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The Obstacles Holding Back Your Voice Over Career

I have had a clutch of troubling emails in the last few weeks. Although their content differs, they all have a common underlying issue which many voice over beginners will recognise.

It is the perennial problem of confidence.

In the last ten years I have spotted a trend common to some VO newbies  - they put obstacles in the way of their progress to help disguise their apprehension.

Of course we all face difficulties of one sort or another and there are certainly plenty in the world of voice overs: competition, cost of recording equipment and marketing expenses to name but three. However, these are all surmountable.

You can learn to compete effectively,  microphones can be bought cheaply second hand and there are plenty of ways to promote your voice that won't cost a penny. What I am referring to is something potentially more damaging: self-imposed obstacles.

But are these just cunningly disguised excuses? Let's take a look.

The Health Obstacle 

This is one of the most common stumbling blocks to progress and I often come across people who complain of health issues, especially with their voices.

Let me be clear on this - I am not suggesting serious health concerns should be ignored. Certainly if you feel you have a specific problem with your voice, you must talk to your doctor straight away - your vocal cords are precious and need to be cared for. The British Voice Association has produced this handy NHS voice clinic database which is well worth keeping safe.

I am referring to those vague vocal symptoms that reduce confidence in front of the microphone and prevent us from delivering a great performance. One email I received recently spoke of a 'fuzzy quality' to the voice and a feeling that it was not 'quite right'. He added that a medical specialist had not found anything untoward in the larynx, but the complainant still felt he had 'little control' over his voice.

So what is going on?

My feeling is that this is a classic case of the fledgling voice actor putting something in the way to act as a pretext for not forging ahead with their career. When a friend asks "how are you getting on with your voice overs?"  a convenient answer is always to hand "unfortunately my voice has not been behaving itself, so I can't apply for work at the moment".  Perfect, no need to explain anything further - it sure beats saying "I have lost my confidence and don't know what to do."

On the occasions where I have listened to someone's 'problematic' voice I have invariably found nothing wrong at all.... not the faintest trace of wobble or fuzziness. The confidence gremlin strikes again.

The Reluctance Barrier

When a voice over job came up needing a specific type of female voice, I had the perfect person in mind and promptly alerted her. "Thanks for letting me know" she said "but the job requires me to direct message the client on Facebook and I don't have an account. I don't really like the whole social media thing."

When I suggested she signed up, if only to access this particular work, she declined. The barrier had been well and truly raised. But there was a surprising addendum:

"Do please tip me off about future work Gary."

I did not know how to respond; presumably if leads came via Linkedin, Twitter or any other SM source, she would be refusing to pursue them any further.  I replied with an inadequate "yes I will."

Was this just a case of somebody with an aversion to Facebook not seizing a golden opportunity, or was fear the real culprit? I suspect the latter.

The Technical Hurdle

Earlier I touched on the home recording aspect of voice overs. These days you need to be able to produce good quality audio to succeed and understandably this can be daunting for beginners. One of the emails in my inbox spoke of an unspecified technical issue.

"When I listen the sound doesn't come across correctly. My voice seems too clean and disembodied. I know it's not the performance, it's just that I am never satisfied with the quality."

There was the clincher, "I am never satisfied with the quality" implies that even if the issues of cleanliness and disembodiment (whatever they are) were sorted, this voice actor would still feel something was missing. 

And here is another clue: "I know it's not the performance" is an interesting observation; many of us would say we are never satisfied with our delivery. Knobs, dials and faders can be tweaked to give the desired effect, but performance is more nuanced and human. To be content with this, but never the techie quality is an unusual twist. 

The writer went on to say that because of these concerns, no auditions had been submitted of late. Reading between the lines, I suspect poor audio was not the underlying problem here as this could easily be improved with a few adjustments. I reckon the real issue was performance - upgrade the sound quality and it throws the spotlight directly on your voice over delivery.

Now that is a scary thought.

The Deferment Apology

I often chase up my students who have gone AWOL ie they have not updated me with their progress in a while. Here are some typical responses as to why they have not pursued voice overs yet:

  • I've had a baby
  • I got married
  • I got divorced
  • I have a new job
  • I lost my job
  • I've become an aunty (yes this was a genuine reason!)
  • We moved house
  • We've had a death in the family
Of course life can and does get in the way of a new venture. Starting something challenging can easily be derailed by transformative events, but here is the interesting thing

Many people come to voice overs in the first place precisely because their life has changed in some way. 
In other words, the life-changing circumstances listed above act as a catalyst and inspire individuals to embark on a voice over adventure. Turning these on their head so they become a reason to postpone progress is sadly all too common.

Final Thought

I am going to leave this to one of my students who, when asked for an update on his development, replied "to be honest I have lost my confidence and haven't done a thing." An honest response indeed.

Have you unconsciously put obstacles in the way of your voice overs? Please let me know in the comments below.

Gary Terzza is a voice over trainer VoMasterClass.com

No Experience? You Can STILL Get Voice Over Work

How can you break into the voice over business if you haven't any experience? It is the perennial chicken/egg dilemma and in this video I offer some simple solutions.

Here is the transcript:

How can you possibly get voice over work when you have no experience whatsoever? I'm about to show you in a few simple steps. I'm assuming for this that you've already made a show reel, you've had some training and you're ready to get started.

The first thing is to do is look as professional as possible. 

One of the ways to do this is to have a really good e-mail address. Don't put it this way round: StylishBritishFemaleVoice@gmail.com, but rather use a specific domain that looks way better.I t is well worth buying one. You could have helen@StylishBritishFemaleVoice.com. 

The other thing is to make your own web page. You can make a website relatively cheaply these days, you don't have to hire a professional and spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds. You can do that very professionally yourself from home. There are various sites you can do it on for a few pounds. Well worth doing that.

Who said you have no experience anyway? 

What about all the stuff you've done, maybe business presentations at work, you can highlight those. You had to use your voice for those. What about voice mails? I'm sure you do your own voicemail, perhaps you do other people's  as well. 

What about reading children's stories? I'm sure you've had to read to your children, your grandchildren or nephews and nieces and so on. There's lots of experience that you've got that you need to highlight. 

Offer your services for free just to get a testimonial back. 

You could approach a couple of clients or they could approach you and say "Look, I'm going to do this for free for you, but in exchange could you write me a rather nice reference and I could put that up on my website?" That's a great way to build up that experience and get that portfolio under your belt.

Be positive and confident about what you do. When you meet people and they say "Oh, what do you do for a living?", say "I am a voice over artist" or a voice actor. Don't say "Oh, I'm looking to get into voice overs." That's a really negative thing and sends out the wrong message. Be assured and confident in what you do and what you are.


Use social media, use the local papers and try and get local companies in. Also, try out those pay to play sites and those freelancer sites. I know they come in for a lot of stick but they really are worth investigating. Above all, be a business. There really are lots of steps you can take starting out in voice overs when you don't have any experience whatsoever. 

After all, you've got to start somewhere. 

Thanks very much for watching this video today and take care of your voice. See you next time.

Gary Terzza VoMasterClass.com

Is Your Voice Only Worth A Fiver? You May Be On To A Winner

Hypocrite, turncoat, traitor! These unwelcome epithets could be hurtling my way anytime soon. You see, I have changed my mind about the much maligned freelancer platform Fiverr.

For the uninitiated Fiverr.com allows customers to book creative professionals for just five dollars. Want a new company logo? No problem, that will be a fiver please. Need someone to present a video promoting your business? That will be five dollars madam.

Great for customers, terrible news for those who earn a crust in the creative industries... and that includes voice actors.

In fact voice overs are a big part of Fiverr's portfolio and for some time now I have dissuaded my voice over students from using the site. "Your voice is worth so much more than a fiver" I would tell them.

In fact you don't even earn five dollars, because twenty percent commission is deducted from your earnings. That means you end up with a miserly four dollars which here in the UK converts to £2.63, just enough to buy a grande latte. Hardly worth the effort of talking into the microphone.

The Worm Turns

So why have I had a change of heart? Before I begin to justify my volte face, I want to tell you a very contemporary story. 

After a long day coaching in the studio, I didn't relish the walk to the tube station on what was a filthy wet London night. I mentioned to my colleague Anthony I might book a cab. "You'll be waiting for ages" he said "and they will charge a small fortune. Why not use Uber?"


I had read about the global furore this controversial start up was creating, but I wasn't sure how it worked in practical terms. "It's simple" he said enthusiastically.

"You just download the app to your phone, book your cab and a GPS signal tells the driver exactly where you are. You know where the taxi is too and how long it will be before it arrives. All the drivers are vetted and you don't need any cash because your credit card has been pre-registered. It's brilliant."

I reminded Anthony of the protests by concerned cabbies around the world who feared for their livelihoods. "Ah yes" he replied with his entrepreneur's hat on "that proves it is a successful business model."

Uber is what marketers term 'disruptive' - it breaks the mould of the old way of doing things, benefiting consumers, but causing consternation and anger among traditional service providers.

This is Fiverr's modus operandi too.

The voice over world is being rudely awakened by a provocative upstart challenging the established order. Its business model allows new voice talents to enter the market bypassing the experienced, more expensive pros and pushing down rates.

So why on earth would I recommend such a cheapskate company to already beleaguered voice talents? The answer lies in my own experience - not as a seller, but a consumer.

How much?

I had been looking for a video to promote my VO training programme for a while. A few enquiries had yielded a price range from hundreds of pounds to over a thousand and with some options there was even a waiting list. I stumbled on Fiverr - surely a professional promo could not be produced so cheaply and so fast? 

There before my very eyes were $5 offerings from animators, film makers and digital producers. It must be too good to be true, I thought.

I was right, it was.

The 'basic' package (ie the five dollar versions) usually meant template-style productions; in other words predetermined stock images over which the client had very little control. If you wanted visuals that were relevant to your business, the price started to creep up. Require a quick turnaround? That was an additional fee, not to mention supplementary charges for music, script and miscellaneous extras. 

On completion of the project I was even prompted to give a tip, which I felt duty bound to do. 

I did book a gig (as they like to call jobs), but I ended up spending in excess of a hundred dollars. Still good value, but light years away from the bargain basement price of the Fiverr USP. It was a pretty good experience, but the work took longer than anticipated and a couple of my instructions were repeatedly ignored.

In fact I got the impression I was one of many clients the service provider was working with at any one time and he had difficulty keeping up with demand. Not so good for clients, but great for him.

That said, all in all I felt happy with the end result. 

The penny drops

It was at that point I realised that if video producers can earn decent sums of money on this platform, what about voice actors? I investigated further and looked into some of the offerings on the site.

The same 'add ons' seemed to apply to the voice over artists on there.  The following price list is fairly representative of sellers' charges and you may want to consider developing something along these lines for your own voice over services:

Up to 100 words basic gig quality (Mp3)  = $5
          Proof read your script (checking grammar etc) = $10

          High quality (i.e. Wav) =  $10

          Commercial license use = $20 (this applies if the client is using the gig for business purposes)           

          Fast 24 hour turnaround = $20

          Revisions (up to 3 revisions of your project) = $30

          Provide more than one accent = $20 (per accent)

          Add royalty-free music = $40


There are lots of permutations and apart from the basic gig which has to be five dollars, you can charge what you like, so let us see how much you might earn with a typical corporate script.  For this example I will assume the project is a couple of pages (about eight hundred words, or less than five minutes of completed audio) and the client is running some sort of business.

How the figures stack up

This is a bit number heavy so please bear with me.

For our fictional job your basic charge will be $40 (800 words at $5 per 100 words).  The client requires a high quality Wav file at an additional $10, plus because we have ascertained the company is a profit making one, a commercial license needs to be purchased at $20. Also this particular client is in a hurry, consequently the Fast Turnaround $20 option will be applied at the checkout.

As the buyer's first language isn't English, the customer requests you proof read the scripts and make relevant adjustments - this attracts another $10 as per your quote. The buyer also wants the reassurance you will do revisions if requested, so  $30 is now added to the basket. 

At the point of sale we have a grand total of $130 or £85. If the client is happy with your work, you may also receive a tip of ten percent or more. Not bad for reading two sides of A4 and certainly comparable to some of the jobs you see on the pay to play sites. 

All That Glitters

Before this starts sounding like a commercial for Fiverr, I want to address the caveats. Bear in mind twenty percent of your fee is deducted in commission, so the real figure will be lower at $104 (£68), plus doing three rereads as offered in your thirty dollar add-on may be spread over several days, requiring more work than anticipated. 

When it comes to creating a profile, Fiverr do not seem to allow audio-only mp3 demos (unlike Voice123 or Voices.com) so you will need to create a video of your samples for your page; you don't necessarily have to appear on camera, but this does require some thought and skill.

If the project is short and for a non-profit organisation or individual that does not care too much about quality, you may end up earning just the five dollar basic fee. Consider the competition too - there is plenty of it and you will need to promote your presence to stand a chance of being spotted. 

If you are an established voice over artist or have some experience under your belt it may not be worth your while or reputation to sign up, but if you are just starting out this could be a gainful venture to consider.

Final thought

For those ranting and raving about lowball rates, I say we need to ask ourselves what kind of voice over business we would like: protectionist, where unions secure high rates for the elite few and restrict client choice, or a market driven, meritocratic business based on talent and diversity?

I suspect that, given the advance of the digital economy, we will have very little choice.

By the way, I have yet to book an Uber taxi in London and still prefer to hail a black cab... dependable, reassuring, expensive.

What do you think about Fiverr?  Please let me know in the Comments below.

Gary Terzza teaches voice overs in London England.

Why Good is Never Good Enough in Voiceovers

How good are you at voice overs? Can you get away with being 'ok', 'not bad at all' or 'above average'? I want to explain why I believe not aiming higher is hurting your chances of success. 

I love trawling through the various voice over groups on platforms such as Linkedin and Facebook - they are full of useful titbits, helpful advice.... and bile. You may be aware of the recent harsh criticism meted out to the pay to play site Voices.com

Contributors piled in to spit venom at the company's apparent lack of regard for its subscribers. People relayed tales of hundreds of auditions and little work to show for all their hard graft.

One malcontent said he had recorded over a thousand demos for potential clients, with an ROI that equated to less than minimum wage. A thousand? That is more auditions than hot dinners. 

The mob were angry - they had paid their money and deserved to see a return on their investment.


These complainers think they deserve to be rewarded with voice over work simply because they paid a fee? Where does talent fit in to this? Is there no room for skill?

As the posts and comments took on a life of their own, I decided to wade in myself and brought one interchange to a juddering halt. I'm not showing off by this remark you understand; I did not say anything earth shattering or offer a jaw dropping insight, I just asked a simple question.

When one voice actor complained about always being turned down for jobs despite having a great mic and his own VO booth, I jumped in and said:

"But what is your performance like?"

Suddenly there was no response. What had happened to the tales of woe? Why did he not respond with "I've recorded some cracking auditions, so that can't be the issue"? No one else piled in to back me up or knock me down either. You could see the tumbleweed blowing down the thread.

Performance really is the elephant in the room.

I moved on to a different group and there I quickly found another contretemps on the same subject: masses of auditions and no jobs. Suddenly I spotted an enlightening post from a guy who named an actual project he had been rejected for (along with scores of others).

He said he would have been ideal for the job in question as his voice matched the description the client was looking for and he had worked hard at perfecting the demo.

Then, underneath, someone else surprised all of us as he wrote that HE had been the talent who had been awarded this very gig.

He even included a link to the completed work which was available on YouTube.

Wow - it was a terrific delivery.

Engaging, stylish and conversational it certainly hit the spot.

Everyone in the post agreed and especially the voice actor who had posted the original comment and failed to secure the assignment. In fact he conceded that the successful candidate had provided a far superior delivery and deserved to be hired.

This example confirmed my theory that a lot of the voice over artists who moan about not securing work are missing the point. They are not getting booked because their auditions and demos are simply not good enough.

Upsetting isn't it?

Meanwhile back with the conversations on Linkedin, someone had posted 'isn't there a middle way?'. I interpreted that to mean 'can you get away with being mediocre?'. To me this epitomises some talents' attitude to their delivery skills.

They spend good money on their mic and marketing, read all the right books, but they ignore what they are there to do: provide a compelling voice over. If you aren't aiming for this, you are in the wrong business.

Go for gold

No one wants to be told their performance is below par, but always bear in mind that somebody is being awarded the work.... it's just not you. So what can you do to raise your game?

First, be honest with yourself - how good are your voice overs? What was your last audition like? Was it the best you could do? From my own experience as a coach, some hopefuls practice far too infrequently and when they do, they don't think carefully enough about the script.

When you are presented with a script, do the following:

  • Proof read the piece a couple of times. 
  • Imagine what the words should sound like. Can you hear the voice in your head? What tone and pace are present? Does the voice sound convincing?
  • Now have an initial read through and try and match that internal voice
  • Get under the skin of the script
  • Record and playback - what are your first impressions? You know it could and should sound better
  • Now record again
  • .... and again
  • Keep going until you have performed the best read possible

Remember you need to create a captivating performance, even if the script itself is quite mundane. You cannot expect to be hired unless you are exceptional at what you do. Put simply, you need to be better than the best.

You should also audition within your comfort zone; if the job spec requires the voice of a Medieval Knight, but your talents limit you to a Call Of Duty commando, leave well alone. 

Stick to what you know and do it well.


How do you make your performance better? Please let me know your thoughts.

Gary Terzza teaches the art of voice over at VoMasterClass 


Does Changing Your Name Help or Harm your Voice Overs?

Actors have stage names, authors have pen names and pop stars have alter egos, but what about voice over artists? Under what circumstances should you ever go under a different moniker? 

I was talking to someone this week who thought her name was a bit dull and wanted to change it. In truth, I thought it was rather distinctive and advised her to stick with what she had.  However there may be occasions when a 'VO name' might be something to consider.

You may be toying with the idea of a voice acting persona that differs from your given name, but is this a positive step or could it backfire?

Why Change?

When I worked in radio, several of the presenters went under pseudonyms. I secretly thought this was for vanity reasons, but in reality there was often a practical rationale behind the decision. For starters it was often the station that insisted on the alias and with good reason. Most of the jingles were sung and not all names scan well when sung. 

Among the surnames were a Mould and a Robottom (imagine those being sung on a jingle), neither of which fitted the showbiz image the station was trying to project. Then there was the issue of duplicates.... a clutch of Garys meant some had to adjust to new personas becoming Paul or David (I missed the cull and was allowed to keep mine) whilst others found too many syllables were just not acceptable and consequently found themselves with an a.k.a. whether they wanted one or not.

Apart from a request asking you to change, under what other circumstances might you want to adopt a nom de guerre?


People enter the voice over industry for all sorts of reasons: a desire to do something creative, boredom with their current job, or the chance to start over again by doing pursuing a radically different path following a life-changing event such as divorce, illness or the death of someone close to them.

Not everyone wants to be known by their given name and this could be because their employer might disapprove of their extra curricula activities, or simply because they may be embarrassed if colleagues or friends find out.

This is understandable.

You may fear failure and don't want to fall flat on your face in front of acquaintances and family who may not be sympathetic. I have old university friends who still ask me after 30 years, when am I going to get a 'proper' job!

In these instances, the adoption of a nom de plume may not be such a bad thing. 

Of course you may be a lawyer, doctor, police office or have a business unconnected with voice overs but which is strongly associated with your name and this would certainly be a legitimate reason for having an anonym.

What name should you adopt?

Have you ever played that game where to find your pen name, you put together your middle name and the street in which you grew up? There are many variations on this procedure (including a rude one, which is definitely not recommended for your professional branding) and going through this process is a good way to get 

I would throw lots of ideas around and remember this gives you the chance to begin afresh, enabling you to have the name you always wanted - so let your imagination roam freely.

Once you have a shortlist, the next task is to rule out duplication.

First, do some research. Look online and see if the name you fancy is already taken. A great place to start is the marketplace Voice123 as thousands of voice talents from around the world are registered here. For example if, for some inexplicable reason, you want to be called Gary Terzza enter voice123.com/garyterzza and you will see there already exists a profile in that name.

If your second choice is the far more memorable Barnaby Shuttleneck, type in voice123.com/barnabyshuttleneck and the site will throw up an error message, which in this case is good news because the name is not taken... at least not by a voice over artist.

In the UK it is also worth doing a secondary check on Spotlight, the actors' directory.

It is also a good idea to Google your preferred sobriquet to rule out a name that might be associated with criminal or other undesirable activities - you never know, Barnaby Shuttleneck may have been a notorious bank robber. Once you have your name sorted it is time to start getting used to using it.

Can Changing Your Name Make Your Voice Overs Better?

Let's be honest, an alternative handle is not going to turn you into the finest voice actor that ever walked into a studio. How you perform has nothing to do with what you call yourself, but in some ways a different name can mean a new beginning and this might just give you added confidence.

Gone is the old you and along comes this pristine voice ready to conquer the VO world, but be careful because at the end of the day the way you sound is still essentially the same - only the wrapper has changed.

The Perils of Becoming Somebody Else 

There is a tendency for beginners in voice overs to hide behind a vocal persona, putting on a voice that isn't really them. This is often because they are unsure of the sound of their own voices when reading somebody else's words, but don't worry this gets better the more you practice. However it is an issue you should be aware of especially when adopting a new nomenclature.

Your individuality (ie the real you with your natural accent, tone and style) should shine through whatever name you use.

Before changing to a professional name for your voice over business, make sure you 

  Do not create a false voice to go with the alias.

☛  Keep email addresses, website URLs and invoices consistent with your adopted name, not your old one
☛  Inform your agent (if you have one) of the change.

☛  Let your trusted inner circle of friends know what you are doing (they could get a shock otherwise). 

☛  Print business cards in the correct name. 

  Have a separate business phone number/mobile that you answer with your voice over stage-name. 

Consistency really is important because this will reflect your authenticity, give you credibility and make you sound professional. Imagine answering the phone to a prospective client using your real name by mistake and then bumbling your words whilst you desperately try and remember your new name - now that would be a ux pas.

Have you changed your name for voice overs? Please let me know in the comments below. 

Gary Terzza (yes that is his real name) is a voice over coach based in England.