Wednesday, 21 September 2016

First Steps to making Money in Voice Over

Making a healthy income with your voice might sound like the realm of celebrity but it's not. Tens of thousands of voice artists make a living recording voice over for business everyday. 

 Voice Overs are everywhere

Voice overs are all around us. Did you know, every time you listen to the radio; watch TV; visit a museum; get on a train, take a flight; or listen to your favourite podcast or audio book - you are exposed to the voice over industry? Yet when I tell most people what I do for a living, they're puzzled. Even if they do have an inkling, usually they'll conjure up images of celebrities voicing Pixar films. Whilst there is some glamorous work from time to time, more often than not I work with jobbing voice over artists from a plethora of backgrounds. Most do voice over work part-time as a fun way to make a second income. They voice all kinds of projects including: explainer videos, in-flight announcements, telephone greeting systems, sat navs, audio books and more. So how do you get started?

Practice, practice, practice...

A Scottish voice artist in the studio
Any age, gender or creed can do voice over work.
I firmly believe anyone can do voice over work. All that's required is vocal training, continued practice and confidence. Any age, gender, or creed can make it, and in any language. Many professional voice over artists started working on the radio and as performers or actors, but some of the most successful voice artists just had a strong desire to develop their voice and had a real passion for the work they do.
Take Flora for example, a voice I represent at She's a singer / songwriter and performer but started doing voice-overs as a way to make some additional money. She always had a lovely voice, but she certainly wasn't always a pro voice talent. She's continually honed her craft over the years voicing corporate videos, training courses, telephone messages and more. Anything that came her way she gave her best to. And now she's an announcer at STV(announcers let you know what's coming up after a show has finished). An amazing achievement and it's been a pleasure to witness her rise over a few short years.
So where do YOU start? The first step - take action today.
Go to a local voice over workshop or course near you. Many local voice studios, voice agencies and radio stations run these types of courses. A quality course should give you a solid introduction to the industry, and they may even give you the opportunity to get behind the mic and record your first voice over! Breathing techniques and how to find jobs are common topics included in most course material.
An equally good option is to join a local drama group or choir. Many of the vocal techniques applied by singers and actors are used by voice artists too. Practice everyday and in the meantime join some online communities and groups on sites like Reddit or LinkedIn to learn more from people already working in the industry.
After you've had some coaching lessons and practiced your skills it's time to think about recording a show-reel.

Record a show-reel

Flora Munro, announcer at STV honed her voice skills over many years
A high quality and professional voice-over show-reel is crucial to your success. A good reel should highlight the best bits of your voice. That is, the scripts you are most confident performing.
For the recording I'd recommend finding a local studio with experience in the voice industry to help you. It has to be of professional quality. If you are in a big city there will probably be studios dedicated to producing voice overs and voice reels, but they may seem relatively expensive to a beginner. If you are starting out, all you need is a few, well rehearsed reads and an engineer to mix them with library music which sounds easy, but a studio that does frequent voice work will generally give you a much better result, so don't skimp. A reel is an investment in your business - your voice. It's so important.
Most reels focus on between 3-5 different reading styles e.g. commercials, narrations, telephone messages, and characters. 3-5 styles is a good number, because most casting agents will only listen to the first 30 seconds anyway. What are you good at?
Always put your best and most natural sounding performance first. And don't mix in lots of cool sounding FX - trust me, nobody cares! If you are very versatile you can always create separate reels which focus on other styles such as kids voices, movie-trailer announcements, different accents or storytelling.
A quality reel gives casting agents the confidence to choose your voice and helps you to stand out from other voices of a similar age or style.
So you've recorded the perfect reel, what's next?

Voice Artist Kathryn in the studio.

Getting your voice heard

Getting your voice into the hands of casting agents may sound difficult, but anyone can do it. Casting agents are always on the hunt for new voices, particularly in the corporate and commercial world where brands have to continually reinvent themselves.
Keep it simple. Google local voice over agencies and studios and send them a nicely worded email, with your show-reel attached. And most importantly, be sure to follow up if you don't hear back after a week. Good voice studios and agencies hear from many voices on a daily basis, so be honest about your experience level and always be professional because at some point you're going to be sat in a studio with a client voicing their project . The agent has to be persuaded you won't let them down. Don't cuss or swear, make an effort with your appearance and most importantly be easy to get hold of. The wheels in this industry turn very fast and chances are, if you don't get back to an agent the same day, the gig will go to someone else.
In the beginning be open to any work offered to you at any reasonable pay level. Consider this work an investment in your future. As you build a portfolio, your voice and your network will grow and improve and you'll have the confidence to audition for high-profile projects. Always make it easy for people to recommend you by communicating clearly and being polite and sincere. Agents hate divas.
The ultimate goal is to to build your own home studio. With a home studio you can work with clients all over the world and potentially work less hours. It's a fantastic internet business. I know many voices that travel the world with their portable studios, voicing projects from their hotel room. There are lots of good articles about setting up home studios and portable studios. But my advice is not to do this until after you have some good experience behind you.

The earning potential?

Audio books are a fast growing industry
In the UK, the average London based voice artist, with a few years experience can earn £150 per hour and also can claim additional fees if their voice over is used to promote a product or service in paid for advertising.
-Alistair Langfield
However earnings can vary massively from region to region and from industry to industry. Creative companies and ad agencies tend to offer higher fees, because they are usually working for the client directly and the voice over is often being used to promote a product or service. Other industries such as translation agencies or video production companies may be further down the supply chain and unable to offer the same level of pay. For example eLearning content tends to command a lower hourly fee, but there could be a lot more regular work on offer.
The future is bright. With the rise in popularity of audio books and the explosion of explainer web videos, the voice over industry is set to continue it's growth.
Thanks for reading.

Twitter @ADLangfield