Matt Baker wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. So much so that at age 11, he convinced a friend to train with him.
“We got up early almost every day of summer vacation and jogged, did push-ups, and other things we imagined astronauts did,” Baker shares. “And we’d go to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland a few times a week.”
Unfortunately, Baker didn’t become an astronaut. But that’s OK, because he still ended up having a pretty darn cool career.
In his senior year of college, Baker and his wife found out they were expecting a child, so he knew it was time to get serious about his job search.
“Luckily, I had a friend who worked as a sales director for an IT distribution company, and he took pity on me. I got a sales job at his organization right before graduation,” Baker explains.
But the industry wasn’t stable—compensation plans and quotas always changed, which made predicting how much money he’d make pretty difficult. After six years, he knew it was time to move on.
His wife stumbled upon a company that provides all types of classes, one of which was how to do voice-overs. Since he’d always received compliments on his voice (some people even told him he should be on the radio) and it only cost $50, Baker decided to try it. And he immediately loved it.
Keep reading to learn more about Baker’s story (and hear some of his voice-over below!).
How’d You Turn a $50 Class Into a Full-time Job?
To be honest, I got lucky. One day in my sales job, I pulled out a notebook and my demo CD slid out, and the product manager I was meeting with asked what it was. He just so happened to know someone who worked for Discovery, and he gave me a name and phone number to reach out to. I called the person, sent in my demo, and followed up every so often.
In 2002, when Discovery moved from New York to Silver Spring, MD, they wanted local talent. Since they already had my information, they called me to audition for “billboards,” which are short little commercials that say things like, “This program is brought to you by Tide.” I landed that gig, and I still do voice over for Discovery today. Ultimately, it was all because I followed up, which I can thank my sales experience for.
What’s a Typical Day Like as a Voice-over Actor?
After dropping my wife off at the metro and hitting the gym, I go into my basement studio and take care of any auditions that came in from my agency the night before as well as any gigs from overseas clients. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go to the Discovery’s studio and do my billboards sessions.
After lunch, I either need to record some narration for e-learning, the radio, or streaming services, or I work on marketing. Some days are so hectic, I don’t even get a chance to shower until right before I pick my wife up. But, that’s one of the benefits of my job: Most days, I don’t have to put on real pants because no one sees me.
What’s Your Favorite Thing About It? The Most Challenging Part?
I love that I get to be something or someone new practically every time I get behind the microphone. I get to tell stories that are short, long, educational, ridiculous—you name it.
The most challenging part is finding someone to pay me to do this. When I’m not behind the mic, I’m out there hustling to let people know who I am and what I do. I have an agency, but they’re only one tool in the box. At the end of the day, it boils down to calling, emailing, and general sales and marketing (again, here’s how my sales skills come in handy).
What’s Your Favorite Piece of Career Advice?
You have to do the work. No one can do it for you. Yes, you can have mentors and coaches of various kinds, but in the end, it’s up to you.