Getting gigs for voiceover work can be hard at the beginning, but with persistence and time you’ll find yourself recording NY Times Bestselling books, narrating video games, or voicing characters on TV shows. The pay is also decent and repeat clients are often available.
While a unique and ear-catching voice is crucial, the career requires many other hard skills. The most important is versatility.
As a voice over artist, you must have a strong and clear-sounding voice that can be heard over a variety of media. Some people are naturally talented, while others take voice acting classes in order to perfect their craft. You must also be able to read and interpret scripts, record audio in a studio, follow director or writer prompts, and portray emotion vocally. You can find work in a wide range of fields, from video games to commercials, animated TV shows and movies, and audio books. You can either offer freelance services or partner with an agency to gain access to a variety of projects. Recurring gigs, like voicing characters for a popular animated show, can provide stability and consistent income.
You must be able to differentiate between different voices and perform various accents, including foreign, regional, and American. You may have to imitate someone else’s voice or act as an older or younger person, depending on the project and genre. For example, children’s shows typically require voice actors who can speak in a child-friendly way while adult dramas usually need tones that are more serious or dramatic. In addition, many narrator roles involve imitating famous voices or characters, which requires familiarity with the subject matter of the material and the ability to mimic their intonation and phrasing.
A home studio setup is essential for recording voice overs. It should be a quiet place that is free of external noises, such as traffic and nearby restaurants. A professional microphone and soundproofing materials will help you produce quality recordings. You should also invest in software that allows you to edit and manipulate the audio file before sending it to clients.
Union voice actors have the added advantage of benefits and protections that are not available to non-union actors, such as health insurance and residual payments for ongoing use of their work. In addition, working on union projects can give you professional credibility and prestige. However, joining a union comes with initial membership costs and fees for annual renewals that can add up quickly, especially for newcomers to the field.
Education and Training
It takes time to hone voice acting skills, but the good news is that it’s possible for anyone with clear diction to learn the craft. Taking voice acting lessons with a professional can help you learn techniques that you can apply to your work and avoid common mistakes, such as swallowing your words or mumbling. It’s also important to practice reading aloud in a variety of styles and topics to ensure that you can pronounce each word clearly.
As a professional, you’ll need to be well-rounded and have a range of skills in order to compete with other voice actors for assignments. For example, a voice actor who specializes in providing narration for television programs may need to be familiar with production techniques and equipment. Similarly, someone who works as the narrator for a video game might need to be able to convey certain emotions, such as excitement or fear.
Most professional voice over artists go through some form of formal training, whether that’s with an acting coach or a voice coach. In addition, many voice actors spend a lot of time listening to the work of established VO professionals and trying out different voices to find which ones they feel most comfortable with. It’s also helpful to network with other voice actors, as they can be a valuable source of support and referrals.
The best voice over artists can communicate a full range of emotions through their work. For example, a video game script might call for an adolescent male’s voice to convey a sense of fear, while a commercial might ask the voice over artist to excite and engage the audience. This ability to capture a specific emotion is one of the hallmarks of great VO and can make the difference between a success and a failure.
Another skill that makes a great voice over artist is the ability to take direction from a script and follow it precisely. This is especially important for high-profile projects that require a voice over artist to deliver a polished recording. For instance, Jon Bailey is the voice behind Screen Junkies’ popular series of sarcastic movie reviews on YouTube. He is able to deliver each line with precision and aplomb because of his ability to follow a script closely.
Voice actors are expected to exhibit professionalism and take direction well in a studio recording. They may also need to record on demand at a moment’s notice and be prepared for a fast-paced work environment. Depending on the genre of project, voice artists may need to adjust their voices for different projects. A commercial might require a natural, neutral delivery while a cartoon might call for an exaggerated, theatrical performance. Some voice actors specialize in impersonating famous actors or characters, while others excel at doing accents and voices of varying ages.
Many voice over artists will record in a professional studio, but some will have to set up their own recording equipment at home. A proper setup will usually include a quiet room with good acoustics to eliminate ambient noise. In order to be taken seriously by clients, some voice actors will need to invest in a high-quality microphone and possibly even a recording booth.
In a voice over industry that has always been fairly competitive, the ability to network can be a key to success. Getting a gig with a major agency or source of repeat work can make it much easier to build a career as a voice over artist. In addition, working with the same client on a consistent basis can increase the likelihood of landing a higher-paying project down the road.
As the world becomes more diversified, it is important for voice over artists to embrace diversity. Representing different identities not only helps to connect with audiences but can also help a project stand out from its competition. For example, the character Garnet from the popular Steven Universe series represents diversity and has a voice that is authentic.
A voice over actor can use their unique vocal talents to create an entire world for a film, video game or television program. Their ability to modulate their voice can convey a range of emotions and help bring visual art to life for audiences. Voice over artists often collaborate with animators and actors to create a full narrative that can be accompanied by motion capture technology to show the physical expressions of the actor on screen.
Many voice actors come from a variety of educational and career backgrounds. Some have experience as actors, singers or radio DJs. Others have no significant performance experience but are drawn to the field by the promise of flexible, portable freelance work. At the start of their careers, most voice artists don’t earn enough to support themselves solely with voice work. However, those who are able to find steady gigs or develop a specialized niche can make a good living from their talents.
Several factors determine the salary of voice over artists, including the size and type of the project. For example, non-broadcast projects such as audiobooks or video games often pay according to word count rather than an hourly rate. Also, some specialized voice talents may charge higher rates than their counterparts in other genres. Creating a relationship with an agency or a source of repeat work, such as a major video game or animation studio, can lead to steady income.
In addition, the size of a studio can have a significant impact on an artist’s earnings. Larger studios generally have better sound quality and require more expensive equipment to operate. As such, they typically pay a higher rate than smaller studios.
Like other workers, voice actors can choose to be union or non-union. While the former offers protections against mistreatment and exploitation, it’s also possible to succeed as a non-union talent with a strong portfolio and good marketing skills.
Another important factor is the ability to manage one’s schedule to avoid overburdening the vocal cords. Unlike computers, human voices need time to rest and heal after use. It’s usually not practical or healthy to work more than four hours a day without taking a break.
Developing the voice acting skills needed to succeed in this career takes time and dedication. Aspiring voice actors should take every opportunity to hone their craft and work with a coach or mentor, if possible. Those with no acting or voice training should try to attend acting classes and listen to recordings of established voiceover professionals for guidance.