An impressive voice over demo will lead casting directors to hire you for voice over projects and help launch your voice acting career.
Almost every professional voice actor has a high-quality demo that shows off their strengths and works to establish their personal brand.
Here, we’ll explore how to produce your first voice over demo and, as a result, how to strengthen your chances of getting hired for the best voice over jobs.
In this chapter, we cover:
What is a Voice Over Demo?
A voice over demo is a short audio clip that best showcases your voice acting capabilities. It is essential to record a voice over demo in order to attract prospective clients who are seeking the exact same vocal qualities that you have. A voice over demo is like a business card, headshot, and resume all wrapped into one.
What is a Voice Reel?
A voice reel is the same thing as a voice over demo. The term reel comes from the original analog recordings that were stored on circular reels of magnetic tape. The phrase “voice reel” is an old term from when analog recording was the norm. It has nothing to do with Instagram Reels. Nowadays, voice-over demos are recorded on computer using software like ProTools, Adobe Audition or Audactiy and saved as a digital file, such as a WAV file, MP3 or M4A.
Why You Need a Voice Over Demo
The voice over industry is immensely competitive. In order to land the roles you want, it is crucial that you do all you can to stand out as a voice actor.
Nowadays, clients only have a matter of minutes to find a voice that meets their needs. Without a sample of your voice available online as an MP3 file or even a few voice acting sample files on some USBs to give to agencies, chances are you’ll be overlooked.
When searching for clients, consider this: the majority of clients make a decision as to whether they will hire you or not within the first 5-10 seconds of hearing your voice. Your demo is their first impression of you and what you can do for their organization.
A strong voice over demo will help you achieve exactly that. They are an essential marketing tool to help you stand out in a crowded industry. If you don’t have at least one voice over demo online and readily available for prospective clients to listen to, you’re very likely to lose out on valuable work.
However, you should never settle for creating just one demo.
The truth is, when you offer several samples of your work through a variety of voice acting demos, you achieve at least three things: your demos help set you apart from others, give clients a sound to remember you by, and demonstrate your versatility as a voice actor. In some cases, a demo can also serve as an audition for a job, although the majority of clients will include script excerpts into their voice over job postings that they will require applicants to read as part of their audition.
Your voice over demo should be hosted online, where it is easy to access. With a voice acting profile on Voices, you’ll also have the ability to upload numerous demos to your account and showcase the entire range of your vocal abilities. Whether you have the perfect voice for audiobook narration, character voices, the guy next door, or more, the possibilities are endless.
How to Make a Voice Over Demo
You can make your own voice over demo by recording yourself performing a read of a sample script.
Browse our selection of sample scripts and try recording your voice while you give them a read!
Ideal Duration of a Voice Over Demo
Your voice over demo can range between 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on the type of demo. However, the ideal length for a demo that features multiple spots is 60 to 90 seconds, so that the listener has ample time to appreciate your voice and what you can pull off. Anything shorter than 30 seconds runs the risk of not granting you enough time to fully demonstrate your vocal range.
In terms of understanding when demo length should vary, consider that commercial demos which showcase your skills when performing radio and television ads should last around one minute. However, an audiobook demo will likely be longer—up to four or five minutes—in order to demonstrate your ability to stay in character for extended passages in a story, or possibly to provide voices from different characters in a section of dialogue. It makes sense to settle on a shorter demo, however, if you’re not planning on recording a compilation of spots and instead want to give your listeners an example of what a full length 30-second commercial spot can sound like.
If you plan on uploading your demo to an online marketplace, you might want to keep it within the one minute margin, which equates to about 1 megabyte (MB). A 1MB file loads considerably fast and sounds crisp.
Your goal is to get as many people as possible to press play and listen to what you can do.
Sample Demo Structure
A standard demo that’s a minute in length should include about five spots, which are between five to fifteen seconds in length, give or take.
Here’s a blueprint for a standard 60-second demo:
Spot 1: 15 seconds
Spot 2: 15 seconds
Spot 3: 10 seconds
Spot 4: 10 seconds
Spot 5: 5 seconds
Be sure to leave a quick pause between tracks if you’re using multiple tracks. You can include as many tracks on a demo as you like, but be sure to send people only the tracks that they ask for. For instance, don’t send an audio publisher who works strictly with narrators a sample of your telephone prompts.
Tip: A demo isn’t simply a bunch of random spots mindlessly thrown together. Your voice over demo will reflect your level of professionalism, as well as the value that you have to offer your client should they hire you. Consider separating your demos by themes or by skill sets that you wish to show off. For instance, create a ‘commercial’ demo that is different from an ‘eLearning demo,’ which is different from a ‘French language demo.’
Working with Short Attention Spans
Why should most demos be 30 to 60 seconds long? Well, most people, including your prospective clients, have shorter attention spans now than they used to. These short attention spans are then further challenged by the fact that clients are skimming through numerous auditions in search of the right voice for their project. If your demo doesn’t grab your listener immediately, the opportunity is lost.
You want to instantly get your prospective client’s attention and keep it firmly in your grasp, while quickly showing all that you’re capable of doing. If you ramble on for a long time, your listener’s interest will fade. As a result, you lose out on being noticed and contacted for an audition.
The primary goal of a voice actor is to connect with the listener on a personal level so that the listener both cares about what’s being said while also remembering what was said.
You’re battling for space in the listeners’ minds. If you want to get even the slightest piece of a client’s attention—or ideally, their undivided attention—what you’re saying and how you’re saying it needs to be worth their while.
Producing Your First Voice Over Demo
While it’s likely your first demo will have multiple spots consisting of your strongest voice over skills, having a wide variety of bite-size demos to promote your voice, style, and expertise is the best way to market your voice over services.
Here’s how to approach production:
Breaking Up Your Voice Over Demo Into Bite-Size Pieces
When it comes to impressing a potential client, you often only get one opportunity to show off your skills. You have to be ready to prove your capabilities when prompted. You should always be ready with a selection of your strongest work compiled in bite-size demos, organized by genre or style of read.
Slicing your demo into smaller, more digestible pieces allows prospective clients to pick and choose what best applies to their needs.
Clients are always on the lookout for quick and simple solutions.
If you produce a number of shorter demos in a variety of styles, you stand a better chance of those demos being listened to. Promoting those demos online and describing them for search engines is one of the best ways to achieve your goal of being heard. If you specialize in a given area, like audiobook narration, you may find it best to have a specific demo for each genre (fantasy, sci-fi, young adult) that you read in.
Popular Voice Over Genres
If you step back and reflect on all the voice overs you hear in a day, you’ll realize that voice over is everywhere.
Considering the vastness of the multibillion dollar voice acting industry, you’ll likely find that your voice is more fitted for one area than another—something we alluded to above when we discussed versatility. But while you’re still getting to know what your voice can do, play the field. It’s not a bad idea to test out various categories of voice over work to practice.
However, when you’re producing your first demo, you should zero in on the kind of voice acting you believe you’ll thrive in most, and on the vocal qualities that make your voice shine.
Here are the most popular genres to consider producing a demo for:
Note: These are referred to as Categories here at Voices, but you may see them called genres in the industry elsewhere.
A yearning to voice zany, over-the-top cartoon characters is a major reason many people get into the industry in the first place. After all, who wouldn’t want to see their voice personified by an animated character? We’re happy to say that there is a large amount of work available in the field of animation.
Consider the broad range of entertainment where animated characters come into play: TV programs and animated films (both for children and adults), dubbed foreign language cartoons, video games, computer games, mobile apps, talking toys…the list goes on. Your ticket in this field likely won’t involve honing in on your best Dora the Explorer impression, but rather developing your own unique voice by mimicking and being inspired by the kinds of characters that speak to you from movies and television.
Working in animation really allows you to unleash your acting chops. To achieve the most vivid performance, you’ll want to use exaggerated facial expressions and arm movements to give your character a persona that is larger than life.
Audiobooks have experienced a surge in popularity with the rise of audio-first preferences among the general population, resulting in a larger market for voices that specialize in narration: soothing, engaging voices that can be listened to for hours on end.
If narration is something you feel passionate about, try recording a number of excerpts from royalty-free novels that are in the public domain. Search for excerpts across different genres so that you can display your versatility and try performing an excerpt of dialogue between two characters to showcase your ability shifting between different characters in conversation with one another.
If you like reading dramatic monologues or fiction, for example, perform reads of that literary style and see how you sound. Record the genre of literature that you would normally read for pleasure, and you’ll yield the best performance for your demos.
Voice over is highly sought after in the corporate world, and these bread-and-butter jobs can be a thrilling way to establish yourself locally and internationally. Every business requires some type of voice over, from telephone recording to employee training videos, eLearning modules, medical videos, explainer videos, corporate narration translation, and voice over welcoming visitors to company websites via video.
In order to source ideas for the types of voice over business demos, here are some starting points for you:
- Visit the websites of the big brands you aspire to emulate, and watch their videos.
- Reflect back on training videos that you’ve viewed at past jobs.
- Listen closely to telephone systems on-hold messaging when making phone calls and channel the aspects you like into your Telephone demos.
Try to produce a handful of various business demos to showcase everything that you can bring to the table. Our recommendation would be to create a demo for a fun explainer video, another for telephone prompts, and an employee training video. A combo of these three shows that you can serve a variety of corporate needs, and proves you have what it takes to act as a company’s voice.
Even if you’re the most casual fan of the Discovery or History Channel, you must be well-acquainted with the familiar, informative voice that details what is happening on screen.
If you’d really like to break into documentary narration, watch as many documentaries as you can, and attentively study the voices used.
For your demo, record a number of excerpts that sound like they’re pulled from an actual documentary film. Try to cover everything from a scientific phenomenon, to a historic subject, to the life and times of a famous figure. If you happen to be using material from existing documentaries for your demo inspiration, be sure only to use the script as a framework, and change the names, places, and locations to steer clear of copyright infringement.
Like several other sectors that rely heavily on voice over, eLearning is an industry on the rise. The number of students who are completing either a portion or the entirety of their education online is at an all-time high. eLearning voice over needs to be engaging and upbeat while distilling information in a concise and instructive manner. eLearning can include everything from video and audio lectures, to interactive learning and educational games, to eLearning modules, medical videos, explainer videos, and more.
If you’re recording an eLearning voice over demo, let these eLearning sample scripts, which cover eLearning podcasts and employee on-boarding, lead the way.
Podcasts have become a dominant cultural form. They’re the primary medium through which so many people stay up to date with current events, get their storytelling and entertainment, and have their horizons broadened. And—thanks to the rise of podcast advertising—it’s also a medium that is exposing listeners to advertising.
Needless to say, polishing a voice that listeners find trustworthy, relaxed, or captivating is highly important in the world of podcasting.
You can write your own podcast script, or simply speak about something that you’re passionate about in a casual yet compelling manner. Podcast voices are meant to sound natural and off the cuff.
If you can think of a topic, there’s sure to be a podcast about it, so a major benefit to pursuing work in this industry is that you won’t be limited to a narrow area of interest.
Radio and TV
On cable TV there are approximately 10 full minutes of commercials per half hour program. Radio stations air close to the same amount of commercials per hour, usually spanning just under 12 minutes.
More than commercials, there are ‘sweepers’ needed in this field. Sweepers are also known as liners, bumpers, radio imaging, station imaging, stingers, IDs, promos, shotguns, and intros. Next time you’re watching TV or listening to the radio, practice imitating both the commercials and sweepers. In fact, if you’re pursuing a voice over career in radio imaging or commercials, it would be wise to create a voice over demo for radio commercials as well as one for sweepers. ‘Radio imaging’ is a commonly used term to describe any number of sweepers.
Your commercial demo should contain a variety of styles of delivery, such as conversational (chatting with a friend), hard sell (car commercials), and soft sell (e-commerce). Meanwhile, your sweepers should include a series of station ID promos that are upbeat and could work with a variety of stations, like easy listening, rock, and country.
Other Types of Voice Over Demos
There’s no limit to how you can apply voice over. There are countless avenues of work in voice over that you can pursue and record voice over demos to showcase your skills.
Here are some other fields that may be of interest to you (note that this is just a sampling and not an all-inclusive list!):
- Live announcement voice over
- Multilingual demo showcasing the different languages you speak
- Celebrity impressions (voice matching, soundalikes, dubbing)
- Emotion-oriented demos (showcasing your ability to read in different vocal styles)
- Tour guide for places of interest, local attractions, and museums
- Age-specific voice demos
- Movie trailers
- Jingles and musical work
- Digital video ads
- Voice assistants
Once again—and this cannot be stressed enough—avoid the prospect of copyright infringement by using fictitious movies, names, places, and so on.
Now that you’ve got a sense of what it takes to record a demo, as well as the kind of demo that will show off your range and make your voice shine, it’s time to talk about what it takes to actually record your voice.