In this era of social media and the Internet, it's easy to fall into a rabbit hole of misinformation. So, let's dispel some of the most popular myths regarding the voiceover business.
It's too competitive
First off, every creative business will be competitive to a degree—Voice acting, photography, musician, on-camera actor, screenwriter, etc. But if you do the math, only a small percentage of new talents will understand what it takes to be successful. Unfortunately, many have come to the conclusion that VO is an easy way to quickly pick up some extra money. It isn't. It takes time, money, hard work and perseverance. So who's to blame for putting some of these misleading pipedreams out there? Certain voiceover books, blogs and snake oil coaches making outlandish promises and guarantees to anyone willing to pay them.
Several voiceover books feature misleading covers that include dollar bills floating in front of a microphone. Some even mention money in the title. This sends a misconstrued message that anyone can not only do VO, but they can quickly make a lot of money. Therefore, voice acting isn't as competitive as some would say due to the work you have to put into it and let's face it, many talents are looking for a one-mile race and not a marathon.
You need a talent agent to succeed
Not necessarily. Some professional voice actors depend on their talent agents to make a living, while others get most of their work from being independent contractors. I book plenty of jobs through my direct marketing efforts. Many producers worldwide prefer to work directly with voice talents, so there is a market for voice actors not represented by a talent agent. Now, if you're looking to book that national TV commercial for Budweiser, it's definitely helpful to have an agent!
You need to move to L.A. to be a voice actor
Wrong! These days, we have the technology to record from anywhere and work with any client in the world. For example, I have clients in L.A., but I record here in Minneapolis! With online tools like Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, Audacity, Source Connect and Zoom, you can record your commercial or narration while the client directs and then send them the finished audio via an mp3. You can also invoice them online via Stripe, Wave, Freshbooks, PayPal, or other online invoicing programs.
You have to join SAG-AFTRA
Nope! I've been a successful non-union voice actor for over 30 years. I've done some union gigs throughout my career but not enough to justify joining SAG-AFTRA. If you live in NYC or L.A. and want to get on one of the bigger talent agency rosters, it may be a requirement, but there are plenty of non-union opportunities worldwide.
You don't need training or a demo
Coaching and having professionally recorded voiceover demos are integral to succeeding in this business. Of course, you may be able to make a few bucks on Fiverr and other low-paying sites. Still, suppose you want to be taken seriously as a professional and have a chance to compete with some of the top talents for national commercials. In that case, you will need coaching and a professional demo. It's the first thing a talent agent or production director will ask you when you inquire into voiceover work.
All you need is a USB mic and some recording software
Sure, if all you want to do is a podcast or a couple of on-hold messages for a friend. If you're going to take this business seriously, you don't have to break the bank, but you WILL need a decent XLR mic, audio interface, headphones, and an up-to-date computer. You want to be able to produce professional audio from the comfort of your own home, and a USB mic isn't going to cut it.