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How to Succeed in Voice Overs (and Why We Fail)

Voice overs can sometimes feel like you are hitting your headphones against a brick wall - you keep auditioning, but it's all in vain. No work, just a string of failed auditions. 

Don't worry, there is hope and you are probably doing something wrong that can easily be rectified.

One of the biggest errors you can make is ploughing a fallow field - by that I mean going for genres where the work is sparse or highly competitive and your chances greatly diminished. Or you could be occupying a niche which isn't a true fit for your voice-type. 

A student of mine has the silkiest of silky voices and her first language is German rather than English. Don't get me wrong her English is outstanding, but as you might expect it comes with an accent. Although she has been getting voice over jobs in her mother tongue, the English ones have been thin on the ground. 

She has been trying to perfect the art of delivering lines in RP (received pronunciation) which is standard British - what used to be called BBC English, or sometimes Oxford English (although strictly speaking Oxford has it's own accent distinct from RP). She has worked tirelessly on this endeavour, only to be told by listeners that they can detect a German accent. 

I am not saying she shouldn't apply for English VO jobs, but self realisation, developing our own voice descriptions and acceptance of our limitations is so important in this industry. 

In this case my recommendation was to concentrate on the German voice work, but in addition promote herself as speaking English with a central European credentials as an hors d'oeuvre

Clients would then know what to expect. 

In many cases voice over genres choose us rather than the other way around and we should not pigeonhole our voices too early on in our careers. Another student of mine has recorded over half a dozen audiobooks since her initial training and is currently narrating a biography about celebrated film and TV actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Authors love her measured delivery and hushed tones. 

However, try as she might, she just can't seem to secure work in other areas. She has auditioned for commercials, online videos and corporates  - all to no avail. My advice to was to stick to the audiobooks and build on her expertise. She could easily become the go-to voice for all sorts of long form narration. 

One of the other main issues when it comes to achieving success is what I call the 'voice over delusion'. This is where talents think they are suited for something just because they love that particular genre. 

Prime examples are videogames and animation. 

Make no mistake, these are fiendishly difficult areas to break into, not least because of the intense competition and formidable voice acting skills required. 

Yet I have some students who steadfastly refuse to accept that being an anime voice over star or becoming a character in Call of Duty is out of reach for most of us. They delude themselves into thinking that because they love these brands, they have some unique route in to fame and fortune. 

Never forget that character acting is about much more than just putting on silly voices, you have to have an amazing range of tones, styles, accents and exemplary acting skills.

My most successful graduates are those who know that the vast majority of voice over work is in more prosaic areas such as narration, explainer videos, industrials and online training. If you don't accept this, then you are living in a dreamworld. 

Of course it is possible to secure video game and cartoon work, but this will tend to be from indie developers or low/no paying fan dubs. I do have a small number of graduates who have gone on to character acting work, but I am sure even these would admit that most of their money is earned in the meat 'n potatoes world of narrative voice overs, using their own natural voices.


  • Stick to what you do best
  • Get some feedback on what your voice sounds like
  • Don't be delusional
  • Appreciate your good voice qualities

What tips do you have for voice over success and what are the best ways to avoid failure? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.


Gary Terzza coaches beginners in voice overs via Skype and one-to-one in the recording studio.


Voice Over Training Live from the Studio

Yesterday whilst running my voice over training course, I had a play with Facebook's live broadcast facility. 

I set up the iPad and basically just pressed 'go live'. That was it - no fancy camera angles or polished post production editing, it was literally a warts and all, fly on the wall view of what goes on in the studio. 

Because it was a live transmission, there were no sneaky retakes - what you see is what you get, so please excuse the fact it is a bit rough around the edges.  Expect dodgy camera angles and shaky shots.

Initial feedback has by and large been positive and I feel it gives a really good insight into what to expect at a one-to-one VO session. 

The student is Brett Hood who was more than happy to have his session broadcast to the world. In fact he was a really good sport, given that this was his first time in a voice over studio; take a listen to his fully edited recordings and I am sure you will agree he sounds fantastic. 

Also many thanks to sound engineer Sophie who, along with Brett, was doing all the hard work and makes the occasional guest appearance on screen. 

I hope you enjoy watching and get a sense of what voice over recording is all about. 

Oh and a word of warning: it is 'real time' so this is a one hour snapshot of a three hour session. You will need plenty of stamina to get through the whole lot. 

Gary Terzza

Beginners' Voice Over Problems Solved

In this week's blog, I am going to answer some of the voice over questions you have been asking recently. Hopefully you will find the responses useful.

Here goes:

I haven't applied for any jobs yet but I've seen a couple on Voices Pro that I'll go for. Any suggestions?

In addition to VoicesPro, consider other 'pay to play sites' such as Voice123, The VoiceRealm, Bodalgo and If you haven't got the budget for P2P premium membership, then consider the freelancer sites like and Many of my students have achieved success with these, without having to fork out an initial fee. 

Also consider the often maligned, but always good fun Fiverr for a chance to earn as you learn. 

I've just got my first voice over job, but no idea how to ask for payment. What do I do next? 

It is SO important to run your voice over career (even if just part time) like a business - that is the only way you are going to look professional to your client. First, make sure the project has been signed off so you can issue an invoice which should contain all the relevant details such as job name, addresses (yours and theirs), purchase order number and fee charged. Terms of payment need to be included too eg 30 days. Make it clear and easy for your client to pay. 

I'm struggling with the question whether-or-not to wear headphones whilst recording in my home studio.  I'm very comfortable not-wearing.  My doubts are that maybe I'm not giving the best performance by not wearing and so perhaps am losing-out with my auditions. I'd love to get your view(s) on this one.

The headphone-wearing-issue sharply divides opinion in the voice over community. I even held my own referendum on the subject. Were you 'on' or 'off''? See the shock result here (there's still time to vote) . At the end of the day it is personal preference, so you need to get this right otherwise it may adversely affect your performance and hence your auditions. If in doubt split the difference with one ear on and the other off. 

My last voice-over job was a back breaking slog, mainly due to the sheer volume of material and their need for delivery (before revisions) by Monday. I had to discount the original rate I quoted of £200 for one hour to £150.... this just feels inadequate.

I feel your pain. I would be honest with your client and say the project took much longer than anticipated and you feel that if they want such a tight turnaround time you will have to apply a premium price. Therefore £200 is the lowest you can go for future jobs.

If they say no, don't feel bad about walking away. The client wants a high quality voiceover speedily delivered and as such they will need to pay for it.... or choose somebody else. 

My client has finally confirmed the go-ahead for me to record their scripts.  Audio Spec is as follows:
Audio bit rate: 128kbps
Audio sample size: 32bit
Channel: mono
Audio sample rate: 44100khz
Format: mp3
I understand the last three - what are the first two?

Oh those naughty clients trying to blind us with science, but these requirements are pretty standard. The most important thing is file type: MP3 or Wav? The latter is top notch lossless quality and the former is more compromised, being a 'lossy' format. The advantage is that MP3 is a tenth of the size of Wav and can be transported easily over email. However the trade off is in the audio reproduction. The fact your client is asking for MP3 suggests, surprisingly, that sound quality is not a priority. 

Just thought I'd warn you that one of your blogs is bringing up a few trolls. 

I think I know the one you mean: How To Make £1k (or $1k) in Voice Overs.... it caused quite a stir. A few of the old guard assumed I meant that was all you could earn. But my article was not aimed at them, but at newcomers to the industry; I wanted to show how complete beginners can start out with an achievable goal. Those baby steps can result in bigger strides (and earnings) further down the road. 

Have just been practising a few passages from different audio books and would like some advice please. Is it essential to have different voices for the characters in the story or can it just be one accent all the way through various dialogue passages?

I recommend working very closely with the author. Some books may require characterisations/accents, but many do not. Instead you intimate that there is a different person speaking. I would choose books where the author gives you plenty of leeway so you don't have to do characterisations if you feel that is not within your vocal range. 

Not all audiobooks are fiction of course, there are plenty of factual/science/history ones around too requiring just your normal, storytelling voice.

Post Script - I can happily report that my student looking for the pay rise to £200 got her request accepted. 

Complete beginner in voice overs? Learn with Gary Terzza at VOmasterclass

7 Ways to Tell If You Are Ready for Voice Overs

You've been toying with the idea of getting into voice overs for some time. Friends have mentioned your appealing voice, you enjoy talking and perhaps even putting on silly voices. 

Are you now ready to explore making money out of your vocal cords?

Here are seven ways to tell:

1. Listening

Have you noticed you have been more attentive to the voice overs on commercials? Does the gentle modulation of David Attenborough's engaging delivery on wildlife programmes intrigue you?

Maybe you are captivated by audiobook narrators and wonder how you could get into that kind of work or wondering what the steps are for being a voice on radio, TV, videogames and even the post office queue (cashier number 3 please). 

All this points to an interest in voice acting.

2. Training

You are considering taking a workshop or hiring the services of a voiceover coach. Here are couple of things you should be aware of:

  • Does the course/trainer have verifiable testimonials? If in doubt, ask to speak to a couple of attendees and find out about the success stories that have gone on to bigger and better things.
  • Make sure your tutor has real world experience of doing voice overs. Listen to some of their work and judge the standard for yourself - a great voicereel is a sign they know what they are on about.

3. Searching

You may have noticed you are viewing voice over videos on YouTube, particularly those that offer advice and helpful tips. Keep on doing it, you will be amazed at what you can learn. 

You are probably also doing lots of Google searches with the word 'voice over' in the query; again there are some great resources out there and the more you read and explore, the more informed you will become.

4. Dreaming About the Money

Ah the filthy lucre, but let's be honest it is one of the motivations for doing voice over work in the first place. However as I always say: have fun first and earn money second. It is fine to find out how much voice actors actually earn for various types of work, but bear in mind you have to enjoy doing voice overs in the first place. 

Still, everyone wants to see a return on their investment and you shouldn't be afraid of admitting this. 

5. You Love a Challenge

There is no getting away from the fact that voice acting requires talent. You need to be able to bring words to life and make a dull script sound full of life. Bringing sparkle and individuality to your delivery is a hallmark of a good voice over performance and you may be asked to sound conversational one minute, or formal and mannered the next.

So taking direction from your client or producer is essential.

If you enjoy learning new skills, then this could be the venture for you.

6. Technology - Friend or Foe?

One of those skills you need is the ability to record your voice over jobs. Scary eh? Or perhaps you see it as a fear to be conquered; you will certainly need to be able to produce a decent sound from your computer, but the great news is this will be very empowering, allowing you to work from home.

If the question of microphones has crossed your mind - you are thinking along the right lines. 

7. Suitability

We come to the biggest question of all; the one that will probably have crossed your mind more than any other: is my voice suitable for doing voice overs? The answer is not so much about whether you have the 'right' or 'wrong' voice because this is a subjective judgement, but what your attitude is like. 

If you are constantly making excuses for not giving voice overs a go, then you have probably answered your own question. 

Gary Terzza coaches beginners in voice overs at VOmasterclass based in London, England and via Skype.

Conversational Voice Overs: a Useful Guide

It is what many clients want these days, but how do you achieve that conversational style of read? 

In this video I take you through a few steps that will help you achieve a more informal, relaxed style when performing voice overs.

Here is the video transcript:

Gary Terzza:

In the last few years in voiceovers, there's been a move towards a more conversational, chatty, informal style, which is fine, but how do you achieve it?

Hello. Welcome along to my VO Master Class. It's the Holy Grail of a voiceover read. It is the conversational delivery. How do you achieve it? It's one of those elusive things that does escape some people, but other people seem to be able to do it, just like that. I want you today to listen to one of my students. It's Mark Thomas, and here he is doing a voiceover for Mathletics in association with UNICEF.

Mark Thomas:

Zimbabwe is home to over 30 million people. More than 72% of the population here live below the poverty line. At Mathletics, we believe no young person should go without an education. That's why we're proud to work in partners with UNICEF since 2014.

Gary Terzza:

It's a really natural, lovely read. Isn't it? It just seems to flow. It's as if Mark's chatting to us in a coffee bar somewhere, and he's just telling us all about Mathletics and about UNICEF, and I think that's very important. He's inhabiting the words, but he's also not hitting certain words too hard. Let's take a look at these words here. This is a corporate script, and I'm going to read it in a voiceovery way. These days, it's imperative to put your best digital foot forward by maintaining a positive online image. If you haven't thought about it before, perhaps it's time to take a hard, honest look at how you're managing your online reputation.

In my opinion, that's far too overdone really, and I think I can make it a bit more natural, a bit more informal, a bit more conversational. These days, it's imperative to put your best digital foot forward by maintaining a positive online image. If you haven't thought about it before, perhaps it's time to take a hard, honest look at how you're managing your online reputation. I think that's a much better way of doing it. It's more natural. It's lighter. I'm not trying to be Voiceover Man, which in fact, in the early days, I always used to be, and it never worked, and you end up sounding a bit like a radio DJ really.

It's getting to know the words and it's getting to know your voice, as well, and learning to relax into that voice and being comfortable with it, as well. Anyway, thanks very much for watching today. Look after your voice, and I'll see you next time.