Wanna be an Australian voiceover?

If you’ve found me because you’re Australian and you’re interested in getting into voiceover (especially working from home as a remote voice talent), this is the post for you.

Why? Because… that’s what I do. I’m an Australian voiceover artist, working from my home studio in a tiny country town in NSW. I can tell you what works for me, and maybe some of it will work for you, too. I ain’t no world-famous superstar; I’m your everyday fabulous Aussie voiceover artist and blogger who’s making it work and beginning to make a living from voice acting.

So how does one achieve this particular fabulousness?

If you can believe some of the internet promos all you need is a cheap microphone, your computer, an account at a freelancer site, et voila! The money starts pouring in!

We’re all rich, us voiceover artists, it’s the best get-rich-quick scheme since Amway.

Except… no, that’s not true. Sorry!

Let’s not worry just yet about how many millions you’re going to earn*, let’s just get started. I’ll give you a handy little bullet-point list of what I did (and do), from vague to specific, and I’ll send you to some equally-handy resources to find out more and get going.

First, the vague: do a bunch of research.

Use google, youtube and social media and answer these questions: What kind of voice acting interests me? What kind of skills do I need for voiceover? What kind of equipment do voice actors use? What kind of training do they have? Where do I find training and reputable coaches? Where does one find voiceover work? How much money and time am I going to need to invest to do this work? (NOTE: please don’t go to a voiceover group on facebook and ask these questions. They have all been asked many, many times before and you can find many, many answers online without making the members of those groups roll their eyes all the way outta their heads.)

Now you have a whole lot of information and you’re not sure what to do with it. But hopefully after all that research you’ve come across lots of voice actor sites and communities online (here’s an Aussie group on Discord which is delightful!) and found the kind of voice work that’s available – and you’re still interested. Yay!

So, decide on some equipment.

I started with a Rode NT2A, which was a few hundred dollars with a shockmount, pop filter and cable. A Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface (you need this to use an XLR mic) was another couple hundred. And a set of KRK KNS-8400 headphones for a hundred and something. This is a good price range to have professional equipment and still retain your own arms and legs. There are SO MANY places to find info and recommendations about mics and interfaces (and cables, shockmounts, headphones, laptops, stands, boom arms, pop filters… so much stuff…), and there are workable options for different budgets.

Now, this bit is even more important than the equipment: your studio space.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen an expert say “don’t worry so much about your mic, TREAT YOUR SPACE!”, I could…. um… buy my friends a really, really nice dinner. A JMC-style dinner. (If you know, you know.) The point being, experts say that a lot. Because they’re right, because they’re experts. The basic gist of it is: you need to find the quietest spot you can, then get rid of shiny hard surfaces that will reflect sound and cause echoes, replacing them with soft uneven surfaces that will absorb and deaden sound. You can do this by using a wardrobe with clothes and blankets around you, or by creating a little room made of blankets and mattresses, or by buying cool acoustic stuff like panels and wedges made of foam or rockwool. Depends on your budget! (If you’re rolling in it, you could buy a Studiobricks, Whisper Room or even a custom-made booth. Live your best life, darling.)

The software.

You’re going to need the type of ones and zeroes in your computer that know how to record and edit audio. This is called a DAW – Digital Audio Workstation. I use Adobe Audition, because it’s fabulous. I found it hard to learn (but not as hard as the other DAWs I tried!), and I still don’t understand a lot, but I’ve learnt what I need to for voiceover. Some VO’s recommend Reaper, Audacity (which is free!), Pro Tools, and various others. If you are technically un-savvy like me, find some Youtube tutorials to start with, and then invest in some lessons from someone amazing like Jordan Reynolds or Roy Yokelson.

Okay. Probably even MORE more important: Coaching. Training. Lessons. Workshops.

LEARN STUFF. And then PRACTISE it. I started with a weekend course at NIDA in Sydney. It was wonderful. Loved it. Aaaahhhh, in-person acting classes. Nothing like it. Sigh. Excuse me, okay. Then I signed up for a few private lessons with the aforementioned fancy-dinner-eating JMC: J Michael Collins. JMC is expensive and worth it (I mean, look at his website and socials – everything he does is gold-class). There are plenty of more and less affordable options for great coaching out there. A fabulous Aussie coach is Deanna Cooney. And there are subscription programs like Gravy For The Brain. Just, you know, do some coaching.

Next: DEMOS.

Your coach will (should) lead you on this. You don’t necessarily have to get pro demos straight away, and you should probably start auditioning first, but this is the next big thing to think about. As with coaching, good professional demos are worth the financial investment. “Financial investment” sounds much better than “bank account drain”, don’t you think? Start thinking like a business-person, that’s what you are now!

And now for the part you’ve been waiting for

(what the HECK, Sumara, all this preparation?! Yep, trust me, don’t skip any of those previous steps!) :

FINDING WORK.

Yes, this step deserves way more than one bullet-point paragraph but this is a summary, so that’s all it’s getting. By this point you should have realised that you have a shed-load of work to do and the only way through is to DO IT. You got this. Love your work. GO YOU. Good ways to start:

  • Sign up to pay-to-plays such as Voice123, Bodalgo, CastVoices, VOPlanet, etc. These charge a monthly or yearly fee to allow you access to audition listings. Some allow you access to whatever’s available, some rely on personalised invitations, some have tricky algorithms and ranking systems. Do your research before paying a lot of moolah.
  • Create an account on a freelancer site such as Upwork. I have booked a lot of work on Upwork, but it takes a lot of time to find the decent ones. There are a lot of low-paying time-wasters on there. Don’t even bother with the people offering 10 or 30 bucks a pop; scroll on by and keep looking for the well-paid projects. (Look at rate guides at GVAA or GFTB for what you should be charging!)
  • Use social media. LinkedIn has been very lucrative for me, especially for corporate and eLearning voiceover. Other socials have great networking and advertising potential for various genres. Search and use hashtags to find clients and casting calls.
  • Direct marketing using email. This can be terrifying, let’s be honest. But once you’ve sent approximately seventy bajillion marketing emails you’ll be fine, I promise. Search for companies that would use voiceover, search for the people who work for them, find a way to contact them, and then – be friendly, helpful, polite, and let them know how your fabulous service can help their wonderful business. And then don’t get depressed about only a few percent of them being opened. That’s normal. It’s a numbers game, baby!

You may be wondering what being “Australian” has got to do with any of this. Not much. All of these steps are the same no matter where you are. EXCEPT. As an Australian, it’s going to be a bit weird in the online voiceover world. Online voiceover communities – as with most online communities – are very USA-centric or UK-centric, with some noticeable presence from some parts of Europe, Asia and Africa.

Add to this that the Aussie voiceover industry is a little bit behind the rest of the world in terms of remote opportunities – when I was coaching with JMC he reckoned we were about a decade behind. In Australia there is still a big focus on in-studio, agency-organised work. Which is great if you can get it, and if you live in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth, you may be able to! But those of us working exclusively from home, remotely, still aren’t (dare I say it?) quite as welcome in the Australian VO industry as most of our overseas counterparts are in their regions.

It’s definitely changing, and thanks in part to the pandemic I don’t think the gap is quite a decade anymore, but be aware of it. You will notice how much more work, and how much better rates, are available to Americans, especially. Remember the American market is SO MUCH BIGGER, simply because they have about 12 times our population. I once had an American VO argue with me that a rate being offered for an Aussie commercial was nowhere near high enough – not understanding that a national commercial in Australia is reaching maybe 13 million adults, as opposed to 200 million in the USA. In commercial voiceover especially, you can’t expect to be paid the same for a different audience.

Then there’s corporate and eLearning work – and many American and European companies are simply bigger and richer than most Australian ones; often the amount and type of work available will reflect this. And finally, animation and gaming is primarily made and cast in the States – but some remote Aussie voiceovers are getting their feet in those doors already, and it can only open wider in the future. Meanwhile, there are plenty of indie studios making great stuff too.

The good part about this is that you can get yourself a piece of that overseas pie! Do NOT let your location hold you back. Once your studio is set up well, Bob’s your uncle. You can find clients wherever there is internet and a need for voiceover.

Now, darlings, finally, the last “step”:

DO IT. Start where you are, take one step at a time, and keep going. Ask questions and practise lots, but don’t ever NOT do the things you gotta do to move forward. Like everything fabulous, your voiceover career will take time. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen, it’s a marathon not a sprint, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, etc etc, you know the drill. DO THE THING.

Okey doke, dear readers, have I missed anything? Do you have questions? Ideas? Arguments? Comment away to your heart’s desire. I love comments!

* you’re not going to earn millions. you don’t need millions, anyway. you need peace and love. and to pay some bills, I guess.
Author headshot by Kate Williams. Images by  @charlinjanene  @aleeenot, @margarita.s ,  @JJFarquitectos and @kelsie.sweeten  via Twenty20.

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8 comments… add one
  • Jon Gardner Jun 15, 2022 @ 21:49

    A fabulous blog post as usual Sumara! I was helped a great deal by my membership in Gravy For The Brain when starting out. It really is a tremendous value. They do have a GFTB Oceania offshoot, hosted by Toby Ricketts, a really talented and skilled voice actor. About pricing… I know Gravy For The Brain’s rate guide tries to represent pricing for many areas of the world. Do they have Australian pricing? Is it reflective of the actual marketplace?

    • Sumara Meers Jun 16, 2022 @ 6:46

      Thank you Jon! 🙂

      I love Toby – he directed me for my commercial demo way back when. Have you seen his YouTube series about his new studio? It’s exactly my kind of hippy-slash-creative-slash-tech stuff.

      The rate guide for Australia is a bit odd – I find some of the “upper tier” rates a bit unbelievable – eg it says upper tier for eLearning is $1 per word. I personally haven’t heard of anyone charging that much but they must have asked someone who does, I guess? Their middle tier pricings mostly seem accurate to me. It’s also tricky because our union (MEAA) still lists all its pricings in per-studio-hour for everything except commercials. So as far as I can tell, Aussies who aren’t in the union and/or working through an agent, make up their pricing structure based on a mixture of the MEAA rates, international rates and things like the GVAA. The union here is much less of a thing than it is in the States, partly because we don’t need it for things like health insurance and partly because it’s a bit stuck in the past (I think).

  • Joshua Alexander Jun 16, 2022 @ 2:28

    I have missed you, my fabulous friend. And here you are, roaring back with a great blog that helps the new and unfabulous become seasoned and fabulous. You can hear Sumarisms permeating this blog throughout, and it’s great to partake in. Keep up the excellence down under, and I’m sending you a great appreciative wave from up here!

    • Sumara Meers Jun 16, 2022 @ 6:48

      Thanks Josh! Hopefully I can help answer a few little questions for people wondering what this whole caper is all about. 😁 With a couple of Sumarisms along the way! 😎

  • Les Horovitz Jun 17, 2022 @ 19:11

    Really great advice Sumara!! Just to go back a step, people will often say, ”My friends tell me I have a really good voice, so I should be a professional voice over, where do I sign?”
    The simple response to this is, as you well know, is that it has very little to do with how pleasant your voice sounds, but everything to do with HOW you use it – do you have range? Do you sound authentic? conversational? Can you engage your audience? etc etc etc etc .
    There is so much to voice over, and as you pointed out, get professional training and practice. I agree with you recommendation of Deanna Cooney, fabulous coach, mentor, and most importantly, a great person!

    • Sumara Meers Jun 18, 2022 @ 10:26

      Thanks so much for your comment, Les, you are so right to point this out. I personally don’t have a “great voice”. I just know what to do with it for the projects that need it. 🙂

      And yes there is a lot more to VO than can be summarised in a few blog posts!

      I’ve noticed you doing some fabulous work with Deanna! She’s fab and so are you. 🙂

  • Susheel C Jun 18, 2022 @ 19:22

    A useful guide for those starting off… Not just in Australia, but anywhere, really.

    Thanks.

    • Sumara Meers Jun 21, 2022 @ 15:45

      Thanks so much, Susheel! I’m really glad you found it helpful outside of Australia, too. 🙂

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