I put together the information below a while ago to help people who are thinking about getting into the voice over business, or do it as a bit of a sideline. I have been doing voiceovers on the side for around 10 years and it heaps of fun, and can make you a handy second income.
There has never been a better time to do it as the amount of advertising content online has never been higher, and 9 times out of 10 they need a voice.
Will you make a million dollars and a full time income? Maybe, but probably not... but you can make some cash, and its super fun. Professional voice artists can certainly earn millions so you never know!
Can anyone do it? Yep, but you need to put energy into it. Its like asking, can anyone act? Yes they can, but compared to the pros there is certainly a difference in skill level
Do you need fancy equipment? Not at first, but at least a computer with sound recording capability. Eventually a good microphone and maybe some sound proofing foam is all you really need at this level. You can spend a fortune on this gear. I would wait and try it first.
This information below will let you know what to can expect from being a voiceover, what being a voiceover can do for you and what you need to do in order to be a professional voiceover artist. I wrote it as an ebook but thought it just easier to pop it on my site.
Before you start, these books, info and resources below are all a good starting place to learn the business in detail if you have the time and money:
A great book: The Art of Voice Acting
Another good book: How to Start and Build a SIX FIGURE Voice Over Business: Set Your VO Career on Fire!
Basic Microphone: USB Microphone,FIFINE PC Microphone for Mac and Windows Computers,Optimized for Recording,Streaming Twitch,Voice overs,Podcasting for Youtube,Skype chats.(K670)
Sound Proofing and stand: Monoprice Microphone Stand, Black, Desktop Adjustable (602650)
Definition of a Voice Over
Speech can be described as the act of producing voice through the use of your vocal cords to convey information.
The art of being a voice over is using your voice to connect with your audience and communicate the message in your script.
A voice over artist is also known as a voice actor, voice over performer, voice talent, narrator, announcer, and simply a V.O.
Voice over work has changed over the years and has gone from a male dominated industry to one that is truly based on talent and not gender, recent figures show that voice over work is split at almost 50/50.
As a general rule female voices are considered to be more natural and believable than male voices, conversely male voices are believed to be more factual and powerful, these are industry beliefs and do not mean that voices of either gender cannot deliver reads which cross over these beliefs.
The day to day Business of “voice overs”
Many people think the world of voiceovers is glamorous and an easy way to make money.
Yes you can make good money by being a professional voiceover, however the talented professionals who make it look easy have usually spent many years working on perfecting the skills that make it seem so easy, frequently they have worked long hours at many different studios, but having said that your days will always be different and stimulating.
Voice-overs are more fun than you can imagine! And they’re harder than you might think. While a pleasant-sounding voice is nice, it’s the ability to bring a script to life that’s most important. Think of it this way. Each commercial is an opportunity to communicate the message using only your voice!
Sounds easy right?
Well it’s harder than you think!!!
When in a studio a director may ask you to be young and hip, authoritative, natural,
hard and aggressive or light and heartfelt all of this with no prior notice.
However the good news is it doesn’t matter what you look like or how old you are, by using your voice to it’s full potential you CAN communicate all of these emotions.
Different types of voice work
It is estimated that only 8% of voice work is commercial work, however while commercials may be only a small portion of the voice over industry, few jobs pay as well as a national television commercial.
Now let’s review the major areas of the voice over business:
• Radio and Television commercials.
• Radio and Television promotional spots.
• Movie trailers.
• Realty TV.
Character & Animation:
• Video games.
• Talking toys.
• Train/bus station.
• Shopping centers.
• Sales video.
• Staff training.
• Government information.
• Children’s learning.
• CD Roms.
• Training film.
• Exercise videos.
• Banner ad.
• On-line tutorial.
• Message on hold information.
• Menu prompt.
The natural style delivery is the most popular style in voice overs today. Natural simply means any voice used in real life, examples of this are energetic, happy, sad, warm, angry, and so on. Natural is generally used for most sectors of voice over.
The unnatural delivery is the more traditional voice over and is generally used for movie/tv promos & trailers (anything that requires a big voice that commands attention).
Many people mistakenly interpret “natural” to mean “nonchalant.” This is absolutely incorrect, unless you are being directed to deliver nonchalant it will be interpreted as disinterested and NO director/client wants that type of read.
Reading a documentary script is like telling a story, these types of read may require you to be in a studio for many hours and the stamina needed should not be underestimated it is essential that your voice sound the same after 5 hours of reading as it did in the first 15 minutes as producer/directors may require pick ups (to be inserted throughout the script) at the end of your session.
It is easy to fall into the trap of believing a documentary read is the same as simply telling a story. Parts are slow and you can tell a lovely story then parts that are fast and dramatic. When you are reading the script, above all remember you are taking the viewer on a journey.
You don’t want to be up and energetic for a 60min documentary that would be too much for someone to sit through, however you don’t want to be so dull that the person viewing would just fall asleep, the balance required to get it just right is something you will need to work on diligently.
The 3 minute audio sample titled “Documentary” will demonstrate how a documentary read should flow.
This type of read should only be attempted when you have become experienced in studio work
Audio is similar to narration however there are subtle changes of vocal delivery required depending on the style of book you are reading. Obviously the type of read for a fiction novel will require the story telling aspect to be accentuated as your job is to bring a fictional world to life for the listener, if you are reading a biographical book it is important to deliver your read in a more factual style, this means less drama and a more narrative delivery (the kind of read you would hear on a historical documentary) one other area of audio books that is growing rapidly is the business improvement/motivation or sales training this style requires the narrative style of read but with “believable enthusiasm” how else will you motivate the listener to action? These subtle differences are a vital part of the professional voice over artists repertoire that separate real pro’s from the wannabes.
You can research audio books quite easily, they are available from most good book stores and many are available from local Libraries, a good way to train for this style of read is to listen to an audio book then read a copy of the book out loud.
If you have the ability to record yourself this can be a very useful way to gauge your performance against that of an industry professional, remember at this point you are not aiming for studio quality rather this is a tool for self evaluation.
Character & Animation
Creating different characters with your voice can be a very valuable way of getting a diverse portfolio of work. This is not just mimicking a famous voice but creating your own unique character. This style is useful for animated series where you can be one or more of the characters on screen.
To do multiple voices you need to ensure you make each voice different enough, so when they are played back together people would not be able to tell the voices were recorded by the same person (examples of this are Mel Blanc cartoons and the Simpson’s).
The terms Character and Animation are often thought of as one and the same, this is wrong.
A Character is a representation of someone else, examples of this are: accents, impersonations, and cliché voices (such as New Yorkers and the often used Frenchman).
An Animation voice is one that is created by the voice talent for a creature or object that does not naturally speak, examples of this are: cartoons, animations, toys, and so on the voices in Shrek are a great example of animation voices.
This type of read is similar to the “unnatural” commercial read however it has more authority as it usually is directing people to specific actions or places. Radio broadcasters frequently dominate this section of the voice over business however as with commercials many clients are now moving away from the traditional “deep voice” to a more “natural” style
If your style is “natural” you will need to incorporate elements of the “unnatural” style into your read otherwise you run the risk of missing out on this segment of the business.
Corporate work continues to grow as businesses find new ways for “voice over” to strengthen their brand, enhance their image, promote their products, and increase revenue, such as automated services, self-guided tours, recorded manuals, talking toys, self-help educational guides, online training films, narrated banner ads and many, many more.
One of the most important elements to corporate work is adapting your read to suit the profile of the client, it is important to develop your range, this way you will maximize your appeal from youth brands right through to mature products.
Example: you will know you have achieved this if you are able to do work for both Pepsi and a retirement fund.
Very similar to narration however this style of voice over requires a slightly more detached less emotional feel, delivering information with clarity is more important than telling a story.
Internet voice over is the fastest growing sector in the voice over industry. It is reported that Internet audio totals almost 50% of current studio and voice over work for many businesses. The style of read required will vary dramatically as the internet attracts not only new and upcoming companies but the major established corporations.
Telephony is any type of recorded voice over used for telephones. It is great because companies often re-hire the same voice over artist to update their system on a regular basis however this brings with it a requirement that the voice over can repeat the style of read and tone of voice “exactly” at all follow up recording sessions as the new material is placed alongside the original recordings. The most popular styles of telephony are:
“Menu Prompt” systems prompt the user through a menu of choices, such as, “For customer service Please press 1 for sales, press 2 for repair, please press 3”
“IVR” (Interactive Voice Response) systems allow the user to speak with the pre-recorded voice. For example, an IVR recording may say, “Please say the make of your vehicle.” or, “Please say your customer service number.” or, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand. Please repeat” IVR systems are replacing many menu-prompt systems and is quickly gaining widespread popularity.
“Voice Mail Systems” are used in many businesses to take a message when employees are unavailable to take a call.
“Information On Hold” is a sales message played when callers are placed “on hold” the caller hears information about the company.
For example, “Thanks for your patience. While you’re on hold, we’d like to tell you about some of our exciting new products “OR” Be sure to ask our friendly staff for more details when you come of hold, we’ll be with you soon.”
Techniques to help you become a Voice Over
It may sound obvious to say breathing is important however to a professional voice over breathing is one of the tools of trade. If you do not have enough air in your lungs, you will run out of breath before the end of a sentence or paragraph.
Using your diaphragm fully will allow you to have enough air to give the required emphasis on key words near or at the end of sentences there are checks you can do to know if you are using your diaphragm correctly.
• Make sure your “gut” is moving out when you breathe in.
• Make sure your shoulders do not move or shrug when breathing in.
• Make sure to check to see if your ”gut” is moving out when you emphasize key words.
Ways to improve breathing
• Lie down, place your hands on your stomach, then concentrate on raising your “gut” instead of your chest. This will help you to focus on using your diaphragm.
• Sit down on a chair and bend over, blow all your air “Out” then hold your breath, now stand up and concentrate on your stomach and breathe “In”. This will help your body know what it is like to breath properly.
Do voice exercises daily and repeat them as warm ups, prior to recording sessions you need to exercise all your articulators …lips, tongue, and soft palette, there are many drills available for example, over articulate while repeatedly practicing out loud “good blood bad blood” and “red leather yellow leather” good diction is an essential part of being a professional voice so collect a series of these drills and use them often.
The key here is in your preparation as a professional voice over artist, this is usually performed on arriving at the studio for the recording session and is as much about the way you conduct yourself as a professional voice artist as it is reading the script, let me explain.
Frequently if you are reading a commercial or short corporate script you will be handed the script at the studio at the booked time of the session, at this point you will be given a short amount of time (literally a few minutes) to read the script and discuss it with the writer/director from the ad agency/client.
This is probably the most vital time at any recording session, in order to do a quality job for the client you must find out a number of key facts that will help you understand the vocal performance you will be required to give.
Some of the key questions are:
• Who are we talking to?
• Male or Female?
• Young or Old?
The read you will deliver changes immensely based on the answers to these questions alone. As you can imagine you deliver a different performance to a 72 year old male as you would to a teenage female!!!!
Other questions that should be asked involve:
• What action the person we are talking to needs to take? ie: are we looking for an enquiry or do we need a stronger call to action.
• What is the key story in this script?
• What emotion are we attempting to convey to the listener?
Once you have this information you can now mark all the key words and phrases on the script, that you will give emphasis too.
As you do more and more jobs you will be able to do more of this prep work without asking as many questions.
Once in the studio after you have performed the first take ask the writer/director if there are any other key words or phrases that he/she would like emphasized, this is a quick and simple way to make sure that both the director and talent are on the same wavelength.
Remember that the first mention of the clients name in a commercial is a vital point of emphasis after all they are paying you and if no one remembers their name there is a good chance the ads will not work and you will not get repeat work from them ad agencies and clients stick with what works if you are part of that you get more jobs and earn more money.
When doing longer reads such as narration/corporate, the same basic principles apply but with more emphasis on what is the key point the message is trying to get across to the listener/viewer.
At this point if the job is to be put to pictures ask to see them, if they are not available ask for a good description of the vision in order to gain a feel for how you will deliver your performance, again a different style of read will be delivered for pictures of a motor assembly line full of robots welding and building cars to pictures of gentle waves crashing on a deserted beach for an island resort or a training video where someone is demonstrating how to lay a concrete pathway.
When delivering your performance remember you are only talking to one person, a radio or TV commercial may be played to hundreds of thousands of people each time it is played a documentary may have millions of TV viewers when it is aired, your job is to make each viewer or listener believe you are talking to them and only them.
Taking care of your voice
Being a voiceover is a profession, so you need to act professionally, you must realize your voice is an instrument, it is the instrument you will use to make a living so you must take care of it.
This is one of the most important elements of being a “professional” voiceover artist, if you do not look after your voice (remember this is your tool of trade your only source of income) then you are treating your job as a hobby not a profession, this means you will not make any money from the industry as you will not be able to deliver when in the studio.
If you have a cold or flu you should rest your voice and let it heal. You may be asked to do a job for someone that has never used you before and if you have a cold or flu and can’t produce the read they want you may never get another job from that person or company again, remember voice overs are expected to deliver every time.
Sometimes it is better to miss one job and rest your voice, rather than deliver a sub par performance, which could mean less work in the long term.
Do’s and don’ts
• Focus on the thought you are trying to convey
• Always carry your own water bottle to sessions
• Make your delivery clear, simple and straight forward
• Learn as much as you can about the intended audience
• Your emotions need to show on your face in order to be heard through your voice
• Learn to use your voice as an instrument listen to your voice the way a guitarist listens to his instrument
• Enter the studio with confidence and give others an expectation of an upcoming successful recording
• Be willing to take the risk of doing reads outside your comfort zone therfore stretching your talents
• Drink alcohol or caffeine before sessions
• Dairy products which cause mucous
• Avoid drastic temperature changes also dust and pollen
• Avoid unnecessary excessive force on your voice such as yelling or screaming
• Avoid using or forcing your voice to an inappropriate pitch
• Avoid constantly clearing your throat as it will affect your voice and your ability to deliver a quality read
• Avoid drinking cold fluids immediately before a performance
• Do not wear clothes that will rustle or jewelry that will jangle around studio microphones that will pick up every sound
• You may be working in close proximity with other talent so whilst it is essential to use a deodorant do not use a heavily scented one
Building your demo
Here are some important parts to your demo…..
• Your demo is your shop window it is your only way to entice clients to use your voice so make it the best it can be
• If it is on your demo clients expect you are be able to repeat that standard of work with ease
• Showcase your strengths and versatility
• Target the material on the demo to the section of the business that suits you, in other words if your voice and delivery style suit commercial work do not load your demo with narration samples
• If you feel you can work in multiple areas such as commercial, narration and character voice for animation then consider making separate demo CD’s for each area
Some examples of things to watch out for
Being comfortable in a studio:
Your first few times in a studio can be quiet confronting and unsettling
Here are a few tips for overcoming these feelings
• When we’re in the spotlight, it is natural to be nervous and therefore overcompensate by being over the top. This is simple to remedy: pretend you are talking to only one person.
• Wearing headphones in a soundproof room can promote over projecting your voice. This simply takes time to get used to, however until you are, simply ask the studio engineer to give you low level in your headphones thereby reducing the temptation to over project.
• Scripts are often written differently than we speak. They are written in someone else’s words and sometimes in the ‘third person.’ When reading scripts, we tend to read words one at a time and that lends itself to sounding stilted, choppy, and unnatural. To fix this, ‘when reading look ahead’ – in other words, always know what’s coming up next. That way you are prepared.
Being a capable reader is just the beginning. To succeed, the following skills are necessary:
• Being directable: This allows you to follow the producer’s directions accurately giving the required read in the shortest possible time.
• Listening carefully: This builds effective communication with the all parties involved.
• Being creative: this is your chance to add input and helps the production come to life.
• Remain calm during recording sessions, not every session will be easy, not every producer know exactly what they want: Whilst this can be testing remaining calm and professional is essential for getting the job done and building your reputation.
• Patience and dedication to the industry: This is a must your voice is not ‘right’ for every job, all professionals are in it for the long run remember “Success does not usually happen overnight”.
• The final point is most important “always be professional” that’s the key.
The industry expects certain qualities from a voice over artist some of these are:
• Proficient vocal technique,
• An ability to sound as good as their demo.
So if you think all of that sounds easy, have a go at this dummy script below. This is about all you will get when you arrive in the studio and maybe a minute or two to get the gist of it.
A great tip I received early on was 'You need to be at 10/10 energy and enthusiam in the booth, for it to translate to a 7/10 on the recording". Noth sure if the maths on that really works out, but the point is that if you read something normally it sounds flat. Record this add below and listed to it. Then go 'over the top' with the energy and you will notice the difference.
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