Voice-over is a great industry for those who love voice acting, playing different characters, and being their own boss. To be a freelance voice actor means that you're your own business. To grow, you also have to invest in your craft as well as hone your skills in both audio recording and business management.
We've put together a short list of some of the pitfalls to avoid in the voice-over industry. This is not a full list, however, if you're able to avoid these roadblocks, you will be well on your way to building a successful voice-over career.
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photo by Jon Tyson
Forgetting the "Acting" in Voice Acting
When recording voice-over, it's important that the voice actor is able to apply their acting craft to the reading. Don't just read the script without any intention–if you do, it will give the reading a lifeless quality.
Even if the content is a technical e-learning video, the voice talent may take on the teaching tone of an expert to give the viewers a sense of confidence in the speaker. To help build your confidence in playing different characters and roles, it's important that you have some voice training through coaching or voice-over classes. There are many classes available online as well as websites to help find the right vocal coach for you.
Vocal training is meant to teach, but is not limited to, the following: vocal warm-ups, proper breathing and breath control, enunciation. There are also specialized classes for specific skills like singing or accents.
Also, don't forget acting classes. Acting for theater or film teaches many skills that carry over into voice acting: getting into character, being in the moment, breaking down and analyzing scripts. By developing your acting talent, you'll be better able to take a script and understand the character's intentions and thus provide a stronger vocal performance.
Here are some voice acting pitfalls to avoid:
- The quiet shout: if a line is meant to be shouted, SHOUT! Don't imitate a voice shouting while still being quiet. Dig in and project the line.
- Performing an accent poorly: don't perform an accent that is not native to you or that you're unable to reproduce natively. It can take the listener out of the performance and may potentially offend those who natively speak that accent.
- Not re-recording a messed up line: if you flubbed the words, your voice cracked, etc...take a brief pause and then re-record the line again right away. This is to avoid leaving in a poor take.
- Fake laughing: any voice actor will tell you, genuinely laughing is hard to do. Don't settle for a fake laugh when a real one is called for, maybe think of a joke or funny imagery to help you.
- Not being able to sight-read: sight-reading means reading text–without seeing it before–with the correct intonation and no errors. This is especially important for technical and corporate text where the audience (with no script) relies on the narrator for understanding.
As a voice actor, you want to make sure that your own unique energy comes through in the recording. Clients want to hear your enthusiasm and personality come through your voice. That takes practice, training, and confidence in yourself.
photo by Blake Connally
Not Knowing the Industry and the Production Process
As you hone your craft, it's important that you also know the business and production side of the voice-over industry. One mistake is to fail to first educate yourself in marketing and branding.
Being your own business, it's important to spend time identifying your strengths and how you want to present yourself. This could mean building your social media presence and website. You want to establish yourself as relatable as well as a professional in your field.
When starting out, avoid recording poor quality demos. You want to make sure that you have practiced and worked hard in training your voice. Once you're confident in your vocal performance, either invest in recording at a professional studio or in building a small home studio.
Become familiar with what recording at a professional studio is like. Although that may be difficult now during the pandemic, you can still become familiar with the duties of a vocal director, the sound engineer, and the project manager. These are the people that you will be interacting with at a recording session when more studios open back up.
For instance, there's certain recording etiquette: if you're at a professional studio and your mic needs to be adjusted for height, don't do it yourself. Ask the sound engineer politely to help with adjusting it. Professional studios have expensive mics and set ups that their team is familiar with and knows how to adjust accordingly. Also, it avoids liability and shows respect for their equipment.
For making your own studio, learn about the recording process: having a good mic, a soundproof space, and audio editing software. There is a wealth of knowledge online and also in our blogs.
photo by Form
Not Caring for Yourself
As a freelance voice actor, new or veteran, you may be spending more time looking for dubbing/voice-over work than actually doing work. That can add additional stress, especially in the present economic climate.
Not caring for yourself can hurt your voice. It's important to practice breathing and inflection exercises that you may have learned from a vocal coach, class, or online. Be sure to treat your vocal chords well, relax them, and don't over-strain them.
Exercise is just as important for your voice as it is for your body. Tension built up around the neck and shoulders can tighten one's voice. It's important that you find a practice that helps you relieve tension; many voice actors practice yoga, meditation, martial arts, aerobic exercises...all of which can also help relieve stress felt during these uncertain times.
As you get more work, you also want to avoid another pitfall: overextending yourself. Remember, you always have the option to turn down a project if you find yourself overwhelmed. Saying yes to a project when your schedule is already full may mean rushing a recording and leaving in potential mistakes. You want to avoid putting yourself in that position.
Hope this was helpful! If you're interested in working with a professional localization, voice-over studio such as ours, feel free to check out our offer services page!
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