A friend of mine recently messaged me on Facebook asking for an insight into how I got started as a voiceover artist. I was flattered considering I've only been at this gig for a few months, but after sifting through the efforts I've made to get where I am, I managed to cobble a few bits of knowledge together for her. I'd like to share some of these ideas with the rest of you as well, as I am a generous and beneficent ruler. #1: The Demo
The idea of cutting together the perfect demo scared me off from voiceover for a decade. For a very long time I chased my tail worrying that I lacked any experience or training, but that I need a demo to even start getting work, but to pay for the demo, I needed gigs I couldn't get because I had no demo because I couldn't afford training. I went in circles like that until I was cast in Murdercastle and the overwhelming support of the BROS convinced me that I needed to really take this seriously.
I had built a small home studio in my basement so that I could finish Random Battles' Dark World, so I already had a ton of tools at my command. While I don't recommend the setup I built as it's way more than you'd need for a decent VO setup, I found having a place to go in my house to at least practice and hear myself was a great motivator. You can easily do this with your iPhone, just find practice scripts, record yourself, make notes, ask friends for feedback, do anything you can to figure out where your voice is and where it needs to go.
Now, that illustrious demo. What was once a golden calf is now a weekly exercise for me. My research led me to believe that you need not one demo, but at least three: the commercial, the narration, and the character demo. I used this model when recording other BROS' voice demos; we'd pick one area and concentrate solely on that. Now that I've spent time on voices.com, Voice Bunny, and other P2P sites, I've come to regard Voices' 15 demo breakdown, which goes into specifics like audiobooks, podcasts, video games, and more. I find these specific demos to greatly assist me when hunting down new clients. If I'm contacting an audiobook company, I have one demo for children's books and another for adult fiction/non-fiction. I can pop it right into the email and take my swing at impressing somebody. I believe that you ultimately need all of these demos at your disposal: The 15 product-specific, the three compounded demos, and the one to rule them all: I call it the Composite Demo.
The composite demo will be the master track of your greatest hits. All the best bits from all of the specific demos cut into one. This is, I believe, the monster that scared me off from VO for all those years. I still haven't finished mine, but I have an entire website full of demos to show for my effort to get there. As I try to cut at least one new demo each week, I should have finished my fifteen in about 8 weeks. After that, if I still like those demos and don't decide to update them (which I've also been doing regularly), I should have enough to make that beautiful master demo that shows off all of my range and ability.
So, to wrap up, to get started, start doing your homework on your voice and your acting ability. Start talking to people and either invest a little money into some equipment or seek out a local recording studio. Most are not nearly as expensive as you think they are, have great audio engineers to help you navigate your first demos, and can even help you package them nicely. Oh wait, I know a place like that. Don't let the idea that you'll live and die by your demo ward you off like it did me.