Voice acting is a career many feel is reserved for celebrities or people with unique voices. And that’s simply not true! Anyone with dedication and a passion for voice acting can find success in this field. So if you’re wondering how to get into voice acting, you’ve come to the right place. Breaking into this career is no easy feat; there are many more variables and factors to consider than most people may think.
If you’ve already taken some voice acting or voice-over classes, then you are already on your way. But the truth is, almost anyone can learn how to voice act. All you need is a passion for acting, a desire to succeed, and the willingness to put in lots of practice.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about different types of voice acting, how to become a voice actor, the equipment you’ll need, how much you can expect to earn, tips on how to find work, and the benefits and challenges you may face.
Different Types of Voice Acting
Let’s start with the basics. Before we delve into the specifics of how to get into voice acting, it helps to understand the difference between voice acting and voice-over work. The terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a key difference. Becoming a voice actor typically involves providing the voice of a character. This type of work involves animated movies, radio shows, video games, and even puppet shows. With voice-over work, on the other hand, you’d be providing dialogue for scenes and situations that are not character-based. These types of roles often include audio tour guides, educational videos and audiobooks.
To gain a deeper understanding and discover how to get started as a voice actor, let’s take a look at a few examples of voice acting and voice-over work.
Animated character-based (anime) films are usually the first thing that springs to mind for those considering how to get into voice acting. If you haven’t got a naturally fun or expressive voice, you may think it’s not for you. However, there are several other jobs for voice actors that require simpler and more cinematic tones. Examples include:
- Movie voice-overs for narration or scene-setting purposes, or when characters are thinking, dreaming, or otherwise communicating non-verbally
- Dubbed foreign language films
- Documentary films
The gaming industry is growing at an astounding rate, providing opportunities for both voice acting and voice-over roles. You can play the voice of on-screen characters and also provide voiceover announcements that set the scene for each stage, provide instructions, or announce new game levels.
You may get a chance to play a character in an audio drama. However, commercials are the most common form of voice acting work in the radio world.
Somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books are published every year in the US alone, many of those by independent writers. Few authors dream of becoming a voice actor themselves, so they need professional vocalists to bring their books to life.
Some bloggers turn their stories and blogs into recorded podcasts, and many prefer to hire a voice actor than narrate themselves.
While some companies use computer-generated voices, many still prefer a human touch. They employ voice actors to record customer greetings and lead callers through the menu system when they dial a booking or customer service hotline.
Train stations, subway networks, bus terminals, museums, and a range of other public spaces use voice actors to pre-record important announcements.
Voice actors can find work in places like theaters, fairs, and sports stadiums, providing essential information and directions to the audience.
How to Get into Voice Acting
You may already have decided what kinds of voice work you want to pitch for, or maybe you’re thinking of trying your hand at all of them and slowly finding your niche. When you’re just starting, don’t stress too much about finding your niche, as you may find your plans naturally evolve over time. Besides, it doesn’t matter whether you want to know how to become a voice actor for anime, documentaries, dubbing, or get voice-over work outside of films and TV. The steps to work through are generally the same.
Enroll in acting classes
Taking on the role and persona of an on-screen character requires much more than just reading from a script. It takes passion and acting skills. Enrolling in acting classes will make you a more confident, convincing, and credible performer.
Take voice-over classes
Attending a class or hiring a professional voice acting coach will help you improve your skills and deliver every line to the best of your ability by improving your breathing, punctuation, and articulation techniques.
Listen and research
If you really want to know how to start voice acting, the best place to begin is by listening to people that already do it well. Watch documentaries, films, and TV programs that feature voice actors, and listen closely to commercials and video games, etc. Make notes on tone, inflection, and delivery for each style. There are also several podcasts with segments dedicated to learning how to become a voice actor.
Record a demo
Just as an actor would make a demo reel containing examples of their best work, voice actors should make recordings to showcase their range and vocal abilities. It’s standard practice to make two separate recordings for character and commercial work before uploading them to audition sites or sending them to talent agencies.
As with regular acting, auditioning for character roles and voice-over gigs is part of the process. It’s recommended you only audition for roles that suit your range and comfort zone if you want to avoid the pain of multiple rejections. Although, that’s pretty much part of the process too! Look out for open casting calls online, or submit your auditions on voice agency websites.
Build yourself a professional profile on websites like Voices, Actors Access, and Backstage and start submitting your auditions. You can even build your own website listing the essential information casting agents need to know about you, like your experience, rates, and contact information.
Practice, practice, practice!
So how do you become a voice actor without access to a professional recording studio? We said it three times already, but we’ll say it again: practice! Most beginning voice actors start in a home studio where they can practice and hone their vocal skills. The only way to develop a professional voice that casting directors will love is to keep practicing on a range of scripts and listening back to improve your tone, diction, and pronunciation.
Never underestimate the power of good old-fashioned networking. After all, this is a competitive industry where it sometimes comes down to who you know rather than what you know. Join voice acting groups on social media channels and chat networks, and make a professional profile on LinkedIn. Creating mutual lead-sharing relationships is another great way to find opportunities. For example, if you have a regular actor friend and you tip them off about a part or audition, chances are they’ll return the favor when they hear about a voice gig for you.
How Much Do Voice Actors Make?
As with any industry, it can be difficult to get a foot in the door until you have a little experience. So, many new voice actors do their first few projects for free to build their portfolios and resumes. Once you start getting paid gigs, rates can vary. Ultimately, it’s up to you to set your fee. This takes some careful consideration to neither oversell nor undersell your talents.
It’s standard to charge somewhere between $30 and $60 per hour as a new voice actor. However, once you’ve built a portfolio that demonstrates professionalism and consistency, you’ll develop a reputation for yourself and be able to charge $200 to $300 per hour.
Voice Acting Is Not A Typical 9-5
Of course, voice acting isn’t a regular job where you’ll pull an 8-hour day. So how can you budget for monthly or annual expenses? Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. As a voice actor, you only get paid for the hours you work, so it takes longer to build up to a point where you can sustain yourself purely on voice acting work.
Most people wanting to know how to get started as a voice actor are transitioning from other roles and vocations. If this applies to you, don’t rush to quit your current job. Take the time to build up your experience and network to give yourself the best chance of success when you eventually make the move to full-time voice acting work. It can be difficult to make the time to build up your portfolio while working a full-time job but if voice acting is your dream, it’ll pay off. For those looking at voice acting as a part-time or supplementary income, finances are easier to manage. However, either way, you need to ensure you set enough time aside to practice, record audition and demo tapes, and keep up with your research and networking.
Making It Big in Voice Acting
All that said, for those who are hardworking, dedicated, and show perseverance, the salary potential of a voice artist is virtually uncapped. If you’re lucky enough to land a big break on a long-running television show or film franchise, you could be earning millions. Take these high fliers as examples:
- Julie Kavner and Yeardley Smith, the voice actors behind Marge and Lisa Simpson, earn $300,000 per episode.
- Masako Nozawa, the Japanese voice actress behind some of the world’s famous anime characters, has an estimated net worth of $20 million.
- Susan Bennett, the original voice behind the Apple virtual assistant, Siri, has a net worth of $6 million.
What Equipment Do Voice Actors Need?
If you’re serious about learning how to voice act, you’ll need to invest in setting up a home studio with high-quality recording equipment. But don’t panic! Getting set up doesn’t need to cost you thousands, and remember that the best doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive. Plus, you can always purchase second-hand and upgrade as you go.
You need crystal-clear sound quality because neither agents nor direct clients will take you seriously if your audio has an echo or any background noise. So, before you get to equipment considerations, the first step is working out where to set up your home studio and get it soundproofed to eliminate any background noise from people, traffic, animals, or home appliances.
Soundproofing Your Recording Studio
Don’t have much space to work with? No problem. Your studio doesn’t have to be huge, just big enough for you and your recording equipment. Even a walk-in closet will do. All that matters is that it’s quiet. Closets are actually great for this because you can close both the bedroom and closet doors. Plus, any clothes left hanging inside help to absorb any residual noise. Hanging heavy blankets and sheets from floor to ceiling is generally the best approach if you’re using another room. Other options include using floor mats, moving pads, or purchasing soundproofing materials from an online retailer.
There’s no universal microphone that is “the best” because the key is to choose one that suits your unique voice. Some microphones are better suited to high-pitched or raspy voices, whereas others will work better for low-pitched or booming voices. If you’re not sure which to buy, you can always consult an audio expert for advice. Our top tips on choosing a microphone are:
- Try out as many different brands and types as you can before making a purchase
- If possible, test each one in your home studio
- Invest in a freestanding rather than handheld model
- Test each microphone while standing because you tend to speak more clearly when standing than when sitting
Pop filters, also known as pop shields or pop screens, sit in front of your microphone. Using a pop filter is crucial in achieving crisp and clean sound quality. They eliminate popping sounds caused by fast-moving air when using lots of plosives (consonants like t, k, and p that release more air than other spoken letters).
To give you a ballpark idea of price, you should be able to pick up a decent microphone and stand with a pop filter for under $200.
As a voice actor, you’ll often have to listen to scripts or music as you record to make sure your lines come in on time. So a pair of decent quality closed-back headphones are a must. Otherwise, the microphone may pick up on whatever you are listening to. Earbud-style headphones won’t cut it, and open-backed headphones (typically used for mixing rather than recording) allow outside noises to bleed in. Recording with closed-back headphones means you are more aware of the sounds coming from your mouth and can identify any other noise interference more easily.
Prices for a good first set of quality headphones start at around $100, and some of the most recommended in the voice acting community include:
- Sony MDR-7560
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
- Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
- AKG K371 by Harmon Kardon
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II
- Sennheiser HD-200 Pro
- Extreme Isolation EX-29
- Shure SRH 1540
Having a great microphone and headset setup won’t help you nail high-quality demo and audition reels without being paired with proper recording software. Prices range from free to very pricey, the most popular options being:
- Audacity (Free)
- GarageBand (standard software on Macs)
- Adobe Audition
- Pro Tools
- Sound Forge
Additional Equipment Considerations
Here are a few additional equipment details and tips to consider before you go all out and start recording:
- Hard drive space – You may need to invest in an upgrade or buy more storage for all of your audio files.
- For desktop computers – Don’t place the tower in the same room as your microphone, or it will pick up on the noise.
- Go wireless – A wireless keyboard and mouse negates the need for long cables or extension leads.
How to Find Voice Acting Work
Like with any new career, the hardest part is getting established. Here are our top tips on how to get into voice acting with limited experience. There are three main avenues you can explore.
Pay to Play Sites
Pay to Play (P2P) sites charge an annual membership fee for voice actors to submit auditions. Voices and Voice123 are the most popular, but other examples include VoiceBunny, Voices Pro, and Voice Jockey.
To get the most out of P2P sites, take the time to make your profile look as professional as possible by including:
- Profile pictures – Professional headshots in high resolution are preferable to cropped versions of existing photos or selfies
- Showreels – You can include a range of genres. Just make sure they are the best quality recordings possible.
- Voice description – Casting directors tend to search using keywords, so be as specific as possible without exaggerating.
- Personal info – Keep it relevant to details about voice, acting, theater, singing, and the arts. If your current role is unrelated, leave it out.
- Experience and interests – Outline your experience and the kind of work you are looking for, again using keywords to optimize getting found (infomercials, demo videos, radio ads, etc).
- Contact info – Phone and email details are mandatory. If you have your own website or social media, including the URL is a good idea too.
- Testimonials – Include precise details on who is endorsing you, what company they work for, and what specific project the testimonial is for.
Voice Avatar Services
Products like WellSaid Labs Voice Avatars allow voice actors to essentially syndicate their voice for jobs big and small. These platforms become a marketplace to match voice actors with companies who need their talents. It allows voice actors to take on tiny projects that wouldn’t be worth studio time, without leaving money on the table.
This kind of voice acting work requires especially high quality recording equipment. In order to train an AI voice model, the integrity of the source recording must be of the highest caliber. Additionally, voice actors who represent non-mainstream accents, voice ranges, and languages will be in high demand. Because reputable voice avatar services prioritize the voice actor relationship, they will pay royalties for use of your voice signature. In that case, versatile voice styles that can be used by many customers will garner the best returns for the voice actor.
If you spend some time putting together a comprehensive list of local businesses that may need voice actors, cold calling or emailing could get you some results. Building a list of companies to approach is probably easier than you think. For example, if you type “sports venues Seattle” into Google maps, you’ll generate a list of local businesses that fit that profile. Then all you need to do is find their phone or email contact details. You’re likely to get better results if you put in a little extra research to find the relevant person in the company and contact them directly, rather than calling the general customer line or emailing the generic info@ email address.
Reaching out by phone or email to businesses and people you don’t know can be intimidating, but it does get your name out there. Conversion rates are typically low, though, so you may want to look at a few other ways to expand your bandwidth locally:
- Networking at community meetings and events
- Giving presentations at local businesses/business centers
- Asking for referrals and recommendations from friends
- Volunteering your services for local charities
Agents and Production Companies
Using the same method as above, type “voice acting agent” into Google Maps to generate a list of agents in your area. This is the best place to begin when you’re learning how to start voice acting because national agencies typically manage bigger clients with more experience. So it’s best to leave those until a bit later down the line when you have a more expansive portfolio. In addition to searching for voice acting agents, you can also search for:
- Advertising agencies
- Radio stations
- Video production companies
- Explainer video companies
- E-Learning companies
- Audiobook companies
The Benefits of Becoming a Voice Actor
There are many great perks to a career in voice acting. Examples include:
- Working from home – Often, voice actors record their segments from their home studio. Not only is this comfortable and convenient, but it also saves you time and money on commuting.
- Flexible hours – How many gigs you apply for and therefore how many hours you work is entirely up to you. This is great for those just starting out, as it provides the flexibility to work part-time and scale up as you become more successful.
- Earning potential – As we mentioned earlier, some voice acting gigs can be incredibly lucrative. Plus, as a freelance voice actor, you can set your own rates. The more successful you get, the more you can charge.
- Variety – There are so many different types of voice acting work, and no project is ever the same. Every job involves different characters, topics, and products.
- The fun factor – You meet so many different people as a voice actor – possibly even a few celebrities! Plus, you get to work on lots of fun projects, especially if you specialize in cartoon/anime.
- Security – Once you start picking up regular work, your job security increases because working for several clients is safer than relying on ongoing work from only one.
And the best perk of all? Getting to hear your voice in productions that could be heard by thousands – and maybe even millions – of people!
The Challenges of Becoming a Voice Actor
Though the positives generally outweigh the negatives, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. So let’s discuss a few of the challenges that voice actors may face:
- Timescale – Building a successful career in voice acting can take many years unless you hit a lucky break early on.
- Resilience – You can expect to get several (and we mean several) rejections when you’re first starting out, so you’ll need to have a thick skin and a positive attitude to persevere.
- Competition – Whether you’re a novice, intermediate, or veteran, the competition is tough, and even experienced pros go through dry periods where finding gigs is tough.
- Costs – You’ll probably need to upgrade your home studio equipment as you progress. Plus, to maintain employability, you’ll need to keep paying for vocal coaches and voice-over classes.
- Burnout – To state the obvious, voice acting can take its toll on your vocals. Voice actors and voice-over artists have to take great care of themselves to protect their biggest asset. Besides being in generally good health, this means avoiding lots of things you may enjoy, like alcohol, fatty foods, carbonated drinks, and smoking.
Get Started in Voice Acting
We hope this guide has given you lots of great information and ideas about how to get into voice acting. With the right equipment, training, and motivation, you can create an exciting career in voice content. Good luck!
WellSaid Labs offers online text to voice tools to help you quickly create voice-over for your digital content with one click. We offer a range of voice avatars so you can find the perfect tone and voice for your needs. Voice-over production projects are completed faster with our robust technology that converts text to voice in no time. Simply choose your voice and create a voice-over using nothing but our technology and your script. That’s it!
To learn more about the power of a partnership with WellSaid Labs, contact our team today or schedule a free demo.