There are many ways to get into the voiceover industry, and how to get voiceover work, but it’s much easier to get into this lucrative industry if you are an already trained actor. In this article I will explain how to get your training topped-up and ready, what the different kinds of voiceover are and what they pay, and why it’s easier for you as an actor to supplement your income and work as a pro-VO. Allow me to explain…
How to Get Voiceover Work: The VO Work Available to Actors:
There are several types of voiceover, or voice-acting if you prefer that term, and several answers to the question – How to Get Voiceover Work. All pay comparatively well and all are commonplace in the industry today. These are:
- Narrative Voiceover – narrating television, film, radio and any number of commercial products. Typical salaries for this range from £150-£250/$175-$300* per hour, plus royalties or buyouts if applicable depending on the job
- Commercial Voiceover – advertising on radio, television, cinema and, of course, the web. The basic studio fees (BSF) in commercial VO are as the narrative fees above, but the performance royalty buyouts in this sector make eyes turn green. For a good national commercial you can easily pick up $10k-$15k for just a couple of hours work, based on the amount of times the advert is viewed. Web is the most popular and the standard usage for web advertising is around 400% of your BSF.
- Voice of God – performing as the master of ceremonies or the evening announcer at corporate events is big business globally. With over 1.8 million events happening each year in just the USA alone, there is a huge demand for solid VOG voice talent to help control the attendees and make the event run smoothly. It’s not uncommon to earn from $500 – $3000 for each individual event.
- Animations/Character/Kids – although there are fewer opportunities than the events market, there are more and more animations, cartoons, web series and more being made each year. Successful animations go viral and stars are born. Tied into merchandising, the animation market extends to a global reach and can make people a lot of money. For payments, there are your BSF’s, your royalties and your buyouts, and of course any merchandising you can get – plus appearances and trade-shows if you’re successful.
- Audiobooks – the writing was firmly written on the wall when Amazon bought-out Audible and turned it into the largest audiobook company in the world. It’s no joke to say that every single fiction book published today will have an associated audiobook. The pay is comparatively low for an audiobook compared to some streams, in the region of $800-$1500 per book, but the work is steady and there is a lot of it.
- Gaming – in today’s gaming market, stars are born. Look at Troy Baker, the star of huge franchises such as The Last of Us, Batman (playing both Batman and the Joker, after Mark Hamill), Uncharted 4, Infamous, Borderlands, Bioshock Infinity ….the list goes on. Games are not restricted by geography and quickly become huge around the globe, played by millions of players regularly. Most good gaming actors receive fan mail! For smaller parts, your BSF and 100% buyout per hour applies. If you start to get well known, you start to command your own price.
- Corporate – although a little more grey and dull-sounding than the rest, the corporate VO world is easily the biggest marketplace for voice artists. Steady work, well paid as an hourly rate, reasonable buyouts and a nice income applies with your basic studio fees, and sometimes usage.
(* all average prices are based on non-famous talent – if you’re famous or your reputation increases in a positive way, you can usually command higher prices!)
So If It’s That Easy, Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?
Firstly, let me say that becoming a great VO, and how to get voiceover work is not easy – it does take time and effort, but herein lies the rub. The marketplace is getting more and more competitive as time goes on. The industry is growing every day – there are more jobs for everyone and more voiceover artists entering the industry.
Although this sounds like bad news, it’s actually good news. As a casting director, it’s becoming increasingly easy to spot the great talent from the poor as the gap between experience and trained VO’s increases from the newbies entering the field.
You may not be trained as a voiceover artist (as yet), but as a trained actor you have many more things on your side than you might imagine.
If you prefer, you can watch our webinar on the subject!
How to get Voiceover Work: Why Is It Easier For Me as an Actor?
To answer that, let’s ask what a professional voiceover artist’s skills actually are:
- They need to have a good grounding and experience in microphone technique
- They need to have a good grounding and experience in the technical aspects of delivering dialogue in a voiceover capacity
- They need to know how to run their own voiceover business, branding and marketing
- They need to have a professional outlook, a professional appearance and conduct themselves in a professional manner
- They need to know how to act (by which I mean, “Acting darling”, rather than how to behave!)
- They need to know how to properly develop real characters with depth, and conversely, how to develop and manage caricatures when appropriate
- They need to know how to approach, perform and convert castings
- They need voiceover subject-specific training, such as audiobooks, gaming or commercials – there are huge differences between each of the fields and each requires a different approach that you just can’t (and shouldn’t) learn in front of clients.
- They need that elusive thing, the most difficult thing to gain…..experience and a CV to back them up!
As An Actor, You Already Have 6 of the 9 Skills You Need!
Let’s take them one by one.
“A Grounding and Experience in Microphone Technique. “
There is no getting around this one. At Gravy For The Brain we have trained over 34,000 students to become pro’ voiceover artists. The starting point of all our training and the bit you really need to get right is the mic technique. If you don’t have this nailed you will forever be tripping yourself up.
As an actor, you’ve been to drama school and the chances are you have already done a little on-mic work. If not, don’t worry, this is easy for us to teach you.
“The Technical Aspects of Dialogue Delivery”
Alongside your mic’ technique, the delivery of dialogue is also obviously important. This includes how to frame your mouth when preparing for a line, how to inhale, pause and deliver, committing to the sentence until the end, how to properly project for the subject material, and how to work with the 9 Keys to Voiceover to create range in your vocal performances.
As an actor you will have some of these skills already from your dramatic training – the rest, we can teach you.
At Gravy For The Brain, we run an all-inclusive membership where we give our artists everything they need from novice to expert to get trained, including 12 voiceover courses, over 150 hours of previous webinars and crucially one-to-one mentoring on a daily basis to help you get all these techniques right. We directly show you how to get voiceover work…
“How to Run Your Voiceover Business, Branding & Marketing”
Well! As actor’s you’ve all been doing this for years with your headshots, your spotlight pages, promoting yourself and more! All we need to do is to guide your experience and adjust it slightly to fit the voiceover world.
The chances are you already have your own portfolios, a website and maybe even your own logo. You’re used to dealing with media-based employment contracts and the terminology, working inside and outside the unions – the job’s nearly done!
“You Need a Professional Outlook”
As an actor, you’re used to being in the media industry. You are either already employed as an actor or you’ve already tried to get acting work. At the very least you know that a professional outlook is mandatory and that you’re going to get nowhere without it.
You know how to respect your clients, how to move within the industry and how to not piss people off! This is one true aspect in how to get voiceover work!
If this is starting to sound like we’re reading your stars or your tarot cards – I’m just telling the truth – you have this experience already as an actor, I’m not blowing sunshine…where I shouldn’t!
“You Need to Know How to Act”
Obviously – you’re an actor. Please refer to the title of this article! This is the key skill in your armory and sets you apart from the majority of voiceover artists who have not had dramatic training.
You don’t know it yet (because you’re not a pro’ voiceover artist), but you are already directly suited to work in gaming, animations, radio plays and more. Even more than that, you’re suited to many more types of voiceover than you think because you’re already an actor. What is being a Voice of God if God is not a character that can be played?
“You Need To Be Able To Create Characters With Depth”
See above. If you can’t do this as an actor (and we’re sure you can) then you aren’t an actor. Again, this is where those who have not had dramatic training fall down…they can create characters but (at least at the start of their careers) they tend to be relatively superficial and sound like they are trying to do a voice rather than being that character.
As actors you know there is a world of difference.
It’s looking quite good for you so far isn’t it?
“Knowledge of How to Cast”
Isn’t it amazing how similar the worlds of acting and voiceover are? You are an actor – you get roles by casting for them. You have this in the bag. Well, you nearly have this in the bag.
Being flippant aside, casting is the key to jumping the queue on all the voiceover artists who aren’t actors. As a casting director 90% of what comes across my desk is rubbish, and that means that in a positive light – it’s very easy to stand out of you’re johnny-on-the-spot with your casting.
Truth be told, casting for VO jobs is slightly different than casting for acting – at Gravy For The Brain we created the first casting course in the world aimed at recording Custom Demos, and how to get your casting conversion rates nailed. Getting your key casting conversion rate is a key component in how to get voiceover work.
So with this one, you’re nearly there, you just need a little nudge in the right direction!
“You Need Subject-Specific Training”
Ok – this one you don’t have and that’s where we come in.
The approach to gaming, for example, (and I’ve cast and directed over 190 of them, from Harry Potter to the Olympic Games) is completely different to the approach to audiobooks. If you approached an audiobook in the same way as a game, the producers would look at you very strangely and say “Poor thing, he just doesn’t get it”. They are worlds apart.
Most of the mentoring and training we provide (once people have their grounding work in voiceover mastered) is on subject-specific areas.
The beauty of this however, is that it makes your job and your career as a voice artist massively varied and interesting! One day you will be playing a ship’s captain on a game, the next you will be rousing an audience in a high-flying hotel as the voice of God, the next 5 days you will be recording the latest romance novel and the next you will be selling beauty products.
Our little world of voiceover is a paradise to those who excel in it!
“Experience & Your CV”
You may have experience and you may not. I suspect as an actor you do have quite a lot; if nothing else, the years of dramatic training you did and the productions you were in during that time.
But listen. Come close, I’ll tell you a secret…
Your acting experience is not differentiated as acting and voiceover on your CV by casting directors and voice directors – we see it as all the same.
So if you already have experience as an actor, you already have experience as a voice artist! You’re ahead of the game!
Great! So …How to Get Voiceover Work?
Not so fast. Remember points 1 and 2 – the mic’ technique and the voiceover delivery technique? And remember point #8 – the subject-specific knowledge?
First you need some voiceover training to get yourself up to speed.
Learn on the job at your peril…..
It’s quite easy to get a voiceover job. It’s much harder to get re-hired. If you aren’t on the money when they see you first, you won’t get hired the second time – first impressions count.
Reputations are easily broken in this industry and as casting directors, once bitten we are way more than shy – we almost never hire that voiceover artist again. It may sound harsh, but it’s true.
The good news is that you already have 6 of the 9 skills you need so your VO training is cheaper, easier and you’re already ahead of the game! These are key in your journey of how to get voiceover work.
Beware the Sharks, the Misinformation and the Inexperienced!
As the voiceover world has got bigger, and voiceover jobs have increased, so have the scams, the sharks and the misinformation. Why? Because as more people have become aware of our lovely little world, so those with beady eyes have noticed it too. Although the voiceover world is a wonderful place to be in – with fantastic hourly rates, working from home and being your own boss, there are a few things that you should look out for.
How to get Voiceover Work: Misinformation – the Voiceover Artists Curse!
If you ask one voice actor a question he will tell you how he does it. If you ask another, she will tell you how she does it. Both will insist that it’s their way or the highway. Both of these answers may actually be right and both may be wrong – the problem is, both are presented as factual information.
If you as a voice actor what kind of software he uses he will go in depth into the package that’s best, and it will just happen to be the piece that he uses (and if it’s Audacity, run a mile as this program, while free is unstable and no longer developed). If you ask what mic to choose your voice actor friend will extol the virtues of the mic….that she happens to use. This doesn’t sound too bad until you get to the bit where you’re given incorrect advice about how to actually perform, how to project, how to use different intonation patterns, how to stress and emphasize, how to remove breaths from passages and so on.
Unfortunately, the voiceover world is so awash with misinformation we have had to start writing articles just to counter bad information for voice artists. For example, I recently wrote a piece on “How to De-Breath Voiceover Recordings” which illustrates how but more crucially when to actually remove breaths from voice recordings. The misinformation goes like this; a newbie to VO asks a pro about debreathing, the pro tells her that she should always remove all of the audible breaths from the recordings. Sounds good so far? Wrong. The Pro works in the commercial sector where removing breaths is appropriate only if you’ve been asked by the client, but the newbie then starts applying that to narrative voiceover, thereby removing all the life and performance from the piece and turning an otherwise good piece of VO into a stale, plastic and robotic effort.
How to get Voiceover Work: The Blind Leading The Blind
Worse still in the fight of how to get voiceover work, is the growing trend of VO’s who get trained and almost instantly become coaches to supplement their income, whilst having 0 miles under their belt. Rule of thumb: if your coach hasn’t been voicing themselves, doing at least 50 jobs a year for the last 10 years, give them a miss and move on. If your coach is not a voice director who’s been working for at least 10 years, move on. If your coach/training team doesn’t direct or voice themselves, and is a studio owner, move on.
You get the picture – there are almost as many coaches as there are voice artists nowadays and you can’t rely on a fancy website – you need to check out their working credentials.
Then there are the training companies who profiteer in their courses charging you $250 for each course, or more, and then $500 for a demo reel (of which you will need 5) – before you know it, you’ve let go of $5k before you’re trained and ready to rock.
How to get Voiceover Work: You Don’t Need to Spend £$ Thousands!
There is another way. You can do the vast majority of it yourself. You don’t need to pay thousand of dollars – and that’s good news because you can happily avoid the sharks who will happily take your money for nothing.
The problem with the workshop model of learning voiceover is that you get a huge amount of information on day one and a week later you’ve forgotten half of it, you haven’t put it all into practice and you have no backup, no support network to help you move forward.
At Gravy For The Brain we decided to change all that, and now all our training comes with ongoing one-to-one daily mentoring that moves at your own pace – and it’s all at less than a tenth the price of the training model. Not only that you are mentored by industry professionals with a minimum of 15 years in the industry, and who are actively still working today.
Fundamentally, we hate seeing people being ripped off. We can give you all the information you need (in our 12 voiceover courses), direct one-to-one mentoring, get all the information you need (sifted out for misinformation!) in our 3x webinars per month and our library of over 150 hours and develop a free career plan for you.
Why are Gravy For The Brain so much better than the rest? Because you get everything you will ever need to learn your trade in voice-artistry for less than the price of a cup of coffee. We will teach you how to get voiceover work.
I wish you well on your voiceover journeys and look forward to seeing you on the other side of the glass!
P.s., why not join our free webinar on how to transition from acting to voiceover? We hope it helps! 🙂
Royston Mayoh says
Yes I missed your first Webinar by minutes because, as you so rightly say, LIFE HAPPENS !
I have a northern accent, and have worries about my life as an actor, partially because I am retired from any contractually demanding work as a TV producer / director . Did that for 50 years so feel justified in taking a right turn towards ACTING having been on the periphery of this fascinating ART for so long. Similarly as a Director I was contracted to DIRECT quite a number of CD oriantated TV commercials which, naturally, involved many post dub voice-over sessions at which it was my job to ensure that the ‘voice’ was fulfilling the wishes and mood of the copy writer/client/producer/advertising executive ( and in no particular order).
Now I wish to be able to interpret a script from square one AND be able to amend/change/skew/ without a second thought in order to fulfil the wishes of the director etc.
As for my actual VOICE, well as I should imagine like 99.9% of the population, I am not very keen of the sound of it ! However I am told on so many occasions , and by people whose opinion I value, that I should utilise it for VOICE-OVER work.
So rather like ACTING, I know that in order to do ‘it’ properly lessons HAVE to be learnt and taught.
I am now in the process of looking for the best but most cost effective source of VO SKILLS.
Beverly Chinnama says
Hi there guys. Sorry I missed it at 1 but literally just finished listening. So insightful! I am in need of a review of my career and I think that this may be the fresh outlook I need.
Really enjoyed it.
Peter Abraham says
Hey Hugh, thanks for sharing this in-depth article. There is so much information here for all who want to become a VO. Great post!
Simon Blood DeVay says
Another strong article; I wish I’d come across G4B so much earlier. I’m lucky to have spent decades in the “Biz”; but, although classically trained, I have still done an awful lot of learning by doing; otherwise known as “fake it till you make it” or more commonly “winging it!”
The team and resources here are without par, and every day’s a school-day, as I work through the massive amount of learning available.
Media Group says
Thank you for the great post.
We also provide telephone on hold messages, after hour’s messages and interactive voice response recordings.