Our industry is fantastic. There is a huge amount of information out there for newcomers and people who are looking to improve their Voice Over business. There are some issues though. One of the biggest is that there are a lot of people out there who want to take your money in return for a promise of a 6 figure voice over career. Hence the reason for my slightly misleading and more than somewhat sarcastic title! A lot of the info out there is also very generic and doesn’t quite point people in a helpful direction. You can spend hours searching the internet for some advice on a certain subject and end up more confused by the end of it! Hopefully, I can clear some of this up and give a more definitive answer for you.
If you are just starting out in Voice Over, the plethora of information can be overwhelming! But if you search through the info there is always a recurring theme. Here is a list of the most important things you will need to concentrate on and it is in a specific order:
Get a high-quality voice over coach. You just cannot skip this step. If possible, find a coach that you can do face to face sessions with in your area. But be careful. Do your due diligence. A coach will be expensive and you want to make sure that you get what you pay for. Check out their website. Look for actual testimonials of students who have gone on to book actual work due to their training. Then contact the people whose testimonials were used. They will usually be very happy to let you know about their experience with that coach. I cannot stress enough how important a coach will be for your career. Coaching will usually cost between $100-$200 per hour. I started with a local coach in my area who runs an introduction to voice over group. He is a really nice guy and someone who I still speak to on a relatively regular basis through a local Voice group. For me, he wasn’t the type of coach I needed. He was too nice and I am the kind of person who needs told straight if I am doing something right or wrong. I then moved on to Edge Studios and worked with David Goldberg for a few sessions using Skype. Once again, he had some great information but his coaching style just did not click with me. I have heard other people say that he worked well for them. My next choice was Skype coaching with Marc Cashman. Marc was really good and I learned a lot while I was coaching with him. I went over to California and met with him and he is just a genuinely nice guy. I would recommend Marc as a coach for anyone who is starting out. After multiple sessions, once again I realized that I personally needed to be challenged further and looked for a stronger personality to be my coach. I am now working with Nancy Wolfson via Skype. Nancy is well known in the industry and has worked with numerous voice actors who have gone on to book major jobs and credit their success to the training that Nancy provides. Just go to her website (www.braintracksaudio.com/testemonials) and check it out. Nancy was exactly what I was looking for and needed. She does not hold back and lets you know if you are doing things right or wrong. Most importantly – what she says all makes complete sense to me.
Treat your room. Wow. This made such a difference to me early on. There is no way that you will be able to compete in this business if your room does not sound good. Seriously – you will not book jobs or be able to compare yourself to your competition if your recording area has not been treated. I suggest contacting George Whittam (http://www.georgethe.tech) and get him to analyze your recording space. For $25 you can get a sound check on your room. Treating your room is not as daunting as you may think. I still work out of a “closet” that has an area sectioned off and surrounded with acoustic dampening materials. The area is about 6ft x 5ft and all the walls and the roof have acoustic foam mounted on it. I have bass trap in one corner and the floor is carpet. I also have a very heavy curtain behind me. The difference this has made to the quality of my recordings cannot be over emphasized. I live in a relatively quiet area so I don’t need an isolation booth at the moment. I can work around people using lawn mowers etc. But this step is an absolute must - treat your room before you buy your first quality microphone.
Buy a good quality condenser microphone. Buying a mic is usually always the first thing that an aspiring voice over will go out and do. There are so many options out there but nobody will absolutely tell what your first microphone should be. Well this is one is quite easy in my opinion. Buy a Rode NT1 (http://www.rode.com/microphones/nt1) You are not going to get a better microphone for the price. The quality is fantastic and will set you up for quality recordings in your treated space. Your $270 investment will be well worth it.
Buy an audio interface and a DAW. Another simple one in my opinion. I just can’t get past the quality of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface (https://us.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i2). For $150 it’s just a great piece of kit. For my DAW (digital audio workstation) I use Reaper. But this is completely up to you. Many people still use Audacity which is free. Others use Pro-Tools or Adobe audition. All work well at recording your voice. What you should use depends on your skills and requirements. Audacity is relatively easy. Pro-Tools is relatively complicated!
Practice. Now you have everything you need to get started. And I mean get started. You are probably not going to start booking jobs straight away (great if you do!). You need to practice. And practice. And then practice some more. Your coach should be giving you homework. Diligently work on it. Every bit of spare time that you have should be used to practice this craft. Go to a Talent Agent website such as Atlas Talent Agency (http://www.atlastalent.com/atlas_commercial_voices.html). Download some of the demos in your gender and age range. Write down the copy for some of the commercials in the demos and then create your own mini demo using your own spin on each one (this will not be your demo!!!!). Your goal is to eventually sound as good as the people who are booking. If you don’t sound as good you need to practice more and keep up with the coaching. You should eventually be able to get to a point where you can’t tell the difference between your recordings and the pro’s who are booking when it comes to sound quality and read quality.
That should get you to a place where you can start putting yourself out there and try getting some jobs. How long does this take? Well, for me it took about 1 year to get to a point where I started getting regular bookings. I plan to show you what this looked like and how I got there in my next blog.
Until next time, have a great time in your booth!