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Steps To A Long, Strong, Successful Voiceover Career

Written by Backstage Industry Expert Terry Berland, CSA, for Backstage.

I see many talent transition from on camera, theatre, film, comedy and Improv into a VO career. The voiceover field is wide open with many opportunities. If you are going to do it, do it right.   Here are the elements it takes for a long, strong voiceover career.

The Beginner

Learn the Basic Foundational techniques.
You have to learn how to take direction from someone else and give direction to yourself. Some typical directions are to sound bright, friendly, serious, compassionate, strong, warm, trustworthy, and thoughtful.

Find your strengths. Start recognizing what your strengths are. You might be more of the announcer, non-announcer, personality driven or long format story-telling type.

Learn how to analyze a piece of copy. Each piece of copy will give you information on what is being asked for of your voice. For instance, if the spot indicates there is bright bouncy music playing in the background, you know your read will need to be bright. If the scene takes place in a romantically lit restaurant, with close-up shots, that would be telling you your voice should be directed to sound intimate.


After you get to know your voice, how to direct it and take direction from someone else, you are into the intermediate phase of your abilities.

Learn the nuances of how to execute the copy. After knowing basic direction, you are ready to notice and execute nuanced changes in each sentence. You are also ready to notice and execute sentences that are being used for transitions. For instance after laying out facts, there would be a call to action.

Experiment and experience different venues. Know the difference between radio and TV reads. In radio your voice is painting the picture, whereas in television your voice is supporting the picture. Experience promo, announcer, narration, and voicing to picture and music.

Start to know your voice print
Your voice print is your voice personality. If the sound of your voice is naturally full of character, don’t try to prefect doing serious spots that calls for gravitas


Now that you know your strengths, how to analyze a piece of copy and how to take direction it is the time to move past technique.

Step Up To The Mic Beyond Technique
It’s time to embrace the read. Now that you can recognize what the spot is asking of your voice, and you feel confident about your reads, you can embrace the responsibility of fully adding your voice to the branding of the spot.

Brand yourself
Discover visuals and colors that match the look and feel of your voice. This is a process; take your time with it. In my advanced workshop I have talent each week collect visuals that match the feel of their voice. It’s good to do this with a professional and others in the group for feedback and reactions. For instance if your voice is bright and cheery your colors might be bright yellow and orange and your visuals might be people bouncing on trampolines.

Make a demo
Don’t rush into your demo. You will save a lot of money making a demo after you know your voice and know how to take direction. There is no career longevity in being called in to audition or booking a job from an over-edited good demo and then not being able to come through being given direction.

Create a website
Create a simple website using your branding. The more presence you have on the internet the more likely you are to be found in any searches.

Now you have all the tools to gain agent interest and good self-submissions. Now good luck and go out and “break a lip”.

If you want to sharpen up on your voice-over technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Voice-Over workshops.

7 Voiceover Terms to Know Before Your First Audition

Written by Backstage Industry Expert Terry Berland for Backstage.
Photo Source: Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Gone are the days of voiceover being an exclusive club. And while opportunities abound, it seems like many actors who want to get into VO don’t know the first thing about the medium.

When an actor approaches me about wanting to do VO, they say, “I want to make a voiceover demo.” What they don’t realize is that before a demo can be made, they must learn proper technique and how to audition. And if you can’t take direction at a casting or booking session, a demo is a quick path to an unproductive end result.

To get you started, here are some of the buzzwords you’ll need to be familiar with and how to approach them successfully.

Do you want to put on the cans?
 “The cans” are the headphones. You should have experience recording with headphones before you get into an audition or booking session. Some people prefer headphones because they block out everything else, allowing the voice actor to concentrate on the sound of their voice. Others don’t like their voice fed into their ears because it keeps them “in their head,” something they find distracting. It’s a personal preference, but you should have one.

Tighten up your read. 
In general, this means making the spot go faster without your words sounding rushed. This can be achieved by tightening up pauses. There are two ways you can do this. One way is by taking less time at the end of each sentence and the other is to eliminate some commas/pauses you’ve added to your read.

Sound brighter.
 One way to sound brighter is to subtly go up (higher) on the last word of the sentence. Or, give your read more animated peaks.

READ: How to Analyze Voiceover Copy

Make your read more intimate.
Work closer to the mic as if you’re talking intimately into someone’s ear.

Sound less “selly.”
Change your delivery to a more one-on-one read. Instead of trying to convince someone of something, come from the attitude of sharing personal information. In other words, reveal, don’t sell.

Read fast, but not legal.
A legal read is very, very, very fast with each word pronounced articulately. It’s hard to do and few people can do it well.

Do a pickup.
Re-do only the section you messed up on. When you start to re-record the section, say “pickup” and continue from there so the editor can seamlessly edit them together.

I learned a long time ago not to over-direct at a casting audition. There was no point in explaining what exactly I was looking for and having the talent do it over and over until they got it right by my standards. Plus, it crosses the line from directing to teaching. Sure, the talent booked the spot but then they got to the recording session and didn’t know how to take direction because I had coached them in the audition. It resulted in upset clients, dropped talent, and a loss of business. You can study voice over technique from me at VoicePrint West,, or anyone else to be in top notch form for your auditions, and pick up the lingo.

When you audition for me or any good session director, you’re given the direction necessary to adjust your read so it fits the needs of the spot. The terms and phrases mentioned here are typical and if you can’t execute each and every one of them, you’re not ready to go into a final recording session.

If you want to sharpen up on your voice-over technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Voice-Over workshops.

How To Get Into Voice-Overs And Not Waste Your Money

The quick answer of how to get into VO’s is learn the technique and make a demo reel.

What some talent do is take this answer too literally. They take a quick beginner level class and make a demo reel. I might add the demo reel cost quite a bit of money.

Now they feel great. They are ready. They have a demo reel.

Here is a tip that will save you a lot of money.
Don’t Be Duped Into Spending Money On A VO Demo Reel Too Soon

….. Making a demo reel before you really know the technique is a waste of money and will not get you very far.

Here are the reasons why.
A good demo producer can make you sound good. They can cut errors, make the reel move along at the right pace, cut out pauses and extra breaths and put the right music behind a spot. However, you will not be able to live up to who you are on the demo.

You Are Ready To Do Voice-Overs when:

  1. You know who you are VO-wise; Know your brand.
  2. You know how to analyze copy and what the branding of the product is asking of your voice.
  3. Know how to direct yourself.
  4. Know how to take direction.

Casting Directors and agents are looking for new voices. Put yourself out there when you are really ready.  When you feel like you are ready check out

Terry Berland