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The Voices All Around Us: An Overview Of The Voice-Over Profession

Updated on October 19, 2010

What Is Voice-Over Work Exactly?

          Whenever I tell someone that I am a voice-over artist, I usually get one of two responses. It is either what the heck is that?, or so, like you are a radio deejay? It is true that, many years ago, I was living out my dreams of “turning the tables of the top-ten” on the radio airwaves. And it is true that my voice can still be heard on radio commercials, but there is so much more to voice-over work. As the old saying goes, there is more to it than what meets the eye – or ear. I think the visibility factor, or lack thereof, is the primary contributing factor in the unknown existence we live in.

Don LaFontaine
Don LaFontaine
Geico Gekko
Geico Gekko

Famous Voice-Over Artists

          Anyone who has ever watched a movie in a movie theater has probably heard the late Don LaFontaine. It was only before his passing that many were able to put a face to that “movie preview guy’s” voice.  His appearance in the popular Geico Insurance commercial brought the world behind a microphone before the eyes of the American public. Speaking of Geico, the company’s famous Gekko, is also performed by a voice-over artist.  Celebrities such as James Earl Jones, Matthew McConaughey, Sam Elliott, Richard Thomas, Donald Sutherland and others have all been involved with providing voice-overs for radio and television commercials. 


It’s More Than Movie Trailers and Car Commercials

          Beyond that time of our lives we spend sitting in movie theaters, watching the television, or listening to the radio, we remain surrounded by professional voice-over artists. Have you listened to an audio book recently? That great audio book narration was created with the help of a voice-over artist. Whenever you use a cell phone and hear “Thank you for calling AT&T,” you are hearing veteran voice-over artist Susan Berkley.


Advanced Technology Creating New Voice-Over Jobs

          The Internet has created an ever-increasing demand for voice-over artists. Corporations continue to develop computer and web-based tutorials and employee orientation presentations, which require a voice-over artist. Many of these same corporations search for just the "right" voice for their tastes, to welcome you to their company websites. As technology moves forward, so does the need for voices. I recently received a script from the US Army, for a web-based officer training program. Next time you shop for an iPhone app, pay particular attention to those that have voices. A number of large airports are hiring voice-over artists to provide daily arrival and departure information. Even that annoying teleprompter that helps me check on my bank balance is a voice-over artist.

Getting Started in the Voice-Over Industry

          If you are Sam Elliott or Matthew McConaughey, there is no need to ask. For the rest of us, it first involves training. Many people assume that my background in radio made a difference. In part, perhaps there is some merit there. However, for many of us with a radio background, the toughest job has been to move beyond the radio announcer voice. The majority of day-to-day projects require the “guy next door” sound. While a radio background provides an enhanced understanding of the recording and equipment aspects, the “acting” part takes practice and training. So, before jumping in because you have been told that you have a great voice, let me assure you that again, there is more to it than meets the ear. However, with professional coaching and continued practice, it is possible for anyone to step behind the microphone in some fashion.


About The Working Conditions

          This is probably the part I like best. On most days, my commute is a little more than three feet and does not require leaving home. Technology has made it possible and affordable for most of us to create a home-based studio, which I have written about in an article Home Recording and Voice-Over Studio Basics. There are numerous ways to transfer completed work, including email and other web-based technology. We are also able to connect live with outside studios from our home, or even while traveling with portable equipment.


Where To Learn More About Becoming A Voice-Over Artist

          There is a great deal of information about the voice-over industry on the Internet. While some of the information is helpful, some can be complicated or wrong. There are a number of people proclaiming to be voice-over coaches, or ready to help you create a voice-over demo, or advise you on equipment needs. Before making any decisions, remember to do your homework. Research the credentials of voice-over coaches. When it comes to equipment and software, there are many opinions floating around that are subjective. Your needs really depends on your intended goals. I always advise to begin with the basics.  I have provided a list of links to help you learn more.   



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    • JCShelton profile image

      JCShelton 7 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks Nell.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, this is fascinating, I went through your links just to get back to here! I have often wondered about voice overs, and who they are. really interesting article thanks nell