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Sunday, September 06, 2015

Does Changing Your Name Help or Harm your Voice Overs?

Actors have stage names, authors have pen names and pop stars have alter egos, but what about voice over artists? Under what circumstances should you ever go under a different moniker? 

I was talking to someone this week who thought her name was a bit dull and wanted to change it. In truth, I thought it was rather distinctive and advised her to stick with what she had.  However there may be occasions when a 'VO name' might be something to consider.

You may be toying with the idea of a voice acting persona that differs from your given name, but is this a positive step or could it backfire?

Why Change?

When I worked in radio, several of the presenters went under pseudonyms. I secretly thought this was for vanity reasons, but in reality there was often a practical rationale behind the decision. For starters it was often the station that insisted on the alias and with good reason. Most of the jingles were sung and not all names scan well when placed in a melody. 

Among the surnames were a Mould and a Robottom (imagine those being sung on a jingle), neither of which fitted the showbiz image the station was trying to project. Then there was the issue of duplicates.... a clutch of Garys meant some had to adjust to new personas becoming Paul or David (I missed the cull and was allowed to keep mine) whilst others found too many syllables were just not acceptable and consequently found themselves with an a.k.a. whether they wanted one or not.

Apart from a request asking you to change, under what other circumstances might you want to adopt a nom de guerre?


People enter the voice over industry for all sorts of reasons: a desire to do something creative, boredom with their current job, or the chance to start over again by pursuing a radically different path following a life-changing event such as divorce, illness or the death of someone close to them.

Not everyone wants to be known by their given name and this could be because their employer might disapprove of their extra curricula activities, or simply because they may be embarrassed if colleagues or friends find out.

This is understandable.

You may fear failure and don't want to fall flat on your face in front of acquaintances and family who may not be sympathetic. I have old university friends who still ask me after 30 years, when am I going to get a 'proper' job!

In these instances, the adoption of a nom de plume may not be such a bad thing. 

Of course you may be a lawyer, doctor, police officer or have a business unconnected with voice overs, but which is strongly associated with your name and this would certainly be a legitimate reason for having an anonym.

What name should you adopt?

Have you ever played that game where to find your pen name, you put together your middle name and the street in which you grew up? There are many variations on this procedure (including a rude one, which is definitely not recommended for your professional branding) and going through this process is a good way to get 

I would throw lots of ideas around and remember this gives you the chance to begin afresh, enabling you to have the name you always wanted - so let your imagination roam freely.

Once you have a shortlist, the next task is to rule out duplication.

First, do some research. Look online and see if the name you fancy is already taken. A great place to start is the marketplace Voice123 as thousands of voice talents from around the world are registered here. For example if, for some inexplicable reason, you want to be called Gary Terzza enter and you will see there already exists a profile in that name.

If your second choice is the far more memorable Barnaby Shuttleneck, type in and the site will throw up an error message, which in this case is good news because the name is not taken... at least not by a voice over artist.

In the UK it is also worth doing a secondary check on Spotlight, the actors' directory.

It is also a good idea to Google your preferred sobriquet to rule out a name that might be associated with criminal or other undesirable activities - you never know, Barnaby Shuttleneck may have been a notorious bank robber. Once you have your name sorted it is time to start getting used to using it.

Can Changing Your Name Make Your Voice Overs Better?

Let's be honest, an alternative handle is not going to turn you into the finest voice actor that ever walked into a studio. How you perform has nothing to do with what you call yourself, but in some ways a different name can mean a new beginning and this might just give you added confidence.

Gone is the old you and along comes this pristine voice ready to conquer the VO world, but be careful because at the end of the day the way you sound is still essentially the same - only the wrapper has changed.

The Perils of Becoming Somebody Else 

There is a tendency for beginners in voice overs to hide behind a vocal persona, putting on a voice that isn't really them. This is often because they are unsure of the sound of their own voices when reading somebody else's words, but don't worry this gets better the more you practice. However it is an issue you should be aware of especially when adopting a new nomenclature.

Your individuality (ie the real you with your natural accent, tone and style) should shine through whatever name you use.

Before changing to a professional name for your voice over business, make sure you 

  Do not create a false voice to go with the alias.

☛  Keep email addresses, website URLs and invoices consistent with your adopted name, not your old one.

☛  Inform your agent (if you have one) of the change.

☛  Let your trusted inner circle of friends know what you are doing (they could get a shock otherwise). 

☛  Print business cards in the correct name. 

  Have a separate business phone number/mobile that you answer with your voice over stage-name. 

Consistency really is important because this will reflect your authenticity, give you credibility and make you sound professional. Imagine answering the phone to a prospective client using your real name by mistake and then bumbling your words whilst you desperately try and remember your new name - now that would be a faux pas.

Have you changed your name for voice overs? Please let me know in the comments below. 

Gary Terzza (yes that is his real name) is a voice over coach based in England.

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