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500 Voice Over Gigs: An Interview with Andy Cooper

Meet Andy Cooper, a gifted actor who just booked his 500th voice over job.

Yes, you heard that right. Within just a few years, Andy booked 500 voice over jobs. Most of those he recorded right inside his own home. Andy is a Dearing student, and we are so proud of his success.

Once too nervous to even tell people he was interested in acting, Andy is now a successful, full-time voice over talent.

Are Andy’s vocal chords made of velvet and white truffles?  They are not. Becoming a working actor takes equal parts discipline and passion. Today Andy talks about the road to his successful voice over career, and provides helpful suggestions for aspiring talent.

Enjoy…

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1. Congrats on your 500th voice over gig!  We are so proud of you.  What advice would you give an actor who’s just starting out and wants to begin a career in voice over?

Thanks so much! I really love doing what I do and Dearing Acting Studio is a huge part of the reason why I get to do it. So, a HUGE thank you to the whole Dearing family and staff! 

Here’s some very general, yet very important advice to anyone starting out in VO: The internet is your best friend. Not only has the internet made a voice over career accessible to anyone with a high speed internet connection, it also contains every bit of information you would ever need to learn the trade – from gear and technical expertise to agents and coaches. Those who refuse to spend the time to research, research, research on the internet will have a very hard time making a career of VO in the current marketplace.

2. We know it takes hard work, consistency and dedication to achieve the type of results you have over the past few years.  One problem students sometimes face is the daunting supply of resources and know which ones to trust.  Would you be willing to share a few that you recommend?

As I mentioned in my last answer, the internet is your best friend. But, you’re right, it can be a very annoying best friend, too. The kind of friend that will talk and talk all day and not give you any useful information. You’ve got to know how to ask this friend the right questions and ignore all of the BS. C’mon, we all have friends like that, right?

There’s actually a ton of great info out there. I’m amazed at how many voice actors are willing to spend so much time putting free info on the web to help out other voice actors.voiceoverxtra.com is a good source for ongoing articles and updates. I also find myself back at edgestudio.com quite often, mainly to access their VO rate card and “words-to-time calculator” but they have a lot of other great info for beginners. And, even though it’s a “pay-to-play” VO marketplace, voices.com does a great job of disseminating free information geared towards new VO artists.

3. One of the advantages to Voice Over work is the convenience of being able to audition from your home.  Would you share what it takes to set up both a beginner studio and also what you would recommend for more advanced performers already making a living on their voice?

If you hate commuting to work, this is the job for you. Sometimes my kids get in the way when I’m walking down the hall but that’s as heavy as traffic gets for me! Plus, I don’t just audition from home, I do almost all of my work here. I very rarely have to go to someone else’s studio for a gig.

I’ve seen some incredible home VO studios that probably cost $20,000 to build. However, I built my first studio for under $1000 and haven’t made too many upgrades since then. If you want to do it inexpensively, just focus on what you NEED in order to produce great sound:

  • A Quiet Room: This is probably the most important part. If your room is too loud or has too much echo, the most expensive equipment in the world won’t do you any good. Find an interior room (one that doesn’t share a wall with the outdoors). You won’t be able to sound proof your room so it needs to have as few sounds coming in as possible. I even turn off my AC while recording. Clients expect clean audio from professional voice artists. Next, kill the echo within the room. In my house, I gutted a walk-in closet and covered the walls with moving blankets and Auralex foam panels. A good (but not scientific) test is to clap in the room. If there’s any sort of echo or residual noise, you need more or better placed sound absorption materials.
  • A good, cheap mic: There are some great and inexpensive mics out there that you can buy for $100 to $200. The best mics for VO are large diaphragm condensers. USB mics are getting better but I still don’t hear of anyone using them for professional VO jobs. I like to read tons of reviews from various websites before purchasing gear. Great “gear” sites include musiciansfriend.com, gearslutz.com and, of course, amazon.com. I started out with the MXL V63M and it was an amazing starter mic (I don’t think they make it anymore).
  • Since you’re not using a USB mic (see above), you need something to convert the analogue signal that your mic picks up into a digital signal that your computer can recognize and process. That’s where a digital audio interface (DAI) comes in. You don’t need to spend more than $100 to $200 on this, either. I use an M-Audio DAI because it’s a good brand and it came bundled with my DAW.
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW): This is just the computer program you use to edit your voice overs. I use Pro Tools which is an incredible program but, for VO’s, you really don’t need to buy anything that fancy. You could even use a free program like Audacity or Garage Band (mac).
  • Headphones: You want to get some that have as “flat” of a sound as possible. Most consumer headphones are designed to accentuate certain wavelength frequencies to sound “better” while you’re listening to your favorite music. However, when you’re the one producing the sound, you don’t want to hear something that sounds “better” than it is. You want to hear exactly what it is. I can’t give a product recommendation on this one right now because I’m actually searching for one myself. I have a few pairs that I don’t love so… But, once again, you don’t need to spend more than $100 to $150 on headphones.

4. Once someone has all of the gear they need, how do they go about finding the work?

I know I sound like a broken record but it’s all about the internet. Once you’ve done your training and have a great demo, sign up for one of the online voiceover marketplaces like voice.com orvoice123.com and audition every day. The more auditions the better. Set a goal for 20 per day. You’ll build your skills quickly that way and before you know it, people will start picking you for their jobs! Then, once you start getting selected for a certain type of work consistently, find other ways to market your services to companies who produce that sort of work. In other words, find your niche and exploit it! Auditioning and marketing will be your full-time job until actual paying work takes over.

4. 500 is such a HUGE milestone.  How were you able to reach it so quickly?

500 came up on me quickly because I do quite a bit of volume. That’s a very important point to understand. I hear the ol’ timers talk about the days when voice work was lucrative enough that you could do a few jobs per month and collect residuals the rest of the time. That was pre-internet and there were very few jobs and even fewer voice actors. These days, there are gazillions of jobs out there and bazillions of voice actors. Personally, I try to do about 4 jobs per day. 75% of them are destined for the web, rather than radio or TV, so the pay is considerably less.

5. Thank you VERY MUCH for reaching out to us and sharing your success.  It means so much that we have the ability to impact people’s lives in a positive way.  Would you be willing to share how Dearing Studio specifically played a part in your success?

GLADLY! Voice acting, voice over, VO, voice work, whatever you want to call it, is all about acting. Whether you’re playing a character on a cartoon or a narrating a software tutorial, you’re not just reading the script like you would a book. You’re acting; you’re pretending you’re someone else. The countless hours I’ve spent at Dearing learning the craft of acting IS the reason I can pull off voice over work. Some of the indispensable things I’ve learned at Dearing include: auditioning with confidence while making a strong choice; how to use improv even while following a script; being “in the moment” with techniques like Meisner; and how to be professional in such a silly industry.

Dearing has always been a very safe place to open myself up vulnerably. I love that it’s run by a great family that somehow makes everyone else feel like family when there. My first time at the studio, I was actually embarrassed to tell people I was interested in becoming an actor. Now, I can honestly say that without the time I spent at Dearing, I would not be in this career that I love so much!

Do you have a success story? Share it with us! 480.313.9901

Matthew Dearing

Matthew

President & Chief Listening Officer Author, speaker and professional development coach to elite performers, executives, and anyone aspiring toward greatness. Founder of Dearing Entertainment LLC, Dearing Acting Studio, PHX Casting, and Chaos Comedy Improv.