Today’s FB question nightmare comes from the Voice Actors of NYC Facebook Group , to which I belong. The question was an amalgam of things that this person was doing in order to “get started” in VO and how to proceed. I won’t cut and paste because it will give away content that is in a private group and may incriminate the person. I SO want to, however, because this is like a college level class on what not to do. I couldn’t help but add my snarky comment “OMG you are listing the playbook for what NOT to do!” I then added that this person needs a voice over coach STAT!
Anyway, it covered all the hits.
- Bought an AT2020+ microphone and an isolation chamber
- Signed up for Fiverr, Upwork and ACX
- I’m making a self produced demo to send to agencies.
- Oh and I heard a certain Top Level Agency is pretty good, should I send my demo there?
OMG is right.
Whew, where to begin, Let’s see.
First of all, let me say that I’ve done ALL of these things in some way or another. I’m not bashing this person for asking. After all, as my partner Sean Daeley from The VO Meter is always saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know”. Created my own demo, CHECK. Bought a USB mic, CHECK. Recorded in a terrible space, CHECK. Signed up for all the freelancing sites, CHECK. Created my own demo, CHECK. Submitted to top agencies before I was ready, CHECK!
Here is why some of those things are bad in a nutshell.
The voice over industry is ULTRA competitive. However, by the same token, you CAN get started with a USB microphone in a closet and book a job on Fiverr. You’ll get paid (a little) and then you can technically call yourself a professional voice actor. There is literally NO barrier to entry. In order to book consistently, however, you need to be competitive, right away, straight out of the gate. Even on Upwork, you will be competing with THOUSANDS of other voice actors who are at the top of their games. There is no JV league.
In order to do that, you need a few things. These aren’t necessarily in order of importance but close.
- Recording space. This is THE most important thing. A booth is nice, but it’s not the only way. I happen to use a Studiobricks Booth, but you can also create a fabulous space in a closet, or in an open room with the right acoustic treatment. Even a terrible USB mic will sound great in a good recording space
- Equipment. Now, I just said even a USB mic will sound good if your booth is good. While that is true, some companies and casting agents are interested in knowing what type of equipment you use. If you can say a Sennheiser 416, or Neumann TLM 103, it certainly won’t hurt
- Coaching. This could and some would argue should, be first. I did things a bit bass akwards which is why I place it here. I did have a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism, so I thought I had enough coaching when I started out. I was WAY wrong, but that is why I setup my recording space and equipment first. It was what I knew at the time and it did help me, in so much as when I was done coaching, I was ready to start working immediately. Anyway, I digress…Coaching. Acting lessons or an acting background are great. Then, Voice Over specific coaching is a must. There are a ton of intricacies involved in voice acting specifically, that you can only get from a coach who understands and has worked in voice over.
- Create a great demo. A demo is a voice over artist’s calling card. It’s a showcase of the type of work you CAN do, not even necessarily what you have done in the past. I am hired off people hearing my demo, a lot. There are lots of ways to do this, but you really need to work with a seasoned producer who understands voice over specifically. I have some great friends in the business who do this, and I don’t want to leave anybody out, so I’ll say, look around the VO industry. If they have produced a bunch of demos for other voice actors, you will be in good shape.
Like I said before, asking questions is not a bad thing. That is exactly how I started. Once I did all the stupid things I mentioned above, many kind hearts in the VO industry helped steer me in the right direction. People like Bob Bergen, Philip Banks, Melissa Exelberth, Peter Bishop, Trish Basanyi, Liz de Nesnera, Terry Daniel, Dan Lenard, George Whittam and Doug Turkel. Without these folks, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That is to say, a middling voice talent…but I’m getting better! (I think).