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So you want to be a voiceover?

Anyone can become a VoiceOver artist, it’s easy!!

Have been told that you’ve got a great voice? Maybe you’ve got a good ear for doing impressions and you’re thinking of taking the plunge into the world of voiceovers? First things first. If you think it’s just about talking into a microphone for loads of money, then I’m afraid you’re wrong! Like most vocations, it takes commitment, practice, hard work, perseverance and skill.

I’ve created this blog and packed it with lots of useful resources, tips, information and much more to help you on your way and more importantly, get an understanding of exactly what work is involved in order to become a full time voiceover artist and get paid by clients, wanting you to represent their brand or tell their story. So thanks for reaching out and here are my thoughts about starting out a journey in voiceovers.

Getting started

Firstly, I recommend visiting www.voiceovers.co.uk

This is a vetted site (meaning not everyone can join), where you’ll find on there some of the stalwarts of the UK voiceover industry. Spend some time checking out all the different showreels and you’ll see that we separate them into different categories/genres. The reason we have multiple showreels and not just one is that someone looking for a VoiceOver for their corporate video isn’t interested in listening to a bunch of commercials. Likewise, someone looking for character voices for their animation won’t be interested in hearing E-Learning material. It will also give you a good idea of what the standard is in terms of delivery, audio quality and voice acting and will give you an idea of the different styles and deliveries within a specific genre.

Study! Take Lessons! Learn!

Once you have an idea of what exactly it is that VoiceOvers actually do(!)I would then advise you to take lessons! Just because someone may have told you that you have a good speaking voice, does not necessarily mean that it will translate into a career as a voiceover artist, so studying with a respected professional would definitely be worthwhile.

Voicing in different styles

You’ll hear, when visiting VoiceOvers.co.uk, that within a genre you will be required to deliver a wide range of styles, ranging from conversational, natural reads to professional, corporate, excited, hard sell, soft sell, nonchalant, high energy, fast-paced, empathetic, cool or gritty. Interpretation is key and we should be guided by the tone of the words and the audience that it is intended for.

On the session

When a producer, or client connects to your studio, it is very common to be directed by a single person or even 4 or 5 people situated in different countries around the world, all giving their thoughts on how they would like the script to be read. Knowing how to handle this and deliver exactly what is required can be stressful and knowing how to deliver in the tone and style needed, while under pressure can be challenging. We will be asked to emphasise certain words and stress important phrases, giving them variations in inflection, volume and tone. A producer will often read a line as they want it read and ask us to repeat the phrase in the same style or melody.

When voicing a radio or tv advert or promo for example, we will be asked to read the script to time. If the artist comes in at 33s instead of 30s, or 18s instead of 20, they will ask us to give them or lose 2 seconds and we have to adjust our reads and speeds accordingly.

Finding your authentic sound

We are often presented with a script that is part of a conversation, one in which we are called upon to act and react to the other parts and make it sound natural and authentic. Being able to sound conversational and unaffected is actually tricky and although it may seem easy enough just to talk, it’s actually hard not to fall into the trap of going into what I call ‘voiceover mode!’ You’ll be surprised at the number of times we get told by producers to “make it sound more conversational.” These are all skills that have to be delivered in an instant.

The importance of a professional, broadcast quality recording environment

A clean, broadcast quality and soundproof recording environment is essential to the VoiceOver artist, as no extraneous sounds should be heard as we record. Producers and clients don’t want to hear the sound of our voices bouncing off the walls as it will sound unprofessional. Likewise, a door slamming, cars going past a window or other sounds will ruin a take. Don’t forget that if we’re voicing a commercial, they may want to put us in different environments such as a café, jungle, on the street or or on a boat! Hearing the sound of the room will make their job very difficult to fix in post production. Conversely, when voicing E-Learning or corporate scripts, we may well be reading dry, with no music or effects underneath the voice. This is very exposed and can sound amateur if you can hear the room sound in the recording.

Gear!

I would suggest that if you’re totally serious about doing voiceovers full time, then invest in the best quality mic, preamp and recording environment you can afford. You can recoup the money fairly quickly with well-paid jobs – and it’s tax deductible! ;- ) Having cheap gear will make you sound cheap. Care about the sound that you are sending out to clients, as a professional musician cares about their instrument. That will stand you in good stead for the future.

Production

Finally, don’t forget that we will often be sending our work to the end client, so we have to be able to edit, de-breath and clean up our files, so we are sending out broadcast quality voiceovers. A knowledge and mastery of a DAW (digital audio workstation) such as Adobe Audition, Twisted Wave or similar is essential, as is an understanding of how to compress, EQ and normalise. We are often our own producers!

Here are some useful resources to point you in the right direction

This is a fantastic blog, written by my friend Sarah Sealey. It has everything you need to know about becoming a professional vo artist.
What Audio Software to Choose
List of VO Talent Websites
Voiceover sties and how to use them
How to DeBreath VO
How to Get VO Work
Using Social Media as a VO

VO Training Resources

Here is a list of the UK-Based VO training companies you can use to get started/further your career.

Gravy For The Brain (UK Ltd)
– Training Workshops, Online Courses, Webinars, Online Workshops, 1-2-1 VO & Home Studio Mentoring, VO Business Mentoring, VO Social Events, Showreel Creation, Free Resources & Forums

Nancy Wolfson 
The best! I studied with Nancy for years and she totally transformed me. Nancy is based in LA and is one of most respected VoiceOver coaches, both in the UK and in the USA. A good friend and mentor.
She offers – Direct 1-2-1 VO coaching over the phone and demo production.

The Showreel
– Training Workshops & Showreel Creation, based in London. JP and Yvonne are wonderful coaches. Yvonne Morley is an incredible accent and character voice expert.

This isn’t a game!

There is nothing more likely to piss off and annoy VoiceOver professionals than finding out that their colleagues have no understanding of rate structures, studio fees and usage and as a result, are wildly undercharging. It’s unfortunately all too common to see jobs that should be worth thousands of pounds to the voiceover in terms of their usage, being done for a couple of hundred pounds or less, as the artist simply wants the bragging rights and to tell all their friends how they’ve just voiced a tv commercial. So educate yourself on how the industry works and develop an understanding of the rates!

This is an extremely useful Voiceover Rate Guide, which you should be referring to when a client asks you to quote. If you don’t know what you should be charging, ask a professional to help you and always find out the usage for the job and where it will be going.

Something you can’t pay for

One thing that you won’t find listed here is a link to a magic pill for persistence, tenacity, drive and bloody hard work! The reality is that voiceover industry is saturated with people all going for the same jobs, it’s highly competitive. so it is imperative that once you have taken the time to find a good coach and studied the craft, built your new recording studio, had great-sounding showreels made and built your new website, you have to be prepared to work bloody hard and market your arse off!

I’m aware that the tone of this blog may come across as sounding a tad harsh, but unlike other blogs that love to sugarcoat the industry, I feel that it would be remiss of me not to let people know that working as a freelance VoiceOver artist involves far more than talking into a mic for money!

I love my job, the challenges it brings and the whole creative process and I wish you luck on your journey!

Darren

Any questions?

If you would like any further information about my services or want to know how I can help you, please get in touch.