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How I got my First Voice Over Demo

by | Sep 22, 2023 | Explainer

If you’re looking to excel in the competitive world of voice-over, having a professional demo reel is essential. It’s your chance to showcase your talent and impress casting directors, agents, voice buyers and other potential clients. A VO demo reel can also function as your calling card, highlighting your skills, versatility, and professionalism via your voice.

What exactly is a voice-over demo?

If you’re new to voice acting, you may be curious about what a VO demo reel is. Essentially, a professional voice-over demo is an audio reel that showcases your vocal range, acting chops and can be used as a sample for agents, production rosters, and other voice-buying clients. It’s important to remember that your demo is not a full acting performance but rather a way to provide a snippet of your vocal and acting abilities. With advanced home recording software, creating a professional-sounding voice demo in your home studio is the path many people take, however, I advise with severe caution.  But if you have that special gifts and skills set GO FOR IT. 

My Experience

Here is a little story of my 1st demo on my VO journey. My demo was produced as a result of six to nine months of in person workshops I took with a VO veteran coach. I was super psyched in the last class, “Advanced VO”, where we were promised a full commercial VO demo.  So when I got it back from the Audio Engineer, I listened  to it daily about a dozen times over the next week! I thought it was  fantastic. Then a few weeks or so later,  I immediately started sending my demo out to agents….WRONG!! SERIOUSLY BAD IDEA. I thought the next steps, after completing the class and my demo was made, I was ready to jump on the mic! Well, I didn’t get any feedback from any VO working professionals, coaches, mentors nor the VO community,  Wait…family and friends weren’t good enough…of course they thought it was Great. But the signs were in the comments, “it doesn’t even sound like you”, “it’s funny and cute”, “I love how you did that British accent” …I thought it was a compliment! I was dismayed! I assumed that if the VO instructor, Audio Engineer and the fact that I moved to the “Advanced VO ”class I was all set and ready! 

So  how did this  end? 

After I haphazardly submitted my demo to TOP TIER agencies with less than a year of VO training and zero experience. I was rejected immediately,  embarrassed with dismissive and cutting replies and crickets. For about three years, I felt I had wasted my time and money! Until I got a very thoughtful and kind response from an agent. Specifically she asked who produced my demo, who coached me, etc. She also asked who were some of my fav VO persons. In the email she told me I haven’t even put in enough time, training, and money into it and it sounded as such. So my first demo in 2014 was basically 70% useless, but I didn’t give up, I asked for help and feedback from my now VO mentor and role model for the past 8 years. I was given an assessment and prescribed more coaching, more practicing and more workouts to build my performance and confidence level up. So to consider some things before you get your VO demo and who you are working with to produce your VO demo? Also, DON’T GIVE UP if this is your passion and purpose. 

Why do you need a voice-over demo reel?

If you are interested in doing Voice over, having a professional demo reel is crucial in showcasing your unique voice and the various styles you can voice or perform. The demo allows potential clients to hear your voice and understand your capabilities with range, tone, and pace. It’s important to highlight your different types of “reads”, as your demo demonstrates your acting chops and range and intonation ability. A demo allows you to put your best voice forward to a client, agent, or voice buyer by showcasing your talent. There are over a dozen genres in VO, so starting with a Commercial or Narration Demo is a great start if you are a newbie. 

Common questions on getting a Voice Over Demo:

These are just a few questions you may be asking when it comes to a VO demo. Getting your Demo is based on the assumption that you have put in several thousand hours of training, coaching, workouts etc before getting a Voice over demo. Yes, I said thousands…well maybe several hundreds. You know the famous quote by Malcom Gladwell about 10,000 hours… well this especially applies when venturing into the Voice over business or any new thing you are pursuing. There is a lot of training, preparation and practice that should go into being demo ready.

How long should your voice over demo be? 

Well…it depends on what type of demo and who you ask. This answer has evolved and is probably still up for debate depending on who you ask in the VO Community.  However, it’s recommended that the demo be around 50 – 75 seconds max, with each segment lasting 6 -15 seconds. This will allow you to exhibit your vocal range and versatility which you want to ultimately grab the listeners’ ear and attention. You know the fun fact that Goldfish have longer attention spans than humans, so make sure that first spot is an ear grabber. Typically agents or casting directors listen to the first 5-10 seconds of your demo and sometimes they skip around so every sample should be rock solid. 

What genre should be your first demo?

There are over a dozen different genres or niches including subgenres and mini niches in Voice Acting. I go into this in one of my earlier articles, here’s the link – As mentioned before your demo is like your calling card for Voice buyers. A Commercial or Narration demo reel is recommended as your first demo reel. A Commercial demo reel is essential, but sometimes it depends on your Voice over goals. If you want agency representation, work with B2Bs, Government agencies, Production rosters, etc I suggest a Commercial reel. On the other hand, if you want to be an Audiobook Narrator, a Narration demo may be more appropriate.  A Commercial demo should include the following key elements or types of reads:

  • Conversational
  • Luxury
  • Energetic
  • Warm, Friendly
  • Authoritative

The order DOES matter on your demo, so make sure you work with an experienced  professional who is actively engaged in the state of Voice over and is aware of the trends, to guide you on the arrangement of each of your demo samples considering the above mentioned elements. 

What scripts should I choose?

When it comes to choosing scripts, again I advise working with a professional, like a demo producer, copywriter, and or Voice over Coach. Getting a demo can be a big ticket item depending on who & how you are getting it produced. Demo prices can range from $500 to upwards of thousands of dollars. Just make sure you work with an experienced, or actively working VO industry professional. This could be one person or a team of experts working on your demo. Make sure your demo team knows you, your range, your capabilities, strengths/weaknesses and understands you, your voice and VO goals.   The scripts should reflect the essence of you and showcase the various facets of your awesome voice.

Tip: Make sure you feel comfortable with the script and it feels natural. If it’s not you or you feel awkward, inform the producer. These scripts will represent who you are and your style and brand. So speak up if you don’t think the spot represents you or if you are having a challenge with the script. 

How do I know if I am ready for a VO demo reel?

Well, it depends. Do you feel ready, does your coach, producer and Audio engineer agree that you are ready?   Remember my story above, just because you complete a few courses in VO doesn’t necessarily mean you are ready for a VO demo let alone shopping it around. So make sure everyone is aligned in thought on your Demo readiness. 

  • Getting Demo ready involves a few things: 

    • Coaching & Training – this is key and very important. Ok, you have taken a 12 week Intro to Voiceover class, now you are ready for your demo… NOT?! There is no quantifier in hours, days, weeks etc  on how long it takes to be “Demo Ready”.  But you alone, shouldn’t be the authority. Yes, there is a sense in your gut, positive feedback from your coach, director, etc, in addition to putting  in the time, consistently practicing daily, reading aloud daily and attending various VO workout groups. But getting feedback from VO professionals, producers and directors is vital. Tip: I strongly support and advise VO workout groups, here are just a few of many great VO workout groups or find groups that works for you: Domingo Castillo’s Workout group , VOHeaven Workouts , VO WeeklyWorkout , AVS Monthly Workout
    • Able to take directions – It will be clear to the director/producer if you are not able to adjust your voice and exhibit acting skills if you cannot take direction. For example, if a director says, “make that line brighter, or warm that up some, or make that line more definitive”.  If you are able to take directions, then you will immediately hit the mark in the next line read. Tip: Practice with an emotional feelings wheel and spin it and be able to deliver the line or lines wherever the emotion lands. 
    • Comfortable & Confident – Are you afraid of the Mic?! Are you afraid of your Mic? It sounds weird…but I used to get a little anxious getting in the booth, stepping up to the mic to read. It happens! Make sure your mind is set and focused and if you are using a professional recording studio that you feel comfortable and confident in front of the mic. If you are getting your demo done remotely, then you should feel comfortable at home at this point due to the coaching and training sessions you’ve had to prepare. 
    • Be You, Relax  & Have Fun – that means really showcasing your personality on each script. This is the chance to be bold and step outside your comfort, veer a little off script with direction of course, remember this demo will  end up being your calling card for  what you are capable of delivering on the mic. Have Fun, this is your dream and you are making great strides to the journey. 

Finally, Grace and Patience 

Here’s what I wish someone would have told me to do after I got my demo:

  • GET FEEDBACK from PROFESSIONAL VO ACTORS, COACHES or VO Community.  Wait, my family and friends weren’t good enough or qualified..uh NO! You need to get as many ears on your demo as possible before submitting it or sending out to potential Voice buyers. This is scary, you are being vulnerable and will get some tough feedback to swallow. 
  • TAKE YOUR TIME: I didn’t even take the time to see if I even liked my demo. I guess I sorta did, but I had no baseline, no fair, non biased judgment of it…again no feedback. 
  • RESEARCH – take the time to research the agents in your local area or region, listen to the current voices on the roster, follow every detail of the agent submission process. Listen to see if someone or multiple people  on the roster sounds similar to you
  • CREATE A STRATEGY – Ok, you have your demo, now what?  Have a plan on the local agencies you would like to submit to, production companies, P2P sites you want to join. Tip: If you are still in year 1 -3 of your VO journey, I strongly advise going local to regional first. There are very few VO actors that have no prior experience that get booked with a TOP TIER agency, of course there are some anomalies. 

Gotta a question about VO demo reels?

Saundi Harrison-Cooksey, owner and talent of MyVoiceWorks Management

At My Voice Works Management, we specialize in providing excellent, quality, and professional service for any VO project, including commercial, radio, digital, e-learning, corporate narration, and audio description, among others, with a breadth of emotion that brings your script to life and connects to the heart and soul of your audience.

Whether you’re a small business, a large corporation, or an independent producer, we take pride in understanding your projects and delivering high-quality recordings that go above and beyond expectations because our focus is on the outcome before the income.

To ask a question or learn more about Voice Over, contact to learn more about the industry and how we can help you learn and grow in Voice over. 

If you haven’t already, follow Saundi Harrison-Cooksey, owner and talent of MyVoiceWorks Management, LLC, by clicking on the link. To hear or hire Saundi check out her website here.

And if you are looking for a voice actor for your next project?  Check out my VO works here.