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Ah, voiceover… a career that can be challenging and rewarding if you play your cards right.  It’s not something I ever anticipated doing, nor did I seek it out until I had some personal revelations.  I began my voiceover journey in Maryland.  Learning theatre, learning Shakespeare, and doing all the school plays I could. I knew the performing arts was what I wanted to do; stirring emotion and wonderment in others through the magic of imagination was my cup of tea.

In college, my chosen degree was in Musical Theatre, which I eventually changed my mind about and dropped out. Then I began exploring on-camera work in the DC/Baltimore areas.  After working on many films, TV shows, and movies, I began the next phase of my journey and started making my own movies. It was a lot of fun and very fulfilling. This is a journey I could talk at length about. For your time reading this, I’ll just say there was always a part of me that gravitated toward voiceover.

Voiceover is a Superpower

As a kid, I would sit in front of the TV on Saturday mornings, imitating cartoon characters and, to my parent’s chagrin, getting into all kinds of mischief with prank phone calls. As a performer, overall, I disliked my voice because it didn’t open up doors for me as a leading man. I was always playing the quirky character roles or bad guys. This was fun, but it felt like I couldn’t do what I wanted to do because my voice didn’t fit the mold. I did not realize until later in life that my voice was actually my superpower. As soon as I realized that voiceover was a job someone could have, I thought to myself ”why not me?” So I began to pursue it and begin investing and cultivating the talent I had always overlooked.

The Journey of Learning

It’s my opinion that to find success, actors should cultivate and capitalize on their strengths. They should do this while recognizing and acknowledging their limitations. It doesn’t diminish you as a performer to know what you’re good at and USE that to its fullest potential.

I often say, ”If you try to do everything, you may accomplish nothing.” So, it’s important to meditate on your strengths and lean into them. This doesn’t mean you won’t constantly try new things, train, and incorporate new ideas that will grow your profile as a performer. It instead simply means you should know what you do best and capitalize on it. Studying improv and the fundamentals of Acting are crucial things voice actors should do. It’s also vital to stay current on new trends, watching/listening to the mediums you wish to participate in to hear what’s booking. There is always more to learn, and you never know what opportunities might be around the corner.

Listening to the Voice Within

When I moved to Los Angeles, I worked in retail management for 15 years. I chose an overnight job to sustain myself while I got my footing in town. Even though I lost sleep, it gave me free days to network and audition. This was with the goal being that someday I would replace that work with the voiceover career I desired.

When that day finally came, and my gut told me it was time to quit my job, I listened.  The day I quit, I remember driving off the parking lot after a long and hard shift, nervous but excited about my future. At that moment, my agent called to tell me that I had booked Lucky the Leprechaun for Lucky Charms Cereal. It wasn’t lost on me at that moment that I ‘got lucky’, and I couldn’t help but smile as I realized my gut intuitions were proven right! Listening to that voice within was the best thing I ever did for myself.

Patience and Process Make the Voiceover Journey

Through it all, one important thing to me was demystifying the idea of failure. Planning for it and accepting it as part of my journey allowed me not to fear it. For example, I had a credit card with airline miles I could use, and I always knew that if things went sideways in VO, I would at least have a ticket home. This was of great comfort to me to simply have a plan. Doing things like that and eliminating obstacles permitted me to be more creative in my endeavors.

I frequently ask myself if there are any aspects of my day-to-day life that I’m bringing into the booth with me. Am I depressed or sad? Am I worried about the bills I have to pay? All of that follows me into the booth when auditioning, and if I’m not in control, it will control me!  As a creative, I need to remove the obstacles from my path as best as possible. All the while being kind and patient with myself in the process. Once in the booth, you must cultivate a space that brings you joy and taps into your power. One that doesn’t hinder your auditions, so you have the best chance of booking.  That comes with good self-care, routine, a support system, good friendships, and a clear head.

Auditioning within Voiceover

When it comes to the actual audition process, I dive deeply into script breakdown to get to the ”who, what, where, why, and how” of a scene and a character. Initially, this can take a lot of effort. Over time it will become second nature the more you trust your creative instincts. Likewise, it’s not wise to ‘linger’ on deciding what voice to use. This removes your energy from focusing on ACTING, which is the most important part of anything you do. Even the wackiest characters come from a place of realism and deserve the same respect. Knowing your instrument and inherent capabilities will help guide you in these moments. I advocate for a 90-day process of discovery that I teach my students to refine this part of the process.

Voiceover Journey Conclusions

At the end of the day, we are all on a journey, a voiceover journey. We must be masters of what makes our talent unique and worthy of consideration. From there, you can confidently create demos, market yourself, get an agent, book work, and make creative decisions that will chart your path with more ease. Find authenticity and inspiration from your own story that you can share with others. This will set you apart from the crowd. Remember that your power lies within you, and your job is to unlock it to its fullest potential while pursuing your passions and dreams. All the while reminiscing with gratitude why you chose this path in the first place.

I never thought in a million years that I would make my living as an actor. I never thought that I would someday be honored to win an actual Emmy. But here I am after 20 years of being in this business, and the real work is just getting started! It all takes hard work and persistence, but that hasn’t stopped you yet, has it? Let your strength fuel you, let it drive you, and most importantly… DON’T GIVE UP!

Patience, Persistence, and Passion.

Voiceover Journey by Daniel Ross