If you wanted to be a doctor, lawyer or plumber you would have a clear career path to follow, exams to take, practical experience to gain, and professional bodies to join. The road map to your chosen job would be well defined and structured. If you had not achieved your dream by a certain age, you would probably have to give up.
But what if you wanted to do voice overs for a living, or even part time? Say you harboured a dream to narrate children’s stories, do animation and video game voices, or introduce your favourite TV programmes – where on earth would you start? There is no career path here, no academic courses at colleges or university; even a drama syllabus may not cover such a niche interest.
In the voice over world, there is no one size fits all job: you can’t be too old, too posh, or too common; every voice style has a market from child through to senior and everything in between. Confusingly it all seems, well, so vague and obscure. It is as though ‘planet voice over’ were a far off place, impregnable, self contained and elitist. However people (yes ordinary people) do become voice over performers. They are not necessarily actors or radio professionals; they come from all walks of life and bring skills and experience from the real world that enrich their delivery.
So where, exactly, do you start? First, forget the idea that you have to possess a great sounding voice. It’s like art: one person’s Mona Lisa is another’s pile of bricks. In other words totally subjective. Reading and specifically reading out loud, is the most important quality. It is how you bring a script (that is somebody else’s words) to life. Practise makes perfect, so the more you read aloud the better. Lock yourself away in a quiet room and try reading short extracts from magazines, newspapers, novels, in fact anything you can lay your hands on. You could even try writing your own scripts, which will give you an insight into how a client sells a product or idea.
Then you will need to record a showreel. This will become your audio calling card – without it no one will know what you sound like. Keep your scripts short and add variety into the mix. That means commercials (from upbeat to soft) audiobook narration, a corporate/business type read, interactive phone message and (this is optional and only for the seriously talented) character voice montage. You can hire a local studio for a few hours, record at home if you have the facilities, or ask a professional trainer to help you.
After this comes the really hard part: promoting your reel (which should be on CD and perhaps a website too). You could approach voice over agents, but many of these will want experience first before considering representing you. You can achieve this by signing up to the numerous voiceover marketplaces that can be found on the web. They offer a chance for voice talents to show off their wares and meet potential clients, do auditions and most importantly get those jobs.
So it may be too late to become an astronaut, but your dreams of a career in voice overs are not out of this world.