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Learn about starting a Voice Acting career from scratch.

Do your family and friends say you have a great voice? Do you dream of voicing characters in your favorite Anime shows? Do you love creating characters when you read to your children or talk to your pets? Perhaps you’re a singer and have a very intimate connection with your voice and want to cross over into voice acting?

If you’re interested in making a living with your voice and you just don’t know where to start, I’m here to help you turn down the volume on what you don’t need to worry about (it’s a jungle out there), and shine a light on what your next steps should be. 

The Voice Acting Trifecta

To keep it simple, I’d like to tell you about the Artist – Technician – Entrepreneur trifecta of voice acting. Think of this like a triangle.

In this triangle, the Artist is the foundation and the Technician and Entrepreneur rest upon it to create the walls. I also call this trifecta the three pillars of voice acting. Once you understand how the pillars work in relation to one another, you’ll be able to go out in the world and start investing in your voice acting passion in a methodical way (and I believe being pragmatic is the most effective to making dreams a reality).

Let’s go over the first pillar, which is also the foundation of voice acting.

The Artist 

Voice acting is ultimately an art and unless you become an actor first, and a voice talent second, your experience in the industry will be incredibly limited. Why? Because the trend these days is to use actors. This is why you hear well known film and TV actors voice commercials, act in video games and animation movies.

These professional actors make voice over scripts sound natural and “conversational”. Their voice overs sound real, like they’re really talking to you.

How do they do it? With acting training. And since these actors are your competition, you better train the way they have if you want to get a piece of the voice acting pie.

This is not to say that you can’t do well if you just become a “professional reader” like an announcer. But unless you’re incredibly fortunate and can get work in the TV promo sector, you’ll be relegated to these few voice over sectors:

  • Voicemail (and yes, this can be very lucrative if you’re bilingual and work in a territory that requires bilingual messaging);
  • E-learning;
  • Live announcer;
  • Radio promos.

You may also be able to record some commercials now and then, and some audio books in the non-fiction category, but it may not be often.

While these voice over sectors can provide steady work, you’ll likely be on your own trying to find that work because you’ll have difficultly getting an agent. As a result, you’ll have a hard time moving up the voice over food chain.

Be a Trained Actor

If you’re a trained actor, you’ll likely be able to work in more sectors of the industry, and have access to higher paying gigs, especially in the commercial sector. As an actor, you’ll also be in a position to get an agent so you can book animation, and video game job. You’ll also be able to work in the audio book sector in the fiction category. 

To become an actor, you’ll need pure acting training first, then VO centric training. For the best training strategy, read my book Becoming An Artist. In it, you’ll learn and about being an artist on a personal and professional level.

Get a Detailed Overview of the Acting Industry

Whether you’re a trained actor or not, getting this ebook will be valuable because you’ll also get a detailed overview of the entire voice acting industry as it operates today. It even breaks down the types of VO jobs you can book, and what you need to book them.

If you don’t have VO centric training, you’ll want to know all this before training.

Once you have a basic understanding of the industry and you’re able to create amazing performances, you’ll then have to focus on recording those performances. This is where the second pillar of the trifecta comes in…

The Technician

Once you’re creating great performances, you’ll have to become a savvy audio technician because you’ll have to be able to record and edit professional voice over jobs at home. This is true in every sector of the industry, especially during the pandemic. Some jobs, like animation and video games may require you to go to a professional studio, but as we’re seeing in the pandemic, being able to record from home puts actors who have professional recording abilities at a huge advantage (those who were equipped when the pandemic hit were able to keep getting hired). 

If you’re a live event announcer, you may not think you need a home voice over studio, but having one to record certain types of announcements that can be pre-recorded (Take your seats, etc) will provide added value to clients. And who knows, you could get work online as well.

Be a Reliable Voice Actor

You’ll also have to become knowledgable about recording and editing voice overs from home because clients will expect you to be in control of your audio space. In other words, you should know how to record and edit your voice overs, and how your equipment works, so that if something isn’t working, you can troubleshoot issues. That’s not to say that you won’t be clueless sometimes. Audio is tricky: we all get confused by it and need help to fix issues once in a while (and especially at the beginning), but you should understand the basics. If not, continuous problems will prevent you from getting hired often enough to make a living. 

To learn more about working with sound and about from home read my book Recording and Editing Voice Overs. This explains absolutely everything from creating a space, to recording, to delivering audio to clients in the format and specs they need.

Once you can create great performances, and record them, you’ll have to wrap them in a beautiful package so that you can make money with them. That’s brings me to the third pillar of the trifecta….

The Entrepreneur

In this part of your career, you’ll be preoccupied with doing things that keep you in business, like:

  • getting experience;
  • finding clients;
  • having a good reputation so you can inspire clients to trust you (and hire you); and
  • sharing your wonderful talent and artistic offerings to the world. 

Get Voice Acting Experience

To gain experience, you’ll have to audition regularly (probably on pay to play sites). The goal at this point is to test your instrument, see what kind of jobs are on the market, get hired, and see how the market reacts to you. In time, this process will tell you where to put your energy so that you can get a better return on your investment.

Have a Good Reputation

To have a good reputation, you’ll want to have an effective workflow and be professional on voice acting jobs. That means running your recording sessions efficiently so that clients feel like they’re in capable hands once they’ve hired you. If you’re non-union, this also means having a good rate sheet. 

Market your Voice Acting Services

As far sharing your talents with the world, you’ll want to have effective marketing strategies. To get a good voice acting agent you’ll need excellent demos (produced by audio producers) and solid auditions skills (and for this you’ll need practice). To find clients, you may need to be on pay to play sites, be on top of your social media, create good outbound strategies, and learn everything you can about the internet so you can make it work for you. 

To learn about all this, read my book Running Your Voice Acting Business. Together, my three books are really a super affordable modern-day voice acting bible that will give you a solid understanding of the voice acting industry as a whole, tell you how to navigate it, and how to find your place in it

Voice Acting Training Never Stops

In today’s VO world, even top talents who are represented by the best over agents need to continuously strengthen these three pillars of the voice acting trifecta. Most working voice actors:

  • continuously brush up on their acting skills;
  • make sure their audio space is professional and make upgrades when they can;
  • find new ways to market themselves so they can get more clients. 

These strategies all contribute to strengthening their brand which makes them more appealing to clients.  

Put Chances on your Side

If you want to make a living with your voice, focus on the three pillars of the voice acting trifecta. Each must be as strong as the other.

  • Being a great technician or entrepreneur will do nothing for you unless you’re a great actor.
  • Being a great actor but not being able to record and edit your work will make you difficult to hire.
  • If you’re a great actor who can record and edit great work but no one knows you exist, you won’t get very far.

So, unless the three pillars are strong, the house falls down. How do you know the house has fallen or needs some strengthening? Your voice acting income is either not coming in, or stagnating.

That said, like in any career, there are no guarantees that you’ll succeed, even if you follow this recipe to the T. But you if you look at your career through the Artist/Technician/Entrepreneur lens, you’ll be putting all the chances on your side and that’s the most effective way of making your dreams a reality. You’ll also be able to say that you really tried. 

My name is Lili Wexu. I’m an actress, a voice talent and an author. To learn about acting professionally, read my e-book about Acting in Hollywood

Lili is an actress and writer who created the Get Clever About e-book series to help fellow actors get practical and logistical information about furthering their careers both on-screen and behind the microphone.

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