Almost all successful voice over artists share a common trait. And it’s NOT just their great voices that result in paid voiceover work year after year. Their one shared key quality is much grittier than that.
Getting started as a voice actor can be tough in a lot of ways.
And it’s never more tough than when it feels like everyone is crushing it but you.
But there’s a rule of thumb when separating the (eventually) successful voice actor from the rest of the pack.
Here it is…
Successful Voice Over Artists Stick it Out
Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
I hate to sound like a motivational speaker, dropping dull platitudes like
snake oil science or something.
But sticking it out and grinding even though success eludes you is a common thread in all types of success stories. How else are you supposed to learn what works?
And it’s unrealistic to decide to become a voice actor one day – and expect to start making money from it next week.
Hey, let’s be real here…
Most Voice Actors Won’t Be Successful in Their First Year
Your social media feed might be full of self-touted success stories of professional voiceover artists that *poof* made a six-figure income in their first year.
And, yeah, it does happen for a few (congratulations to them, btw!).
But that’s not very common.
And that’s because there’s a lot to do in your first year – before you’re really up and running.
Here are some of the things voice artists will be doing in that first year (and maybe longer)
- Training: Whether it’s hiring a voiceover coach, taking an online course or reading every single Reddit post on the subject of voice acting until your eyes bleed. Then, you gotta find a way to apply that training.
- Practicing: You’ll practice reading like crazy at the beginning of your career. And the truly successful voice talent never stops practicing. Ever.
- Researching and Buying Gear: It doesn’t have to break the bank. But if you’re planning on making voice acting your profession, there are some investments you’ll need to make. Microphones, audio interfaces and monitoring headphones aren’t exactly cheap. But you can do yourself a huge financial favor by researching diligently and buying within your budget. Remember: quality work is about your performance – not the brand name on the side of your mic.
- Learning How to Use Your Equipment: There’s a curve. But once you get it, you’ve GOT it.
- Cutting a Demo: This is a recorded representation of what you can do as a voice actor. Like a business card showing your dynamic versatility in .mp3 format. Don’t do this until you’ve practiced like crazy. Then practice some more. A bad sounding demo reel does more harm than good.
- Getting Out There and Auditioning: At some point, you’ll begin to audition for paid voiceover work. Whether it’s for commercials, video games, educational videos, as a narrator for an audiobook or announcements for the subway – there’s a lot of work out there. And you want some of it. Most voice actors don’t get a paid booking from their first audition. Or their tenth for that matter.
- Trying, Failing and Adjusting: Most voice over artists end up engaged in the constant calculus of trying what they think will work, realizing it doesn’t, adjusting, then firing for effect. Again and again.
That’s a Lot
And I don’t point any of this out to scare you. Quite the opposite.
Use those bullet points as a rough roadmap if you decide to go forward with voiceover.
But also, it should help you see that the voice actor you peeped on Instagram bragging about their overnight first-year success is probably the exception, not the rule.
Common Pitfalls For Beginner Voice Actors
While this stuff can befall seasoned professionals as well, it’s more pronounced with beginners.
- Getting discouraged. Many beginners get overwhelmed by the process – or discouraged by their lack of quick success – and just quit.
- A lot of voice actors rely on getting auditions from one source. Whether you’re on the voiceover marketplaces (pay-to-play sites), the freelancer websites – or you have an agent – it’s always a good idea to diversify. See what’s out there. The grass may truly be greener on your side of the fence. Or you might discover a world of casting / work opportunities you never knew existed.
- Some voice over artists focus in too narrowly. They’ve had success in one type of voiceover, and never try their hand at anything else (that they might end up being even better at). Which segues into…
- The beginner and professional voice artist alike should step out of their comfort zone. I’ve written about this before – but it’s a wide open world of VO work possibilities. And it’s easy to get complacent and stuck in a rut if you never take chances.
Start Your Career as a Voice Actor
Voice Over: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Regardless of whether you’re struggling or your career is on the rise, here’s the deal:
All Beginner Voice Over Artists Are in the Same Boat
That bit of knowledge made things a tiny bit easier for me when I was just starting out.
Because there is a little solidarity when you know your struggles are shared by the vast majority of people that try their hands at becoming a voice actor.
Sure, the difference between the best voice actor and someone who gave up along the way may also have things like luck, talent and opportunity factored into their different equations.
But you also know that the successful voice actor STUCK. IT. OUT. Even when things weren’t exactly going their way.
And Remember: Professional Voice Actors Weren’t Always Successful
Obviously, this doesn’t only apply to voice actors. You hear stories all the time of people achieving great things after working hard with little reward for years.
Things You Can Do to Prepare Yourself
- Always be practicing. Read a script and see if you can find the flexibility in your performance to engage multiple deliveries from the same dialogue.
- Watch TV. Emulate the performances you hear in ads – in your own voice.
- Take an industry focused course.
- Hire a vocal coach. Make sure they specialize in voiceover.
- Step out of your comfort zone.
- Define what success means to you. This is a big one. Everyone has a different definition.
- Roll with the punches. A doctor buddy of mine used to say, “It’s always the last treatment you try that ends up working.” Well, that loosely applies to VO too. You may find success on the 50th try – after 49 failures. But, in finding that sweet success, you also learned intimately about what doesn’t work (or hasn’t worked yet). Also, the VO industry is sure to change throughout the lifetime of your career. Flexibility will allow you to adjust and be there effectively for those changes.
We all start off as voice over artists essentially the same. At the bottom. And it’s hard.
Sticking it out when things are tough, and might seem hopeless, is one factor that most eventual successes stories tend to have in common.
Because there’s no shame in busting ass, falling down – then getting up to do it all over again. In fact, consider it a badge of honor.
And check out these other things beginner voice actors should know:
- 5 Things You Should Know Before Becoming a Voice Actor
- Why Commercial Voiceover Offers the Most Opportunities to Voice Actors
- 9 Audition Tips for Beginner Voice Actors
- How Much Money Do Voice Actors Make?
Curious about how to start your voice acting career? Want to learn more about voice acting and the things beginners should know about the voice over industry? Bring your natural talent and check out my class for beginners!