Expert to know: Jim Kirk (Q&A Interview)

October 15, 2023

Jim Kirk (based in Boston, Massachusetts) is listed on 50Pros as a top 50 voiceover artist.

In this Q&A, Jim shares his in-depth perspective, unique background, robust experiences, and insightful tips about his experience in voiceover.

How did you get into your industry of voiceover?

I’m still relatively new to the industry. I began doing voiceover work in 2019 - just before the pandemic. I’ve been a middle school English and social studies teacher for over 15 years, and I was looking for a side hustle to build into something I could continue to do in retirement as well. I definitely think being a teacher has given me a certain voice that lends itself well to corporate videos and e-learning courses. I mean, if I can engage a bunch of 13-year-olds, I guess I can engage most audiences. However, I’ve always been interested in voice over, even from a young age. When I was a kid I used to pretend to be a news anchor and record myself doing the news. I always noticed the nuances in the way people spoke and imitated them, whether it was my parents’ friends or announcers in commercials. One of my dreams is to be a park announcer for one of the Disney parks, and that definitely started by visiting the parks as a kid. So I think working as a voice actor was a long time coming for me, even if I did take a roundabout way to get here.

What is the best piece of advice you've received in your career that pertains to your work, and how has it influenced your decisions?

The natural, conversational, “guy-next-door” read is what most folks are looking for these days, and some of the best advice I’ve received relates to this. The advice was to talk to just one person, not a whole audience. So, when I’m recording a commercial, for example, I’m not talking to thousands of people watching on TV or listening on the radio, I’m talking to just one person… a friend, the person sitting on their couch who wants to know more about the product, a conscientious consumer, whoever. But by talking to one person only, who I picture clearly in my mind, I can give that natural, conversational read that sounds like a real person and not an announcer.

What activities or hobbies outside of work do you enjoy that help you recharge and stay creative?

I have two kids aged 8 and 10, so I’m right in the sweet spot age wise with them. I know what the mugs, t-shirts, and keychains say, but I’m the REAL number 1 dad. I spend a great deal of time with my kids, and I’m proud of the well adjusted, mild mannered kids they’ve become. Aside from that I enjoy keeping up my yard so that it’s the envy of my neighbors (did I mention that I was a dad?) and watching commercials on TV, radio, and streaming so I can keep up with the trends. I also love to read, a love I’m happy I have passed on to my children. We are regulars at our local library. I usually read a mix of business books and fiction.

What do you like most about your industry?

The voice over industry as a whole is made up of a lot of supportive individuals. While we may compete for jobs, we all support each other and help each other along the way. Whether it’s a technical question about equipment or a question about vocal style for an audition, you can always find someone willing to help. The other thing I love about the voice over industry is the variety of the work. On a given day, I may record phone system prompts, an explainer video, a haunted audio tour for a tourist trolley, to a character for animation or a video game. The variety always keeps it new and interesting.

What do you dislike most about your industry?

Sometimes it takes some convincing to make a potential client realize the value a professional voice talent brings to a project. People think voice over is just reading aloud, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Being a professional voice actor takes training, commitment, and an investment in quality recording gear. It’s not worth wasting your time and money trying to cut corners which will just end up costing you more in the end. Hopefully, more people realize the value of a human voice actor as AI becomes more prevalent.

What do you wish people knew about your industry?

Voice acting or voice over is much more than just reading aloud. It’s acting! It’s storytelling! It's an emotion! No matter how dry and technical a script may be, someone needs to understand it, and the only way to do that is to have a voice actor connect with the audience and effectively deliver the message. Just reading the words does not tell the story or communicate the essence of the information. The way a voice actor reads those words does. This is something that remains beyond the capabilities of AI at this point. I also wish people knew that while visuals may capture our attention, it’s the voice - the HUMAN voice- that holds it. So if you’re producing an explainer video or corporate video and think you can just skip the voice actor, think again. The voice connects with the audience more than the visuals and keeps them engaged. The voiceover can really make or break a video.

What is your approach to continuous improvement and learning?

I train with a voice over coach, Anne Ganguzza. She’s definitely been an inspiration and a voice of reason in helping me get started in this industry. I coached with her for over a year to get started and produced my first three demos with her. I also voraciously read business books about marketing and sales not just for my business but so that I can understand the business of those who might be hiring me. I also listen to podcasts, read blogs, and stay in touch with peers in the industry.

What is the biggest issue that your firm, or firms like yours, face?

By far, the biggest issue is AI, artificial intelligence. There are already synthetic voices on the Internet and being used in YouTube videos, etc. Right now, those voices are okay, but still not great. You can tell they’re not human. But they’re only getting better. I think it’s only a matter of time before certain kinds of work are fully replaced by AI voices, especially low paying jobs like YouTube videos or phone system prompts, etc. I hope that everyone will consider the impact of AI. The more we use it, the more likely it is to replace us all. There are very few jobs that AI couldn’t take over in the future. So we all have to decide if we want to still have jobs in the future. The other issue with AI is fair compensation for voice actors whose voice is used for various projects with a computer model. Many voice actors have been taken for a ride and had their voice used without their consent and without compensation for the use. These are issues that voice over industry organizations like NAVA are currently working on, but it’s only going to continue to be an issue as AI shows up in more and more places.

How do you stay updated on the latest technologies and tools relevant to your industry?

I listen to podcasts and read blogs. I follow other voice over industry pros on social media. In particular, one of my favorite podcasts for technology and tools related to voice over is the “Voice Over Body Shop” or VOBS, with George Whittam and Dan Leonard. They’re funny and offer great advice and recommendations for audio quality, equipment, and recording techniques. They’re a weekly must listen for me.

Who do you see having a competitive edge in the future?

As AI grows, voice actors will need to continue to be “human” to stand out. If your voice sounds robotic or dispassionate when delivering a read, the client is going to just go with AI or find someone else. So, making sure to deliver an authentic, real person read will be key for voice actors standing out in the near future. I think the same is true for other companies. If everyone turns to AI generated content and voices, they’ll eventually all sound the same. Those that use a human voice will stand out. I tell people this all the time when recording phone systems. Your phone system should stand out! Your customers should know immediately that they’ve called YOU. Your phone system shouldn’t sound like everyone else’s. My biggest recommendation for phone systems is to add sound effects, make them funny or unusual, or just make them interesting.

If a company was looking to hire you, or someone like you, what questions should they ask themselves as a team before approaching you?

I use the acronym FASTER to help clients know what they need to tell me before hiring.


I need to know what you’ll be using the voice for. Rates are different for internal training modules versus TV commercials.


I need to know who will hear the voice over. Is this for local broadcast? Regional? Major market? Or is it for internal use at a company of 50 employees?


How long is the script? How many words? Does it contain medical or technical terminology that I may need to research how to pronounce?


How quickly do you need the voiceover? This week? 24 hours? Now? Faster turnarounds mean higher rates.


What extra services do you need? Split files? Background music and sound effects? Sync to an existing video?

And finally…


What requirements do you have for the audio recording? WAV or mp3? 16 bit or 24? 44100 megahertz or 480000?

Different clients have different needs. Using the acronym FASTER helps organize the information I need to give you an accurate quote.

When a company is interested in hiring you, how should they approach you and how should they do business with you?

Simple, reach out in whatever way is easiest for you! Call me, fill out the form on my website, email me, DM me on social media. I’m everywhere so you can get a hold of me in whatever way is easiest.

How do you maintain strong relationships with clients to ensure long-term partnerships?

- I stay in touch with regular clients usually by email and social media. I check in from time to time if I haven’t done any work for them in a while, and I always follow up after a project is complete just to make sure the client got everything they need. Often clients and I follow each other on social media and we like and comment on each other’s posts. Several of my clients are people who regularly interact with me on social media now. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. Just being a normal human being and interacting with people helps develop all three.

What else would you like to publicly share about yourself?

I offer personalized service, impeccable attention to detail, and an unflinching commitment to customer service. If you’re looking to hire a voice actor, I’m your guy. Let me be the Voice of Your Enterprise.

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