I love answering questions from fans and others who are interested in learning more about the voice acting business. I just received an email from a young man who lives in the Midwest. He’s 17 and wants to be a voice actor. He wanted to know what he could do to reach his goal. Here is what I wrote:
Thanks for writing me. So you want to be a voice actor? I can give you a few tips. It looks like you are writing from somewhere in Cincinnati or thereabouts, right?
The first thing you want to do is get acting training. Many times people want to be voice actors but they forget about the acting part. You need to get into some plays or take classes. Improvisation classes are great.
You also need to learn to market yourself because you will always be going after jobs.
Voice acting is not very predictable and there are a lot of ups and downs. Marketing means learning how to sell yourself and promoting yourself in person as well as online. It isn’t always the best actor that gets a job, but the best marketer. There are a ton of very talented actors out there wasting away because they don’t know anything about marketing.
It’s also important to have a backup plan, like going to college or learning some type of craft or skill.
If you can, find something that’s flexible so you can go on auditions if needed. Because acting jobs are hit and miss, you should find a way early to start putting money away for a rainy day or future retirement. Most actors, including me, are pretty stupid when it comes to planning for the future. Start doing it immediately even though you’re only 17 now. If someone had told me that when I was your age, I would be in much better shape.
There isn’t a huge amount of work in your area unless you focus on doing commercials or possibly radio.
Most professional voice acting work is in Los Angeles, New York, and a few other major cities. For those in other areas, there are online sites that you can sign up for and get practice auditioning online. I’m not a big fan of them because most actors don’t earn a decent rate on them. You must be able to record and direct yourself with great sound quality. This requires an investment of cash for recording equipment, demo reels, advertising materials, and training. There is a lot of competition in the voice over field so the way you present and promote yourself must be extremely professional. A competitive pro demo reel usually costs over $1,000.
It helps to have a website as well and be connected on social media. I use WordPress.org for my site and setting it up is also a skill I learned to use as a business in addition to voice acting.
I think the easiest way to get into the voice acting business, especially if you aren’t necessarily an actor is by creating a podcast. Some podcasters make tons of money but you have to have an entrepreneurial spirit and an interesting topic. People with an employee mentality, (used to getting paid by a boss) must learn independent ways to earn income that will come in automatically, so you don’t have to depend on acting or other freelance jobs to live on. You can accomplish this by selling something online such as a digital Ebook, online training course, or other products.
Be smarter than the average bear and you will be much better off.