You have seen Becky Jo Harris before. An actress based out of Los Angeles, Becky (aka Rebecca Gambino) has shown up in commercials for DoorDash, Offerpad, NFL on ESPN, and Hulu (she’s the girl who flies out of the roof of her car). She’s also a member of the improv group Groundlings and regularly appears in short films and TV series like Amazon Prime’s “Horse Camp.”
But as familiar as Ms. Harris’ face might be, her voice may be even more universal. A freelance voice over artist, Becky has narrated multiple audio books on Audible. She’s voiced six different animated characters for the mobile game app Sweet Sins Superstars. And she’s had the unique distinction of calling up a company and being answered by an automated system using her voice.
What’s remarkable is that while Becky’s only been voice acting professionally for three and a half years, she’s managed to pick up voice over gigs from seemingly everywhere. Hectic caught up with Becky Jo Harris to get the inside story on how freelance voice actors build successful careers today — and how to get good voice acting gigs.
I had one friend who was doing audiobooks and I asked him how he did it. He told me about this one website, the Audio Book Creator Exchange (ACX). You create a profile and let them know what kind of books you want to record — self-help, fiction, autobiographies etc. — how much you want to be paid, how many words you want to do, and whether you want to be paid in residuals or at an hourly rate
So, I bought a RODE NT1 Microphone with scarlet condenser — it filters out more background noise —used GarageBand on my Mac Book to record, and started auditioning. It was all trial and error and being willing to suck at the beginning. As long as someone likes you and believes your voice is good for their book, you’ll get booked on there. So, it’s a good place to start building your resume.
One of the reasons I started with audio books was because I wanted to get on a site called The Voice Realm where you have to submit what’s called a “dry demo.” That’s a demo that just has your voiceover work without music so people know it’s not edited. So, I decided to practice by recording audio books, built myself a good dry demo, submitted it, and got accepted to The Voice Realm.
You do have to pay a fee every year for The Voice Realm, but there are so many jobs, so many opportunities to audition that you’re able to make back what you paid. I’ve booked industrials through The Voice Realm. I’ve done a few voice mails for different companies — I called one, and the recording was like, “We are currently not available…” and it was my voice! It was so weird. Little things like that, it makes it so exciting.
Different ads. I did one for Discord and one for Spotify that’s going to be running for “Dollface” Season 2. It’s weird because in The Voice Realm, there are so many different jobs out there. I did a voice over for one of those virtual tours for an apartment complex in Texas. My voice is actually giving people a tour through the apartment complex.
I feel that with voice over, it’s such a good medium because you can do anything. As long as you’re willing to keep working at it and audition, I feel there’s a never-ending flow of possibilities. Sometimes you’re in the elevator and you hear a recording saying, “Going down!” Well, somebody had to record that!
I think every actor has to have their eggs in ten billion baskets and voice over work is just one of those baskets. As an actor, if you’re not doing voice work, it’s like — what are you doing? You already have the tools. You just need a mic.
If I didn’t have my eggs in a billion baskets, I wouldn’t be working. Since I have the voice over stuff and the film acting stuff, if the commercial stuff slows, other jobs will still be there.
Initially, I was in a sketch comedy group. And from there I took some improv classes. And that helped me figure out how to be more in the moment and listen. I still take scene study classes every other week. It helps to build that acting knowledge.
I took classes with Real Voice LA. They help you find your voice — the cadence of it, when to go up on a line, when to go down, when to speed through dialogue, and when to take your time.
I also took a couple animation voice over intensives through the Groundlings. It helps, especially with audio books and fiction where you have a lot of different characters.
I say, any kind of class, it can’t hurt. Look at the reviews, see what people think, get some feedback and just start.
My recording studio is my closet! There are so many different ways you can do it. For me, if you have a good walk-in closet or a space that’s not going to echo a bunch and has surface area that’s covered and muffled, it’s going to work just fine. Sometimes you can just use a big blanket and put it over yourself like those old timey photographers and do the voice. You just got to do what you’ve got to do. As long as it’s covered and there’s no echo, you’re good.
You can buy a cover or cube to put around your mic. I’ve never done that, but I did buy some foam padding that I can put on my walls. I close the door with the padding and it works well. I get good feedback, so it’s like, if it’s not broke…
You can choose to be paid by the hour — but when I say hourly rate, I mean per finished recorded hour, not every hour you work. So, sometimes every finished hour can take five hours if you’re just starting out. As you get more efficient, it can take two or three hours.
It’s a lot of work. You have to read through the copy first, then voice it, then edit it, and then listen to what you’ve edited — so you’re almost reading and listening to it four times. So, you really understand the dialogue.
I think The Voice Realm or any of the intermediaries that get the client and let you audition for them are the place to start. You do have to pay a fee, but they are bringing in clients and you know for a fact that the client will pay.
You have to have a voice over agent for bookings like animation. An agent will help you book more union work, which means you get paid more as a voice over actor.
But you still get paid pretty well without one — there are some jobs on ACX and The Voice Realm that can be upwards of a thousand dollars just for recording twenty words. Of course, a lot of people will be submitting for it — it’s competitive — but there are possibilities.
Referrals are good. That’s why taking classes consistently is good. You can work with instructors who have voice over agents who can refer you or even network with students in the class who can refer you to their agent.
Building your resume and consistently working at it is important. Getting a new voice over demo and constantly updating stuff. Constantly submitting and resubmitting even if you don’t hear back. You just have to keep going at it.
There was one website that was doing a deal on voice over demos — I got them done by taking a course with them. I did a commercial voice over demo and a narrative voice over demo for audiobooks and they came out really good.
My next goal is to reproduce what I have in my commercial demo and put in some new spots while taking out some old ones. Real Voice LA does that — they doctor your old voice over demos. You work with them to figure out what characters you want to do and they give you scripts. I would probably book “The Princess” and maybe “Anime”!
The way I approach it is if I see a breakdown that says “Male, 30s,” and I read it and feel it could be female, I usually go in if it’s an in-person audition or email them and ask if I can still audition for this. And a lot of times, they’re like, “Yeah, why not?”
And I’ve done it to where they’ve changed roles to be female, because they’re like, “Actually, you get it more than all the males that came in and auditioned!” So, I think that’s the way — to be proactive.
But I feel that things are starting to lean more towards females, slowly but surely. More castings are starting to be for female voice overs, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a female voice on a movie trailer. Even in sitcoms, you always have a guy.
I feel like if you’re posting your work on Instagram or Facebook, it’s almost like a living resume that anybody who wants to possibly book you can go on and be like, “Oh, wow! She did that?” It’s different from just listing it on a resume.
To intersplice that, I also post videos of sketches on Instagram with me doing different characters. So, that’s my approach. And it seems to be working.
You never know. Some random sketch you put out there? Someone will see it and be like, “Wait! That’s a character I’ve been wanting to do!” And all of a sudden, they’re writing a character for you.
Keep up with Becky’s growing career on her Instagram page, itsbeckyjoharris.
Freelancers who “have their eggs in ten billion baskets” need help keeping all of their contracts and projects organized. Find out how Hectic can help you build a career with multiple clients.