A Newbie’s “Must-Do” Guide to Voice-Over
Last updated on August 10th, 2019
So, you want to voice-over? That’s great! Below is A Newbie’s MUST-DO guide to voice-over.
I’ve always had a fascination with audio and video content. I worked for a small TV station for years and really had a chance to experience what it means to create programming and content. But now that I have a different career, it is difficult to find the time to create.
In February, I decided to really make an effort to jump into the world of freelance voice-overs. I have the technical skills to record audio, so, I invested in some basic equipment, and started my journey. The problem is, I made it about 3 steps down this path and realized I had no idea what to do.
Where it All Begins
I’ve done voice-over work before. There were many times in my previous job I needed to lend a voice for clients to use in their own radio and TV commercials, but it was more out of necessity rather than a client saying “I love your voice, please do the voice over for this spot.”
It is easy to say “I’m going to do X.” Like with many new ventures, the actual ability is only a fraction of what is needed for success.
The lack of direction left me paralyzed. I had no idea how to actually get gigs. I knew how I would try to market myself. It is how I came up with the idea for the blog. But since I didn’t know where to go or how to make contacts, there was no need for the blog and I had equipment just collecting dust.
Summer is halfway over and I’m now finally ready to start this hustle. When I finally decided to focus, I knew I needed to do the research. I’ve learned many things and it led me to create A Newbie’s Must-do guide to Voice-over
First Thing’s First: Learn the Basics of the Industry
I know how to speak. I know how to capture my voice in an audio file. What I did not know is how to have people pay me to do that. This is where my search for knowledge began. I read blogs, I watched videos, and all of them said the same thing: Hire an agent.
Wait, what? I’m trying to make money because I want to have some disposable income and pay off my debts more quickly. Now you want me to throw more money at someone else?
I do not have the extra cash to pay someone to line up gigs. Then, I found a suggestion that I didn’t realize existed. Join a community for freelance voice-over work.
This makes perfect sense, but where do I go? What do these “Communities” look like and feel like? Further down the rabbit hole we must go.
Join a Community
I call them communities, but really is more of an online classified listing where buyers and sellers can view other work, post jobs, contact each other about different gigs. It is really more like having an agent, but you do all the work.
The most popular of these is Voices.com. I learned a ton of general information just reading this site. The upside is that it is a well-respect portal for this line of work, but it is a “pay-to-win” deal. You can sign up for free, but you will get very limited access. You can also opt to pay the membership fee for a few different tiers of service.
While it would be great to have the power of this community to help jumpstart a career in voice-over acting, I just don’t have that kind of money to drop, for the possibility of getting a gig. I would encourage you to check it out. There is plenty of great information you can obtain for free at Voices.com.
I did find a place I can upload demos and get the same type of services for free – Covoco.com.
It seems fairly straight forward. You create a profile, identify the type of voice(s) you can provide, upload audio files as demo material, and start looking for opportunities. We’ll see how well this works moving forward and, I will make sure to detail my thoughts later, but I need to transition and get on with the next part.
Have the right tools for the job
If you are building a picnic table out of raw lumber, you need a few things to cut the wood to length, attach all the pieces and make it pretty. You’ll also need a workspace to complete the job. The same applies to voice over.
Here is my “A Newbie’s Must-do guide to Voice-over” must-have list:
There are many makes and types of microphones out there today and each has its own fan base. My recommendation is a Condenser Microphone. These are powered by either phantom power (if using an analog mixing console) or USB-powered.
Both have their pros and cons, but the reason you want a condenser microphone is that they have a sensitive, single-directional diaphragm. This type of microphone only captures the sound that comes from an area directly in front of the microphone. Condenser-style microphones are also much more sensitive. The sensitivity can be very helpful, but also can cause a few issues with background noise.
I use the Blue Yeti USB microphone. They come in a few different colors (I got it in red) and are very versatile. The Yeti has 4 different diaphragm settings, a built-in gain control, and a headphone jack. This is a USB-Powered microphone and uses that same USB connection to connect to your computer and record the sound.
It is easy to plug in and start right away. You’ll want to do a little post-editing to get the sound you are seeking, but for the money, this is a great piece of gear to get you started.
You’ll need a quiet space since they are sensitive, you’ll also want to think about treating the room to eliminate echo. We’ll talk about that a little later.
Audio interface (Hardware or Software)
There are many, many, many… many reviews out there about audio interfaces, or recording directly to your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) with a USB-powered microphone or interface. I have found the best way to record depends on who you ask.
I, for example, go directly into my desktop with my Blue Yeti USB and record directly into the DAW. Others, who make great points, recommend having some type of preamp interface between the microphone and the computer. These may be needed if you are working with an XLR microphone.
The results I get without a preamp are fine, and there are digital preamps you can get that work very well. I use Voicemeeter. It is a free application (though donations are appreciated) and works as a preamp, simple EQ, and noise gate all in one. This is popular amongst some streamers for voice quality. I use it in conjunction with OBS studio during my Vlogs.
Speaking of Vlogs – Head over and check out my Vlog Checklist.
If you have multiple inputs, I would recommend a hardware interface with multiple inputs. This can be a preamp or a mixer, but just make sure you can interface it with the computer.
Audio Editing Software/DAW
I use these terms interchangeably, but I’m sure there is a difference that experts in audio production would love to reveal and correct my potential misuse of DAW. This is essential to not only recording the audio but also for turning that audio into a polished product for a client.
I personally use Adobe Audition. I’ve used this interface since before Adobe put it’s branding on it – does anyone remember Cool Edit? So, I am incredibly comfortable with this solution, but I’ve used others like Audacity (a popular free application) and even Cubase (mostly for music).
If you are just starting and don’t have access or funds for something like Audition, Audacity is perfectly fine to use. It is not about how much you paid for your interface, it is about how you use it. Of course, putting a little money into it helps; we all do not have extra cash lying around.
Pick a solution, watch a few YouTube videos to learn the basic functions and start to play. After you get comfortable with the interface, start to learn about compression, EQ, reverb, normalizing, and other mixing and mastering techniques. You’ll need them for a good-quality product.
Ideally, you’ll have an area you can dedicate as a studio and just spring for the flat-response studio monitors, but I imagine that you are like me and the situation is less than ideal. A solid pair of headphones is a good solution.
Just like with the monitors, there are also studio headphones. The more you spend, the best pair you may get, but you don’t need to break the bank. Sometimes, you can find a good bundle deal. I got my microphone, boom clamp arm and headphones all in one package, and didn’t pay that much extra.
A space to do the work
This is one of the more complicated parts of getting started, but it is also the most important decision because you will need to manage any impacts of this decision. If you are like me, you have other people living under the same roof and space can be at a premium. Luckily, I have the attic. You, however, may not have the same fortune and support I do.
Find a spot conducive to being productive, and cause the least amount of disruption to everyone else. You may be thinking about how others will disrupt you, but you are also asking those same people to give up valuable space. If that space isn’t soundproof, then you’ll also be asking your roommate, girlfriend, or kids, to not watch the loudest action movie ever made while you are hard at work.
Acoustic Foam (Optional)
This is completely optional, but it helps. Many think that acoustic foam tiles will soundproof an area. This is not the case. “Treating” the area does serve a useful purpose – eliminating natural room reverberation. You can read the greatest take of your life, but if the recording sounds like you are in an empty room, it will either sound cheap or you’ll spend hours in post-production trying to eliminate the echo (not recommended).
Work smarter, not harder. You can grab foam tiles by the dozen, or you can look up DIY acoustic panels and make your own solution. The goal is to prevent sound waves from bouncing around the area. Absorbent materials will suck up the sound waves as they go past the microphone and onto the next surface, preventing reverb.
Reverb is not always a bad thing, but you want to have as much control over it to prevent more work after the recording is complete. On that, a word of caution: You do not need to cover every square inch of a wall or room to accomplish this (I learned the hard way).
I would start with the area that will be the spot for most of your recording. Strategically place a few tiles in the area and test the result. If more are needed, apply more.
A reliable PC (or Mac)
I am not going to make a recommendation here because people are loyal to the technology they know and trust. I would recommend a computer that is built for more than just watching videos online.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend your life’s savings to get the most powerful unit on the market (unless you want to). Computer buying has several factors and I would recommend you put in the research time to meet your needs.
Ultimately, it needs to be reliable, has enough storage to keep all the audio files you will record, and be strong enough to efficiently edit waveforms. You cannot fulfill a project if your machine blue screens every hour.
We won’t stop there. I created A Newbie’s Must-do guide to Voice-over to even consider building your voice-over resume (even if you don’t have any jobs yet).
I have everything. Now what?
This is the question that I now am answering in my own venture, but these actions seem like a good place to start.
Record a demo – I’ll be discussing demos later, but this is how you show people what you can do with your voice. This is your sales pitch, or interview, your first impression. Overwhelmingly, most bloggers providing guidance on demos say have a profession record you demo. It makes perfect sense to say that, but we are, again, just starting and probably don’t have the financial backing to pay a studio for recording time.
Your demo should be taken very seriously, but if you are going to do it yourself, you might as well grab the opportunity to also become better at audio post-production. Learn how a compressor affects the waveform based on different settings. Experiment with the EQ to see what sounds best.
Experiment with different styles
This will help you become a better speaker, maybe even help you develop an accent that you can use for future projects. Use your time in the studio to either be productive or get better. The only way to get better is to practice.
Listen to yourself and be hard on yourself – this is a complete contradiction of a previous post I wrote on telling your brain to stop discrediting your abilities. The problem is that if we walk around telling ourselves we are great at everything we do, we won’t get better and we will wonder why we can get any gigs.
Be honest with yourself. You’ll know where you need to improve and be able to use your time more wisely, rather than doing the same things over and over thinking you are great. Find something to read, record it and make notes as if a friend was asking for your opinion. Better yet, have a friend listen and give you notes. Either way, always seek feedback and use it to improve.
Ultimately, do the research and find the right path for you.
We can get caught up in using the methods that those who are successful say are the best ways to do certain tasks. These individuals are successful for more reason than just a few tips in a blog post and more than the few items I’ve listed in this post.
They spent hours, days, and weeks of hard work and dedication to get them to a successful state. As newbies, it is up to us to absorb the knowledge and try it out. The thing to remember is to not give up, stay dedicated, and keep working toward improvement.
The one piece of advice I can give at this point is to keep track of what did work for you and what did not work for you. The last thing you want is to keep trying to do the same thing over and over, not get any better, not see results and wonder why you are failing so miserably.
It is now time for me to take my own advice and get to work on my voiceover journey.
What tips would you have for someone entering the voice-over game? What gear would you recommend? Please let me know in the comments below!