Cheat Sheet

Voice Acting For Dummies

From Voice Acting For Dummies by David Ciccarelli, Stephanie Ciccarelli

Ever wanted to use your voice to make a living but just didn’t know how or what to do? Voice acting is one of the greatest ways that you can use your instrument and also make money. As a voice actor, you can exercise your creativity to its fullest and get all the voices in your head a paying job! Most importantly, though, to be a voice actor is to tell a story and to tell it well. What story will you tell today?

Must-Have Demos to Showcase Your Voice Acting

As a voice actor, you need to have recorded demos that indicate your abilities and skills to prospective clients. Voice-over demos fall into four main categories, each having their own purpose, style of performance, intended audience.

  • Commercial: These demos last 60 to 90 seconds, and they’re usually a montage of four to five snippets from radio and television ads. They should highlight a full range of emotions, selling styles, moods, and characters.

  • Narration: These demos last 60 seconds to five minutes, and they usually are a read excerpt that gives your listener a taste of the narrator’s style. With this type of demo, you want to demonstrate your ability with narration, characterization, and consistency in tone and pace.

  • Animation: These demos last one to two minutes that demonstrate a wide range of characters. You want to showcase your ability with humor, characterization, accents, and comedic elements.

  • Promo: They should last one to two minutes and promote a comedy, a drama, a news intro, and a movie trailer.

Tips for Great Voice-Over Performances

When giving a great performance as a voice actor, you need to get a strong feel for the script writer’s intentions for writing the script. Get inside the script and read between the lines. The following tips can help you to more fully understand what the writer intended and better inform your read:

  • Know your character. Find out all you can about your character in order to give the most believable performance, which includes how old your character is, what motivates your character, your character’s priorities, and so on.

  • Know your audience. To whom are you speaking? Every good voice actor has a clear idea of who his or her target audience is and why what he or she is saying is meaningful to the listener.

  • Research the location and its environment. Setting the scene is important. Find out details that can support your interpretation of the script, including accents if required and ambient sounds.

  • Be sensitive to context. Take in the full picture before you decide how you’ll read a script. Everything is connected to each other, including characters. Understanding the entire script is crucial to delivering an informed read.

  • Visualize the location, your surroundings, and your character. Imagine where your character is, what’s going on around him or her, and how the character fits into the story. You may want to use photographs as a visual guide or inspiration for painting pictures with your words.

  • Listen to music of the time period. Are you looking for another way to gain insight into the world your character lives in? If you have a date or an era to reference, try to locate music of that time and immerse yourself in what may be the soundtrack of their life.

  • Identify your character’s contemporaries, whether real or imagined. When creating a character, understanding who your character chooses to surround him or herself with tells you a lot about your character as a person. If your character lived sometime in the past, research people who lived at that time to get a clearer picture of who your character is and how he or she related to contemporaries.

  • Practice speaking in character when talking to other people. Are you able to speak as your character, even when you’re not reading from a script? Conversing as your character with others is a good test of how well you know your character, how he or she would say things, and what makes him or her tick.

  • Know how the story ends before you get there. There’s nothing worse than a narrator who is just as surprised as his or her audience. Reading the full script through before recording can ensure that you aren’t caught by surprise, and you can create a better overall performance.

Creative Ways to Market Yourself as a Voice Actor

If you feel like your efforts aren’t hitting the mark or are irregular at best, you can get proactive! You can build your roster of clients in several ways in addition to just auditioning. Although responding to casting calls is an important part of the job, so is marketing.

Creating a well-defined marketing plan can help you build a client base faster than auditioning alone. Here are 20 marketing ideas to help you get your voice acting career jumping.

  • Logos: Develop your own logo and become memorable before people even hear your voice.

  • Business Cards: Create some business cards. They won’t do you any good just sitting in your wallet though. Hand them out everywhere! You never know who your waitress knows or who is visiting the dentist that day.

  • Branded letterhead: If you’re mailing demos to potential clients, write a brief cover letter using branded letterhead.

  • Demo stickers: Use demo stickers that contain your contact details and logo.

  • Thank you cards: People still love the personal touch of a handwritten thank you card. This kind of gesture is the kind of thing that helps to develop strong business relationships.

  • Postcards or pamphlets: Mail businesses a post card or pamphlet to introduce yourself and your services explaining how you can help them.

  • Blogging If you enjoy writing and can do it consistently, blogging can be an effective way to build a following and increase your presence on the web.

  • Meet-up groups: Starting or joining a monthly meet-up group is a great way to network with peers and get referral business.

  • Social media groups: Become active on social media groups geared toward voice-over or start one yourself. Try creating a group geared toward a voice-over niche, such as video game voices or cartoon voices.

  • Personal website: Having a personal website in addition to a profile on a voice acting marketplace site can increase your presence online even more. The more web presences you have, the more likely a client is to come across you while searching for talent.

  • Professional associations: Receiving accreditation from a voice-over association can help you be perceived as a professional voice actor and give you exclusive training and networking opportunities.

  • Generate publicity: Everyone has a story! Try pitching yours to magazines and newspapers to generate publicity for your business.

  • Send client swag: Swag refers to useful items you can send to clients that are branded with your company logo, such as mugs, magnets, pens, and so on.

  • Sponsor an event: If you can swing it, sponsoring an event is a great was to generate some publicity and make yourself known within your community.

  • Traditional advertising: Place an ad in your local newspaper, trade magazine, or phonebook.

  • Cold Call: If you have the personality for it, try cold calling local businesses and introduce yourself. Find out if they’re interested in using your voice in their next radio commercial or offer to be the voice of their telephone auto-attendant

  • Referrals: If your client is happy with your work, ask if he or she can refer you to others. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

  • Link-love: Hundreds of online directories are online. Take some time each day to find and submit your website to them to increase traffic to your site.

  • Google AdWords: Reach out to a targeted audience with an ad that appears alongside specific key word searches.

  • Join websites: Not only can you reach out to clients through auditioning, but having a profile at marketplace websites, like the ones listed here, is like setting up a booth at your local market. Hundreds of clients search for voice actors each day.

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