How to Get Into Voice Acting and Become a Voice Actor
Take a trip down memory lane, and you think of the years you were binge-watching Disney movies. The faces of your favorite heroes might be a blur, but what about their voices? This is precisely why voice acting is essential because it can engage audiences, form a connection, and make feelings arise. And if you’re asking yourself how to become a voice actor, you're basically asking yourself how to become an artist. Because this is what a voice-acting career is: Art.
In this post, we’re not only going to cover how to get into voice acting or even how to voice act. Everything starts from the top, and we’re about to see the whole picture. Beginning with the basics:
First of all, we need to repeat it for the people in the back: voice acting is an art. And just like it happens with any form of art, it exists to create emotions. But there’s a tiny difference.
No matter what they do, most artists somehow use their bodies to communicate their art with the masses. Singers are performers; actors use their whole body; painters use their hands to express themselves, and so on. Voice actors, on the other hand, use just one instrument: their voice.
Is it easy? Certainly, no. Is it fun? Yes. Becoming a voice actor is a creative process that can feel a lot like a hobby and not just a tedious, 9-5 job. However, although voice acting is an artistic career, it comes with a lot of history, proven techniques, and multiple types of voice acting that make it a solemn profession. Luckily, we’re covering all of them.
“I want to be a voice actor,” you might say to yourself. But do you really know what a voice actor does? This is the first thing you need to know before you learn how to get into voice acting because it requires a skill set that is much broader than you expected.
A voice actor’s abilities include playing around with their voice to communicate their feelings with their audience. It’s a superb skill if you think about it. Think of emotions like happiness, sadness, or even anger, expressed exclusively through voice. But no matter how hard it sounds, this is a special skill a voice actor masters through repetition and experience.
However, there’s a tiny catch. A director or a client usually offers the creative direction through a brief, direct feedback, or comments. And this is where a voice actor also needs to think like a business person or an account manager for their customers.
Voice actors are also usually freelancers. They’re responsible for finding their own gigs, taking care of the communication with clients, staying on call, managing their equipment, marketing themselves, or even signing with an agency. In other words, becoming a voice actor is also about becoming a small business owner.
Voice-over actors usually have niches and genres they mostly work in. With such a plethora of voice acting types, the sky's the limit.
When you’re getting into voice acting, you might find yourself wanting to experiment with as many types as possible, hoping to keep your income steadier. Do it! Start experimenting with many different genres, and you can later determine which one is the perfect fit for you.
However, the voice acting and voice-over types you will see in high demand are no more than five. Here they are:
- Commercials & ads
With TikTok, Podcasts, and YouTube dominating our digital world, voice actors have been seeing more and more requests for ads flying into their email inboxes. And professional commercial voice actors are the ones with the relevant voice-acting experience and who can also stick to the client’s brief and handle all communications.
A commercial voice actor needs to engage their audience and make them want to act and purchase a product or service. Usually, clients or directors have very specific guidelines, and they need some extra care to build and nurture a relationship with, so some additional experience is highly required. But the good news is that most of them started by asking the same question you’re asking right now: “how to get into voice acting.” And the best news is that they did.
It might sound too much like jargon, but dubbing is nothing more than voice-over translation. Voice actors must watch the original scene they need to dub that has been filmed in a different language and read the script that will replace the original audio.
It might be a whole movie or just an ad, but demand for translation voice actors is high in specific countries in Europe and Asia. In fact, and in case you didn’t know, in countries where dubbing is common and subtitles are not preferred, some voice actors have managed to become real superstars.
- Animated pictures
This is a voice actor’s dream job, basically. For each animated character, there is a voice actor that delivers their voice anywhere in the world.
This, of course, requires a script, a director, and a whole crew that ensures that audio quality is exceptionally high and that audio synchronization is perfect.
However, not all animations are produced by Disney or Pixar, and independent creators might post a job ad looking for a professional to help them out. This usually means that the talent records their character in their home studio and delivers the final product in the best quality possible.
When you’re getting into voice acting, gigs like these will not be easy to grab. You need to learn how to voice act like a pro first, and then see how to become a voice actor for anime, animated pictures, etc.
Think of Netflix or a documentary you might have recently watched. Think of a history podcast or the opening scene of a film that starts with voice-over narration. No matter the case, a voice actor is highly needed where there is a story to be told.
Narration is a colossal voice acting genre. However, some experience is needed since voice actors must hold back their emotions and stick to the story. A narrator needs to read off lines to help the story develop without too much expression.
On the contrary, voice-over actors who work on docu-projects need to develop a cinematic narration style that makes them sound more “dramatic” and less fun.
- Video games
The video games industry is booming, with indie creators trying to roll out the next best video game thing. As a result, voice actors are needed.
But, to become a voice actor who works with video game developers, you need to have experience. And the main reason is that voice acting for video games borrows elements from all the other voice acting types.
You’ve got dubbing for characters, narration to help the plot develop, and maybe commercial voice acting to help the team promote the game. If you’re able to perform many different styles and types of voice acting, the video game industry might be the one that is worth your time and effort.
Nobody said that voice acting is for everyone. In fact, getting started with voice acting takes time and demands a significant investment on your behalf. But still, there are voice actors lucky enough to be born with some specific traits that are highly appreciated in the voice acting industry.
However, all those skills can also be trained and developed with voice acting training. And when you do, you won’t be wondering how to get into voice acting but how to get more customers.
- Voice control
To become a voice actor you need to know how to control your voice and make it sound, feel, and work exactly the way you want. With the right training, you can learn how to manage your voice’s pitch, tonality, and volume, depending on the situation. For example, by appropriately controlling your pitch, you will develop many different voices; maybe make it sound deeper for one character and then higher for another.
Also, voice volume is another element you need to learn how to manage so you can achieve consistency and eliminate post-production editing.
Learning how to control your voice is a vital skill you must develop especially when you're wondering how to start with voice acting professionally, which means that you want to use your talent to make money.
- Mouth control
The human voice is not just about the sound that your vocal cords produce or the built-in qualities that shape it. It’s a coordination of things, and since your mouth is highly involved, you need to learn how to control it properly.
Voice actors use their mouths all the time to achieve excellent articulation. And by “excellent,” we mean “not too pretentious but also not too lazy.”
Though, the human mouth also produces noises that you might notice only when you bring it close to a microphone. Your saliva, for example, is usually responsible for some subtle little annoying noises. To avoid them, make sure you hydrate, drink many herbal teas, and relax your mouth muscles before you start recording.
Controlling your mouth will enable you or your sound editor to deliver your track much faster because it will save time from clearing up your audio. And you know what it means: more chances to get hired again.
When you’re starting with voice acting, you might find yourself sounding too robotic or boring. To make sure that you don’t sound like everybody else in the market, you need to develop your acting skills.
This will allow you to add some extra character to your final products, make your work stand out from the competition, and become a highly-respected voice actor.
Confidence should be taught in school. Period.
People today have a huge problem with self-assurance, which can, eventually, destroy a person’s ability to perform and feel great about their skills.
As a voice actor, you will have to deal with a lot of competition and people who are always ready to grab a gig just because they’re confident enough to market themselves and trust their powers to deliver what a client wants. When you have confidence, you eventually stand out — after all, everybody wants to work with energetic professionals.
But wait. When we’re talking about developing self-assurance, we’re not talking about made-up confidence or cockiness. We’re talking about genuine confidence that will help you radiate security to any voice director or client that will brief you and believe that you know what you’re doing.
- Cold-reading skills
We need to admit something. Not all clients will come prepared or give you a script in advance so you can have time to prepare, rehearse, or study. And, generally, the busier you become, the less time you have to study.
This is where your cold-reading skills can prove handy. With cold-reading, you’ll be able to get into a studio and start reading (and, of course, recording) right away. This skill will definitely develop as you’re getting more experience, and your mouth, eyes, and mind will start communicating better with each other.
To practice cold reading, read a newspaper or a book you’ve never read before out loud. Don’t study it beforehand. Just take it, open it to a random page and start voice acting.
- Conversational tone of voice
When writers refer to a conversational tone of voice, they usually refer to writing that feels like someone is speaking to them. With voice acting, this is not exactly the case.
A conversational tone of voice in voice acting has mostly to do with using the words you read and adding a friendlier tone to your voice. When starting with voice acting, you need to keep in mind that you should sound less like a reader and more like a narrator. So, all you to do is practice.
Don’t over or under-articulate, and don’t sound like you’re trying to explain rather than like you’re talking to an audience you want to inform and engage at the same time.
At the end of the day, a voice over is a sales pitch. Either it’s a commercial, a video game gig, or a documentary narration, you need to sound like you know what you’re talking about. Trust the script, the subject matter experts who wrote it, and sound like you’re 100% confident of the message you’re communicating.
Keep it friendly, conversational, neutral, but also authoritative. And yes, a voiceover might be a sales pitch but don’t sound like you sell.
It’s the perfect time for anyone looking to start a voice-acting career to act. The transition from traditional media like TV to tech advancements like TikTok and streaming services has allowed everyone to pursue their dream and make money off their voice.
But there’s a catch.
The more popular voice acting gets, the harder the competition. And the more rigid the competition, the more you need to try. You know what a voice actor does, how to start voice acting, or how to do voice-overs. But what about all those famed, great voice actors with consistent cash flow and an engaged clientele?
If you’re seriously looking for ways to become a voice actor and establish a serious voice-acting career, keep reading for some extra tips that separate the doers from the achievers.
Get a leg up on the competition now:
- Experiment a lot — at least when getting started with voice acting
It’s true that when you’re starting out, you need to experiment with different types of voice acting. In fact, this is a strategy that most voice-over artists have followed early in their careers.
As a beginner voice actor, you will try to identify which areas are worth your attention, what other areas suit you best, and what types of voice acting you should avoid or get better at.
Don’t be afraid to experiment since it’s the only way for you to find your strengths and areas for improvement. Don’t wait until you have an assignment.
Voice acting can be easily practiced at home without any special equipment. So, simply do it.
- Use feedback to your advantage
Like it or not, there’s always this time when all professional creatives get feedback from their customers. And we mean a lot of feedback. Yes, sometimes it might feel too much, overwhelming, even annoying, but your customers think “business” when you think “art.”
And even though you have no control over what your customer likes or not, you need to use their comments to your advantage and become better at what you do.
Many of us usually take feedback personally but think of each client as candid reviews that point you in the right direction. Something that a current client might find wrong might be something that a next client will find wrong as well.
So, when someone points out a weakness, ask for more information and details. This will help you understand what you did wrong and how you can improve in the future.
In addition to becoming a better voice actor, you will appear more professional. A voice actor that adapts to their client’s needs and brief is a valuable asset and forms a stronger, more understanding relationship with the company that pays them.
- Be available on the spot
After you’ve become a voice actor, more requests will start coming in. Your clients will set deadlines, and you will definitely need to deliver on time. But is it enough? Short answer: no.
In this competitive landscape, you need to be as much available as you can. Respond to email requests promptly, be on call for any last-minute changes and edits, and solve problems or address concerns in a snap. It’s a gig economy we live in, and people have high expectations when looking to hire new talent. And it’s up to you to meet these expectations.
- Train your voice and take care of it
By now, you know that when getting into your voice acting, your voice instantly becomes your moneymaker. And you need to take that into account when using it in your everyday life because you want to take care of your moneymaker.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and other nicotine products to protect your voice’s health. Rest as much as you can, sleep a lot, and do your warm-up exercises first thing in the morning.
Of course, if there’s a demanding project you’re working on, or you have too many assignments that will exhaust you, you need to keep training your voice so it doesn’t crack or even gets wholly destroyed. You don’t want that.
- Develop at least some technical skills
Not all clients book recording studios — especially when it’s for simple, 1-minute-long audio ads, for example.
Today, most voice actors have invested some money in creating a home studio where they can produce high-quality work. And yes, in case you were wondering, this is completely possible if you create a good home-studio setup tailored to your needs.
Getting familiar with how microphones work and what settings you need to play around with in your audio software tool is the very first step towards building an all-inclusive voice acting business.
But why stop there? Your technical skills should also cover another vital part of the voice acting industry: post-production.
Oftentimes, clients might suggest some edits or notice some quality issues in your playback that you might need to clean up or completely redo. This is a valuable skill set because you will be able to respond to their request right on the spot and don’t waste time — which, in turn, means faster payment.
- Market yourself to become a voice actor people respect
There are so many different ways to promote your business online. However, if you’re not familiar with online self-promotion, the first thing you want to do is build a website where you can display your services and how you can solve your potential customers’ problems. In addition to that, you might want to feature clients you’ve worked with in the past, projects that you’re proud of, and a complete portfolio, so people get to know you better.
Get your name out there and show everyone that you’re worth their attention. Hire an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert to help you rank higher on Google page results for specific keywords and create social media accounts.
Nowadays, people spend their whole time watching YouTubers, liking posts on Instagram, and checking TikTok sounds, so use them as much as you can. The digital world is the real world today and your social media profile is a billboard.
We’ve covered how to get into voice acting, we’ve talked about the voice acting skills you need to develop, and you now know what makes a voice actor the best voice actor out there.
But, when all is said and done, you want to know how to find a voice acting job. Here’s a checklist. Follow the tips below to find out how to do it quickly:
- Keep practicing
If you spend some hours of your day watching TV ads, listening to radio jingles, and watching YouTube documentaries, you’re on the right track. When trying to succeed as a voice actor, listening to what other voice-over actors do is the first step toward success.
If you want to know how to get into voice acting, imitating others is a great answer. Listen to people thriving in your industry, try to imitate them, and adjust your voice and positioning based on what you’re trying to achieve. Record yourself, listen to your voice, see the areas you want to improve in, and don’t panic if you find out that your voice sounds different. It’s more than usual.
- Invest in some equipment
Every art comes with a toolkit. And the good news that if you’re looking for ways to get into voice acting, that toolbox doesn’t have to be super-extensive.
Many voice actors will tell you to invest in acoustic foam absorbers or panels, but if you’re starting out your voice acting career, you can simply record your voice-overs in your closet to reduce noise and reverb.
What you definitely need, though, is a microphone. For starters, you can invest in something basic to get the job done, but, generally, the higher the quality of your recording device, the less post-production work for you. But since you’re just getting into voice acting, you can test your mobile phone and record your first voice over on an iPhone, for example.
- Get the right software tool
To sound professional, you need to start playing around with audio editing tools. You’ve got your voice, which is your primary instrument, but you need something more to make your voice sound even better.
Start with a tool that is easy to use, so you don’t feel intimidated right off the bat. You can start with something simple like ERA Bundle Standard. Start your free trial now and see how the product works for you.
- Audition for work
After you’ve built enough confidence and you’ve learned how to use your voice, equipment, and software tools, you can start auditioning. Don’t feel disappointed though, getting started with voice acting is hard, and you will definitely want to try different genres, use all types of voice, and land as many gigs as possible.
Moving forward, you’re going to be able to identify your key areas and the types of work you should be focusing on. Get out there, try different things, and you will soon be able to figure out where your effort and energy should go to.
- Create a website
Think of your website as your ultimate marketing tool. It’s your public CV, your online business card, and your professional identity. A website should showcase your experience, the areas that interest you the most, some necessary information about you, and, of course, a demo.
A demo comes with plenty of benefits. First, your potential customers will be able to understand whether your voice is a good fit for their project or not. And second, an agency will be able to discover you and get a full grasp of your potential so they can understand how they will be able to introduce you to more customers.
- Find an agent
Many freelance voice actors choose to sign up on websites, such as Upwork or Freelancer, to avoid agents or agencies. And this is completely fine. But if you’re starting with voice over work, it might be challenging and not sustainable.
Sure, diving into deep waters on your own could work, but agents have connections, and they can land you collaborations with big brands, TV commercial projects, or even movie deals. Long story short, agents can put you on the map.
Approach some agencies, audition for them, and show them what you’ve got. After all you won’t have to pay them and only give them a commission after you’ve completed a project they’ve found for you.
If you’ve followed this post and you’ve checked all those boxes we’ve talked about, you’re more or less set for voice acting success. But the thing is that you need to work hard because it’s becoming a competitive industry.
With apps like TikTok, and features like IGTV, and YouTube Red, brands and production companies are constantly looking to hire voice talent. And people seem to know that. So, the number one piece of advice would be to never stop evolving.
Practice, do your exercises, study other voice actors, create a killer website and a fantastic demo. After that, market yourself and talk to professional agents. Good luck!