Whether you realize it or not, voice acting is all around you. From movie trailers to audiobooks and ads, voice artists lend their voices to our daily lives in countless ways. So, what is voice acting? And could becoming a voice actor be a fulfilling career path for you?
This post will cover an overview of voice acting and explore the voice over marketplace. Let’s dive in!
Overview of voice acting
First, let’s give a textbook definition of voice acting.
Voice acting: The art of performing voice overs or providing voices to represent a character or to provide information to an audience or user.
As you can see, that’s a broad description of an incredibly diverse industry.
Here’s where you might hear voice actors in your everyday life:
- dubbed foreign language films
- animation shorts or films
- TV programs
- radio or audio dramas
- video games
- live events
- awards shows
- toys and games
- vehicles and transportation (e.g., GPS systems)
- phone messages and interactive voice response (IVR)
- training / e-learning
Within these genres, you’ll find a range of terminology. Some voice over professionals are called “announcers” or “narrators.” You’ll often hear “voice talent” as a catch-all term.
As you might expect in such a diverse industry, not all voice acting is the same. There’s a huge range of range of voices, skills and techniques, depending on the target audience and format of the piece. For instance, narrating an online course is worlds apart from promoting your local car dealership.
That’s why most voice actors end up choosing a few specialties and getting a solid reputation in those areas. They grow well-connected networks and have shorter learning curves when it comes to clients in their niches.
Let’s take a quick tour through the history of this fascinating industry.
Short history of voice acting
Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden recorded the very first voiceover in 1900. Fessenden was an avid fan of the newfangled telephone, and he wanted to innovate the technology even further.
So Fessenden reported the weather on the radio for the U.S. Weather Bureau, marking the first official voice over recording. Six years later, he transmitted music and Christmas messages to ships out at sea, which was a groundbreaking accomplishment in that era.
Voice acting continued to evolve along with technology throughout the 20th century as popular radio shows and animated cartoons captivated audiences. In 1928, “Steamboat Willy,” featuring Walt Disney’s voice as Mickey Mouse, arrived in theaters as one of the first sound cartoons.
Still, not many people knew about the actors behind these voices. One of the few to become an actual celebrity was Mel Blanc, a radio personality and comedian who voiced many Warner Brothers cartoons. Over his 60-year career, he earned the nickname “The Man of 1,000 Voices.”
Another iconic voice actor was Don LaFontaine. Even if you don’t recognize his name, you surely know his voice from countless movie trailers. He was hugely influential in defining the voice of cinema — even to the point of inspiring the 2013 comedy movie “In A World.”
Today, talented voice actors are behind major animated box-office hits. Some, like Angelina Jolie and Will Smith, are well-known on-screen actors. But others have found fame and fortune solely through voice acting.
And outside the entertainment industry, there’s a whole world of opportunities for aspiring voice talent.
The growing voice over market
The monetary value of the global voice over market is $4.4 billion, according to a study commissioned by one of the online voice over marketplaces.
And it’s growing by the day as the world grows ever more digital with more channels than ever. E-learning, podcasts, video for corporate markets, and streaming content are just a few of the expanding niches within the voice over industry.
With growing sectors like healthcare and senior living demanding high-quality content, the need for talented voice over actors will only continue to increase.
Even within the last 10 years, the voice over market has changed considerably with the rise of the online marketplace. Now, voice talent can work directly with producers, which has lowered the barrier to entry and made the field more competitive.
But if you’re talented, willing to work hard and run your company like a business, you can stand apart from your competition.
Voice acting is a fun, engaging industry that attracts people from many walks of life. And many people love that they can work from a home studio.
Living a more flexible lifestyle and setting your own hours – plus doing something you’re excited about? For many people, that spells out a dream job!
How to get started in voice acting
Getting started in voice acting deserves a post all to itself, but let’s cover a few key points here.
If you’re thinking about becoming a voice actor, you need to determine if your voice and personality is suited to this type of work. You might find that you have the raw talent and drive to create a rewarding career.
Either way, it’s smart to invest some time and funds to answer this question early on, before you commit a chunk of money and find you’re not the right fit. You may want to talk with a vocal coach or industry insiders who can give you specific, honest advice on your voice acting prospects. They can also advise you on which voice over niches could be the best fit for your abilities.
As you’re exploring, it’s important to know what skills a voice over actor needs to succeed. The most fundamental voice over skill is reading “copy” in a way that fits the format and audience of your project.
Your goal is to make the words flow naturally, suit the character and avoid sounding like you’re reading from a script. Sometimes you’ll need to think on your feet and change up your delivery. The mark of a consummate pro is being able to adjust course and adapt to that specific project quickly and flexibly.
Once you get positive feedback from an expert, the next steps are to:
- Complete vocal training and coaching
- Purchase equipment, like your microphone
- Set up a basic home studio
- Record demo tracks for your top handful of niches
- Connect with others in your industry via conferences and other networking events
- Market yourself to clients and leads through a high-quality website, email marketing and other touchpoints
Breaking into the voice acting industry can take time, and you need to be diligent and patient along the way. Commit to improving yourself each day and seek out professional feedback to help you do just that.
One of the top perks about owning your own voice acting business? You’re the boss. One of the most challenging parts? You’re the boss! (And marketer, accountant and customer service representative!) You must be disciplined with how you spend your time, master your technical skills and run your company.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Our experts are here to help you along your journey of building your voice acting business.
Our team of professionals is here to support you every step of the way. Here’s to building a successful voice acting career!