Dee Bradley Baker's "All to Know About Going Pro in V.O."

The VO Road Map & Sign Posts

Here’s a bit more detailed road map of what you can do to become a professional voice actor:

  1. Focus first on the process of exploring the fun and enjoyment of acting, not seeking money or fame. Agents and demos are for later.
  2. Determine whether you have the talent and temperament for acting by getting as much live performing experience as possible.
  3. “Going pro” means you must get good enough that people will pay you to do it.
  4. Turn on your mind, your curiosity, your capacity to create in any way you can. 
  5. Find things you love doing and never stop doing them.
  6. Watch old movies & TV. Fill your inner “performer’s database” with the history of show biz. 
  7. Focus on your health: workout, eat clean and get enough sleep.
  8. Read. A lot. Out loud as well as to yourself.
  9. Strengthen your acting ability and improv confidence with live performance experience and classes.
  10. Develop strong voice over skills (maintaining character, diction, reading stamina, range of accents and character, e.g.)
  11. It is an actor’s job is to be always ready to take advantage of opportunity and luck.
  12. Get a flexible side job(s). Save your money for a long haul.
  13. An actor should expect and plan for uncertainty, change and a long climb, no matter your experience or ability.
  14. When ready, move to where higher level creatives congregate to connect with them. Go to where they cast the kind of work you want to do. This is probably best done in stages, after establishing yourself in a smaller market.
  15. Connect with working voice actors and others heading where you want to go. Surround yourself with those who keep the positive and drop the negative.
  16. Honor your relationships. They are your strength and connection to what is real. Real relationships both feed and temper an actor’s ego.
  17. Get a life: Continually find your fuel beyond and apart from acting. 
  18. Imagine a specific future but stay flexible. Write out your goals and revise as needed. Always affirm your goals to yourself and others out loud.
  19. Look inside: How do you limit yourself? What are your inner mantras? Investigate and connect with yourself and your life story. Maybe start a journal.
  20. Embrace mistakes, rejection and dead ends as tools for learning. Always seek an honest take on your work and yourself, even if the truth hurts. Your goals is not to avoid struggle. Your goal is to learn and improve (and have fun).
  21. Celebrate small victories. Reward yourself. Stay positive.
  22. Realize your job at an audition or gig is not to ask for something, it is to give/create something compelling and competitive. Your craft is both your validation and your superpower.
  23. Be ready before you interview agents. Have your marketing materials ready to impress (demo, website, etc.).
  24. Be so good that those who cast have to hire you– and rehire you.
  25. Self-direct your VO auditions only when ready and able. Otherwise, seek guidance and input with your reads.
  26. When ready, join an actors’ union to protect yourself, up your earnings and upgrade the quality of projects and professionalism.
  27. Never stop pushing your abilities past the success you establish.

“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.” James Baldwin

This process may seem daunting to a beginner, but I want you to understand that the long term project of becoming a creative entrepreneur (a paid voice actor) is neither quick or easy. If you find you enjoy performing, the ups and downs of the process can and should be fun (mostly).

Each actor’s path to their art and career is different.

To be a professional actor, acting must be an intersection of what you love and what you are very good at. Talent or aspiration are not enough.

52 Responses »

  1. Is it possible to network with people who do paid voice acting in LA, and arrange a trip to LA to meet them, show them your skills, and in the event that someone notable or who has experience sees that you have what they’re looking for. I would be willing to travel to record if I land any paid jobs, however I would like to remain in NC for the time being.

    • There are voice classes in LA that offer a rotating different casting director or agent teach each week. Some are taught by a single casting director or talent coordinator who may bring in a special guest agent or working pro to help teach. If you impress any of these, it is at least possible for something to happen, but it’s never promised. This plays out over probably five weeks (say, every Tuesday night). That’s a lot of flying back and forth for someone who doesn’t want to live here. That you’re not interesting in committing to living/striving in a larger VO market without first getting hired makes you sound like you’re not particularly serious about this. I wouldn’t recommend anyone fly to the moon to see if maybe they can make it as an astronaut.

      • i am so thankful that after 30 yrs of singing as a signed RnB artist to an independent one, my wife was never ready to move out of Washington State but now that my daughter is following in my footsteps, shes ready, so I will take advantage and move to LA on faith and believe that my transition to VO can be completed in doing so. Looking fwd to networking with the greats.

      • Numerous voice actors (and audio engineers) come from music. Music can be an excellent springboard for other arts, but each is its own unique path. You could also say a voice acting career could lead to a music career. It’s not common but I suppose possible. Best of luck!

  2. …I cant find anywhere to get lessons within an hour from where I live. …I’m not able to move all the way to LA, do you have any suggestions that my help?

  3. can you recommend somewhere [near L.A.] where i can start taking classes?

  4. …if there are any specific events, people or companies you can recommend or steer me towards I’d love to know so I make the very most of my [L.A.] trip!

  5. I’m at the beginning of my journey to [ ] become a VA. […] [I’m financially covered for tuition & board at any university…] My thought process is that I go to school in L.A. for a bachelor’s in TV/Film/Media Studies. [I would] develop my VA assets and demo, as well as […] attend VA classes you’ve mentioned on your site. [Thoughts?]

    • I’m a bit uneasy about moving to L.A. with professional aspirations without previous acting experience or some confirmation that you have sufficient talent or the right personality for being an actor. I’d prefer you to have confirmation that your dreams and inclinations agree with an audience. Fate and opportunity favor those who arrive in LA with the confidence and momentum purchased with experience, though there are always exceptions.

      As I mention, many successful top voice actors aren’t formally trained actors (or locally trained), though some are. If you want to move to LA to “be in the mix,” it’s fine long-term, but in-person voice classes are probably not going to significantly re emerge until after COVID (I hope there’s an after).

      As far as focus of your formal study at a college or university, I’m ambivalent. I’d say it’s more important that you study something you love no matter what, whether its entertainment industry related or not. If (voice) acting doesn’t work out, you’ve still an focused expertise that you like once you graduate.

      I discuss at length various ways to find experience as a performer, which for my money is the best teacher, though I’ve found some useful workshops or acting groups to develop improv chops. Most of my experience I gained in smaller cities before moving to the more competitive L.A.scene. And it was still a few years’ climb for me to get traction in VO.

      Smaller markets probably offer acting and learning opportunity that is more driven by enthusiasm, and are not as clouded by dollar signs or fame, both terrible reasons to pursue anything, in my book. Towns smaller than LA or NY may be a richer (and more forgiving) soil for early talent to germinate and flourish before transplanting to a larger and more challenging market.

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© Dee Bradley Baker 2021

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