With the Covid -19 pandemic causing the world, whether by choice or circumstance, to pause, reflect on its actions, evaluate its priorities and develop new paths forward, a lot of people are exploring voice over as a career option. Before you dive right in, as with any career planning, you should learn as much as you can about the industry and what it takes to have success in voice over. You should also do some introspection and evaluate why you want to explore this line of work. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide whether voice acting is something you should pursue as your next career.
Question #1 – What Type of Voice Acting Appeals To You The Most?
Perhaps an excellent pre-question to this question is do you know that there are many different types of voice over that require many different skills? Voice over is found in a number of genres, from commercials for TV/Radio/Internet/Streaming to animation, gaming, dubbing, audiobooks, medical/technical/legal narration, explainer videos, IVR and phone systems (telephony), promos, pharmaceutical safety narration, elearning, public address systems, live-event “Voice of God” award and conference show announcing and radio/tv imaging, to name a few. What type appeals to you the most? Often what appeals to you the most will be what you end up doing. If you are drawn to it, you will have the energy to put into developing your craft. If you’re not sure, you will waiver. That being said sometimes the universe has other plans. It may be that you fall into dubbing or telephony or anime and that becomes your mainstay. Success in one area breeds more success in that same area. Directors and producers want to work with people who can bring it. If you’ve shown them you can (bring it) once, they will want to hire you again.
Question #2 – Did Someone Tell You That You Have A Nice Voice?
Does everyone you meet tell you that you have a nice voice and should really do voice over? No matter how flattering that may be to hear, no one ever makes it as a voice actor with a nice voice alone. I mean, you can inherit a Stradivarius, but if you don’t know how to play it really, really, really well, you will not do it justice. You need to know how to act, how to analyze text, how to play with words, how to read (well, and with accuracy), how to audition, how to deal with rejection, how to be tenacious, how to work on your craft, how to run your business (because that what it is), how to sell/market your skills….and so many other things. There are a handful of traits that successful voice over actors possess and none of them are their voice (their voice is just a tool, these other traits drive success).
Question #3 – Are You An Actor? (Or Singer, Broadcaster Or Public Speaker?)
Acting is the foundation of voice work. And it is extremely necessary if you want to do gaming, animation or a lot of commercial work. However, there are a lot of transferable skills for some other areas. For example, singers intrinsically understand pitch, tempo, and timber (all needed for voice over), public speakers have fine-tuned deliveries and know how to play with pacing to highlight key concepts in their speeches. Working in broadcasting generally gives one a familiarity and confidence to be behind a microphone and understand the technology and science that goes into engineering good audio. Comedians and Improvisers work to perfect a conversational inflection and know how to deliver a punchline for maximum laughs. If you don’t immediately have these skills, it may be best to study some of them first before diving into a career that relies heavily on them.
Question #4 – Why Voice Over? Why Now?
Knowing your WHY is important when evaluating what career paths you want to pursue in life. Not just for voice over, but for any career. But joining an industry that is filled with creatives, you may find that it is that hard to articulate “need” to perform and create and express themselves in art that drives the colleagues you’ll meet to pursue voice over. But perhaps you have other reasons that drive you – maybe you love storytelling and the idea of reading audiobooks is compelling. Or perhaps you’ve always loved teaching and feel like you can make a solid impact to learning in new ways with elearning narration. Maybe you’ve spent your whole life gaming and want to take your love for that craft to new levels by contributing your acting to the game. Knowing why this pursuit is important to you will help carry you through the ups and downs of building your craft, acquiring your equipment (if you put a sound studio in your house – which you should), and the responsibilities of entrepreneurship – consistent marketing, the never-ending search for work, the proper administration of book-keeping, taxes and retirement savings, etc.
Question #5 – Are You Prepared For Hard Work?
This profession is not easy. But it can be extremely rewarding IF you’re prepared to put in a lot of hard work. And know that unless you work hard, the salary may not be what you expected and can vary widely. According to Voice Over Education site, Gravy For The Brain, the average voice actor has a salary of $31,400 a year. An entry level voice actor can expect to earn $18,390 a year while an experienced voice actor has an average annual salary of $90,000 a year. Top level voice actors can earn way in excess of this – with some at the top of the profession earning healthy 6 figure incomes. The average SAG/AFTRA actor salary is a little higher at ~$58,070 (22% below national average) with a substantial majority of actors earning less than $1000 per year acting.
Having a sustainable voice acting career takes time. It often (not always, but often) takes 5 years to transition from a part-time to full time VO career. Being organized with your schedule and diligent with your craft and other elements of launching your biz is critical. It is also important to have a support system, some accountability assistance from friends and colleagues, good voice over coaches and some stamina and fortitude to boot. Rejection is a daily occurrence and burnout is common. Having a long-term game plan and keeping your eye on your goals will help you succeed.