As a VO talent and coach, I am constantly getting asked how to get started in the voiceover industry. This article is the second in a series addressing the answer. Finding success in the Voice Over industry can be difficult - and complicated at times. After conducting some preliminary research as noted in my first article, your next steps should be to investigate training and coaching. A lot of people think voice artists just "talk" for a living, but it really is so much more than that. Speaking someone else's written words and making them sound believable and authentic definitely takes skills - acting skills to be specific. And if we make it seem that easy, well then we have done our jobs right!
Successful Training and Coaching
Training and coaching are essential to developing the necessary performance skills you will need in order to be successful in cultivating a forward momentum in this industry. Keep in mind that you should go into this with your eyes wide open and with the goal of being a lifelong learner. Most successful voiceover artists spend years honing and perfecting their performance skills - after all, YOU are the product of your own business, so it stands to reason that you need to invest in yourself! In addition to your performance skills, don't forget about the business aspect of your career as well. You can have the best voice in the world, but it won't do you any good if no one knows about it to hire you!
There is no shortage of coaches and classes to choose from. Be prudent and do your homework to research and find reputable resources to help guide you on your journey (more on this later). You may want to try a group class or workout group first. This will not only allow you to get direct feedback at a reasonable price, but you’ll also be able to listen to other VO students. Many times, in these workshops or classes, you’ll glean fantastic tidbits of insight from coaching that is directed towards a fellow actor. How to find good classes and groups? Here’s a start:
VO Networking Groups
One great way to immerse yourself in the industry without having to invest a lot of money is to join a Voiceover Networking Group. Groups can be a wonderful way to learn and be part of an encouraging community that can help support you in your voiceover journey. They can also be a great resource for helping you to find credible training and coaching resources.
After I moved to California in 2008, I wanted a way to get to know the people in the industry in my local area, and also find a way to introduce myself to them. Since there weren't any active networking groups near me, I decided to create my own. (This was back in the days before meetup.com made it so easy!) It was then that my networking group VO Peeps, was born. The group was an amazing way for me to assemble and network with people in the voiceover industry local to me, as well as host a place to share information and resources. In 2010, with my previous expertise in distance education, I decided to open up the group globally to the Internet with the goal of becoming a resource for voiceover artists around the world. I even started streaming our regular meetups online, becoming one of the first groups to ever do so in our industry. In addition to meeting monthly, we also offered educational classes and workshops with some of the best coaches in the industry. Today our members are in the thousands and I could not be more in love with my Peeps Family! Since then, many other wonderful communities have been formed online as well and provide an amazing wealth of information about voiceover. Some of my favorites include:
VO Peeps: Of course the Peeps! Yay! This is our global Facebook community group. Come join us and become part of the Peeps Family! We have some of the best community-building posts out there. You'll also be the first to hear about exclusive VO peeps workshops and events.
VOPreneur: Run by one of my all-time favorite VO Business guys, Marc Scott. Marc has an amazing group focused on the business of voiceover. Lots of solid advice and a great community
Voiceover Pros: Run by veteran VO talents Terry Daniel and Dave Courvoisier, this group is one of the most active and outspoken, with lots of great conversations about the latest industry events.
Voiceover Universe: Administered by longtime VO talent Doug Turkel, this group promotes sharing ideas about voiceover, and is a great place to ask questions and get answers to help you grow your career.
Women in Voiceover: Run by VO talent Lisa Biggs, this is an amazingly supportive group that discusses all things VO, as well as specific topics relative to women in the industry
If you are just starting out, there is so much information out there, that it can be overwhelming. Group classes can help you narrow your focus and help decide which genre of VO you want to pursue. There is so much more than just commercial VO! You may want to consider corporate narration, explainer, e-learning, documentary narration, promo, trailer, animation, videogames, phone systems, the list goes on. Be open to exploring the different genres’ of VO. You may find you love medical narration or have a knack for promo work. Group classes can also be a cost-effective way to really get to know details about a specific genre or instructor before you invest a lot of money into one on one coaching or a demo too soon.
Reality Check: If you’re coming to voiceover from any sort of broadcasting background (radio or television), you may need to break some vocal styling habits in order to be successful in voiceover. Voice acting includes mujltiple styles including engaging, conversational, and natural authentic.
VO Peeps has been offering online group classes since 2010. Every month features a different guest director, with some of the most respected and sought-after names in the industry. Classes are typically recorded and both participant and audit seats are available for purchase. Audit seats are perfect if you are first starting out and want to be a fly on the wall and learn from a distance. VO Peeps Peer-led workouts are also available for all experience levels and can help you work on your read and ask questions in a safe space with a supportive group. Make sure to sign up for the mailing list or check the Events page often to see the latest offerings.
VO Peeps also offers a VIP membership, called VIPeeps, that offers on-demand access to past recorded classes (150 + hours), a discount for monthly workouts, as well as offering an additional free live monthly workout for members. This can be a wonderful starting point to learn more about specific genres, coaches, and their teaching styles. New videos with fresh content are added monthly and there is no obligation. Binge-watch all you want and learn at your own pace!
In addition to online classes, check for studios local to your area that might be offering workouts and classes. Remember, you’re studying to be a voice actor, so it's a good idea to check out acting and improv classes too.
One of the best ways to drill deep into the fundamentals of performance and prepare yourself properly for your demo is to seek out one-on-one coaching. This will give you more customized attention and time at the mic to allow you to practice and hone your skills. It can also serve as a valuable investment to get your initial questions answered quickly by a trusted professional.
Many sought-after and respected coaches will offer a free consulting session which can be a great way to get a sneak peek into their coaching style and see if you click. Find someone who you’re comfortable with and will push you in a way that inspires and motivates you to be better. If you have an idea of the genre you’re targeting, try to find a coach who specializes in that genre. A good coach will know the trends in the industry that they specialize in and can guide you based on your abilities.
It is always fun to train and coach in performance skills when you first start out. But, as mentioned above, don't forget about your business. Remember, you’re a small business owner. There are many aspects to consider when you are building your business. Finding a coach that can help you with branding, marketing, logistics, administration, and planning is just as valuable as finding performance coaches. A great coach will educate you about both.
Great coaching should be a partnership. Bring your willingness to learn, but also know what you’re hoping to achieve. Create a clear goal for yourself and share it with your coach. It’s just as helpful to them to know what your expectations are so they can focus on your specific needs. Maybe you would like to master the conversational read, or you would like to develop your character repertoire. Maybe you are training in order to audition better or would like to create a demo in a specific genre. Whatever your motivations are, communicate them clearly to your coach, and you both will get more out of your training.
As mentioned above, make sure to keep your eyes wide open when you start looking for classes and coaches. Unfortunately, there are unethical predators that exist in the market looking to cash in on your eagerness. Look out for advertisers that claim that "Voiceovers are Lucrative!" or "Work from Home and Make 6 Figures!", or for anyone offering an all-day or weekend seminar that promises a demo or a chance for a demo at the end. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Let’s be clear, no one is ready to record a demo after a weekend session of classes. That’s a pretty big red flag. It takes time to learn how to interpret copy in a way that is natural and believable. You are learning acting, and most actors spend years perfecting their craft. Malcolm Gladwell gave us the 10,000 hours to master any skill rule, and this rule holds up in the VO industry as well.
Some Red Flags to watch for:
Promising "instant" success
Offering demo production after only a handful of classes
Relatively unknown on social media and online groups
A lack of transparency
Limited time offers!
Strangely bundled services like – “everything you need to get started!”
“Professional” microphone and headphones included
Cutting edge workbook
Full business plan
More is Better
It is true that I am a lifelong learner. I always have been. I guess that explains why I was a teacher for 20+ years! But my true belief is that when in doubt, more education and training are always better. We can always improve our craft. Many of us have more than likely spent many many hours learning trades in our previous education. Doctors go to school for a minimum of 8 -12 years to do what they do, others spend 4 years or more working toward college degrees. Why is it that everyone wanting to get into voiceover thinks they should be demo ready after just 4 or 5 sessions (translation = 4-5 hours)? Just because you are a good cold reader, it doesn't mean you have mastered a connection with the script and told a story. A good coach will be instrumental in helping you to connect with the copy in an authentic way and breakthrough any old habits that are holding you back. VO is a skill set that needs constant practice and improvement for you to stay relevant. So plan on that, and build training into your business model.
Reality Check: Remember that coaching is about continual improvement and therefore isn’t something you “finish”. You can always benefit from another set of ears to help elevate your performance.
Remember that saying from earlier? This is a marathon, not a sprint. Find a coach that cares about YOU and your journey, not just the dollar signs. One that you trust, that can help inspire you to be a better actor, a better business owner, and who is around for the long haul. Invest in your product - YOU! I promise you won't regret it.
Up next: Creating your Home Studio!
Much love and Keep on rockin' your health and your biz!
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.