How To Be A Voiceover

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The former BBC Radio 2 Newsreader Ricky Salmon, now the Managing Director of leading voiceover agency BigFish Media, is frequently asked about how to become a successful voiceover artist, so he decided to write this short guide with a few pointers about how to get started:

So how do you become a voiceover? How do you get to be as good as the people who do voice-overs for radio stations and provide the voices of so many commercials?
Well do you know who they are and what they do? Why do you want to become one? Why do you think you can do it as well or better?

Things for you to do and think about. What you need to do first?

1 - Get involved with your local hospital radio station. It will give you technical experience, experience in front of the microphone: everything you will need to give you a thorough grounding in using your voice.

2 - Do you have a local theatre group or amateur dramatic society? Find them and volunteer, voiceover work IS ACTING!!! Even the simplest voice over requires performance skills.

3 - Got a mobile phone? Change the voice mail message on it every day, try to impress people with it. Make a note of what works for your voice-over and what doesn't.

4 - Find someone to whom you can regularly read a story. If you're good at characters, well a good story will give you plenty of opportunity to prove it.

5 - Do you want to go on a course and get some professional voiceover training? They'll teach you how to get the best out of your voice.

Enthusiasm is great and it will get you through the tough times, but a space shuttle pilot got to sit in his seat through a combination of training, experience, dedication, enthusiasm and hard work now you must do the same.

I suspect like most people keen to follow a career in voice-over work you would like to phone someone up tomorrow morning and be paid to voice something for them tomorrow afternoon. I've never known that happen for anyone. Now it's time for you to put in the work.

A good, clever or flexible voice is only rung one on a very long ladder. Imagine I am a producer and you need to give me a reason why I should use you in preference to someone else, what would you say? You can't say good voice, good impressions, good at accents; the other guy has got that already.

Work in the voiceover industry can be feast or famine and in the early days it will be thin on the ground, you just need to keep telling people that you are out there. Remember it is not a salaried job so if you don't work, you don't earn. There can be travel involved depending on what voiceover work you are doing.

With the right equipment it is possible to work from home but you will need to find the space for an office and voice-over booth. You can set yourself up for about 4,000. You will need to buy at least one computer and printer, an ISDN codec, editing software (eg Pro Tools or Adobe Audition), Microsoft Office and a decent microphone (Neumann are the best by far but very expensive).

Using ISDN technology you can be accessed live from around the world; most local radio commercial voiceovers are recorded this way. If you are working alone from home (especially without an agent) you will need the drive and determination to succeed, as well as being your own IT expert, accountant, office manager and marketing manager. Just having "a good voice" is not nearly enough.

You will then need to build up your voice-over contacts book, market yourself using the internet, the phone and email. It is possible to break in, and there are lots of people who will give you a first chance, but if you try before you are ready you could very easily blow it. Producers of voiceovers talk to one another so your first session could also be your last.

Practice reading aloud, record yourself, listen to voice-overs on TV, radio, film and ask yourself why they are good or bad. Could you have done better?

BigFish Media would be happy to produce your voiceover showreel. Any demo longer than 90 seconds is too long. What you put on your reel is up to you but before you decide, get advice from the experts. If you have no acting or broadcasting experience you may need Voice Training first.

You can find out more about becoming a voiceover artist and the voiceover business in general on the following websites:

BigFish Media Blog

Voiceovers by BigFish Media

Good luck with your voiceover career!

Contact BigFish Media

Voiceover Fun Stuff

Ricky Salmon is the Managing Director of BigFish Media Ltd which is based in Woking, Surrey UK. BigFish Media has its own state of the art digital ISDN-equipped studio. Ricky and his team work with a hand-picked selection of the UK's leading voiceover artists.