How do I become a voice actor?
People ask me this question a lot lately, and for good reason. There are so many opportunities to use your voice to make money – commercials, video games, audiobooks, to name a few. And although I don’t know anyone who is an overnight success, if you start now and keep at it, you should be able to create a voiceover (VO) business for yourself and make some money before you know it!
Getting started in voice acting
You can get started in the exciting field of voice acting and voiceovers by investing in some basic equipment and developing your skills with practice and coaching. But VO entails a lot more than simply working with your voice, and you will need to make some important decisions that will help you or hinder your progress along the way. As an on-air radio personality who added voice acting to her skill set years ago, I’ve had a chance to learn what to do and not to do. P.S.: Any endorsements and product recommendations are based on personal experience – I don’t make any money from them.
You want your voice to sound crisp and clear when recorded (i.e., a decent mic) with no background noise (i.e., soundproofing.) I bought a top of the line mic that’s widely used in VO, the Sennheiser Mkh 416 shotgun mic $1000 from Sweetwater.com. Affordable, but highly recommended mics are the RODE NT1-A and the AT-2020 (Audio Technica.) For soundproofing, you can work out of a closet stuffed with clothes and some fiberglass panels like I do and get started with less expensive equipment like the free editing software, Audacity, though I use TwistedWave for Mac $120 and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 A/D converter $100.
Voice Acting is a craft, and requires practice and training. How much training you need will depend on factors like your natural aptitude and experience using your voice. When I started my own voice acting biz, I trained with renowned L.A. VO Coach & Demo Producer Nancy Wolfson of BraintracksAudio.com. Depending on what kind of VO you’re hoping to do, I can recommend some other coaches.
Note for my radio peeps: When I started in VO, I was using my voice every day as an on-air radio personality – but quickly discovered that voice acting requires a different skill set. No matter your background, I recommend you DO get some training. Almost every script you’ll see calls for a “natural, non-announcery, non-DJ read.” Producers, Directors and Agents do NOT want DJ’s. They want and hire actors and professional VO talent – so make sure you read the words on the page as if they were your own, while also interpreting the character described in the script. In fact, I use my legal name for VO and a stage name for radio. Your read needs to sound as though the words on the page are coming from YOU, in character…not a DJ read that’s sing-songy with no connection to what you’re actually saying.
Pro Tip #1: Choose a voice coach wisely
There are many coaches out there – and many who claim to be coaches – who will gladly take your money without providing much value, so ask around and interview them. I think many of the best coaches are charging about $160 per hour or more – but make sure you vet them first.
To become a professional voice actor, you will need to present your voice in the best possible way – i.e., with a professionally produced voice demo. When you’re ready, your voice coach will guide you on how to assemble your demo – but be patient! I trained with Nancy for over a year before I was ready to record the demo that cost about $2000. All told, I probably spent over $9000 in training, equipment and demo production. I did all of this while still working FT in radio. You are investing in yourself and your future as a Voice Actor and you will get out of what you put into it.