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Coming to Voiceover from Acting: You don't know what you don't know!

Unlike in the long gone past, You cannot just walk into Voiceover from Acting today!

Voiceover used to be seen as the poorer cousin to acting back in the day. That is, the main and prestige gig was the film or theatre play, or 'slumming it' in TV. Essentially voiceover would supplement an actor’s living. It was rarely seen as a sole and legitimate profession of it’s own. If you look at the commercial reads a few decades ago, it sounds like actors waltzed from the theatre straight into the voiceover booth and with flourish and panache delivered the copy from the heavens, commanding us all to buy this product or service.

So you could get away with thinking that voiceover didn’t need specific training. I have my reel from drama school and away I go to conquer voiceover land while I wait for my theatre or film break.

That is no longer the case today.

Competition in voiceover is fierce. Especially at the top and with those working in the commercial world. Imagine this, if you still think that you can get into voiceover on the side with no voiceover specific vocal coaching: there are voiceover artists who live, eat and breathe voiceover every day of every week of every month, year in and year out. They are constantly practicing, constantly developing with coaches, continually refining their craft (the delivery of words on a page into a microphone) to the point where they have become the YoYo Ma of voiceover in their genre.

Here is Yo Yo Ma at age 7 playing for President John F Kennedy

And here he is 4 decades later

What has been happening in that interim period for Yo Yo? Lots of coaching, lot’s practice and lot’s of performing. So much reference experience to draw upon that when he plays for an audience he no longer uses sheet music, it is all in his body. He has molded and developed his skills over the long term, and continues to do so. Just like the highest paid professional athletes are continuing to mold and develop with coaches.

Over the long term the only way to get there is practice. When you work with a coach you are practicing. When you do your daily warm up you are practicing. When you do a job you are practicing. The name of the game is practice, practice, practice. Without it, you can’t rest on your reference experience to break through current limits and grow. And you also can’t wow your clients vocally, which is the most important part of the business.

This video deals with reference experience:

Imagine two scenarios. A new voiceover with little reference experience booking a national commercial campaign and getting into the Soho / LA studio to be confronted with 3 clients, 2 producers, 1 studio lead, 1 director and 1 engineer. 8 people on the other side of the booth as they head in to voice the project. Or in Covid-19 times being required to hook them up to your studio via source connect with those 8 others listening in on the other line. What happens if the first take is not in the right territory? How would that voiceover redirect and get what the clients and team are after?

Now imagine that same scenario with a voiceover that has reference experience in front of directors, coaches, class-mates, producers. Imagine the gamut of experience they have to fall back on, in order to voice this national campaign well. A big difference that produces different results.

Actors, while we do get a lot for free when coming to voiceover, we can be guilty of the civilian mentality in acting when it comes to voiceover, that I can walk in off the street and do voice acting. It’s not true in acting and it is not true in voiceover and any genre of it. No matter how long you have trained at drama school.

You want to become the go to person in that genre. Yo Yo Ma plays the cello. Not the violin or trumpet. The cello. So we must become masters of the voice and how it is recorded on the microphone, specific to each and every genre that calls to us.

For commercial voiceover this means we need to understand how to unearth the message in the copy, what the key words are and how we can communicate that story to the listener. Often in commercial voiceover words that are not important to the message or story are emphasised by a voiceover (often the pronouns like ”you”) and there is no understanding of who is being communicated with. Even a commercial is a story, with another person that responds back to us. We need to master these elements in order to deliver at the top of the game.

Whatever genre you are interested in immerse yourself in it today. Find every possible way to experience it by listening, watching, reading and practicing. As a master you would know everything there is to know about that genre, and be able to perform in it at the highest level.

So rather than looking for work or an agent first (the wrong way to go), seek mastery of the genre you are called to. Treat voiceover as if you were focused only on it. When the time is right, work, agents and revenue will all come for you because you did what was uncommon: focused on your vocal mastery and growth.


Taking the commercial genre of voiceover, start to listen actively to the commercials. Don’t skip or fast forward them any longer. Can you listen for the choices the voiceover makes? What words are getting emphasis? Whether they have communicated the essential message or story to you? Who do you think the audience might be? What might the voiceover want from that audience? Listen and absorb it.

If another genre of voiceover calls to you – investigate it in depth. Listen to it, watch it, read it and immerse yourself in that area. Experts in voiceover are paid the most in their genre because they have the most experience and skill. You want to become that person.


Round 3 of “How to Get Into Voiceover” the jam packed 3 week Online and 1-2-1 coaching course is coming later this year. 3 weeks of immersion in the foundational principles of voiceover with a group of your peers. Cohort size is limited to 20 and included private 1-2-1 sessions throughout the course. Payment plans available including money back guarantee. Email me to find out more

The Advanced course “How to Thrive in Voiceover” is also coming later this year. Going deeper into all the aspects required to run your voiceover business effectively at an advanced level, including core principles to run any business in Week 1, multiple audition demo challenges in Week 2 in every genre, and a deeper dive into taking your home studio to the advanced level including using Source Connect, along with private 1-2-1 sessions throughout the course. Admission criteria required with places limited to 20. Payment plans available including money back guarantee. Email me to find out more

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Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers

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