How do I know when I’m ready to make a voiceover demo?

Have you been told you have a good voice? Did you happen to be at the right place at the right time, get to record something and now you have the VO bug? Are you just starting out, or do you have some experience?

The short answer is: you’re ready to make a voiceover demo when you want to compete at a professional level. Let’s look at exactly what the next steps are.

What is a voiceover demo?

First, let’s define what a voiceover demo is. A voiceover demo is a short audio clip (60-90 seconds) that showcases your voiceover talent to potential clients – it’s like a resume but with audio clips. A demo is an essential tool for every voice actor.

Voiceover agents, casting directors and production companies decide if voice talent are a good match for a job based on their demo, and they’ll only consider demos that have been produced by a qualified sound engineer, so it’s crucial you get it right.

Are there different kinds of voiceover demos?

Good question. Yes, there are several different styles of voiceover demos, including commercial voiceover demo, narration demo, animation (or character) demo, radio imaging demo, and IVR / on-hold phone messaging demo.

Depending on the type of work you’re targeting and what your voice is suited towards, you could choose one or more categories. Let’s look at what it entails to create a commercial voiceover demo.

Assessing your ability as a voice actor

Before creating a voiceover demo, it’s crucial to have the basic voiceover skills; things like controlling your voice, understanding pacing, where to place emphasis, and good diction. You don’t have to be a seasoned pro – everybody starts somewhere – but you do need to have a solid foundation.

If you’re unsure if you have the skills, ask yourself some questions: Do you feel comfortable with your voice? Can you read scripts without sounding robotic? Are you able to make the words jump off the page and sound like your own?

Try this fun exercise to help gauge your abilities:

Reading a script vs acting (the diaper test)

There is a big difference between “doing voiceover” and being a “voice actor”. Anyone can read a script, but it takes skill to read the written word convincingly.

How do I build my voiceover portfolio?

How do I know when I’m ready to make a voiceover demo?

Now that you’ve assessed your skills, it’s time to practice!

Use your phone to record yourself copying commercials you hear online or on the radio or TV. Listen back to the recordings and see if you captured the same tone and energy. The more time you have listening to your voice in a critical way, the better.

You could also consider voiceover coaching from a professional working voice actor. 

Beware: there are coaches out there who will charge thousands of dollars and promise you a demo – but voice talent are almost certainly not ready to record a demo right after coaching. It takes time to practice and build the skills you need. A demo done that early will be dismissed by agents and casting directors, and you’ll just end up doing another one later anyway.You might find this article helpful: Do I Need a Voiceover Coach?

Do I have to use samples from jobs that I’ve done or can I create fake commercials?

It is very common for voice actors to use a combination of recordings they’ve done that have been featured on air (such as radio and TV commercials), and short sample recordings that have been written and produced specifically for the demo to ensure there is enough range.

Remember, variety is the spice of life, and your demo should reflect that. Don’t stick to one tone for the entire demo! Mix it up – include a sample that’s high-energy, follow that with something more intimate and emotional, mix up your fast and your slow deliveries…  show that you’re versatile and can adapt to different styles and genres.

Get feedback on your recordings

I like criticism. It makes you strong.

LeBron James

Reach out to people and ask for brutally honest feedback. Keep in mind that friends and family will probably be biased and tell you you’re great, and other people might give you feedback that’s hard to hear! If you’re thick-skinned and open to constructive criticism, accept it – it’s going to help you more than praise.

Getting positive feedback feels great. Identifying deficits and areas that need improvement makes you stronger.

Next steps

How do I know when I’m ready to make a voiceover demo?

It’s time to evaluate your goals. Why do you want to create a voiceover demo? What are your long-term and short-term goals? A demo is a tool to showcase your talent and attract potential clients.

Whether you’re going to venture out on your own and try to find work through pay-to-play sites, or if you have your sights set on getting a voiceover agent, you’ll need a solid demo that accurately showcases what you’re capable of delivering in-studio when you book a job.

How do I make a voiceover demo?

Creating a voiceover demo is a big step in your voiceover career. If you feel confident in your skills and are ready to show the world what you can do, then it’s time to create that demo.

Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and every journey is different. You can try to produce your own demo, but it’s only advisable to create your own voiceover demo if you’re a qualified professional because casting directors and voice agents will spot an amateur demo from a mile away and it will both cost you work and make them remember you for the wrong reasons.

The safest bet is hiring a professional voiceover producer to work with you to create a demo that will help you book work.

Now you’ve got the skills, talent, practice and you’re ready to make your voiceover demo!

James Dooley Head Shot

James Dooley is the owner of Dooley Media Works, a voiceover recording and video production company. When he’s not being the “friendly, yet authoritative” voice of brands like KAYAK, Dove Soap and Honey Nut Cheerios, he provides voiceover coaching and professional voiceover demo production for aspiring voice actors looking to succeed in the business.

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