What an Aspiring Voice-Over Actor and a Winky Artist May Have in Common


Remember Winky? Winky was just one of many different cute, pencil-drawn animals that my generation may fondly recall appearing in a series of ads in the back of magazines. The ads promised something like:

“If you can draw this, you may have hidden talent as an artist!”

Well, I wasn’t much of an artist back then, but I did my best to copy the drawing, send it for evaluation, and then hope upon hope to win a cash prize.

Of course, what I didn’t understand at my tender age was that the offer was just an advertising gimmick to get people to sign up for a home-study art course. It’s tough to remember a time we were innocent enough to believe there was a simple, predictable path to follow to have a career as an artist.

So I had to smile when I read the title of this blog post: “8 Steps to Becoming a Voice-Over Talent”

Wow! Just follow these eight simple steps and you too can be a professional voice-over actor. Hang your shingle, start your business, and begin raking in the dough.

While I respect the author of the article and believe he was genuinely trying to be helpful, I have a few issues (four to be exact) with articles that make voice-over careers sound like a piece of cake.

Issue 1: Tricking the Brain

Breaking topics into a small number of steps has become a very trendy way to catch readers’ attention. They’re also prime for tricking the brain into thinking something tough is actually easy.

Since at least half of the human mind thinks in linear terms, divide and conquer is a strategy the mind embraces. And just because your mind is tricked into thinking something is easy doesn’t mean in reality it is.

A case in point:

How to Become a Brain Surgeon in 8 Steps




Eight easy steps from your couch to the OR, with drill and scalpel in tow!

Issue 2: Misconstrued Career View

The brain surgeon article may appear laughable, knowing it takes a heck of a lot more than eight steps to operate inside someone’s skull. But eight steps to becoming a voice-over actor may seem entirely feasible.

I’m not comparing voice-over work to brain surgery (although, let’s face it, the marketing is WAY easier for brain surgeons), but I am pointing out a consistent misconception that views a voice-over career as somehow different, and easier, than many other types of career paths.

Information is often presented as if anyone with a “good speaking voice” could easily and successfully launch a high-paying voice-over career. Lots of voice over workshop advertisements like this one and especially this one hype up the career to sometimes dizzying degrees, leading readers to believe they can jump right in and meet with instant success.

Issue 3: The Age-Old Winky Lure

What readers may not realize is many of the hyped-up and easy-step articles are drawing them in with a rickety promise, telling them things they want to hear – and then trying to lure them into voice-over coaching, classes, demo services or other paid offerings.

Kinda reminds me of the same way “Drawing Winky” lured people into home-study art courses.

Issue 4: Becoming vs. Being a Voice-Over Actor

Finally, there’s a massive difference between becoming something and being something. Following all the necessary steps does not MAKE you a professional voice-over actor — or even a good one. While those eight steps may be somewhere on every successful voice talent’s path, there are a countless number of other steps that may or may not need to be taken as well.

Three Cheers for Reality

Aspiring voice-over actors would be well served in reading articles written by seasoned pros that tell it like it is.

“Hey, this is not an easy profession but if you have some natural talent and are willing to put in the time, energy and money to develop your talent, AND you have the necessary drive and discipline to run your own business successfully (doing everything that entails), then you may have a shot.”

I have read (and written a few) articles that say that, and I appreciate the honesty. More importantly, I hope aspiring voice-over talents take the time to get a balanced view of what is actually involved in ramping up a successful voice-over career.

7 comments on “What an Aspiring Voice-Over Actor and a Winky Artist May Have in Common

  1. Debby Barnes on

    This is simply superb. And even though I’m not as seasoned as some, I’m standing alongside you cheering-in a stronger 24/7 VO reality: “I hope aspiring voice-over talents take the time to get a balanced view of what is actually involved in ramping up a successful voice-over career.” Rah-Rah! for this particular quote, Debbie.

  2. Andy Wehrlen on

    This is a good one Debbie! I recall taking one those VO classes one night at a local high school many many years ago. Big on wasting my time and long on the promise of success IF you sign on to the time program.

    It’s always easy to sucker folks in and so many people fall for it cuz they don’t have realistic expectations. We’ve come to a point where many simply believe they’re owed or they have so much talent that they’ll step into success overnight. All the best advice I’ve seen makes sure that you know up front that it will take time, hard work and persistence. Ain’t that how it’s supposed to be???

    • Debbie Grattan on

      thanks Debby and Andrew for your comments! There is a fine line between bracing someone for reality, and stomping on dreams. I tend to be more of a stomper – I have to work on that. But I do think that filling people with hope of easy money with minimal work (MLMs do this too) is truly unkind. For those who truly have the talent and the work ethic, good will come. They will find a way.

  3. Bobbin Beam on

    Oh boy! You did some research Debbie. One of those articles discuss “How to” make your own demos on your home computer! It’s funny though, that so many people don’t care learning the realities of running their own voiceover business. All they know is their dreams, and gravitate toward the places that feed upon those dreams and promises of high success while opening their pocketbooks. Then they wonder why they can’t make it full time in VO. Balance dreams with reality, folks.

    • Debbie Grattan on

      Good to hear your thoughts on this Bobbin. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks that there is a lot of hype out there for folks with dreams and some money to invest. DIY is everywhere these days, from flipping houses to viral videos, so I understand how folks can get the impression that it’s a snap to put everything together and start making money from home as a professional VO. Some of them might actually have the talent and drive needed to succeed. But the glamour associated with the work – and how that’s emphasized in classes, seems to sugar-coat the hard work involved – not to mention the rejection.

  4. steve hammill on

    Unfortunately, most people think that if they can read and talk, they can be a VO.

    As a young producer, I actually thought that too. I hired two buddies, who were the definition of “a real HOOT” together to do a skit in a piece I was doing. Hours and hours and hours of editing later, I created something to save face.

    The experience taught me that whatever those of us who can do it have cannot be taught. Whatever that “whatever” is can only be cultivated in those who have it already.

    • Debbie Grattan on

      Thanks for commenting Steve! Yes, sometimes those lessons are hard to learn, but very necessary. I will occasionally bring other talent in for a line or two in something that I need, and often am shocked at how what I take for granted as “easy” is near to impossible for them to do. I think it CAN be learned, but having a gift for it to begin with certainly makes the learning curve easier.

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