VAM 016 | Can I Pursue a Voice Acting Career from Home?

VAM 016 | Can I Pursue a Voice Acting Career from Home?

Welcome to episode 16 of the Voice Acting Mastery podcast with yours truly, Crispin Freeman!

As always, you can listen to the podcast using the player above, or download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of this blog post. The podcast is also available via the iTunes Store online. Just follow this link to view the podcast in iTunes:

http://www.voiceactingmastery.com/podcast

In this episode, I address a question that comes up a lot when people want to talk to me about voice acting. The conversation usually goes something like this:

“Hey! I’d really like to get in to voice acting, but I don’t live in a major city. If I buy all the right equipment, can I have a successful voice acting career recording myself from home?”

This is a complicated question and so the answer takes some explanation. Basically there are some types of voice acting you can do from home, and some that you cannot. They basically break down into two types:

  1. Narration-Style Voice Over
  2. Collaborative-Style Voice Over

Narration-Style Voice Acting is the kind of work that only requires one voice, like industrial narration, audiobooks, promos and telephone trees (those automated menus you have to slog through when you call a large company for assistance). Rarely is more than one voice recorded for that type of work, so it is possible to do that kind of work from home.

Collaborative-Style Voice Acting includes animation, video games, anime and ADR or Looping. This kind of voice acting cannot be done from home. It requires many actors to come together to create a finished product. Therefore, every actor must be recorded on the same equipment, in the same recording environment with the exact same audio settings in order for the production to sound consistent.

Also, it turns out that even when a voice over job could be done from a home studio, it often isn’t. Producers have good reasons for wanting to use professional studios. I outline their reasons in the podcast. I also discuss what it takes to run a voice over business from home if that’s what you decide to do. But if what you’d like to do is collaborate on animation, games, anime or any other storytelling, the bottom line is you’re going to have to be in a city where that kind of work is done.

Thanks for listening!

Download Voice Acting Mastery Episode #16 Here (MP3)

 

31 Responses to “VAM 016 | Can I Pursue a Voice Acting Career from Home?”

  1. Ryan Ashlight says:

    I’ve a question(s), specifically with reference to doing solo voice work at home and the issue of promos.

    Not being much of a tech man myself, I’m unfamiliar with ISDN, but from a recent article I’ve read – http://www.alisocreek.net/vo-articles/ISDN-for-voice-over.html – it seems to be quite costly, easily measuring in the thousands when all’s said and done.

    Beyond just this initial investment, also taking into account the cost of training, marketing, etc, it would seem to me that promos are something of a higher tier of voice over that, generally speaking, you wouldn’t want to focus on until you’ve a more solid footing in the VO world in other areas.

    And so, my question is, do you believe that promos are something that one should wait on when they’re just starting out, or at the very least put a good deal of consideration and thought into before devoting themselves to it?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Promos are definitely a higher tier voice over job. It’s not bad to learn about it, but you should book some promo jobs first before you decide whether or not to invest in ISDN. I’ve been working as a voice actor since 1997 and I’ve never had an ISDN line. If I were to book a promo gig as the voice of a network, then I could justify getting one.

      I spoke of promos as an example of one kind of voice over work that can be done from home, but as you wisely surmised, you need to establish yourself as a marketable talent before going for those larger jobs.

      Hope that helps.

      • Ryan Ashlight says:

        It does indeed, thanks.

        The VO world is certainly a multifarious one. And while it can be rather overwhelming, I’m getting a better grasp of how important it is to have a clear idea of where it is I want to go and to understand my own limits.

        Also, checked out the “Organic Throat Coat” tea you recommended. Something of an interesting taste at first, but it’s begun to grow on me. Thanks much for that. ;D

  2. Caitlin says:

    I want to work on anime and video games, and I was just wondering what, in your opinion, is the hardest aspect of both of them. Also once you audition for a part how much information do you get about the character or voice style of the character that the director is looking for? Do they tell you the type of voice they are looking for?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Anime and video games are very different animals. The hardest part of anime is learning how to sound natural under unnatural dubbing circumstances. The hardest part of video games is performing believably with very little context.

      The information you get on an audition varies. Sometimes you get a full description with pictures, sometimes you just get a rough description. You don’t usually get just the audition text and nothing else.

    • Ryan Ashlight says:

      Crispin hit the nail on the head, but as one who also wishes to work on anime and video games, I’m interested to hear if you’ve done ay kind of training for it, and if so, what kinds?

      If you’ve watched Bang Zoom “Adventures in Voice Acting,” – and if you haven’t I highly recommend it – you hear a lot of the pros say that doing anime is one of the most difficult voice acting there is, doing a proverbial magic trick of matching lip flaps, emotional content, and even paying attention to little things like your character’s distance from another.

      One other thing I try to keep in mind, but I don’t hear as often about, is how beginners often get preconceptions about a character they’re playing; particularly if they’re fond of that performance.

      I know I’ve certainly felt the pressure when trying out for a part that was played by, and let’s be frank, someone way more experienced and skilled than the current me. It’s tough sometimes, but you’ve gotta believe in your own voice and what you can do to bring that character to life in your own way.

      • Crispin Freeman says:

        Are you asking me these questions, or Caitlin? I can’t quite tell.

        • Ryan Ashlight says:

          Ah, sorry if I wasn’t being direct enough.

          I was talking to Caitlin. You see, while it’s great being able to learn from you, I notice the rest of us haven’t been talking with each other much, if at all.

          As someone who’s interested in the same VO areas I am, I’d love to hear some of her thoughts.

          • Crispin Freeman says:

            Great! I’d love for you guys to talk amongst yourselves more!

            Caitlin, do you have any thoughts?

          • Caitlin says:

            I’m like three weeks late a reply, been busy. As far as training goes school takes up my time, but I try to get any type I can in. Like reading lines from an online script aloud, stuff like that. Thanks for the advice, Ryan Ashlight.

          • Crispin Freeman says:

            My pleasure. It’s always good to practice on your own.

  3. Kalyn McCabe says:

    Excellent podcast and that clears up most of my questions. I’ve been recording my audio book from my college recording studio for a month now, and it is so fun to do!

    Are you going to make a “What to put on your acting resume” podcast?

    I’m going to a theater convention in Tennessee in March/April and was wondering if I could put any of my vocal work on my theater resume along with my stage acting.

    Many thanks!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      There is no “acting resume” when it comes to voice acting. Your demo is your calling card. IMDB lists your projects for you. I don’t know of any purpose for creating a voice over resume, unless you’re doing commercial work that isn’t tracked on IMDB.

      Theater is different. Your resume is a quick way for producers to see what you’ve done because it’s attached to the back of your headshot.

      Imagine yourself as the producer of a theater company. Do you care if the actors you’re trying to hire have voice over experience? Is that your primary concern? Or is your first priority knowing that they’ll be able to give you a believable theatrical performance? That will help you know what to put on your resume.

  4. Daniel MacLoughlin says:

    Hi. I was wondering if there was a degree that would help me train my voice, or help me hon my acting skills?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      A Degree? I don’t know of any voice acting degree. You can certainly get a degree in acting or theater at the undergraduate level. I did. But I know many voice actors who didn’t, like Steve Blum.

      The thing that will train your voice is voice lessons, either speech or singing or both. What will hone your acting skills is acting class. Producers don’t care what degrees you have. They want you to be a good voice actor. Study whatever it takes to be a good voice actor.

  5. Dave Bisson says:

    Just wanted to say that I love your work in Random Cop Drama. I have every season on DVD. Thanks again for doing this podcast. Any chance you’ll make an appearance at the VOICE convention?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Thanks. Your support of Random Cop Drama keeps the show going. 🙂

      Yes, it does look like I’ll be presenting at VOICE this year. I think they just sent out an e-mail about it to their mailing list. I can only be there the very first night, then I have to head to a convention that weekend, but I believe I’ll be in the main events. Hope to see you there!

  6. Roy Mills says:

    Hey there it’s been a while since I’ve wrote anything down, but this has been a real helpful podcast for me. I’ve just bought myself a microphone, it was the one I had mentioned previously the Audio Technica ATR 2500USB. I have began work on the VAA, and have auditioned for a semi-local company. And unless they drop me it will be my first paying gig, which is a bit of a milestone for me in my acting career. So that’s just another positive that has began for my early 2012 year.

    I’m interested in both fields of operation in the voice acting world. I know probably as of this moment my primary aim it should be geared to the narrational style of business. Since I know my metro area, while big in Theatre, and a lesser extent in Film, it is not as big in the voice over market. So I should probably be looking to make a starting head way into promo spots for local ad’s or even bigger once I do get that head way. But, here’s the two questions I have steaming from my brain on this. Are there business based courses that I should be looking at so I dial the business,tax, and invoicing side of things so I can grow the non-creative aspect by. And, my second question is concerning jobs that ask you to give a quote for page/word/otherwise. Since I am beginning, I haven’t been put through the rigors of how or what I should quantify my talent, studio, and delivery time by. So my question is, since I’m interested in going for the gig, how do I go about figuring and what are the variables that I need to realistically find a quote for them. I don’t want to jump the gun per se, but with the way things are seemingly starting to work out for me, I know it’s something down the road I should start looking into. somehow I feel as a side note that these are some of topics learned in an intensive workshop.

    Thanks for the help, as it is much appreciated.
    – Roy

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Congratulations on booking your first paying gig! That’s wonderful to hear!

      I agree that if you’re looking to get involved in your local market as a voice actor, and you don’t live in a town where animation and video games are produced, then narration-style voice over work might be a great place to start.

      I also applaud your inspiration to get all your business affairs in order so you can approach voice acting as a business. As you mention at the end of your comment, all the information you’re asking for would be an entire course unto itself.

      I’m sure there are probably business courses that can help you address the issues of business entities, taxation and invoicing, but I am not qualified to give out that kind of legal and tax advice. You should probably look for a CPA or some other business advisor who can help you with those questions.

      However, I can help with your rate card question. To give you an idea of the going rates for union voice over work, you can go to the Voice Over Resource Guide and see what union talent makes per spot (without including residuals which are too complicated a calculation to put on a website):
      http://www.voiceoverresourceguide.com/la/08union.html

      Hopefully that will give you a starting place.

  7. Eric says:

    Hey Crispin, I have another question.

    I hear about how voice actors need to be available for auditions and stuff, but there’s something I need to know…

    How would one be available if a beginning voice actor still needs another job to support himself? I’m sure that beginners don’t get paid that often.

    I’m not sure if I worded that correctly…

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      That is the challenge that faces every actor, voice actor or on-camera, who is trying to get their career of the ground.

      Everyone has different strategies to solve it. Some take a side job with night hours, like waiting tables or bartending. Some do work that has a flexible schedule. I know one guy who’s a bookkeeper who makes house calls to work on people’s finances. That way he can set his own schedule. Others save up a nest egg and live off that until their work starts increasing in regularity.

      There is no one way to solve that problem. You have to be inventive and discover your own way to balance things at the beginning of your career.

      • Eric says:

        I see. Well, thank you for the reply. I guess I’ll try to figure something out.

        Also, I’m going to an anime convention in the summer and some of the cast of Fullmetal Alchemist will be there. Should I…do something when I’m there that will help benefit my career in some way, shape or form? Is there something I can do, some sort of networking thing?

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          That depends on what stage you’re at in your career. Do you have a demo? Do you have a resume of work? Can you demonstrate for them that you’re already on the road to becoming a professional? If not then it’s probably best to just get to know them.

          It can be difficult at a convention to approach industry people. They are many people who want their attention and guests can feel a little overwhelmed by fans at a convention. However, if you get a chance to talk to industry people, or ask them a question, it is usually best to ask them about the industry itself and how it works. They’re usually happy to discuss their experiences working as a voice actor. Get to know them as people. Networking is really about making friends.

  8. Amy Scott says:

    Hi Crispin, I love your podcasts they are a great insight into the business.

    I’ve had a few offers for auditions, despite my lack of training or demos which is a great response but I don’t have the recording equipment yet. I’ve listened to the Microphone podcast and that helped a lot.

    Is there special software you need in order to make good auditions?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the podcast!

      As far as recording software, you can use whatever software you feel comfortable with. I suggest Audacity in the Toolbox section of my website, but you can also use Garageband or any other recording software if you’d like.

      I’m not sure what you mean by a “good audition”. All modern recording software manipulates digital information so the quality of the recording comes from your microphone and audio interface, not from the software. Certain software has different plug-ins than others that can help you shape the sound in different ways, but in general, you don’t want to process your recordings very much. You want them to be “dry” so people can hear your acting.

      Hope that helps.

  9. Amber M says:

    Hello there Mr. Freeman! 😀

    I have a question about demo reeling. I want to make my own Commercial and Animation reel, but would I be subject to copyright infringement?(say if I decided to voice over a Yoplait yogurt commercial, for example?) Same with the animation reel; what if some of my voices sound similar to already created characters? If so, how can I make a reel to show off my talent without breaking any copyright laws?

    Your fan!
    Amber M 🙂

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      While I applaud your sensitivity to copyright issues, you don’t really need to worry about that when it comes to making a demo. Demos are short (60 seconds), audio only and are not widely distributed. It is common industry practice to make demos using real commercial or animation copy. No copyright owner is going to pursue you for infringing on their copyright in your audio-only demo. If you were to do a video demo, that might be different, but audio-only you should be fine.

      As far as imitating other animated characters, there’s really no point in imitating them identically. You need to come up with your own characters. If some of your characters sound similar to already established characters, that’s all right, but there’s no point in putting a spot-on imitation of Spongebob on your demo. If they want Spongebob, they’ll hire Tom Kenny.

      Hope that helps.

  10. Cyn says:

    This is a timely listen for me, as I have a 15 year old daughter who is seriously considering some type of voice over work as a career.

    We’ve been working on a home studio in the basement so it was helpful to hear you explain the different types of VO jobs that would be best suited for such a setup. As she is only 15 and not anywhere near being ready to make a move out of state – or country – to get closer to the studios (animation – specifically anime – VO work is her goal), this particular podcast will (hopefully) be helpful in guiding her first into narration type of work. If things go well from there – and if she still has her heart set on anime narration or the like – I guess we’ll try to take things from there when she’s at the right age.

    Thanks for your thoughtful contributions in the form of these podcasts for those who are interested in VO work.

    P.S. My son is a huge fan of your take on Alucard and we look forward to finally seeing the last couple chapters of Hellsing Ultimate later in the year. Yay!

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  1. VAM 052 | Q & A Session 06 – High Pitched Characters and Voice Acting Part-Time | Voice Acting Mastery: Become a Master Voice Actor in the World of Voice Over - [...] instead of full-time. I begin by reiterating the two types of voice over work that I discussed in episode…

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