My Voiceover Journey
At the beginning of the Pandemic, I had a lot of people coming to me asking me about voiceover; How do I get started in it? How do I set up a home studio? How do I get work? And I was happy to help out when I could and answer whatever questions I could.
And I found that the question that was being asked a lot of the time was, how did I get started in voiceover? Well, that journey began many moons ago. I graduated from college after studying theatre, then moved to New York city, seeking fame and fortune on stage, on screen. I was gonna be a STAR!!!!
Then…the cliches began. I started waiting tables, doing extra work, and doing what I guess you could call “off-off-off-off-off Broadway”, because I was
doing plays in places like Brooklyn, Poughkeepsie, church basements, things like that. And it was fine…you know…I was “finding my way”.
But after a while, reality started setting in, and I thought, okay: Look at the number of women who look like me, a young black woman…and look at the number of roles that are available for women who look like me. And, let’s just say the numbers weren’t good. I got a little discouraged, I must admit, but I continued doing what I was doing.
So, I was waiting tables, and one day this woman who was a regular patron of the restaurant came in, who I had kind of become friends with. And she said, “You know, you have a really good voice. You should do voiceover! In fact, I have a friend who produces voiceover, so I can connect you with him”. And I said, “Oh, that’s great- wow, thank you!”
I had absolutely no idea what voiceover was. But I was waaaay too prideful to let her know this. I mean, for all I knew “voiceover” could have been a practice of someone actually trying to “take over” your voice and use it without your knowledge. Oh, wait— that’s AI.
Anyway, I just went along with it. I met with this person. He had me read some copy, and he said, “Oh, very nice. If anything comes up that I think you might be suitable for, I’ll let you know”. So I left, and I’m thinking, yeah, right, whatever. Like a, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you type of situation. Yes, I was very jaded, very cynical.
Anyway, I went back to waiting tables, doing my extra work, and two weeks later he called and said he had some for work for me! And he kept calling me for about ten years and referred me to other producers and directors. As a result, I did a lot of voiceover work. It was mainly eLearning work, industrials, some local radio spots, some audiobooks. And it was great. I was getting a
ton of experience. And one day I thought to myself: You know what? If I get an agent, MAYBE I can get some national network commercials, do some bigger projects.
I know, I know- it took me almost TEN YEARS to come to this realization. Whoa. That’s a little embarrassing to admit. But hey, voiceover wasn’t as trendy and high profile in the 90’s as it is now. Yeah, THAT’S my excuse! (NOT that I was just a little slow ;-))
So I took a voiceover course- got a demo produced, and I started the process of shopping my demo to get agency representation. And one day, out of the blue, a friend of mine called and said, “Hey, what have you been up to?” I told him about the voiceover class and my demo that I had produced and he said, “Oh, I teach piano to the kids of a guy who works with an agency. Maybe I can pass your demo along to him!” Eventually I was instructed to bring my demo to the agency and if they liked it, they’d get in touch with me.
A couple of days later I dropped it off, (this was back in the day when you actually had a physical demo and not an mp3… this was a CD) and two weeks later, I got a call to come in to meet with one of the voiceover agents, and then a week after that I got another call to come in and meet with the rest of them!
And I think because I had had all that experience (almost ten years) on the mic, they signed me! I’ve been with CESD here in New York since 2003 and it’s been great. It’s been a wonderful partnership and I’ve really enjoyed being with them, they’re the best.
So, I think to myself sometimes “what does success look like”? And can we sometimes get too wrapped up in what we think success should look like? Because for me, when I was a young aspiring actress- the only thing that would signify success to me was acting on stage, on screen, being a film star, a TV star. It didn’t work out like that for me.
But guess what? It all turned out just fine. Because I’ve really enjoyed my work in voiceover. It’s all about storytelling and I love storytelling. Another takeaway for me from this is: When you want to do something, talk about it! Talk to people– because you just never know who you’re speaking with and who they might know, and who they can maybe connect you with to help you reach your dreams and your goals.
Stay open to what success can look like.
Put your desires out into the universe…
…and see what kind of magic can manifest in your life!
Karen Murray VO
Chief Executive Storyteller