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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 Voices.com, Voice123, Mandy.com, which used to be VoicesPro. So we've got those platforms, we've also got the freelancer platforms like PeoplePerHour, Fiverr.com, we've got Upwork.com, 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.

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.








8 Questions You MUST Ask Before Getting Into Voice-Overs

You are intrigued. Voice-overs sound like a great way to make some additional income, don't they? If people have remarked on your 'pleasing' voice, perhaps you should give it a shot. 


But be careful.


Before you take the next step, here are the essential questions you need to be asking yourself.


1. Do I Really Understand What Voice-Overs Are All About?

You will be surprised at the number of beginners who assume, somewhat naively, that voice-overs are all about 'putting on a funny voice' or 'doing impressions'. True, character voices are required in some areas of voice acting,  especially video-games, animation and some audiobooks. 

However for the vast majority of voice-over jobs, you will be required to use your own, natural voice. Your real voice is your USP, the instrument you use and the one thing that distinguishes you from every other voice-over artist out there. 

The bulk of voice-over work is straight narration; in other words it is to be found in the corporate, e-learning and training fields. If you want to get famous doing impressions, try Britain's Got Talent instead.


2. Do I need Training?


I once received an email from a guy who said he didn't need any training. He said he was 'a natural' and just needed the chance to prove himself. After all, his mates liked the way he could change his voice in amusing ways.

However much we respect our family and friends' opinions, unless they work in the industry their comments are just benign pleasantries.

Achieving VO work requires vocal talent, sure, but if you don't know how to shape and develop your skills you are unlikely to make it.  Of course this particular individual may go on to become a high earning voice actor, but my gut feeling is he is a prime example of somebody who would benefit from coaching... and a reality check.


3. What Do I Put on My Voice-Over Showreel?


You may be aware that all voice-over artists have a reel or collection of demos. When you have been doing it for a while, this will be a showcase of your finest work.  But, if you are just starting out you will have to record some sample pieces from scratch.

My recommendation is concentrate on the following categories: corporate, commercial, audiobook, online training and on-hold voice prompts. That will mean you have covered 90% of the industry and the kinds of areas where you are most likely to secure work.

A word of advice: for goodness sake don't record one of those toe curling chocolate ads. They are cliched, dated and my pet peeve.


4. How do I Find an Agent?


Good question. Let's be upfront here - an agent probably won't even consider you if you have not got any paid voice-over work first.  You are asking an industry expert with inside knowledge of the VO business to represent you; are you good enough to be hired out? Are you professional enough to be able to complete voice over work in the time allotted? If you are being paid good money, can you meet a tight deadline?

An agent will probably say - go on, prove it.

That means first having a body of VO work under your belt to demonstrate to agencies you have the talents to meet exacting standards.

See the video below for more details on getting an agent:







5. So, Where Do I Find Voice-Over Work?

Your best bet is to use the online market places. These provide a rich source of voice-over jobs and divide into two sorts: the so-called 'pay to play' sites such as Voice123 and Voices.com, where you pay a subscription, but there is no commission deducted and the freelancer sites like Fiverr where you do not pay anything upfront, but commission is creamed off your earnings.

Do some research and make sure you are aware of how these sites operate and how they may benefit you.


6. Am I prepared to Record at Home?


Imagine a professional wedding photographer arriving on the big day without a camera and saying "sorry I can't afford the price of a decent DSLR and wonder if I could borrow someone's iPhone please?" and then billing you for the privilege.

Amazingly this what some wannabe voice actors say and do.

Of course they don't need a Canon EOS 750D to do voice-over work, but they do need a good microphone set-up which they are foolishly reluctant to buy.

Purchasing quality recording equipment is an investment in you and your career.


7. Can I take direction?

Slow down, speed up, add more energy, emphasise this word, lose the dramatic tone. Sound familiar? These are the kind of directions voice actors receive all the time and being able to understand what the director, client or producer wants is essential.

Just as importantly you need to be able to do what is asked of you.

If you have a habit of thinking you know it all and can't respond to commands, you should bring yourself down a peg or two.

Don't let your preconceived ideas or bloody mindedness get in the way of being a darn good voice-over artist


8. Do I Know What My Voice Sounds Like?

I once trained a lady who sounded like she had come straight from Downton Abbey... the upstairs part. She was precise, terribly British and classically elegant.

She sounded fabulous.

When I remarked on this, she shot back a worried look and pleaded "oh please don't say I am posh. I don't want to be called posh".

But you are posh I replied. This is your selling point, the Americans will love you.

I had to convince her that we could not turn her into a cool, urban, edgy voice actor. She had to play to type. Understanding how you sound to others is an important step on your voice-over journey.

Learn to appreciate your voice and listen back to yourself as much as possible. That is the only way to come to turns with its qualities.

Are you comfortable with your voice?







Get Into Voice-Over Work: Beginner's Guide




Are you just starting out in voice-overs? Perhaps you have never done any at all in your life. Well, here are some essentials I think will prove useful, as you take your first steps into the industry.



READ, READ READ. 


You should read. Read and read again. Read as much as you can, anything, a magazine, a book. Pull something off the internet. It doesn't really matter. What is important is that you are reading and specifically you are reading out loud because that is what voice-over artists do. They read scripts. 

The better you are at reading out loud, the better you will be at performing voice-over scripts. Lock yourself away from other people in the house. Just grab a small corner and read anything you can. Record it if you can on your phone, or on your computer (most will have a built-in microphone).


MAKE IT BELIEVABLE


Once you are reading out loud and you are quite happy with your performance and as you become more and more confident, the next thing is to make what you are doing believable. You have to be genuine when you are delivering your lines. 

In fact, in some ways, you have to make it sound like you are not reading at all. That way you will gain authenticity. 

You want your audiobook, your commercial, on-hold phone message, e-learning etc to sound credible and genuine. It is all about getting under the skin of the words and making it believable.



TALK TO ONE PERSON


You could do a commercial which is heard by hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. It is  perfectly conceivable that if you are narrating an audiobook, that might be heard by thousands of people too. But, really you are only addressing one person, a single individual. 

Voice-overs are very intimate.  

When you think about it seriously, it is a very human occupation. In its basic form it is simply you talking to another person. Direct your voice-over at that one individual. You can personify the microphone if you like or you can just imagine it is a friend or a family member... even a pet if that makes it easier! But, the main thing is you're not addressing a crowd. You are talking to a single person and remember you are talking to them as well. You are not talking at them.



DON'T BE A PERFECTIONIST


A lot of people who are starting out in voice-overs set the bar too high. They try and do everything and they try and do it so well that it is perfect in every way. 

Of course nobody is perfect. 

You are never going to be perfect. It doesn't matter if you have to do retakes. It doesn't matter if you flunk auditions. These 'fails' go with the voice-over territory. It is what we all do. 

If you try and set that bar too high, if you try and make your voice acting perfect, you're going to tumble... in more ways than one. Sadly, you will always be disappointed with your efforts. What I recommend you do is just learn to accept a certain level. Now, you want to get that level to get higher and higher of course, but you are not aiming for perfection. 

It is very important you remember that, because if you try and be perfect all the time, you will never do anything and you will never get anywhere.

Go easy on yourself.



NEVER GIVE UP 


Perhaps the most important advice I can give you is: never give up. I see so many people throw in the towel far too early. They get rejected and, let's face it, it hurts a lot. 

Sure, it is very painful to be turned away from voice-over work, but you have to overcome that. Keep on going. Doing the auditions will make you stronger and improve your performance too. 

It is the only way to do it and eventually it will happen - trust me.

You only need that first voice-over job to make you think, "Great, that's fantastic. Someone actually paid me for my voice. That's amazing. I can do more." 

And you certainly can do more. Keep on going. Keep on honing your voice-over skills. The work will follow.

See the first Five Golden Rules here:




 Gary Terzza helps newcomers break into the voiceover industry with his training programme VOmasterclass.com -  a complete training package that includes voice tuition, showreel, jobs guidance and marketing support.

What The Heck Does PFH Mean in Voice-Over Job Quotes?



The letters 'p.f.h.' often appear at the side of voice over job quotes, for example "The client is willing to pay $250pfh." It is important to understand what these letters mean and how they impact on your earnings. Get it wrong and you could severely dent your hourly pay rate. 


In this video I discuss the meaning of PFH in voice overs and how to work out the real amount you are being paid.

Here is the transcript 

There are three letters which can make quite a big difference to your voiceover career, because the way you handle them will determine how much you get paid. We're about to find out what those three letters are.


Hello. I hope you're in fine voice. Now the three letters I'm talking about are PFH. You may have seen them crop up at the side of numbers, and those numbers are normally how much you're going to get paid, possibly. Also, you may see clients, or experienced clients, asking you how much you charge PFH. Now the words stand for per finished hour. Let's say you're being paid £100 PFH. Now you might think, "Well, that sounds great. That means I'm getting £100 an hour."


But hold your horses, because it doesn't really mean that. It means the finished audio, the completed voiceover, lasts one hour. They're willing to pay you £100 for that hour that is completed audio, finished audio, per finished hour. But of course, it's going to take you much, much longer to produce a single hour of voiceover. You've got to record it. You've got to edit it. You've got to produce it. You might have to do retakes and so on.

You're talking at least four times the length, possibly five. Now that's an awful lot of time to produce that one hour. Now one hour is actually something like 10,000 words, to give you an example. What you're going to do then is divide that figure by four, at least, to give you a realistic view of what it's worth. Let's take the £100 PFH example, £100 per finished hour. That's what the client's going to offer you. In fact, you'll need to divide that by four. That means it's actually £25 an hour. In real terms, you're going to earn 25 quid per hour.

It's really important to understand the implications of PFH, because it looks like you're getting paid more than you really are. Always bear that in mind, so particularly for stuff where perhaps it's only paying £25 or £50 PFH. Obviously, that's a much, much lower rate. £50 PFH would be effectively £12.50 an hour. And as you get lower, you're probably going to go under minimum wage. Always bear that in mind.

All right. I hope to cover some other letters in the future with some future videos. All right, thanks very much for watching today. Look after your voice and see you next time.