Whether you’re new to voice acting and recording VO auditions on pay-to-play sites daily, or you’ve been a VO talent for some time now and have plenty of agents, you’ve no doubt come across a very common philosophy about auditioning.
When it comes to voice-over work, many people in the business (especially people who use pay-to-play sites) will tell you the same thing: auditioning is a numbers game. They say: “the more you audition, the more you’ll book work.” However, with my 25 years in the business—and countless auditions—I respectfully disagree.
While it is important to audition as much as you can when you’re starting out, I have yet to meet someone who has used this tactic long-term and done well. If you’ve tried the numbers game without seeing much success, here’s another way to look at the audition process.
I’ve always taken my time to record auditions, but a few years ago, I decided to treat auditions like jobs. When I record a job, I take my sweet time. I make sure I have the right tone, that I’m spacing out the turning points in a script properly, and that I’m making the most of all the little treasures in the script. This is in addition to taking out mouth noises, reducing breaths, and recording multiple takes (on short scripts).
After applying the same kind of energy to auditions as I do to actual bookings, I found that my booking ratio went up. To be fair, a big part of that was due to my continual investment in acting classes, but taking my time changed my whole mind set about auditions—and it’s paid off.
The Right Mindset for a Voice Actor
If you receive a script and think, “I could just read this script out loud and be done,” I’d like you to take a moment to think about how much energy went into creating the script you’re reading.
Note that the voice-over is often the very last element of the production, and it ties everything together. To get to the point where voice actors are auditioning with the script, many (many) people contributed to the production and to the script. In most cases, it went through several rounds of approvals: the copywriter, the director, the clients, the agency, the lawyers, and sometimes many more.
If your voice work will ultimately be part of a video, also consider everything that went into the video’s production. From the images to the music, and everything in between—illustrations, fonts, logos, colors—the list is endless! So, yes, we voice actors come last. But that doesn’t mean our job is any less significant.
As voiceover actors, we must honor all the work that went into the production before we get to add our voice to it. Winging it can book the gig once in a blue moon, but most of the time, it’s good old hard work that gets the job done. Of course, there’s always that one genius who is capable of recording one take and booking the gig. However, people like that are few and far between, and their way of working is not a blueprint for success. Most of us mortals have to work really (really) hard, and that involves taking our time to make sure we’re doing the script justice.
As I’ve mentioned before, our auditions are often used in the production to see how it fits, and whether it fits or not gets us the job. Therefore, it pays to give the audition the attention it deserves. Another plus of giving it your all is that your audition, if done right, can later be used as a demo, as long as the project isn’t confidential.
When you take your time recording voice-over auditions, you’re also learning to self-direct. For instance, I always record multiple takes, and I listen back to them often. Hearing my reads inspires me and shows me what I might have missed. For instance, I might realize that I could have milked one part a little more, or that I could have emphasized or made a play on words here or there. Perhaps the script has a video column with notes, and something fun happens in the video right when I say a certain word. Making that connection in my read would not only be important but also help me stand out.
Sometimes, I even walk away and take a break, then come back later to listen. That often gives me fresh ears, and it’s easier for me to determine which take is the best suited to the production. You might be surprised at what a difference stepping away can make. You’ll find that you hear things completely differently, allowing you to re-record if necessary.
The Lottery Mentality
As you can imagine, a lot of energy goes into my voice-over auditions, making it impossible for me to record more than a few auditions per day. In this way, I play the opposite of a number’s game, yet I make an excellent living.
Over the years, I’ve also become picky about what I audition for. I only audition for gigs I feel I can book, and that are in my niche. Naturally, when you first start voice acting, knowing your niche isn’t always clear. We find our niche with a combination of auditioning a lot (in the beginning) and working with a voiceover coach who can help us determine where we fit in.
Ultimately, many people are going to weigh in on your audition, and each of them has unique insights into the production. Unless you take your time, you’re likely missing many cues and leaving many goodies on the floor, so to speak. If all you’re doing is reading, you’ll sound just like every other voice actor who is reading—and that’s one thing that never stands out. The voice actor’s job is not to read copy. It’s to breathe life into a script. We’re not voice readers, we’re
If you’re willing to put in the work, and if you get acting or improv training as well as voiceover training, the process of recording voice acting auditions will be much more rewarding.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
I often say that the voice acting industry does not need another voice actor. It needs another EXCELLENT voice actor. Improv or acting training, persistence, and the right mindset are all crucial.
Yes, quantity is important at the beginning so that you can learn about the market, refine your editing skills, and find where you fit in. But over time, you’ll find that producing quality auditions pays the bills more than recording many auditions. Slow and steady does indeed win the race!
Want some VO advice you can hang your hat on and act on TODAY? Don’t do it alone, piggy back on my success by joining my “Everyday VO” newsletter here to get exclusive tips from me, so you can do VO the Clever Way, Right Away. My name is Lili Wexu. I’m an actress, a voice talent and an author. To learn how to make $$$ in VO, read my e-books about Voice Acting & Announcing.