Learn Voiceover Without a Coach – Carrie Olsen Voiceover

Learn Voiceover Without a Coach

If you’re familiar at all with my story, you know that my voiceover coach, Alyson Steel, was instrumental in my advancing so quickly in the voiceover world. So I always recommend that aspiring voice actors work with a coach. That said, there are so many resources available now, that it is possible to start booking work without a personal coach. In fact, there are some very successful voice actors who have never had any coaching.

voiceover-training

Establishing a successful voiceover career takes time, even with a coach. If you choose to go the non-coach route, you will need a lot of discipline, and you will need patience. An accountability partner or group will come in handy as well.

I get asked frequently about how new VOs can get their feet wet without hiring a personal coach. So, here are some things you can do to help you do just that.

Psst… If you work a full-time job, click here to get your hands on some Stealthy Study habits that I recommend for aspiring voice actors. They will help you get your practice in without sacrificing your other priorities.

Get the Stealthy Study Tips

You are a voice actor

The most important thing you can do on your mission to break into voiceover is to practice and get to know your voice. To do this, pick up any kind of recording device — your iPhone, your computer’s internal mic, etc. — and just read. Billboards, magazine ads and radio/TV commercials all work great as practice scripts. Record yourself and then listen back.

Study the pros

The most obvious aspect of voice acting is talking. But to be truly good, you also need to be a good listener. So make a point to start listening to commercials (or whatever kind of work you would like to voice). DVR programs, and fast-forward through the show to get to the ads. Change the radio station when the music comes on. Take note of trends or other things that you notice in the various mediums. How are TV commercials different from radio? Which spots do you relate with most and why? There is also a treasure trove of professional demos that you should be listening to regularly at voicebank.net.

See where you fit

voiceover

As you’re listening to commercials, e-learning, animation, etc., pay special attention to spots that you feel you can hear yourself doing. You may feel that you know where your voice fits into the VO world, and maybe you do. But I know that for me, and for most voice actors, it took some time to really get a feel for what my “wheel house” was.

Rub shoulders with your peers

It is important for you to stay up to date on the industry, and since you don’t have a personal coach, you’ll want to utilize online groups and forums as much as possible to get advice, recommendations, feedback and answers to any questions you couldn’t find through research. I recommend some voiceover communities and forums here.

Learn from the experts

I have learned so much from voiceover podcasts and books. There are great resources out there, so you should definitely take advantage of them. You can learn everything from mic technique to how to brand yourself to how to deal with agents. Some of my favorite books and podcasts are here.

Buy a good microphone

These days, you can buy a decent and affordable recording microphone on Amazon.com that will serve you just fine starting out. However, there are tons of them, and it’s hard to sort through them all to find exactly what you need. Do you want a USB mic, or an XLR? Condenser or dynamic? $10 or $2,000?

For starters, you will probably want to use a condenser microphone, as they will pick up more warmth in your voice. Dynamics are less sensitive than condensers, but they’re good if your recording environment is less than silent.

Let’s get into the equipment. By the way, some of these are affiliate links. They don’t cost you anything to use them, but they do help to keep awesome VO content coming your way!

If you’re pressed for budget, you can go for a USB mic, but you’ll want to upgrade before you get serious about auditioning, and especially before recording any jobs. The Blue Nessie USB Condenser Microphone is a good buy for a good price. And the Blue Snowball USB Condenser Microphone is slightly less expensive, but is also lower quality. Another great studio quality USB mic is the Apogee MiC microphone. It is considerable more expensive than the Nessie and Snowball, but it is pretty close to studio quality.

For traveling, I recommend:Sennheiser MD 421Shure SM7B

And if you want to get serious, here are some recommendations:AKG C214 Condenser MicrophoneSennheiser MKH416Neumann TLM103

Get some good recording software

Adobe Audition CC is excellent. But it is rather bulky, and it can be buggy, especially if you run it on an older computer.

Twisted Wave is beautiful, light-weight and easy to use. But it doesn’t do a lot of the more intense processes that Audition can — at least not right out of the box. However, it only works for Macs, so if you’re using a PC you’ll need to find an alternative.

Audacity is an easy decision. It’s free, and it does absolutely everything you need it to.

Set up a recording space

Your recording space doesn’t need to be world class. Chances are you can find a space in your house or apartment that you can easily convert into a home studio.

Qualities to look for in a recording space

  • It must be quiet (obviously). Really, this is the main consideration. If you can find a place quiet enough, you’re 90% there.
  • Sound proof and sound dead. Sound proofing prevents sound from getting in our out. Sound deadening prevents echo and reverb within your space. You can purchase Acoustic Wedge Studio Foam for sound deadening and acoustic blankets for sound proofing. Or just hang blankets on the walls. Also, if you’re using a closet, clothes act as sound deadeners (deathers? diers?).

Watch out for humming electronics you might not notice at first. Light bulbs, refrigerators, and even your laptop fan can sometimes be picked up by recordings.

Get a demo

voiceover-demo

Even though you made it this far without a coach, this may be the step you want to drop some cash on. It will serve you very well to have a professionally produced demo to shop out to clients and agents. A good sound engineer will be able to make you sound your best, but ideally, your coach would advise you as to which spots to include on your demo, and perhaps even direct you as you read for your demo.

If you’re a real DIYer, at least run your demo decisions by a group of trusted voice actors in one of the online groups or forums you joined.

Get out there!

You can always book jobs through your own marketing efforts, but one of the fastest ways to get a lot of practice and experience fast is to join a pay-to-play site. My favorite for beginners is Voice123.com. You can also gauge how well you’re doing by watching for client feedback. Note which jobs you’re getting good feedback for, and when you start getting hired, note what kinds of jobs you’re booking so you can begin cultivating your voiceover brand.

Reach out

I mentioned using your own marketing efforts to get work. Really, this is something every voice actor should be dedicating at least some of their time to. There are many ways to reach out to potential clients. You can call up local car dealerships or other companies that you know produce their own commercials. You can call up production companies and media companies. Reach out to e-learning developers. And if you’ve got a killer demo, reach out to agents.

Also, if you’re just interested in getting experience and are less concerned about making money, there are a lot of places where you can volunteer.

And here are some more leads for getting practice (I got this from a thread on one of the online groups I’m a member of):

I will caution you not to make a habit of giving away your voiceover services for free. It’s one thing to volunteer for a good cause or to gain experience, but it’s another thing to do free work for a company that should be paying you because you want the job. If you feel tempted to take a job that doesn’t pay because the company doesn’t have a budget or will just find someone else, consider whether they would ever propose such an offer to their other employees. Voiceover is a fun job, but it’s still a job, and it’s still work. Aside from volunteer opportunities, you deserve to be paid for your work.

If you choose to go rogue and tackle the world of voiceover without a coach, I want to hear from you! Leave a comment to let me know you’re going to go for it so I can follow along with you. If you’re already in the middle of things, let me know how it’s going.

Good talk,

Carrie

Carrie Olsen

I'm a full-time professional voice actor and voiceover business coach. I have done work for Taco Bell, REI, BNSF Railway, Bank of America and ESPN to name a few. I dreamed up this community of voice actors to connect, grow, learn and get mentorship from each other. We're the most dedicated group of voice actors on the net, and we're here to help each other build and sustain profitable voiceover businesses.

  • Nancy J says:

    Thank your for creating this site. Years ago, for a couple of years, I did a weekly pre-recorded radio spot (5 minutes) as part of my job. Sometimes I interviewed people, sometimes I just talked about a subject I had researched. I am retired now. I really enjoyed taping the programs. I got some positive feedback, but I really did not know what I was doing. I am interested in exploring this as an option for potential part time work during retirement.

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      I’m so glad to hear it, Nancy! I hear a lot of stories of people pursuing voice over after they have retired from other jobs. It’s a great job to have, and it’s fun so it fits right into retirement 🙂

  • Sara says:

    Hi Carrie!

    I found you thru your Budgets are Sexy feature. I want to say thank you! You have been a huge inspiration. I have been searching for something creative that I would LOVE to do as my (for now) side hustle. Let me tell you, VO is so much more intriguing than being an Excel tutor 🙂 I really believe that learning the craft will work my brain and my spirit, as well as get me involved with a great new community.

    I have already been in contact with Alyson and we are working on setting up a time to talk.

    Thanks again for your post! Sara

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      Sara! Looks like your post worked 🙂 I’m so glad you found this post helpful, and I know you’ll do well with Alyson to guide you. Keep me updated on how things are going, and thanks so much for posting!

  • Carl Metellus says:

    Hi Carrie,

    For over a decade I’ve always been told that I have a great voice. My nephew loves when I read to him a bedtime story but I never thought about doing Voice Over until yesterday when I read your featured post on Budgets Are Sexy which I was referred to by pennyhoarder.com. So due to budget I can not afford a coach at the moment but I have been reading all the materials you have shared and will be joining as many communities online or local (I’m in atlanta) as possible so to learn as much as I can on my own. I’ve been reading aloud just about anything I lay my eyes on lol. Lucky for me I am a musician which means I have recording equipments already. Hard believe that I’ve practically been sitting on this while I had everything I needed to do this thing in the first place. Anyway I just wanted to say thank you for inspiring me and you will be hearing from me.

  • Leah says:

    Hi Carrie!

    Thank you for outlining the steps in a concise way! I literally just started to explore the VO world as a side gig to generate some extra income and pay off debt once and for all! I recently ordered my mic (waiting for it to arrive) and will use one of my closets as a studio for now :p.

  • Leah says:

    Oh and when do you recommend setting up a website and obtaining marketing materials?

  • Tiffany Gresham says:

    I just started this week and have begun without a coach. I plan to go as far as I can without one. I’m thinking up until the point I am ready to record demos. I’m going to get my studio together (my closet for now), purchase my first mic and dive into some of the recommended resources. I’ll also be doing the intensive.

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      Hi Tiffany! I’m glad you’ll be doing the Intensive as you work on your voiceover business. The added support and information will be invaluable to you. And feel free to drop in a group coaching session some time. You will see progress faster with even just a few coaching sessions. Please keep me updated on how things are going!

      Best,
      Carrie

  • Mia Suzette Conklin says:

    Hi Carrie…. your info on Budgets Are Sexy was ahhhhmazing!!! I’ve been told for years that I have a great voice by total strangers when talking on the phone. I tried to find out how to break into the industry about 8 yrs ago, but had no luck. I am thrilled to have stumbled across your write up. I’m already going to all your links and reading everything you have so I can begin NOW. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    Happy Hugs from Mia 🙂

  • Heather says:

    Hi Carrie,
    I am very much longer to do what it takes to get in to this exciting world. I have always been into performing and love doing character voices.
    I look forward to learning all I can from ALL that is willing to teach me.
    ?

  • Ja Bonds says:

    Hi Carrie, thank you for the information. I have been researching voice over information for about awhile now. I look forward to speaking with you in depth to make sure that I am on the right track. Thanks again for the information.
    Ja

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