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What Do People Ask You When
They Learn You're A Voice Talent?

February 27, 2015

By Tom Dheere
Voice Talent and Coach

I love being a voice talent. It’s fun, it fulfilling, and I get to work with amazing people. There is almost no downside to it. Almost.

I can only think of 1-1/2 things. 1-1/2? Yes.

The 1 is the unpredictability of the voice over industry. You can work with a client for years and suddenly they just vanish. Sometimes they lose their end-client, hire a cheaper voice talent, or go out of business. These things are uncontrollable and are just part of the business. That’s why you need a consistent marketing plan to manage your client churn.

AND THE 1/2? ...

The 1/2 is the questions I get. Almost every week through various circumstances (attending a networking event, standing in line, etc.), a stranger discovers what I do for a living and many if not most of the questions below invariably follow. 

I say 1/2 because the questions and the questioners are mostly harmless and most days I (and my ego) are happy to answer them.

Other days, not so much. Why? Look at the questions and tell me what you think:

You’re a what?

Most people don’t think about who is the voice in a cartoon or commercial, much less that it’s a vocation.

Where have I heard you?
There are two motivations behind this question. Some ask because they would be thrilled to have heard you in the past and listen for you in the future. Others ask because they think if they haven’t heard you, then you’re not really a voice talent.

How did you get into that?
Once again, two motivations. Some ask because they’re genuinely curious. Most people divide occupations into two categories: those you go to college for and those you don’t. Who ever heard of a voice over major in college? The other motivation is because they want to know how they can get into it.

Is it good money? 
If you know what you’re doing.

Where do you go to record?

I record mostly from home but I go to various studios in New York and New Jersey.

That must be fun, right?

Do you have an agent?
Most people can’t imagine how a performer gets work without an agent. I have multiple agents and a manager, but I get most of my work on my own. Which leads to the next question …

So how do you find work?
It only takes a few seconds for their eyes to glaze over after I start to explain positional branding and action plans.

My friend has a good voice. Can you get him a job?


How can I be a voice talent?
Thousands of dollars, lots of coaching, a home studio, lots of free time, and the ability to embrace failure. Hearing "thousands of dollars” is enough for most to lose interest.  


Here’s what some think but never ask:

Are you ever going to get a real job?

Is that a fair question?

From my end it’s a bit insulting, but I understand why some folks think that way. Most people are hourly employees or on salary so the idea of doing something fun for a living and working from home just doesn’t compute.

If that question is ever posed to me, this is probably how I would answer:
Being a voice talent is not a job, it’s a career. I’m self-employed and I put in as many hours as anyone else does. Just because those hours are put in at my home doesn’t make them any less difficult. Also, most of those hours are not spent recording inside the booth. They are spent doing clerical work and marketing myself in a myriad of ways to develop relationships with both potential and existing clients.
My point is that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. However, I do enjoying mowing my lawn!
Tom Dheere is an 18-year veteran of the voice over industry who has narrated thousands of projects for clients in over a dozen countries. He is also a voice over business consultant, a coach at Edge Studio,
was marketing consultant for the Voice Over Virtual online conference, and is writing and producing a comic book.


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Comments (8)
Jason McCoy
3/9/2015 at 5:24 PM
Great post, Tom!

There is always a fascination when people learn I do voice over for a living. I think the immediate thought that comes to their mind as I give answers is, "Why didn't I think of doing that?".
Linda Lutz
3/2/2015 at 5:37 PM
Very funny and I'm seeing some of these questions -- even as a newcomer. The other thing some people have done to me, upon hearing of my new career, is then continue their end of the conversation in 1965-Male-Announcer-Voice. I smile and tell them, 'that's old-fashioned announcing, not VO.'
Paul Payton
3/2/2015 at 12:16 PM
When I started, I committed to doing whatever it took to be sure I succeeded (I really had no Plan B for failure.) early on, I discovered that being a "signed talent" was no guarantee of success nor was being unsigned a recipe for failure - as long as I kept on forging ahead to the best of my ability. Thus, I committed to putting in a full week's work whether in a studio (no home recording scene existed when I started out) or in my office. It was best summed up in a little phrase I came up with:

"When I'm not working, I'm networking."

That philosophy has yet to let me down. And, from my knowledge of you, my friend, it hasn't let you down, either!

Good post, Tom; thanks for the attitude boost!

PS - Two answers I use for the "What's a voice talent" kind of questions: (1) I get away with talking for a living; and (2) I'm a Hired Throat (the later depending on how hip I think the questioner is!).
John Melley
2/27/2015 at 12:42 PM
Hey Tom,

All of the above questions are right on target. Other (variations of the above) questions are:

You still doing that voice thing? (From someone I haven't seen in awhile) I think what they're really asking is "Are you still gainfully employed?"

Another question when they find I'm a voice actor is: "Oh, can you do a voice for me?" My answer to this (depending on how well I know them) has been to put my hand out to them and say "Pay me first." Nervous laughter follows and I point them to my demos on line.

Good stuff! Love the post.
Judy Fossum
2/27/2015 at 12:17 PM
Tom -- So, so true! I've found that most folks are quite surprised that there is an entire industry built around voiceover and like you say, most of them are just curious and they feel it's pretty cool stuff.

If some asks me how I got into voiceover, I'll tell them some of the basics, but then I'll invite them out to my office/studio to see me set up. I've actually had some folks come out! They seemed genuinely interested. I follow up with an email and some reputable Internet sites for them to go to get more information and then they can take it from there.

Fun article, thanks!
2/27/2015 at 11:19 AM
Really nice article. Thanks, Tom!
Tom Dheere
2/27/2015 at 11:03 AM
Thanks, Brian!
Brian Whitaker
2/27/2015 at 9:38 AM
Great article, Tom!
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