So You Wanna Be A Voice Actor
Maybe your friends tell you that you have an amazing voice. Maybe you love anime and cartoons. Maybe you do really great impressions. So what now? How do you get from point A to point B?
There is only so much I can tell you in a blog post, but here are a few words of advice to get you started.
Voice acting isn't easy. If you really want to be a part of this industry, be prepared to work hard. Voice acting requires a huge investment of time, effort, and yes, money. It doesn't happen overnight, and what many of us consider to be success - consistently getting work that pays enough to not have a day job - doesn't necessarily involve fame. A lot of people think they want to be a voice actor, then give up as soon as they realize how hard it is. And you know what? I'm here to tell you that it's okay to decide that voice acting isn't for you. We need audiences, especially audiences who understand that what we do is hard work and valuable. And, acting is not the only way to be involved. Maybe acting isn't your thing, but you're really organized and detail oriented. You can be a producer. Maybe you're really good at software and sound editing. You can be an audio engineer. There are lots of ways to be involved in creative industries without being an actor, all of them equally important to the final product.
Develop your acting skills. Voice acting is not just saying words into a microphone. To be a good voice over artist, even if you are not doing game or cartoon characters, you need to be a good actor. This applies to the other end of the spectrum as well- Doing impressions is a really neat skill, but I can tell you now that the likelihood of using any of those impressions as a voice actor is pretty dang close to 0. Most of the time, what directors and producers want is your unique voice - even when you're creating a character. They want good acting, believable emotions, and they want the actors they work with to be able to take notes and make adjustments. The only time you might realistically do a wild wacky character voice is if you're voicing a creature for a video game, or if you're doing an unusual character in an audiobook. Same goes for accents - I can guarantee you that the only time you might actually use something other than your own accent is for a character in an audiobook. If producers want a Japanese accent, they'll cast a Japanese person. If they want a British accent, they'll cast a British person. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are rare and you shouldn't count on them. What you should focus on is learning warm ups and breathing techniques to protect your voice - especially if you need to speak in a slightly higher or lower register than you normally would for an extended period of time. The better you understand how your voice works, the better you will be at taking direction and making adjustments for clients. Learning acting techniques will help you with this, as well as with creating realistic and believable emotions in your voice over projects. Fortunately, there are hundreds of coaches and classes out there covering a wide range of styles and techniques. If you live in a big city there are likely tons of places to take classes, from colleges to theatres to private coaches. But, even if you live in a small town or have a limited budget - you still have options. Many coaches offer sessions over video (Me, for example!). Classes can be expensive, and I'm not going to lie, it's best to work in person with a professional who is experienced with both the industry and with teaching. But there are affordable options out there! There are community colleges (mostly in big cities) that have fantastic theatre programs. You might be able to barter with a local actor in exchange for one-on-one coaching - is there something else you're already really good at that you can offer? Tech support, baby-sitting, yard work, tax prep? Community theaters frequently offer workshops to the community. Sometimes theaters have apprenticeship programs with scholarships. There are all sorts of opportunities to learn, big and small. You just have to look for them.
Voice acting is more than just cartoons and video games. There are so many incredible and rewarding areas of voice over. Commercials, live announcements, phone menus and Interactive Voice Response, e-learning, industry narration, audiobooks, etc. A lot of these can be very fun and satisfying, and many voice over artists make a living performing in one or several of these categories. And, because they are somewhat less glamorous, there is a lot of demand for new voices in many of these areas.
Learn the tech. 30 years ago, most voice over work involved going into a studio. Now, most voice over work is done from home studios. There are of course exceptions, but the reality is that if you want to make a living as a voice actor you're going to need a home studio - at the very least to record auditions. This means you'll need to learn how to treat your recording space for sound, what equipment you need and how to use it properly, and how to edit your work. For long form projects, many people outsource their editing to an engineer (and include that expense in their fees), but when you're first starting out you likely won't be able to afford to do that. And, for smaller pieces like auditions, it is far more convenient to just edit the audio yourself. A good home studio can be very expensive, but you don't need to get all the fancy stuff right away. In fact, I would discourage that. You want to make sure this is something you really enjoy doing before you drop $3,000 on a microphone. Start with some basic equipment you can learn from, and upgrade as you become more proficient. There are a ton of tutorials and articles online, ranging from building soundproofing panels to what microphones are best to how to use editing software.
Be patient with yourself. This will not happen overnight. Fortunately, our industry is very welcoming and friendly. Join networking groups on social media. Follow smaller studios on Twitter and Instagram. Make friends who are also just starting out, and give each other constructive criticism (for example, you could plan monthly meetings to listen to samples of each other's work and trade tips on equipment). If you can afford it, look into attending a voice over conference in your region. Conferences and networking events are a great way to meet other people in the industry from a variety of experience levels. I can personally recommend VO Atlanta. Studios often host networking events. Do an internet search to see what's happening in your area, or in the nearest big city. Keep practicing, keep focusing on how you can improve both your acting and your technical knowledge. Don't start submitting for projects right away - give yourself time to make mistakes and learn your craft.
We are trying to make our industry better. This one is specifically for non-white creatives, female and non-binary creatives, disabled creatives, and queer creatives out there. Just like every other industry, it's hard when you're not a straight white able-bodied cisgendered male with rich parents. But I want to encourage you to keep going. Keep trying, keep learning, keep loving yourself and believing in yourself. There may be a lot working against you, but I promise you that there are people in this industry who are trying to change things and we are rooting for you. I'll be honest - change will be slow, and I know that you might have to put up with some nasty b.s., and it's not fair and it sucks. I just want you to know that for what it's worth, I want you to succeed.