How can I get a job doing voiceover work?
October 19, 2007 1:40 PM   Subscribe

How can I get a job doing voiceover work?

I've always been told that I've got a great voice and would be good on the radio or doing voiceover work. Since I know my chances of breaking into radio are pretty slim, I'd like to find out how to try doing voiceover work.

Does anyone have any experience and, by extension, pointers to getting into this field?
posted by fenriq to Work & Money (14 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
AskMeta: I am looking to do voice over work. Where do I start?
posted by ericb at 2:00 PM on October 19, 2007

Will Lyman, the voice of FRONTLINE and many other things, has an email address on his site. Perhaps he could give you some tips.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:02 PM on October 19, 2007

Will Lyman, the voice of FRONTLINE and many other things, has an email address on his site. Perhaps he could give you some tips.

Other voiceover artists mentioned in this recent AskMeta might be worth contacting, as well.
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on October 19, 2007

Take a class. The host of my show does many VOs for national companies from her base here in San Francisco. Check out for classes in San Francisco or google for other references in your area. She says companies hire actors first, voices second. Just because you have a good voice, if you can't act with a script, you won't have a chance.
posted by parmanparman at 2:12 PM on October 19, 2007

Echoing parmanparman's sentiments. If you've got good pipes, but can't act/read a script, you're going to have a hard time. Take classes & get schooled.
posted by donguanella at 2:19 PM on October 19, 2007

Voice One is without a doubt the place to go in SF. I took a few classes for fun, and they are very focused on getting you to a point where you can get jobs. While a lot of jobs do involve acting, you can also focus on more straightforward narration for audiobooks or announcer-type jobs if you prefer.
posted by trevyn at 2:26 PM on October 19, 2007

It's, actually. Should have checked the link.
posted by parmanparman at 2:40 PM on October 19, 2007

Voiceover jobs are usually done by professional actors. In general, for well-paid work, there'd have to be a good reason to search outside the actor pool. They can do pretty well all the voices anyone might want. And act.
posted by londongeezer at 3:43 PM on October 19, 2007

I have a few friends who do voiceover and my impressions from talking to them is that it is impossible to get work in this area without professional contacts (which is a classic kind of chicken-egg dilemma - all of them, frankly, met these contacts through acting/performance experience, and one had the additional benefit of having done a couple of radio spots for his employer - not related to his normal job functions), and a professionally produced demo which shows a range of voices and styles. I get a strong impression that it is a tough field to break into without relevant experience (radio or performance, whether live or some sort of video).
posted by nanojath at 4:45 PM on October 19, 2007

Heh. People always always always tell me I should do commercials because of my voice - actually, I have *both* a radio voice *and* a radio face.

Hard to find such work.

I have done, and continue to do, copywriting and script rewriting. The guy who farms this stuff out to me also does a lot of voicework in a large city where English is not the first language. He has his own studio, and a good reputation. When I mentioned to him that I might like to try doing some voiceovers, he just stared at me for two or three beats, and moved the conversation on.

It's a competitive business, with not a lot of work to go around.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:02 PM on October 19, 2007

A friend of mine did voiceover work for a while in California. He said that it's one of the toughest industries to get work in reliably. He loved it and wished he could do it more, but he said that there are about two dozen people per field (political voiceover, cartoon characters, eXtreme voiceover, audiobooks, movie previews, etc...) and that's it.

Unless you become one of those two dozen or so actors, it's hit or miss with work (just like regular acting!) But if you can break in, you're set.

I can absolutely speak to that fact in political advertising. Most of the kind of avuncular "Mitt Romney knows about family..." spots are done by one guy who does ads for like 30 campaigns per year. Good luck!
posted by willie11 at 5:46 PM on October 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the news, everyone. I wish it were good news but its reality and that's as important.

I think I'll pursue one of my original ideas and see where that can take me. With some luck I'll be posting the results of the efforts to MeFi Projects in the next couple of weeks. It won't pay anything but it'll be a start.
posted by fenriq at 6:01 PM on October 20, 2007

Hope it's not to late for some tips from a guys who has written and produced/directed some 500 radio commercials and another 80 or so TV commercials in his lifetime. In short. I'm the guy who hires the person you want to be. So know this:

1. It's wayyyy harder than it looks. A good radio voice is your minimum ante to get into the game. There's a good reason there are so few at the top; there is a natural talent there.

2. The other things I look for are: an ability to interpret a script ... the ability to work with other voice actors ... the ability to offer a range of styles ... the ability to do a quiet 'real' voice not an announcery bombastic one ... an innate internal clock so when I ask you to shave 2.5 seconds off your last 61-second read, you can do it effortlessly. ... the ability to take direction like this "Hey, fenriq, that was cool but on the irony scale of 1 to 10 you were at a 4 and I need more of a 6 or 7." ... the understanding that this is a business and that sometimes I'm going to make you do the cheesiest lamest stuff because the person paying the bills wants it like that.

But now that the scary stuff is out there, know that people do break in because producers and sound studios love being the person to discover a new voice and bring him/her to the client. I was at dinner with a guy who did, like, 90 political candidates last election and we both agreed that there don't seem to be any young voices coming up. You could be a natural and a good producer wil gladly work with you to bring out your natural talent. Somebody asked me to give a guy a chance a few years back ... he was a masseuse. And he was a natural. I've used him dozens of times since. Another guy was a rock singer who wandered into a VO session while his band was on a break. You can hear him doing Dodge Truck TV right now. (To that point, a friend who does perhaps more political spots than anyone in the country insists that the very best VO people and scriptwriters also play a musical instrument. Timing and metre and all that.)

So how do you break in? Acting classes are good. The voice control work helps as does the working with other actors. Also, try your local recording studios. They'll hear right over the phone if you have the voice characteristics and they are always on the lookout to bring new voices to their clients. Some may tell you to scram. Others might help you put together a demo for a modest fee. Also, try casting agencies. This is a little tricky because they aren't in the talent development business. But they do know who is in that business and if you're polite, they can refer you to the best clasases and training.

Yes, it is a tough business to break into. But computer synced phone lines make it possible to do it even if you're not near a big city. (In the last month I've worked with VO guys in Salem, OR; Minneapolis; and with one guy who has a studio in his basement in an ocean-front home on North Carolina's remote Outer Banks. What a life.

But if you can get in, it's a great way to makew a living. I wish wish wish I had a shred of the voice needed. I'd be trying to do it myself. Maybe you'll be the guy.

Good luck.
posted by lpsguy at 12:25 PM on October 22, 2007 [4 favorites]

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