Breaking into Voice Acting (Part 1): Training and Building Community

Breaking into Voice Acting (Part 1): Training and Building Community

In this two-part series, learn more about how to use your singing training to enter the voiceover world.

“You have a great voice. You should do voiceover!” Have you heard this before? This comment seems to instigate many voiceover journeys. In 2011, with years of theater and a masters in voice from Indiana University under my belt, I bought a one-way ticket to NYC to pursue “the dream.” I landed a sublet from a seasoned Broadway actor who was off to LA for pilot season. He kindly let me move in a week before he left and I witnessed his daily routine of auditioning for (and booking) voiceover work. I realized very quickly it wasn’t about his “sound” but his authenticity. Thus began my fascination with voice acting and what would become a creatively fulfilling and lucrative parallel career. 

While a “great voice” is a necessity in opera, voiceover is so much more than one’s sound. It’s an authentic connection to the text, storytelling, versatility, marketing, business acumen, and networking. Before you get overwhelmed, I’ve broken it all down into simple “parts” to getting started in voiceover. This first part explores the training needed and fostering a community that can be so helpful. 

Musicians have a huge leg up in voiceover with their understanding of rhythm, articulation, lyricism and breath support. Whether it’s a 3-hour directed session, recording an entire audiobook, or yelling for a video game, that breath support you’ve spent years developing will definitely keep you safe. Much like years of training in classical voice, voiceover is a whole other industry that also takes hours of practice, much patience, and great consistency to see results and book work. 

I can’t stress enough the importance of taking an acting class. It will only strengthen your ability to connect, especially if you’re interested in audiobooks, video games, or animation. “It’s all acting. No such thing as ‘voice acting.’ To be good at your craft you have to work on it. It means doing the things you don’t want to do, to become as complete an actor as you can. Nothing exists in isolation.” So says Michael Mellamphy, a NYC-based actor and the voice of Sean MacGuire in Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption.

Just like being on the stage, voiceover is an artform of service to others. It’s never about the actor. Putting your attention on the listener, frankly, alleviates the pressure of “being good.” Every sentence in the script answers your listeners’ question. This creates a roadmap within the text. You’re not telling a mother why this baby formula is the best, but rather answering her questions “Why should I use this product?” “How will this make my life easier?” “Why should I trust this company?” Audition breakdowns frequently request a “conversational” or “authentic” read. Grounding the copy (script) by imaging someone you connect with—your best friend, sister, etc.—and answering their questions will allow the audience to connect with you. 

Learning mic technique is also important as mics are rarely used in opera. By mic technique, I mean distance from the mic, changing energies, when to speak on axis or slightly off, creating sounds, projecting less, and connecting to your natural voice. As classical singers, we’re trained to project, enunciate, and sing to the back of the house. In voiceover, less is more. 

“You may have habits when it comes to breathing, diction, and voice production in general that make you sound like a trained professional instead of a real person… Sound[ing] ‘real’ is the most important thing,” says Carin Gilfry, a Juilliard-trained opera singer who’s voiced thousands of commercials and over 100 audiobooks and is the co-creator of VOcation, a yearly voiceover conference dedicated to the business side of voiceover. She’s right. The most important facet in voiceover is being yourself and connecting to the listener.

There are many genres of voiceover work, but some of the most popular categories are animation, commercials, narration (documentaries, biographies, pop culture, etc.), audiobooks, video games, e-learning, corporate, dubbing, trailers, promos, announcers, and interactive voice response (IVR for short—like automated recordings you reach when calling a business). While many voiceover artists work in multiple genres, I’d recommend starting with one and branching out as you feel more comfortable. A more in-depth description of each can be found at the Audient link in the sidebar.

As I harp on the importance of classes, I’d be remiss to not share my favorite mentors along the way. Many of the skills I’ve acquired I learned from Ax Norman, Paul Liberti, and Andy Roth. And Actors Connection and One on One are great places for online classes with a variety of instructors and types of classes. I prefer classes to private coaching as you learn from doing but also from watching others. And it’s also a great way to build your community. I can say about 10–20% of my yearly bookings come from other voiceover actors who recommend me if they aren’t available.

I also highly recommend taking an audio engineering class. Granted, once you choose your software, there are many YouTube tutorials out there that can help. Frank Verderosa is a great resource. He frequently offers classes, but the resources on his website alone are extremely educational. With the majority of bookings happening remotely, your ability to edit and submit clean, professional files is just as important as your read. 

For free resources, these podcasts offer tons of information: The VO School, VO BOSS, and the VO Breakfast Show. For audiobooks, ACX is a space to connect to independent writers and produce audiobooks. While it is a place to book jobs, I encourage you to dig around as the number of articles discussing how to master files, negotiate contracts, and communicate with clients is vast. 

Also, organizations such as the Audio Publisher’s Association a.k.a. Audio Pub (more audiobooks), the National Association of Voice Actors (which has a ton of resources including how to qualify for its own group health insurance), and the Global Voice Acting Academy (GVAA, offering both classes and career coaching) provide so much information and offer so much guidance. The GVAA Rate Guide is a list of standardized rates for voiceover work and is a fantastic resource when deciding on cost for your services. And if you become (or already are) a member of SAG-AFTRA, they have a whole library of free resources and free classes with casting directors once you get to that point. Unlike classical voice, where studying with one teacher may be the standard, learning from various instructors is beneficial and highly encouraged. 

To best navigate this industry, it’s vital to find and create your network. Get involved in the voiceover community. Voiceover is an isolating industry since we sit alone in small spaces. We need support and others to learn from and ask for help. “After I had a demo or two, a small group of us paid a voiceover veteran to lead a Mastermind group. We learned about goal setting, finding clients, email marketing, CRMs, keeping records on every job, etc. It set me up with good business habits, and a lot of essential systems set up in my first year have kept me going strong. The group became an ongoing peer support group after our mentor left,” says Erica Brookhyser, a semifinalist in the Operalia Competition and Metropolitan National Council Auditions, who has also voiced projects for Apple, Visa, and AT&T.

These are the reasons I chose classes over individual coaching in the beginning. But in addition to classes, there are a number of Facebook groups, especially for voiceover in your geographic location or by genre: audiobook, video games. etc. I find these groups to be extremely helpful because if you have a question, it’s likely someone’s already asked it and a simple search in the group provides a wealth of comments and links to helpful resources. 

Another way to connect is through voiceover communities such as Voice On Demand. It’s a smaller virtual community dedicated to connecting, supporting, and uplifting BIPOC voiceover artists, as well as all interested in becoming a part of the voiceover community. It’s run by Aurelia Michael, Broadway actress, voiceover artist, and life coach—and in addition to its affordable voiceover coaching, there is also a comprehensive “intro to voiceover” class (New Voice on the Block), and they meet quarterly to discuss goals, ask questions, and foster community. 

Be sure to check out Part Two in the next issue of CS for suggestions for sound treating your studio space and all the equipment you’ll need.


Resources for Getting Started in Voiceover




VO School Podcast

VO BOSS Podcast

VO Breakfast Show


VO Genres:





Emily Stokes

With over a decade of experience, Emily Stokes has voiced numerous commercials, audiobooks, animated programs, promos, and e-learning projects for Disney, Hulu, ABC, Audible, the Louisiana Lottery, Imagination Station, and more. With a Masters in Voice from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, she’s put her degree to work performing across the U.S. in productions of The Music Man (Marian), Beauty and the Beast (Belle), The Sound of Music (Maria), and Phantom (Christine), among others. Stokes currently lives and works out of her home studio in NYC with her pup, Rosie. For more info and to connect, visit and IG: @em_stoked.