Are you a freelancer with a flair for the theatrical? Were you that person in school who was always called on to read aloud, or was known for giving excellent presentations? Or, maybe it’s just as simple as wanting to do something completely different with your freelancing career, and voice acting seems the most interesting prospect!
I can relate with most of the above. Although my freelancing career has skewed more towards writing, transcription, and quality assurance, there was a point in time where I thought I could just sort of add in the occasional freelance voice acting gig. However, it’s not that easy; it’s still on my list of things to attempt someday, though! Whatever background you’re coming from, if you want to break into the incredibly creative (and competitive) world of voice acting, there are some things you should know first.
This isn’t an immediate career.
Don’t think that just because you have a great voice that it’s instantly marketable. In order to make it in the voice acting world, you need to have some previous experience. It’s one of those careers where I think you’d probably be best off if you followed, what I call, the “internship route.” By this, I mean that you receive vocal training and, as you prove your skills, start really networking through your coach.
It involves financial give and take.
Sure, there are some voice actors who’ve made quite a lot of money. Yet, the chances are more than good that they’ve had to spend a lot of money to get to that level of success, and then reinvest some of that money again to keep their careers current and competitive. This means updating equipment (because not just any microphone, software program, or headphones will do!), learning the ins and outs of marketing, and, like an athlete, keeping those vocal chords professionally trained.
You’re going to need a lot of versatility.
The thing about voice acting is that it’s a career that can’t be any one thing at any one time. It only stands to reason that if you stick to one or two accents, you’re potentially shutting yourself off from lots of work. Therefore, be sure to branch out and get yourself trained in several more accents within your native language.
Understand how to manage those time ratios.
When you’re first getting started as a voice actor, the majority of your time will be spent auditioning and learning. By the time you officially reach that professional plateau, the amount of time you spend auditioning for jobs and actually completing jobs should be fairly equal.
Hearing from the professionals…
A representative from Voices.com recently reached out to me, having read my post that mentioned said website, “Ideas for Freelancers Who Want to Start a Business Online.” If you’re serious about pursuing voice acting, there’s no better current resource than the report that was shared with me, “How to Become a Successful Voice Actor.”
Q&A with Julianna Lantz, Manager of Talent Services at Voices.com
ALISON: Is there a certain type of voice (be that in terms of tone/timbre or accent) that you’ve found seems to consistently rise above the competition?
JULIANNA: One of the beautiful things about voice over is that there’s a voice for every single job out there. While working with voice actors in virtually every industry, I’ve come across talent with a very unique sound who have found great success as niche voice actors, and simultaneously come across others with more of a commercial, flexible, or more general voice over style who have been just as successful.
Over the last few years, however, we’ve witnessed a big rise in the demand for an “approachable expert” voice over style. Marketers today want an authentic, “just like me” actor who sounds like a friendly, confident peer of the target audience. People don’t want to be talked at, nor do they want to be sold to. They trust recommendations from friendly experts, and this sound is exactly that – a conversation between two friends. It’s real, you can listen to it for short commercials or longer narrations, and it’s warm and familiar. This sounds easy, but it takes a lot of thought and practice to sound like you’re not reading from a page.
Another trend emerging in the voice over space is the continuous rise in interest for female voices. Although male voices have always dominated the world of voice over, recent studies show that female voices are more in demand than ever before. In fact, we predict that by 2025 there will be as many female jobs as male jobs posted on Voices.com, so if you’re a female thinking of getting into voice over, now is a great time to start.
ALISON: What advice/words of encouragement would you personally give to freelancers who are completely new to the voice acting industry?
JULIANNA: Like with any freelance profession, it’s best to have multiple streams of work to be successful long term.
You can seek work, or gigs, by going the traditional route and hiring an agent, sending your demos to producers, networking, or attending live auditions if you live in the New York or LA area. However, the good news is that if the traditional route is not a fit for you, you will still be able to find work. With new technologies and platforms, you don’t have to be based in those major cities to get hired. With the voice over industry moving to the online world, you can work from your home studio, hone your skills through online casting sites, and springboard yourself into the greater industry, no matter your location.
For those interested in this newer approach, you don’t have to worry about having an extensive work history with online casting. Clients judge you based on how well you performed on a specific audition, not your resume. It allows new, talented people to break into the industry, get some work under their belt, and kickstart a successful career in voice over.
With that, one of the best pieces of advice I can give to freelancers who are new to voice over is that you need two things to be successful: professional audio quality and achieving an emotional connection with your audience. You can build a professional sounding studio with a reasonable investment and a little know-how, found through expert advice and some trial and error. As for connecting with an audience, some voice actors are naturally gifted at bringing a script to life, and others may benefit from a little help and guidance by an experienced voice over coach.
Like any freelance industry, your success will ultimately be determined by your ability and your drive. Be prepared to work hard, be honest with yourself where your strengths are, and consider giving it at least a year to see if it’s for you. These simple, but important practices will make sure you’re well prepared for a successful and rewarding career in voice over.
Bring a confident, positive perspective to everything.
There’s no room for shyness and second-guessing in the voice acting industry – unless, of course, you happen to be recording a role with those character traits! Give your all to every audition, every job, and all the administrative components in between. Show a sincere appreciation, approach any hiccups with tact, and your reputation will soar!
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