Voice acting is the art of bringing words on the page to life. It’s also an industry that’s rapidly growing — with a boom in podcasting, e-learning, video games, audio books, and more, there’s never been a higher demand for people who can provide clear, entertaining voice work. This work can be a fantastic side gig, or possibly even a full-time job.
In this article, we’ll give you a comprehensive guide on everything you need to become a voice actor. We’ll explore what makes a good voice actor, and how to train yourself to be the best voice-over artist you can be.
We’ll also give you a guide to equipment and software that you’ll need to start a voice-over career. Finally, we’ll give you some advice on where to find voice acting work.
What Is Voice Acting?
Voice acting can take on many different forms, but in general it is the act of providing a voice in a piece of professional audio work.
Voice-over artists can work announcing promos on the radio or television, or providing commentary during live sporting events.
They can be voice actors for video games or animated films. Voice actors provide the sound of your GPS directions and guided audio tours of museums.
The digital age has brought about plenty of new voice-over work as well. Podcasts have exploded in popularity, and e-learning sites have leaned on voice actors to provide clear, informative, and entertaining lessons that can teach students on a variety of subjects.
Different voice actors will thrive at different kinds of voice work, but there are opportunities out there for any and all kinds of voice acting talent.
What Makes a Good Voice Actor?
People wondering about becoming a voice-over actor have a common question: “Do you need to have a professional voice to have a successful voice-over career?”
This is a myth that is held by people who aren’t in the voice-over industry — the idea that you need to have a “Price is Right” announcer baritone to make it as a voice actor. There is no such thing as a “professional voice.” People will all sorts of voices — high and low, raspy and squeaky and clean and clear — can make it as a voice actor.
The voice usually isn’t the issue when someone struggles to make it in voice-over work. A much bigger issue is people who, when the microphone comes on, come across as “flat.” They struggle to add energy or feeling, and the delivery comes across as robotic.
The best voice actors can accurately convey emotion while reading from a script, no matter what that script is. This is why people with a performing arts background often can succeed in voice-over work — they’ve been trained on how to take something written down on the page and bring it to life.
How to Prepare for Voice-Over Work
If you’re interested in starting to audition for voice-over work, there are a few things you can do to get ready ahead of time and give yourself the best chance to succeed.
Some of that preparation will be with your voice, but a lot will actually be on the equipment you can get to make you an attractive person for a client to work with.
Training Your Voice
We’ve talked about how there’s no right or wrong type of voice for voice-over work, but you can work to hone the best version of your voice.
If you have no performing arts background, acting classes or improv classes can really help you get more confident and comfortable speaking in front of others. These classes will also allow you to work on speaking clearly, and practice bringing out emotion through your voice.
Another way you can practice is to listen to radio commercials and then record them yourself. You can simply use your phone to record yourself, but listen to the radio version and then your own version and see how you sound.
Fair warning: It can be jarring to hear your own voice recorded the first time around. Half of practice is just getting used to it! Then you can start working on ways you can speak more clearly, eliminate those “umms” and awkward pauses, and refine your voice.
Getting the Right Technical Equipment
Speaking with a clear, expressive voice is great. But having the technical know-how and proper equipment can really make you stand out in your quest to become a voice actor. If you have a functional home recording studio that can capture pristine audio recording, it makes you more attractive to potential clients.
If you have your own studio, they don’t need to find one and rent one for you. You just saved them a lot of money by being able to handle the basic technical aspects yourself.
Luckily, a home studio setup has never been easier to put together. High quality digital microphones are available for reasonable prices, and your recording equipment can be hooked up directly to a laptop or digital recorder like a Zoom H6 to capture and store the audio. As long as you make sure the air conditioner isn’t running in the background, and the room doesn’t have too much of an echo, you should be able to capture clear audio that can work in a professional setting.
After that, being able to provide some basic editing will make life a lot easier on a client. Software like Audacity, Adobe Audition, or even Garage Band can get the job done. You won’t need to compile the entire finished audio product — but if you can edit out any mistakes and any extended dead noise at the beginning or end, you can give them a polished, clean audio file to work with.
One note: Always remember to leave a few moments of silence before and after an audio file, as it gives editors a little leeway to work with, and won’t cut off any audio. This is a mistake a lot of people new to the industry make, and it puts editors in a tough spot.
Where to Find Voice-Over Jobs
No one is born a professional voice actor. They prepare, they apply for a voice-acting job, they land it, then they apply and land another one. Auditioning is about having the right tools, but it’s also important to know how and where to get your foot in the door.
There are plenty of voice-over jobs that you can start earning with today.
Sites like Voicebunny allow you to connect with clients looking for voice-over work. While many voice actors will eventually build out their own client list, these sites are extremely helpful for people who are just starting out in the industry.
These sites are always looking for voice-over talent, especially talent that is fluent in more than one language.
By the way — being multilingual is a way to hugely stand out when applying for voice-over work. If you do happen to be bilungual, you can also check out platforms like LanguageLine and put those skills to even more use.
These sites will also ask you to describe your voice type, or the types of voices you feel confident playing. (Adult male, young adult female, baby, senior female, etc.) These help clients find you specifically for the type of project they are working on.
You can also let them know if you provide additional services — editing full clips, adding in music, etc. All of those are ways to get on these sites and find clients. To succeed on those sites, however, you’ll need a good demo reel.
Building a Good Demo Reel
Once you’ve done some voice-over work you’ll be able to point potential clients to past work you’ve done. (Build enough clients, and you’re on your way to building your own voice-over business.) If you’re new to the industry, however, you’ll need to compile a demo reel.
A demo reel is a collection voice-over demos — short recordings which can demonstrate your ability and skill set for casting directors. A good demo reel will show your versatility and strengths. If you can read ad promos, do a dramatic reenactment of your favorite anime comic, and read the first chapter of Moby Dick, and do them all well, that’s going to make a great demo reel.
Make Some Noise With Voice Acting
If you have a strong voice, and any strong voice will do, you can find work as a voice actor. By acquiring the proper equipment, putting some work into your own voice, and putting yourself out there, you could perhaps find a new side hustle … or a full-time job.