A Question Regarding Demos

Jim & Penny - I'm starting to market my first VO demo, which is a commercial voice over style... but I also want to get in the field of doing industrial work and on hold messaging. Is it best to wait until you have a specialized demo for those two areas before you even attempt to find that type of work, or would my commercial demo work in the interim?

Jim's answer:

The voiceover business is becoming so specialized these days that a combination demo will rarely do the job it is intended to do - that is get you work. A much better approach is to have a variety of demos - one for each area in which you want to work. Telephone messaging clients want to know how you'll sound delivering a phone message, so your best commercial delivery generally won't work for them. By the same token, producers of commercials and other narrative projects are looking for "real people" voice talent, so including wacky character voices in a commercial demo isn't a good idea.

Before producing your demos, take a close, hard look at what you do best, and which area of VO you think might get you established as credible voice talent. Keep in mind that this may not be the voiceover work you ultimately want to do! Even though you might ultimately want to work as an animation voice actor, you may discover that telephone messaging or medical narration is what you do best at the moment. Capitalize on your current skills, and continue to study your craft to master other areas of voiceover. Voicing commercials is usually the starting point and the kind of work where you'll learn and perfect the skills you'll need for other types of voice work.

Here are some dos and don’ts for demos:

Don't produce your demo until you are ready! Carefully consider the advice of your coaches and mentors to help you decide when you're ready. Essentially, you'll know you're ready when you can take any script and be very close to an ideal delivery (as determined by the director) within 1 or 2 takes.

Don't produce your own demo! You need to focus on your performance, NOT on the engineering. Find a recording studio that has experience producing VO demos and that has an engineer or director who knows how to work with voice talent. Set aside some money each month to save up for your demo. A good demo will cost some money, and you definitely get what you pay for! Don't shortchange yourself by thinking you can save some money by doing your own demo. You'll only end up wasting your time and energy, and spending a lot of money on marketing that won't get you the results you want.

Do keep each demo to about 1.5 minutes in length., producers will make a talent decision after only hearing about 3-10 seconds of your demo. Use short "clips" of about :05 - :15 in length to demonstrate a variety of delivery styles, attitudes, etc.

Don't include full-length spots on your demo. Put your strongest delivery style at the beginning of it and avoid putting two clips of the same pace adjacent to each other. Keep MP3 versions of your demos in an easily accessible folder on your computer so you can quickly access them to attach to an email. Don't make a lot of CD's. Demos are rapidly moving toward electronic MP3 files.

Do get a website! If you don't already have a website, seriously consider getting one. A website can be a powerful marketing tool for your voiceover talent, and will help build credibility for you as a professional. It will also give you an e-mail address that will help to brand your voiceover work.

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