by Jason McCoy

Updated May 2020

Have you ever wondered how to make a professional voice over demo?

Well, the easiest way is to hire a demo producer.

Or you could make a voice over demo yourself.

WHAT, produce my own demo?? I know what you’re thinking:

It’s been said many times, “A voice actor should NEVER produce their own voice over demo”.

Why?

Because we may not get the results we’re hoping for.

But isn’t that the case for many things in life?

Companies should NEVER voice their own phone prompts, right?

But they do.

…We should NEVER do our own painting, right?

But we do.

No matter what the task is, hiring a professional to do it is probably going to give you the best outcome.

That goes for voice over, painting and pretty much everything.Enter your text here...

creating voiceover demo reel

That doesn’t mean you CAN’T do it.

There is a time when producing your own demo may make sense.

That time is when you’re caught between not having a demo and having no work.

Is a self-made voice over demo the worst thing you can do?

Maybe – if your demo is done so poorly that it doesn’t do you voice or talent justice. Yes, that would be bad.

Except for that – what could be worse?

How about not having a demo at all?

That would prevent a career from ever taking off.

Unfortunately, no demo = no voice over jobs/income.

And no voice over jobs/income = no money to hire a voice over demo producer.

What about hurting your voice over career by sending out a bad demo?

First off, if it’s a bad demo you shouldn’t be using it. You must be the judge. But even if you’re an awful judge and do end up sending a bad (or even terrible) demo to a prospect, what are the odds they’ll remember you a month later?

Slim to none. People are busy. Which is probably why we forget 90% after 1 month.

That’s why we’re taught by marketing experts to stay in touch with clients.

find voiceover work and voice-over jobs

bonus DOWNLOAD

Get this ultimate guide for finding voice-over work delivered straight to your inbox as a PDF.

You'll receive this guide + more helpful voice-over tips.

Because even with a killer demo chances are a client will forget your name within a month.

Don’t get me wrong – Voice over demo production is an art in itself.

There are many extremely talented producers who can make you sound amazing.

And yes…

It’s always best to hire a voice over demo producer…

…but when you have more time available than money (and no jobs because you don’t have a demo), producing your own voice over demo can help get the cash flow ball rolling.

That’s why I’m going to show you how to make your own voice over demo (without killing your career).

Before we get into the details, keep this in mind:

Only you know if you’ve got what it takes to make your own voice over demo.

Effective self-criticism and good judgement are key to making your own voice over demo!

Are you offering professional voice over?

Let’s get started:

How to Make a Voice Over Demo in 5 Steps

Step 1: Find a Popular Voice for Your Voice Over Demo

You could just start with voice over demo scripts found online, like many people do.

But the problem with voice over sample scripts is that they are usually just for practice. That means, most voice over practice scripts aren't written well enough for a professional voice over demo.

Do this instead...

If you’ve spent any time auditioning you’ll notice artistic direction that mentions a specific actor or project.

This is HUGE clue!

voiceover demo sounds like

The client is telling you exactly what they are looking for.

And odds are…

…if this client liked that spot or voice over delivery, there are probably hundreds or thousands more who want that same sound.

Which means having that popular style as a sample on your voice over demo could help you land those jobs even faster!

Using a popular voice as a reference for who’s getting hired, is a great starting point for your demo.

Find a voice actor who is popular and also similar to your own voice sound and style.

Here’s a few examples: Morgan Freeman. Tim Allen. Dennis Leary.

Sometimes it isn’t so much the actor but a certain project. You may not know who voiced the project but it’s the sound or feeling that the client is searching for.

For example, Apple commercials have a calm and conversational feeling that is often referenced by clients.

It doesn’t matter what voice over niche you’re producing your demo for, you can find samples on sites like YouTubeiSpot.tvVimeo, etc.

Once you find the voice over, you’ll use this as your inspiration for your voice over demo.

Step 2: Study the Voice Over Example and Practice

Study the voice over and try to mimic that voice.

Wait, mimic? Aren’t we supposed to be unique and original as voice actors?

Yes, you do want to be unique and original as you grow.

But if you don’t have a demo, a known voice, or a brand for your voice yet, you can find voice over work quickly by studying what others are doing or have done.

If you’ve got a voice that can sound like Morgan Freeman, there’s a lot of voice over work you could be getting.

Remember, the goal of a voice over demo is to show clients what you’re capable of doing with your voice.

Analyze the voice over. Really pick it apart to figure out how it was done. Learn something from it.

As you listen to the voice over, pay extra close attention to these 2 things:

1 – How was it read? Consider things like volume, pace, inflections and pauses.

2 – The type music used. How would you describe the music?

Now transcribe the voice over into a script which you’ll use to study even more.

You can quickly transcribe a video by playing the audio on a site like Dictation.

I used this video as my example and Dictation quickly spit out the copy:

voiceover script

Make sure you add your own notes (like commas for slight pauses or where emphasis was added) to help you understand why this voice over worked so well.

NOTE: I originally suggested the next step be to record your own version of this exact script. Several comments made good points about this being a copyright infringement. So to keep everything legal and on the up and up, it’s best to write your own script…

Now, take some time and write your own short script using the example voice over as your inspiration.

Step 3: Record Your Voice

By now you’ve listened and studied the example voice over multiple times, written your own script and now you’re ready to record.

Using your script (including your notes) and what you learned in Step 2, record your voice over with your audio software.

Remember, you want your read to match the style of the popular voice over you’re using as your example.

It should sound exactly the same:

Same mic proximity.

Same delivery style.

Same pacing.

Same emphasis.

Same inflection.

Same pauses.

Step 4: Add Music to Your Voice-Over

Now that you’ve got your vocal track recorded, it’s time to add the music (assuming the popular voice over example had music).

This is where people make mistakes because it involves production.

Up until this point you’ve basically been doing the job of a voice actor. Now, it’s time to get into producing the demo.

Check out a royalty free music site like AudioJungle or PremiumBeat to find music that is similar to the music in your example.

Think back to Step 2 and how you described the music.

Just plop that adjective into the search box on the royalty free music site and BOOM!

music for voiceover demo

That brings up thousands of options to choose from.

If you don’t find many songs using your search, try using another word to describe the music or if the song reminds you of a band, try searching the band’s name.

Browse through the songs and select the one that best represents the music from your example.

You’ll need to purchase that song in order to use it on your voice over demo.

Once you purchase the song and download the MP3, you’ll just mix it together with your voice over (most audio recording programs have mixing capabilities).

VOICE-OVER TIP

 Sign up for AudioJungle’s newsletter and you’ll get a free music track every month:

envato for voiceover music

When mixing the music with your voice over, remember to keep the music volume low so it doesn’t overpower your voice. Also, make sure your final mix down is in stereo.

Step 5: Repeat

Done! Now you’ve got a great sounding sample for your voice over demo (and your only expense was the cost of the music).

You’ll want to repeat this process a few times in order to build up a full demo showing your different styles.

Even though you probably recorded longer, only use about :10 worth of this sample in your demo.

Ideally you want your demo to be around 60 seconds and showcase about 6 different styles.

This is how to create a professional sounding voice-over demo

Now you know how to make a voice over demo.

Hopefully this self made demo will be good enough to score you work so you can eventually hire a professional voice over demo producer to do it for you.

Until then, just keep doing these steps:

Step 1: Find a really popular voice or project that is similar to your own style

Step 2: Study the voice over for clues and write a new script

Step 3: Follow your script and record a voice over

Step 4: Add music or effects to finish off the sample

Step 5: Do it over and over again until you’ve got a killer self made :60 voice over demo.

Remember the point of a voice over demo is to show prospects exactly what you’re capable of, which may include sounding similar to other popular voices and (as you grow and succeed) your own original style.

How to Become a Voice Actor

How to Become a
Voice-Over Actor


A FREE 5-STEP GUIDE TO GET STARTED IN VOICE-OVER

  • Hi Jason, I’m not afraid to fail/rejection and I really want to get started submitting auditions. What mediums can I find available auditions across a variety of genres? I feel like I’m learning more than I am actually “doing”. I got the gear and want to start!

    • Hey Nico – Most of the pay-to-play websites offer a variety of VO genres. No better way to learn than by doing – I wish you much success as. you get started!

  • Hi Jason,

    Thank you for your advice! Just a general question, I would like to start recording, is there any websites or sample I can use to record my demo? Please let me know.

  • Joni Miller says:

    Hi Jason,
    How do you segue between each segment? Fade in and out? Hard cuts? How much time between each?

    Thanks!

  • Greg Wigle says:

    Jason,
    Once again your advice is so helpful. I am finally ready to begin recording. I have the microphone and interface you recommend. I’ve treated the corner of my basement with acoustic tiles and moving blankets and I’ve watched hours of informative videos from your site and others. While doing sound checks I’ve noticed I can hear my laptop. It’s resting on the table on a carpet sample but I still hear the hum. I have enough cable to place it outside of my treated space but that seems counterproductive having to go in and out of the space to start and stop recordings. Any suggestions?

    • You could run an external monitor from the laptop (outside your space) and use a wireless mouse keyboard. This way you laptop is not heard, but you still see the screen and control the laptop from the recording area.

    • Most DAWs have noise reduction somewhere hidden in their plugins. You can let your audio record for a few seconds to pick up the Laptop, then filter that out of your recordings.

      • I would save noise reduction as a last resort. It removes frequencies which can remove clarity.

  • Hey Jason….
    From quite some time I, ve been looking,reading and watching videos about voice overs and u hv given very encouraging and inspiring advices…. . Thankyou soo much…. Keep the good work up… Stay blessed

  • Thank you so much for the information. I signed up to the Voices.com website and I didn’t know where to start. I bought my first microphone, and waiting to select my headphones. This is great info. Question, do you 100% need a set of headphones when doing voice overs?

    • Hey Scott – no headphones aren’t a must-have for recording voice-over. Many voice actors feel they can do a better natural read without them.

      • Thanks Jason. Would that apply even if I didn’t have a real studio? Just because I will probably start just doing demo’s in my closet..

        • Yes, that’s still fine. But you do need a way to hear playback of the voice-over. Usually headphones or quality monitors so you can hear any clicks or noises.

          • Ok sounds good Jason. I think I will purchase the headphones just in case. They’re only like $60 so not a big investment. The microphone was only $60 as well.

  • THIS was so so very helpful in getting started with my first demos. I am really looking forward to creating. Jason, as always, thank you for your guidance!

  • Thank you so much for this article. I started to do voice over because over 60 People told me that I have a special cute voice and that I definitely should be a voice describer for animation. The first article that I’ve read about voice over was yours and it was easyy to read and very useful. Thank you! I appreciate that!

  • Don Henderson says:

    Thanks Jason! Time to get busy.

  • Thank you so much, Jason! Really useful article and hope it will resolve my problem! But what about using the brand name in my demo? The clients can think I was hired by them, thus adding me prestige. Or this corresponds to imitation? For example, a lot of vo actors imitate Mickey – and that’s okay, no one sues them for that…

    • I think it’s fine and have never heard of anyone having issue with it. If in doubt, ask an attorney.

  • Having the skill to produce your voice over work from your own studio is vital if you want to be free. If you rely on their studio then you are just another employee. I have my own studio. A laptop, excellent USB mic, DAW, Headphones and a nice quiet place. sometimes in my home, in the middle of the woods or on a boat in a secluded harbor at anchor.

      • A digital audio workstation (DAW) is software used for recording, editing and producing audio files. Adobe Audition, Audacity, Reaper, etc.

  • Hernan Soto says:

    A “Professionally Produced Demo” will certainly showcase what a Professional Producer can do for you at his studio with all his pro equipment. If you cannot reproduce that in your home studio, you would have wasted maybe thousands of dollars… Just my $.02

    • Jason McCoy says:

      Good point Hernan. No point in sounding professional on a demo if you can’t reproduce that in your own studio. That will only disappoint clients.

      Some demo producers will direct you over Skype from your studio. So you record from your studio, send the producer the files and they produce it in their studio.

  • Josh Harness says:

    Thanks for this article! Was exactly my plan too. Get some demos rolling then use the cash from those jobs to pay into a professional coaching/demo production option. Relieved to hear it’s viable!

    • Jason McCoy says:

      Hey Josh, You’re welcome!

      Sounds like a plan. Which audio editing software do you plan to use? Adobe Audition, Audacity, etc?

  • Thanks for all your helpful advice Jason! This is another great article.

  • gatoronfire4lord says:

    I recently attended a voice acting workshop. One of the FIRST things the teacher stressed was how important it is to get a PROFESSIONAL demo done. Companies can tell if you do it yourself, she said. If you want to get work, you HAVE to have that professionally made demo. We did a group practice, and the next day she emailed everyone. She told me I had great talent and a real future in the business…

    …and then pitched her company’s suite of coaching and demo production packages, which STARTED at around $1500. So thank you for providing the advice on exactly HOW to make a good sounding demo without shelling out 1-2 months of paychecks for the average person. I get not recording into your webcam microphone and sending that, THAT would be noticeable, but as you say, the regular person who has an idea of what they are doing should be fine.

    • Jason McCoy says:

      Exactly! Demo producers can definitely help direct you and create a mix where you sound your best. But I believe in building a business from cash flow. If you can make a demo yourself that gets you work, that’s a great starting point.

    • Josh Harness says:

      Such a voice right? Had the same deal lol

      • I went to a 2 hour SuchAVoice class. Didn’t realize until the end it was two hour commercial. Good info, but at the end he pitched a $3,000-$6,000 coaching and demo session and compared it to paying $17,000 for haircutting school. I agree too, I can pay $750 to do a professional demo, but I will never be able to reproduce the quality at home?

        • I attended one of those also, for a cost of $7.95 (just a little money to be sure you show up). After staring their $5000 option in the face it was a no-brainer to do the VO Launch Plan for approx 10% of the cost. I just completed it, too. My website is up, my scripts are done, and this week I’ll be producing my demo. I have a sample one on my website, but I can’t wait to have the whole thing done.

  • Eloisa Fortin says:

    Ive been looking,reading and wathjng videos to start voice acting and this article of yours is a perfect and clear picture on how to start. THANKYOU!

  • Can you really use scripts from commercials for your demo? I thought there would be domain issues with that.

  • Sarah Puckett says:

    Thank you for this!! One question, is it ok to use any script (nike commercial, radio ad, etc) for our demo? Or do we need to come up with our own? Is there a copyright issue for any of this?

    • Jason McCoy says:

      That’s an excellent question Sarah.

      I’m not a lawyer, but personally I don’t believe it’s infringing on someone else’s rights. Remember you aren’t using someone else’s voice over, and you wouldn’t be earning money by selling that demo. The sole purpose is to show what you are capable of doing.

      You are using someone else’s work to guide and inspire you to create your own. You could change words in the copy or just use the feeling from the sample to create something similar, if it makes you feel better.

      • Noah A. Bolmer says:

        Unfortunately I need to interject here. You are using someone’s copyrighted work (remember, any original work fixed in a “tangible medium of expression” is afforded automatic copyright protection) as a marketing tool. While I doubt lawsuits for this are common, it is absolutely not legal. Copying commercial work for marketing purposes is questionable advice.

        • Jason McCoy says:

          Very good point Noah. I’ve modified the step in the post to avoid any possible infringement that may have arisen from the original direction.

        • WRONG. It’s not for marketing purposes. You aren’t turning a profit by sending anyone your demo.
          An example: A band is looking for a guitar player like Kurt Cobain. I send in a demo of myself doing covers of Nirvana songs. The band likes it and allows me to join. All perfectly legal.

          Now, if I was to sell those songs, then I would be violating copyright laws. Otherwise, it’s perfectly legal to imitate someone else’s work for the sake of displaying one’s talent.

          • wayne chattillon says:

            a question was asked and responded to at voices.com here’s the question and response
            Is it OK to use copyrighted material in your demo?

            What could happen if you use a script from an audition that you didn’t win for promotional purposes?
            Can you perform a dead-on vocal impression of a celebrity but are curious about legal issues?
            Find the answers to these questions and more in our interview with David R. Canton, Lawyer and Trade-mark Agent with Harrison Pensa LLP in London, Canada.

            Voices Interview with Lawyer David R. Canton
            VOX: Thank you David for joining me here on VOX Daily and for sharing your expertise with us. As a lawyer specializing in copyright and intellectual property there are a number of questions I’d like to ask you on behalf of our audience and community at Voices. Firstly, I’d like to ask you about copyright law. This is one of the hottest topics around and it affects all voice actors in one way or another when they are recording scripts, especially when recording and producing a voice over demo.

            DAVID CANTON: First, some caveats to my responses. Laws vary by country, and even by state/province within countries. Legal answers always depend on the specific facts at hand, and small changes in fact can lead to different results. So my answers here are for general guidance and information only, and are not to be considered or relied upon as legal advice.
            Another thing to consider is that rights owners vary greatly in their inclination and desire to enforce their IP rights. Some may not care, or may let violations slide on the basis that it is good publicity. Others may be overly aggressive and try to stop things that one is legally able to do.

            VOX: Can a voice actor use the name of an established company such as McDonald’s, even their ad copy or slogans, in a voice over demo if they haven’t worked for that company or do not have permission expressly from the owner of the copyright to do so?

            DAVID CANTON: In part this depends on whether the voice actor does this to mislead that he/she actually did the commercial. It would be a copyright violation to use the exact text of a real ad. Using a name or trade-mark technically may not be a trade-mark violation as the voice actor is not using it to sell the same wares or services of the company. But some famous mark owners get very aggressive about trying to prevent others from using their marks in any way.

            The safest approach is to alter an existing ad sufficiently to avoid being accused of copyright violation over the ad, and use a fictional name.

            VOX: Voice actors do auditions everyday at Voices and through other services. Usually a script is provided by the client that a voice actor can partially record for demonstration purposes. This allows the client to review the samples and get a better idea of how that person would sound representing their company.

            Should that ad copy or script be considered “off limits” to voice actors if they don’t get the job? In other words, is it OK for a voice actor to use the audition spot they recorded as a sample of what they could do and post it publicly on the web or include it in demo materials that they send out to prospective clients or agencies?

            DAVID CANTON: If the script is provided by the client, the best approach is to ask permission to use it as a sample and get that permission in writing. Indeed, that should be standard practice for the voice actor. In addition to removing all doubt, it shows a very professional approach that the client may like to see. It’s the same issue as Question 1. One factor here is that if the sample script is close to the final ad, the client may not want versions other than by its final voice choice to be floating around.

            VOX: There have been a couple of instances where we have received complaints from clients who noticed that auditions submitted featuring their scripts had been used by talent who were not hired as promotional materials. Those voice samples were removed from the profiles of the talent in question and the client was pleased with those actions.
            This may seem obvious, but would you advise that talent simply archive their auditions and not use the audio for other purposes, particularly promotional purposes that may endanger or misrepresent the company’s brand?

            DAVID CANTON: Yes, that’s a wise approach. Again – the best approach is to always ask if one can use the audition for samples.
            VOX: When does copyright infringement occur? Is there a fine line that is crossed when a certain amount of information is used, or is it any portion, regardless of how small?

            DAVID CANTON: There is no precise answer to this. Small amounts are not considered infringing – what “small” means is subjective, and may depend in part on how central that part is to the whole. Keep in mind that copyright deals with the expression of the idea, not the idea itself. In other words, it prevents one from repeating the words; it does not prevent one from using the ideas or information contained in the words.

            VOX: There is a misconception in our industry that it is OK to use copyrighted material without permission to provide prospective clients with a demonstration of what voice actors are capable of doing, although the audio may not necessarily be a true reflection of who they have actually branded or been hired by.

            What is wrong with that concept and what are the possible consequences of doing so?
            DAVID CANTON: In addition to the copyright issue, it would be misleading advertising to suggest that one has done certain work when they have not. That can lead to quasi-criminal charges. It also doesn’t do one’s reputation any good.

            VOX: If we could, I’d like to move on to another aspect of voice over work. There is a sizable market for “sound alikes”, people who can manipulate their voice to sound convincingly like the voice of someone else. Oftentimes the hiring of a sound alike or person to do the voice match is required because a celebrity is either unavailable or too expensive to hire.

            In the highest echelons of voice over, these legalities are looked after quite nicely because the stakes are too high to not observe the law, and they (producers), also have more money to bridge the gap than smaller companies do. In the world of non-union work, these same considerations are not necessarily observed due to factors mentioned above.
            Could you please explain what the difference is, if there is one, between imitation and impersonation as it pertains to voice over recordings? Where is the line drawn and what are the legal implications?

            DAVID CANTON: This is another one where the line is tough to draw. If it is an impersonation that misleads the listener to think they are hearing a real celebrity endorsement, then the real celebrity can take legal action. Theories include appropriation of personality, and passing off. There is some notion that one’s reputation is a property right. So anything that suggests a celebrity endorsement, and/or derives some commercial advantage for it, should not be done. If the voice is clearly an imitation or parody, and not the actual celebrity, it is less likely to cross that line.

            VOX: Can someone legally imitate or impersonate another person, of high profile or otherwise, in a voice over recording without their prior written consent? If someone does this without consent, what are the potential legal outcomes?

            DAVID CANTON: See answer to #6.
            VOX: Does this also apply to celebrities or individuals who have died? Consider voice overs recorded that portray Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, and so on. Recently, there was a very high profile voice over professional, Don LaFontaine, who passed away (September 1, 2008) and he is mimicked quite often for his movie trailer voice (both before he died and presently). What kind of permission is required to make a recording portraying the deceased? Should royalties be going to their estates?

            DAVID CANTON: Yes, estates can enforce those rights. It really comes down to whether the person is misleading who they are. Elvis impersonators and tribute bands, for example, are clearly not suggesting they are the originals. They do, however, need to comply with copyright by getting whatever permissions or rights are required to perform the songs.
            If someone died a long time ago, it may be a smaller risk, as it would be harder to imagine, for example, that Winston Churchill would actually endorse an MP3 player.
            The Don LaFontaine example may be different in that one can argue that he is not a celebrity that is being impersonated.

            VOX: How do these same principles apply to the imitation of character voices such as Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Homer Simpson, The Little Mermaid (Ariel) or other character voices? Is there a shelf life for a character voice before it becomes part of the public domain or are these voices protected for as long as the creator or owner of the intellectual property maintains control?

            DAVID CANTON: The issues are similar – it’s just that the owner of the rights are different. Copyright does have a fixed time span that varies according to jurisdiction – usually the life of the author plus several decades after that. Some countries have recently extended those time periods as a result of lobby efforts of the rights owners.
            VOX: What can be done to curb infringement? What can we do as a marketplace to help spread awareness and develop an industry that respects copyright and intellectual property at all levels?

            DAVID CANTON: Copyright is not an issue that is well understood. Many think copyright laws are too restrictive, while others want tougher laws. And the internet and digitization have made it extremely easy for people to violate copyright. At the same time, there are instances where copyright may technically be violated, but the practical reality is that there is no harm to the rights holder.

            The best way to deal with it is to make people aware of what should not be done, and provide alternatives. In many cases, such as auditions, it’s very easy to simply ask. It’s also important for people to be above board and never mislead what they are doing, and what their experience is. In addition to being a legal risk, misleading customers or potential customers will only hurt one’s reputation.

            ~~
            Well, there are some answers for you! I promised that an interview would be published with a lawyer and here it is.
            If you have anything that you’d like to share, you can add a comment below.
            Best wishes,
            Stephanie
            P.S. If you’d like to learn more about David Canton, you can visit his blog Canton.eLegal.ca.

  • Prashant Tomar says:

    Hi Jason,

    Thank you so much for just an amazing guidance. I have seen many artists who don’t share the tips just because they have a fear as if someone will be on their competition if they share their tips. You’re amazing!! Thanks again.. I’m from New Delhi, India

  • Great advice. I do have my own pro produced demos already, but am inspired to have a go at making my own celebrity ones now! I am a female British RP voice, so will need to get busy looking for some Brit voices to add to my list, and get practicing. Yikes! Here we go….

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    >