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Do You Have 'A Nice Voice For Voice Over'?
Why That Doesn't Matter - And Other Hard Truths
By Paul Schmidt
Voice Actor & Coach

"Man, if I knew then what I know now..." How many times have you said that to yourself?
What would you go back and change? What would you do more? What would you do less of? And what would you avoid altogether?
This article is essentially a letter to my former self. It's all the stuff I wish I knew when I was starting out in voice over, and stuff that you should know - maybe even before you get into voice over.
My goal and hope are that you can learn from some of the mistakes that I made and learn some of the lessons that I learned.
My Dad used to tell me all the time, "Paul, You insist on learning the hard way," which meant I had to take my lumps.
I had to learn everything on my own. I was stubborn, I was arrogant, I was jacked full of ego. I was young.
And I wasted a lot of time and effort, and sometimes a little bit of money, learning the lessons on my own when I could have very easily sought counsel from those who had already learned those lessons.
While this was true as a kid and a young man, as I've gotten older, I've learned that when you can learn from somebody with a little bit more experience than you, it can save you a lot of heartache and hurt.
I'd like to think that as a voice actor, I've done a better job of listening, but I still have made my own fair share of mistakes and learned lessons that I hope to pass on to you.
So here are seven truths you need to know before you get into voice over - or at the very least, as you're getting into VO.
1. Having A Nice Voice Doesn't Mean Shit
If I had a nickel for everyone who said to me, "You know, people have told me I have a nice voice and that's why I want to get into voice over," well, I'd have a hell of a lot of nickels.
Here's the truth: Having a nice voice is about as useful in voice acting is having a nice pair of legs is in running.
There's an old saying in this business:
Voice acting is 5% voice and 95% acting.
And it's an old saying because it's true.
Just because you have a Stradivarius doesn't make you a concert violinist. Everyone in this business has an instrument, and every voice actor has been told, "My you have a nice voice." But how well you play that instrument, how well you perform, how well you act, is the only thing that matters.
Which brings me to my second point ...
2. It Ain't Just Talkin'
"Well, hell, it's just talkin' and I can do that!"
No, it ain't. And no, you can't.
The hard truth is that competent voice actors get that way through training and deliberate practice, practice, practice.
Yeah, I get that. It's completely counterintuitive to have to train for months and years to sound natural and authentic. But it's as true as gravity.
If you can't act, you can't be a voice actor. This is not everyone's art.
3. Pick Your Path
As you get into this business, maybe you decide that you just want to do voice over as a hobby or maybe for a few extra bucks.
That's awesome. Voice over on any level is so much fun to do. It's creative and fun and expressive, and there are more opportunities out there to do voice work, opportunities on sites like Fiverr and Upwork and Voice... Bunny Studio, I almost said Voice Bunny, that's their old name.
Tons of these sites have opportunities for hobbyists, enthusiasts, and amateurs to do voice over work as a hobby, as just an interest. And that's fine. Voice over can be a super fun hobby, and if that's your path, then I absolutely support you.
Some people, though, get bitten by the bug. They fall in love with the work, the craft, the training, the business, and yes, often the lifestyle.
And if you decide that you do or may want to go pro one day, then there are several more truths you need to know.
4. It Takes Months And Years, Not Days And Weeks
If you decide you want to be a professional voice actor, you have to know upfront that it takes months and years of training to get consistently good enough at reading, recording, and editing to consistently produce professional-level voice overs.
Anyone who promises you a professional demo after a weekend seminar or webinar is lying to you and stealing your money.
This is not a "start in January and by March be a pro" kind of business.
This is a "start now, and maybe in a year or two be a pro" kind of business.
But it takes professional training and coaching and lots of deliberate practice. And for clarity, when I say going pro, I don't mean necessarily going full-time. Every pro starts as a part-time pro. Maybe there are astronomically rare exceptions, but you won't be one of them.
5. This Is A Business
As a working professional voice actor, you will be equal parts artist and entrepreneur.
If you're asking other businesses to trust you and to pay you money for your service, then you are obligated to conduct yourself as a professional. That means:
  • being on time,
  • being prepared,
  • being easy to work with,
  • delivering the goods on time,
  • providing an excellent customer experience,
  • managing your time and money - profit and loss,
  • investing in your business, and most importantly,
  • being able to grow your business by consistently finding new clients.
As a voice actor, you are the CEO and proprietor of You, LLC.You are responsible for your clients, your business, your revenue and profit, and your brand reputation.
6. As In Any Business, There Are Startup Costs
Costs include your training, your gear, your recording space, a good working computer, software, your demos, your business license, incorporation, and more.
To get off the ground in this business today takes roughly $10,000.
How do I know that? Because in the fall of 2021, I spoke with 69 voice actors over the course of 75 days, and that was the average cost that voice actors had invested in their own business.
Now, your first reaction might be, "Wow, that's a lot of money." And of course, it is. It's a lot of money to anyone, but it's not a lot of money in the context of starting a business that will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue potentially every single year.
If you think that's a lot of money, go start your own plumbing business or CPA. Find out how much it costs to start your own Taco Bell. Go open your own auto garage. You'll learn very quickly just how comparatively inexpensive it is to start a voice acting business.
And here's the cherry on top: You don't have to drop all that money at once. You start with training and basic gear. Then demos, which are a big chunk, I admit. But again, go find out what a truck full of plumber's tools costs, not to mention, the truck.
Over time you can upgrade your gear, piece-by-piece. You can upgrade your recording space a little bit at a time. Heck, you can start your recording space with moving blankets and mattress toppers.
The single biggest reason new small businesses fail is that they're underfunded. Voice acting, with its comparatively low startup costs, minimizes that risk. But you have to invest in your business.
7. As In Any Business, It Has To Be Grown
According to the Small Business Association, failure to market the business properly is one of the four most common reasons new businesses fail.
Business owners often fail to prepare for the marketing needs of the company in terms of capital (money), prospect reach, and conversion-ratio projections.
And here's where voice acting can be especially tough.
Let's just say you're exclusively growing your business through pay-to-play auditions. Your conversion rate in your first couple of years is likely to be at best 1 to 2%. That is, for every hundred auditions you do, you may at best land 1 to 2 of them.
So let's do some quick math. If you do 100 auditions every week, and let's say of those 100 auditions, you land two jobs at $500 each, you'll make $50,000 a year on average.
Now, most new voice actors won't consistently land two jobs a week, in large part because they don't know how to even source 100 auditions every week.This business is littered with people who thought all they had to do was get some training, jump on a pay-to-plays and Fiverr and watch the money roll in.
Those people either wised up and learned to market their business and not rely solely on the pay-to-plays - or they're now using their mic boom as a rack to dry laundry.
Paul Schmidt is a successful voice actor, community builder, and voiceover business coach. He's also the creator of the VO Freedom Master Plan (see link below), a voiceover marketing program designed to take voice actors from part-time income, relying on the pay-to-plays, booking inconsistently, to having a plan and system to grow relationships at-scale that lead to consistent business, booking, and income. Paul has been a voice actor for over 20 years and full-time for the last several. He lives in beautiful Richmond, VA with his son, Robbie.
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Comments (3)
2/20/2024 at 2:54 AM
Hi Paul, I really appreciate you for taking the time to write this article. It's very easy to read, chock full of valuable information, and most importantly you're telling it like it is without any sugar coating. Such a good read!

Thanks, again!
2/4/2023 at 2:41 PM
Hi Mr. Mi... ahem, I mean Paul!
This was a helpful article for those of us that are afraid of the marketing side of the business (or the business side of the business) and are "hiding out" on P2P sites and like you said, not really finding that many auditions/week and ending up booking very inconsistently. *Long exhale*: will need to focus on growth off P2P sites this year. Thanks, again!
Memo Sauceda
2/1/2023 at 1:37 PM
This is the most succinct and complete response to the "people have told me I have a nice voice and that's why I want to get into voice over" comment.
Now when I get it, I'll just send a link to this page.
Thanks for saving us time and effort.
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