Read How to Be a Voice Actor Online

Authors: Alan Smithee

How to Be a Voice Actor (4 page)

BOOK: How to Be a Voice Actor
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Tech support


If you pay for a theme, you are
much more likely to get the developer of that theme to help you if you have a
problem. In fact, paid themes often have a robust community of users that have
dealt with and solved every issue and can help you, whereas with a free theme,
well, you get what you paid for. Is the developer of that free theme going to
keep updating it so it keeps up with updates to the WordPress platform itself?
What about testing it to keep up with plugins? Since you didn’t pay for the
theme, you really can’t complain if the answer is no.




If you pay for a theme, not
only are you encouraged to customize it to meet your needs, but the developer
and community that supports those themes are likely to be able to help you do
so. Free themes—not so much (unless you are brave and technically
oriented). With free themes you have to go into the Theme Editor and remove
this code by hand. And Lori can tell you from personal, sad experience that
this sometimes ends with her crashing the entire site, pounding her fist on my
desk so hard it scares her dog, then starting all over by re-installing the
theme from the beginning.

If you are a techie, like to
learn, and don’t have a tendency to pound your desk in frustration if you mess
something up, start with a free theme and see how it goes! It might be just
fine for your needs, and you will have saved some money.


Paid themes save time


If time is a factor, definitely
go with a paid theme rather than searching for and hand-installing a free
theme. By the time you install a plugin for each piece of functionality you
want to add, it ends up being something of a game of Jenga: Install the theme,
install the plugin, activate the plugin, see if your site is still alive.
Repeat ten times.


If it seems like there is a
bias here toward paid themes, it’s only because we (as marketers and website
makers) just don’t like fiddling with those free themes. If you have the time
and patience and want to save money, you can absolutely start with a free theme
and see how it goes.


Just so you get a feel for what
themes are and how they differ, here are some examples of both free and paid


Here is the gallery of free
WordPress themes:


Usually there are over 1,000
themes in that gallery, all of which are free for download right now. Scroll
through the gallery, pick a few themes, and download them—just so you can
see how they work!

Some of the free themes we like


(a free theme offered by

(from, this is
the “light” version of another paid theme we like, Platform Pro)


If you know you’re going to want
more functionality, here are the most popular of the paid themes:



Thesis from



Once you get your theme
installed and activated, next you’ll start building pages. Here is what should
go on your website.


  1. Your name.
    Even if your URL (website
    address) isn’t your name (like, your name should
    still be one of the first things that users see when they go to your
    website so they can quickly know they’re in the right place. You’ll also
    want your name to be prominently placed so the search engines can find it
    and return your website in its results when people search for your name.
    In WordPress, you will go to Settings> General, put your name under
    Site Title, and replace “Just another WordPress weblog” in the tagline
    with something that epitomizes you or your writing.


  1. Your bio.
    This is a roughly 250 word
    summary about you—preferably a narrative about why you became a
    writer, something about your education if it is relevant, and a mention of
    some big-names clients for whom you’ve done voiceover gigs.. Go to “Pages,”
    create a page called “About Me,” and put the bio there.


  1. Your reels.
    This is the place to put
    the final version of your commercial, promo, and narration reels, as well
    as any other audio samples that you might have.


  1. Contact information.
    This is where you’ll put
    links to social media profiles (like Twitter and Facebook) if you have
    them, preferably somewhere on the homepage so interested people who might
    want to help you with your career can find and connect with you. You don’t
    necessarily have to put your email address right on your site (for
    instance, you might want to use a Contact Us form), but you should make it
    as easy as possible for people to get in touch. You might also want to put
    your agent (or agents’) information here if you’ve secured representation.
    If you want to use a Contact Us form, we would recommend a plugin called
    Contact Form 7.


  1. Analytics.
    You need to be able to
    track how many people are going to your site, where they’re coming from,
    and how long they’re staying, so you can take the appropriate action to
    get these numbers to be where you want them. You’ll need a Google account
    for this as well, so pull out your information and log in to
    . You will go through a series
    of steps to register your site, then you’ll be given a short block of code
    to copy. The simplest way to get that code into your site is to download a
    plugin (from within the WordPress dashboard) called “Google Analytics for


That’s it! Bottom
line—make sure you have something that looks decent, showcases your
voice, and makes it so people can get in touch with you (and that you can
measure). You can tweak and refine as you go, but when you’re starting out, you
just want the basics in place.



Home Studio

While setting up a professional
sounding home studio is optional if you happen to live in a major market city
and have agency representation, it’s absolutely essential if you work
exclusively from online sites. Not only will your chances of booking a job improve
if you record your auditions with a professional set up, but many clients who
cast through the online sites will expect that you’ll be able to perform the
job with that same setup.


There are numerous guides
available for setting up and perfecting a home studio. But for our purposes,
let’s focus on the essentials. You don’t need to spend a fortune to create a
studio that sounds great; in fact, you can generally do it for between $150 and
$300 (not including a computer).


The first thing you’ll need is
a quiet space. Storage closets are good, but you’ll definitely want to select a
space that is carpeted. You’ll need to deaden the sound in the area so that you
don’t get any reverberation. The best way to do this is to hang
blankets—packing blankets are ideal. If you want to get fancier, you can
buy egg-crate foam and tack it up.


Next, recording software. If
you’re working on a Mac, you’ll be happy to know that all Macs come bundled
with recording software called Garage Band, which works just fine. And if
you’re working on a PC, you can download recording software called Sound Forge,
which is free.


Then, you’ll need a microphone.
The price will vary anywhere from $50 up to $5000, so naturally, if you’re just
starting out, you’ll want one of the cheaper side, and you’ll want one that has
a USB plug that attaches directly into your computer. If you have an iPad,
there are high quality microphones that plug directly in and sound great. The
best thing to do is to go to a place that sells microphones, take your iPad or
laptop, and test some out to see which ones sound best with your voice.


All of the above will work
great for auditioning. And if you book a job that requires a “phone patch,”
which means the client listens and directs you over the phone while you record,
simply purchase a set of headphones that have a phone microphone, and you’re
all set. Most cell phones now come standard with these headphones.


Beyond that, it gets a little
more complicated and much more expensive. Again, if you live in a large-market
city, the client will likely book studio time and you’ll work in person. But if
you’re working remotely, there are a couple of options. For about the last two
decades, the standard in remote connection is called ISDN. Without getting too
technical, ISDN provides a high quality signal that can be sent and recorded
remotely, and there are a couple of ways you can incorporate this technology
into your studio. The first is to buy an ISDN box and set it up in your studio.
These boxes are not cheap—they run between $1500 and $3000. Additionally,
there’s a service charge to set up the line, as well as a monthly maintenance
fee. The best way to learn more about ISDN is to call your local cable
provider, or Google “ISDN line” or “ISDN providers.”


The other option is called
Source Connect. Again, without going too far into the technical aspects, Source
Connect provides an ISDN-quality feed using the broadband internet line in your
computer. There are pros and cons to using Source Connect—service can be
inconsistent, particularly if you’re unable to plug in your broadband directly
and must rely on wifi for the signal—but there are significant upsides as
well. Besides the relatively cheap cost (most services charge $50 per
half-hour), there will most often be an engineer on the line who can help sort
out technical issues. And then there’s the portability. As long as you can
bring your laptop, you’ll have access to Source Connect.


Again, this section is meant
strictly as an overview. There are many reputable and well-written books on the
subject, ones you’ll want to rely on as you increase the technical capability
and reach of your home studio.



Areas of Specialization

As we discussed in The Basics,
there are many areas of specialization in voiceover. Voiceover people do
commercials, promos, narration, movie trailers, video games, animation for TV
and film, audio books, live announcing, and much more. You can choose to work
exclusively in one of these areas, but experience shows that those who are able
to work in numerous areas work and earn more. It pays to be flexible.


You may already have an idea
about what interests you most in voiceover, but whatever appeals to you most,
you will first need to get a solid foundation in…


Commercial Voiceover


This is the bedrock of
virtually every voiceover career, mostly because that’s where the bulk of the
work is. Commercial VO is everywhere: you hear it on the radio, you hear it on
TV, and increasingly you hear it on the internet and even in movie theaters.


The pay scale for commercial
work varies greatly. Some non-union spots that are run in regional markets pay
very little, while large, “network spots” pay quite a bit. The union,
SAG-AFTRA, has pre-negotiated rates, along with usage and payment cycles. If
and when you land a national network campaign, you can earn six figures over
the course of a year for a single job. Needless to say, for many voiceover
actors, this is the brass ring.


While the goal is always to
sell something in commercial voiceover, advertising producers and copywriters
turn out an astonishingly broad spectrum of appeals in order to get their
message across. Commercial voiceover actors are called upon to be wry, playful,
upbeat, relatable, caring, you name it. The one thing they’re usually not
called upon to do is sound like an announcer.




Promos are 15- to 30-second
spots run by networks to promote their programming. Even if you think you may
have never heard a promo, you absolutely have. They’re the spots that begin
with “Tonight on Travel Channel…” or “Coming up next on NBC…” Promos help brand
a network’s identity. Promo voiceover people may do promos for a single show,
or may handle much or even all of a network’s programming.


This field is a bit friendlier
to people with traditionally “good voices” than commercial, though that’s
shifting. The good news is, with the proliferation of cable channels, there’s
more work than ever. But unlike commercial work, which can continue to pay
after the session is completed, promos are usually paid for up front in session
fees. This varies, but it’s the basic rule. While it doesn’t pay as much on the
back end as commercial, the upside to promo work is that it can be very steady,
and in voiceover, a notoriously fickle field, having consistent work is always
a good thing. Some promo campaigns can continue for years, and may demand
numerous sessions per day.

BOOK: How to Be a Voice Actor
9.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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