How do I get started in Voice Over?

A lot of people ask me what’s the best way to get started in voice over. Everyone from fellow actors to a guy sitting next to me on a plane have asked me for advice. So, to make it easy for me and you I wrote a blog about it.

The first thing you have to do is get coaching. There is a technique to this. It’s not just about how your voice sounds.  It’s about breaking down the script, it’s about visualizing the commercial, it’s about giving variety, etc. A lot of people think they should do voice over because they have that “voice over-y” (not be confused with “voice ovaries”) sound, and everyone says, “Oh, you have a great voice. You should do voice over.” It’s more than that. 

I now do coaching for voice over at The Green Room Studio and we have beginner classes as well! Email me at Courtney@CourtneyRioux.com for private lessons. 

Being an actor is helpful, but not a necessity. Actors make great voice over talent because they can bring more imagination to the script than the normal announcer voice. If you’re not an actor, take an acting class and an improv class on top of your voice over training. A lot of times, they ask for someone who does not sound like an announcer, but like a real person. This can be tougher than it seems when you’re reading an “announcer-y” script.

Next you’ll want to get a Demo. A demo should be a representation of your best work, but if you don’t have any work yet, you can get a demo made at a studio. It should sound like it’s a representation of your best work. You did actually do the spots… It’s just that you paid to do them instead of getting paid to do them. Your demo should have spots on it for which you’d most likely get cast. If you sound like a bubbly teen, a luxury car ad might not be your thing.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Know your brand. Click to tweet!

Since voice over is highly competitive, it’s best not to make the demo at home in your basement. Remember, it’s an investment. The goal is to make your money back and more. You should go somewhere professional that can make the spots sound like real commercials that advertising agencies made and were put on the air. That way, the decision makers think you have “been there, done that” and can be trusted with a real spot. Remember, their butt is on the line when it comes to the finished product, so they won’t hire an amateur to be nice and “give you a shot at this”. Of course, the coaching helps you act like a pro once you get hired straight from your demo! Agents don’t necessarily need a professional demo, but the people who are hiring you will definitely want to hear one! I’ve been hired straight from my demo several times.

Next, you need to learn about the business of voice over and how to promote your demo to the right people. You wouldn’t open up any other business and not advertise it. Voice over is the same way. You need to promote yourself. You are the business. You should have a brand, a website that has your demos on it, and marketing materials to send out. Remember, you are advertising yourself to advertising agencies. It has to look good. Hopefully whoever is doing your coaching and demo can also shed light on this as well. Do not expect your agents to do this for you. They have hundreds of talent besides you. You have to do most of the work to get your name out there.

You’ll want to get an agent that specializes in voice over. In on-camera acting, there are casting directors who act as middle men between the agent and the producer. In voice over, rarely will there be a casting director. It’s usually your agent who submits you directly to the decision-makers at the ad agency. That’s why having a killer voice over agent is key (I love my ladies at Stewart!!) Some voice over agents get invited to more auditions via voice bank than others.  You can get more auditions with the right agent, which means booking more jobs. This is less true in the on-camera world where mostly every agent gets invited to the same auditions.

You can resubmit to an agent every 3-6 months. Sometimes, it’s all about the timing. I was lucky that when I sent Stewart my postcard, they had just lost a talent like me so I got to replace her spot in their roster. Otherwise, even though they liked me they could’ve said, “Sorry, we have too many actors just like you.” Don’t ever take it personally and don’t give up.

Since I’m in Chicago, I can recommend great studios in Chicago to get help with your voice over needs. Some of them work with out-of-state talent, so be sure to ask. Do your own research, make some phone calls and see who is the best fit for you!

I went to Sound Advice (voiceoverinfo.com) and in fact, I used to work there for about a year and a half after I got my demo. They coached me, produced my demo and taught me about the business. They have many great tools you can purchase even if you don’t go to them for your other needs. There’s a vocal warm-up CD that I love that’s good for improving your diction and getting rid of that pesky mouth noise. They also cast voice over jobs at their sister company, Big House Audio (not to be confused with Big Mouth Agency.)

There’s also The Acting Studio Chicago for voice over classes, and some of the voice over teachers there make demos as well. Deb Doetzer and Dave Leffel both coach and make demos. 

Audio Producers Group does casting as well as coaching and making demos.

Jobe Cerny (you know him as the Pillsbury Doughboy) creates demos as well.

The Fox Hole is another affordable place to get a demo. 

Make sure you do your research to see what is the best fit for you. Listen to other voice over demos on agency websites, on voicebank.net and on the websites of the demo producers.

Some other helpful websites:

Voice Bank – This is where your agents submit you for auditions, but you can also find talent agencies, advertising agencies, other voice over talent and other helpful resources.

Voice Over Recording– Erik Martin will help you set up your home studio and teach you how to record auditions from home!  He also wrote a book called iVoiceover that’s a great tool for setting up an affordable home studio to record your auditions from the comfort of your own home.

Voice-Over Xtra!– a great newsletter.

The facebook of Voice Over- Voice Over Universe. 

Casting Sites-

Voice123

Voices.com

Check out SAG-AFTRA Franchised voice over agents. Go to locals and search for voice over agents. You can have a voice over agent out-of-state if you can record from home.

You can listen to my demos at www.courtneyrioux.com

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