It Pays to be YOU

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I think one of the most difficult things in voiceover for me, and I know this is true for a lot of you voice actors out there as well…Finding your own voice.  A lot of aspiring voice actors say, “Hey, I can do voices.  I should make a good voice actor, right?”.  Wrong.  Voice over isn’t just doing silly voices.  I happen to do silly voices for a living, but that’s not the case for every situation and every voice actor.  Versatility is key.  When I first started in voice over, I had the habit of always trying to sound like somebody else.  I would watch TV and say, “I want to try and sound like that guy because he’s good in that commercial.”  But, the reality is a client/producer/casting directors, etc. will hire you for as a voice actor because you’re YOU.  Nobody can imitate YOU.  You might be saying, “Yeah, but I can sound like that celebrity in that commercial.” And that’s a great skill to have, but 9 times out of 10, they’ll just hire that specific celebrity for the job anyways. 

You should focus on doing YOUR voice and doing it well.  Can you read commercial copy?  Can you do an authoritative read?  Can you do a guy-next door? Can you do a girl-next-door read?  Sexy? Confident?  Can you sound like someone you’d want to have a beer with at a bar while they tell you a story?  Can you put ALL of these different types of reads together in one package as YOU?  Because if you can, THAT is going to sell you as a unique voice actor, and a successful one at that.

It took me years of trial and error and the help of coaches and mentors in the voice over world to realize this.  Now, I want to share it with you in the hopes of you becoming successful MUCH quicker than I did.  I can’t stress this enough.  Be YOU. 

The secret to all of this comes down to a collaborative effort between you and a great voice over coach.  Don’t feel that you have to reach out to the biggest and best voice over coach.  I’ve reached out to quite a few and didn’t jive with all of them.  I finally found one that is zero BS and wants to genuinely help my career grow.  Do the same.  Treat it as an interview.  Give your background and where you want your career to go. 

That’s all I have for today.  If you enjoyed this post, be sure to share with a friend to inspire them to become a voice actor.  We’re all in this together.  Let me know if you ever need anything!

Love, peace and chicken grease!

Joe

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How to Find Time for Voice Over as a Side Hustle

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One of the questions I get most often is how to find time for voice over when you have a full time job already.  I get it, even if your dream is to be a full-time voice actor, no one wants to leave a stable job unless they’re making the income in voice acting.  I’ve been there, and totally understand.  Some people out there say that you HAVE to go all in on voice acting if you want to make it work.  While it’s true to some degree, I think you can start out doing voice acting part time and be very successful.  But you have to WORK for it. 

Even if you’re doing voice acting in your spare time, if you’re getting paid for your voice over work, you’re a professional.  Act like it!  Remember, each job you get (and each client you can make into a recurring client) is one step closer to being able to do voice acting full time.

I wasn’t a full time voice actor when I first started.  I had a full time office job where I worked for 8 hours.  It wasn’t a passion, but it paid the bills.  I’d hustle at voice over during my lunch breaks, responding to emails on my phone, and worked many hours almost every night and weekend.  I worked hard to make connections and add clients.  Once I got to the point where I was making almost as much as my full time job, I felt secure and confident that I could leave that job, knowing if I had even more hours in the day to find voice over work, I’d make even more money. 

The reason that you can make voice over work as a side hustle is that most of voice over is finding the work.  For every hour of recording sessions I book, I probably spent 3-4 hours marketing to get that hour of work.  You’re going to get a lot more no’s (or no response) than Yes’s.  You can do marketing any time of day.  A lot of times, auditions are posted and you have time to submit that audition.  Yes, sometimes there is a quick turn around, and you’ll miss that audition if you’re not able to submit within a couple of hours.  But that’s rare, and you’re not guaranteed that job anyway!

Most recording sessions I do are on my own time, so when I had a full time job I was able to record when I got home and just make sure I sent it back before the next business day.  If you do have a client who needs a live session to record at a certain time, try your best to schedule it as late in the day as possible, therefore giving you an opportunity to maybe make it home.  This worked great for me with west coast clients, since they were 3 hours behind.  A 3 pm session for them was 6 pm for me.  If you have no control over the time, then that’s where you have to decide if it’s worth it for you to take a half day.  Do what you have to do to get it done.

What does all of this mean?  I hate to break it to you, but you have to have the drive and motivation to spend the hours of marketing during your free time in order to book work in the first place.  When you’re first starting out, you could have a few weeks where you market and audition, and don’t book anything.   It’s discouraging, but maybe it’s just a slow time in the industry.  But if you keep on planting the seeds and spreading your name around to potential clients, they’ll think of you when they do get work and all of a sudden you get a lot of jobs at once, making all of your work worth it. 

Keep your head down and do you.  Stick to your plan and continue to execute it… the key to this industry is consistency! 

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What You Need for a Home Studio

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“Dear Joe.  I’m just starting out in voice over.  What kind of equipment do I need to set up at home?”

Alright, no one actually asked that question right now, but I do get the question a lot. I wrote down suggestions to let you know what you need to start out in voice over.  Let’s get started!

What do you absolutely need to start off?  A quiet room!  What do I mean by a quiet space?  Ideally a vocal booth (I personally invested in a WhisperRoom 2 years ago and love it), but a walk in closet or even a blanket fort around your desk will work just fine to start out.  When I first started voice over, I used my walk in closet (not a huge closet, but enough for me to get in and shut the door) surrounded by clothes, talking into the microphone and using a laptop, and recording to practice.  I even recorded a national commercial with that setup!  You could have a $5,000, $1,000, $200 microphone, but if you have a quiet space it’ll all sound great!  If you don’t have a quiet space, you may not get a job since the client won’t want to use your audio. 

The great thing about voice over is that it doesn’t matter what you look like, it matters what you sound like.

Now let’s talk equipment.  What do you need to record a voice over?  Here are links to equipment I love and I’ve used personally. 

  • Microphone

    • If you’re just starting out:  Rode NT1-A Cardioid Condenser Microphone Recording Package.  This is the exact starter package I purchased when I started my voice over career and I used it for several years. The best value and quality for this price range! I recorded national commercials and network cartoons on the Rode NT1-A and it's such a quiet studio microphone. I highly recommend this for anyone starting out who may not be able to invest in the higher quality mics. It even comes with a pop filter and mic stand. Just don't get a USB mic, please!

    • If you want something a bit better:  Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3 Super-Cardioid Shotgun Tube Condenser Microphone.  The Sennheiser is the industry standard in all studios and I used it as my main microphone for over 5 years. It works great as a travel mic and is great in most environments as it's a shotgun and will only pick up noises directly in front.

    • My favorite microphone:  Neumann TLM 103 Microphone Bundle.  The Neumann is the microphone I use the most right now. It's perfect for my voice in any genre and really picks up the nuances and idiosyncrasies. The majority of the studios I work with have this microphone, so it's definitely worth the investment. But if you’re just starting out, no need to get this one until you’re ready to make the investment.

  • Pop filter

    • Pop Filter.  Pop filters help eliminate B, P, and other hard sounds from hitting the microphone.  Here is the one I use.

    • If you get the Rode as a starter microphone, the pop filter is already included.

  • Mic Stand

    • See which mic stands are compatible with your microphone and situation

    • Here are a couple which I like: Tripod Boom and Desk Mounted.

  • Computer

    • Hopefully your current computer is in great condition and can support recording software.  If you’re shopping around for a new one, I use the Apple iMac MNE92LL/A 27 Inch, 3.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive.  I made the switch from PC to Mac several years ago and haven't looked back. This is my current setup and I'm loving it. It supports all of the software I need for recording and running my business.

    • I also recommend saving all of your work on an external hard drive.  I use the WD 4 TB My Book Desktop External Hard Drive.  Saving recording sessions and ALL my VO related things strictly to the external hard drive keeps my computer from working overtime to keep up with my sessions. Using the external hard drive's memory to save and run things off of is key to keeping your business organized and running smoothly.

  • Audio Interface

  • DAW (Digital Audio Work Station). I use Reaper.

  • Headphones. I use these Sennheiser headphones but these Sony headphones are great too.

And because I’m asked a lot, I wanted to reiterate that I don’t recommend a USB mic for a professional.  Even though they have come a long way in the past few years, if you’re going to buy something, start with a great budget microphone (the Rode) for the best quality. 

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*Please note that some links above are Amazon affiliate links. These affiliate products are at no additional cost to you, but if you make a purchase via these links it will help support my website.