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  • Writer's pictureChris Butera

My Voiceover Origin Story Part 3: Blowing it

A gigantic explosion over a demolition site.
Photo by Luke Jernejcic / Unsplash

In my last post about how I got started as a voice actor, I detailed how I convinced my then-employer to pay for my voiceover training and the subpar experience I had. Here are all the early mistakes I made that almost killed my career!

After my failed first attempt at voiceover training and no demo to show for it, I grabbed some of the scripts I had been working on and a few more from Edge Studio’s online voiceover resources (a collection of scripts from existing commercials that have already run for aspiring voice actors to practice with). I decided I would produce my own demo. 

Sounds like a bad idea? It is. 

Voiceover Career Killer #1: The Self-Produced Demo

A purple mixing board.
Photo by Denisse Leon / Unsplash

Any voice actor worth their salt will tell you this is the first "don’t" on the voiceover do’s and don’ts list. A self-produced demo has the potential to kill your voiceover career if you don’t smarten up and course correct. Especially if you only have three hours of coaching. 

I recorded the demo with a former bandmate and coworker who studied sound engineering and had a home studio. I got in the booth and read the copy in a bunch of wacky voices for about an hour. I thought it was great. 

It wasn’t. 

To clarify: My friend had done a decent job mixing and recording my demo. I was terrible. My choices were bad, my technique was awful, and worst of all, I was using scripts that had already been performed and recorded by somebody else who got paid for those spots. 

Below: My abominable self-produced demo. Don't EVER do this.

On to voiceover career-killers two and three! 

Voiceover Career Killers #2 and #3: Bad Gear and No Booth

Interface, headphones and a microphone on a table next to a brick wall.
Photo by Matthew Moloney / Unsplash

The bad news was I thought I had a decent-sounding demo. The worse news was the demo was self-produced by me, an untrained guy who had no experience in voiceover whatsoever. 

Even more to my detriment, I didn’t have a studio and (thankfully) I didn’t know how to market myself or find work. To cut my teeth, I did projects on Reddit and Casting Call Club for very little to no money. Not the worst idea to try voiceover as a hobby, but not anywhere near professional. 

The “gear” I used for these hobbyist projects was a Blue Yeti USB podcast microphone, an SE Electronics Reflexion Filter, and a gaming laptop with a noisy fan that kicked in all the time.

You could not go more wrong as a voice actor looking to make a career out of this. Even worse, I didn’t know how wrong I was!

Voiceover Career Killers #4 - #6: Great Headshots, a Bad Website and Worse Marketing

Black man in a striped shirt in front of colorful graffiti looking puzzled.

After about six months of Reddit jobs and cluelessness, I got a big head about my so-called voiceover prowess and thought I could land an agent with my self-produced demo and lack of training.

I reached out to my friend Derek Soto —a professional photographer I knew from my metal days— for headshots. 

Although I did this step too early (mistake #4: putting the cart before the horse), this was probably the one good idea I had in this era of rookie mistakes. I still use those headshots to this day and will give him a jingle when I need an update.

That being said, thinking I could land an agent was just about the worst idea I had. 

Make that the second-worst idea.

I built a generic website, signed up for a voiceover pay-to-play site, and emailed my bad demo to several agencies and companies (this did not last long). 

And the Truth Will Set You Free

Long story short: I booked nothing and no agencies responded. It wasn't until after I blew it that I realized I did everything wrong in voiceover and needed to course-correct as soon as possible.

I stopped what I was doing, shut down my site, and canceled the play-to-play.

My next goal was to figure out what I needed to do right, and an unrelated hobby led to a crazy conversation that changed my life and voiceover career forever.

Stay tuned!

Want a professional voice actor who learns from their mistakes and knows what their doing? Fill out my project contact form or shoot me an email to get in touch today!


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