If there are people out there who have never watched a commercial and idly wondered about how to get into voice acting, I don’t know any of them. The fact is, voice acting is one of those fascinating professions that’s hidden in plain sight: Your world collides with it multiple times a day, in the form of movie trailers, audiobooks, ads, and beyond, but it isn’t immediately clear how people actually become voice actors.
Thankfully, as a performer myself, I have a lot of insight into the process—from training, to voice acting auditions, to the kind of technical set-up you’ll need if you want to keep getting voice acting jobs long term. So step right this way and I’ll teach you how to become a voice actor faster than you can say, “Testing, one two.”
What is Voice Acting?
Voice acting is a type of performance art that relies on the actor’s voice to entertain, explain, or market products. Voice over jobs can include commercials, audiobook narration, dubbing, educational content, animation, and video games, and voice actors are often asked to display a dizzying variety of skills.
In addition to focusing on voice-based concerns like pitch, tone, and cadence, voice over actors are often talented mimics, have a handful of accents, dialects, or character voices they can pull out at a moment’s notice, and must be emotionally connected to the text. Because a voice actor goes mostly unseen, they don’t get to fall back on the tools of the average onscreen actor, instead of relying solely on their voices to get a point across.
How Do You Get Into Voice Acting?
There’s no one set path to success in how to be a voice actor, but in general, if you’re wondering how to get started in voice acting, your best bet is to start working with a voice over coach. They’ll be able to help you figure out what specific kind of voice over work you’d be best suited for, and to give you category-specific advice to bear in mind while improving your skills in that area.
Once you’re good and trained up, your coach can help you create a demo reel of some of the voices in your arsenal. This will come in handy down the line once you start auditioning—it’s one of the first things industry professionals will ask you for in evaluating your skills.
What Qualifications Do You Need?
The good news for beginners is that there’s no formal education or professional certification required in order to start working as a voice over actor. But as famous voice actors could surely tell you, the lack of requirements shouldn’t be taken as a sign that you can just stroll right into the industry cold.
The qualifications you’ll need for your own voice acting career extend beyond just a compelling voice. They include acting talent, clear enunciation, the ability to take direction and relax under pressure, and the ambition to build a career in comparative isolation while continuing your training every step of the way.
Do You Need Any Equipment?
The most important tool you’ll ever need for this art form is your own voice, so put your time, energy, and money toward honing that before you drain your bank account for fancy tech or sound-proofing.
Obviously, good quality equipment can be crucial for letting your talent shine through, but I also don’t want you thinking you need to inaugurate the Mark Hamill Voice Acting Studio in your home office before you’re able to move forward. Start small, with the following items, and invest in upgrades once the money starts to come in.
- A consistently quiet space in which to record—free of traffic noise, voices, kid and pet commotion, and even the hum of appliances.
- Soundproofing materials: When you’re just starting out, try damping the sound with blankets, clothes, or even crumpled newspaper before shelling out for the professional-grade stuff.
- A condenser microphone and pop shield: This type of mic is specifically designed to pick up delicate sounds, with a pop shield so you don’t hear every distracting smack of moisture from the mouth.
- An XLR cable: This will probably come with your microphone, so just check.
- A computer and recording software
Down the road, you’ll probably also want to integrate an interface, which lets you record on multiple tracks, as well as a mixer, which allows you to combine multiple audio sources into one stream.
How to Become a Voice Actor
If this is all sounding appealing to you so far, you’re probably interested in how to start voice acting. Getting your foot in the door can be a bit tricky, but with these steps, you’ll be on the right track in no time.
Step 1: Find a Voice Over Coach
As I mentioned above, this person will be able to lend their expertise to help you figure out which voice over niche you should explore—because no one person has the perfect voice for every project.
You can find a voice over coach by asking around at your local performance space, or by doing a simple Google search for practitioners in your area. (Just make sure to specify “voice over coach” instead of just “voice coach,” because the latter will lead you toward singing lessons.)
Step 2: Set Up Your Studio
Again, this can be as elaborate or as basic as suits your current needs, but refer to the list above to determine your must-haves.
Step 3: Create a Demo Reel
Think of this as your resume—it’s proof of your skills that anyone in the industry will want to review before hiring you. And in many cases, you won’t even be given the opportunity to audition without one, so make sure to prioritize this step. Your reel should display a range of voices, pitches, and styles and have crystal clear audio. (No pressure.)
Step 4: Build a Talent Profile on a Reputable Site
This gives potential employers a way to find and contact you and lets you scroll through voice over audition listings to see what’s out there.
Step 5: Sign With an Agent
This is probably pretty far down the road for most folks, but it’s a great goal to have on the horizon because it really broadens the opportunities you’re exposed to. An agent can submit you for gigs you don’t have access to yourself, and even help you join a union like SAG-AFTRA.
Step 6: Keep Practicing
Like any art form, you’ll have the most success if you continue your education indefinitely. It’s about learning how to practice voice acting rather than just expecting to be good at it naturally. Take care of yourself, take care of your craft, and most importantly—take care of your voice.
Where to Find Voice Actor Jobs
Until you have an agent to send you out for gigs, you’ll have to rely on your own know-how to get a voice acting job. The biggest talent marketplaces of the moment are Voices and Voice123, both of which require paid subscriptions but are absolutely worth your time.
Famous Voice Actors
And finally, just to prove that this whole industry isn’t just about laboring silently in the dark with no credit, here are some of the most famous voice actors—whose work you’ve probably heard whether you realize it or not.
- Frank Oz
- Mark Hamill
- Morgan Freeman
- Seth MacFarlane
- David Attenborough
- Robin Williams
- Hank Azaria
- H. John Benjamin
- Nancy Cartwright
- Phil LaMarr
- James Earl Jones
- Mel Blanc
- Lauren Tom
- Kristen Bell
Get Started on Your Own Voice Over Career!
Accents & Voice Acting: From Beginner to Pro