In the past year I have been approached by wanna be voice over talent who find me on the Internet or were referred to me by a friend who heard of me. Of course I am flattered that anyone would ask my advice because in reality it is not that long ago that I was in their shoes doing the asking.
How did I get here?
After taking a hiatus from a successful career as a food stylist to stay at home and raise my 2 children, one of each, I started thinking about the next stage of my life. The kids were getting older. I was always looking at their abilities, signing them up for classes based on what their talents were. One day I seriously asked myself the question-“If you could take any class for yourself what would it be?” Acting popped into my head. Never having acted a day in my life I proceeded to sign up for a class in Improvisation.
Being older and more mature gave me the confidence. What in the heck did I have to prove? Plus after being home with 2 kids for 10 years, now it was Mommy playtime!
Around this same time, my husband was working on a video side project for Kawasaki and he needed a voice over. It was just a test so he didn’t need the “right” voice just a voice to present to the client. He asked if I would read the copy. He set up a mic and off I went. Once behind the mic you could not get me away. A new career is born. Now comes the hard work.
How to Enter The Mysterious World Of Voiceover aka (VO).
This may be the hardest part and why many people only talk about getting into VO or start and then quit after realizing it is not easy and doesn’t happen overnight.
Be prepared to train. The best thing you can do is to take a class in your area. Start with a well-respected acting school. Classes in all areas of acting will be beneficial. Because VO is not reading words but acting the words. Improvisation, singing, voice over, acting 101 all will help. Ask around, fellow actors are more than willing to share good and bad experiences with you so they are a great source of information. Plus, you network in class and get your name “out there”. If you have talent people will notice.
I am a poor starving actor and can’t afford good equipment for my home studio.
I totally get this. Been there done that. You do have options. Get the best set-up you can afford. Do you have $100? Get a mic called a USB, it plugs directly into your computer. There are also free software programs like Audacity. Smart phones can sound pretty darn good as well. Find a quite spot and get to work. I used to hide in my car and practice on my iphone. Yes the neighbors think I’m weird!
When you start making money reinvest in better equipment.
Your path is unique.
What I find so amazing and awe inspiring is we all have a different path in life. We may be pursuing the same things but how we get there will be very different.
When I was starting out I loved reading success stories of other actors and VO artists. I loved reading how they got their big break or start. Actually I still do. Their path was unique to them just as yours will be to you. There were many great books such as Voice-Over For Animation , Word of Mouth , and The Art of Voice Acting to name a few. However, the one I kept reading over and over was Secrets Of Voiceover Success by Joan Baker. What I loved about that book was that it featured different VO artists and how they got their start. Listening to their paths and stories was motivational.
Truly finding out who you are as an artist is a key to success. Do not try to be anyone but YOU. Your voice is unique and your past experiences are unique. Keep exploring all the unique qualities you have and use them to your advantage.
I hear people all the time talking about how they wanted to pursue something but…then they list all the excuses why it did not happen. Well, I say you did not want it bad enough. To really want to be in the VO world or acting for that matter you have to want it and commit. There are no short cuts it will take hard work and training plus don’t quit your day job because pursuing VO will cost money. Having a day job makes you less desperate. Get a plan and stick to it.
In the beginning I contacted the author of a vo book I was reading who happened to live in a suburb not far from me. His name is Harlan Hogan. He was nice enough to take a call from a newbie and proceeded to tell me some great advice that I use to this day. “Everyday do one thing toward your goal of getting into VO”. Such great advice. Of course if you do more than one that is a bonus. You need to have the patience of a saint here. However, all these little actions over time build up and before you know it you have arrived.
No one is going to come knocking at your door.
My husband is an amazing realist portrait painter. He has studied with some world-renowned artists. When we first met he was painting on the side while he had his day job in the field of advertising. He would do these amazing works of art and there they sat. Over the years he got discouraged. I tried to contact a few galleries for him but in the end this needed to be his passion and journey. One day I got frustrated with him and said “no one is going to come knocking at your door asking where your art is, you have to promote yourself and tell people what you do!” This was not his style and he put his brushes away, all 200 of them, and does not paint. For me this was such an eye opener. When I decided to pursue VO, a career that everyone told me was impossible to get into, I knew that people would never know who I was or what I wanted to do if I did not communicate that. Well hello Internet.
It’s lonely in the trenches.
Social media can be your friend for sure in helping you connect with people. As a VO today you are in your studio alone doing auditions. Many hours are spent networking, building websites, finding clients, talking with agents, trying to get an agent, etc. It can be lonely and you have to like being with yourself a lot. Being self-motivated is also a great plus. You have no boss telling you what to do. It is all up to you baby.
I broke rule #1 of voiceover.
Ok I admit it I did something that all the voiceover books told me not to. They said-“making your voiceover demo to soon in your career is career suicide”. I do feel that they were very right but I had to learn the hard way, which for me is the best way to learn, to feel the mistake. When I listen back to that first demo I cringe. I don’t beat myself up about it though. That was then. Moving on. It got me in the game and actually one of the clips on the demo my agent laughs at so it was not a total waste.
Meeting the right people at the right time.
It was St Patrick’s Day last week, the Chicago River was dyed green and I was heading to the city to record a new demo. No green beer for me.
I had done two commercial demos over the years, while they were fabulous learning experiences they were not “killer”! Then one day while on Twitter a tweet caught my eye from a VO in Chicago. I went to his webpage, loved it, listened to his demo and realllly loved it. I sent him a DM asking who did his demo. He gave me the name of the producer and I contacted him and we set a record date.
When I arrived at CRC (Chicago Recording Company) in Chicago I had no idea what magic was about to happen. When Donovan Weyland came out to greet me I just loved his energy. Walking into his recording area I could feel his passion and love for what he did. He showed me a big project he worked on in NYC last week with Neil Patrick Harris. It was exciting to see the process from behind the scenes.
So into the booth I went. This time the minute I heard the first playback I knew all was right with the world and all the work until now has led to this moment.
Laura Bednarski is a Chicago based (SAG- AFTRA eligible) actress, originally from Dubuque, Iowa. As a voice actress Laura’s voice can be heard on radio theatre for Misfits Audio, video narrations, and as Faye Burner in the award winning cozy mystery audio book series, The Sleuth Sisters.
When not acting Laura can be found hugging her 3 dogs, looking for deals at thrift shops, cooking gourmet food, and walking in nature with her camera.Laura also is on social media more than her teens and can be found online at www.laurabednarski.com