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  • Brian Pappas

How to Get Started in Voice Acting

By far the most common question I get from my students and others interested in starting a voice acting career is "where do I start?"


Regardless of who or where you are, your first step in starting a voice over career should always begin by finding a credible studio or individual with experience in the industry, and taking lessons from them. Even if you're an extraordinarily talented individual, you likely won't get very far if you don't know how to use that talent.


When I first started taking lessons at Voices Carey, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I could do a few accents and a halfway decent Christopher Walken impersonation, but had no idea where to begin to become an actual voice actor. Aside from just generally learning to become a better voice actor, Voices Carey taught me how to be a completely well-rounded voice actor, tackling any genre that might come my way: audiobooks, radio ads, IVR's, political ads, slice-of-life animes, you name it. The more genres of voice acting you become adept in, the better chance you'll have of getting your foot in the voice acting door. I also learned about something I had never heard of before prior to taking lessons: voice acting demos.

Brian Pappas in a voice acting booth with headphones a microphone and a pop filter

Your demo is essentially your voice acting resume, and highlights your strengths and range in a particular genre. Eventually, you'll want to get demos created for every single genre you're interested in, but starting out with one demo is perfectly fine. Right now I just have my commercial demo produced, although I am working on getting my character demo completed sometime in the near future. Whenever I reach out to an agency or a prospective client, I will always lead that message by calling out my demo. It's one of the very first things you see on the home page of my website. It's just a quick way for people to listen to what your voice print sounds like and what you're capable of.


Unfortunately, demos are not cheap. In the two biggest voice acting markets in the country - Los Angeles and New York - demos will often run you between four to five grand. Thankfully in the next two biggest markets - DFW (where I live) and Atlanta - they cost less than half of that. Drawing from personal experience however, I can say that my demo was worth every penny. I got my produced at Voices Carey, and it was the catalyst for signing with The Campbell Agency and starting my career. That's not to say that you should expect immediate success after creating your demo, but it does give you a tool you can use to break into the industry.


I do recommend that you wait on audition on any pay to play sites (I personally use voices.com) until you get your demo created, and you have your personal studio set up. Most of these sites actually require that you have a demo uploaded to your profile, and many clients will listen to your demo prior to making a casting decision. Prior to having your demo created however, I would encourage everyone to submit as many "free" auditions as possible that you can find, to gain experience if nothing else. Castingcall.club is a very commonly used free to play website, and has some really cool opportunities and fan projects. There are also opportunities you can find on Facebook and Twitter following certain groups and accounts. Voice Acting Alliance is a great group to follow on Facebook.


I will caution everyone to be careful with these auditions, as there are many illegitimate projects out there. But as long as you take some time to assess whether an audition is legitimate, I encourage you to audition for as many roles as you can. That's the best practice you can get.


Small change and money falling down with a black background
"Thanks for voicing my 450 page audio book! Here's your payment!"

The second most common question I get is "What genre of voice acting should I start out in?" While there are always exceptions to the rule, my recommendation is to start out on the commercial side, which also means that the first demo I'd recommend you produce is a commercial demo. The reality of the situation is there is a significantly higher quantity of jobs in the commercial space compared to the character world (it also pays significantly better, if that's an important factor to you.) Your goal is to break into the industry; wherever that may be. Could be commercials, could be narration, could be lewd audiobooks. Point being: you can eventually break into the genre you're most passionate about, it will just be easier to do so if you've already built up a career somewhere in voice acting.


When I first started taking lessons at Voices Carey, I went in with the assumption that if I was going to have any sort of voice acting career, I would start in the cartoon or anime industry, as that is where my greatest passion lies. After speaking with Bruce, and many other experienced voice actors, my perspective quickly changed. I was quickly convinced that the best place for me to start was the commercial side of things, and interestingly enough, that's where the vast majority of auditions that I receive fall under.


Again, that's not to say that you absolutely cannot start out in the character world; many people have. It's simply saying that you don't have any "in's" in the industry, then starting in the commercial world is going to be your best bet.


And that brings up another important point: networking. An ugly word for many people, but it is a necessary part of the business. All businesses need to establish strong and trusting relationships with other individuals and brands. The only difference here is that you are the brand. To a certain extent, you do have to sell yourself and establish relationships, but do it in an organic manner. Don't alienate people by "doing whatever it takes" to further your career. Be honest, and let people know that this is something your truly passionate about, and their support is extremely helpful. Cheesy as it may be, I view networking in voice acting as just an opportunity to make new friends. I love meeting new people with similar goals and learning about their own experiences. In the moment, I don't view it as networking, but an opportunity to meet new people, and maybe help each other out.


A picture of cheese that's used as a silly metaphor for networking and voice acting
It Aint Easy, Being Cheesy.

Acting is sadly one of the most cutthroat industries I've been apart of, so make sure you're always supportive of those that want to accomplish the same goals that you do. It can be very difficult to achieve the success that you desire in such a competitive industry, so always be courteous and helpful to anyone trying to do the same thing that you are. You never know what doors will open from any given relationship. Plus, you just really shouldn't be a jerk.



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