As a successful voice-over actor for three-quarters of my adult life, I’ve seen (and made) some mistakes that made the climb harder. Here are my top five mistakes to avoid so you can have your best voice over actor career.
#1 A Bad Demo
This is a biggie: if your website is your storefront, then your demo is your calling card. Casting directors will spot a poorly recorded demo so fast that your head doesn’t even have a chance to spin, and they won’t hire you. Copywriters and casting colleagues of mine have pointed out bad demos from otherwise very talented actors and have said, “I can never use her/him. My clients would judge me poorly if I sent any of them that demo.” A quality demo should be on-genre, on-trend, and highlight your vocal skills. If you have a demo already, make sure to re-examine your portfolio and study it top-to-bottom – double check that it’s hitting the markets in your wheelhouse and those you’d like to enter and is able to show off your vocal chops in the best light possible.
Try to work with a voiceover coach who understands your needs and can add some extra insights on what you can (and can’t) do. When I coach voiceover actors on how to break into the industry, I try to get to know them first and see exactly what they’re capable of. If you’ve been in the voiceover industry for a while and keep getting the same narration jobs, then there’s a solid chance that your demos could use a modern update and a fresh ear to help you understand what areas need work. Never rush into making a demo before you’re ready, and always be critical of what you send out to casting directors – a lousy demo can sink your voice acting career before it even has the chance to get started.
#2 A Bad Website
Your website is your storefront, so don’t cheap out – we are all website savvy now, and a poorly made website is worse than none. With that being said, some new voiceover artists might think they don’t need a website because they have profiles on all the major voiceover platforms and social media. If that sounds like you, do yourself a favor and invest time and energy into building your digital presence.
As much as you might think a series of profiles over the different pay-to-play sites is enough to launch your voice acting career into narration stardom, it’s not – sorry (but not sorry). Your website is the nexus point where all of the crucial information about you comes together; it’s the next place a potential client will look after finding you on Voice123. A good website shows you are serious about your VO business. If someone wants to book you for a voiceover job, they’ll often want to know more before investing their time and money in you as a voiceover actor. Casting directors want to see consistency, quality, and attention to detail. Don’t skimp on building a high-caliber website to showcase your voiceover work. Websites aren’t just for big companies anymore, and a quick google search should bring up a clean, professional website that displays the need-to-knows about your voice acting career. Keep it simple and focus on solid branding, purpose, and intent. It’s a strong indicator that you are serious and that this isn’t a hobby – nothing looks worse than seeming like you did something just at the moment.
#2B Get Help When You Need It
After a bad experience with my first website, I turned to voiceactorwebsites.com for help. Many voice actors think they can do it all or should do it all. But, if you are a voice actor, the bulk of your time should be spent auditioning, working, or producing content, not handling code and website problems. Even if you have experience with SEO and coding, we are often blind to our faults, and working in semi-isolation means we can miss flaws or even opportunities. Having a team to turn to for advice or bounce marketing ideas off of can be a massive benefit if you have the right team.
#3 Thinking a Voice Over Actor Career is Easy
A common mistake in this profession is thinking voiceover will be easy. If you feel that you can slap a few profiles together, record audio on your smartphone, and become an overnight sensation, you’d be wrong. That’s not how to become a voiceover actor. It just doesn’t happen like that. Voiceover is hard work, and cracking the industry is even more challenging. If this sounds harsh, going into the field blind is harsher. Like any industry, a voice acting career takes years of constant practice and diligent work; and like any art form, voiceover can take decades to understand and a lifetime to perfect.
Nobody is great at everything, so find your niche in the voiceover industry and try to master it – evolve with the trends and keep refining your craft until its razor’s edge cuts right through the noise of an increasingly loud industry. If you’ve been at it for a while and still can’t find your voiceover niche, that’s ok – the voiceover field isn’t for everybody. It takes years of dedication and hard work, even if you have natural talent. If that sounds tough – it’s because it is, and you’ve got to put in the work to make it happen.
#4 I Have a Great Voice, I Don’t Need Training
Panelists are full of baseless opinions. You have a great voice; you should be a voiceover actor. Have they made six figures for 30 years as voiceover actors? I would never tell someone they should become a voiceover actor based on throat tissue alone. If you’re thinking, “I have a great voice, I don’t need voiceover training,” you’re dead wrong. Contrary to popular opinion, the voice is only about 10% of what it takes to make it as a voiceover actor and a mere footnote when you’re trying to make it in the voiceover industry.
Like any skill, voiceover takes practice – years of it, if not an entire lifetime. Voice over is a profession and a creative profession at that. Like many creative jobs, you have to have training before you can be market-competitive. Acting classes at school or with a coach or both, because voiceover is primarily acting and is best when based on acting skills. Seasoned voiceover artists master styles and keep track of trends. Whether it’s the shift from announcer style to the authentic voice or stretching range by taking improv or stand-up comedy classes, we are constantly honing our craft.
#5 Not Understanding How Pricing Works
Another potentially disastrous mistake that many burgeoning voiceover actors make is not understanding how pricing works. While this isn’t always on the voiceover artist, many businesses think they can hire anyone and get quality results. Like with building a website, cheap voiceover is worse than none. It’s not only bad for the business that hired you and also won’t get the result they are looking for – it’s terrible for the voiceover artist because they aren’t getting paid fairly. You are being paid for the recording and the licensed use of your voice. You also need to factor in your investment of time, money, and sweat equity before you get a return on your investment. So do not cheat yourself. In an industry that often shifts, where it’s essential to constantly upgrade your skillset, ensure that you can finance your uptake and recoup your time/resources invested.
Pricing for voiceover is licensed not only for use but for the length of time and population or the number of ears that may potentially hear the work. Other factors determine your voiceover rates, but most essential is to understand that this is a skilled job, and you should be paid fairly for your services.
Do you have some insights about mistakes that can hurt a voiceover acting career? Share your thoughts here!