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Voice Over Business Essentials: What The Experts Say

Being successful in voice overs means running an effective business. 

In this post I want to share with you some stellar advice given by the Voices of the Industry panel who came together to talk specifically about voiceover business management. Voice acting veteran Tommy Griffiths is your host exploring the following key areas:
  • Generating Business
  • Customer Service
  • Quoting Strategies
  • Marketing Tips

In the video you will hear various perspectives from industry professionals, who all provide their own unique insights into the biz. 

The five panelists explain how to attract those clients and provide winning promotional strategies. 

Plus there are helpful technical tips, along with indispensable advice about charging and steering your voice over business in the right direction. 

Let's meet the contributors

Debi Derryberry - one of Hollywood’s most active voice-over artists. She has voiced hundreds of cartoon characters and is best known for the voices of Jimmy Neutron, Draculaura on Mattel’s Monster High, and her work in Legends of Oz

Bryant Falk - has been a voice-over professional and on-camera commercial and corporate producer-director for over 20 years. Bryant has worked with clients such as Foot Locker, Bloomberg, Walmart, AMC, MTV, and the NBA.

Mindy Williamson -  teaches a voice development course for broadcast journalists at Fanshawe College and coaches on public speaking and presentation skills.

Jordan Wiberg - has a background as a studio engineer. He has coached and produced demos for many people over the years and works out of his home studio near Vancouver.

Kim Handysides - started in theatre, radio, and her voice has been used on multiple award-winning commercials, business and eLearning project and even a Cannes-nominated animated short film.

Moderator Tommy Griffiths  - has produced demos for nearly 500 voice artists worldwide. He produces and hosts commercial podcasts and voice-tracks radio shows for stations across the U.S. Tommy is also a home recording studio consultant.

So grab yourself a coffee and settle back for an informative and invaluable guide to managing your voice over business.

10 Effective Ways To Find Voice Over Work

As a beginner in the voice over industry you are probably wondering where and how VO talents get hired. 

In this post I am going to rundown ten steps that will increase your chances of finding voice over jobs.

Some you will have heard about, others may surprise you.

1. Find Local Production Companies

These can be a great source of work and often get overlooked. Enter 'production companies' or 'video production companies' into Google (or whichever search engine you are using) and you will be spoilt for choice. 

Now localise this by putting in your nearest city or the county in which you live e.g. 'production companies Leicester' and you will be able to target large and small outfits. 

In the first instance send them an email with an mp3 demo attached; if you do not receive a response, follow up with a phone call. Even if you are just placed on file, you have made contact and many smaller companies are happy to know there is a voice over artist just up the road they can call upon.

2. Use Family and Friends

Our nearest and dearest can often be an unexpected source of work. An aunt may be running a successful business and considering commissioning an explainer video that needs a voiceover. How about that cousin who works in training and is involved in e-learning or the builder neighbour who needs a more professional on-hold message? 

Let them all know you are a voice over artist and can even offer 'mates rates' for VO projects.

3. Advertise

But where? Allot a small budget to online advertising. Google, Bing and Yahoo ads provide a way to make sure you are on the first page of those search engines; you only pay when people click and you can start/stop whenever you like, giving you total control over expenditure.

Also consider places other voice actors may not be prevalent on such as Gumtree and Craig's List. Local newspapers are also worth looking at and if you can stimulate publicity then even better. 

My former student Jay Britton managed to get himself in the Wiltshire Times talking about his award winning voice over career.

4. Recommend Other Voice Over Artists

This may sound like career suicide, but it is actually an accepted way of working in the industry. Flag up someone who complements your own voice style, so if you are a male voice talent it is a good idea to endorse a female VO you like the sound of. 

You can do this on a few sites, but Linkedin has this facility built in and you can also provide positive comments about someone on Facebook and Twitter.

If the feeling is mutual, you may find yourself being recommended by that very same female voice actor - quid pro quo.

5. Network 

Meeting people is the lifeblood of any business and let's face it, your voice over endeavours are a business service. 

For free promotion consider Twitter's network hours which allow you to Tweet about voice over services during a specified time in your local area. It's a great way to hook up with other businesses and sell your voice.

Linkedin is definitely a great way to network and one of the powerful tools it possesses is its search facility. So you could look for influential television professionals by selecting 'people' in the drop down menu and then entering 'TV producers' in the search field. 

Asking to connect would be your next step, or you could send them an InMail, although this latter action requires premium membership. 

6. Invest In Pay To Play Sites

Ok I know these come in for a lot stick from some quarters, but in my book they can be a very effective way to source work. If you really don't want to pay the subscription (and I recommend you do), then using the free facilities of Voice123 or StarNow et al could still yield results. 

Remember success depends on how targeted you are - use these sites intelligently and they can be a profitable part of your marketing mix.

7. Join Freelancer Platforms

These differ from the pay to play sites in that they are usually free to join... they take a small commission from your earnings. 

They are not only concerned with voice over, but anything in the creative industries from copywriting to graphic design, but most have a VO section enabling you to upload your profile.

Sites to consider are Upwork, PeoplePerHour and Freelancer.co.uk.

8. Contact Game Developers

If you are interested in videogames (or even if you haven't thought about this avenue of work before) it is worth making inroads into this burgeoning market. 

Such is the nature of the industry that companies can come and go quickly, but there are lots of thriving independents and they should be on your contact list.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of developers in the UK and around the world. Make sure you produce an impressive character reel to send off to them.

9. Narrate Audiobooks

The audiobook market has increased dramatically in the last few years as publishers have looked at new ways of increasing revenue streams.

One of the best sources of narration work is on Audible (which is part of Amazon) and signing up to their audiobook exchange programme ACX.  

Many of my own students have had success using this marketplace, but bear in mind you need plenty of vocal stamina to plough your way through a long novel. 

10. Visit My Jobs Board

Let me stress that I am a voice over coach and not an agent; however I do scour social media and the internet for interesting voice over vacancies.  It is worth checking in to my Latest Voice Over Jobs Page  on a regular basis and seeing if there is anything that catches your eye. 

It is a free service and as such I am not responsible for the jobs links themselves, so always do your research. 

Gary Terzza teaches voice overs in the UK

Should You Alter A Bad Voice Over Script?

Your job as a voice over artist is to bring the words on the page to life. VO coaches like myself are constantly banging on about owning words and breathing life into them. 

But what if those words don't read well or, worse still, they don't make much sense?

Should you rewrite them to make them easier to say?

One of my students recently asked my advice on this very question; "I am a bit of a stickler for grammar" he said.  "I often cringe at adverts that have bad grammar in them... how much of an issue would it be to have a little talk with the director and/or client? Is it the done thing, or should I just let it go?"

A good question.

Likewise I once trained someone who remarked that he shuddered at the incorrect use of prepositions. 

What particularly irked him were sentences that ended in a preposition such as 'in', 'on' or 'to'. For example:

"It is the best film he has starred in." 
"Who was she talking to?"

But to write these according to strict grammatical rules, we would have to say: 

"It is the best film in which he has starred"
"To whom was she talking?"

I certainly would not want to read these out loud myself and to be honest the technically correct sentences would probably only work if you were recording an audiobook in ye olde English. Fine for Jane Austen, but not a 21st century corporate.

In my opinion that is where the problem lies; how strict should you be when it comes to grammar? 

Are we referring back to the Latin roots as with the stranded prepositions above, or is it just a case of making the text read well in Standard English?

Most of us would probably opt for the latter, but here too there are problems. 

English is a living language. New words come in all the time ('podcast' and 'app' are just two recent additions that did not even exist a few years ago) and the way we say sentences is constantly evolving. 

Just the other day I was recording a voice over for a high end technology company when I spotted a grammatical error: 

"There's 3 big issues" it said on the script. Hmmm, I thought, should I quietly change that to "they're 3 big issues" and see if the director notices? I didn't.

Instead I stuck to the script and it kind of worked.

The reason it was ok was because it sounded fine when spoken - it was conversational. If the script had said "there is 3 big issues" it most certainly would have jarred on the listener (and on me), but the contraction to 'there's' helped smooth out the imperfection.

And that is the point.

Voice overs are said not read; in other words the way we speak in everyday life does not necessarily reflect what we write. 

This is the nub of the argument.  

If you start pointing out errors to clients, they may not agree. "That's how the audience speaks nowadays" is a perfectly legitimate riposte to your pedantry. 

However there are occasions when you may make a few suggestions.

Firstly contractions are usually acceptable. 'We are' can be reduced to 'we're' and 'they are' to 'they're' and 'it is' to 'it's' etc.  If the client queries why you are doing this, just say that it will make the piece sound more natural and flow better.... which it will. 

Secondly most clients are grateful when you point out glaring errors such as missing words, or obvious typos.

There are also times when the copywriter does not have English as a first language and really appreciates a little help from the voice over artist. 

Colloquialisms are a common stumbling block and I once came across a script where my Latvian customer had written "you can take this as Bible."

Without flagging up the error, I quietly substituted the word 'gospel' for 'Bible'. I never heard anything back from the director so I am sure he appreciated the amendment.

Are there times when you should never change the script?

Yes, there are and audiobooks are a classic example. If you start fiddling around with the author's carefully crafted prose, you are not going to be very popular. It would be like a pianist saying that Beethoven had not written his Moonlight Sonata correctly and making suggestions to the conductor on where to alter the notes.

Your role is to interpret the text the best way you can, not rewrite it. 

As a voice actor you are equivalent to a musician in the orchestra contributing your part to the whole symphony. 

Also bear in mind that some scripts are highly specific to that industry. Marketing and creative types are renowned for their eccentric jargon. 

You may think that a phrase could be better said in plain English, but a 'paradigm shift towards an omnichannel value add' may be exactly how the writer wanted it said.   

Sometimes biting your lip and swallowing your pedantic pride is the only way to handle it.

Have you ever had a script you wanted to amend? What did you do? Please let me know in the comments below. 

Gary Terzza is a British voice over coach 

Voice Over Competition: Let's Look At The Numbers


Hello, I hope you're in fine voice. Now I’ve spoken before about competition, but I want to drill down to some facts and figures and give you some perspective what the competition is like out there. Let's take a look at one particular pay-to-play site, Voice123. It's a voiceover marketplace in case you haven't come across it before, and it's probably one of the most popular along with voices.com. Let's have a look at what you're up against.

Here we are then. This is the database at Voice123. Look at this number of people who are on there, 27,075. That's a huge number to compete with. But what happens when we refine the search. Let's say it's me and I'm just starting out, so British middle aged male, and perform voices for, well I'll do pretty much anything. You can see the categories there. I'm up for anything so anything there. Gender and age, well, I’m a middle aged male and I’m fluent in British so let's go down to British English. There's me. Part of the union. Well actually I'm equity member, but I'm going to pretend I'm starting out and I'm actually I'm not a union member at all so I'm going to leave that.

Then we've got the next bit which is name or profile contains the following words, so the following keywords. These are the important things that you describe your voice with. I'm going to say accurately my voice is conversational, which is how I sell myself, and I'm based in … Let's have a look. Great Britain. Let’s see where we are. I’m probably near United States and here we go, United Kingdom, which is where I’m based. Has at least no years of experience. I'm saying I'm starting out. Recording and delivering requirements. Well, actually it doesn't really matter so I’ll say doesn't matter.

Now look at that new figure, look at that there. Based on your new criteria go to the top, 80. You can see we've gone from over 27,000 people down to a mere 80 in my particular case. Obviously this does vary depending on your own gender, on your age, and the languages you speak as well. So well worth having a play on the Voice123 search database and just coming up maybe with a keyword or 2 for your own style as well. It’s quite fascinating to see what the competition is like in terms of sheer numbers. It's not as bad as you think. All right, thanks very much for watching today and take care of your voice. See you next time.

How To Earn £1k Doing Voice Overs (Even If You're A Complete Beginner)

One of my students recently complained that she was only earning about £3,000 a year doing voice overs. When I pointed out that many of my other students would be quite happy with that amount, she remarked "how on earth do they survive?"

The point is that most people starting out in the industry are not doing voice overs as their main job, but as a sideline or hobby. They are not looking to replace their income, but rather supplement it with something that is fun and different.

Start small and grow your voiceover income in stages.

If you keep a sense of proportion, I believe £1,000 per annum (or $1k or €1k, even though they convert into different amounts) is achievable, even for a complete novice. Let's face it, we are not talking about huge sums here... in fact all you have to do is earn £20 per week from your voice.

But how?

First and foremost you must enjoy what you do. It is no good embarking on a path if you have little interest in the subject matter. Here are questions you should be asking:

  • Do I like reading? Voice overs are all about lifting words off the page and the more you read, the better your voice over performance will be.
  • Am I up for learning something new? An open mind (as well as an open mouth) are essential in voice overs. Could you develop new skills such as recording from home?
  • Have I enough spare time?  You will require commitment and tenacity; if you are easily distracted or lack focus, voice overs may not be for you.
Notice, I haven't even mentioned your voice yet.

So what about suitability? Potentially every voice is suitable for some sort of VO work, but the key is delivery. If two similar voices were going for the same job, the one with the better performance would win. Obvious? You would be amazed at the number of people who put performance at the bottom of their list.

Your first steps should include
  • Researching the industry. Where is most of the work to be found? Are there some areas where you are likely to be more successful such as audiobooks or e-Learning?
  • Hiring a coach. If you really don't know anything about voice overs, you will no doubt benefit from someone guiding you through the VO jungle. 
  • Recording a showreel. Future clients want to hear what you sound like reading scripts.

Once you have done the above, the next step is to start recording from home. Always remember to use a condenser microphone and have plenty of sound deadening with duvets, curtains and other soft furnishings. Buy the best equipment you can afford.

Still up for it?

It is time to start marketing. Use the pay-to-play sites such as Voice123, the freelancer sites (eg Upwork.com) and contact local production companies.

Starting to feel a little daunted? Perhaps voice overs are not for you. However if you are thinking 'yeah I would like to give it a go' then you sound like the kind of person who could reap some rewards.

Do you recall the amount I promised at the beginning of this post? £1,000. Does it seem any nearer? We could argue twenty jobs at £50 each would do it, or a handful of juicy £200 gigs - but maybe you should work even more tentatively towards your target.

To be honest in your first year you will be finding your feet, developing contacts and learning to create a professional sound from home so you could aim just to reach break-even on your investments. But by the second year, your coaching and equipment costs will be lower (perhaps even zero) and you will be more confident as a voice over artist making your objective much more attainable.

I am a great believer in baby steps. If you start with a silly amount you want to earn, such as £40,000 then you are deluding yourself and setting incredibly high walls to scale. Disappointment is surely around the corner.

If, on the other hand, you take a piecemeal approach and aim for making a little pocket money along the way whilst having fun, then these acorns really can grow into something bigger.

As I always say, don't give up the day job just yet.

Gary Terzza coaches voice overs at studios based in London and via Skype.