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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Huge Meditation Voice-Over Script: How Long to Record?

I have just recorded this video about estimating the length of time it will take to record and edit a very large meditation app totalling more than fifty thousand words. 

The next day I had an email from Tess in the West Midlands, who asked:

Gary I didn't quite understand your calculation from the video (yup there's always one and today it's me). 
How did you get 5hrs 20mins from 53,000 words?
And if i understood correctly the 5 is 5 days?

Hopefully my reply added some clarity to the issue:

Hi Tess 
53,0000 words is 5hrs and 20mins finished audio i.e. if you were using this particular meditation app, it would take you 5hrs 20mins to listen to. 
However as the voiceover artist it is going to take you much longer than the project length to record and produce ie 5 times that.

So multiply by 5 to give you your production time and you get 26.5hrs of work required.

I used the example of recording 5hrs a day, so after five days you would have recorded 25 hrs worth with 1.5 hrs left to record, so on the Friday (assuming you started on Monday) you could push the boat out and do 6.5hrs instead to make up the 26.5hrs in total.

Of course if you have a proper day job, it could take you a month or more to record 26.5hrs, depending on your availability.

The main thing to remember is the ratio of 5:1. In other words for every 1 hour of finished audio (10,000 words) it will take you 5 hours to record and edit. This should be your yardstick.

Hope that (sort of) makes sense!
All the best
If anyone else has a question about the video and the principles behind calculating recording time from word count, please let me know in the comments section.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Should Voice Actors Quit Social Media?

I have just been reading the news that one of the UK's largest pub and restaurant chains has pulled out of all social media platforms. JD Wetherspoons has dumped Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with "immediate effect". 

The company cites trolling, lack of engagement and concerns over personal data. 

But what about voice-over artists? Should we consider doing the same?

This would fly in the face of accepted wisdom. In fact I have been touting the benefits of social media for years and in one video I suggest it is an essential part of your marketing. 

Did I (and many others) get it wrong?

Firstly, I feel we may be the victims of group think. One expert says social media is important, so we all jump on the bandwagon. And why not? It has been the hot topic for many voice-over talents for a long time. 

Scratch below the surface, though, and it is difficult to find any reliable evidence that social media promotion actually works. In my own case, I only have circumstantial evidence from my voiceover students. 

Linkedin has worked for a couple of people and Twitter's network business hours have yielded voice-over work for one of my graduates in Leicester. Other than that, affirmations are hard to find. 

Let us face it - few voice actors know how to use these networks properly in order to find VO jobs. 

And here is an inescapable aspect of social media: you end up only talking to likeminded folks. Voice-over groups inside our filter bubbles rarely attract the people we really want to reach..... the clients. 

After all, why would a potential client be looking at a voice actor's Instagram or Twitter account? All those pictures of microphones, headphones and acoustic foam can become tiresome.

They are more likely to be doing a Google search hunting for a voice they think is a good fit for their project. Your website's SEO is surely of greater importance. 

So what should you do?

Taking a stand and quitting social media for moral or business reasons seems laudable and you are probably chiming with the current zeitgeist. 

However, it is a high risk strategy. What if Facebook et al get their house in order and emerge invigorated and more user-friendly? They have deep pockets and can withstand substantial knocks.

If this happens, you will have quit prematurely and will probably be on the wrong side of marketing history. 

On the other hand, if the backlash against social media intensifies, most voice-over talents will want to be as far away from the swamp as possible. 

These are interesting times.

What has been your experience of social media? Please let me know in the Comments section.


Gary Terzza is a UK voice-over coach.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

6 Surprising Facts About Voice-Over Work

Interested in voice-over jobs? Before you start, here are six intriguing facts about the industry to bear in mind. Take a look at the short video for an insight into how the business shapes up.

1.  Your Voice is Immaterial

Firstly, your voice is not as important as you think. It is what you do with it, how you use your voice that counts the most. Contrary to popular belief, the sound of your voice only gives you a position in the marketplace. Your voice is simply a musical instrument, playing it correctly is the essential element.

2. You Can Record from Your Spare Room

These days you can work from home. Modern recording equipment is inexpensive. A good microphone and simple acoustics will really help. We use condenser mics in voice-overs and these come in two guises: USB and XLR. Once set up, make sure you have plenty of soft furnishings in your recording space as this helps absorb room echo and keeps out external noise.

3. It Is All About The Reading

Reading is at the heart of voice-overs.  Ninety percent of voice-overs are about what you do and how you deliver a script. Practice reading as much as you can; newspapers, online articles, books..... read anything and everything and bear in mind to make this effective, you have to read out loud otherwise if you just read in your head your brain makes you sound better than you really are!

4. Voice-Over Jobs Are All Around The World

Where can you find the work?  You may be surprised to learn that voice-over jobs are international. This means it does not matter where you are and neither is it important where your client is.  As long as you have your home studio and a broadband connection, you can access customers globally.

5. Age is Irrelevant

A lot of people assume that they may be too old (or too young) to do voice-overs. Age is certainly a significant factor, but not in the way you might think.  If you are an older voice, then you will appeal to clients who are looking for more mature voices. A student of mine (67 years young) is now narrating her second audiobook, having never recorded a voice-over in her life before.

6. Silly Voices Are Not Required

Ok, they may be needed for characterisations, but these constitute a very small fraction of the voice-over business.  Just because you make your friends laugh with your impressions and jokey vocalising, does not mean you are going to get voice-over work. 

The bulk of voice-over work is using your own natural voice. It is not about 'putting on a voice'. If you are reluctant to use your own voice, perhaps voice-overs are not for you. 

I hope that has helped dispel a few of those commonly held voice-over myths. 

Gary Terzza is a British Voice-Over Coach

Monday, September 04, 2017

How Suitable is Your Voice for Voice-Over Work?

Is your voice suitable for voice-over work?  In this podcast I discuss why the sound of your voice is less important than you might think.

The podcast lasts just over 10 minutes, but if you haven't got the time to listen, please take a look at the transcript below.

Hello, welcome along. My name is Gary Terzza. I'm a British voiceover coach. I hope you're in fine voice. This is a podcast that really is a sort of informal chat, really, just about aspects of voiceovers, and particularly in this case, suitability. It's the one question I'm asked over and over again. If the phone's going to ring, it's going to be someone saying, "Is my voice suitable for voiceovers?"
It's one of those questions that comes up so often. I always know the answer, of course. I'm not showing off when I say that. It's just my experience. But people expect me to be able to just say to them, just by listening to their voices, they expect me to be able to say to them, "Oh, yes, your voice is perfect for voiceovers. Oh, I can certainly tell. You know, you sound like Morgan Freeman, Madame, you'll be ideal."
But of course it's not that simplistic. It can't be that simplistic. Otherwise everybody would be doing voiceovers, or everyone would be able to just phone up a voiceover agency and just go, "Hello, can you tell me if my voice is suitable for voiceovers?" And they'd go, "Yeah, of course, you sound great, wonderful. You start on Monday. 70,000 a year." But of course that would be a ridiculous thing. That's not how it works. Your voice, intriguingly, your voice is only part of the story. Really, all your voice does, is it gives you a position in the marketplace.
So if you've got, for example, a regional accent, if you're from Manchester or Birmingham, or you're from Liverpool or the north east, obviously you have a certain position in the marketplace, and people who are looking for a regional accent would go for someone like you. Likewise, if you're a middle-aged female British voice, fairly neutral, what we call RP, which is received pronunciation. When you hear the term RP, it's really about a standard old-fashioned BBC English. I don't mean snooty particularly, but fairly neutral. 
You've got rounded vowels, so unlike me, where I'd say, bath, and laugh, and staff, and graph, you'd say, bath, and laugh, and staff, and graph. So it's a more kind of traditional, if you like, traditional British accent. If you are this British middle-aged female voice, who talks like that, then you will be appealing to people, to clients, potential clients, who are looking for a voice like that. So we all fall into these demographic silos, if you like, and that's how we get found, because people are putting in keywords, like I'm looking, in my case, looking for a British male voice, slight Nottingham accent, whatever they put in, fairly conversational. That's kind of how we get found through the marketplace.
But how do you know your voice is suitable? It's the big question, isn't it? How do you know? Can you know? The answer is, no, you can't really. You certainly can't just from your ordinary conversational voice. Even if someone has said to you, "Oh, you sound great, mate." Someone in the pub, or a friend, or a family member. If they've said that to you, it's very tempting to think, "Oh, I can do it, because my friends like my voice." But of course, they're not paying you. They're not your clients. They don't work in commercials or for an ad agency. I assume they haven't written a book and they want an audiobook version or anything like that. They're simply your friends or your family members.
So really, it's about getting someone objective to listen to your voice. But it's not just about the sound of your voice. The more relevant question is asking of you have the potential for voiceovers. Now, always bear in mind that voiceovers are subjective, you're chosen or you're not because someone thinks your voice is appropriate for a particular project. You'll be right for some things, but not right for others. You might be right for a children's audiobook, but not right for a hard sell commercial, for example, just to give a sort of simplistic example.
It's a learnt skill. The sound of your voice is only part of the equation. The more important aspect is what you do with it, and crucially, how you read the words on the page, what we call the scripts, how you bring those lines to life. Remember, you are using somebody else's words, not your words, you're using somebody else's. That's when it gets difficult. It's all right just you doing off the top of your head. It's very different when you have a set of words on the page and you have to read them, read them as you and as if they are your own words, and yet, they may have been written in a style that is not like you at all, but you have to make it sound like you. That is the trick. That is the craft, if you like, the art of being a voiceover artist.
Now, in my experience, the real question is, am I a suitable person to do voiceovers? So before you take the next step, before you even consider taking some training or just setting up on your own, whatever you're going to do, I recommend asking yourself some questions. If I was starting out, the first question I'd ask myself is, "Am I willing to invest in learning and home recording? Could I do that? Could I learn my trade either from a book, from a coach, or from looking at YouTube videos, and so on?" Bags and bags of videos, people like Bill DeWees, and so on, who've got hundreds of these things out there. You could pretty much learn the whole thing just from them, without hiring a coach. But are you willing to invest in the time, really, more than the money, invest the time into doing that?
And are you willing to set up recording from home? That's an important thing. I think that is part of your suitability. Also, could you run a small business basically selling your voiceover services? We're all self-employed in voiceovers. We're sole traders, or some people are limited companies. I'm not, I'm just a sole trader. But some people set up little companies. Basically, you are selling your services. You're not looking for work when you're out there as a voiceover artist. You are selling. You are selling your services. Part of your suitability is your ability to market yourself. 
And we've got lots of helpful things we can use, particularly the voiceover marketplaces, like the pay to play sites, sites such as, Voice123,, which used to be VoicesPro. So we've got those platforms, we've also got the freelancer platforms like PeoplePerHour,, we've got, and we've got ACX for audiobook work. So there are loads and loads of platforms out there. Some you pay for, some you don't. Some will take a commission, some won't. But learning how to use them is an essential part, and being able to use them makes you more suitable to do voiceovers.
Another thing to think about is, do you take rejection personally? I've had lots of students come to me and say, "Oh, I've done 25 auditions and I've only got one job." They're complaining, and I'm saying, "That's fantastic, that's really good going. Well done. You've never done it before. You did 25 auditions and you got a gig." You know. Lots of us would be very, very pleased with that kind of thing. So bear in mind that you need a bit of a thick skin in voiceovers. It's nothing personal. It feels like it's personal, but it's not. 
It's a bit like going in and buying a pair of shoes from a shoe shop. When you buy that pair of shoes, you probably think, "Well, why did I buy those?" If you look at it rationally, there's kind of often no rationality behind it. You may have bought them because the colour's nice or it's a comfortable fit, of course. More often than not we get rejected for voiceover jobs simply because the client doesn't think that it's a good fit. They might love your voice, but they just don't think it's a good fit for that particular job. But that also works the other way, that you may be a good fit for the next job. So the main thing is to bear that in mind. You're not going to get every single job. If you're getting one out of 10, you're doing incredibly well. That's one out of 10 auditions, you're doing well.
So when it comes to suitability, it's much, much more than just the sound of your voice. It's all of those things added together. But crucially, the core is the performance, being able to deliver the lines, read the script, and being able to say the words as if you're talking to one person and not sound like you're reading it, that's absolutely crucial. Don't read the script, but talk to your listener. That again, is part of the learning process in voiceovers. What you do as a voiceover artist is own those words and bring them to life. 
So I hope I've put suitability in some sort of perspective for you. It's not a simplistic, have I got the right voice or the wrong voice for voiceovers? It's not black and white like that. It's, have I got the potential to be a voiceover artist with the voice that I have? You could argue, every voice is suitable: young, middle-aged, old, male, female, accent, no accent. Potentially, all voices have got a job waiting for them to work with. But that's no good. It's no good having a good voice, whatever that is, if you can't use it, if you can't deliver the lines, if you can't own somebody else's words. If you can't bring words to life, you can't be a voiceover artist, no matter how much your friends like the sound of you.
So I hope that sort of adds a little bit more to the suitability question. I hope it allows you to think, well, yes, potentially your voice is suitable, but are you suitable as a person to be able to do it? Have you got the time and the effort? Will you invest in your voice and in your performance? That is the crucial key to getting voiceover work. Really, you can make your voice suitable.

Okay, thanks very much for listening today. I really appreciate you taking time to listen to the podcast. I hope to do another one very shortly. Please don't forget to look after your voice, and I'll see you next time.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

What to Do When a Voice-Over Client Won't Pay You


You have recorded the voice-over work as requested, done a decent job and now you want paying. 

Except payment never arrives.

What can we do to make sure we get our just desserts? After all we are voice-over artists, not debt collectors. Here are some suggestions.

Clarity is Key

Be clear about payment terms. Too many voice talents fail to have terms and conditions. One of my students called me in a panic "I haven't been paid for my voice-over job" he protested. When I asked when he did the work, he said it was about a week ago.

"And your terms are?" I enquired.

Needless to say he had not made it clear when he wanted to be paid. However at least he had sent out an invoice, even if it was lacking information.

Be transparent about fees and when you expect them to be paid.

If you expect to be paid within a month, write  'payment terms; 30 days'. If you require payment on completion of the job, say so. You can't blame the customer for not knowing when remittance is due.

Create an Invoice

At least my student had been professional enough to raise an invoice, which puts him way ahead of many voice actors who don't even get that far. Some people just expect the payment to magically appear in their bank account without issuing a bill for their services. 

Here is a video guide that should help you look a lot less like an amateur:

Too Premature?

Frustrating though it is, paying you is often the last thing on a client's mind. This is one of the reasons remuneration can be painfully slow. In my experience bigger companies are often the worst offenders - I once had to wait 6 months to get my money from one (well known) customer and I had a colleague who waited a cool two years for the dosh to land in her account. 

Dragging their financial feet seems to be a trademark of multinationals, but small businesses and sole traders tend to be faster off the blocks, probably because they know what it feels like to be cash-starved. 

It is important not to jump the gun; give the client time to process your request. Some organisations require you to add a purchase order to your invoice, or be folded into their approved supplier system before payment can be made. Bear these facts in mind before firing off that email demand. 

Due Diligence

Sadly there are dishonest characters out there, so be careful who you do business with. Do your research. Ask these questions:

  • Has your prospective client got a website?
  • Can you phone them?
  • Do they have a physical address?

Make sure you go through the checklist before you start recording their voice-overs for them. If they pass the test, chances are they are more likely to pay you.

Big Jobs = Small Deposit

If you still have that uneasy feeling and it is a substantial project, request a deposit before proceeding. A 25% payment is reasonable with the rest due on completion. You could say this is to cover your basic session or studio fee. 

This is not suitable for every type of voice-over job and some clients may baulk at the suggestion, but I feel it is a fair ask and one that should be explored if there is a large undertaking on your part.

When All Else Fails

Before you reach the last resort of legal proceedings, make sure you have done everything possible to recover the debt: lots of polite reminders and mediation, for example offering the option to the client of paying the outstanding amount in instalments. 

Whatever you do, do not make threats or do anything illegal.

When you have exhausted every route, then the courts may be the only solution. Sometimes just the knowledge that you are prepared to take legal action is enough to make the debtor reimburse you. 

Different countries have differing legal routes, but the County Court Money Claims Centre is a low cost option in England and Wales if the amount is less than £3,000. Different rules apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the UK government has a helpful website guiding you through the various procedures.

Sadly this route is not suitable if your errant client is overseas. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and put the non-paying customer down to a bad experience.

How have you dealt with a reluctant payer? Please let me know in the comments section.

Gary Terzza is a British voice-over coach who specialises in training beginners.