Becoming a Voice Over Artist
by Andrew Hughes – 12th October, 2017
Our tips on becoming a voice over artist, to help decide if it’s the right career for you.
Where do I start?
First you need to start practising. Get in the habit of reading things out loud, with different inflections and emphases, to see how they sound. If possible record your efforts on a personal recorder or smartphone and then listen back with a critical ear.
Try to identify the things you like about what you’ve recorded as well as the things you don’t. Then try and work out why you like or don’t like them. Think about how you could approach them differently to get an alternative sound or meaning to the words. And finally, practice repeating reading styles so that you can reproduce them on demand. This last item is very important since directors may ask you to read their script in a particular style that you have demonstrated before.
Are you right for the job?
To help you decide, consider these questions:
- Are you prepared to work hard?
- Do you have good daytime ability? Ask yourself: If I were asked to be in a studio at 1pm tomorrow, could I make it? If the answer is “no” and you have a 9-5 job, then it’s not the career for you.
- Are you happy to real aloud, and in front of strangers? Are you a good sight reader?
- Will you travel a reasonable distance (perhaps up to 30 miles) for a job?
- Are you always early to appointments, or at the very least on-time? Studios are rather like doctor’s waiting rooms and everyone gets grumpy if sessions run late.
- Are you good at taking direction? If your answer to any of these is ‘no’ then you may want to re-consider your choice. Being a voice artist may not involve heavy manual labour but it can be hard work. It’s often pressurized and sometimes it’s physically demanding. You’ll also need to maintain a helpful and pleasant manner when a session is going badly.
How do I Create a Showreel?
Once you’re confident enough in your abilities, the next step is to produce a demonstration reel to showcase your talents. Whilst it may be tempting to do this yourself at home, you should resist this urge unless you have access to a professional recording setup and the skill to use it.
Your showreel will be your business card, so it must look and sound excellent. You’ll need examples of scripts, or ‘reads’, for adverts, businesses and documentary / story styles. These areas are known respectively as ‘commercials’, ‘corporates’ and ‘narratives’. You’ll also need a montage of these three which you should think of as your calling card. This shorter mix is created from excerpts of the longer reads and is designed to show off all aspects of your voice.
This may sound like a daunting prospect, but Radio Facilities has a fantastic Showreel Service designed specifically with new artists in mind. We have hundreds of scripts from which you can choose a selection that will show off your voice to its best advantage. We’ll help and guide you through what will probably be your first recording session. Most importantly we’ll give you a finished product you can be proud of, and that you can use to sell yourself in the industry.
Should I do accents?
The short answer is “probably not”. Up until the 1990’s artists would do a variety of regional accents. The author remembers working on radio stations in the North East of England and hearing terrible attempts at Geordie accents on radio commercials. Nowadays, if you want a Geordie you book one.
That said, some artists do animation work and for this you need to display a HUGE range of versatility and be able to call up comedy voices on demand. We recently saw a session where the artist was asked to provide the voice of a teenage Scottish penguin! If you think you too have a penguin voice inside, then you could consider animation work. However this should always be a separate voice showreel.
How do I find work?
As explained earlier, the showreel is your calling card. Once you have it, there are two main routes:
- You get yourself an agent and they find work for you. They take around 15% commission and will ask you to be exclusive to them. This means that ALL your voice work needs to go through them, even work you have sourced yourself.
- You use your showreel to set yourself up on the many voiceover artist profile websites. A client the asks for submissions for their project. You submit your audio sample and the client picks the voice they like the most. Bear in mind that you’ll need access to a studio to record your submissions. Additionally, you generally you need to pay to get access to these sites.
Do I need a home studio?
The simple answer is that for standard voice over jobs no you don’t. Currently the majority of voice recordings happen in a working studio such as Radio Facilities. You’d come into our studio and use our microphone (don’t worry, we look after the equipment side of things). The director is usually also present, although they may direct over the ‘phone or by Skype instead.
However as time goes on, you may want to invest some of your profits in setting up your own home studio. We know one artist who has constructed an amazing garden office. Every morning she heads off to the bottom of her garden to record. Bear in mind though that working from home can be a bit lonely!
How much would I earn?
This is one of the key questions when considering becoming a voice over artist, and unfortunately the answer isn’t simple. The industry has changed in the last decade, and it’s set to keep changing and evolving over the next ten years. As working practices change so do the costs involved, and this can have an impact on income.
Currently agencies charge out their voice talent on an hourly rate. The first hour charged at a premium and subsequent hours at a reduced amount. Hourly rates can vary from £25 per hour up to £500 per hour or even more. We know of an artist who was paid £7,000 for a session. However, the higher rates are generally for the more in-demand voices — usually celebrities. A Basic Session Fee of around £200 is considered normal for a 1 hour session .
There are many internet companies who will ask you to bid for work for a total fee of £30 to £50 per session. There is plenty of this type of work, which increases your opportunities for making a reasonable living from the work. Also, some work carries a premium for the artist because of the medium in which it will be used. For example, television work can pay better than corporate work, although there is less of this to go around, and it’s fiercely fought over.
If this answer sounds a little vague that’s because it is! However, it’s a fun and exciting industry so it’s easier to work hard here than it is in many other sectors.
Still interested in becoming a voice over artist? Do you have any questions about how Radio Facilities can help you? please don’t hesitate to get in touch. For more information go to radiofacilities.com/showreels.