You probably know that it requires more than a good voice to do well as a voice actor. You need to be a good business person. You'll need to know how to market your voice over business to the right clients. You need to have acting skills. You have to know enough about recording to set up a professional sounding home studio and produce high-quality audio. There are so many skills you need to develop to do good voice over work.
But there is one trait that is often overlooked and seems even counterintuitive.
The best way how to do voice over actor is to develop your listening skills.
To be a good voice actor, you must be a good listener.
To be a good voice actor, you must be a good listener. #VOQuote #VOwork via @CarrieOlsenVO
How to Do Better Voice Over Work: Develop Strong Listening Skills
Voice acting is, at its core, communicating. Have you ever tried having a meaningful conversation with someone who wouldn’t listen? Feels like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall, right?
Being a good listener is important for having good conversations and it’s the same for delivering good voice over reads.
Why You Need to Be a Good Listener to Be a Good Voice Over Artist
1. So you know what to do.
Most of the time, the audition or job you are working on will have some indication of what the client is looking for in the read. It’s not always a lot (although sometimes it is), but you’re hurting your chances of booking if you ignore this information.
2. Because the client is right.
This one is less obvious but just as important. There will come a day in your voiceover career when you’re being directed by your client, and you’ve just delivered your best take on an ad for a children’s thermometer. As you begin to turn off the light in the booth and grab your script and pencil to leave (because you nailed it!), you hear the client say, “Yeah, let’s try it again, but more upbeat.”
Upbeat?! You think. Upbeat is the last thing this read needs! The client even goes so far as to line read you the whole spot, asking you to mimic her inflections. This does not sound right, you think. So, you have two options: You can continue to deliver the read the way you know in your heart is how it should sound, or you can suspend your idea of how the spot should go, and listen to and trust your client. I’m sure you know which is the right way to go here. At the end of the day, what matters is your client’s satisfaction. It’s nice when that coincides with artistic fulfillment for you, but it doesn’t always. Remember, it’s the client’s job to know their audience. So if they are pushing you in a direction you wouldn’t have chosen, go with it.
*Side note: You must learn to “read the room” in this situation. Sometimes the client may ask you to bring all of your creativity to the table and read it how you think it should go. Also, if you’re comfortable enough with the client, you can ask if you can try something different after you’ve given them what they’re asking for. But beware. This could open up a whole new can of worms, have you in the booth for hours longer than expected, and leave you and the client more confused than before. As a rule of thumb, when the client says, “We’re good!” you say, “Great!” Even if you disagree with where the spot ended up.
3. Because you must be able to take voiceover direction.
“Shave two seconds off.”
“I want to hear your smile at the end.”
“Really hit the phrase, ‘Mother’s Day’ hard.”
You would be surprised how many people, when given some of the above direction, would end up giving the exact same read they initially gave. Over and over and over. Taking direction well takes practice. And it starts with getting out of your own head and listening to what is being asked for.
4. Because you’re a voice actor.
When you’re reading a voice over, you’re not just talking into space, although you are by yourself most of the time. You should be having an imaginary (or real?) conversation in your head with your “audience.” A real conversation involves speaking, but also listening. The listening part is what makes what you say relevant. It’s going to sound different if you walk up to a stranger and start telling them about your favorite shoes, than if a friend asks if you have bought anything cool lately, and you answer their question by thoughtfully telling them about the shoes you just bought. Just like in life, everything you say in a voiceover should be in response to something.
If you’re a voice actor (or an aspiring one), and you’ve got the best voice, the best business plan, and the best studio in the world, but you can’t or won’t listen, I hope you’ve got a backup plan!
Characteristics of Successful Voice Actors
Want to know how to become a director’s favorite talent to work with? Nail your reads based on the spot specs, your winning audition, and the direction during your session. And then have the acting chops and flexibility to try out some other ideas that he or she may throw at you on the spot. You don’t want to be so married to your initial delivery that you can’t branch out. Part of your job is being able to give fresh, new takes--that make sense of the message--upon demand.
Resilience and drive are found in abundance in successful voice talent. An ability to take lessons from failures, move on from negative situations and maintain focus amid rejection is crucial in reaching your goals. Meteoric career trajectories are extremely rare and expecting yours to be the exception is foolhardy. If you assume challenges and dry spells will be a natural part of your career plan, you are less likely to be deterred when the going gets tough.
Build a set of realistic goals. Without goals, you lack focus and every unfocused action you take is likely to result in wasted opportunities. If your goal is to voice promos for a national network, formulate a plan and stick to it. Make sure your decisions at every step of your journey are influenced by this goal. All you need is to move just one inch closer to your goal every day. If you find yourself spinning your wheels, you may need to readjust and refocus.
This may sound like a contradiction to having focus, but being adaptable will let you make the most of every opportunity. Having goals and remaining focused are extremely important, but closing your mind off to unforeseen opportunities can be hugely detrimental to your career. No journey to success is ever a straight line; it’s often littered with dead ends and circuitous paths. You may even discover a hidden talent or an unexpectedly fulfilling area of the industry.
Working eight hours in your office job, going to the gym, cooking dinner for your family and walking the dog may take up a large portion of your day, but if you aren’t willing or able to dedicate more hours each day to advancing your voice career, you won’t progress—or you will so slowly that the rewards will not outweigh the sacrifices, and you may never reach your potential. Maintain a work ethic that lets you build your skills, develop your brand, network and manage your business affairs. Pro tip: If you find yourself over-extended without enough time to devote to VO, go through your commitments one by one and decide what you are going to say “no” to so that you can say “yes” to voiceover. Pro pro tip: Sometimes that “commitment” you need to say no to is Netflix...
A SENSE OF PLAY
You must have the ability to switch off the outside world when you step into the booth. Even the driest of corporate reads require a certain amount of imagination and play, giving life to words and sustaining interest in the listener. You have to be able to jump into that playful frame of mind and allow yourself to just be silly every time you enter the booth.
Hey! We get to talk into a microphone for a living! That’s really cool, right?! I know there are days (weeks?) when you experience setbacks. But as soon as your motivation starts to dwindle, that will play out in every area of your business. From your marketing to your reads, your performance will suffer.
Believing in yourself and putting others at ease is something that will make you as a talent an enticing proposition. But how do you develop confidence when you are just starting out? Practice, training, more practice, and faking it.
Faking confidence may seem deceitful, but confidence is a state of mind, and putting yourself in that state of mind can help you to think clearer and perform better even if you are not as experienced as you would like to be someday.
Now, I’m not saying that every person with a $50 microphone and big dreams should bill themselves as a confident voice talent. But if you have put in the work and are simply suffering from imposter syndrome, it’s more of a mental game at this point to take your business to the next level.
Eventually, genuine confidence will come as a result of experience and positive feedback (and cash earned), but until then it is good practice to work on training your brain to “turn on” confidence in moments of necessity.
So are these traits inherited or acquired? I would argue that some of these will come easier to you than others, but all of them can be acquired with effort.
Knowing where to focus your efforts is the first step in gaining the skills you need to become successful. Now it is up to you to put the work in to fulfill your potential and be the best voice talent you can be.
You’ve Developed the Traits, now Hone Your Skill Further & Market Your Worth
Getting into the voice actor mindset is the first big step in your journey to being a successful voice over artist.
You could rock your voiceover business if you had more of those two things, right? It's not a matter of motivation. You know you want a thriving voiceover business, and you're ready to work for it. The problem is there isn't a predefined path to take. And you don't have time to sort through every online program claiming to hold the keys to success.
What you need is an action plan that works. One that doesn't require 8 hours a day or treat you like a number. A plan that gets it.
In this free email mini-class learn to make forward progress in your voiceover business, even if you're just getting started and have limited time.