"I do all kinds of voices"

How To (Not) Break Into Voiceover

People say you have a great voice? You can do "all sorts" of voices? And now, you wonder "how to break into voiceovers"? Think again after 3-time award nominee Brigid Reale sets your agenda straight…

Something I — and many of my fellow Voice Actors — often hear is: "How do I break into voiceover? People always tell me I have a great voice." Or even: "I can do all kinds of voices!"

About the author

Brigid Reale is a voiceover artist and owner of Reale Voices, a voiceover family business she runs with her daughter. Brigid is the definition of a self-made voiceover success. She is affectionately known among the VO community as "Fast Bunny".

Brigid spent a decade as a Montessori Teacher, yet, her drive for creativity never left. It wasn't long before she found her way back to the booth, becoming one of the most sought-out and respected female-voices for commercial VO, industrial & medical narration, e-learning, and much more! Aside from delivering voiceover, Brigid also works as a voiceover mentor, providing up and coming voice artists the advice and support they need to improve their skills and grow their own voiceover business.

To be honest: When I hear that last part, I have to fight the eye-roll, take a deep calming breath, and mindfully unclench my shoulders. It's like when I was a yoga instructor, and people would say, "You teach yoga? Oh, I love to stretch!" But honestly, I can't really be salty. Compared to other careers, you don't run into voice actors everyday or everywhere – to the rest of the world, we're kinda like rainbows. And you don't know what you don't know.

It feels like I am being approached by people more frequently right now — no surprise there with Covid hitting employment so hard. As a bonus, almost all voiceover work is happening from home studios at the moment, so "breaking into voiceovers" seems like a win-win! Work from home in your pj's and talk into a microphone, right?

Guest author and voice actress Brigid Reale

Guest author and voice actress Brigid Reale

Let me be clear: I am not trying to dissuade anyone from having a dream. But the truth has to be told. Yes, voiceover is cool and fun, full of variety, and potentially lucrative. But it is not something you wake up and decide to do on a whim. Having a great voice is terrific and certainly can serve you well in this industry. But it is one of the smaller parts of the big picture. I have been a voice actress for a short seven years now, and the one thing I have learned: voiceover is not a job. It is a business. One that requires a pretty hefty initial investment of money, education, and dedication.

It takes money, education, and dedication

In your first six months to a year, you should expect to spend up to $20,000. Why? Because you will need to…

1. Build a home studio.

2. Buy your equipment: microphone, audio interface, headphones, recording software, etc. The hardware components shouldn't be from the lowest shelf, either.

3. You need professional training. Nope, a weekend course does not qualify. You need many, many sessions of training in genre-specific voiceover technique, on vo business, and audio production/editing. Training can be done 1-on-1 for around $175 per hour, or in workshops and conferences where prices vary from $25-$40 for group classes.

4. Get professionally produced demos for each genre for which you are looking to book work. Pro demos run between $1800-$2500. And, believe me! You want the pro ones.

5. Build a website.

6. Acquire various memberships, CRM software, marketing, networking, engineering, bookkeeping tools, and business resources to help you organize your business, find opportunities, deliver work, and collect payment.

Oh, did I mention that I am barely scratching the surface here? Never mind. Now: Once you have checked all items from the list above, let's move on to what you will need to know:

1. Where to find opportunities. There are many ways, and you need to know them all.

2. Proper rates for different areas of voiceover. Commercials, corporate narration, eLearning, audiobooks, IVRs, ADRs – they all ask for different prices. Usage can get pretty complicated.

3. How to generate a quote with all the necessary line items and terms & conditions.

4. How to audition.

5. How to record, edit, and get your work to the client in the desired audio format pronto. And how to do pick-ups quickly and efficiently.

6. How to run and be directed in a live session.

7. How to invoice and collect payment.

That's a lot! In no way, shape, or form is this a thing that you should think, "Oh, I wanna do some voiceover work." That's not how it works. Working as a voiceover talent is a business. So the second you enter the arena, you are an entrepreneur. You should think, "Oh, I want to open a voiceover business!"

Wait, there is good news, too!

On the plus side: The vo community is a very supportive and inclusive one. I love my tribe of colleagues! They are some of the best people I have the privilege to include in my daily life.

Can you make a full-time living? Yes… you can. At the beginning of your career, expect to be seeking opportunities 80 percent of the time, working the remaining 20. Do not expect to recoup your investment straight away. If you are one of the very few voice actors that do, I highly recommend you also go buy a lottery ticket because your luck is on fire! As you grow, create connections, and develop strong business relationships, that 80:20 balance will change. But it takes a lot of time, sometimes years.

So, my point is: Yes, voiceover is really cool, interesting, diverse, and well-paying work when done right. Yes, it is as fun as it looks most of the time. But it's not easy, nor is it for the faint of heart. It's a long game, not a lightning round.

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Brigid Reale  voice actors  how do I become a voiceover talent  entrepreneur