No matter how well you were trained, no matter how much you've practiced the script, your first job will probably be nerve-wracking. There are a few things that will help you though:
1. It's OK to be a little nervous. Even star athletes at the top of their game - Michael Jordan, Serena Williams - admit to being nervous before they're about to perform. Great stage actors admit to being nervous before the big show. Being nervous is normal. What professionally trained athletes, and actors have in common, though, is that when the time comes to perform, they kick into gear and do what has come to be natural for them, due to their training. The same is true for you.
2. Listen to your producer. You are being paid to voice the copy the way the client and producer direct you to. Your specific job is to listen to their direction and give them what they want. Don't offer your opinion unless asked. My trainer and several producers I've worked with have told me that the most important quality they look for in a voice actor is his or her ability to take direction.
3. Be prepared. It sounds almost too simple to mention, but it's important to have read the copy (if possible) before you do your read. Most producers will provide you with the copy prior to the recording session. But don't be surprised if many changes are made on the fly while you're in the booth. That's why part of being prepared means bringing a pencil....that's right, you will need to mark up the copy as direction comes flying at you. If you try to do it from memory, you're asking for trouble. Being professional means coming prepared - a pencil and water are essential in the recording booth.
4. Don't get discouraged. Many times you will go into the recording booth and give a read that you think is pretty darn good, only to be bombarded with changes from the producer's booth. As you go through take after take, your confidence level begins to drop. I can tell you from personal experience that many of my best reads came on the take after I had just about completely given up on myself. That voice in your head starts telling you that you stink...but don't listen. A producer that I've frequently worked with, gave me advice early on. He told me that he knows what read he wants - - he can hear it in his head. He just doesn't have the ability to read it. That's why he hires voice talent. "Never take direction personally", he told me. Even the best voice-actors get worked over by producers. Our job is to stay focused and concentrate on delivering what the producer wants.
If you can embrace your nervousness, know that you are prepared, take direction well, and not get discouraged in the booth, you'll come out of your first voice-over job in great shape...and you'll have started a positive relationship with a producer that hopefully will lead to more work.
All the best!
Mike Lenz is an entrepreneur, professional voice actor, audio book narrator, author, podcast host, husband and father. His ebook, Paid To Talk, is available on amazon.com, and his podcast, Mike Lenz Voice – A Journey Into Voice Acting, can be heard on iTunes. Mike is passionate about sharing stories from amazing and inspiring people from all areas of the voice-over industry, as well as sharing his insights with aspiring voice actors around the world. You can find out more information at his website mikelenzvoice.com. Mike lives in Saratoga Springs, NY with his wife and 4 children.