How to become a voice actor

Cartoon image of a voice actor sitting at her computer listening to her character voice over demos

Getting started in any new career can feel daunting, but launching a fresh start in the performing arts can feel even more so.

If you’re considering how to break into character and animation voice over work, these tips and tricks can help ease the transition!

We’ve pulled insights from our “Day in the Life” webinar series, with the hopes that getting started will be easier than you first thought. These tips, combined with hard work and persistence, will help you make your entrance into the world of character work.

Owning Your Niche – But Not Pigeonholing Yourself

In this day and age of voice acting, specializing in one kind of voice over doesn’t mean only knowing one thing. According to voice actor/director/coach, Shelly Shenoy, in order to succeed in the area of voice over that you’re most drawn to – in this case, animation – you need to expose yourself to the 3 main ‘buckets’ of voice over:

  • Long form narration that hones the skill of stamina reading and clean character splits
  • Commercial reads that hone the art of the sale
  • Animation projects that hone the development of special character work

Think of each of the above as the posts of a three-legged stool. Only when you’ve exposed yourself to all three and dedicated time to developing skills from each, will you find exactly what you enjoy and where you flourish as an animation voice actor.

Sample Scripts Can Help You Discover Your Niche

There are so many pieces to the voice over puzzle that go beyond simply recording your audition and submitting it.

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In their “Day in the Life” webinars, voice actors Anatol Silotch and Katie Harrington explained how important practicing with sample scripts was to their early success. Learning to understand a script, rather than simply reading it, is something that requires constant practice. Using sample scripts, like these Video Game and Character Voice Over Scripts, is a great way to build up strength in this area.

Know How Your Voice Will Be Used

For Bennett, becoming the voice of Siri was actually a surprise. Her work for the project involved reading a series of nonsensical words and phrases for hours a day in her home recording studio. Siri’s answers to all of your questions could then be formed once scientists were able to take each different sound from Bennett’s recordings and put them together into endless combinations of phrases.

At the time, Bennett didn’t know exactly what her voice would be used for. It wasn’t until the iPhone 4S was released that she learned her voice was part of a device that would be used by so many people.   Had she realized her voice would become such an institution, perhaps she could have negotiated for more money.

voice actor business

By contrast, Morgan Barnhart says she makes it her business to always know how her voice will be used. She explains:

“I need to, in order to base my pricing. I have to know whether it’s going to be used locally, nationally, on the radio, on the Internet, TV, etc. in order to get paid appropriately.”

Pros of Voice Acting

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  • You can do it from anywhere! Well, anywhere with an internet connection that is quiet enough. My family recently went on a cross-country road trip, and I recorded many spots from the bathroom of our travel trailer.
  • You don’t need a degree, but professional training is definitely helpful.
  • You can make your own hours for the most part.
  • It’s a cool job! It’s fun, and people will always be intrigued when you tell them it’s what you do.
  • It is very lucrative. Or it can be anyway. There are lot of voice actors out there working part time or pursuing voiceover as just a hobby, but I just heard a story the other day about a voice actor who had a $20,000 payday for one 60-second TV commercial.
  • Low barrier to entry. You don’t need a bunch of expensive equipment to get started. You do, however, need some good quality equipment to get started, but you don’t have to spend a fortune on it.
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Cons of Voice Acting

  • Work is never guaranteed. It’s a competitive market, and sometimes you’ve got to beat out hundreds of other voice actors to get a job.
  • Training can be expensive. While getting enough equipment and know-how to start auditioning doesn’t cost much, a good coach does — and should. But in my experience, it is well worth the investment. If the cost of training is prohibitive, there are many online groups you can join for free that are extremely helpful.
  • It can be isolating. If you’re an introvert like me, this could also go in the pros category. But you can expect to spend the majority of your time alone in your recording space.
  • Certain types of work are easier to get if you live in LA or New York.
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