Vocalizing Your Career

You don’t have to be a hit singer or win American Idol to make good money with your vocal chords. Consider Brian Mitchell, a Wisconsin-based freelance voice-talent who is heard in the commercials and industrial videos of some of the biggest brands today, including Coors, Harley Davidson, Universal Studios, GE, and McDonald’s.

His original dream was to become a full-time musician. But after a reality check, he changed his mind.

“I just said to myself, ‘I don’t want to struggle and starve. I want to someday own a house, have nice things.’ I didn’t see that as a possibility for me in music. That’s when I started looking around and said, ‘What else can I do?’”

What he did was head to the local broadcast station to begin his career as a voice talent. What is a “voice talent?” you ask. It’s someone who is hired to read scripts for radio and television commercials, documentaries, training videos, and even to provide character voices for animated movies.

At the radio station, Brian read commercial scripts and became a weekend disc jockey. From there, he went on to do commercials, industrial videos, and character voices for the Disney/Pixar film Cars.

“For anyone who wants to get into the voice over business, radio broadcasting is a great place to start,” says Mitchell. “And you don’t need a good voice to succeed. You really don’t. You need to articulate copy and see a script from the writer’s point of view.” Mitchell adds it also helps to speak in a conversational tone.

Performance artists are especially well-suited to voice over work because they have strong interpretation skills. But just how do you become a voice over artist?

Four Steps to Becoming a Voice Talent.

1. Assess your skill level

Can you interpret a script and read it the way the writer intended? Can you take direction from a producer on how to add a specific tone or specific emotions to a script? If your voice needs a bit of work, hire a voice coach until you feel comfortable with your skill level.

2. Create a demo

A voice demo is a CD, DVD, or tape with samples of you reading various types of commercial or training scripts. Mitchell says having a good producer is essential for this step because a producer can give you direction and create a demo that highlights your unique voice capabilities.

3. Get an agent

A good agent has thousands of contacts that he or she can tap into. Sure, you could pound on all the doors of ad agencies, independent production houses, and corporate video and training departments yourself, but an agent can do that faster and more efficiently than you can. While your agent is out singing your praises, you can be perfecting your craft or making money to pay the bills.

4. Get the tools you’ll need.

The most important tool is a website. Use it to upload samples of your voice work, your contact information, and the contact information of your agent or agents. (Yes, you can have more than one agent, although it’s usually a good idea to have only one agent in each market or city.)

Beyond a website, you’ll need a computer with audio editing software, and a professional-grade microphone.

With the explosion of online audio and video content and cable networks that seem to multiply like rabbits, the job prospects for voice-over talent remains strong. Income is all over the board and can range anywhere from $30,000 to the high six-figures per year. But don’t expect to make the six-figure income until you have several years of experience under your belt.

Learn about other career opportunities for performing artists by clicking on the link!

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