A Cautionary Note for Aspiring Voice Actors
We live in a time of increasingly predatory online practices, and the Voiceover Teaching world is no different. Please protect yourself and your investment, by making sure you do your due diligence first.
What Predatory Practices – and Promises – can look like:
- “It’s going to be easy”, “We can fast-track your VO career!”
Nope. It’s not. And no they can’t. An enduring career in this business takes YEARS of investing in yourself, in training, and mentally “steeling” yourself against constant rejection! It takes time, and research on your part. It takes you showing up for yourself and your career, which doesn’t happen just ‘cause you did some classes! Having the tools you need can save you time, help prevent massive mistakes and make everything more enjoyable along the way, but you still have to do the work.
- There are “insider secrets”
There are NO secrets to this. The first thing I ever put out there was My 10 Free Tips that cover everything I think you need to know before you spend a dime. Sure there are lots of time-tested tricks and things that will absolutely help you, but there are no magic potions that will get you out of actually doing the work.
- “You’ll make lots of money and can quit your day job.”
Anyone offering you “6 figures in a year” or other wildly unrealistic financial gains is playing you. It’ll take investment first, investment in acting classes, in equipment (which doesn’t have to be high-end when you’re starting out!), and in honing your voice (your instrument!) and your craft, over time and via lots of real-world trial and error. Don’t quit your day job until you can replace your necessary income. It takes time, patience and hard work. If you notice a “work” thread here, you’re paying attention. Thank you. Work doesn’t mean it’s painful. It just means you need to know that diligence and a good work ethic matters. If you do this for a career, you’re working for yourself and need to treat it like a business.
Remember these things too:
- Not every class is genuine and reputable.
There are more and more Voiceover Courses in this space nowadays, and while I welcome everyone and think there’s more than enough room for everyone, it’s up to you to do YOUR OWN due diligence, researching each one before you make the financial investment. That’s a decision only you can make, but I would recommend you look into the following…
- Is the Teacher/Teachers currently working? You can search them on IMDB for a quick way to see if they’re working currently, and likewise you’ll see if they’ve not had a credit for years – which in this fast-paced industry means they’re also likely out of touch with today’s markets.
- Are they Union or Non-Union? Are their credits in local radio commercials or audiobooks, or national/global commercials, film, TV, video games, etc.? While there’s nothing wrong with local commercial work OR audiobooks (or Non-Union when you’re starting!), a Teacher can’t teach what they don’t know, or haven’t experienced. A lot of experience equals LOTS of pitfalls and what-not-to-do’s, that they can pass on to you. How far do you want to take this? You need to know what you want, and seek out those who are masters at that. It’s not about hierarchy (there isn’t one!) it’s about experience. If you love audiobooks, awesome. Plenty of work there. If you’re happy with working on local projects, fantastic! Seek out those who’ve found a way to make that work.
What do they offer BEFORE you sign up?
- Are they willing to give you something of value up front, before you part with your hard-earned money? Make sure there’s no “And if you sign up I’ll give you my exclusive Secrets to Voiceover Success!” or some kind of other magical thing that lives behind a paywall that ONLY that teacher possesses. There is no secret or magical anything. Only experience, and tools derived from it – and the BEST teachers will share it willingly, because they care about you knowing what they didn’t!
What are they like?
- While you might not ever get to meet them (my students are from all over the world!), you can get a good “gauge” on a teacher from what’s available via their free content. You can also get a good feel for someone based on interviews or how they conduct themselves when interacting online. If you scroll down a comment thread where potential customers are asking genuine questions before they commit, and you find a VO Teacher who claims to be “better than the other guy,” that may be a red flag indicating that the teacher views our business as a competition and is trying to appeal to you via scarcity and fear. Scarcity is NOT a good basis to learning anything, especially in THIS industry. In fact, coming from the perspective that there isn’t enough and you need to defeat someone else to win is an unhealthy way to live life! Voice Actors are a tightknit group, and we welcome collaboration, NOT competition. My experience alongside the greatest voices in the business is one of Family. We don’t compete, we collaborate, we’ll even pass up a job if we know one of our peers is the better fit!
- Does their energy jive with yours? Do they feel genuine? We often disregard those “gut feelings,” but they’re a link to a deeper sense that all of us have. IF it doesn’t feel right, but the website is swanky and the “deal” seems too good to be true, then it probably is. NOTE: If it contains those unrealistic promises about money and success in a short time frame, it’s definitely too good to be true and you should run the other way!
- Upselling you to “the next level” before you’ve even got to the first!
- Some pre-recorded courses are offered as if the content in them is the “First Base,” while one-on-one coaching is like “Second Base.” You should be given everything that a Teacher knows without having to continually purchase each level. One on One Coaching – which should be more expensive by virtue of how expensive it can be to hire a successful VA – should be for you to run scripts, lines, demos etc. past them. Fantastic for course correction, real time experience and working on particularly intricate skillsets like dialects and vocal care/support. If you’re just starting out in VO, there’s a LOT you can and should do before investing in coaching. Coaching can be incredibly helpful, but again, it doesn’t guarantee anything and if a coach promises you quick success, they’re being disingenuous.
- Promising you a Demo.
- As Chuck Duran famously said in Class 28, WHEN YOU’RE READY – you need a professionally recorded and produced Demo. You don’t want your Teacher producing your Demo! WE don’t produce our own Demos! And we’ve been doing this for years and recording broadcast-quality from Home! A Teacher can recommend you to someone they’ve used, but any Course that promises you a Demo at the end of it is, (with very few exceptions) in my opinion, teaching with an agenda that may be motivated more by profit than your well-being. A good demo producer will coach you, help you through the process and provide appropriate copy, but you need to be at a certain level of professionalism with a solid skillset before you can do this, so the finished demo is something a casting agent will take seriously. Good things take time, and when it comes to Demos, good ones also take money. Don’t do it till you’re absolutely ready.
- Promising you Work!
- It might take YEARS for you to get to a point where you’re regularly working and paying the bills with Voiceover, even partially. If you move to one of the big cities, know that you’ll be dealing with a higher cost of living. Any Teacher, or Course, promising you gigs if you sign up is preying on you. It just doesn’t happen that way. You’ll get work when YOU work at it. A good Teacher should tell you how to go about preparing yourself for the work, but YOU will have to put in the time and sweat equity. Nobody is going to give you a gig or magically “discover” you. You have to – as Steve Martin says in his masterclass – “get good” first, know how to promote yourself and be willing to do what it takes to stay strong, skilled and relevant.
- You can do it from Home!
- You CAN do this work from home, especially when you’re starting out. You can also get work even if you DON’T live in the bigger cities. But if you want to have a career in the biggest Film, TV, Animation and Video Games, you’ll have to lower your expectations until you’re established at the local market level first. Sure, some VA’s got a lucky break, but the majority of us worked our asses off (even while living our whole lives in those larger cities). It took TIME for us to become established. I work 100% remotely now, on some of the biggest projects in the film/TV, animation and video game business, but that’s because I was already established first! Studios and Producers know my work. They make exceptions for me because they know I can deliver, and they know I am committed to making their project the best that I can. I also had to learn how to put together a broadcast quality home studio and even more importantly, how to use it! If you’re starting out and far from a big city, it’s ok to start small. Look at where you can work locally. Can you offer yourself to local radio? University radio? Local commercial houses? Interning at recording studios? If you’ve got ZERO experience, you might want to start by volunteering – reading at local community centers, libraries, schools for the blind or aged-care facilities. Or your own kid’s school! I volunteered a lot for “story time” when my boys were in elementary school. The kids were amazing, unfiltered experts on the authenticity of my “performance.” I learned as much from them as I did anywhere else in my career. Don’t underestimate what you can glean from those experiences.
SO, I realize that for some this might look like I’m trying to deter you from learning Voiceover, or that I’m giving you reasons NOT to pursue it. It’s not that at all!
Acting is a Reflection of Life
The best Courses and Teachers should teach you life lessons as well, because the nature of acting is a reflection of life itself. Even if you don’t get those “great gigs” after years at this, at the very least, you’re still doing something you love and leaving your unique, positive mark on the world and making it a better place. I firmly believe that creativity is the antidote for fear and decay. It’s our job as teachers to help you deal with fear, flesh out your innate creativity and find fulfillment through creative expression.
We often say that we are fired every day in this business, because once a job is done, we’re looking for work again! How does THAT land for you? Do you have the life skills and mental/intestinal fortitude to experience that over and over again? If you don’t, you CAN learn it, but having someone who knows that space can be incredibly helpful. I recommend Teachers who have a vast array of current, real-world experience so they can give you tools to navigate the emotional roller coaster that this work can be.
Many of my students stay with me for years because of what they learn about themselves and how they grow in other areas of their lives, because they’re learning how to grow through voiceover. It’s never just about the job. Or the destination. It’s always about the Journey, and how fulfilling and valuable it is along the way.
There’s enough room for everybody!
I welcome everyone into this industry, because we always need fresh new talent, and I also welcome everyone who wants to TEACH voiceover as well. That said, I see a lot of things out there right now that give people an unrealistic view of what this takes. This article is a “reality check,” and it’s meant to keep you safe from the Predators that just want your money but don’t want to go deep into what it really takes to have a fulfilling and long-lasting career in this thing. Let’s face it, if you’re going to give this the time and investment it DOES take, you should also want the success to LAST!
None of this is New
Any Teacher worth their salt will tell you the same stuff as me. This isn’t new (nor should it be behind a Paywall!). It takes TIME, INVESTMENT, and COMMITMENT, but there are other things that you need insight into as well. Things that not everyone out there will teach you, things that will guarantee you a longer life in VO because they set you up on a path supported by a rock solid foundation. Check out the other Blogs I’ve written for a ton of those insights. Again, they should be Free, and should be all-encompassing.
So why DOES it cost to Learn Voiceover?
IF you’re learning from a seasoned, working professional Voice Actor, then their time is valuable. We simply can’t offer hundreds of hours of content (which we provide firsthand) for free. If you were building a house, you would look for someone who’s done it, a lot. You’re not just paying for the time it takes them to build your house, you pay for the years of experience and expertise they accumulated from actually doing the work.
Another reason we have to charge for Courses is that takes an enormous amount of money, time, and a Team of people to provide the platform, the website, the customer service, and to constantly be updating and evolving as the industry and the tech space evolves. I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars creating my Course, so it must be treated as a business, or it would be unsustainable. You wouldn’t – and shouldn’t – work for Free, in anything that you do. Teachers and Course creators can’t either.
Our website is crammed with so much free content it can take you weeks or even months to digest it all. I’ve literally put EVERYTHING I know into these blogs alone, because it’s important TO know what you’re getting into. I believe this is something you should get on other VO teaching sites as well.
Students choose to sign up AND stay with us because they know they can trust me to NOT keep anything secret, and that every month in LIVE classes they’ll also get to learn from the very best in our business. The people whose careers and lives have inspired me and millions of others. If we were to price our Course out, with almost 40 Guest Classes now (and 77 total as of March 2023!) that price would be in the thousands, and I know it would also put it out of reach for a lot of folks.
The value of having so many OTHER legends of Voiceover LIVE in Class each month is what makes us unique. And all of them have said (as have I), that you should always be learning. Even WE, who’ve been doing this work for decades, are still investing in ourselves. In our education, in our equipment, in our BUSINESS, in expanding our skillset and in helping others to achieve their goals.
Again – when you look for a teacher, make sure it’s someone reputable who has your best interests as their first priority!
Lastly, just know that there’s no one like YOU, no one else can offer what YOU bring to the table. Imitation is great for reference and learning, but you need to develop and deliver your unique voice to this tapestry, and to weave yourself into it. Don’t ever take just ONE Class or Teacher POV and think it’s the only way. Everyone who ever made it in this business had a different path, different influences and a unique story. Take the best bits that work for you, leave the rest and keep moving forward. Be aware, be curious, be diligent, be respectful and responsible… and always seek out Masters of the Craft.