Kira Buckland is a full-time voice actor whose video game credits include Street Fighter, Persona 5 Strikers, Fire Emblem Heroes and more. She shares her best tips to building a career as a voice actor.
Overcoming the Challenges of being a VA
I think one of the biggest challenges for any actor is working consistently enough to make it your primary source of income.
A lot of people have this misconception that if you book the lead in a really popular series, or voice in some big video games, that it automatically correlates to financial success. But the reality is that after that project ends, you need to have more work lined up, and ideally you'll be recording on multiple projects at the same time.
Statistically speaking, each actor will only book a small fraction of the jobs they audition for, so it's important to have auditions coming in from multiple sources (studios, agents, talent rosters, independent casting directors, etc.) It can take a long time and a lot of patience to be auditioning and booking consistently enough to make voiceover your full-time work.
Top Tips to Find Clients
How I Started Out
I started voice acting online when I was a teenager, just as a hobby sort of thing (although I knew I eventually wanted it to be my career). Back then, I would voice act for a lot of Flash animations, and it would be as simple as e-mailing or messaging various animators asking them if they need a voice actress and linking them to a demo. But obviously it gets a little more complicated once you start getting into paid jobs, especially those with professional clients, because many times these people are being contacted by hundreds of voice actors looking for work.
Reaching out via Cold Emailing
"Cold emailing" is still valuable and effective, especially in the case of indie developers and other smaller companies. However, you do have to observe proper business etiquette, and don't be obnoxious by following up too often.
Research your Client
I would also recommend researching a little bit about the client and how they tend to cast voice actors, if possible. For example, with anime and game recording, a lot of times this work will be outsourced to a studio that handles the casting and recording for this type of work, so trying to pitch yourself to the end client wouldn't get you very far.
Referrals are another huge thing in the industry and probably the most effective way to get work, but I find it is generally considered rude to directly ask someone for a referral and sometimes they may not even be in an appropriate position to refer you (or you may not be ready yet). The best way to get referrals is to be really great at what you do and be a good person to work with, and then when a role comes up that you're perfect for, people will recommend you without you even having to ask!
Top Tips to Stand Out as a Voice Actor
Tip 1: Hone your Skills
The absolute best way to stand out is to be a great performer!
So much emphasis is placed on marketing these days, and while marketing is important, having a flashy website or lots of social media followers doesn't mean that much if you can't back it up with your acting skills. But if you knock it out of the park with your auditions, or you show up to a job and make things easy for the team because you work efficiently and take direction well, those things will help you be remembered.
As pretty much anyone in the industry will tell you, the most important part of voice acting is acting, so taking classes and coaching from reputable teachers is ideal to help you stay on track. However, if that's not an option financially, there are so many free resources online - articles, podcasts, videos, etc - that talk about various acting techniques and tips for voice training.
Great actors are always learning...whether that means being in class, working with a coach, learning a new skill or just observing current trends in media. They say that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so make sure that when the opportunity you want comes along, you are prepared for it. And when you are good at what you do, your work will speak for itself.
Tip 2: Produce a Demo Reel
Is a Demo Reel Necessary?
Unless you are a highly established industry veteran who no longer needs to market themselves in any capacity, a demo is essential because it's what you (or casting directors or agents) will often use to pitch yourself for work opportunities. But ultimately, a demo reel is probably your single most important marketing material, and investing in a professional demo (when you are ready) also shows that you are serious about your career.
Yes, many roles are cast via auditions, but often the demo is necessary to even get on that talent roster or get signed with that agency in the first place. Now, if someone is brand new, they are probably not ready for a demo yet and in that case they should be taking classes, learning and practicing as much as they can first.
Demonstrate the Character Types you can Play
I have written various articles about demo reels, but I also want to point out that one of the most important things should be to think of the spots on your demo not as "doing a bunch of voices", but as distinct characters with their own personalities and motivations. Each scene and character should be fleshed-out and interesting, not stereotypical or one-dimensional. A demo isn't just about showing your vocal range; it's also about showing the different character types you are able to play.
Tip 3: Get Involved with Multiple Projects
The other thing I highly suggest is to get involved in the hobby scene online when you are first starting out. Many people feel pressured to rush into turning voiceover into a career and income without really getting the chance to explore and practice what they're passionate about. Of course, don't let yourself get taken advantage of on commercial projects, but there are plenty of things like student films, audio dramas, and "live script reading" groups where you can just have fun and practice acting without the pressure of turning it into a business right off the bat. You can also just learn the basics of audio production and make your own fun projects with your friends!
Tip 4: Keep Building your Home Studio
Also, your home studio is going to be a work-in-progress, and it will evolve over time as your career progresses. Don't feel compelled to spend thousands of dollars on equipment at the very beginning if you don't have the means to...there are a lot of creative solutions you can use in the meantime to get decent-sounding audio, and you can eventually upgrade when you get higher paying clients that require a more specific sound.
Tip 5: Have Fun
And above all... HAVE FUN! Once we make this into a business, it can be easy to lose sight of why we are passionate about what we do. But at the end of the day, you have to love performing, because that's what it's all about.
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