We’ve put together this page of solid advice for anyone thinking of starting out in the voice-over business because we are constantly swamped with calls, letters and emails from young (and not so young!) hopefuls. Like the rest of the acting/entertainment industry there are many more people than there are jobs. Even professionals with many years experience can often only get a few jobs a year… Yes, it is that hard! Harvey Voices main priority is to represent the artists already on our books. However, we do have some experience with helping new talent so we’ve prepared a list of answers to a few of the Frequently Asked Questions.
How do I get started?
Unless you are already famous for some other reason, you will probably need a good voice-over agent. Get experience using your voice in different styles and make a demo/showreel to send to voice-over agents.
How can I get experience?
Have you considered voluntary work? It’s a great way to gain experience, contacts and get in the door! Schools may accept volunteers to read to children. Hospital radio can offer unpaid work on a voluntary basis and there are many libraries and organisations for the blind that may require readers. It is also worth contacting local radio stations to see if you can do work experience.
Do you recommend any training courses?
I can only say that any experience is an advantage – but no course or lessons can guarantee that you become a successful voice artist. I’d also recommend that if you’re determined to do a course, pick one that gives you a good standard of training and includes providing you with a showreel in the price, as it’s pointless paying for anything twice. Do your research but I don’t recommend spending hundreds of pounds on any one course or workshop. A well produced voiceover reel should be enough to interest an agent. There are many companies now very happy to charge expensive fee’s to help ‘train’ you, produce reels, sell expensive VO equipment, even charging for simple industry advice. Do you research and don’t part with your hard earned pennies until you are fully confident they are reputable and will be of use in furthering your career.
I’m not an actor. Does that matter?
Many successful voice-over artists were never trained as actors and indeed not every script requires an “acted” read. However, in addition to familiarising you with many of the things you may encounter during your voiceover career, acting classes can teach you how to convey specific emotions. This is particularly useful if producers and writers want certain emotions to be exhibited in their scripts. Acting can also train you in using your voice to it’s full potential, although I would warn against specialising in theatre acting if you are considering becoming a voice-over artist. On stage it is necessary to “project”, so your voice can be heard at the back of the theatre without the need of a microphone. This can lead to a habit of over-projecting into the microphone once you get into a sound studio and failing to deliver the voice that is required. A lot of radio presenters that have no theatrical training have successful voice-over careers.
I do loads of accents/funny voices! Can you use them?
You never know what might come in useful, but voice-over is largely based on your natural voice. Listen to any documentary, telephone voice menu system or even television commercial and you’ll probably hear the voiceover speaking in their natural accent. If producers want someone with a certain accent or type of voice they will hire someone who speaks that way naturally. Make sure any training you do teaches you to use your natural voice first. Having said that, if you are exceptionally good at accents and characters, then voice-overs are used in animations and cartoons. But, remember you have to be able to sustain the character or accent.
Can you record my showreel?
Harvey Voices’s main work is seeking and handling voice-over jobs for the artists on our books. We don’t directly have an involvement producing showreels for artists we do not represent however we would recommend purchasing a copy of ‘Contacts’ via The Spotlight at www.spotlight.com for listings of showreel producers and studios. Or contact Martin Fisher at Sonic Pond http://www.sonicpond.co.uk/ . We think he is one of the best showreel producers in London. ‘Contacts’ also has other useful contacts for getting into the business, such as voice-over agents.
On any demo, agents require a selection of commercial reads. If you have not made any professional commercials find some magazine adverts with plenty of copy in them and read this out as it would sound on television or radio. You can also record your own version of existing adverts, but beware of sounding inferior to the original version. The second requirement is a documentary piece. For this, you will need to watch a typical documentary or reality style show and copy their script when recording. In the past, agents used to ask for narrative pieces, but these are rarely used nowadays, as clients want to hear how you would sound if you were to actually record their show. More and more voiceovers are asked to give examples of their voices recording continuity reads, promos for TV and radio, telephone messaging and podcasts.
Feel free to include anything else you think an agent would like to hear, such as impressions, accents or singing – but only if they are of a strong enough quality vocally and in the recording.
Agents are looking for variety and range. You must prove that your voice is strong, versatile and adaptable. You do not need to produce a professional showreel – although it can help make a better first impression. At this stage a showreel recorded at home would suffice, providing one can clearly hear your voice. However, an agent will expect you to make a professional reel if they take you on. See page on Voice Reels.
How do I get my voice heard?
You should send your voiceover reels (MP3’s) via email, as this is the preferred method of receiving demos. Most agents have a busy office and while wishing they could devote time to welcoming potential new artists in person, unsolicited visits end up being an inconvenience at best. In addition, please note that emails with large sound files attached may be deleted without being heard, especially if you get an artist who has sent their email over a weekend and has blocked up an agent’s in-box and caused them to lose mail!
Be aware that the chances of acceptance are slim. As we’ve already pointed out, this is a very competitive industry. The most common reason for returning a demo is simply because it is too similar to a voice we already represent.
Can Harvey Voices represent me?
Currently our books are closed and we are not accepting reels.
Beware!! If you are offered work by a company or through ‘voiceover’ websites please do the right thing, for yourself and the industry! Make sure you’re being paid the correct fee for the job. Please don’t let people take advantage of your talent and hard work! We hope this has been helpful and we wish you the best of luck for the future.