Voice-over artist

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Voice-over artist

Voices surround us, often in ways we don’t recognize. Think: Siri’s distinct voice, or the voiceover of an epic movie ad, or even the (horribly shrill) voice of your child’s singing sloth toy—all of these feature the work of a voice artist.

From audiobooks to animation to automated prompts, the voice-over industry offers numerous opportunities to build your own voice acting career. If you want to lend your voice to these projects, however, you first have to know how to use it. 

What is a voice-over artist?

A voice-over artist uses his or her voice to play a character, narrate a story, or share information. 

The endless possibilities are why freelance voice artist Becky Jo Harris loves this work.

“I feel that with voice over, it’s such a good medium because you can do anything,” she says in a Q&A with Hectic. “As long as you’re willing to keep working at it and audition, I feel there’s a never-ending flow of possibilities.”

Voice-over recordings can be used for:

  • Commercials
  • Announcements
  • Characters in video games, animation, and other forms of media
  • Podcasts
  • Automated messaging in technology, such as cars, elevators, computers, phone menus, and more
  • Audiobooks
  • Translations
  • Toys

In short, any content that features real human voices without showing the person speaking requires a voice artist.

4 ways to become a voice artist

A good voice over is the result of hours of training, working, and editing. 

“It’s a lot of work,” Harris says. “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.”

Mastering the four steps below will help you to improve your work and snag the right voice acting jobs. 

1. Learn how to use your voice

Voice acting isn’t just a matter of talking. You have to know how to adjust your inflection, speed, and pitch. Pronunciation, enunciation, and projection are also important. If you want to catch the attention of clients, use these tips to fine tune your vocal control.

Practice out loud

Practice makes perfect, especially when you're learning how to use your voice. Try reading from a favorite book or narrating daily activities. You can mimic the voice overs you hear to practice your control and to expand your range. Recording your practice sessions can also help you spot areas that need work, so you can strengthen your performance.

Take classes

Voice artists are called voice actors for a reason. Whether you’re playing a character or giving information, you have to put life and emotion into your voice. 

“I took classes with Real Voice LA,” Harris says. “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.”

Some voice-over artists take improv classes to polish their drama skills, but you can alternatively find courses online or locally.

Hire a coach

Coaches work one-on-one with you, so they can offer more specific guidance. With their extensive industry experience, coaches can identify the types of work best suited for your voice. 

A voice coach may additionally be able to use their connections to help you find work.

2. Set yourself up for success

Preparing in advance shows clients that you can offer the high-quality, professional recordings they need. Some easy ways to stand out include:

  • Creating a demo reel - This reel should include a minute or two of clips from previous work or self-made samples to show clients what you can do. If you are pursuing a specific type of work, make sure your demo reel includes similar samples.
  • Create a recording space - You’ll need a small space that blocks outside noises and has good acoustics to keep your recordings from echoing. A closet is often ideal, though you can even huddle under a blanket with your microphone if you’re in a pinch.
  • Get good equipment - Professional-level recording requires a microphone. Other essential tools include a computer and recording software for editing and storing your files. 

3. Find online resources

Even if you don’t have much of a budget, you can find plenty of tools and information online. Use blogs, videos, podcasts, and more to get tips for developing your control and succeeding as a voice artist. Inexpensive tools, such as Audacity and Reaper, are available for editing.

Additionally, communities for freelancers and voice-over actors are packed with tips and support. Even if you’re working alone in your home, you don’t have to do it all by yourself.

4. Find voice acting gigs

Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to book jobs as a bona fide freelance voice artist. Freelance job platforms, such as Fiverr and Upwork, usually have hundreds of projects available at any given time. 

Networking is always a great way to find work, too. You may find good opportunities through an agent.

“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,” Harris recommends.

Joining a voice-acting platform, however, may be your best bet. These marketplaces often charge a fee, which may filter out competition and attract better clients. Some common options include The Voice Realm, Voices, Audio Creation Exchange, and Voices 123.

Lights, camera, action

There’s no such thing as a small role when you’re a freelance voice actor. Every project takes you one step closer to your next big voice-acting gig. Keep sending in auditions and practicing tongue twisters as you build up your career.