• Rob Marley

Starting in Voiceover: The Top Three Tired Tropes of the VO Business

As a voiceover artist (or voiceoverist, or VO, or voice actor, or whatever you call yourself,) chances are you've heard one or all of these three over-used reasons people use to get into the business. Maybe you used them yourself. Its OK, there's no judging here.

Remember these things and pass this wisdom on to others.

This is the single-most over-used image in the voiceover industry.

1. It's so easy! You just stand in front of a microphone and read the script and money magically spits out of your computer like your own personal ATM, right?

Well, not exactly.

People that think this way usually don't understand that in order to make that script sound natural, it requires a lot of skill. Sure, there may be some people that can just jump right in and start making money doing voiceover without any training, but you have to think of these people as freaks of nature; exceptions to the norm. The majority of people working in VO got there through good old "sweat equity." It takes a lot of hard work and acquired skills to make that script sound natural. And chances are the freaks that started making money right off the bat will soon find out that they don't know everything there is to know about the business, and start having trouble finding work after their initial success. The truth is it's their lack of skills that's holding them back.

This is not a get rich quick business. To make any real money takes real work That means training and practice.

2. "People always tell me I have a great voice!"

That's nice. Do these people know what they're talking about? Know this: unless these people are casting directors or voice artists making a substantial living in the industry, the people that tell you that you have a great voice are going to fall into one of two categories:

  • They don't know the first thing about voiceover.

  • They are trying to squeeze money out of you.

Friends that tell you that you have a great voice and that you should be announcing movies or commercials simply don't possess the qualifications to be able to make that assessment. They don't understand that it requires more than just a good voice. It takes talent, skill and a lot of hard work involving marketing and self-promotion. The actual voice part of voice over work is really just a tiny fraction of the work that goes into doing this as a career.

The other group that may tell you that you have a great voice are trying to sell you something. There are people that prey on newbies. These people don't give a damn about you or your career. All they want is your money. And once they sell you the dream, they move on to the next sucker.

3. I do a great __________ impression. Here, let me show you!

Save your breath.

Are you interested in working in voice acting - that part of the industry involved with the voicing of characters for animation: cartoons, anime, etc? Cool! It's a fun industry and the people that work in it absolutely love it.

But here's some advice: I can say with a fair amount of certainty that no casting director is ever going to ask you to do a Peter Griffin impression. Ever.

To paraphrase a casting director, "If I wanted Seth Macfarlane, I'd get Seth Macfarlane."

If you want to work in this niche, you need to develop your own characters. Not someone else's. You can take elements of those voices if you want, but then make up something new.

For example: What would the love child of Peter Griffin and Christopher Walken sound like? Come up with that voice.

  • Now do that voice while reciting the top story at a news website.

  • Now do that voice slightly higher pitched or slightly lower pitched.

  • Now make it sound older.

  • Now do it faster.

If you can create a character voice like that, and be able to do that voice for at least four hours without stopping or slipping out of character at all, then you might have what it takes to work in this part of the business.

Being able to do a great character impression may be good for you at a party, but it means next to nothing to a casting director.

And even more important: impersonating a character or celebrity may bring with it a whole dump truck full of legal issues if you use that voice in a commercial or in a video with the idea of making money off of it.

You may have a lot of reasons for wanting to get into the business, but if you are using one or all of these tired tropes as your justification, you may be in for a big surprise.


About Rob Marley -

A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, coach, producer and writer, now living in the hill country of Austin Texas.