You should do voiceovers! You’ve got a great voice!
There’s a story about two voice over artists that walk into a bar. First one says “I’ll have a beer.” Second one says, “I’ll have a bourbon.” Bartender asks what they do for a living. They say “voice overs!” Bartender says…”you know, people tell me all the time I’ve got a great voice and should do voice overs!”
How many times have I heard that? How many times have we ALL heard that? And how many times have you been talking to someone and they say something like “I’ve been told I have a great voice and should do voice overs”?
I do voice over work now from my home near Boise, Idaho. I came from broadcast radio. I had a long and successful career in radio around the country, both as an on-air talent, and as a Program Director. So when I left radio I thought “I’ve got a good voice, and experience behind a mic…I should do voiceovers!” And then reality rose up and bitch slapped me. Hard.
I found out quickly that coming from radio was almost like the kiss of death in the voice over world. Casting directors would hold up a cross to ward you off. Agencies would tell you “we don’t need “announcers”, sorry. “No DJ’s allowed, we want “real” people, and so on.
I was a good announcer. I was a good “DJ”, I was polished and I had good ratings. I could lay down content or teases over the intros of songs and never step on the post. I was…pretty damn good at radio. But that didn’t make me good at voice over. In fact, it made me horrible. I had to take a step back and re-evaluate where I was, where I was going, and what I needed to do to re-invent myself.
The biggest wake up call came when I got lucky on an audition for a very popular and well know national beverage. I booked the job. I thought I was on my way! But when they sent me the script for the actual spot, I couldn’t re-create what I had done in the audition. Try as I might, I just couldn’t do it or get it right in the casting director’s ears. As you might imagine, I ended up getting a kill fee and lost the job. I was devastated, but in looking back it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. I had to rethink this whole thing.
Losing that booking made me realize having a great voice meant nothing. And I do mean nothing. So I put on my big boy pants, humbled myself, and started looking for help. I started working with tried and trued voice over coaches. I watched YouTube videos. I practiced, and I practiced, and I practiced some more. Then I got more coaching. And I finally got to a point where I had demos professionally produced. And then, I started picking up representation from VO agents around the country. I started to book more jobs, and did my best to learn something from each one I booked.
I am finally, after a few years and a lot of money invested back into myself and my VO business, have started to book jobs fairly consistent. As much as I would like? No, but a lot more than I was when all I had going for me was a “great voice.” I still practice. I still work with coaches when I can, and I still try to learn as much as I can about the world of voice over. That elusive “national brand” gig is yet to come, but I’m doing a lot of regional work, and even have a few clients from overseas. I’m miles ahead of where I was when I left radio for voice overs.
So if you’ve been told you’ve got a great voice and should do voice overs, maybe you should. But you should also be aware that it’s not an easy career path just because you’ve got pipes like Mel Torme or Sam Elliott, or Morgan Freeman. Get coaching. Practice, and get more coaching. Practice some more, and then get more coaching. Never stop with the practice or the coaching. Pro athletes have all kinds of coaches. Famous actors making millions in the movies still work with coaches. If you think you don’t need coaching, you should probably keep your day job and impress people with your “great voice”.
I love what I do, but it’s hard work. In this world of voice overs, you work hard, to get work. It can be frustrating, no doubt. But when you do book something it feels SO good.
Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment or reach out if you wish! A lot of people have given me guidance along this path, and I need to pay it forward if I can. In any event, best of luck to you in whatever walk of life you are in. Be positive and believe in yourself, no matter what!
Thanks for letting me share! ~Rich Summers – Boise, ID
Some great coaching resources (There are a lot of great VO coaches. These are some of the coaches I’ve worked with. When choosing a coach, make sure you are compatible with them and they are able to coach you in the genre of vo you’re looking to explore).
Mary Lynn Wissner
J. Michael Collins