Welcome to the first in a series of posts on how to get into voice over work. Whether you’re a complete beginner or looking to improve your standards, there is good money to be made from voice overs and a lot of people are fully capable without even realising it.
Like any potential money maker, it’s important to remember this will not happen over night. You need to have some dedication, build up a body of work, get your name out there. Voice over and voice acting work is potentially lucrative if approached in the right way. This is especially true today because you’re no longer limited to your local market. Thousands of people look to order voice overs online every day, there’s jobs ranging from entry-level (lower pay) to experienced standard (very well paid). With a small investment, producing good quality voice overs jobs from home is very achievable.
Nails Mahoney, has been a voice over artist and broadcaster for over 30 years… Having set up a home studio in recent years, he can now fulfill orders without having to leave his home. Here are just some of the brands Nails has voiced for:
Thankfully, he is willing to share with you his 30 years of experience on how to get into voice over work and make money.
How To Get Into Voice Over Work – The Basics
So, you wanna become a voice actor, be a voice over guy/girl?
How tough can it be?
I’m not going to answer that – everyone is different…you’ll discover your own strengths and limitations yourself. Also it depends on what stage you are at. You may have hosted a radio show or podcasts and what to ‘give it a shot’. Or you may have zero experience but a feeling that you might be good at this… a LOT of people do have a “VO friendly voice” but don’t know how to go about using it.
First thing to do though, is ask yourself a few questions.
- Do I want to make a living out of this or just some extra cash?
- How much money/time am I willing to commit to this?
- What can I do that’s unique to me?
These are important questions because they will mould what you need to do next.
I’m going to assume (just for sake of argument) that you want to make some extra cash and have some form of experience behind a mic (and that could be any mic, often singers and actors make for great voice over artists). After that you need a computer or laptop, and some investment funds… not much, we’re talking £200 or €250.
If you have no experience – get some! Anywhere – because at some point you’re going to need to make a demo to send out to agencies and radio stations. It needs to sound professional or you will have completely wasted your time. Radio stations and agencies will NOT pick you if you are sub standard.
It’s important to get practicing, offer to do some work for free or very little. This will build contacts, and give you a portfolio. Radio stations often do contra deals with companies, meaning there’s no money involved and thus no budget for a VO. They will fall over themselves if they have someone they can use as a free voice and this could lead to you getting on their roster.
Voice Over Jobs From Home – DIY Recording Booth
A great way to get into voice over work and offer a service, is to build a home ‘sound booth’.
I, like most people who do this type of work, started off dulling the sound of the room (to eliminate echo etc) by using the most technical of equipment – the duvet and blanket combo! Yep, literally pulling a duvet off the bed and over your head to kill ambient noise. Let me tell you, after a few minutes in there you’ll start to shed the pounds. It’s hot!
You can give it a try once or twice but going down that route is not a long term option.
Building your own booth – Can be an extremely cheap operation. Buy some mattress foam or yoga mat foam. Then, go to a discount store – grab a few cheap floor mats/carpet tiles, basically gather anything of a cushioned material – this is great for soaking up sound. (cheap sound proofing material can also be bought online)
Do you have a spare closet at home? Guess what – it’s about to become your ‘Home Sound Booth’. I’m not joking.
Pin those foam sheets up on the walls of the closet with Gorilla Glue or thumb tacks (whatever it takes) Attach the mats to the floor and roof and walls. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll work like a charm and increase your production standard tenfold.
Building a mini booth may not be an option for many, thankfully it’s not essential. At the very least you need to record in a room that’s as small as possible, and packed full of things that will absorb sound (good news if your a hoarder), however if you are recording in a regular room, some light post production will definitely be required to remove room ambience, we’ll teach you that in a later post!
Some other options are to buy a sound reflections shield that wraps around the mic stand… be aware this will cost you a bit more and won’t be as effective as using foam / carpets in a closet or box room.
Voice Over Recording Equipment
Next you’re going to need some equipment, it is rather important to pick the right recording equipment, it lends so much to a good voice over and it’s not something you can afford to cut corners on. Voice over producers are notoriously picky about sound, if they hear something that’s not of good standard they’ll dismiss it immediately, no matter how strong the voice is.
We’re gonna use a £200 / €250 budget, but this can be adjusted easily based on what you want to spend.
You will want to buy the following:
- a condenser microphone (spend most of your money on this)
- Pre amp (aka Audio interface)
- pop shield
- mic cable
- mic stand
One piece of advice – Don’t buy a USB microphone for voice overs. Sure they’re easy to plug in but the sound quality is never as good as you want it to be. PLUS if you listen very carefully you will hear the gentle hum of the computer on your final audio. You don’t want that, they may work well for recording podcasts, online tutorials, youtube VO’s and such… but professional voice overs need to be impeccable.
Remember your offering your voice to sell or promote a product for someone else and any sign of cut corners reflects in THEIR product, do not put yourself out any potential gigs immediately by not investing in good quality microphone.
Instead of a USB microphone, buy yourself a Pre Amp, also known as a USB audio interface. This unit attaches directly to your computer at one end and to your microphone at the other. It feeds the mic with power and does all the work of bringing out the very best in your microphone. You’ll also be controlling all your sound from the interface now, as opposed to through windows, which means you can get much closer control.
A very good value interface. Most interfaces have 2 inputs but if you know you’ll only ever be using 1 microphone then just go for model, there’s no point in spending more that this. However if you are a musician for 15 or 20 quid extra, one with 2 inputs would be a worthwhile investment. Be sure to stick with Behringer, Roland or M-Audio when buying an interfece. They will hold strong for years.
The Behringer B1
The ideal microphone for any professional VO. It comes with a micrphone sock, cradle for your mic stand and a solid case to keep in when not in action. I know people who have owned and used behringer microphones for 10-15 years with no trouble. You can’t go wrong with Behringer, its the brand that most professional studios opt for.
As mentioned before you will need to get a couple of other less expensive pieces of equipment to go with this. Namely an XLR cable and a mic stand. You don’t need to be all that fussy when picking up either of these. When it comes to the cable, just remember to bear in mind the length… how far is your microphone going to be from the computer? make sure you cover that distance. A basic XLR to XLR, cheap mic stand, and finally a pop shield, you could use the mic sock that comes with the mic, but a pop shield is cheap and allows for a much better sound… just make sure never use both, you’ll end up with a very muddy sound.
You probably already have a set of headphones you can use, but if not, we’ve already covered a superb choice
Okay, it all adds up it’s quite the investment but you’re ready to record professional Voice overs to blow the competition away, and the next part is completely free.
Free Recording Software for Windows
What, something for free!?!? YES!!! This is a no brainer, download Audacity. You need something to record on and it’s the best free voice recording software you will find.
Other better options are available for purchase or subscription fees, but if your set up with a good mic and some cheap sound dulling you’re not going to need to do any post-production, you just need something to record. We’re on a budget here and Audacity does a great job for zero cash.
You’re ready to become a voice actor !
You have your equipment, your (make shift) studio and your computer.
All you need to do next is get a gig. There are some ways you can make a start on this, offer some cheap voice overs on PeoplePerHour or Fiver. Have a look / listen to the competition, undercut them slightly and get some orders, you might not make much money in the short term but it will build up a body of work, get a taste for managing orders and meeting deadlines, and you’ll get some feedback and learn to fine tune your product.
I’ll help you with that in a later article along with some tips on how to get the best from your voice.
Before you know it, you’ll be one of these voices: