VAM 074 | From Fan to Pro, or, How to Be a “Famous” Voice Actor

VAM 074 | From Fan to Pro, or, How to Be a “Famous” Voice Actor

Welcome to episode 74 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:

In this episode I want to expand on a subject I addressed in my previous episode, #73. In it, one of my listeners asked about how an aspiring voice actor who may be a fan should approach an established professional they admire. Trying to answer this question made me realize that I needed to spend much more than just part of an episode talking about the fan/creator relationship.

In all my years as a voice actor, no fan has ever asked me what they need to do to prepare psychologically for the huge identity shift that must occur once you’re no longer a fan looking in, but a creator looking out. Maybe it’s because the two paradigms are so different that fans can’t imagine what it’s actually like to be on the receiving end of their own attention, or maybe it’s just a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side”, but being a well-known creator comes with its own challenges, and if you’re thinking of getting into voice acting for the “fame”, there are some things you need to know before you “make it big”.

First, you need to make a decision: Your choices are to “Impress” or to “Express”. Depending on which choice you make determines the nature of your artistic career.

Making that choice also helps you decide on another important skill you need to develop: your public persona. This is how you will interact with the world as public figure. It’s vital that you shape your professional avatar in such a way that it stays true to your artistic values.

I talk about both of these subjects in depth in this episode. It’s heavy stuff, but important if you want to maintain a healthy career, both artistically and emotionally.

Fame can be a very fickle thing and I want to give my listeners the tools they need to deal with becoming a public figure.


Thanks for listening!

Download Voice Acting Mastery Episode #74 Here (MP3)


31 Responses to “VAM 074 | From Fan to Pro, or, How to Be a “Famous” Voice Actor”

  1. Eric Rivera says:

    Interesting. Something I never really thought about.

    Thank you for your time and wisdom.

  2. Wes Davis says:

    That was such a great topic! I can believe that no one’s asked you about this before, it’s something I’ve thought about on quite a few occasions.

    Phil Hartman talked about his favorite part of doing voiceover was that it allowed him “anonymous celebrity,” but it seems like that’s becoming less and less the case these days. I can see why having a professional persona would be key.

    Also, loved your take on impressing and expressing. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of trying to please others before yourself. Excellent episode, thanks for your insight!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      You’re welcome Wes! So glad you found it insightful! Impressing vs. Expressing is a very important idea to wrap your head around. It’s helped me a lot in my own career.

  3. Mike Vajdic says:

    Thank you for going even more in depth into the line between fandom and professionalism. I’ve come to the realization that ultimately, I need to have the belief in myself and in my own abilities in order to follow through with becoming a professional voice actor. The rest will fall into place after expressing the art within me. Your podcast helped put the consequences of what it means to be a voice actor and have fans into perspective as well.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      You’re very welcome. The relationship between fandom and professionalism has gotten more and more complicated because of the internet. The topic deserves some time to be discussed. I’m glad you found it helpful.

  4. Kimlinh Tran says:

    I really, REALLY wish I learned about this sooner, to prepare a persona earlier, as opposed to working things out VERY gradually to minimize backlash (ex: using social media less and less and slowly shifting over to “different branding” as activity picks up again) or, in the case of some peers of mine, “suddenly becoming super fake and artificial” as they struggle finding out how to interact with others.

    I knew going in that VAing ain’t for fame-seekers. After my first ever professional recording session, for walla, I couldn’t believe it when one of the actors told me to prepare for fans… Especially since so many voice actors told us going in to not expect fame. It’s a bit contradictory! Fast forward a bunch of years (6 years in my case–OUCH), I really should’ve made the connection that if I was going to work a lot, recognition was going to come with the package anyhow, so I’m glad this topic was brought up for other people who still have time to prepare…!

    Tying into one of your earlier episodes about mindset to this one though, a lot of aspiring VA’s generally refer to themselves as “amateur/aspiring voice actors” until they perceive themselves as “famous/popular” or get their “first paid gig”. I HAVE encountered people who’d broken NDA’s, publicly talked smack about the people they hoped to work with, and behave super unprofessionally while they bounce in and out of whether or not they perceive themselves as professional… Basically, they now have an audience to holler to. And in one case, someone even said “I’m not a professional yet, so I don’t have to worry about how I behave now”. If there’s one tip I want to give to a LOT of people, which has helped me in the long run, it’s simply calling yourself a voice actor, instead of an aspiring/amateur/professional one. I even add the last one because, no disrespect meant, but even established VA’s don’t need to call themselves professionals when their work speak on their behalf. It VERY much ties into what you said about simply identifying yourself as a voice actor, it eliminates identity confusion between the “stages”, and helps steer one in a more “you’re a professional the moment you behave and work like one” mindset.

    I hope the above bit isn’t too off-topic, but as a whole, the topic of transitioning itself has NOT been covered too much or explicated upon, from what I’ve seen and despite the newer generation of talent breaking in. Thanks a bunch!

    • Anthony Berbey says:

      Amen to that.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I wish I had learned about it sooner as well! I had to learn as I went too!

      It’s great to get your comment and hear you confirm what I talk about in terms of the importance of developing a public persona. You’ve certainly built quite a resume of work and it’s nice to hear you echo the challenges I faced when I was starting out in my career!

      Thank you also for your advice to up-and-coming voice actors not to think of themselves as up-and-coming. It’s far better to just assume you are a professional and act as such. You’ve clearly got a great handle on the whole “identity” aspect of being a voice actor that I talked about in episode 67. Good for you! Your comment isn’t off-topic at all. I so appreciate you taking the time to write about this. This information is invaluable for anyone in the early stages of their voice acting career!

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Hmm… I admit I fell into the trap of calling myself an amateur voice actor. Time to change that. That said, I can’t believe the one guy felt he could act how he wanted because he wasn’t professional yet. Well, if he keeps acting that way, he will never have a professional attitude. And if people keep breaking the Non Disclosure Agreement, they will never get return work.

      Love your input! Hope you continue to find success!

      • Kimlinh Tran says:

        Don’t fret~ I called myself an aspiring voice actress for a few years, because the connotation was much more positive than the one implying the lack of experience… Then stopped when I realized “oh yeah, I guess I’ve already been voice acting a lot, instead of /hoping/ to voice act a lot, huh”, whether or not I worked on paying or professional work. It ain’t a trap. Just a mindset~

        • James 'StarRunner' Rolls says:

          Well, I’ve been calling myself that for seven years. Granted most my stuff has been volunteered, but every director I’ve had has loved my work and many fans swear I’m pro. I’m doing casting and voice acting for a new game company now. I think it’s time I give myself a promotion from amateur. 😛

          Oh! I see on your page that you’re working on making your own game too! Exciting stuff!

  5. Anthony Berbey says:

    I have to say, Now I learned more on how to be more professional and it’s better to express rather than to impress. So I would like to thank you for your good advice Crispin and hopefully I am able to work with you one day.

  6. Kalyn McCabe says:

    Good topic and wonderful advice!

    One question, though, as a fellow introvert, I would imagine that being such a public figure would be draining for you. How would you deal with such constant public situations like cons, meet-ups and such? How would you keep yourself from snapping when your limit has been reached?

    Thank you for the podcast, and I look forward to the next one!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Making public appearances can be draining for me. However, if I get to talk about the 2 subjects I’m most passionate about: 1) How to get into the industry as a working professional and 2) The Mythology and Meaning behind the stories that we love so much, then I find I stay energized. Discussing important subjects keeps my energy up.

      However, it is true that after a convention I need to hibernate for a while to recharge my batteries. That’s why I load my iPad and iPhone with lectures and other educational media that feed my brain. It keeps me satisfied.

  7. Leonard says:

    This episode is by far the one that’s hit me the closest to home. One of the biggest reasons why I want to be a voice actor & not a live-action actor is to avoid fame. I like being appreciated for my accomplishments but I don’t enjoy being harassed to death about them. I’ve even been thinking of getting a stage name for when I become a voice actor just in case because you never know how popular you might become, I remember that Carrie Fisher certainly wasn’t prepared for her popularity that came with playing Princess Leia.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      That’s really great to hear. I was curious whether or not my listeners would find this subject relevant or interesting. I’m glad you found it so apropos.

  8. April says:

    Crispin, thank you for sharing your knowledge with up and coming voice actors. I really appreciate all I’ve been learning from your podcasts! A question about “sound alike” work, which I’ve heard mentioned favorably in more than one episode. I’ve heard of music celebrities bringing lawsuits against other artists who impersonate the celebrities for commercial purposes. It appears voice acting may not carry the same risk. Can you explain? Thanks!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast April.

      It is true that if you are a musician and you cover someone else’s music work you are infringing on their copyright and so they may begin legal proceedings to stop your copyright infringement.

      However, when I do voice matching for studios, it is the studio themselves who are hiring me. When I get hired to play Will Turner’s voice from Pirates of the Caribbean, Will Turner is a character that belongs to Disney, not to Orlando Bloom. Therefore, since Disney owns the character, they can hire whomever they like to play that character. If Disney wants to hire someone who sounds just like Orlando Bloom, they can do that.

      Showing that you can voice match celebrities in your demo shows the studios that you can play their characters. Your demo is not a commercial endeavor so there is almost no chance that anyone will pursue you for copyright infringement for a 60 second audio clip of you impersonating other people. After all, stand-up comics do it all the time. Hope that helps.

  9. I always love how I can easily understand the points you are trying to make!

    I recall seeing some of those tales of fans who were assuming you were brushing them off and it’s sad they misunderstood what happened. I know you’re certainly not blind to those stories and you must hear and see more than I had stumbled on. I’m glad you have a means to give yourself an emotional buffer and have shared it with us. I know you have no wish to insult your fans. It’s an insight I wish more people would understand. I’m certainly not as well known, but I know you can’t keep everyone happy. There’s been several people that have asked requests of me and I knew there was no way to fulfill them all given my schedule. Even if you were to fulfill some requests, others may get jealous. It’s good to have a plan in action for handling fans.

    I also love your input about being expressive as apposed to being impressive. I find a lot of individuals trying to work their way up in their art while trying to impress a lot of people, handling things like a popularity contest. I’d add that many of the people who try to impress would sooner violate their own morals to feel adoration than those who are expressive. On that thought, I made myself a promise in my youth that I would never use strong profanity. Some think it’s a cheesy promise and have said so blatantly, but to this day, I am proud to say I have not broken my promise. I know some would argue that in order to get some VA opportunities, you NEED to cuss and swear and that I’m fighting an uphill battle. So far, I’ve been blessed that I’ve portrayed fits of anger and such so well, that my directors don’t mind that I dropped the offending words and are still wanting me back for future projects. I know I may get the director who would rather get someone willing to swear rather than using me. But, I’m fine with that.

    As always, I continue to love the podcast and hope for its continued success!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Thank you James. I’m glad you find my episodes easy to understand. I spend a lot of time crafting them so they are concise and on topic. It’s nice to hear that my efforts are appreciated.

      It’s true that fans will often get online to complain about some interaction with me, or worse insult me personally when they don’t even know me. You can make everyone happy and I’ve had to accept that it’s par for the course for some fans to dislike me. If they dislike my acting that’s fine. I take no offense at that. Everyone’s entitled to their own artistic opinion. It’s when they dislike me as a person when they clearly don’t know the first thing about me that’s odd.

      I also agree with you that if you fulfill some requests, but not others, people will feel like you’re being inconsistent or treating some people preferentially. I like to be consistent with all my activities, even if in the moment a fan might not understand the ethical decision I’m making.

      If profanity offends you, then you’ll have to steer away from projects that require it. I don’t know of that many animated or even video game projects that require much profanity so I don’t see it being a problem.

      • James 'StarRunner' Rolls says:

        Typically it’s been friends asking if I’d help out with their projects. I’m up front with everyone though about my standards before we start. I’m not easily offended with profanity actually, I just choose not to use it myself. But yes, I’ll stay away from projects where I know swearing will be the norm.

  10. Perry King says:

    Sound’s very inspirational Crispin being a famous Voice Actor sounds like hard work.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Being a voice actor takes work. Being a “famous” voice actor can sometimes be a contradiction in terms. Handling celebrity of any level requires some planning and some decision making about your public persona.

  11. Meghan (Meg) says:

    Hi Crispin-I really love this episode with your amazing wisdom- definitely one of my favorite episodes of all time 🙂 I’m glad I listened very well about being a ‘Fame’ can be way too complicated and dangerous for the attention like from MTV or Bravo channel.
    As an influential manga-artist and an aspiring voice actress, I always inspired and passion of anime, manga and other media cultures how I grow up with. On the other hand, I deserve to be more expressing myself than just impress. I realize that ‘impress’ can be very challenging for me. While I’m at the conventions and meet the voice actors (Matthew Mercer, Steve Blum, Yuri Lowenthal, and you), I always have fun and expressing myself if I’m having a good time and enjoyed myself after I meet them. Most of my friends and family said that I’m unique or quite the character because of my humor, whimsical, creative, warm, and generous personality. Although I may be still struggling with mild Autism and Expressive language disorder; however, I never hide my expressions, feelings,strengths, weaknesses, and talents from friends and loved ones.
    My family told me that I deserve to take care of education first before I can succeeded to drive a car and find a job. While I’m still in college, I’m still taking care myself; but, sometimes, it can be stressful depending my schedules. Yes, college life can be a very confusing lifetime, like from ‘Forrest Gump’- For example, when I’m feeling tired, I decided to take naps for resting my body, spirit, and mind. When I’m getting hungry and my stomach growls, I cook something and ate it. Thank you so much once again with your amazing and most importantly word spoken ever, Crispin 🙂

  12. Anthony Berbey says:

    Personally I believe that it’s kind of stupid and pointless to get “angry” at someone over the internet. If you know the person, say it in person. if you don’t, keep it to yourself. How can one get angry at a total stranger when they’ve never even met them let alone seen them face to face, It’s ridiculous. When it comes to public figures like you be courteous and professional at all times. And let them decide if they want to be casual with you.

  13. Joseph Pecynski says:

    The only person you need to impress is yourself. That is what i got out of the whole impressing is dangerous, and i feel that is a valuable piece of wisdom to have.


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