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Getting Started in Voice Overs, the Ultimate Beginners Guide

By Stew Crossen and Eric Michael Summerer


Chapter 1:
What exactly are voice-overs?

The term comes from the world of film, when a narration was referred to in the script as "Voice Over Picture", or VO for short. Now, voice-over can refer to any number of ways you can use your voice to get a message across.

You've heard about commercials, corporate narration and animation, but how about automated phone messaging, Automated Dialogue Replacement (also called looping), or reading for the blind? That automated message that calls you in the middle of dinner to say, "Hi, this is your credit card company calling with exciting news about your account." Someone was paid to read that. It could be you.

Voice-overs are a dynamic and flexible industry. You don't need a license or anyone's permission to do it. You can do it full time, or you can get started by auditioning and working in your spare time. Either way, you'll need dedication, creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit to succeed. You'll also need to learn to handle rejection. There are a lot of people in this business and you'll hear a good number of No's (or no answer at all) before you get that first job. You need a thick skin. Don't take the No's personally. Learn from it and move on to the next audition. With that said, there's always room for new talent, no matter your age, sex or "voice type."

It used to be that voice-overs was dominated by the big, booming "Voice of God" announcer style male voice, but the industry has changed. While men still have a slight edge on women in the industry, more and more women are taking on roles that have traditionally been for a "guy's voice". The split is estimated to be about 60-40 today. There's also a push away from those big announcer style voices. Producers today want a more natural, conversational delivery, like a trusted friend or the girl next door. What this means is, even if you don't have a resonant "radio voice", there's a place for you in the industry.

Voice-over is a who you know and who knows you, not a what you know industry. Many jobs go to the voice actor who knows the producer or who is a customer of the client company. Often, getting one job creates opportunities for more jobs. It may seem unfair, but producers and clients like to work with people they know, people whom they already know will do a good job. There's a way around this barrier, and we'll talk about it later, but for know here's a hint: voice-overs are about making contacts.

Voice-over is a very competitive business and there are more voice actors than there are jobs. Home recording and the wonders of the Internet have increased competition as well. On one hand, inexpensive recording equipment and online casting allow you to audition for jobs across the country or around the world. On the other hand, talent from across the country can audition for the same local jobs that you'd like to go for.

Speaking in broad terms, to get work as a voice actor you need three things...
1. An average sounding voice, with a wide range of styles.
2. Above average marketing.
3. A great demo reel.

In Chapter 2, we'll talk about what you must have and do to get started in your very own voice over business.



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