What radio industry professionals need to know to be a VO

Melissa Thom, Founder and CEO of BRAVA, writes about what it takes to become a voice-over.

If you’re a working radio professional, then adding voiceover to your offering is a no-brainer. But it’s not as easy as you might think. Here are 5 key things to think about if you’re considering exploring the world of VO.

Radio Vs VO

The first thing to do is understand that even with years of radio presenting and voicing ads and promos under your belt, you will need to extend your skillset to ensure you can offer a range of styles, characters and attitudes as a voice actor. 

Whilst those from a radio background will have many transferable skills, such as recording from professional and home studios, mic technique, understanding their audience, commercial reads etc., there is a lot more to learn if you want to move into the world of voice acting. Being able to navigate the industry is key – you’ll need to understand the various markets you’ll be voicing for and how to adapt your performance to each. This will take time and practise to master. 

If you have experience as a live radio host, there can be a huge shift in understanding how your performance must change in order to let go of what we call ‘the radio voice’ – a style of heightened delivery that requires lots of breath support, stamina and projection. Experienced radio voices can often easily master the art of the promo voice (a much more dynamic delivery compared to other styles of VO), but there are other choices to be made across a whole range of genres, and understanding these as a performer is imperative. 

Training and support: find the right fit

Many of our experienced broadcast talent here at BRAVA often say, ‘we’ve been doing this on air for years, but we never understood why!’.

Helping you master the skills required for VO and enter a competitive industry with increased confidence is so important, so finding the right training and support for you really is vital. The key to unlocking your potential is to find an experienced coach, who can teach you the theory and performance techniques required, as well as guide you through the industry as a whole, and crucially, help you understand where you might enter the market. 

You must do your research when it comes to training. Consider a range of options and possibilities – do you want live 1-1 sessions? Or would you prefer group sessions or pre-recorded webinars? Have a look at different companies or coaches’ marketing materials, and see if their style and tone of voice resonates with you. If it doesn’t, keep looking until you find the right fit. Contact them and ask for a chat. 

Training requires significant time and financial commitment from the outset  – so it’s important that whoever you choose to train with must feel right before you commit. Ask about the experience of the coaches and their own work across a range of sectors, not just voiceover. Here at BRAVA for example, we’ve worked not only in radio, but we’re also highly experienced in advertising, marketing, PR, agencies and start ups, across the UK, Europe and America, so we understand how to guide you through those sectors, which is where many of  your future clients will sit. We also have extensive business expertise, so we are well placed to advise you on finance, negotiation, setting your rates and much more. 

The importance of professional demos
The output of all your hard work and investment in training will be your VO demos across narration, commercial and characters. These must be produced to industry standards. Casting directors, agents and producers will be able to tell in seconds if your demos are not on point.

Demos are your audio resumes – they tell clients that you know what you are doing; that you understand in-depth script analysis, as well as how to embody and deliver vocal styles across a range of genres;  that you have a professional home studio setup, that you understand your audio recording and editing workflow, that you are able to connect remotely for jobs, sometimes with up to 8 clients in America all directing you at the same time, and that you understand the various submission requirements, specs and audition processes.

Your demos are your calling card and you must do the work and cut them when you are ready if you want to have the highest chance of success. Again, guidance from experts is key. Never underestimate how much work goes into producing an industry standard demo that is fit for purpose.

Getting the work: agents, casting sites and marketing 

Whilst having an agent will certainly get you in front of bigger clients for higher value jobs, finding the right agent can take time, sometimes even years. The UK market is relatively small, so aiming to secure a US agent can be a significant milestone. However, it is possible to secure your own work without an agent, via lots of different avenues, such as personal networks, your own marketing efforts and outreach, social media and P2P sites.

Our advice with P2P sites is to ensure you have in-depth conversations about the pros and cons of these with your coach and to be really clear on what you are signing up to, especially when it comes to understanding what rights you are potentially signing away. There is no doubt that these sites have democratised the market, cutting out the middle men (agents) and putting talent in direct contact with clients, but as always there is much to consider before using them. In our view, nothing can beat having the right agent, but the reality is that it is absolutely possible to book work without them – and for many working VOs, this means using P2P sites. So understanding what to look out for when negotiating your own work is really important. Equity has done a lot of work around this so have a look at their advice as a starting point.

Building a community

Mastering the craft of VO is a lifelong commitment, so building a trusted network around you to help support your continued development is key. You can do this by connecting with colleagues online and in-person, taking classes, and rinsing social media.

We’d always recommend taking some in-person acting classes, such as Improv or Shakespeare, where you’ll meet others in real life who are on a similar creative path. Enlisting the support of people you connect with is very important to ensure we don’t just sit behind our mics in the booth and feel isolated.

Here at BRAVA, we believe that voice acting is an art that can take years to perfect. Radio professionals can and do bring so much of their talent, experience and understanding to the craft, so it can serve as an excellent starting point, but there is much more to master. Getting the right level of support and training behind you is vital if you want to succeed in a highly competitive, but hugely rewarding industry. 

If you’d like to chat to us about any of the issues raised in this article, or find out more about working with BRAVA, go to www.brava.uk.com. You can also tune into our podcast, High Notes, which features conversations with master VO coaches, agents and other creative industry veterans.

By Melissa Thom, Founder and CEO of BRAVA