When I lived in Chicago, there was a sports talk show host with a booming, commanding voice. Listeners often said he sounded like the voice from the burning bush talking to Moses and asked why he was never on television or the movies. When I met him in real life I asked him the same thing. He said that because he was 5′ 7″, whenever people met him, they said “I thought you’d be taller,” and walked away, seemingly disappointed. I asked if this had disappointed him and he replied “No. How many people struggle for years trying to make it in Hollywood or on TV. I have a great job on radio, but I clean up on doing voiceover. I can’t make myself taller, but they can’t fake a voice.”
So, do you have a great voice (and I mean in terms of talking, not singing)? A great voice can mean different things for different people and different situations. Think about in your daily life, how often you come across a voiceover. When you are on hold with customer service, a voice leads you through the menu commands. When you are watching a commercial, how often is it dominated by an unseen, commanding or soothing voice, coaxing you to take action, while the people on the screen are just acting in silence? How often have you found yourself too busy to read an interesting book and instead listening to an audiobook? Think about all of the cartoons and animated series you have watched over the years. These feature voice actors. Now consider the number of opportunities that exist in because of web based media properties in addition to traditional media All of these are performed by voiceover artists and the industry is growing and growing, providing more opportunities. As with most every topic on this site, there are opportunities to succeed in the voice over field. If you have the voice and the interest, let explore how to get there.
Most will remember the tale of Ted Williams, the homeless man in Columbus, Ohio who was interviewed by a Columbus Dispatch videographer. He explained that as a 14 year old his class had taken a field trip to meet a radio personality and he was surprised when he looked nothing like what Williams had envisioned. The man explained that radio was defined as “theater of mind” and Williams decided to pursue this as a career. After being derailed by alcoholism and drug abuse, he ended up homeless, setting the stage for the interview.
He performed an impromptu “radio promo” and the video footage went viral on YouTube. Almost overnight, Williams became one of the most talked about people in the world, featured in interviews on the top morning and entertainment shows and receiving numerous job offers as a voice over artist. Incredibly, just a week after holding up a sign begging for an opportunity to practice his craft, Williams was hired to voice over a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial. This rags to riches story seemed to be a dream that only Hollywood could create but it also inspired wannabe voice over artists around the world.
Like anything else, raw talent alone is rarely enough to make it in this industry, but it is the foundation upon which everything else is based. On The Stage Web site a question is asked about how hard it is to become successful in the industry. Peter Gold, a professional voiceover artist posits a great answer:
“Voice-over work can be highly paid and is very creatively rewarding as well, but it’s anything but easy to carve out a successful career as a voice-over. I consider myself very lucky indeed. A good voice is essential of course – although, increasingly, clients are looking for natural or normal-sounding voices as opposed to deep, mellifluous, ‘chocolatey’ voices. But you also need to know how to use your voice. Can you sound soft and aspirational? Can you sound wry and knowing? Can you sound authoritative? Can you sound like a daft goldfish with a Geordie accent? Can you switch deliveries halfway through a sentence? Can you get behind the script and work out which words the client would want you to bring out, but without landing on them too heavily, and fit a 36-second script into a 30-second read, without making it sound rushed? Can you do all of this while making it sound like the words are coming from your own head, rather than being read from a page? Can you take direction from three different people at once, without taking it personally or getting ruffled? And are you easy-going and fun to work with? Voice-over work isn’t rocket science, but there’s definitely more to it than most people might think. However, after ten years of doing it, I still think its one of the best jobs in the world.”
So, where do you begin? You must develop a strategy and plan the steps necessary to reach your goal.
You must learn how the industry works in order to become a part of it. What are the opportunities. Where are they. Do you need to move to another city or can you do voice overs out of your own home. Who are you up against. Are experienced people involved in the field (actors, deejays, news reporters)? Are there trade organizations? What kind of training is available? Are there voice over agencies? What is the potential compensation?
Voices.com provides a great introduction to the voice over industry.
The are many ways to learn or perfect your craft. The first and easiest is to simply search the Internet for voice over artists and study their performances. This of course is free and easy to do and there are many to choose from. Many promote themselves by doing interviews with media sources and other web sites proving their backgrounds and training methods. Another method would be to take an online training course. A third is to find a voice over coach. Which you choose, it important to work to improve and expand your craft throughout your career. A final option is to find information available for study in book and video form, as below.
A voice over demo is an audio or video file demonstrating your talent. Putting one together is akin to creating a great resume. You must consider your recrding equipment, duration, role, volume, target audience and script. You must consider wether you want to use your own equipment or to record your demo in a professional studio. Voices.com provides a great guide to preparing your demo. It suggests:
[quote style=”1″]Shoot for a demo length of 60 – 90 seconds. Keep voice-overs moving, and limit topic coverage to 5 or 6 segments. Try to use different vocal tones or ranges to break up the content, pace, and tone of your demos. Use musical backgrounds (known as jingles or music beds) or other non-music interludes (referred to as stagers, sweeps and ID’s) to transition between topics. These topic breaks are typically described as bumpers or sweepneed to digest the content you just presented.[/quote]
The site also provides a great list of software and equipment for recording. If you are going to create your own recordings, you must use the best equipment possible, especially your microphone. My best recommendation is the microphone that I personally use, the HEIL PR40. It is not inexpensive, but when your ability to impress a client with your demo reel or with your voice over content, you want to employ the best equipment possible. Sometimes, you really do have to pay for quality. At the same time, you need not be prohibited from pursuing a voice over career for lack of state of the art equipment. Purchase the best equipment you can afford as you can always upgrade it at a later time. Below are some options:
In this Internet age, the minimum you will need is a recording device and a computer as well as software to edit your demo. You can burn the demo to a disc or upload it as a digital file.
Now that you have everything ready to move forward you have to promote yourself and expand your business. The first thing you need to do is determine the name in which to market yourself. This can be your own name or a business name. Either way, you will need to market this name as the brand for your business. This brand will be used on business cards, marketing materials and a website. Some thought should go into paying the money necessary to protect your brand by trademarking the name and copyrighting your voice over content. Also put in the time and effort to develop a logo to represent your business – the logo will be the face of your business and your voice, the voice.
A web site is not necessary for every situation, but it is essential for a voice over business. Your web site will be your main marketing tool as well as a distribution platform for your voiceover content. Potential clients will be able to listen to your demo material on your web site ad current clients can preview the work you’ve done for them or download the finished product. A web site is so affordable that you can not afford not to have one.
Once you have your web site place, you can tie it in to other Internet properties to market your business and display your talents. There are web sites where you can create a profile with samples of your voice over demos, voice over talent agencies and other voice over resources. These online marketplaces are set up as a ready made service but there is more work that you can do on your own. According to Middleberg/Ross and the Pew Internet Project:
That’s a lot of eyes and ears and opportunities available to you.
Find situations where you can market yourself by offering to do free voice overs to use in your portfolio. Publicize your voice through any media appearances available including online interviews. One interest way is to get your voice heard by the masses in indirect ways. An example is Wayne Henderson of mediavoiceovers.com. Wayne often called into the “Weekly Lost Podcast” to make comments. The podcast which focused on the TV show “Lost” was heard by over 50,000 subscribers each week and invariably Wayne would call in every week. He would introduce himself as Wayne Henderson of Media Voiceovers and thus every week 50,000 listeners heard his voice and heard the name of his company. Soon thereafter, he created his own Lost podcast providing another platform and opportunity for listeners to hear his voice and the name of his company.
Social media is another way of marketing to the masses. It seems that new ones emerge everyday with different ways of finding your target audience. one new one is Pinterest. Here you can “pin” media on an online “board” that people discover because it is interesting to them. One idea would be to find interesting content, let’s say bonsai trees, and making a short youtube clip about it. Then you can post the youtube clip to the Pinterest board. Now, anyone finding bonsai of interest may come across your board and your clip and they will be able to hear your voice and the name of your company. Whichever social media platform you choose to use, they can help you to reach your target audience and expand the scope and reach of your business.
Your first step should be to search google for information related to voice overs and your plan will come together soon after.
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The Great Voice Company (http://www.greatvoice.com/get-started) – provides a great deal of information about getting into the industry and avoiding mistakes, distractions and pitfalls as well as training modules.
Vox Daily (http://blogs.voices.com/voxdaily/) – a daily blog aimed at helping voice talents.
WorkAtHomeDesk – (http://www.workathomedesk.com/directory/earn-money-from-your-voice.htm) – companies looking for voice talent.
VO Planet – http://www.voplanet.com – a resource for agencies and producers.
Edge Studio – http://www.edgestudio.com/ – a voice over education and production company.
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And now, not on point, and I know it’s singing but that’s a REAL commanding voice. His name is George Sanders and he’s not a bass, he’s a baritone.