Thinking Of Doing Some Voice-Over

I know this must be a very hard field to break into, but having had some radio experience back in the 70-80’s (and time on my hands) I thought I might give this a shot.

I’d appreciate your input and advice.



My best friend does voice-over work for a living. I can tell you that he has to belong to both AFTRA and SAG, and he needs an agent. The agent can find you auditions. It’s a constant process of reading scripts and copy for auditions until you get some jobs and build up a working relationship with several ad agencies, TV / radio outfits and whoever else hires announcers. Then your agent can get you work more often than auditions, because you will then have some credentials.

If you’re really serious about it, the tools you need are an computer with excellent recording software (minimum Adobe Audition) and the skills to edit on it, an excellent mixer, an excellent mic preamp, an excellent mic, and an ISDN unit. That way, when you get hired for a job, the recording people can call you on the ISDN at your home, and you read the script that has been faxed or e-mailed to you while they listen and record on the other end. This is a necessary step, because you can’t take a job in Oregon or Arizona or New Hampshire if you have to fly to each one - you’d operate at a loss. Not a lot of places (hardly any, really) have facilities you can rent for such purposes. And the most important thing to realize is that payday is someday. You can go months before you get paid for some jobs. So don’t quit your day job!

Inbetween the OP and your reply I went to this website:

And had a look around.

Your reply was much more informative and useful, thanks.


I just spent some time with my friend. I told him about this thread and asked what else I should tell you. There’s quite a lot more involved here!

You need multiple agents, in multiple cities around the country. Not two in the same market, but for instance, Dallas and Denver and Cincinnati and Atlanta, and similar markets.

You need a demo. Demonstrate the different styles in which you are able to read. Each should be no longer than 60 seconds. You should have a CD with several tracks, labelled “Commercial,” “Narration,” “Character Voices” and whatever else you can do. He says they won’t listen to more than :60 of anything unless they really like you. It’s helpful for them to be able to go right to the track on your CD that has the kind of thing they’re looking for. They are unwilling to slog through anyone’s entire demo where it isn’t clear what’s in the presentation.

Next, you also need a cover letter and resume. And a website, advertising your services. When you have a promo package, there are two routes. If you are not a member of at least AFTRA, it is going to be a hard slog. You will have to send packages everywhere, not unlike flinging shit at the wall - maybe one will stick. If you are a union member, you can go to the AFTRA website and there will be a list of AFTRA-affiliated agents. From there, you can pick a list of the agents you’re interested in working with.

You have to cold call them all, to see if they’re accepting voice talent. Some agencies only represent models, or animals, or dancers, etc. Narrow that down to a list of agencies for voice artists, and having spoken to them first to see if they want your demo, send one to each place. Ask for the name of the person you should mail your package to, and personalize your cover letter.

Agents are apparently not all that helpful. They aren’t going to call you all the time. It may be long stretches before you hear from any of them. It would be prudent to call each of your agents from time to time to ask if there are any jobs coming up. And sometimes, they will get you a job and change their minds at the last moment and get somebody else to voice it. That happened to my friend yesterday.

He says you will need to spend approximately $15-20,000 to get started, for equipment and modifications to your house. You need to soundproof your recording room, and get an electrician in to put your studio on a separate circuit, so you don’t get hum from the other circuits in the house (fridge, AC/furnace).

Lastly, he says, “go get a job at a used car lot, so you can get used to the rejection.”

Heilige Scheisse!! :eek:

fishbicycle , I want to thank you (and your friend) for posting this information, and I have bookmarked this thread for future reference.

Honestly, I was about to plunk down $159.00 for edgestudio’s introductory package, but after reading your friend’s information, I can see it won’t be as simple as it appears, and even after investing 15 to 20K on myself and my talent, it would still be a crap-shoot, and who knows how long it will take to make that back?

Yeah, I know a lot of that can be deducted, but still, that’s a huge chunk of change.

Plan “B” was just to advertise my services locally in a freelance kinda way. I have already done some voice-overs for a local tech school’s website slide presentation, but that was done as a favor to a friend with no compensation.

Once again, my sincere thanks for posting in this thread. If nothing else, you caused me to stop and think before paying out that intitial sum, and that is something, sure enough.

Straight-Doping at its best, and in my eyes, above and beyond.



<movie announcer voice>
In a world where dopers want to do voiceover work, nobody was safe
</movie announcer voice>

So what skills are required for voice-over? A company I used to work for always hired actors from a local theatre group to do voice-over on internal training videos and such. Does it require acting skills or can you get work by just having a distinctive voice?


You’re welcome! I’m glad I could help out. I can see how the process is daunting to all but the most dedicated. The reason for the large cash outlay for equipment is because if you want to play with the big boys, you have to do what they do, and use what they use. A Shure SM 58 and a Soundblaster sound card isn’t going to cut it. We’re talking Manley Vox Box (tube preamp/processor) and a Neumann U87 mic and a studio quality sound card. If you want to get the work, you have to sound like the guys in New York and LA. That is definitely daunting! I couldn’t do it.

Regarding the question of what kind of skills it takes, you have to be able to do several kinds of reading. Everything from the intimate narration of a PBS wildlife documentary, to SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!!! You have to be master of inflection. You need to be able to sell what you’re selling, convincingly, without sounding smarmy or fake. Cold reading is an invaluable skill, as often you will read the spot moments after you’ve received it, without time to practice. It’s also good if you can read fairly long stretches of copy without flubbing. Time is money, and retakes are expensive.

Hiring the services of local acting companies to do voice work is common in smaller markets because the people don’t cost as much as pro voice actors. They have training in delivery and projection and sincerity. While they may not have chosen to do voice work for a living, they will at least have a good frame of reference for what is required, and a good performance can be coaxed from them. A “civilian”, for want of a better term, who has a deep voice and can read out loud is not enough to go on. It’s like the difference between watching Norm Abrams building a house and building your own house. Before you can do that, you really, really have to know what you’re doing.

A distinctive voice is a plus, because a lot of announcers sound nearly identical. If you can sound like one of those guys, great. That’s who your competition is - those thousands of guys with interchangeable voices. Not too many are too distinctive, and being too distinctive may hamper your ability to get ahead - like typecasting.

I’m going to heartlily agree on most of the stuff fishbicycle said, with a few caveats.

You do need a demo reel. When I got started in the biz, I had several, for different specialties, but have since combined them into a single reel that is about a minute long. The client is gong to know within a few seconds of hearing your voice if they are going to use you or not.

Find an agent in your area, and like fish said, cold call and find out who to send it to. Here is a link to my agency, go and listen to as many as you can stand. It’ll give you an idea of what an agent is looking for.

As far as your set up at home, unless you are going to be doing the recording, producing, finishing and sweetening, don’t let the home studio become an issue. fully 90 percent of my gigs have involved going to a studio to record. On the few occasions I’ve cut audio at home, I’ve used a mackie mixer, mic, and Sound Forge editing software. I would suggest Adobe Audition, though, it’s a lilttle more intuitive.

And don’t worry if you don’t have that “scotch and ciggarette” deep voice. It seems that most of the jobs I’ve been on in the last couple of years the client was looking for people who sound like “real people”.

Good luck!


Thanks for all the information fishbicycle and yanceybeef. I am interested in this question as I have a voice that along the lines of the “bourbon and cigarette” growl. In the land of ordinary people, my voice sticks out, but compared to the people on the site yancey linked to, it seems rather mundane. Regardless, over the years a number of people have commented that I could do voice work, but I never gave it much thought.

Do you have any suggestions on making a demo recording for “commercial” or “narration”? Should I just take the text of an existing commercial and do it in my own style? Does the demo need background music and the whole post-production finish?

I am a music production hobbyist so I have the hardware and software to create and record music, but I do not have a single microphone. From fishbicycle’s earlier post it sounds like I should not be using dynamic mic’s, but I most certainly am not going to fork over the dough for a Neumann U87. What would be a good studio vocal mic in the sub-$300 range?

LOL! I actually have my rendition of “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday” on my demo reel. Wasn 't sure if I shoud have put it there, but it broke up the straight reads and “intimate narrations.” The engineer put a few engive revs behind it, some stock rock music, a slight echo for the “Sundays,” and there we were. Great fun to do!

Not to take us too far off-topic, but back in the early 80’s there was a blues-rock group called Wilderness Road, and on their album they did a rendition of that commercial and they called it “The Wilderness Road Gospel Hour”.

It started off with just that stock-car racing commercial sound (SUNDAY!!! and they went on to describe all kinds of hilarious religious “events” scheduled in that hour, which was sponsored by “The Vibramatic Bible Belt”.

A Doper who had that record album was kind enough to make me a cassette copy way back in my early days, but alas, someone borrowed it and you know the rest…

Sorry to hijack my own damn thread!!! :smack: