By Carrington MacDuffie (@carringtonmacd), an Americana singer/songwriter who also has an extensive career in voice over. Her new album is Only An Angel.
I came to voice acting through being a singer/songwriter. I was dealing with what they call writer’s block, when some good opportunities for making a living with spoken word presented themselves, so I immersed myself in it.
I got involved in local workshops offering mutual critiques, got an agent to represent me for commercial voiceover, and learned the craft pretty much on the fly. Meanwhile, an audiobook producer approached my agent seeking voice talent for audiobook narration, I auditioned for that work, and I was a natural—in part because of my background as a singer. The producer took me under his wing, teaching me as he directed me, and I pursued audiobook work in every way I could, gradually making a name for myself in that industry.
I’ve just released a 6-song EP on my own label, and I continue to do voice acting. If you feel you have potential as a voice actor and you want to try to make that into a reality, here are some thoughts on how to go about it.
Educate yourself about what’s going on in voiceover, by reading stuff like this blog, and doing an online search for agencies that represent voice talent. They don’t have to be in your area, they just have to be open to new voices. Listen to the demos they have posted.
You probably already have access to a recording set-up. If you’re going to be using your own space, it’ll need to be configured for spoken word recording, and if not, you’ll need to find a suitable, affordable studio. In any case, to get yourself situated it’s a good idea to consult an engineer experienced in recording spoken word.
Make a demo.
If you don’t already have one, make one. You’ll learn a lot in the process. You’ll need someone to produce it for you, and pretty much any good commercial voiceover studio will be able to recommend someone. There also are lots of producers and instructors who work online, via Skype and email. (I coach narration voice, for example.)
Use the tools available to you in the voiceover biz; good seminars are truly valuable. You can learn a lot in a short time, from the instructor as well as from your fellow students, plus it’s a great way to meet people, and find out the various ways voice is being used in the media today. (Besides, y’know, American Idol.)
Find out who in your general area is doing what you want to do. Having pals in this business is great, because in today’s market most voice actors work alone a lot. Information sharing and a sense of community are both useful and fun, and it has been my experience that actors are friendly and sharing by nature.
It’s going to cost money to do this, so get a brutally honest assessment of your potential from a seasoned professional before you make the investment. Investing in coaching and instruction, and in a really good sounding home recording space with the appropriate mic and signal chain are essential. The competition is seriously fierce: you’ve got to really want it.
When you go for it, think about voice acting as an expansion of your musicality—and have fun!
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