Recently on The Voiceover Gurus podcast, JJ Wilson and I discussed the realities of living life as a voice actor. The pros and cons and fundamental changes that would need to happen to make the career work successfully. I feel like there should be a questionnaire that asks you first. Do you like rejection? Do you enjoy not making money at times? Are you comfortable worrying about sound every minute of the working day? Will your family be cool with being completely silent while you are working?
Suppose you’re independently wealthy and can afford the most amazing soundproof studio around and have no concerns about paying your bills each month, then good for you. Please tell me your secret.
But if you’re like the rest of us, careful thought should be taken when jumping into this career. We read about the famous actors who are the voice of this show or that, and usually, it’s the animated series that appeal to newcomers. The reality is, the majority of the voiceover work out there is for the sometimes ordinary and possibly mundane projects, but the checks cash for those jobs too.
Consider a few things first:
- What is your level of risk aversion? Let’s face it, starting a new career is risky and takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. And a steady paycheck isn’t the norm as a self-employed actor. There may be times when you’re worried if you can pay all your bills. If that makes you uncomfortable, then keep it in mind as a potential caveat for your personality type.
- Are you a patient person? Starting a new venture is scary but also exciting. And having the patience to focus on the goal of becoming a working voice actor is key. Perseverance is the way to success.
- Do you have a steady source of income to support yourself during the startup months or years? The idea that you will immediately start working regularly as a voice actor from day one is pure fantasy. So keeping an additional source of income flowing will not only help take the pressure off but also allow you to continue paying your bills.
- Are you confident in your abilities as a performer? This one is a biggie because if you don’t believe in your own abilities from the start, you’ll have a tough time taking the hits of criticism that may follow from casting directors, clients, and potential agents.
- Can you handle criticism well? And take advice if given? Along the same lines as the last point, if you’re sensitive and cannot take criticism well, then consider another line of work. Becoming a working actor is brutal and a thick skin is essential.
- Are you tough enough to go without any feedback for long periods and remain confident? This is something we never talk about, but it exists. Lack of feedback or jobs can be just as tough as actual criticism. Where there is no feedback, there is no growth, and how can you fix what you don’t know is broken?
- Are you willing to invest in proper training and education about the voiceover industry? You will need a source of income to support the many months and years of training a voice actor goes through. Even after you’ve completed your first demo, training should continue to keep yourself up to speed with the latest trends in the industry.
- Are you able to delegate a portion of your home for a proper studio setup? This one is critical since the industry has shifted to remote recording. I always tell students from day one of their training, that they need to sort out a proper space for a home studio. One where soundproofing or absorption can be installed, and away from any exterior noise. If you do not have the ability to set something up for yourself in your own home, then it will get very expensive renting a professional studio.
- Do you have a supportive family or partner that also believes in your voiceover goals? If you do not live alone, then an understanding roommate – spouse – family is required, since noise reduction will be a large factor in your day to day VO existence. Without a quiet space, it will easily take you 4 times as long to complete any project.
- And most importantly, do you LOVE to use your voice for entertainment and fun? If Voiceover is more fun than work to you, if performing is at your heart and soul and you can’t imagine doing anything else, then bingo! You may have found your path. Otherwise, without passion, it will be too easy to quit when the going gets tough.
If you’re good with all those points I’ve made, then I say go for it!
But here’s a tip: Do NOT go into this business with stars in your eyes about taking over Bart Simpsons’ character. Jobs like that are similar to winning the lottery and are few and far between. Instead, research the business or get advice from a working coach on the many other lucrative voiceover avenues out there.