Start Here: So You Want to Be a Voice Actor…

     January 22, 2017

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Maybe you’ve been told you have a good voice for radio or that you should do commercials, or maybe your celebrity impressions absolutely kill at office parties and your kids love the silly voices you use during storytime. But is that enough to set you on the path to success in voiceover or voice acting?

September Day Carter and Bob Carter, veterans of the crafts of voiceover and voice acting, would be the first to tell you that all of those traits are a good start, but it’ll take a lot more than that to find success in the industry. They should know. Each of them has established a solid career in voice work while taking very different paths along the way.

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Image via September Day Carter

After landing the live voiceover gig for the MTV Video Music Awards in 2007, self-starter September launched a successful voiceover career that led to her becoming the voice of Amazon’s Kindle, Mary Kay, Comcast, Subway and LG Electronics to name a few; her voice acting roles include the voice of Skynet in Terminator Salvation and the part of Mary Jane Watson for the 2011 animated short, The Death of Spider-Man. Bob took on numerous voice roles in that short animated movie, which were just some of his 60+ credits since his 1990 debut on Dragon Ball Z. He’s voiced characters in iconic anime series like Yu Yu HakushoBaki the GrapplerOne PieceFullmetal Alchemist, and Samurai Seven, video games like SmiteStreet Fighter, and Mortal Kombat, and the list goes on. With their combined commercial and voice acting experience, and their friendly, welcoming nature, you’ll have a hard time finding a better place to dip your toe into the world of voiceover and voice acting than their Atlanta-based office and recording studio, The Neighborhood Studio.

After traveling the country to teach voiceover workshops, the power couple decided to open their own production and training studio, one with an emphasis on 1-on-1 training and self-discipline, and a goal to give back to the community. They also have in-house, on-camera training as well as martial arts and self defense workshops available to give aspiring actors a leg up on superhero roles. If you happen to find yourself in the Atlanta area on January 28th, the Carters and The Neighborhood Studio will be holding a five-hour “Voiceover Vigilante Beginner’s Workshop” that will teach you the basics of the industry and give you a firm starting place to begin pursuing your career. And because of their graciousness and outlook that favors cooperation and collaboration over competition, I’m able to share a a few of their tips, suggestions, and words of advice right here!

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Image via Bob Carter

First of all, you might think you need an expensive home studio or numerous sessions in a professional recording studio to get started in voiceover. Not so, say the Carters; in fact, one of the most common mistakes people make when starting out is trying to spend their way to success. So while a home studio is necessary in today’s fast-paced world of 24/7 demand, that fact can actually work to your favor. A simple enclosed closet space packed full of heavy, sound-absorbing clothes, blankets, and towels is a good start. That’ll help you you save money on necessary equipment like a microphone, mixer, and recording and editing software.

When it comes to microphones, you’ll want to do your homework. Dynamic microphones tend to be cheaper while condenser microphones tend to be more sensitive, but that’s a generality; each microphone will differ from the next. Keeping this in mind, September recommends using a condenser microphone since it warms the voice more, though that comes with the added cost of an additional mixer supplying “phantom power” to the mic. However, the most important tips here are to try before you buy (you can usually test microphones at a music store) and to buy secondhand if you can, especially for the more expensive or popular models. (They also recommend keeping your mic price under $400 since high-end condenser mics might be too sensitive for home recording.)

In addition to the mic and mixer, you’ll need accessories like a stand, cable, shockmount (which can be almost as expensive as the mic itself), and pop filter or windscreen. These are all fairly standard additions but should be researched to make sure they’re compatible with your specific mic and mixer, and within your budget. Your budget and comfort level with technology will also help to determine whether you want to check out the free Audacity recording and sound-editing software or if you want to go with the industry standard, Adobe Audition. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials to help learn both programs, though instruction is also offered at The Neighborhood Studio.

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Image via The Neighborhood Studio Atlanta

Now that you’ve got your home studio all set up and your equipment has been calibrated to your liking, you’re going to want to start work on your demo. There are a lot of ways to do a demo wrong and only a few ways of doing it right; the latter will put your most professional effort forward and lead to more opportunities down the road. The Neighborhood Studio also offers personal guidance in preparing your best possible demo by encouraging your strengths, improving your weaknesses, and editing your finished work to a high polish. The most successful demos tend to be a minute long at most, with 7 or 8 segments that are each 6 to 7 seconds long. And it’s important to put your best stuff first since your demo will be judged within the first 6 or so seconds.

So after all of this initial investment and practice, you might be wondering just what kind of money can be made in voiceover and voice acting. The latter category is notoriously difficult to break into and find success since it’s on par with every other form of acting. However, there’s a surprising range of opportunities that goes far beyond doing voices and narration for cartoons; voicemails, radio and TV commercials, explainer videos and even informational kiosks, anything requiring a professional script-reading is now in your wheelhouse. For voicemails, you can make anywhere from $50 to $900 a pop depending on the script length and how many names are included in the listing. Radio commercials can range anywhere from $100 to $2,000 depending on if it’s local, regional, or national radio, but companies like Pandora and I Heart Radio opt for a high-quantity approach that can land you $175 per spot. TV commercials vary as well depending on if they’re local, regional, or national, going from $150 to well over $2,000. National TV spots are where some big money is since you’ll likely have to sign a contract. Other options include explainer videos ($250), mobile apps ($200 to $350 or more in this growing market), and the lucrative area of corporate narration which can get you $50 to $500 a page!

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Image via NetherRealm Studios

While this has been a general guide to the earliest stages of voicework and is certainly not exhaustive, I hope it will give you some guidance if you’re considering starting a career in the industry. September and Bob Carter hope so, too. That’s why they were so eager to share this information with me and so gracious to allow me to share it with you. In closing, here are some words of warning (and encouragement) from the Carters for all of those who are interested in voicework:

  • Money spent does not equal success.
  • Focus on the direction your career is moving in rather than how fast your career is growing.
  • It’s a fun job, but still a job: Self-control is necessary. Pay is cyclical, not consistent.
  • Don’t think you already know everything there is to know going into it.
  • Don’t think you can’t do this.
  • Don’t get intimidated by technology.

To follow up with September and Bob, be sure to visit The Neighborhood Studio, and reach out to them over email at either September@neighborhoodstudioatlanta.com or Bob@neighborhoodstudioatlanta.com, or find more information at http://www.septembervoice.com/ and http://www.cartergame.com/.

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