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Stop Being So Shy: Why A Lack Of Self Promotion Is Stopping You Getting Voice Over Work

Do you have your picture on your voice over profile? Do you include a photo when applying for VO work? If the answers are 'no', you are making yourself less competitive.

We live in the age of the 'selfie' where people's faces are plastered all over social media; on the internet pictures of other human beings attract us much more than shadowy silhouettes. Richard Branson is synonymous with the Virgin brand and the late Steve Jobs was as much a part of the Apple identity as the stylised fruit logo.

Content marketing expert +Mark Traphagen in his revealing article on The Power Of The Personal calls it the intimacy of the identified' and in the voice over industry if your face is not associated with your voice, then you could be passed over by potential clients.

In this video  I look at why you can't afford to be shy when trying to get voice over work.

Video Transcript

Gary Terzza:                Hello. We talk a lot about marketing in Voice-Overs these days, but some people are doing themselves no favours at all. Here's why.
                                       Let's just imagine for a moment, you've got your show reel together, you've got a bit of a commercial on that. You've got some e-learning stuff, corporate type things, perhaps a little audio book excerpt. If you want to do video games, you've got character voices and things like that. You're fairly happy with it, it's about three or four minutes worth of material and you're ready to go into the big wide voice over world.

                                        The next stage is the marketing side. A very, very important part of getting voice over work. Now what a lot of people do is they say, "Right, it's all about my voice and I'm not going to put a photo on there. I don't want my friends and family to know I'm doing voice overs. I don't want my colleagues at work to know or the boss to know I'm doing voice overs. Therefore, I'm going to be anonymous. I'm going to create a stage name. I'm not going to put a photo up there or if I am, it's going to be a photo of a cat and I'm going to promote myself in that way." I would say that is a big, big mistake.

                                        Don't be scared of promoting yourself. I know there's a thing that you think, "Well actually I'm quite shy and I hide behind my voice." I'm of the firm belief that if you don't add a photo, if you don't make yourself very contactable, if you don't say, "This is me. This is what I look like." Then you are not going to do very well in voice overs just because of the promotional side.

                                        You have to remember that at the end of the day, it is one human being, ie your client, choosing the sound of another human being, ie you, and if you dehumanize yourself by not promoting yourself and not putting a picture there or not including a photo or not making yourself contactable then you're going to come unstuck at the end of the day.

                                       Keep yourself human, make sure that people know it's you and you'll stand a much better chance of getting voice over work. That's it for today. Thanks very much for watching and I'll see you next time.

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How To Add Energy To Your Voice Overs

by Gary Terzza.                                                                                        

                        It is one of the most common issues when people start out in voice overs. Their voices sound flat and lifeless. 

This is one of the main reasons casting agents reject demos too!

So what do you need to do to help add vigour and vitality to your voice? 

This week I am looking at the practical steps you can take to add life to a dull performance.

Transcript of Video

Hello. A lot of people say, "Oh I can do voice overs. I can do an audio book or children's book, something like that because it sounds a bit easier. But what I can't do is a hard sell commercial. I couldn't be energetic. My voice just isn't like that!" Well I'm about to show you how you can put energy into your performance.

     (Gary drinks coffee)
                         That was a lovely cup of coffee. Hang on a minute though. What if I said, "That was a lovely cup of coffee." I think the first one is far, far more energetic isn't it? More convincing and sounds like I'm actually selling the thought that it was a lovely cup of coffee, whereas the second one, it's a bit more downbeat and probably at the end of the day means I didn't enjoy it really, but I don't want to insult you. Now what I've done there is just what we do in normal life anyway. If I met a friend off the train, it'd be, "Hey! Joe! Great to see you!" Be all that sort of business, wouldn't it? It's just kind of part of life, isn't it? When you get excited about something, you're pleased to see someone, you get excited. You start to put in that energy automatically.

                           Now in voice overs, it's a case of tapping into that in real life in the studio, either in your own studio or in an external one. So if you're presented with a script that the direction says, "Be energetic," or "Add energy and enthusiasm," what you then have to do is to tap into your natural enthusiasm, you're excitability, if you like, that is really there and you switch on for various occasions. You've just got to switch it on for your script. Now if you're saying, "Well, but I can't do that," I would say, "But you can do that! Because you do it in real life anyway!" It's not that you're learning anything new. You're just bringing something to that script and you're switching that enthusiasm and that energy on.

                           The other thing is, in energy, and certainly in terms of performance, is about being very physical. Now I've got a sort of constrained box here, but if I was recording a voice over, speaking into the mic, I would be using my hands and my body language. So if I was to say, "Prices are down, down, down!" I'd be doing all that sort of business and I'd be throwing my body into it. So you can make the energy come out of you by getting that physicality behind it, getting that body language behind it to reflect the energy and the excitement that you're trying to get across.

                           Now there is a third element, which is the confidence thing. You've got to have the confidence to do it. You've got to break through that self consciousness membrane, which we've all got. You've got to kind of break through it and just say, "Right, to hell with that. For this 30 seconds, I'm enthusiastic." You may not want to be enthusiastic, but you're paid to be enthusiastic in this particular case or this particular script.

                          So tap into the reservoir. That's one of the main things to do -that excitement reservoir you have. Learn to switch that on on command. That's what you've got to do. Break through that membrane and also use your body language as much as you can to get that performance across, and remember the golden rule in voice overs: You never get back what you put in, so you can afford to push it that extra mile.

                        Well that's it for today. That's it about energy and I'll see you next time. Thanks very much for watching. Bye.

Are You A Voice Over Chameleon?

by Gary Terzza.

Are you trying to be all things to all people? Then you could be scuppering your chances of getting voice over work. I want to explain why spreading yourself too thinly is not a good idea.

What exactly is a voice over chameleon? 

Put simply it is a voice talent who tries to do everything. They assume their voice is adaptable enough to attempt innumerable styles and appear to have no awareness about the sound their vocal cords make ..... nor of their own limitations.

If a voice over chameleon with a light youngish voice spies a job that requires a 'Morgan Freeman style delivery' he goes for it, maybe because he once did an impression of the actor at a party! He tries forcing his larynx down to his boots and pumping up his chest to achieve the bass notes required. He fails of course, because he sounds like he is 'putting on a voice'. 

Another chameleon sees a voice over project for a high paying commercial. The age range is specified as 'young mum, 30s'. What the heck, she may be in her late 50s and sound great at being a favourite aunt or kindly grandmother, but she needs the money so why not give it a try? 

Needless to say, the client is unimpressed - it was not what was asked for in the brief and our delusional opportunist has done herself no favours at all.

Both chameleons have wasted their time AND their client's.

Get to know your voice

Having a good, solid notion of what you sound like is so important in voiceovers.

How do you describe your voice? Husky, smooth, light or deep perhaps? Maybe you have a very specific vocal sound, or you might not even know how to give yourself a voice description. If that is the case, you should start now because you need to be confident about what you are offering. 

This video may help you in describing  your voice 

But wait - the voice over chameleon has a misguided view of their abilities and sound. He may know how to describe his voice, but has a misplaced view on his competence.

A voice for all seasons?

Of course there will be people who say 'hang on a minute, a voice actor has to change her delivery to reflect the mood of a piece'. Indeed she does, but that does not mean every voice over job is going to be suitable for her. 

If a director or producer asks you to add more energy and drama to a read then that is what you have to do. You can't deliver every script in the same way.

However, that does not mean auditioning for jobs that are way out of your comfort zone. 

Variety may be the spice of life, but in voice overs you cannot be everything to everyone. Aim to know what your voice is suitable for, but don't guess and don't be tempted to categorise yourself too early.

For example my own style is conversational, friendly and intelligent (that does not mean I'm an intelligent person!) but suitable work for me could exist in lots of areas from corporates to commercials. It is the script that is important when deciding on suitability, NOT the category.

You should develop an intuitive feel about the script (if it is available) and the job generally.
A good starting point is to work your way through a checklist. Ask yourself:

  • Do the requirements match my voice age and style?
  • Could I deliver the words convincingly?
  • Does the fee justify the work involved?
  • Have I actually got time to do this?
  • Are there any 'hidden extras'?

The last three are not directly related to performance, but they do have a significant bearing on your decision. You may be ideal to read a series of  10 audiobooks totaling 500,000 words, but how long is that going to take? The answer is a very long long time. In the case of half a million words I would suggest allowing a couple of months. And you will not be able to do any other work during this period either.
How about those 'hidden extras?' By this I mean you could be asked to provide additional roles to that of straight narrator e.g. characterisations. Some voice over artists love the opportunity to show off their accents and funny voices, but others do not. 

If this kind of challenge makes you feel uncomfortable, leave well alone.

It is about the money, money, money

At the risk of sounding mercenary, pay is important. Be consistent in your pricing otherwise you will send confused messages to your voice over customers. The VO chameleon will do a £3,000 TV commercial one minute and then sell their soul on Fiverr the next. 

This is bad business practice.

If BMW or Audi started selling a cheap car at the bottom end of the market, it would devalue their brand. Likewise if you offer knockdown bargains to clients, but also promote yourself as a premium voice, you could end up falling down the crack in the middle. 

"Find out who you are and do it on purpose"
                                                            Dolly Parton 

I am in no way advocating you stick to a narrow definition of what your own voice can do. We all have to change speed, apply intonation, create different atmospheres and add or reduce energy as required. In fact we do this in the real world anyway without thinking - you don't have the same voice when comforting a distraught loved one, as you do when congratulating a friend on their new job. But this should all be done within the context of your own voice style. 

What I am saying is you can't do every voice over job. You have to pick and choose carefully. Trying to be something you are not and changing your colours at a whim is going to leave you frustrated and confused. 

So shed that chameleon skin and reveal the genuine sound underneath.

Game Of Tones: How To Play Your Voice For Maximum Impact

By Gary Terzza.

What steps can you take to improve the chances of securing voice over work? Are you doing stuff (or not doing stuff) that is putting off clients? 

Let's look at moves that will sharpen your voiceover skills and explore some of those common mistakes.

Be prepared

Before you do an audition, record a demo or even just prior to doing an actual voice over job, you should think about warming up your voice to improve tonal quality. Some gentle vocal exercises are often all you need to oil those dry cogs.

There are lots of workouts around, so it is important to develop your own routine based on your favourite procedure. I do NOT recommend exercising your larynx like this pair from 'Anchorman 2'

There are plenty of good singers' exercises which work just as well for voice actors, but here is one of my favourite VO pre-session routines from +Frank James Bailey who puts his heart, soul and mouth into this drill

Of course the big question is, where will you do your tonsil workout? If you are at home that is no problem, but going to a studio and doing this may garner some funny looks; I have sometimes done mine in the toilet .... and I pity the poor guy in the next cubicle! 

So that will get your voice well prepped, but how can you hone your delivery?

Performance is everything

Proper script execution is SO important. The central plank of voice over delivery is immersion in the script. By this I mean that you submerge yourself deep into the words; in fact you have to sound like the words are genuinely coming from you, even though the text has been written by somebody else.

You should be at one with the words on the page. Possess them and make them yours. It is about ownership of the words.

Don't let the words get in the way; they are yours for the duration of the script and you need to take control of them. Plunge deep into the storyline and you will sound convincing. Lose focus and your delivery will head towards the unbelievable.

But how do you give the clients what they want?

Direction, direction, direction

Amazingly too many voice over artists fail to respond to direction properly. If a job calls for an authoritative delivery then don't just sound like you are being authoritative, but really be authoritative. 

Don't know how to do it? Then learn. You can't expect somebody to pay you if you can't do your job properly.

When a director says they want you to emphasise the end part more slowly stressing the call to action (e.g. 'call now') then this is exactly what you should do; don't just do the same read as before - voice over talents need to listen very carefully to the director and give them what they want.

Of course it may be you are going for the wrong kind of voice over work in the first place.

Choose carefully

The voice over market places (sometimes called 'pay to play' or p2p) are a great resource for allowing clients to book voice over artists all over the world. The likes of Voice123 , Voices.com and +The Voice Realm  have been doing this successfully for some time and they work well if you use them correctly.

The biggest mistake voice talents make when applying for work on these sites is they don't read the project details properly. I have come across people applying for jobs they are totally unsuitable for; hopefuls are often blinded by the dollar or pound signs, completely ignoring the brief. 

Some examples include youngsters submitting auditions where the requirement is clearly stated as middle age or senior;  delivering an audition where the talent does not fully understand what the client wants and applying for long-form projects of many tens or hundreds of thousands of words when the applicant has no time in their diary to record the job. 

Make sure you know what you are taking on, read the details of the job fully and think before you apply.

Become familiar with your voice's resonance and timbre. Where does it work best? Does your accent preclude you from certain scripts? Does your voice feel comfortable doing the audition, or are you struggling with inflection and the general tone of the script? If so, it might be better to move on to a more suitable project.


Excellent preparation, perfecting your performance and applying for voice over work you know is suitable for you will all help improve your strike rate. Don't let sloppiness and lack of familiarity with the sound of your own voice put you at a disadvantage.

Voice over jobs are there to be won ....... and lost.

Want more voice over training tips? Hop along to my YouTube channel here.

Do You Sound Too Posh To Do Voice Overs?

By Gary Terzza.

Is your voice too upmarket to do voice overs? Do you speak with an upper crust accent? If so, will that preclude you from doing voice over work?

Accents change over time and are shaped by fashion and social events. The classic British accent was once as sharp as cut glass. When radio and film sound came along, the announcers and voice over artists all had a clipped way of speaking. In part this was due to the fact that recording and broadcast equipment was relatively primitive (though cutting edge at the time) and the performers needed to be heard on poor playback devices.

It was also because organisations such as the BBC wanted to project a solid image of reassurance and strong character, after all they were broadcasting from a nation that had an Empire. Received Pronunciation (RP) was considered the gold standard and early media reflected this.

This unique sound even influenced Hollywood and actors such as Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn who adapted RP into a distinctive mid-Atlantic cadence. To some extent this continues to this very day and Kelsey Grammer is a good example - just listen to his Sideshow Bob,  Bart Simpson's nemesis.

Of course this upper crust delivery was not just confined to an English accent. Ireland has its distinctive 'Dublin 4' enunciation and Scots have the handsome Edinburgh burr.

But as the twentieth century drew to a close so the classic Home Counties accent appeared to becoming obsolete. This was especially true on British TV where producers were encouraged to use regional accents. It seemed the quintessential BBC English way of speaking was doomed.

RP had become R.I.P

But were reports of its death premature?

Anything goes

The British Isles are small in size, but pack a lot of accents into a tight space.

(courtesy Google Earth)

Here is a whistle stop tour  of the huge variation in dialects by Peter Barker; it is an impressive performance too.

During the 1990s and 2000s, media outlets were encouraged to experiment with different regional and national accents. We suddenly started hearing far more Scottish, Irish, Welsh and northern English spoken on TV and radio.

In addition the wide spectrum of ethnicity in the UK meant the British Asian and Black British communities needed to be represented too. Suddenly professional voice overs were becoming incredibly diverse. 

However it would be wrong to assume that the South East English accent had disappeared for good.

RP Revival

In the last decade the voice over industry has become globalised. In addition there has been a dramatic increase in the number of platforms a voice over can appear on. 

Those traditional British tones have found new markets in countries like the US and genres such as audiobooks, corporates and e-learning are prime examples of areas where a refined, classic English voice is often the preferred choice. Take a listen to Surrey based voice actor John Andrews in this commercial for a US based luxury car dealership.  He is definitely not the sound of urban youth. 

An upmarket meter transcends racial boundaries too. Popular BBC Radio 4 continuity announcer Neil Nunes has a poised, gentlemanly delivery underpinned by his Jamaican heritage and his shipping forecasts are required listening.

 Posh is still in demand

Knowing your market

In a previous post I spoke of the importance of not pigeonholing your voice; boxing yourself into a corner can be a foolish thing to do. YOU may think you are suitable for corporate projects only, but in reality your voice may be ideal for a wide range of voice over jobs.

That said, some self awareness about your own voice and its position in the marketplace is crucial. If you do sound upscale and dignified then don't apply for voice over work requiring a gritty delivery. It sounds obvious, but sites like Voice123 often cite talents applying for jobs they are totally unsuitable for.

Learn to love your voice.

I don't mean to adore your voice in a narcissistic way, but to appreciate it for what it is - warts and all. If you are well spoken, then celebrate the fact.

You will be surprised how many clients want a sumptuous, elegant voice to sell their product or narrate an audiobook.

Be proud to be posh.