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Guy Michaels, with 20 years in corporate voiceover and as director of Voiceover Kickstart, gives very frank and practical advice to anyone considering a voiceover career.
1. HOW DO I BREAK INTO VOICEOVER?
For a break-in to occur suggests that something, in this case the Voiceover Industry, is locked. It is not. If by ‘break in’ you are referring to the very small percentage of high-profile voiceover work such as a major brand on primetime television, then yes of course, this is not easy.
Still, there is no ‘breaking in’; instead, and not in equal measure: a commitment to train and develop your voice, a hunger to improve your communication skills (written and spoken), an understanding of the ‘business of voiceover’. a willingness to learn, embrace and tackle the technical side including recording techniques, software, acoustics, processing… and much more. And perhaps some luck, but luck which you do not wait around for
Success in business comes from recognising opportunities, being armed with the knowledge and key skills and then ultimately, knowing what action to take.
2. DO I NEED TO BE AN ACTOR?
No. Not at first anyway. Eventually you will be. The important thing is to respect that a trained actor has, in most cases, done the hard work to develop their voice and understanding of the mechanism. They have worked on key skills that transfer to voice acting and these are skills which you should learn to adopt and enhance in yourself. The equally important thing here is to know the value you bring as a human: a natural and unique communication style, your personality and originality. Often, voiceover requires you to be ‘you’, and who better to play that part?
3. DO I NEED TRAINING?
Yes. If only for confidence and focus. The problem with this question is ‘what kind of training?’. The job of the modern-day voiceover artist is a multi-skilled one. This means that you first need to identify what areas you need to work on. My FREE 4-week voiceover programme will go some way to help you in determining this. One of main benefits is working out what you are really good at in your most natural and almost effortless state.
I have strengths and I have weaknesses. I don’t work on my weaknesses. I ignore them. I cultivate my strengths.— Guitar player extraordinaire Steve Vai
While you may or not agree with that, in the early days of your voiceover career it makes sense to me that you should build strong foundations by identifying your natural strengths and cultivating those. Try not to think of this as a limitation.
4. DO I NEED TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON EQUIPMENT?
In one of my programmes I take a microphone with the value of approximately $85 and prove that it it’s possible to achieve a decent quality final product. So, no you do not need to spend hundreds. There is a jungle of terrible advice out there and I’ve genuinely lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen or heard a new voiceover needlessly spend nearly $1250 on a microphone thinking that it will make them sound better. It will not; in fact, it might even make them sound worse. Let’s get one thing clear here: the client doesn’t give a monkeys’ what microphone you are using. They don’t care how you achieved the clean crisp recording quality. They simply expect it.
5. DO I NEED A VOICEOVER DEMO, VOICE-REEL, VOICEOVER SHOWREEL… WHATEVER THEY ARE CALLED?
Does a model or a photographer need a portfolio? Unfortunately, the majority of so-called demo producers out there ranging from fancy Soho joints through to my ‘mate has a microphone and will do it for £99’, are conveyor belts. Choose wisely. Go on recommendation. You might not be ready to record; a professional producer will guide you in this decision and what you should focus on to bring about the best return on the investment. Do not produce your own demo. Just as you should not take your own headshot, you need an external director, producer and engineer to bring out the best performances and to design the polished finished product. If you find the right person to work with on your demo, you should trust them to make decisions and bring their expertise, experience and professional ear.
6. HOW DO I SIGN WITH A VOICEOVER AGENT?
An agent? But if you are reading this and just starting out… honestly, why would they be interested in you? Sorry if that sounds harsh but think about it. Agents are a business. Business is built on money and relationships and if you are just starting out, the likelihood is that you have created very little income from VO and will simply be contacting an agent blind with a plea for representation: “please take me on, I won’t earn you any money”. Every week I am contacted by someone with the opening statement ‘I want to record a voiceover demo so that I can get a voiceover agent.’ You mean you want to get paid work? These days having an agent is a desirable but non-essential ingredient for a successful voice acting career. I, and many of my colleagues, have developed healthy careers without an agent. For some work, they still hold the key and having a great voiceover agent will be very useful in terms of guidance and building your career. However, an over-reliance on what can be the most passive part of your career can be very limiting; you risk thinking that something is happening, that someone is doing all of the work for you, when in fact you need to take full control knowing that there are many other avenues to find consistent voiceover work.
7. WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT?
Stop. Think. Perhaps you are convinced or have been told many times that you have a great voice for voiceover? Before spending any money on training, demos or especially equipment, make sure that you fully engage with this:
TIME will be your biggest investment.
Time to develop your voice and understanding how to keep it in prime condition. Time to climb the path to technical expertise, knowing that you will need to set-up to record for auditioning and for a great deal of the work, delivering the final polished product as a pristine file of audio excellence. Time to become adept in marketing and seeking opportunities to create and nurture relationships.
If, after thinking about this, you are fired up to really become a voiceover artist… take some action before life gets in the way.
PRO TIP: Are you a on the VoicesUS talent team? If so, you automatically qualify for an exclusive discount on Guy’s voicereel services… login to grab the code! Your North American voiceover career is a click away!
Guy runs training programmes at voiceoverkickstart.com including the FREE 4 week programme. Fully online and taking just 15 mins a day this course is suitable for Voiceover Artists at all levels. Programmes include: Getting started in Voiceover Voiceover Skills Looking after your voice Setting up a homestudio Branding for Voiceovers Marketing for Voiceovers Self Direction
For the UK’s most respected and leading voiceover demo production facility see voice-reel.com.
Welcome to the VoicesUS blog. Here we explore all facets of the amazing world that is the voiceover industry. We feature guest authors on topics such as how to get started, what equipment is best for your recordings, how to find clients and how to best show off your skills on VoicesUS. To join our family of North American voiceover artists please click here. Submit a free casting to find the perfect voice for your project click here, we’re ready to help!