Making a living from home, using your voice and choosing your own hours. It sounds like a dream. But for thousands globally, it’s a daily reality.
If you are an aspiring voice actor, asking yourself the question: ‘how do I become a successful voice actor?’. This article has been written for you.
With the great strides in media, technology, and communications in recent decades, voice acting has been growing in popularity as a career choice for many professionals of all ages and backgrounds. In the last two decades alone, there has been an explosion of aspiring voice actors joining the industry which has driven down the barrier to entry but competition is now fiercer than ever before.
If you’re reading this, you may have been told by family or friends that you ‘have a nice voice’ and that you should capitalise on it. Whilst possessing a good voice is definitely essential in voice acting, it will take a lot more than that to carve out a successful career in this competitive field.
Getting started is so hard.
There are thousands of online coaches, voice acting classes and books, all purporting to offer the best path to success.
But what does ‘success’ as a voice actor look like anyway?
There is a lot of misinformation around the web and many unenlightened businesses are eager to capture aspiring voice actors in their way of doing things. They’ll tell you what you want to hear and take your hard-earned money in the process.
So, rather than having Voquent – as a business – provide all the answers to you, we asked the talented and experienced Voquent community of voice actors for their own tips and insights to help to provide you with a grounded guide on how to become a voice actor. Don’t just listen to one source, learn from many and decide for yourself.
It is so vital to hear the opinions of those who’ve actually made voice-over and voice acting work a successful income stream and as you’ll see, there is no single path to ‘making it’.
This community made guide will answer the commonly asked questions that budding talents (like you) may have about the industry, such as. Is formal training really needed to break into the scene? How long will it take before you book your first gig? Do I need a show-reel? and so much more.
You will learn from the best of the Voquent community, allowing you to form your own opinion and forge your own path.
Let’s get started!
Q: Did you complete any voice-over courses or training to become a voice actor?
The answers are pretty diverse from the Voquent community. Some of our respondents indicated that they had no formal training when starting out in their career, but almost all have booked sessions or classes with experienced coaches or mentors eventually.
One of the respondents, Richard Savage, said:
Nothing when I first started, then once I started recording at home, producing and directing myself, a few webinars and a whole stack of YT videos. That is all! 🤔
— Richard Savage 🎙 Voice Artist (@DickSavagecz) October 9, 2020
In contrast, Mikael Naramore has had extensive training before becoming a voice actor:
Drama training and workshops galore as a child and into college. Had many pro voice acting mentors; relationships forged in hundreds of session hours as engineer, which I feel was more genuine & valuable for me as opposed to paid courses. As was sitting in the director’s chair.
— Mikael Naramore (@MikaelNaramore) October 9, 2020
Notably, many of the voice actors who responded didn’t actually take voice-over courses but instead took acting or improv classes.
Some of them took these classes when they were younger, while for others, it was the opposite. A few indicated that it’s important to jump right into it and that they eventually found people who were more than willing to mentor them. Others responded by saying that a lot of their techniques are self-taught and that they learned them through imitation and observation.
As evidenced by their responses, there’s no one size fits all approach nor even a uniformity in what classes the voice actors who responded eventually took. It’s quite understandable given the diverse possibilities in terms of work in the industry, which can range from voicing e-learning resources to video game characters. Additionally, some of the voice actors didn’t have access to particular schools and training. They honed their skills on their own.
Nevertheless, the fact that most of them eventually took classes or attended workshops once they got their voice acting careers rolling shows the importance of further training and education to improve their skills. Some went on to train under notable voice actors in prestigious voice acting academies. Meanwhile, others took lessons from YouTube tutorials and online courses. Whichever form their further education took, this led them to advance their skills and up their confidence.
With various resources available online and offline, voice actors have an arsenal of tools that they can use for continuous improvement. Just be careful about choosing the right training for your speciality, there is no one size fits all approach.
Q: How long did it take you to get your first acting job?
As with our previous question, the responses to this question are pretty varied, with some voice actors indicating that they were able to book a gig in just a month or less, while others said it took them decades.
Quarter Life Crisis Lago (@OrangeJulisuVA) replied,
6 years! After doing fan projects and practicing and learning, it took me 6 whole years!
— Quarter Life Crisis Lago (@OrangeJulisuVA) October 11, 2020
In contrast, we have Garnet Williams Voiceovers (@WilliamsVO), who was able to book a gig in “2 weeks.”. Well done!
— Garnet Williams Voiceovers (@WilliamsVO) October 10, 2020
While there’s a huge disparity in the timelines, most respondents indicated that they scored their first acting gig in a span of few months to a year. It’s important to note that some of these roles were unpaid, and for their first paid gig, some voice actors mentioned it took them longer.
Considering the diversity of roles in the voice acting industry, it comes as no surprise that there’s no one common answer to this question. There are many factors to consider, such as the type of role that you’re auditioning for and the contacts and platforms you utilize to help get your name out.
Additionally, there may be some lull in between gigs. While some voice actors managed to book their first gig relatively quickly, they found it difficult to score their next one.
Got my first within the first 35 auditions I submitted after getting my commercial demo done. Then… not another gig for months. It spoiled me, honestly.
— Bruce E Hennigar II (@scrubbsdj) October 10, 2020
This goes to show that getting a steady stream of work requires a combination of strategizing, hustling, and luck.
Q: How important is your professional show-reel/demo-reel to getting cast for voice acting projects?
Many of the responses stressed the importance of demo-reels in catching the attention of prospective clients. It lets you get a foot in the door, so to speak. Some voice actors said that they were able to land projects with their professional show-reels alone.
One voice actor, Mimi Barker (@MimiBarker), puts into words why show-reels are important:
Paramount! A professional, relevant demo is not merely important, it’s fundamental for competing in today’s voiceover industry. If voice is your product, show your product in the very best manner possible!
— Mimi Barker (@MimiBarker) October 13, 2020
While the majority of the responses agree that demo-reels are important, a few pointed out that they’re just one of the many factors that can land you a gig.
Taher Chy (@khobis_VA) highlighted the significance of both demo-reels and auditions:
A demo has attracted the attention of clients who reached out to me (as opposed to the other way around), it’s absolutely a key thing to have.
But for the majority of times, I still have to audition for projects – and that’s where having a demo really doesn’t make a difference.
— 🔨aher Chy (@khobis_VA) October 12, 2020
The importance of sending relevant samples is also mentioned by Ken Marsiglia (@KenMarsigliaVo):
Most of my bookings come from samples of previous work I’ve done more often than my demo reel.
It’s been my experience that sending the prospective client a sample that is relevant to their project wins more gigs than a generic reel will ever do.
— Ken Marsiglia (@KenMarsigliaVo) October 12, 2020
Based on the responses, it’s clear that demo-reels are very important to get your name out in the industry, but one should also prepare for auditions and deliver relevant sample works to prospective clients. And with the amount of competition in the industry, clients may only be looking at the first 10-15 seconds of your reel, so it’s best to also take this into consideration. This is why here at Voquent we go one step further. We believe strongly that individually crafted demos with one vocal sound are really what clients want to hear. This reduces the need for posting and managing projects with lots of auditions or having to listen through long showreels to find a read that may work.
Q: When do you think it is ok to do a voice-over free of charge?
Some expressed willingness to do gratis work for friends who don’t have much money to pay and for student projects.
One voice actor, Tim Chessman (@TimChessman), enumerated three situations where free voice-over work is okay:
If it’s for an organization that does charity work, helps people and has no budget for voiceover, I’d do it for free.
I’d also do it as a way to pay someone back who has helped me.
It’s also not a bad idea to do a free project with high exposure: could pay off down the line.
— Tim Chessman Voiceovers🎙 (@TimChessman) October 13, 2020
As a word of caution, one must always be watchful with the last point since this can be easily exploited by unscrupulous clients. Meanwhile, some expressed willingness to do free work for passion projects and as a way to beef up their resumés.
Stephen Weese (@steveracercom) has some words of wisdom for those who are just starting out:
I tell my new students that it’s up to them, but at first to get some credits it is worth it. However, you have to tell yourself that there is a stopping point for that and then stick to it.
— Stephen Weese (@steveracercom) October 13, 2020
Overall, the majority of the voice actors who replied to our question indicated that they would be willing to do pro bono voice-over work for non-profit organizations, charities, and local initiatives for people in need.
Q: How much did it cost to set up your own home recording studio?
The responses of the Voquent community ranged anywhere from $200 to more than $15,000, depending on their setup, including the booth, gear, and recording software subscriptions.
Stephen Carlock (@Stephen_Carlock) helpfully gave a cost comparison between his first and current studios:
First studio – $415 all in (PVC booth, mic, interface, etc.). This setup helped me achieve 75% income replacement year 2-ish.
Current studio – $1538 all in (custom Iso-booth, mic/interface upgrade, etc.). This setup helped me achieve 100%+ income replacement year 2.5.
— Stephen Carlock (Voice Actor – Home Studio) (@Stephen_Carlock) October 14, 2020
Sometimes the environment becomes an important factor in determining the type of equipment you want to get, like in the case of Jeff Savage (@jeffsavage). Jeff responded to our question with:
$10,000. I live in the city and my sound environment demands a sound proof vocal booth. When you strive to do this for a living, you do what it takes. No excuses.
— Jeff Savage VO (@jeffsavage) October 14, 2020
Many of the respondents who set up their home recording studio under $500 were able to do so by scoring secondhand equipment and by utilizing available home space, such as their coat closet.
Mic and input chain $500, Mac mini, $500, studio acoustic treatments $0 used coat closet. I’ve progressed passed that now. But that is where I started.
— Thyphear (@thyphear) October 14, 2020
What the responses show is that many professional voice actors start with a simple studio setup, for a small budget. Then they move on to better equipment and software as they gain experience. Of course, with a better studio environment and higher-end gear, you’ll get more professional-sounding recordings. This will make your demos and your work sound at it’s best helping you to attract better-paying clients. As our own Alex Harris-MacDuff points out in his blog post at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it needn’t cost the earth.
Q: What kinds of businesses give you new opportunities?
Q. What kinds of businesses give YOU new opportunities?
a: online platforms
b: my agent
c: production companies and creative agencies
d: my own website & ranking on search
Your answer may be used in a forthcoming blog and will help newcomers to the industry! Thanks!
— Voquent (@Voquent) October 15, 2020
Most of the respondents from the Voquent community answered A: Online Platforms. This comes as no surprise considering that more and more of our interactions and transactions are digital. The internet makes it easier to connect with potential clients.
Besides online platforms, production companies and creative agencies also provide new opportunities for many of the voice actors.
Production companies & creative agencies. Make good connections with those places!
— Heather Loduca (@heatherloduca) October 15, 2020
Others mentioned their agents as well as their own websites and SERP ranking, but some of the more notable answers indicated the importance of actively searching out potential clients.
Adam Rosenbloom (@AdamRosenbloom2) explains his strategy in reaching out to clients and the importance of building up one’s portfolio:
Online platforms only, for now. I want to have b, c, and d. E would be proactively reaching out to potential clients with my demo or specific clips that indicate that I like what they do and that I’m a good fit for them. I just think I need to build up a larger volume of work.
— Adam Rosenbloom (@AdamRosenbloom2) October 15, 2020
Additionally, Lynette Wortham (@WorthamLynette) presents a fresh way of looking for work:
New opportunities can come from a mixture of A, C, and E (other = a problem). I believe that every problem is a business opportunity. Don’t seek a business instead seek a problem.
— Lynette Wortham (@WorthamLynette) October 15, 2020
Q. What does being a ‘successful’ voice actor look like to you?
For many of the respondents, success comes in the form of being paid enough that you can devote most of your energies to voice acting.
Jeff Savage (@jeffsavage) adds to this by highlighting the relationships that you’re able to cultivate with the clients you’ve worked with:
When Voice Acting can support you 100% without needing a supplemental stream of income. Removing the “side hustle” mentality, building relationships with repeat clients, and building a trustworthy brand.
— Jeff Savage VO (@jeffsavage) October 16, 2020
In contrast, Stephen Weese (@steveracercom) offers a different way of framing success:
Early in my career, I used to view “success” as making a living from voiceover only. As I progressed, I realized only a tiny percent are able to do that so I reframed success: to be professionally competent and happy with the work that one gets.
— Stephen Weese (@steveracercom) October 16, 2020
For others, success comes in the form of people recognizing your work. Mexi (@mexiwastaken) puts this into words:
i feel like thats quite relative, to some success is being in big budget movies, but to small time VA’s like me, its more like having a decent sized set of people who like stuff with you in it and know your name
— Mexi (@mexiwastaken) October 16, 2020
Because the definition of success varies from person to person, it’s difficult to pin down just a single answer. Ultimately, if you’re able to find joy and satisfaction in your work, what else is there?
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and if you’ve read an answer that resonates with you, why not follow the writer and retweet their comment. There is no better way to say thank you and show your appreciation. The Voquent community on Twitter is a very special place, get involved and join the conversation!
Writer: Al Black