The Voiceover Industry: An Overview

In this history of voiceover infographic by Scott Reyns, he stated that, “For most of its history the voiceover business has occupied the more obscure shadows of the acting world. Not so long ago actually, voice jobs were what working actors did in-between what many would call more “real”, “proper” or “respectable” work i.e. that done for television, film or stage. All that started to change in more recent times however, with the onset of digitally animated films featuring characters voiced by celebrities, also the Web making trying out for some types of jobs possible for legions of new hopefuls. Nowadays voice work isn’t something actors keep on the down-low anymore. The trade has become a point of heightened curiosity, even if not heightened understanding, among consumers.”

Voiceover is a niche in the media and entertainment industry that is slowly but steadily gaining popularity. The demand for voiceover talents has grown in considerable proportions due to the advancement in digital recording capabilities over the past 5 years. This has led to a lot of people wanting to get into the business of voiceover. But, there is more to this business than meets the eye.

According to James R. Alburger & Penny Abshire of the VoiceActing Academy, voiceover is not just about the voice – it’s about what one can do with that voice that will come into greater play. Voiceover is an art which involves creating characters, emotions, and attitudes. In most areas of voiceover, one needs to develop an ability to discover and sustain the attitude and speaking style appropriate for a character who would believably speak the words in a script. For animation work, the voiceover actor has to have at least half a dozen unique starter voices from which several variations can be created for other characters. Moreover, these character voices have to be sustained for long periods of time and be instantly switched from one character to another.

In the David Houston Voiceovers blog Do That Voice!, he advised that, “If you don’t have any acting experience or training, get some. Whether it’s a ketchup commercial, an instructional tech video, or an animated Pixar blockbuster, the skills you need to bring to the microphone are those of an actor”. (Houston, 2006)

Clearly, voiceover work is a serious business and becoming a voiceover actor is not easy. You need professional voice over training to get ahead in this cut-throat industry.

As in the entertainment field where the voiceover industry belongs, there are many challenges and rejections an aspiring actor may encounter along the way to becoming successful in this field. It is therefore essential to keep in mind that, in this industry, having fun while working is of utmost importance.  Voiceover actors remain in this business because they enjoy it – and to get paid for something they have fun doing is an absolute plus!

Serious about taking this career path? By all means, take the plunge. The industry has so much room for experienced actors and newbies alike. But make sure you bring with you the right attitude, some acting skills, and your love for the performing arts. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!

Jennifer Douglas

Jennifer Douglas is a personal branding specialist. She has worked with voice actors to develop their brand and help them excel in the voice over industry. Her specialty is teaching beginners about the benefits of social media.

  • Thank you for bringing some balance to the table of what is essential for a floor level entrance into the world of VO – acting training and background. Everyone wanting to dive into the VO world, thinking it’s easy work and easy money, needs to understand that not only is there a honed craft to making the VO work within the context of the script/project, but also that to GET the work is another business, all in itself.