How to Get Started in Voice Over: A General Guide, with Resources & Links
It’s absolutely the most common question I [and other full-time voice actors] get asked: “How do I get started in voice over?” Below, you’ll find a description of the process, some best practices, and links to some of the best coaches & classes in the industry.
This list is by no means exhaustive, either: the more you ask around, the more info you’ll find. Overall, the voiceover community is a pretty tight-knit and very supportive collective of business-minded actors, and we all do our best to look out for each other and new talent — after all, we all had to start somewhere, too.
Lastly… full disclosure: I am not a voice over coach. I am happy to coach you [or anyone else] on how to begin and grow your voice over business, but as far as technique and voice development, there are far better coaches out there than I — and you’ll find them through some of the links below. And if you need an extra hand, just ask.
That all said… let’s get started!
Step 1: Take a Class
Everyone knows you need a demo to get started. But cutting a demo before you’re ready — typically 12-18 months of training — is typically a bad idea [more on that below].
Your first step is to narrow down what type of voice work you most want to do, and take a class on that genre.
There’s so many different niches of voiceover out there. What kind do you want to do? Cartoons? Commercials? eLearning? Audiobooks? All of it?
Not only is MGS [multi-goal syndrome] a legit problem when starting out, but determining where in voice over you’d like to go will help you know where and how to start training, i.e., take a class or three.
Taking classes, including group and private coaching, to get started is highly, highly recommended. Why? Well, think about it: you wouldn’t show up to a courtroom and go, “Hi, I’d like to be a lawyer. How do I get started?” [The answer: law school, natch].
Likewise, let’s say you want to learn how to play guitar. Sure, you can teach yourself, but you’re going to find a lot more success, much quicker, by hiring someone to coach you on the basics — and help you determine what style of playing you’d most want to do as you progress.
So, the best thing to do to get started is take a class: specifically, one with mic time and live coaching.
Success in voice over is far less about the quality of your voice as it is the quality of your read, i.e., how you connect with the script.
Pro tip: Definitely don’t waste your money on a demo until you’ve got a good handle on that — people will listen, but it’s highly unlikely to get you work or representation, since that’s what they’re looking for: voice talent who can actually work with the script.
Where to Take Classes
- In my opinion, for online classes, the GVAA [Global Voice Acting Academy] is the gold-standard. They offer live, remote classes from some of the best coaches in the industry. I personally still take classes from them at least once/year, and they’ve got classes covering promos, audiobook, characters, corporate narration… every end of the industry. Edge Studio is pretty great, too, for similar reasons — quality, reputation, and high levels of standard.Bonus: The GVAA also publishes the industry-standard V/O rate guide, which you’ll absolutely want to reference as you start to negotiate on jobs.
- Conferences like Voiceover Atlanta are also a fantastic, relatively low-cost way to get a voiceover crash-course: over 2-3 days, you’d get the opportunity to explore a ton of different genres; meet reputable, industry-leading coaches, agents, and demo producers; and fellow talent across all levels of the industry.
- Locally [wherever you are], absolutely contact your local theatre for an intro-to-acting class if you’ve never acted before. After all, voiceover is far more than being a pretty voice — again, it’s creating a personal connection to the script that lands you the gig [as well as learning how to take direction], which is specifically what an acting class will teach you.Bonus points: also contact your local improv theater and take their intro class, too. Improv skills are invaluable to thinking on your feet; building natural, human connections; and finding “your voice.” These are skills voice actors use every single day.For those of us in Minnesota, those resources would be the Guthrie Theater and HUGE Theater.
Step 2: Research the Actual Business of Voiceover
This is what separates the dabblers from the professionals — what actually gets you towards booking work, ongoing: learning how the actual business of voiceover works.
The truth is, the numbers are already against you [and us who already do this for a living]: I personally convert on roughly 3% of all auditions I submit on, and that’s a pretty high number:
- If I’m auditioning for a local radio spot, I’m typically up against 40-50 fellow talent for the one gig, which will likely pay between $300-$600.
- If I’m auditioning for a national commercial or a cartoon pilot, I’m up against anywhere from 200 to 2,000 fellow talent. There’s statistically a better chance my audition never gets heard, than that I actually get the gig.
That’s just how the math works. But, by readying and building your business, you can learn to find your own clients, develop your niche and build momentum [that, on average, takes 3-5 years for most talent].
All of that said, there are some fantastic resources for up-and-coming and established talent alike:
- Get Started in VO is a fantastic resource, started by one of the best and most reputable agents in the industry in Stacey Stahl of In Both Ears. Essential reading and tips for new, intro voice talent [full disclosure: IBE does not represent me, but they are consistently vanguards of the voiceover industry and well worth following].
- Gravy for the Brain is phenomenal, no matter what level you’re at: a subscription-based model with classes and webinars for beginning and ongoing training, as well as discounts for members on essential home recording equipment. Like the GVAA, another gold-standard in the industry: just a different business model.
- The World Voices Organization [WoVO] is a non-profit, member-driven collective of fellow voice talent, helping to establish best practices and fair rates industry wide. They also offer a mentorship program for upcoming talent, and ongoing support for voice talent of all levels.
These last three are great individual resources as well:
- [Beginner] Marc Scott is an incredible voiceover business coach, creating many, many resources catered specifically to upcoming talent growing their businesses, and most of them free.
- [Intermediate] Meanwhile, Tom Dheere is the VO Strategist, and he specializes in helping you take what you’ve already developed and personally guiding you on improving your sales funnel.
- [Advanced] Lastly, Celia Siegel of CSM Management literally wrote the book on voice over branding with “Voiceover Achiever.” Her work and guidance is essential for learning how to stand out with your authentic self and brand.
Step 3: Find a *reputable* voice over coach/producer to record a demo
If you’re getting ready to record your first demo, I sincerely hope you’ve done those first two steps already. Why?
Because recording a demo without being ready is the #1 mistake new talent make… and it’s the most expensive mistake you can make.
A proper demo — prep coaching, script writing, live coaching & recording, and post-production — should cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500. Already, that’s typically a large chunk of change for anyone.
But, sending on a demo before you’re ready can often do more damage to your prospects than you think: poor audio quality, outdated copy, or not enough showcase of your range can sink your chances before you even start auditioning. If this is truly your calling card, if it’s not on par with other pro talent, you’ll often be shut out of castings without knowing it.
A good demo producer should:
- Audition you before agreeing to produce your demo. Ultimately, their name is on this, too, and if they simply take your money to give you a recording, they clearly don’t care a whole lot about how it reflects on them. The best coaches may even ask for samples of previous work to hear what you’ve done, or for a personal recommendation from an agent/talent/fellow coach to begin working together.
- Coach with you at least 2-3 times before recording your demo. You want to make sure they’re the right fit for you, and vice versa: you’ll never do your best work with someone you don’t trust.
- Create custom scripts for you that showcase the range and style of your voiceover delivery. Very few scripts could actually be right for just about anyone, and this is *your* demo. It should reflect your best points, and a great coach/producer will make absolutely sure to do just that.
- Encourage you to speak with fellow talent for whom they’ve produced. As always, personal recommendations go the farthest, and a good coach/producer should have a whole list of them for you.
Some of my favorite coaches & demo producers include:
- Cliff Zellman
- Anne Ganguzza
- Dave Walsh
- Karen Quale
- Eric Romanowski
Lastly, if you’re looking to record from home with a home studio, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll want to hire a remote audio coach to help you optimize and tune your recording space [personally, this is probably the wisest investment I ever made: my bookings increased exponentially when I started out once I hired someone to help me]. I’d say this is a “must-have” too for talent in the 21st century.
Some great remote audio coaches include:
- George Whittam
- “Uncle” Roy Yokelson
- Tim Tippets
- Dan Friedman
Things to Avoid
Of course, no “how to get started in voiceover” tutorial would be complete without a list of what to avoid.
In general, if it sounds like a scam, it probably is. But, again: the voiceover community is incredibly tight-knit and supportive, and we all do our best to weed out anyone preying on newbies. If you’re ever unsure, don’t be afraid to ask around — as they say on Letterkenny, “Bad gas travels fast in a small town.” It’s absolutely that way in voiceover.
- Any course promising a “demo at the end of training,” a “free recording for your reel,” etc. The only real exception I’ve seen to this are large-package deals from Edge Studios and Such A Voice, which are typically accelerated [coaching 1-2 times/week in prep for demo] with reputable coaches who have the authority to tell you that you’re not ready if you’re not. You *want* your coach to be able to be honest with you, and these services seem to provide that.
- People or organizations who promote finding work on Fiverr or Voices[dot]com. Both of these organizations are known for race-to-the-bottom tactics that encourage voice talent to desperately bid against each other and lower wages throughout the industry. Working with either can get you blacklisted from large parts of the voiceover world.
- Impatience. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I voiced my first gig in 2007 — a comedy sketch that went viral and aired on Comedy Central — and built slowly over time to go full-time in 2015. Keep at it, though, and the victories will absolutely come your way.
Hope This Helps Your Voiceover Journey!
Feel free to reach out anytime with questions I might be able to answer, especially if you’re unsure about a company or organization you’re considering working with. Sadly, there’s a fair amount of scammy stuff in the voiceover world, but you don’t need to be taken — I’ll gladly do what I can to guide you right.