When people ask me how I got started in voiceover, I know what they are really asking; How to get started in voiceover and more importantly, how do they get started in voiceover? I also realize that they are listening for an easy answer. Since noticing that, I ask whether or not they are interested in doing voiceover, and from there, that shapes the way I answer the question. I either explain that their path in 2019 will be different from my path in 2004 or I tell them the actual story of my journey.
If the question is truly ” How I got started in voiceover ” then the real answer is long and complex. It started with my professor in College, Bill Clark mentioning to me that I should do voiceover. It was really early in the days of the internet and little info was available about…… really anything. I search the local newspaper, found nothing and quickly gave up. But as time went on and I graduated with a major in mass media, the word voiceover continued to resonate in my mind.
Fast forward a few years and I was working in the Fulton County Georgia School system. It was a job I enjoyed but it was never meant to be permanent. Voiceover seemed to continue to come up and I kept hearing big voice radio imaging guys like Mitch Faulkner, Pat Garrett, Mike Johnson, and others. I would imitate them and frequently said “I could do that”
But the catalyst to me actually getting started was being in New Orleans with my dad in the lobby of our hotel when I began thinking seriously about doing voiceover. I was still with the school system but what Bill Clark had advised me to do years prior was heavy on my spirit. At that moment, I concluded my thoughts when just shortly after, my homie Dolvett called me from Atlanta and said immediately upon me answering the phone, “Yo, I don’t know why I was thinking about this but, I think you should do voiceover”. I had never spoken to him about this prior.
When I returned to Atlanta, I got to the much-matured internet of 2004 and called the first voiceover talent I could find here in Atlanta. I wish I remembered her name, but she advised me to get a demo and send it out. She also told me a great studio that did demos. (That’s not advice I would give an aspiring voiceover talent today. Go get training first) So, I followed her advice. I called the studio and scheduled a time to record.
The studio session, much to the surprise of the engineers went so well that they gave me my demo free. The owner told me that I was the first aspiring voiceover talent, out of hundreds, to record with them who he actually thought had a future in the business and so he wanted to pay it forward by helping to launch my career. I was excited. I sent that demo around to different studios and agents and landed my first voiceover job on local radio playing a robot in a health product commercial. It paid me $75. I was also signed to a local agency, Arlene Wilson Management.
That year for Christmas, my then-girlfriend bought me my first microphone, the Rode NT1A. I, of course, had to buy an audio interface to go with it so I purchased the Emu 1616, which at the time was cutting edge technology. The Emu came with multiple recording programs, which included Cubase LE, which I became so accustomed to that it made Cubase my lifelong DAW. I worked this set up for 6 months when I found one regular client who paid me weekly which afforded me the ability to buy the TLM 103 microphone.
Throughout my early career, I attempted many things to make money in voiceover. I started a very expensive voiceover ringtone website which I profited only $6 before Apple’s Iphone killed the ringtone business. I sold my bible verse call-back tones to a company in Canada. But I also began doing radio commercials for local nightclubs, a skill I learned from a mentor in radio imaging named “Postman.” In 2006, I stopped working in the school system to do voiceover full-time.
By 2008 I published my first audiobook called “Dana The Procrastinator.” It was a physical hardcover book combined with a CD which was produced by my brother Omari and voiced by yours truly. Dana the Procrastinator was loosely based on my lifelong struggle with procrastination. It combined my two favorite pastimes, voiceover and writing. The book was great for me but was short-lived. I visited schools and bookstores from Atlanta to New York speaking and conducting workshops. Being an author even took me to Jamaica where I read to children at the Jamaican Public Library. But by 2009, the sales came to almost a halt and I was struggling financially.
At the end of 2009, I had lost the girlfriend who had encouraged me in my career up until then. While tough, it was the motivation I needed to push me to succeed and make bolder moves. As an introvert, I was forced to leave the house to find what I no longer had socially. My girlfriend was my crutch and I had to encounter other human beings which made me go out more. This meant using my business as a reason to attend more functions and meet more people. A new network could help make me more successful. While I lost love, I expanded my network. From there I began traveling outside of Georgia to find work. This was the formula which proved to be fruitful.
I’ve done a lot of things since 2010 keep my business going and growing. Training and educating myself to understand the voiceover industry has been helpful. Additionally, I have broadened the types of voiceover that I do. I’ve taken on much more narration work in the past few years. I started blogging and interviewing established voiceover talent to increase my own visibility in the industry. Also, I wanted to learn from other pros.
I have grown greatly over the years from how I got started in voiceover. My journey will not translate the same way into your journey if you are just getting started. The industry has changed. Technology has changed. The world has changed. My hope is that even if voiceover itself no longer exist 15 years from now, that I can be comfortable from the work I have done in this industry. And that I continue to be proud of that work.
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