Hello, good to see you come in, I’m Mark, a full-time British Voiceover Artist.
So, you’ve been told you’ve got a good voice? Yeah, it happens to the best of us and while a good voice is a good first step, it’s also subjective; I know a few very successful Voiceover Artists and I don’t like their voices – others do, and that’s why they’re doing good things in the industry – no, I’m not telling you who they are as they’re also lovely people.
So, if a having good voice isn’t enough, what is? How DO you become a Voiceover artist?
Glad you asked, because that is what this post is about.
First, we need to dispel a myth
You don’t need to go out and buy expensive hardware. That’s like running before you can even crawl.
Yes, you will need decent hardware, but not yet.
The important question is why do you want to become a voiceover artist? Have you read a story in the tabloids about how it’s a get-rich-quick scheme? I mean it’s just ‘speaking out loud’ isn’t it?
This load of old is why there are hundreds of bedroom hobbyist VOs selling their wares on the gig industry websites. No, I’m not going to name the sites – we all know who they are.
Getting into VO is hard, and long-winded. Don’t expect to buy a cheap USB microphone and make it big in a month. That is not going to happen.
What you need is training! A lot of training.
Coming from an acting background would certainly help, as voiceover IS acting – even the stuff that I do – mainly corporate narration – still requires me to get into ‘character’ and get across the message the client is trying to push. It’s about as far from ’speaking out loud’ as I don’t know what.
Vocal coaches are quite common these days – it seems the next logical step for a VO is to become a coach so you should have no problem finding one. I can’t however recommend anyone over another.
Only after you’ve had coaching and training should you think about recording – and that is a whole other post on its own. Where are you going to record? Are you going to buy some studio time? Are you recording at home? You’re going to be up against industry veterans with years of experience and a decent recording space. Your sound will need to be on par with them. There are many YouTube tutorials on how to build a recording space – google is your friend.
I started in a self-built space – a local carpenter built it for me and for the first 3 years of my career I recorded from that. I now own a professional Esmono booth – it wasn’t cheap but the quality of the space has paid for itself many times over.
Next – Microphone. Please, don’t get a cheap USB one from AliExpress – you’re going to be looking at a couple of hundred pounds at least – and avoid USB – go for an XLR condenser microphone.
I use a Neumann TLM103 – again, not cheap but it works well for my voice and is pretty much the industry standard microphone.
You’ll then need something to plug the XLR microphone into – your audio interface – this converts the analogue signal from the microphone into digital and passes it to your computer. I use an Audient ID14 and have a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 as a backup.
The signal from your microphone and audio interface needs to end up somewhere so you can edit it and deliver it to your clients. I sing the praises of Mac hardware for this. I use an M1 MacBook Air in my booth and edit on an iMac in my office. The laptop is silent. The last thing you want to have in a booth with you is a noisy computer – your booth needs to be quiet with a low noise floor – ie. How loud it is with nothing happening but ‘silence’ mine is around -63db.
The solution to this is to run your PC/Mac outside your booth and use a wireless keyboard and mouse and a long HDMI cable to a second monitor. This kind of setup is very common and I used such for years until I replaced it with my laptop – it means I can edit where I want if I feel like it – I’ve been known to edit audiobooks in my local library!
So, you’ve got a good voice, had training, built a booth and have the required hardware – now what?
Well, voiceover is a business, so you need to treat it like one – that means having a website, a strong presence on social media and a mindset that this IS a business. Keep accounts, track expenses, and hire an accountant if required – the quicker you get into this mindset the better it’ll be.
OK, so you’ve got all that, now, where do you get work?
This is the hardest part of all. No one is going to track you down – you need to get yourself out there. How’s your marketing knowledge? Yup, you’re a marketer too! Be prepared for some cold marketing.
So, you’re a web designer, marketer, accountant, office manager AND Voiceover Artist – phew, a lot to cope with right? This goes back to the mindset of this being a business. You’ll be surprised to learn that 80% of my day is NOT spent recording – due to all of the above responsibilities.
However, you won’t be the first person to start a business and the help is out there. One thing you’ll find about the Voiceover industry is that it’s so friendly and helpful. Despite being ‘competitors’ VO’s will always help when they can.
The competitor’s line, well, it’s a bit of a misnomer – not every Voiceover is suitable for every Voiceover job – our voices are unique which means if a job is not suitable for YOUR voice, pass it on. You’ll find this ‘pay it forward’ ethos runs throughout the industry.
You can also sign up for what is known in the trade as Pay to Play (or P2P) sites. These sites will charge you a fee to host your demos and will send you auditions that match the criteria you’ve set in your site profile – and often these are the easiest way to get work as a VO but the rates are normally lower than if you negotiated them yourself – plus you and the clients both get charged for using the sites. One infamous site triple dips. They charge you a yearly fee, they charge the clients a project fee and then charge YOU again for using their payment system.
Next, you also have the Gig sites I talked about before, and I’m sure they do have a place, but please charge appropriately, not pennies as that hurts us all. If you’re ever unsure of what to charge, by all means, drop me a message and I’ll try my best to help, or at least point you in the right direction.
I just realised I mentioned ‘demos’ above but I’ve not talked about them! My bad. Your demos are your calling card. They showcase your talent and many demo producers will be able to bring out the best of your voice.
Don’t be tempted to create your own demos initially – it won’t be as good as other VO’s and you’ll be overlooked for better talent.
Saying that, once you have got some real jobs under your belt, (and if you’ve got the client’s permission!) you can use the audio from these completed jobs as targeted demos – cutting and mixing them up so you’ve got demos suitable for every occasion – i.e. Happy, upbeat explainer or serious, slow-paced, charity demo – the more you can tailor your demos and have them available on your website (and downloadable!) the easier it’ll be for clients to find what they are looking for.
Finally, Agents – an agent will represent you and send auditions and work your way. Usually, higher-paying jobs will come from agents.
However, you don’t need an agent. The cachet for saying ‘represented by…’ is pretty cool but to be honest they’re not something you need – just a nice to have in my opinion.
So, to recap:
VO isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a business and should be treated as such. Training is paramount.
Be prepared to wear many hats.
Get a professional demo
Don’t buy expensive hardware until you need to and your coach says you’re ready.
Sure sounds like a lot of faff right? Yup, it is but the feeling when you get your first paid job and you can legitimately call yourself a Voiceover Artist is great.
There you go. That’s how to become a Voiceover Artist.
Good luck and let me know how you get on.