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So... You Want to Get Started in Voiceover?

We receive a lot of e-mail and phone calls from people who want to break into voiceover for commercials or cartoons. It can be difficult to locate practical - and honest - information about voiceover on the Internet. So what follows are our thoughts on “how to get started” in voiceover. The information on this page applies to anyone interested in this type of work—whether you are 8 or 80. Although there are fewer opportunities for young people, they will have the advantage of time to learn and master their performing skills, and with the proper training (and networking connections) opportunities do exist. Adults have the advantage of life experience from which to draw upon when creating characters, emotions, and attitudes. If performing for voiceover is a passion for you, it really doesn’t matter when you get started—the performing and business skills you need to learn are the same. The important thing is that you have a driving desire to perform . . . and voiceover is the path you’ve chosen to start with.

BEWARE:

There are several voiceover training companies that charge several thousand dollars for the same basic voiceover training you can obtain from many voiceover coaches, community colleges, and university courses for a lot less. Some of these companies will even charge for an evaluation or test, just to give you the opportunity to spend more with them on their training program. You may also be coaxed into producing a voiceover demo before you are ready (usually as an upgrade and another fee). The training you receive may be adequate and the company may be a legitimate business, but we question the ethics of any coach or company who uses strong sales tactics or encourages a student to spend money on a VO demo before they are ready. When inquiring about voiceover training, we strongly suggest you ask lots of questions, request to speak to several of their students, and especially be wary of any coach or school that recommends producing a voiceover demo after only a weekend workshop or a basic training course. If a VO coach or school tells you that voiceover is an easy business to break into and that you will be making a lot of money quickly, we suggest you find a different school. The simple truth is that voiceover is part of Show Business and working in any area of Show Business can be very challenging.

To learn more about voiceover, we suggest you begin your journey by listening to our free conference call “Is Voiceover Right for Me?”

As you listen to this recording, please feel free to browse through this page.
(Click “play” twice if player does not start on first click.)
 

Is Voiceover Right for Me

 

How to Get Jobs For the Voices in Your Head - FRONT COVER small 11070703
Much of the information on this page is excerpted from James Alburger’s introductory book How to Get Jobs for the Voices in Your Head. This page will give you the hard, cold, facts about working in voiceover and the basic information you need in order to make a decision about whether or not pursuing voiceover is right for you. The book goes into more detail and covers additional information. If you’d like even more advanced and comprehensive information about voice acting, we suggest The Art of Voice Acting.

The two most common statements:

“People tell me I’ve got a great voice and I should be doing commercials or cartoons.”

“I’m really good at making up funny voices and I’d love to do voices for cartoons.”

And the two most common questions:

“Should I get into voiceover?”

“How do I get started?”

Unfortunately, the first question is one we can't answer for you. However, we can give you some guidance that will, hopefully, make your decision easier by answering the second question. After reading this page, you’ll undoubtedly have more questions. You’ll find some of your answers in the Voiceover Articles area of this site, and in the introductory book How to Get Jobs for the Voices in Your Head. Our VoiceActing Academy News & Information blog also contains lots of interesting articles and announcements. To subscribe to our blog, click here.

Let’s begin by laying it right on the line:

You can have an absolutely wonderful voice (most people do, think they do, or have been told they do), but the business of voiceover today is not about your voice—it’s about what you can do with your voice! In other words, voiceover work is about acting. It’s about how effectively you can communicate a message, attitude, or emotion through only the sound of your voice.

You might be able to entertain your kids and friends with your ability to create unique or unusual voices, but once again, the business of voiceover is not about the voice—it’s about what you can do with your voice. In most areas of voiceover, you’ll need to develop an ability to discover and sustain the attitude and speaking style appropriate for a character who would believably speak the words in a script - and for the most part, that’s not going to be you. For animation work, you’ll need to have at least a half dozen unique starter voices from which you can create variations for other characters. You must be able to sustain the character voice for long periods of time, be able to instantly switch between different voices, and return to a previous voice instantly. Most people serious about doing voiceover work have the raw talent, but the challenges are finding out where to get the proper training and how to make the connections that will eventually lead to landing a job.

It’s vitally important that you understand one thing . . .

Voiceover is most definitely a niche area of show-business!

As with every other area of show business, there are skills to learn and dues to pay. There are also many challenges to being successful and the potential for considerable rejection along the way. The single most important thing about doing voiceover is that you do it for the fun of it and because you really, really, really want to. If you get into voiceover for the money, I can almost guarantee you won't be happy . . . or successful.

Here are some important things you need to know:

  • A LOT of people claim to be voiceover talent — there are approximately 5 times the number of people “doing” voiceover than there are actors trying to break into movies or TV.
  • It can take several years to become an established voice talent.
  • With today’s technology, the voiceover business is international. You will be competing with voice actors from around the world - even if the job is in your local community.
  • You can’t learn voiceover from a book - although books on voiceover will provide excellent information and resources. The performing skills can only be learned from first hand experience, which means you will eventually need a coach or to take ongoing classes. Even a telecourse will only be able to provide a limited amount of training. And although a Skype video connection will be better, the problems inherent with a typical Skype or Oovoo connection will still limit the effectiveness of the online training.
  • Taking a single workshop on voiceover will not prepare you to immediately enter the world as a professional voice talent. This is a performance craft that requires skills that are mastered over a period of time. And the length of time it takes to learn these skills is different for every person.
  • Voiceover work is very entrepreneurial and It can be a fairly expensive business - mostly due to the start-up costs of training and demo production, the cost of building a home studio, and the ongoing costs of marketing and continued training. If you take voiceover work seriously, its just like any other acting career with all the associated expenses of any other business venture.
     

Consider this: When you need some dental work, would you want a dentist working on your teeth who has only completed a single workshop? Or would you prefer a dentist who has a thorough knowledge of his craft and business? Voiceover work is no different. Our job as voice talent is to deliver someone else’s message in an interesting and compelling manner for the purpose of getting results. If we don’t know what we are doing, we are not truly qualified to do the work.

Still, if voiceover is something you want to do, nothing will hold you back from learning what you need to know to do what you love to do.

If you are reading this, good, because that's it for the harsh realities of voiceover.

The Good News . . .

The good news is that voiceover is tons of fun. How many other kinds of work can you think of where you get to play, pretend you are other characters and get paid for it? A common misconception is that you need a special voice for voiceover work. In today’s world of voiceover, you don't have to have a "golden voice" - most people with a decent speaking voice and directable talent can do voiceover—and be quite successful. In fact, if you listen to today's radio and TV commercials, you'll notice that the most effective ads sound like real people in believable situations.

It takes some acting ability to create a believable character from mere words in a script. That's why we call it voice acting - and that's why you need to develop some acting skills! Actually, no one can teach you to act - you're either born with acting ability or you're not. What a good acting or voiceover coach does is give you performing tools and teaches you how to use them so you can develop your innate skills to become a better actor.

People often tell us that they are told they have a "strong, solid voice" (or something similar). Good vocal resonance can certainly be an asset in certain types of voiceover work, but we know of many people who have wonderful voices, but can't act. And when they work from a script, they "read" the words, rather than tell the story. It’s not as easy as you might think to read from a script and sound like you’re having a natural conversation—especially if the script isn’t written very well. But that’s the reality of voiceover, and again, that's where the training comes in. The critical skill is acting—which is why this web site is VoiceActing.com, and the title of the book is The Art of Voice Acting.

But the single most important thing is that It takes a passion for wanting to do this crazy kind of work. Everyone we know who does voiceover work does it because they absolutely love it. They have also worked very hard to create a unique style of delivery and a niche for their individual talent—which means they’ve taken a LOT of training. If you have a passion for wanting to do this, then you absolutely can do it too. But you have to want to, and you have to be willing to first learn the skills of the craft and, second learn the skills of the business. If you don’t approach voiceover work as a business, you’ll be potentially wasting a lot of time, energy, and money.

What can I do to get started?

As for training, the first thing we would suggest is to take every acting class you can find. Check your local schools or colleges and call local theater companies for recommendations on classes. If you’re still in school, start taking acting classes where ever you can find them. Not all schools offer acting classes, but most cities have community theater, professional theater companies, and acting classes of some sort. Don't be in too much of a hurry - instead have fun and learn the skills at a leisurely pace. If you rush into producing your demo thinking you will instantly make your mark as a voice talent—and you’re not properly prepared—you’ll be wasting your time and money. Find good training and master the performing skills.

If there are any voiceover classes in your area - take them. We offer our "Art of Voice Acting Performance Intensive Weekend Workshop" several times a year in San Diego, and take it to a different cities each year, and we're always looking for new places to visit. Check our schedule on the Home page for upcoming events.

We've tried to put as much information on this web site as possible for voiceover resources, and we are continually updating our resources, and we’ve spent a lot of time researching other voiceover coaches. Click on the Resources menu button for our list of U.S. VO coaches. If you know of a VO coach not on our list (or have any comments you’d like to share about a coach - good or bad), please send us an email.

Another thing you might want to do is to subscribe to our free VoiceActing Academy News & Information Blog. Each month we feature an article on some aspect of voice-over plus lots of other info.

Other things to do to get started in voiceover . . .

  • A great way to get started is to join our Conductor’s Club as a Student member. This completely free membership will give you access to the Member Only areas of this website where you’ll find lots of useful resources. If you are serious about learning the craft and business of voiceover, you might consider joining at one of the paid membership levels. Visit www.ConductorsClub.com for all the details.
  • Plan to spend a lot of time on this web site, and come back often. You’ll find literally thousands of resources, dozens of voiceover-related products, training resources, business resources, and hours upon hours of downloadable audio.
  • Read books on acting, singing, and dancing - and take related classes and workshops. "The Art of Voice-Acting" is a good start. You will find it in most book stores, on Amazon.com, or you can get an autographed copy from this site. There are also lots of other good books on the subject, most of which are available through this site.
  • Don't be afraid to talk to other actors and voice talent in your area to find out how they got started - you may get some interesting ideas.
  • Keep at it. If voice acting is truly a passion for you, then you will reach your goal - just don't be in too much of a hurry.
  • Do an internet search for voiceover in your area - you'll probably be able to find some interesting sites.
  • If you are specifically interested in doing voiceover work for cartoons and animation, you'll need to become very good at creating character voices. And you’ll eventually need to be in Los Angeles. Actually, all aspects of voiceover are about creating believable characters. Before that, though, you’ll need to master the basic performing skills used in all areas of voiceover.
  • If you are unable to locate a voiceover workshop near you, and you can't make it to San Diego or don't want to wait for us to come to a city near you, you may want to consider purchasing one or more of our products. You'll find several audio products for voiceover training, including our Art of Voice Acting Weekend Workshop 10-CD set. This CD set is our entire weekend workshop - nearly 12 hours of coaching - and includes the workshop workbook full of notes, scripts and additional material; plus an 11th bonus CD of every playback used during the workshop, additional exercises, and classic voiceover recordings. If the entire workshop CD set is more than you want to invest in right now, you might want to consider our “See it With Your Ears Seminar Series”. This is a downloadable compilation of MP3 recordings of guest seminar panels from our weekend workshop, our Comic-Con seminars, and much, much more. The information in these recordings is priceless! And if you really want to get started on the right foot, you can learn from some of the top voiceover coaches in the US who present seminars and workshops at our annual VoiceOver International Creative Experience.
  • Before you produce your VO demo, we encourage you to study as many professional voice talent demos as you can find. You’ll need to be able to perform at their level if you are going to compete as a professional voice talent—especially if you plan to work in a major market like Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, or New York. You’ll find hundreds of demos at www.voicebank.net. Click on “House Reels,” choose a talent agent, and start studying.
     

Finally, all we can say is this: If you think voiceover is something you want to do—start learning about it now! Don't wait, and don't listen to anyone who tells you can’t do it or that you need to be in a particular city to be successful. Success in voiceover is what you make it, and with today's technology, voiceover can be done from anywhere. As with most things in life, you will never know how far you can go if you never take the first step. Go for it!

Best of luck.

James R. Alburger & Penny Abshire

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