By Dan Friedman
Almost everyday I read a social media post, get an email or hear something about someone wanting to know how to be a voice actor, but don’t know where to begin with voice over training. Over this past weekend, I received the following comment on my voiceover page:
“Great site! I am completely new to voiceovers. I’ve never had a gig in my life….
I’m wondering how I could get voice over training or even get a gig that I could do for free, to gain a portfolio. I can read well and I have decent equipment…
…I would like to learn how to be a voice actor and if doing voice over work could be a career for me.”
There are quite a few things to address here. While everyone’s situation is different, there are some universal truths to getting started in this business.
Get Started with Voice Over Training
If you want to learn how to be a voice actor, no matter what your background, you should read The Voice Over Entrance Exam by Peter O’Connell. This publication is free, and it will give you the opportunity to learn some of the realities of this business. Also, it will allow you the chance to reflect on whether or not you are truly ready to move forward toward a voice over career.
You need voice over training. Everyone needs training or voice over coaching in order to learn the terminology and the basic principles that are the foundation for reading, interpreting and delivering scripts. This information is critical for many reasons, but at the very least, you need to have the ability to communicate with directors, engineers and others who expect you to know and understand what they need from you as a voice actor.
You need gear. It takes equipment to record high quality audio. You don’t need to spend a great deal of money on this equipment when you first get started. However, if you really want to work at a high level, you will need to upgrade your gear and your recording environment when you are ready. Furthermore, you are going to need to learn how to use this gear. Utilizing proper microphone technique and learning how to record and edit audio are essential to having a voiceover career. I wrote a book to help you with all of this, Sound Advice – Voiceover From an Audio Engineer’s Perspective.
Practice, Practice, Practice – That’s How to be a Voice Actor
You need practice. Read out loud… record… playback… listen. Do it again. Again. Again. Do it some more. Again. Again and again! Even more. Still more. Again and again and so on and so on and so on…
You need voice over training, gear and practice at a minimum. But, honestly, you need these things BEFORE getting started in this business.
To actually get started, you need one thing more than anything else… credibility.
Build Your Credibility
Too often we see postings on social media where people are posting their demos or offering their services as voice talent before they are truly ready. Often, as was suggested by the person who commented above, we hear about people offering their services for free or for very little money just so they can get their feet wet. These are the sort of things that lead to clients making low-ball offers (another hot topic) or worse; thinking they can do the voiceover on their own without the help of a real professional (a suggestion made to me by someone from an e-learning company just last week).
So, how do you gain credibility when you haven’t even done your first gig?
Own the necessary gear and take the time to learn how to use it.
2) Voice Over Training
Get training, learn and listen.
Practice and keep practicing.
Doing these things will undoubtedly lead to you being heard by the right people… at the right time. Then when the opportunity presents itself, you will be able to prove that you are ready, willing and able to do the job. This is the best way to build a solid career and it is far better than being heard by the right people… at the wrong time. If you think gaining credibility through time, training and practice is difficult; try getting an opportunity to earn it once you’ve lost it. It is far more challenging, if not impossible.
Voice Over Coaching
Don’t let your own ego or impatience stand in the way of your success. Other than your voice and your ears, coaches and colleagues are your greatest asset in this industry. These are the people who will allow you to fail, while encouraging you to succeed. They are the people who will watch you grow and help you gain the credibility you need to truly have a career in voiceover. They may help you get your first gig and perhaps many more. Spend time with them. Learn from them and listen to them.
While nobody will begin their career in exactly the same way, everyone can benefit from time, voice over training and practice (having the gear is a must). Lastly, working really cheap or for free is called “practice”. It will not help you gain credibility with colleagues or clients. Credibility, like money, is earned. Be worthy of receiving both.
A Letter to Voiceover Beginners
Congratulations on making the decision to find coaching! It is one of the most important things you will do to advance your voiceover career.
I often compare voiceover actors to carpenters. The carpenter, new to the trade, begins by learning about tools and how and when to use them. He or she begins to fill their tool belt with essential tools. Once the carpenter has a full tool belt and begins using those tools on a daily basis, it eventually becomes unnecessary for him or her to think about which tool to grab and how to use it. When they see a screw, they automatically grab a screwdriver. They know where it is in their tool belt and which type of screwdriver to grab … all without thinking.
I believe my role as a voiceover coach is to fill your tool belt. Once you have the basic tools, we work on learning how to utilize them. Over time, with patience and practice, you will start to use them without thinking. Then we are able to focus on bringing emotion and creativity to your work, which is where the real magic in voiceover happens.
Success is Contagious
Your success is my success. I coach voice actors to help the voiceover community as a whole. This not only helps actors, but engineers, producers, directors and clients as well. The voice actor is often the highest paid person involved in a recording session for the time they are in that session. Their ability and attitude should demonstrate that they are worthy of being in that position. Voice talent should be able to deliver a solid interpretation of the script quickly and efficiently, change direction when the director or client demands it and not rely on engineers or editors to piece together a final take for use in a production. I want my students to be ready to work and make everyone else’s job easy.
My voiceover journey began in 2000, and I have worked on both sides of the microphone ever since. From audio engineering to performance, my years of experience have provided me with a unique and comprehensive skill set that I am excited to offer to my students. Please let me know how I can help you move forward in your voiceover career. I look forward to meeting you and helping you achieve success in this challenging and fun industry.
– Dan FriedmanGet Coaching 4VO