5 Steps You Can Take When You Are Considering a Career as a Voice Actor
Mindset, Coaching, Tools of the Trade, Business Setup, and More...
The past few years have been "unprecedented" times. I'm sure you're as tired of that word as I am, but one of the best things to arise from it all has been the Work From Home movement. There are more opportunities than ever to leave the standard, corporate 9 to 5 job, and voice acting is just one of the paths out here. Perhaps you may have heard "You have a great voice! You should be a voice actor!", but one Google search later and you're lost. There is an abundance of information on the world wide web about voice acting and without a guide, there's a good chance you can be led astray from the right path. I began my professional voice acting career at the very beginning of 2020, merely 3 months before things went awry and now I want to help you avoid some mistakes I made early on in my journey.
If I were to start my career today, these are the steps I would follow:
Step #1 - Have the Right Mindset
This step is often grossly underestimated. Before you take any of the steps below, you must begin with the right mindset. Voice acting is ALL about emotion and imagination, and you will literally be in a tiny padded room or closet. Not very inspiring, huh? It is completely up to you to evoke emotion from your listeners and create a world with your voice. My best advice? Start a meditation practice. Meditation can help you balance your emotions, and relieve stress. Your mind will act as a canvas when you are performing and you want your canvas to be clear. This is a vital practice because stress will cause straining in your voice and will impact your read. Speaking of read...do you read? Try reading books out loud for an hour a day. Reading books helps nurture your imagination and can help you visualize a non-existent commercial while you perform (you may never see the video until the finished product). Plus, the practice of reading aloud will help you with the eye/mouth coordination to move along scripts easily. You want your auditions and performances to be colorful, vibrant, and stand out! **Imaginaaaation**
Step #2 - Training and Coaching
Once your clear and vibrant-minded, it's time to find training. You can read a million scripts into your phone's recording app, but until you've had real, quality feedback, you're not ready to dive into auditioning or pitching to prospects. Trust me, your friend or spouse saying "It sounds GREAT" is not enough. You need training to learn about inflections, tone, breaking down a script...all the things. Yes, it can be pricey working with the best coaches of today, but the takeaway will pay it's dividends! And don't leave it to Google to find the right coach! Find and ask voice actors what coaches they have worked with and who they recommend. If you want to e-mail me for a recommendation, I'd be happy to share!
"Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be" – André De Shields
Tip #3 - The Tools of The Trade
So, now you've got a clear mind and you've booked a great coach! What now?
It's time to setup a recording space! Depending on your budget, your trade tools will vary, but the basics are the same. You can expect to spend anywhere from $600 to $2000 to start, but the opportunities for more equipment or software as you grow are endless! Let's go over the must-haves:
Treated Space - You will need to sound treat your space and this is the most vital step in the process. I cannot stress this enough. You could spend a million bucks on a microphone, but if the space is badly treated, the audio will be BAD. There are many resources online to help you plan and build a suitable space, but you want your recording space as quiet with as few reflections (hard surfaces) as possible. Shhh...
Recording Software - Audacity is a free recording software, but I highly recommend using one of the several paid options like Adobe Audition, PreSonus StudioOne, Reaper, ProTools, or one of the many others. I personally use Adobe Audition, but as long as you can figure out the basics to recording with the one you pick (aka Watch a YouTube lol), you're set!
Microphone/Interface - As technology advances, many of the microphones and interfaces have vastly improved in quality and have become very affordable in price! This is great news for someone on a budget! You'll want to look for a Large Diaphragm Condenser XLR Microphone (3-Pin Connector) like the Audio-Technica AT2020 (I own the AT2035) and I recommend a USB Audio Interface like the Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB. These are nearly "plug and play" so after a quick video on YouTube, you should be up and running. Oh, and DO NOT skimp on the XLR cables!
Computer - Don't overthink this one. You need something to record on, but you can't have a loud computer fan in the sound treated room with you. Eeek! I know. When I started I had a laptop with a LOOONG USB cable that went under the door into my sound treated closet. I had to hit the record button from outside of the booth, get inside, stay silent for a moment, then start recording. I later edited out the loud part of me entering the booth lol! I had a lamp in there so I could read printed scripts or I would read them on my phone. It takes more work to check your recording levels this way, but a few test runs and you should be golden! If there's a will, there's a way!
Tip #4 - Business Setup
Once you start finding work, you're going to need a way to receive money. Yes, you can use PayPal or some other money transfer service, but as you go along and make more money (Mashallah), you're going to want to setup something more professional. I always recommend talking to an accountant, lawyer. and/or business consultant to discuss the laws in your state or country *I AM NOT ONE OF THESE*, but I will break-down what I did so you have an idea. In order to separate my personal monies from my business monies, I setup an LLC through an online company. This filed all the necessary paperwork with my state so I knew I was on the up and up, and they remind me and file for me yearly so I don't goof up with the law-man. This cost varies per state and may vary from company to company so research these guys thoroughly. Once that was setup, I opened a business checking account and deposited money into it as an investment for my business. Once this is done, you must keep all business monies with the business and personal spending must be done on your personal accounts. An accountant can explain all that, but keep them separate! LLC, Business Checking, and BOOM! You've got yourself a professhionalll business. Fancy!
Tip #5 - The Money
Okay...this one might be hard to hear.
You're not going to make a lot of money doing this when you start. Period.
Unless you're Cinderella. Are you Cinderella?
As soon as you get used to and accept that fact, and hustle your tail off, you might get to a point later where you can really support yourself and maybe buy a nice few things. But this is the reality, though. Don't do this to get rich because you most likely won't. That's rare as fuck. Do this because you love it and you literally cannot do anything else.
Luke Kirby as Lenny Bruce in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" said it best when talking about being a comic:
"Well, I've been doing it awhile. Ok, let's put it like this: If there was anything else in the entire world that I could possibly do to earn a living, I would. Anything!"
The rejection is hard, the money is hard to come by, and you will absolutely doubt yourself, but...
If You Love This and It Suits You, There's NOTHING Better.
I fell in love, baby. I fell in love with this career and I don't think I can ever leave her. You'll feel it if it's right for you and if you need any help along the way, feel free to reach out. Actually, DO reach out! My e-mail is on the main page and I'd be happy to chat shop with you and help answer questions if you have them. If you've read this far I wish you the absolute best on your jump into this game and don't ever forget, The Universe is on your team. That's badass, right? Now go get it done, baby!