“You know, I used to be a….”

by | Oct 8, 2014 | Advice | 2 comments

plumberNever.  Never have I run across a voice-actor who began life as a voice-actor.  Everyone came to the profession from somewhere else. 

A good many began in broadcasting…especially radio.  Some from (ahem) TV, or production, or audio engineering… but seriously… do you know of anyone who started their professional life out of High School or college as a voice-actor?  I don’t.

Since realizing this, I’ve made a sort of cottage industry out of guessing “prior lives”.  Look at Laurel Thomas, who is from the field of E-Learning and instructional design.  Derek Chappell was and still is an attorney.  James Alburger began as an audio engineer in affiliate TV.  The list of previous professions runs the gamut:  Journalism.  Armed Services.  Insurance.  Auto Dealers. Doctors.  Professors. Singers.

I could go on.

The point is…whatever that was, it’s useable in voice acting.

Little known fact:  I have a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology.  I list it in my CV.  One of my longest-lasting clients noticed that fact, and for five years, it lead to a steady job narrating abstracts for his physical therapy website.  I knew the anatomical terms.

Plumber?  I’m sure you have some pretty good people skills explaining why it’s going to cost an arm ‘n’ a leg to fix someone’s sink.  Use that empathy with the homeowner in your next spot…it’s the real-life experience you bring to the table.

Teacher?  You above all, know how to get the attention of GenX’ers.  How did you do it in the classroom?  Use that device in your delivery.

Photographer?  Think back to the creative process you mentally ran through to frame the pic…to set the stage and the lighting, to get the F-stop just right… that same analytical process will serve you well in attacking an audition.

D-J?  On your best days…reaching the audience with prepared material, or ad-libbing your way out of a live remote in a furniture store… you learned some timing, inflection, and intonations that apply in your next demo.  Use it.

You may not feel there was much going for you as a ____________.  But the experience of it makes you, a unique voice when you sit there in front of the mic for that next audition/job/spot/challenge.

Bring it.




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  1. Marc Scott

    My first major eLearning client that I signed (many years ago) produces training videos for Fire and EMS. As a voice actor who is also a firefighter, I was the perfect fit for them because I actually understood everything in the training scripts, which made it easy for me to deliver great reads.

    I’ve continued to work with them over the years, and it’s opened up the door for other voice over opportunities related to firefighting. It’s great to combine two of my passions!

  2. Laurel Thomas

    Thanks for the shout-out, Dave! This is a good example of “it’s not who you know, it’s WHAT you know.” I think some people new to the business separate their past and present experiences (“I’m starting a NEW career!”), when they could be thinking of how to leverage their knowledge, or even just an interest in something. David Goldberg at Edge Studio has a couple of great examples of helping people leverage their “other” skills and interests for targeted marketing to a specific client. And it works. Only YOU have had the past experiences you’ve lived. No one has the same combination of life skills as you. Be you. Be ALL of you. 🙂


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