Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

Voice Acting Demo Reels - How and When To Get One

Having a great demo reel seems to be this great mark of a voice actor. In today’s video we’re gonna talk about what they are, how to get them, what to use them for, and how to make a great sandwich. Okay everything but the last one.

For more great tips on how to be a voice actor don’t forget to hit the Like and Subscribe button below. And this the bell button if you wanna get notified every time I post a new video on this topic, every week. Hey, everyone, I am Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I’ve had my voice in thousands of videos, cartoons, video games, anime, commercials, all that stuff. And I’ve got probably 20 different demo reels. And I am not done updating or making them. In this video we’re gonna talk about three things you need to know about demos. What they are. When you need one. And how to get one.


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What Should I Charge For Voice Acting Work

Okay, we’ve all seen it, someone on Fiverr asking five dollars for a voiceover. Today we’re gonna talk about why that’s insane and what you should charge for your voiceover work. Here we go.

For more great tips on being a voice actor, how to get into the industry, make sure you hit the like and subscribe button below, and hit the bell icon so you get notified when I post a new video in this series every single week.


Hey everyone, I am Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain, and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I’ve had my voice in thousands of corporate videos, e-learning, commercials, promo, animation, video games, and anime. And when I was just starting out, it was very difficult to figure out what the heck I was supposed to charge people for my work. Figuring out what you’re supposed to charge is a lot easier nowadays because the industry has sort of banded together and tried to figure to, okay, what is it that I’m going to charge people for this service, or this service, or this service? Today were going to walk through understanding what makes up a voiceover session and what makes up the budget for a voiceover session.

Part one, session and usage. There are two things that define what your voiceover costs, and they are called session and usage. We’re going to go over session at first because that’s the simpler of the two. Your session fee is essentially your fee that you get for walking into the booth. For stepping up to the mic, for whatever reason. Even if the client never uses that stuff for anything, you get the session fee. Now this many times is absorbed, is combined with the usage which we’ll talk about in a second. Especially in the union world, and you should mimic it when you’re charging people in the non union world, even if you do simplify it. Your session fee is what you get just for showing up.

The usage is a lot more complicated, and I will say that even today lot of producers and a lot of actors don’t understand what usage is or how to apply it to charging for their services. Usage is basically where and how is your voice going to be used. Is it going to be on a website, trade shows, television, radio? Remember the genres we’ve talked about but in previous videos? Each of those sort of loosely defines a usage of your voice. Usage is broken down into a lot of different categories, but the general rule is the more money that a client stands to gain from your voice, the more money you are going to be charging them for usage. If it’s something that only is going to appear internally on their website, and they’re not going to get any … or I’m sorry, internally, inside their company and they’re not going to show it to anybody, and therefore not going to get any revenue for it, that’s on the lower end of usage.

If they’re going to air it on national television multiple times, and they stand to make millions of dollars for it, then you should be charging them more for it. It is in a very loose sense proportional to how much money the client stands to make from your voice. Another thing you need to consider is how long they’re going to be using it. For web stuff and internal stuff, a lot of it is called in perpetuity, that means they want the rights to use that forever. For digital usage, like certain websites and YouTube channels, now we are starting to see more of a trend towards yes, you can use this online for a year and then you need to rebuy, re up, pay me a holding fee. Those are all sorts of terms that people use to say okay, “After a year those rights are up. You no longer have the right to use my voice. You need to pay me another usage fee to extend it.”

On the broadcast side, which I mean TV and radio, typically commercials run in 13 week cycles, so there are four 13 week cycles in a full 52 week year. If you have a spot that’s running for a year, they’ll probably pay you for four separate cycles of usage. It expires every 13 weeks, and if they want to continue using your voice for television or radio, they need to pay you again. In general, and listen carefully, if a client is asking you for a buy-out in perpetuity, for all media, that’s a bad deal. That means they have the rights to use your voice for anything they want, for any length of time, which if you’re looking at something they’re going to pay you $500 every quarter for a 13 week cycle, that means if they use your spot for 10 years you’re missing out on $20,000 worth of revenue. Heck no. Buy-outs in perpetuity are something that I’m seeing more and more often. They are bad for you, they are bad for the industry, and whenever you have the chance you should push back on buy-outs in perpetuity for all media or learn that you can walk away.

We’re not going to talk about it in this particular video, but in some cases having a spot airing on television can create a conflict, which means that if you want to audition for a union gig in that same category you cannot. If somebody gives you a buy-out, or you offer someone a buy-out in perpetuity on a car commercial, and they just run your voice for 12 years, guess what? That $100,000, brilliant, BMW commercial that would have made your career in the union, you can’t audition for it anymore, because you have a conflict on television. Do not work all media buy-outs in perpetuity. Have you ever charged anyone for a voiceover job? How did you figure it out when you didn’t have the resource like this? Post it in the comments below.

Part two, okay, so what do I charge? This is a very difficult thing to figure out, and there are resources out there that kind of benchmark. In some cases, it’s more difficult to get the client to tell you what they’re going to be using this spot for, because like I said earlier, they don’t necessarily understand usage. Once you get that though, there are resources that you can use to figure out okay, with this usage, this length of time, what should I charge? A couple of them that are the best, actually, the best resource by far I found is The Global Voice Acting Academy’s Rate Guide. GVAA Rate Guide, which I will link for you down in the description below. And I’m going to give you a tutorial of it here in just a second. There’s also SAG Actors’ Rate Calculator, which is sort of in beta and doesn’t give very good results for things like trade shows, web videos, and stuff like that. If you’re really looking for an all encompassing guide, check out the GVAA’s Rate guide, and we’re going to go into that right now.

Okay, here we are on the Global Voice Acting Academy Website, which is gvaa.com. I’ll throw it in the links in the video description below, and I’ll also throw it up here on the screen. The rate guide is right there at the beginning under resources. Also if you type in GVAA Rate Guide into Google, it’s going to take you right here. It’s really easy to use, it’s very simple. Everything is right there in front of you. You can sign up for updates. You can support the rate guide. GVAA’s also a really great resource for lots of other stuff like classes, webinars, coaching. I’ll talk about that in a future video. Also, there’s some demo production stuff that goes up there.

The first thing you’re going to look at is the categories of voiceover, which I talked about in, I think my first video, I talked about the genres of voiceover, and you’ll notice that a lot of these line up to what I was saying. It’s the way that we price out voiceover as well. So you’ve got TV broadcast, non-broadcast, which is usually anything that’s not web but also not broadcast. It gets a little funny. You’ve got e-learning, promo, and imaging; cinema pickups, audio books, all that kind of stuff right here. Now these rates are generaly based on union rates, but scheduled to be, for the most part, just a little bit more flexible.

Let’s take a look at TV broadcast, which you can, and you can click on any of these to bring you anywhere you want, all the way down to radio. Let’s look at TV. It shows you here, on the left, how long you’re going to use it. The heading here shows you how many markets it’s going to go to. If we’re looking at one small area, I’ve done lots of commercials for like a local hardware store in Kansas city, that kind of thing. That’s what were looking at it for here. A local market, one city or state, no major markets, as in not Chicago, not Los Angeles. All that other kind of stuff. And you can see that if you’re going to use it for a three months, you should look at a rate range in between here, and there are some notes that explains what this means.

The GVAA Rate Guide is so easy to use and so comprehensive. It’s gone through so many different rounds of feedback that actors all over the world have given to the GVAA, so it’s just a great guide. It really is like your one stop resource for everything. You’re looking here, okay, so this now we’re talking about a regional market, somebody in New York. Well, let’s say, okay, somebody in Ohio wants to use this for a television commercial that’s going to be broadcast in Indiana, Ohio, and I don’t know, Michigan. All three sates that are somewhat close to each other. That would be considered a regional market. The price goes up and they’re using it for a year, and somebody’s offering you $250 for a one year regional market, you can be like, “Uh, no, that is not an industry standard rate and I won’t work for it.

Remember that you always have the power to say no. I know it can be very difficult, especially when you’re just starting out, but you have to make sure that you are encouraging the industry to stay at fair rates. It’s good for us, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for the industry. There’s lots of, you know, if they’re like, “Hey, okay, I’ve got a TV commercial, it’s local and I have four tags on it, because there are a bunch of different situations where it’s going to be like, “Call this now.” Okay, now we changed our number, “Call this now,” or, “Use promo code,” ba blah blah, each tag is going to be 300 bucks or whatever, it’s all broken down here.

For radio, it’s the same thing for the the most part. You’re looking at where it’s going, and how long it’s going to happen. Then you’ve got radio tags, web usage, how long is it going to be on the web. The thing that I don’t particularly, it’s not always very useful, is when you’re talking about geographic areas on the internet. Now some advertising is geo tagged and geo limited so it’s like we’re only going to advertise this to people on the eastern seaboard, that kind of thing, so that’s getting more specific as ad targeting. It’s more specific on social media.

Paid placement usually means it’s like an ad that runs before a youtube video, it’s pre-roll, it’s something that the person has to watch before they move on. So you see all that stuff is here. Finished minutes, corporate, and explainer videos, kiosk use, everything is here. E-learning, now one of the things you can also do, feel free to send this to the client. This isn’t like a big secret. This is the industry standard rates. It’s based off of union rates and all of that stuff, so when you’re using the GVAA, feel free to forward it to clients. Sometimes they really like understanding what this rate guide is. They may not know where people get prices from, and it is up to us sometimes to educate the client, and the GVAA Rate Guide is an excellent way to do that.

Look it’s complicated, it’s gritty. It sometimes makes people uncomfortable to talk about money, but with the knowledge we’ve talked about in this video, you are much better prepared to approach a client and say, “Hey, here’s what my voice is worth for what you’re asking for.” I know we can’t cover everything about charging for your voiceover in a five-minute video, so if you’ve got other questions please post them in the comments below, and I will do my best to get to them. If this video helped you, let me know by leaving a comment below. Also, give me a like, give me a subscribe, and you will get a new video every single week on how to get into voice acting.

There’s quite a body of content already on my YouTube channel, so feel free to go back and peruse some of the old videos, lots of great stuff there for you. All free, all ready for you to just soak it all in. That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by, and I will see you in the booth.

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Animation Voice Acting Basics

You remember those days right? Saturday mornings with a big bowl of sugary cereal ready to immerse yourself into a world of cartoons? Do you want to know how to get your voice into there? Here we go.

For more instant tips on how to get into voice acting, make sure you hit the subscribe button below and hit the bell icon so you get notified when I post a new video on this series every single week. My name is Joe Zieja, I’m a former air force captain turned voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. My voice has been in thousands of corporate videos, commercials, video games, anime and cartoons and today I am here to tell you three tips on how to get your voice into traditional television animation.



Tip number one, finding the opportunities. I don’t want to sound bleak here and I made a similar comment in my video game video, but if you’re looking for the big animation opportunities, you probably have to get to Los Angeles, but if that’s something that’s super important to you like it was to me, I had a very strong corporate and commercial career not in Los Angeles and I decided that what I really was passionate about was character-driven voice acting, games, anime and animation. So my manager at the time said, “Get to LA,” and here I am.

Los Angeles is pretty much the only place where you can get really good, solid, union network TV animation stuff. So if you’re looking for those opportunities, most of them are going to be here and unlike video games, which has a strong independent industry that you can do remotely from anywhere in the country, animation is just not quite the same, it’s still kind of in the same place it was 25, 30, 40, 50 years ago, that is Los Angeles.

There’s a lot of reasons for that. One of the primary ones is that bigger budget animation, cartoons, movies, they record in what’s called an ensemble cast. All the cast is in the same room at the same time, which is wildly fun because you get to play off of each other, you get to see other people work, which doesn’t necessarily happen in some of the other genres of voice over, like video games and commercial. You’re typically alone in those cases. With an ensemble cast, you get a much richer performance, I think, where everyone’s kind of bouncing off everybody else’s energy but unfortunately you all have to be in the same place and that place is Los Angeles.

The second thing that I wanted to mention is that the community for animation, you’ll notice if you’ve ever noticed who’d been voicing your favorite cartoons for the past 50 years, is it’s very small. The community for animation is small, voiceover itself is small, animation is extremely small. The same people tend to get work over and over again because they’re excellent at what they do. Getting into animation, breaking into animation takes a very long time. People have told me it’s taken them five to 10 years to get their first animation so expect a long haul when you’re out here in Los Angeles looking for the animation work.

I don’t say that to discourage you, I say that because I’m here to give you the realistic perspective on what it takes to get into animation. That being said, you need to make sure you take every audition opportunity seriously. Casting directors have long memories. I can tell you stories about a casting director looking at me to be like, “Oh yeah, you did that audition for me two years ago and I really loved it and I put a little mark next to your name and now I’ve hired you for this.” So even though it may take a long time, you’ve always got to make sure you’re giving it everything you’ve got. What is your favorite memory of Saturday morning cartoons? Post it in the comments below.

Tip number two, understanding the medium. Are you noticing a pattern in these genre videos so far? Everything I’m saying, it starts with getting to know your medium. If you had never in your life seen a Spanish telenovela and then auditioned for one, would you expect to do it right? It has a particular style, it has a particular script, you need to make sure that you know the medium before you go out to audition. I know that sounds like a really difficult assignment, “Hey, I want you to go watch cartoons,” but if you’re not familiar with the very particular style that animation has, you may end up throwing a Doc McStuffins read into a batman cartoon and that is just going to make you look super silly, although it might make for a really interesting cartoon.

If you can’t figure out what show you’re auditioning for, dig something up. Look for the characters, look for the show title, even look for if you have a chance, who is casting it and see what they’ve worked on in the past. Check out what their style is because they tend … each casting director has their own particular style on what they’re looking for. So you have the internet at your disposal, make sure you’re using it to know your medium.

Tip three, nailing the read. Animation in particular has a lot of pitfalls that people are just read to dive face first into. The first thing being that everyone calls them cartoons. Not every cartoon is going to sound like Bugs Bunny and have something wacky and loony that goes with it. Cartoons run a wide gamut of emotional ranges from deeply serious and somber to completely zany and weird and you have to understand what you’re looking at and what you’re going to do and usually they’re going to give you some ideas in the specs on whether or not it’s going to be grounded and real, or zany and cartoony and my favorite direction, over the top. When you hear over the top, you can just go crazy and get silly and that can be really fun but it’s important that you know the difference when you’re looking at it. Don’t just go for something crazy and cartoony.

When you’re auditioning, it’s important that you show variety, even within the copy. Even if your character is a mad scientist who screams all the time, you’re going to have to find some way to show that yes, you can show the mad scientist screamy stuff, but you can also show that he has underlying motives, maybe he has insecurities, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Find some place in the script to introduce variety, even if the script itself doesn’t necessarily lend it to that.

Lastly, understand the context of the scene that you are auditioning. Animation copies typically comes in film script format so that you can see what’s happening with other characters in the scene. Read them and understand them, even if it’s not a line you’re going to say, understand what’s going on in the scene, otherwise it sounds like all of these lines are just plucked out of the air and plopped into your microphone and believe me, casting directors can tell the difference when you understand the context of a scene and when you’re just reading line, line, line, line.

So, that’s it for animation basics and I do mean basics. Animation is extremely complex, it’s been around for a long time and you need to make sure that you understand your medium and that you have some patience to be proficient in the craft. Keep working on it, get your butt to LA if this is something that you’re super passionate about and just keep going. Eventually something’s going to land for you.

Hey, what’s a cartoon that you really want to be an actor in? What’s the show that you could see your voice popping out of? Post it in the comments below. All right everyone, that is a wrap for today. If this video helped you, let me know by putting it in the comments below. Leave me a like, give me a subscribe and make sure you’re checking out on Twitter and Facebook when I’m posting links to new videos, different behind the scenes stuff and all kinds of other fun stuff on my social channels. Thanks again for stopping by and I will see you in the booth.

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With so many of pieces of software out there that do essentially the same thing, it can be really confusing and really difficult to pick one for yourself. But don’t worry about it, because in this week’s video, I’m going to talk about software, what you need, and how to get it. Here we go.

For weekly tips on how to get started in voice acting, click the Like button and the Subscribe button below, and don’t forget to hit the bell so you get notified when I post a new video every Tuesday.


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Home Studio Recording Hardware

Okay, so you want to give this whole voice-acting thing a try, but first, you need a way to get this voice into that machine. In this video, I’m going to show you all the hardware you need to do just that.

For more tips and tricks on how to be a voice actor, make sure you click the like and subscribe button below, and hit the bell so you get notified every week when I post a new video.


I’m Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain, and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I have been featured in thousands of corporate videos, narration, commercials, promos, video games, anime, cartoons, everything. And I’ve done a fair amount of it from my home studio. In today’s video, we’re going to talk about the signal chain, what that means, and three essential pieces of gear you need to start getting into voice acting.

So what’s a signal chain? A signal chain is the path your voice takes from you to the computer. Someone asks you what your signal chain is, they’re just saying, “what kind of equipment do you have? What’s in between your lips and my ears?” There’s a bunch of things that can be included in that signal chain. A microphone, a preamp, an interface, a computer. Some people also include the audio software they use, and the way that they transfer files to the client.

We’re going to talk about the three essential pieces of gear in your signal chain that you need to get started. First, a microphone. Now, there are thousands of different kinds and brands and all that kind of stuff of microphones out there. You want to start with something basic. I’m going to recommend the MXL 990/991 condenser microphone. Don’t go with a dynamic microphone. It’s a bunch of techno stuff, I’ll explain why, maybe, in another more detailed video. But use a condenser microphone. I started with the MXL 990/991. You can get it for less than $100. It’s easy to use, it takes a lot of beating, and it’s a very reliable, decent-sounding microphone that’s great to start with.

I do not recommend going the USB route. A lot of people are asking me, like, what kind of USB mic should I use for this? I just don’t like the way that USB mics sound. Neither do clients, for the most part. And they can tell the difference. A USB mic doesn’t sound as good, it’s more difficult to upgrade, and also it doesn’t sound as good. If you absolutely must get a USB microphone, check out something that Blue makes, like the Blue Yeti or the Blue Snowball. Test a couple out and see which ones sound the best. Again, I don’t recommend going the USB mic route.

Second, you need an interface, something to take the signal from the microphone to your computer. Think of it like a soundcard, which is basically what it is. It’s an external soundcard that takes the signal from the microphone, digitizes it, and then gives it to your computer in a way that it can understand. For beginners, I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface. This is a extremely easy-to-use, plug-and-play interface that I’ve never had any issues with. Focusrite makes really solid products that are free of any of those weird technical things that, when you try to set up a new piece of hardware, takes you hours to do. That’s been my major problem with most interfaces, is that they’re difficult to set up. Focusrite is plug-and-play, and every piece of gear that I mention today, you’re going to see a link for in the description below.

Do you already have some pieces of a signal chain? Post them in the comments below.


The third thing you need seems kind of obvious, but a good computer and some cables to connect it all together. I use Canare, C-A-N-A-R-E, cables, their XLR cables are the ones you need to connect your microphone to your interface. The computer doesn’t need to be that whiz-bang. You’re just processing audio, you’re not really going to start producing video. If you want to produce video, you’re going to need something a little bit more powerful. But in our case, we’re just looking at something, probably, that was made in the last five years or so. A good CPU with about 8 gigabytes of RAM is your minimum baseline for a PC, or Mac. You’re also going to need some kind of recording software, but we’re going to go into that in another video.

Okay, so maybe I lied that you only need three pieces of gear. You’re also going to need something that helps you listen back. Now, before you spend hundreds of dollars on a complicated high-fidelity studio monitor system, I just recommend getting a pair of headphones. The Sennheiser HD280 is the brand and the model that I recommend. I still have one in my studio today. They’re not very expensive, they’re all over the place, and the fidelity is good enough that you get a good sense of the quality of your audio, without being too technically specific with the frequencies.

That’s it. That’s your signal chain. It’s not too scary, right? With a couple of pieces of equipment and a modest investment, you are well on your way, and have everything you need, to start laying down some tracks. But the most important thing is, get out there, and start doing it. Start getting some experience, and figure out what works for you, and your gear.

That’s a wrap. If you liked this video, if it helped you, let me know in the comments below, and let me know by liking and subscribing to the channel. If you hit the bell, you then get notified every time I post something new. And I am posting something new every week. I also encourage you to follow me on social media, the links of which are all in the description below, where you’ll get more tips, tricks, behind-the-scenes, funny stuff, all the good stuff that’s out there, from a voice actor in Los Angeles.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you in the booth.



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