http://www.acoustica.com/mixcraft). It costs under $100 and provides everything you’ll need to produce that all important demo reel.
So what should be on your demo reel?
Your voice obviously. But be sure to demonstrate your range by reading a variety of the voice-over niches in the bulleted list above. You can get the script by “copying” some commercials, video game narration, etc. you’ve heard. You could even just read one of your favorite books.
Be sure not to hold anything back – give it your all. This is your showcase to potentials bosses after all.
Finding Voice-Over Work
Like I said before, the beauty of being a voice-over talent is that you can do it from literally anywhere in the country – or the globe! The important thing for you to do is market yourself. I’ll say it again, market, market, market yourself.
Don’t spend all that time and effort on a great demo reel, send it out to production companies, and then sit back and wait for the lucrative offers to come in. You have to make people take notice.
Here are few creative marketing ideas guaranteed to get your talents heard by the right people:
• Donate your services to non-profits groups.
• Offer one free voice-over job to casting professionals, audio studios, etc. If they like what they hear, they’ll be calling you back… with a paying contract in hand.
• Volunteer at a local sports team and get on the PA system.
• Exhibit and advertise at a local business meeting such as trade shows, Chamber of Commerce meetings, etc.
• Take some improv or acting classes; it’s a great way to network and meet people already in the industry.
• You could even offer your talents on Fiverr.com, which allows people to advertise services they’ll do for just $5. This is a great way to build experience and a portfolio.
• And, of course, it goes without saying that you should have your own website showing off your skills. That means audio clips – taken from your demo reel.
The key is to not only get your voice heard but get it heard in a fun, memorable way.
You should also be scanning the ads on sites dedicated to voice-over work and applying for any gig you see.
With a little perseverance, you’ll soon land your dream job. That could be recording the newest audio book for The Great Gatsby or voicing a kooky character on the newest hit Nickelodeon cartoon.
I wish you the best of luck!
P.S. I’ve just given you the tips and information you need to become a successful voice-over actor. But here are a few more resources to help you attain your dream job.
Voice-Over Job Boards
Tips for Breaking into the Industry