Voice work is everywhere – from your car’s navigation system to your nephew’s favorite movie, and your brand new video game.
Because there are tons of voice work opportunities, many people want to try their luck in this lucrative profession. Voice work involves adding personality and eliciting emotion from your audience through the use of your voice. However, being a voice talent takes more than showcasing your stellar voice in front of a microphone. You cannot take your career to the next level without mastering a number of skills.
If you are interested in having a fruitful career ahead doing voice work, master the tips below.
Terminology You Need to Know
Before joining the voice work industry, you must learn the terms you will encounter in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. Enhancing your proficiency will dramatically improve your confidence and allow you to nail every audition. In this section, we will cover some of the most commonly used jargon in voice work.
Voice over and niche
You will probably hear this term the most out of all industry jargon, and if you know a little about the industry, you may already be familiar with it. Voice over (VO) refers to audio recorded or performed live in which you do not see the speaker. This category covers commercials, announcements, and events. Voice over is essential in every media form since it helps to build a story.
When you start working as a voice talent, you may be asked to pick a niche. This step involves choosing a specific area of the industry that matches what you can offer. For example, voice actors who can do animated voices can perform well in films and audiobooks. But don’t rush in choosing your niche. For many talents, this is something they figure out along the way.
Your demo reel is your most valuable weapon. This audio recording is essential to have for any portfolio since it showcases what voice work professionals can offer. Whenever you audition, you will present this to clients. So the demo reel acts as your professional resume.
Promo is one of the most popular niche choices of voice actors. It includes commercial ads on radio and television.
If a director asks you to sync, it means to match your vocal style from your previous takes to make the tracks consistent.
In the voice work industry, read is both a verb and a noun. When a client talks about read, they refer to your take on the script.
Bleed happens when the noises produced by your headphones or other devices are picked up by your microphone. Therefore, unwanted sounds are recorded.
This word means to highlight a specific phrase in your script while keeping your tone consistent.
Cans are another term for headphones.
This term refers to pausing for a long time.
Sound on tape
Also known as SOT, sound on tape stands for sound not performed by the talent, and is most common in films and tv ads.
You may notice ambient noises in some movie scenes where there are many people speaking at once, especially when the setting is in a party or restaurant. This is called Walla, and it is essential in stimulating the particular settings.
Essential Skills in Voice Work
Now that you know important voice work terms, it is time for a more in-depth look at the skills you need to master in the industry.
Working with script
For every project you will encounter, you will be working with a script. Working with your script is something you need to master. You may encounter badly written scripts that sound awkward when performed out loud. Despite this, you need to deliver the words with finesse.
The first step in learning how to work with a script is to be proficient at reading. You have to practice reading out loud every day. Record yourself and do not hesitate to be critical since it will improve your skills. Go back to pages and words you typically get wrong and read it again. You should also dedicate time to do technical practices. This step involves breathing exercises, pronunciation, diction tests, and tongue twisters.
However, the most important skill that will make your voice work career last is interpretation. This job entails adding life to a script and inspire emotions through your voice. To do this, imagine that you are simply talking to someone you are close with. Practice a handful of emotions such as anger, disgust, exhaustion, guilt, confidence, arrogance, shock, and hope.
You don’t have to be a tech wiz to capture the interest of clients, but learning basic technical skills is necessary since you will be using computers, recording tools, and mobile devices. This skill is particularly important if you work in your home studio. Whatever device you use, make sure it can do the job well. You don’t have to purchase the most expensive products on the market. Anything that will help you record a clear output will do.
Aside from devices, you should practice how to operate voice work software and apps. This ability will help you fine-tune your recordings and make sure they are flawless before they reach casting directors. These software options usually get updated every few months, so keep up with these changes since they may offer new features you need.
In this industry, time is money. Sometimes, you will be given scripts that are too long to read. Your goal should be to practice the lines and deliver them as quickly as you can without sacrificing quality. To achieve this, you have to be good at speed reading.
Speed reading requires a high level of concentration, so make sure your mind is clear. If hired to read an audiobook, you need to read the entire copy two to three times to get familiar with it. At first, the right balance of accuracy and speed will be hard to achieve, but it will get easier as you practice more.
When speed reading, remember to pay attention to punctuation since it sets the flow of how you read. If necessary, edit the script with your own punctuation and mark up words and phrases you need to stress.
A key part of speed reading is scanning ahead. Ideally, you should be looking at four words ahead from the one you are currently reading out loud. This tip will prevent you from stumbling on unfamiliar words. You should scan the words in advance to give your brain enough time to process them and formulate the right pronunciation. When you feel the pressure coming from the sound engineer, casting director, and director in the studio, you’ll be glad you practiced speed reading.
Using social media to promote
Many voice work professionals do not use social media to promote their work. However, this is something you need to get on board with since it will give you an edge. Totally foregoing social media in your marketing strategy means missing out on future clients. In an era where casting directors can simply look you up on the internet, it pays to have available information online that will increase your chances of getting hired.
The secret to social media promotion is consistent effort. You cannot simply post for a month straight, forget about it, and then expect it to do its job. This method is a long-term investment. With over 3.5 billion users, social media can deliver results if you take time to connect with people. However, you can’t simply post whatever you want. Ensure that your branding is consistent. Clearly identifying your brand will allow you to stand out in a competitive market.
The best feature of social media is its reach. It will allow you to meet people in different countries and build relationships with clients you would not meet otherwise.
Choosing an agent
Not all those who do voice work want to be represented by an agent. But if you do, you will gain many benefits. Agents are considered your business partners. These people work for you and aim to get you as much work as possible so you can maximize your career. An agent will also help you establish relationships and build a solid reputation.
There are many ways you can get an awesome agent. You may ask colleagues or even do a Google search. Before you pick an agent, do research and find their strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve signed, don’t expect that you’ll book hundreds of jobs in a matter of weeks. You still have to be proactive and continue building your style and delivery skill.
Creating a demo reel
While professionals in other industries apply for work through submitting their resumes, business cards, or headshots, voice work artists only need a professional demo reel. Because it encompasses all requirements, it has to be flawless. This short recorded audio needs to fully showcase each genre you can perform.
As a rule, showcase your best work first. If the client is not impressed with the first ten seconds of your audio, chances are, they will not finish it. You need to impress your clients as much as you can. Also, try to put in other recordings that show your vocal range, keeping in mind to make your brand consistent.
Edit your demo reel and pay attention to minor issues such as abrupt transitions, annoying volume changes, and unwanted noise. The last thing you want is not to get considered for a job because you blew the casting director’s eardrum off. The more polished your reel is, the more chances you will have of getting the job you want. It might help to get a professional coach to make your demo more effective.
One of the biggest challenges newbies face in the voice work industry is setting their rates. This difficulty is partly due to some clients who think doing voice over is easy. Typically, voice actors make $31,400 annually.
Although you may do a couple of free jobs to practice and market yourself in the beginning, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t hike up your prices too high as well. Generally, experienced voice work artists can charge higher rates4.
When determining your rate, think about how much your equipment costs. Then, factor in your overhead. This area includes the cost of keeping yourself healthy, insurance, business tax, your agent’s share, and studio rental. Finally, you should research standard rates in your location. When you are part of a union, you have to follow a predetermined fee.
Show The Voice Work Industry What You’ve Got
The voice work industry is growing now more than ever. With thousands of people around the globe taking an interest in its high paychecks, versatile working hours, and creativity, it’s no wonder why you want to get started. Although the competition is extreme, you can find the right projects if you are passionate about your work. When you follow the proven and tested tips listed above, it will only take a matter of time until you can build your own voice work empire.