From commercials to cartoons, voiceover work is more common than many people realize. Breaking into the industry usually requires time, money, dedication, and often insider connections, so a freelance career as a voiceover artist isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re passionate about becoming a self-employed voice artist, there are steps you can take to start your journey on the right foot.
Things to Consider Before Diving In
The voiceover industry is similar to the traditional acting industry, with some key differences. While you don’t necessarily need to practice your facial expressions in the mirror, you still need to hone your acting chops if you want to make it. It’s not enough just to have a unique voice — you need to know how to use it effectively. If you don’t have any acting experience, you may want to start there and then move into voiceover work as you gain experience, skills, and connections.
Depending on where in Canada you live, there may be quite a bit of competition already, and if not, it may be because voiceover gigs are few and far between. A large city such as Toronto or Montreal is going to have more opportunities, but competition may be fierce. It often takes a significant amount of time to become a full-time voice artist, and location can play a major role in whether or not you’re able to find work, so don’t expect immediate gratification.
Hone Your Voice Acting Skills
If you’re determined to become a voice actor, naturally the first step is to find your voice and hone your chops. If you have a very distinct voice, you may want to focus on developing it further. Another option is to work on multiple voices so you can appeal to a broad range of potential employers. Regardless of which path you choose, you need to develop your talent if you want people to take notice.
Like any art form, becoming a skilled voice artist takes practice, practice, and more practice. Spend some time watching and listening to media that has voiceover work. Pay close attention to the details. Imitate them, and then try to develop your own style. Practicing in your bedroom is fine, but eventually you’re going to need to engage in other acting activities to expand your horizons. If you have a local theater, you could audition for a role. Or you could look into joining a local improv troop. Traditional acting and voice acting go hand-in-hand, and it’s much easier to gain experience with traditional acting, as voice acting tends to take place behind the scenes in recording studios.
Produce a Demo Reel at Home
Once you feel like you’ve made some legitimate progress as an actor and as a voice artist, it’s time to create a demo so you can show people. After all, most of the time you’re not going to be able to walk up to someone and start talking in funny voices to strut your stuff. Fortunately, these days it’s possible to make a high-quality recording at home without spending a fortune, even if you’re not well-versed in recording equipment.
With a computer, microphone, and a basic audio interface, you can create recordings that are good enough to show people. In fact, you may even get by without the audio interface if you use a USB microphone. The Shure SM58 is often the go-to dynamic microphone for vocalists and voiceover artists, but a condenser microphone can also provide added warmth and clarity, although they’re typically not as durable. Condenser microphones may also add color to the signal, whereas dynamic microphones tend to be more true to the original sound. Whether you use a dynamic or condenser microphone is largely a matter of preference, so do some research and decide which option fits your approach. You’re also going to need a recording program — Audacity is a popular free, beginner-friendly option.
Once you have your gear in place, it’s time to start recording. What you record is entirely up to you, but it should be relevant to your desired field. For example, if you’re hoping to narrate commercials, don’t showcase your hilarious cartoon voices. Create a demo that highlights what you bring to the table. Make sure it’s interesting right from the beginning, as potential employers may only listen to the first few seconds of it.
Show the World Your Demo
Now that you can prove you have what it takes to turn your voice into a freelance career, it’s time to start putting yourself out there. You may want to start by showing friends, family members, and other voice actors your demo so you can get some honest feedback. If everything checks out, you can start contacting production companies, casting agencies, and anyone who is part of the entertainment industry. Networking is a huge part of getting that first gig, so talk to people in-person and online. Attend relevant events, join online forums, and follow relevant social-media pages. Joining the entertainment community is the only way you’re going to make the connections necessary to get hired.
It may take a significant amount of time and effort, but once you get that first professional recording with your voice on it, things get much easier. In the early stages, you may find yourself in a catch-22 situation where you need experience to get work, but you can’t get experience without work. Be persistent, and always be on the lookout for opportunities. You may need to start with small gigs such as reading for a local commercial or being a guest on a local podcast. Try to get your voice recorded whenever possible, in any setting available. Every time you’re recorded, you have a new addition for your portfolio.
Becoming a self-employed voiceover artist isn’t easy, so try not to get discouraged. Start by honing your acting chops, creating a demo, and meeting other actors. From there, anything is possible.