Voice Over: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

From the fun voices to the work-from-home lifestyle, voice acting can sound like a dream job. But before you quit your career for a life behind the mic, it’s a good idea to learn a little bit about what the industry looks like and the best ways to become a successful voice actor.

Voice actors are a lot like screen actors: they rely on acting skills to play a part, whether that’s to entertain an audience or disseminate information. The big difference is that they don’t appear on screen. Instead of performing for a camera, a voice actor’s performance is done in a recording studio — and their voice is the star of the show.

When you think about voice actors, the first thing that comes to mind might be cartoons and animated characters. But voiceover work covers a wide range of categories and extends far beyond entertainment, including educational content and corporate work.

Different Fields of Voice Over Work

Voice-over work can be very lucrative and rewarding but there are so many different fields of voice over work that it can be difficult to know where to start. Here is a quick primer on the main areas of voice over work:


You’ve probably heard a commercial on TV or radio with lots of different voices and you may have wondered how those people got their voice in the commercial. As you can imagine, commercial voice over work is extremely competitive and most people have a long road ahead of them before they break into the field. There are plenty of commercial auditions posted on Backstage and as you gain experience and skills, you’ll find more opportunities will open up for you.


The field of animation/cartoons is also very competitive so it’s best to try to get representation from a voice talent agent who specializes in animation/cartoons. Both for male voice actors or female voice actors, the more experience you get under your belt, the more succes you will have with landing jobs in this area.


This type of voice over recording is very popular for audiobooks, training videos, documentaries etc. Narration takes an enormous amount of skill because your pacing must be right and your inflection must be consistent and understandable throughout the entire project. And you should learn how to become an audiobook narrator.

Phone and Other Interactive Voice Response Messages

Computerized interactive response systems and applications often require the use of a computer-generated or actual human voice to respond to user inputs. For example, when you call an airline about changing your flight, you may hear a computerized voice tell you how much the change fee will be, after which you might speak with an actual person who will help you complete the transaction by phone if you choose not to change your flight online.


This field is probably what you think of first when you hear the term voice over. Voice actors who do film voice over work record lines spoken by animated characters or do narration for documentaries and other films.

Toys and Video Games

Most Voice actors can also do voice over work for video games and toys. The voice actor records a script and then the recording is integrated into the game or toy. This can be done in a studio with a microphone or on location in front of the game or toy itself.


Podcasts are becoming a more popular way for people to get their information now, and it can be a great way for you to get your foot in the door as a voice actor. To start with podcasts, all you need is a microphone, recording software and your voice! You can begin by creating your own podcast or by guesting on other people’s podcasts.

As with anything, it takes time to build up an audience, but it is worth the effort. Many people earn money by charging advertisers to advertise on their podcasts, or they may charge listeners for premium content. There are many ways to make money with podcasts and it can be a fun way to get started in the industry.


Audiobooks have been around for ages and offer another avenue for aspiring voice actors to explore. Like podcasts, audiobooks vary greatly in terms of content and style but they all require the same thing: an engaging narrator that can transport listeners into other worlds. If you’re interested in getting your start as an audiobook narrator, it’s important to note that you will most likely need to audition before being considered for.

Live Events

Voice over artists are often hired for live events that require someone who can speak clearly and loudly. For example, you could be hired to announce the winners of an award ceremony or to act as a guide for visitors in a museum. Sometimes, you will be hired for these types of roles because you have a distinctive accent or speech pattern that is thought to be particularly appealing to the audience.


Many companies hire voice over artists to record the audio for training videos that they produce internally. This type of job often requires several days of work (or more) as it may involve recording a large amount of material. It can also require some level of improvisation as you may have to deliver certain lines in slightly different ways depending on what else is happening in the video at the time.

The Voice Actor: Skills and Requirements

The voice actor plays a variety of roles in the entertainment industry. He or she speaks in character as a cartoon, animal, alien or other fictional character. Some may also sing or provide narration for television shows, movies or commercials.

Voice actors need to be able to read and interpret scripts. They must be able to project their voice clearly, maintaining a specific tone, pitch and inflection. Voice actors use their training and experience to create the desired effect for each role they play.

A bachelor’s degree is not required to work as a voice actor. However, many find that obtaining a degree in theater, broadcasting or communication allows them to hone their skills and increase their employment opportunities.

Degree programs in theater teach students how to project voices and utilize facial expressions to convey emotions. Students also learn how to perform on stage and interact with different characters throughout various productions. Similarly, broadcasting programs cover the techniques of reading aloud scripts clearly while maintaining a specific tone of voice as well as news casting techniques. Communication programs typically offer courses on public speaking and interpersonal communication skills that are useful in the field of voice acting.


If you’re interested in a career as a voice actor, you should keep in mind that there is no shortcut. Those who make it in the VO industry are, for the most part, those who demonstrate patience and discipline. You will need to keep working on your demo reel, submitting to talent agents or casting directors, and, most importantly, keeping your profile fresh by auditioning for projects. Whether you work with a coach or not, the must-have for all aspiring voice actors is to prepare for each audition so that you can demonstrate your capabilities and have plenty of content.

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