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What Is a Voice-Over Actor?
A voice-over actor is a performer who uses their voice to entertain, narrate, or market products for commercials, animation, audiobooks, video games, and educational content. In addition to doing impressions, mimicry, or character voices, a voice actor must also possess acting skills. Since voice actors are rarely seen on-screen, their voice is their only means of expressing their emotions. Voice actors must train and practice religiously, always improving their vocal skills to deliver the best performance possible.
What Does a Voice Actor Do?
A voice actor reads and records copy, scripts, or other written material in a vocal booth, delivering lines directly or performatively, depending on the project’s requirements. They must change inflections, provide different deliveries, enunciate impeccably, and alter their tone to get the necessary performance for the program or soundbite. Voice-over actors provide their voices for cartoons, anime, video games, commercials, narration, audiobooks, dubbing, e-learning, and promos. Many professional voice-over artists set up a soundproof home studio to use for recording, auditioning, or practicing.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Voice Actor?
The voice-over industry is incredibly competitive, but there are many benefits for those lucky enough to find consistent voice-acting work:
- Work from home. You can record many voice-over jobs in a home studio, giving you the freedom to work from home and avoid commuting and parking fees.
- Make your own hours. Some voice actors start off working part-time while financially supporting themselves with their day job. Working part-time provides flexibility with scheduling, putting you in a better position to choose what times you work and audition, creating a schedule that best suits your needs.
- Be your own boss. Being your own boss is another perk of working as a voice actor. You can set your schedule and decide which jobs to accept or decline. Once you start working consistently, you can become even more selective about the types of projects you pursue.
- Projects can be financially lucrative. Some commercial voice-acting work can be incredibly lucrative, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for recording a brief spot for national radio and television commercials.
What Are the Disadvantages of Being a Voice Actor?
While voice acting has many benefits, there are some downsides, such as:
- Unsteady work. Finding steady work in the voice-acting industry can be challenging because it’s a highly coveted job, like traditional acting. The sector is mostly freelance, which means if you don’t hustle to find opportunities, you may not work at all. Voice-over artists need to network and build strong working relationships to land the right jobs as they build upon their skills.
- Heavy competition. Landing a job can be difficult because there is so much competition from aspiring, intermediate, and veteran talent. Even established voice artists enter periods where they struggle to find work for themselves. You may go on dozens of auditions before you land a role, so aspiring voice-over actors must be prepared to handle rejection.
- Setup can be expensive. Whether you’re auditioning for a voice-acting job or recording lines for a job, it’s helpful to have an at-home recording studio setup. Creating a soundproof booth and investing in quality recording equipment and software can be expensive and requires time to learn how to use it correctly. Creating the right setup requires patience and commitment, especially for vocal talents who aren’t tech-savvy.
- It can be hard on the voice. Voice actors must take great care to keep their voices healthy and in working shape. Voice actors have to prevent or take care of any vocal strain that can severely impair their ability to use their voices correctly.
How to Become a Voice Actor
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Here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of establishing a successful voice-acting career:
- Take acting classes. Voice acting isn’t just reading words on a page—it requires acting skill. Taking lessons with an acting coach can help hone and refine your abilities, making you a more confident and believable performer.
- Hire a voice-acting coach. Voice acting requires more than using a funny voice or making impressions. A voice-acting coach can help you improve your technical skills like breathing, pronunciation, articulation, and delivery so that you know how to perform each line as best as possible.
- Listen to the professionals. Watch commercials, cartoons, or play video games to study your favorite professional voice actor’s work. Listen to the choices they make in their delivery, and take notes on how they vary their tone and inflections. You can also listen to voice-acting podcasts to get tips on how professional voice actors approach specific roles.
- Record a demo. A voice-over demo reel is similar to a sizzle reel for a traditional actor, except there are no accompanying visuals. A voice talent’s professional demo reel is essentially a medley of various lines or dialogue performed in different voices. Most voice actors have separate demos for their commercial abilities and character work. You can upload these demos to audition sites or look up talent agencies that will accept unsolicited submissions and potentially take you on as a client.
- Audition. Auditions are an essential part of the voice-acting process because it’s how you land jobs. Only audition for roles that best suit your talent to sidestep unnecessary rejection. Look for open casting calls on the Internet or find a dedicated voice talent website where you can find and submit auditions. Read your sides, study the character breakdowns, practice good pronunciation, and avoid smoking or drinking acidic beverages before recording your audition.
- Practice. It’s important to practice even when you aren’t in a professional recording studio. Many professional voice-over actors have home studios for recording voice-over acting auditions and honing their recording skills. Once you have a full setup, practice reading copy and listening back to your recordings. Practice will help you develop a professional-sounding voice that will appeal to casting directors and audiences.
- Network. You can use networking for employment opportunities, building friendships, and learning more about different aspects of your voice-acting career. Expanding your social network can increase the chances an opportunity may come along through someone you know. Networking is a two-way street, and it’s important to help your connections in any way you can. Whatever you have to bring to the table, use it generously to let your contacts know you care about their success.
Ready to Get the Voices in Your Head Out Into the World?
All you need is a MasterClass Annual Membership and our exclusive video lessons from Nancy Cartwright, the Emmy-winning voice actor responsible for bringing beloved animated characters—like Bart Simpson and Chuckie Finster—to life. With Nancy’s help, you’ll be ready to use your voice as an instrument in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways.