An Unconventional Guide To Being An Online Voice Actor – Part 1: Getting Started
If you’re reading this guide then chances are you dream of one day becoming a professional voice actor and have put countless hours into researching how to make that dream a reality. Well I want you to take everything you’ve learned so far, and forget it. Okay maybe not forget, but for the remainder of this guide I want you to keep an open mind. There’s hundreds of thousands of people out there who’ve been using all the same strategies and resources you have, working at this acting crap for years, and almost none of them have anything to show for it. The people who are seeing results, are the people who are thinking outside the box. That’s why I’m sending you on an alternate path, one that’s a little different, but that will always work as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort. You’ve all done so much for me and many of you like to ask me for voice acting advice, which is why I’m creating this guide, because I sincerely want you to experience the same success with voice acting that I’ve had so far. This guide will be made up of two parts; the first part for people who are either looking to get started or to train themselves to be the best voice actor that they can be, and the second part will be for people who want to know the secrets to getting cast in a lot of awesome projects (written under the assumption that the reader is already a talented voice actor with high quality audio or at the very least has read the first part of this guide). But regardless, I guarantee whether you’ve been at this for days or you’ve been at this for years, if you stick around for both parts of this guide, you won’t regret it. I’m Kyo and welcome to an unconventional guide to becoming a voice actor.
So before we can really talk voice acting, we gotta talk equipment; something you kind of need to voice act. Now you may think of your equipment as a set of tools, but in reality; it’s a set of obstacles. Your equipment is the only thing standing in between you and your audience. Your equipment will never win you roles, but it will lose you roles. And I’m gonna be blunt, if you’re in a situation where you can’t do what you need to do in order to provide audio at a solid acceptable quality, then you need to wait on aiming to become a voice actor because this is a highly competitive field and if you half ass anything you’re just gonna be wasting your own time. Now normally this is where I’d give you a range of options for your equipment, across various price points. But no, I’m telling you what to get. The AT2020 XLR Microphone, the Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface, the Dragonpad Pop Filter, the Neewer Shock Mount, and whatever length XLR and USB cords you need to connect it all to your Computer. Some people recommend trying out voice acting with a cheap USB microphone first, but I wholeheartedly disagree. You won’t be getting the best starting experience and even if you think you may end up not liking Voice Acting, taking the risk is still worth it because you can always just resell your equipment to get most of your money back anyway. Side note you actually don’t technically need a Pop Filter but if you do choose not to use one you have to make sure that your mic is recording you at an angle where it’s not directly in front of your mouth taking in those plosives. Although you should be doing this anyway, the same goes for having your microphone somewhere around six inches away from your mouth, give or take a bit depending on what kind of voice acting you’re doing. Make sure there’s some space in between your microphone and the nearest wall as well. Back on topic, we can argue about equipment all day long, but the bottom line is that all this equipment is well priced and will get the job done and that’s all you need it to do. Anything less and you will not succeed. Anything more, great, but you probably do want to have some real experience under your belt before you start buying top of the line equipment for thousands of dollars. And if you do want a more in depth look at equipment there’s a great video on the topic that’ll cover a bunch of different microphone options as well as what a Preamp is. In regards to recording software, there’s a lot of great options out there and they’re all pretty much the same. Personally I recommend Adobe Audition; but Audacity is a great choice and it’s completely free. Finally, the last thing you need to buy is either an arm if you’re recording at your desk or a stand if you’re recording standing up. But let me make this easy for you; get the stand. You will be handicapping yourself if you don’t. Watch any of the professionals, they are standing up using every airway in their system to breathe and throwing their whole body into actually acting out the performance. They are not sitting still hunched over a desk. Don’t know where to set everything up? Try your closet. Lots of voice actors record inside of or out of a closet because it’s easier to cover up all those hard surfaces that will damage your audio. Acoustic Foam while a bit pricey will do a really good job at this and at some point in the future you really should get some. But if you can’t hang up foam then you do have a bit of leeway. As long as those hard surfaces are covered with something thick and soft, you should be good. Don’t forget to cover the floor and ceiling either. Whatever you choose, run tests and ask for second opinions if needed. Oh and this should go without saying but no loud background noises. Noise removal software can possibly fix this, but it will end up damaging your audio quality. Know that good equipment means nothing if it’s in a crappy environment. Moving on, if you apply everything I just said to building your home studio, you can have a level of audio quality almost nobody will reject you for at as little as $200 and you’ll be ready to move on to the next stage.
Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to start working on your voice acting. And first thing’s first, we’re taking your voice acting abilities to an entirely different level than most of the competition. Virtually nobody puts the time and effort into really training themselves up at the start. Now if you want, you can take acting lessons and there certainly are things to be gained from them, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re a requirement. Nobody cares where you were taught and nobody cares who taught you. All they care about is whether or not you’re the best fit for the role. And there is no better way to get good at something than to practice it over and over and over again. And that’s what I mean when I say training. So here is what you’re gonna do. Now how long this will take varies person to person, it may take you a couple weeks, it may take you a couple months, who knows, but until you feel you’re at the top of your game, I want you to do as many project auditions as you can (literally hundreds). Heck you don’t even have to submit the auditions if you don’t want to and if you have other ways of practice that works too like for example reading aloud lines from a book or comic. In regards to finding auditions, at the time of writing this guide Casting Call Club and Voice Acting Club are the two best places to find auditions. There are definitely more, but these are by far the most active and are all you need at the moment since right now we’re just trying to train you. The main point is that I want you trying your hand at hundreds of various roles all over the spectrum because we are going to be working on your emotional range and your vocal range; improving your acting capabilities a ton.
First let’s talk about your emotional range, because regardless of what kinds of voices you can do, it’s all meaningless if you can’t actually act. Your emotional range is the ability to give a spot on performance no matter what emotions your character is going through. Just the word “no” can be acted in millions of ways. A character yelling out “no” after witnessing his friend getting killed, is gonna sound completely different than a character shouting “no” after hearing an infuriating statement. There’s actually a wheel of emotions that I’d like for you to take a really good look at. There’s a lot more emotions out there than just these, but if you can give a good performance no matter which of these emotions you have to portray; you are golden (and bonus points if you can keep the character’s personality in mind as well since not everybody deals with every emotion in the exact same way). Now what you’re probably asking is, okay but how do I do that? Well unfortunately, even the most famous and talented voice actor you can think of is probably still asking themselves that question whenever they perform. But I do have one piece of advice for you. Now it may sound simple, but it’s anything but. Whenever giving a performance, you really truly have to put yourself in that character’s shoes. You have to be that character, you have to make the audience believe you are that character. You have to feel the emotions that character is going through when you are delivering their lines. For example, when I’m really giving it my all, if I’m performing a scene where the character is crying, I am literally crying actual tears in real life. I am empathizing with the character. Say their family just died. Before I go through the lines, I’m taking a minute to imagine what if my family died, the loneliness I would be feeling, the utter distraught and despair that would wash over me. Once again, you have to become the character. It’s really hard, but if you can master that, you are absolutely going places in your voice acting career. Oh and one other thing you should be doing when giving your performances, is being self aware. When you perform a line you need to listen to yourself performing that line and ask if this was someone else’s acting, would you consider this a good or bad performance? If something needed to be improved in a certain way, apply that improvement to your next take of the line. You’re not always going to have someone to give you a second opinion on your performance, so it’s extremely important that you’re able to objectively judge and critique your own acting. This applies to when you’re working on improving your vocal range as well. And speaking of, let’s talk about your vocal range.
If you’re familiar with my content you know that there’s a lot of different characters in my comic dubs. Well what you may not know is when you see like five different guys all with completely different voices, having an argument with each other; all those guys are played by just me. That is what vocal range is, being able to go from a higher pitched character to a deeper pitched character all while being able to throw in certain vocal quirks too. Now if you don’t have a wide vocal range don’t worry because the truth is a lot of people don’t, and actually more often than not you’re gonna get asked to play the same few voices over and over again. It’s actually really good to pay attention to what you get cast for a lot so that you know what your strong suits are. That being said, there’s a lot to gain from having a wide vocal range and no matter who you are you can absolutely expand your vocal range. Take this from a guy who starting out could basically only do his own voice, you’d be amazed how far you can expand your vocal range. You have to remember that the vocal cords are a muscle and like any other muscle the more you exercise it and push it to its limit, the more it expands. Most people don’t think about this though, and that’s why this training will put you at such a high advantage. Of course don’t push yourself too far, always drink lots of water and if you’re throat is starting to hurt, stop, you’re done for the day. Spending an extra five minutes screaming at the top of your lungs is not worth losing your voice for a few days or worse risking permanent damage to your vocal chords. Getting back on topic though, I can’t stress this enough that practice makes perfect. If you can set aside some time over the next two weeks or two months or however long, just performing a couple hundred sets of lines across the emotional and vocal spectrums holy crap you are gonna see results. All that practice, mixed with your good audio quality, will at the very least, put you in the top one percent of online voice actors, and that’s at the very very least (although admittedly it’s not all that high a bar and even when you do get to that top one percent it’s still a very competitive place). And while I’m at it let me throw in a few extra tips that didn’t really fit anywhere else in this guide. For voice acting roles that involve screaming and yelling, don’t fake shout or you’ll sound like a moron. You can’t be afraid to be loud. Speaking of being loud, make sure that you’re not peaking when you’re recording your audio. If the top of your audio wave is flat then you’re peaking and you’re gonna want to adjust the gain. This does not mean always record at a low gain though, you want to be recording at a gain where you’re audio is full and loud but not quite at the level where it’s peaking. When editing your audio I recommend you view the audio in spectral mode rather than waveform mode that way you can be a lot more accurate when editing like for example being able to take out mouth clicks. Finally before you actually record any of your lines, it helps to read through the whole script first. It’s hard to explain why this is but it will absolutely result in you doing less retakes, and possibly even result in you giving a better performance overall. Anyway with everything I said in mind, after you’re done with your training, whenever you feel ready, it’s time for the real deal!
Now that you’re finally a competitive voice talent in terms of skill and audio quality, we’re going to be going over how to actually get cast and become a well known voice actor. Make no mistake; you cannot audition your way to glory. It hasn’t worked for hundreds of thousands of other voice actors, so chances are it’s not gonna work for you. Which is why in part two of this guide, I will be letting you in on how to truly thrive as a voice actor; by approaching things from outside the box. So with that being said, meet me at part two on the page below. See ya!
An Unconventional Guide To Being An Online Voice Actor – Part 2: Getting Roles
So here we are, game time. Now that you’ve done everything we talked about in part one, you finally have the skills and audio quality needed to be a competitive voice talent. And because of this, we can finally talk about what everybody wants to know, how to get those roles and how to build that brand. First thing’s first, you can stop auditioning for so many projects now. Instead, now that you’re done with your training, I want you to focus on just going after roles for projects that you feel are of high quality and will be highly viewed. Also whilst it’s not necessary, the more commonly you do paid work rather than free work, the better. You are now on the path to becoming a professional voice actor and that path is all about building that brand; becoming both well known and associated with quality. So how do you go about getting quality roles? Well let’s first talk about the most basic method; auditioning. As said you cannot audition your way to glory. Eventually you need to get the point where you don’t have to rely on open auditions anymore, but at the start this is gonna be where you’re receiving the vast majority of your roles. As said Casting Call Club and Voice Acting Club are great starting points. In addition there’s also more professional pay to play sites that require you to pay a fee to be a part of such as Voices or Voice123. There’s both pros and cons to these kinds of sites so it’s up to you to figure out whether or not you think they’re worth the cost. They also tend to be much more focussed on commercial work rather than character work. And character work is what both these guides are in reference to (since that’s the type of work the vast majority of newcomers are focussed on although I should note that in the real life voice acting industry it’s actually commercial work that generally pays the bills). Anyway though, on the topic of finding auditions it’s also very important to be creative, like for example this may have never crossed your mind, but did you know people post Casting Calls on YouTube? If you search Casting Call on YouTube and you sort the results by upload date, you will find a lot of Casting Calls. Did you know you can do the same for Tumblr? Twitter? Ever think of checking out forums for animators or video game developers? There’s all sorts of sites you can find Casting Calls on, get creative and you’re gonna find Casting Calls nobody else is finding. I do have to be the bearer of bad news though. All these places I’ve mentioned? They’re shit. And this is coming from someone who has moderated several voice acting sites including both big ones I mentioned. Something you’ll notice is that when it comes to finding auditions for quality projects, there isn’t a lot out there. And whilst a big reason for that is it takes a long time for a lot of these projects to get made, a bigger reason is that for the most part nobody knows about any of these Casting Call hubs except the voice actors themselves hence why the vast majority of Casting Calls out there are for crappy amateur projects by voice actors. So unless the lead director of some quality project happens to be a voice actor, chances are they aren’t gonna use a casting site. And that’s why it’s so important to get to the point where you’re getting roles the same way all those directors are giving them out; directly.
The vast majority of my roles, and the same goes for most other successful online voice actors, are either gotten by you directly contacting the creators or the creators directly contacting you. But for that to happen, for people to take you seriously enough for that to be a viable strategy, you need to have already established yourself as a presence in the online voice acting community and beyond. But wait a minute, if you need work to build your reputation, and you need to build your reputation to get work, what the hell? How do you break into the cycle? Well you could just grind away auditioning for the next decade until by some freak chance a project you’re in is a surprise breakout hit. But as we touched upon at the beginning of this video, that method virtually never works. So why not take things into your own hands? Why not start a YouTube Channel? Comic Dubs, Song Covers, Story Narration, Impressions, ASMR, whatever you want to do; just as long as it’s a niche content type revolving around your voice that can be done frequently and that you enjoy doing. I want you to hear me out for a second because it blows my mind that more people don’t do this. I can personally attest to the fact that it has played a huge factor in my career as a voice actor. As said being a successful voice actor is about building a brand and getting yourself out there, and I can’t think of a better place for you to do that than through YouTube. As you grow larger as a YouTuber more and more directors will learn of you and ask you to voice act for them. In addition as you grow larger, when you apply for roles, more and more often people will see your Channel and go wow, this is an established voice actor, I would love to work with them. But that’s not all, when people see you in these projects, often they’ll go subscribe to your Channel and watch your content. So by voice acting, you grow your Channel. And by growing your Channel, you get to voice act more. And eventually it just becomes this awesome self perpetuating cycle, a cycle you can keep riding until maybe one day you feel you’re making enough to do Voice Acting and YouTube full time. Even if you have no intention of having voice acting being anything more than a hobby, hey, you can turn it into a hobby that coincidentally gives you some extra spending cash in exchange for doing what you love. Voice Acting is not the most financially stable career choice, and if you’re in it for the money, you are in the wrong profession. Ignoring the fact voice actors are underpaid, whilst one month a voice actor may be doing great and getting lots of work, the next month they may be not getting any work; and this is scary considering you’ve got bills to pay each month. And that’s something that’s cool about throwing YouTube into the mix, because you gain an additional stream of income that’s more consistent. And the only reason it’s possible for voice acting and YouTube to go so hand in hand is because as voice actors we are blessed when it comes to YouTube. For the vast majority of YouTubers, like the Gamers and the Vloggers, it’s virtually impossible to find success. There’s just way too much competition out there and way too little of a demand for the content they’re producing. For almost all other YouTubers, success is purely based on luck. But for us voice actors, we are in this amazing position where it’s just based off of hard work. And this is because coincidentally all the kinds of content we tend to produce, there’s not only low competition but a high demand that’s not even being met right now. What I also think is really awesome is that due to the nature of our content you can easily incorporate other VAs into your content too; for example by letting another voice actor play a character in one of your comic dubs or by letting them sing with you in a duet. And because you’re likely using a Casting site to find VAs to help you out, you’re helping the Casting sites be filled with higher quality projects. In addition you’re shining the spotlight on other VAs, helping VAs who may be smaller than you grow too. And if everyone were to start doing this we would have one hell of a thriving ecosystem for VAs. And rather than having to compete against each other, we’d be united growing the voice acting genre as a whole. And this concept of everyone helping each other out, to me, is really cool and absolutely in the spirit of voice acting. Collaborations like these of course are also a great way to make new friends and to network. Speaking of, let’s segway over into our next topic of discussion.
Now that you’ve broken into the cycle and things are really starting to get rolling for you as an online voice actor, it’s time to really start kicking things into overdrive. Everything I’ve explained thus far has been about getting you to the point where you finally have established yourself enough to spread your wings and be free of having to audition, instead, getting all your roles directly. And now, we’re gonna talk about how to do that. Now there’s two main ways of doing this; making connections and just flat out networking. Get both these down and you can sit back and watch as your voice acting career snowballs to greater and greater heights. First, let’s talk about connections. This is done by simply putting yourself out there and meeting people. Like for example when you’re in a project, get to know everybody on the team. Maybe if you’re a member of some voice acting forum or chat group start talking to the other VAs. Heck, shoot a VA you admire a message and get to know them one on one. Now that you’re a respected voice actor that people have seen a few times around the block and have maybe even become familiar with, this will be A LOT easier to do. Actually, the people you connect to don’t even need to be voice actors, they can be directors or people who work for directors. The main point is to make friends, because friends help each other out. If a friend needs another voice actor they may ask you or if a friend knows somebody who needs another voice actor they may recommend you. It’s a two way streak too, you’ll probably find yourself doing the same for your friends. Furthermore it feels pretty nice to know that you helped someone you genuinely like and want to see succeed. Although speaking of two way streaks I do have to remind you that while it is easy to build up a good reputation, it’s even easier to build up a bad one. If you don’t do good work or you’re an asshole to people or you get wrapped up in any drama, you’d be amazed how fast that shit can spread. Although unfortunately you could be the kindest person in the world and still have voice actors talk shit behind your back; sadly the community is infamous for being one of the most vile communities on the internet, filled to the brim with countless toxic truly awful human beings. Voice actors who act all nice on the surface in order to use you to get ahead while also actively working behind the scenes to get you blacklisted are extremely common (snakes like this are EVERYWHERE). And let’s just say it’s a little hard to get work when everybody’s gossiping about how terrible of a person you are. So whilst you do want to try to use your accomplishments to impress directors in order to help get you hired more often, you also have to try and be subtle about it otherwise you run the risk of other voice actors getting jealous and trying to end your career. Also, don’t be the kind of person that partakes in this gossip either, because if you’re gossiping with other people, chances are those same people are gossiping about you too. Now if you have something nice to say about someone, hey, shout it as loud as you want. But otherwise, keep it to yourself. Wrapping things up you also shouldn’t be going out and making connections purely for the sake of making connections. If you don’t legitimately want to get to know someone and become their friend, and instead you just want to use them to further your career, then don’t bother because it’s really uncool and some people will be able to tell if you’re being fake.
Moving onto the second way of getting roles directly and the final big topic of this guide, we have networking. And by networking, I mean flat out cold calling, reaching out to people. But before you can do that, there’s a couple things you’re gonna want to probably have first. So excluding a good reputation which you’ll have probably built up by this point, the most important thing to have is a Demo Reel. A Demo Reel is a collection of different samples of your voice acting showcasing your abilities as an actor. It is so important to make sure that your Demo Reel is kick ass. Unfortunately there’s way too much for me to go over when it comes to making the ultimate Demo Reel, so instead check out this guide on the topic. Your Demo Reel is something you’re often gonna be asked for and it’s also something you’re gonna usually want to send to people when you’re looking for work. And assuming you’re gonna keep growing as a voice actor, don’t be afraid to make a new one each year. You also might want to consider making it your YouTube Channel Trailer that way if a potential client visits your Channel it’s the first thing they see. Something else you should also consider putting on your Channel is a playlist of everything on YouTube that you’ve voice acted in, that way if someone wants to watch you in action they can, whether it be a client or it be a fan. Let that also be a reminder to always give it your all every performance as you never know who’ll be watching. Speaking of keeping a collection of past work, something you should definitely consider making as well is a Resume. Admittedly it’s not something you get asked for all that much, but when you do it’s usually for a really professional project and not having one will instantly disqualify you from participating since you’ll be seen as unprofessional for not having one. And actually once you’ve finally built yourself up a really good one, you will absolutely find yourself frequently sending it alongside your Demo Reel and auditions as it can leave a totally fantastic impression on directors (making you look like a professional while everybody else looks like an amateur). It can also easily end up being the tiebreaker in a close race, netting you the role instead of the other top competitor (because the director wanted to go with the person who had a more proven track record). A resume by the way for those of you who don’t know is essentially just a short written document that gives some insight on you, your past work, and your skill set. And like with making a Demo Reel, there’s a little too much for me to go over here, so if you’re interested in building a Resume, I highly recommend that you check out this video on the topic. At some point in the future you may also want to get your own website too in order to act as a hub for all information one may want to know about you as a voice actor. Now in the meantime your YouTube Channel will totally suffice, but you do want to make the switch one day as it's much more professional. Here’s a great piece on making your own site. And if you’re curious and would like an example, here’s what my resume (and site) looks like. Anyway, once you’ve got all this down, you can finally start reaching out to people especially now that you’ll be taken seriously as a real presence in the voice acting community. However, who do you reach out to? Well, anyone really. Shoot your favorite animator a message on Social Media, send an email out to an up and coming indie game developer. Ask them if by any chance they’re looking for any voice actors to add to their roster. If so, go ahead and send them your Demo Reel along with your Resume saying you’d love to work with them. Just make sure that you present yourself well, maybe even letting a friend proofread your email first, because as they say there’s no second chance at making a first impression. That’s also why it’s probably best to wait until you’ve really built yourself up as a voice actor before you start reaching out to hundreds of people a time because if you didn’t meet their standards the first time, they might not consider you the second time even if you do now meet their standards. But if you do make a good impression the first time, you’d be surprised how many people will say yes even if they’re really respected members of their industry. And just like with finding auditions, if you can get creative in terms of finding people to reach out to I think you could really end up seeing a lot of benefit from it.
So before I share with you my final thoughts I want to quickly go through a few extra tips that I think you’ll find really helpful. Delivering all your audio within twenty four hours of being asked for it is a really good trait to be known for. There is nothing a director loves more than someone who is both reliable and can fill in a role on a moment’s notice during an emergency (you wouldn’t believe some of the amazing opportunities I’ve gotten purely because I was able to immediately respond and help out on short notice like it’s insane). Anyway, next, setting the rates you charge for paid work. Ignoring when how much you get paid is fixed or in a negotiable lump sum, it’s really up to you and how much you value your time. But you probably do want to charge at a rate that’s slightly higher than what the competition is charging that way there’s not much of a difference in cost between you and other actors but because you technically charge more you come off as being the higher end voice actor. Two additional skills you should learn to be able to do as a voice actor are how to ADR and how to EQ. Don’t know what those are? Look them up. You may also have to record live in a call with your director so practice that with a friend so that you’re not all awkward the first few times that happens. Finally, if you’re at a point where you’re ready to transition from doing online voice acting as a hobby to doing real life voice acting full time, moving to a city with lots of voice over opportunities is a must. You’d be hard pressed to find someone voice acting for a living that doesn’t live in a big city like Los Angeles, Dallas, Vancouver, New York, or San Francisco. You’re also of course gonna want to find yourself an agent too as they’re going to open up a whole new realm of potential job opportunities for you. Anyway, that’s it for all the extra pieces of advice I have for you.
Finishing things up if you truly keep in mind everything I said during both parts of this guide I guarantee you will absolutely find success as a voice actor. And if you want a little bit of reference in terms of how long it may take you to see progress, personally for me, it took around half a year before I was able to get to the point where the majority of my roles were received directly. Furthermore, it took me another half a year before I was really able to build up my presence as a VA in the community and before I started more frequently getting roles in really cool stuff like video games or animation. And even now I still have a long way to go before I can decide whether or not to do this for a living. So that being the case, you can see that it’s not that hard to thrive as a VA but that as said you’re going to have to put in the time and effort. I find voice acting to be incredibly fun and if you decide to give it a go yourself I definitely think you will too. And if you have a question for me about voice acting don’t be afraid to message me! With all that being said, thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day! See ya!