How do you become a voice actor as a beginner?
We're frequently asked that question. The reality is that people start a voice acting career in different ways. Many come from traditional acting backgrounds, such as theatre, while others begin as an on-air radio talent. Some have started as copywriters, comedians, and even musicians.
Chances are you're interested in voice acting because someone said you have a nice voice. Maybe you're a fan of video games and anime and thought, "I want to do that." Either way, you've taken the initiative to become a voice actor, so let's look at 6 actions you can apply to begin your voice acting career.
1. Build Acting Skills
First and foremost, voice actors are indeed actors regardless of how they started, so you must develop your acting skills. This is crucial for longterm success! The best move you can make is to enroll in some acting classes immediately.
This is one of those Homer Simpson "Doh!" moments for many, but it's not always apparent to beginners whose ambition supersedes their skill. If this is you, don't worry because you're not alone and the good news is that you have the desire to learn!
Start building your acting chops by taking acting classes at your local college or theatre. If your pockets are empty, check with your community theatre and see if it offers free or acting workshops. If you're in school, sign up for the drama club. It's essential to get involved in traditional stage acting because the skills you'll learn, apply to voiceover and voice acting.
2: Take an Improv Class
Secondly, take an improv class! You can do this concurrently with step one, and we would say it's equally important. Improv develops your sense of play and exploration. It builds confidence and breaks down shyness in a safe environment, which is perfect for a beginning voice actor. It's also tremendous fun!
You may be surprised to discover that improv classes are not always about humor. Its core tenant of "Yes, and…" teaches listening skills that help you play off other actors and create authenticity in your performances. These same listening skills assist your comprehension when taking direction in the VO booth. Listening is oft-overlooked in voice over.
Equally significant, improv provides you the freedom to conceptualize ideas and explore emotions that otherwise may be foreign to your natural self. Real growth as an actor can be achieved here because it moves you out of your comfort zone to develop characters of depth.
All actors benefit from improv classes, particularly those yearning to voice animation and video games. You'd be wise to sign up for a course immediately!
3. Observe. Observe. Observe.
If you can't tell already, observing the world and people around you is fundamentally imperative in preparing yourself as an actor. It helps you understand the complex emotions of the human condition, which you can use to create performances filled with nuance.
By observing people, you gain a unique perspective that is different from your own, one that adds to your acting toolset. Note how these observations can be employed during improv.
Observe your family members as a natural starting point. As best you can, identify emotions and physical qualities that are both similar and different from your own. Ask yourself, how would that person react in different situations? How would you portray them in different scenarios? Expand on this exercise by observing people in your community.
Observation is also quintessential in getting voice-over work. In other words, observe what's happening in the industry.
Pay attention to current trends in commercials and video games! As you become aware of voice over styles that are booking, you can seek out and adjust your auditions accordingly. This action increases your chance of booking success as it's not uncommon for advertising agencies to "recycle" ideas from one another.
Know the trends and cash in! Visit ispot.tv to watch a bounty of commercials from which to learn.
Don't stop there—Research the movers and shakers in the industry, fellow voice over talent, and those hiring talent. Google can be your friend, but most major cites have production guidebooks that make research expedient. Hint - you also may want to list yourself in one of these books.
The point is that observation, in its many forms, leads to greater prosperity. Be mindful of the world around you, and reap the rewards.
You have to walk before you run, and while some voice actors are naturally gifted, they still work at perfecting and honing their craft. Improving and developing your skills should never stop. Start building a strong work ethic now by practicing your voice acting prowess every day. It's the most cost-effective and most straightforward way to reach your voice over goals! While success is not guaranteed, it's to hard argue with talent.
Here's a free and quick way to get started that's perfect for the beginning voice actor.
Download our packet of free voice over scripts and record yourself performing each. Using your phone's voice memo is perfectly acceptable. (Watch our series microphone comparisons on YouTube if you don't have a mic yet.) Listen back and analyze how you sounded.
What can you do to change your performance? How would you elicit different emotional responses from the listener? Do you sound connected, as if you're talking to one person? Would a professional talent approach it differently? Revisit the idea of observation to help you create different tactics for the scripts.
Work this process at least 30 minutes a day to improve your voice over skills and increase vocal strength and longevity.
5. Jump In
Waiting can be the worst mistake one can make. If you genuinely want to a voice actor, prioritize it in your life and get involved however you can! Seek out opportunities to work for free if need be. You can work on student projects, low-budget web series, independent games, and even reading books for the blind are great ways to build skills and a resumé, which can lead to paid work.
However, we do urge you not to work for free when money should be available, such as providing a voice over for a company's marketing video. This free "opportunity" ultimately costs every talent, including you, because it devalues the skill a voice actor has worked to develop.
That being said, let out your inner 5-year old jump in!
6. Be a Professional
While much of voiceover is silly voices and sweat-pants, you have to remember to be a professional, which means the obvious like showing up to a session on time. Still, more importantly, it means treating your voice over career as a business. Even if only a sole proprietorship.
Having a business mindset helps negotiate contracts and collect money owed. It forces you to think about marketing and sales goals. (i.e., selling your skills and reaching professional goals) It's prudent when making financial decisions like when to spend money on equipment, training, or marketing. It also resolves internal conflicts and helps keep you in legal compliance with government agencies. In other words, being a professional means taking care of the business of business. This means doing the stuff few like to do, but must be done regardless.
As a beginning voice actor, don't overwhelm yourself with the business of the business right now, because it can kill your creative mojo.
It's more important to keep your momentum moving forward and staying focused on your professional aspirations. Revisit the business side once you're ready. However, minding the business early will lead to more of the fun stuff!
It's time to start taking action!
This list is not exhaustive, but the most important thing you can do as a beginning voice actor is to take action. Do this right now!
Write down exactly the goals you want to achieve and a timeline to reach them. Make a one week plan, one month plan, and one year plan. Next, write down the specific actions you will take to reach your goals.
Use this list as an idea generator. Start with small actions if needed.
"Today, I will sign up for improv classes."
"Tomorrow, I will call five producers."
"I will practice my cold reading skills for 1 hour every day at 3 pm"
"Today, I will write my one week-plan of actions to take to pursue my voiceover career."
We assure you that as you progress through your action plan, you will discover additional steps to exercise which are specific to your journey. Now your off and running and are no longer a beginner voice actor! Continue by making a list of achievement milestones.
Share your success and goals with us and others by leaving a comment below. In the meantime, all the best on your voice over success!