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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Voice Over Agony Uncle

It's that time again - I am taking on the role of agony uncle, answering your voice over questions.

I can't imagine me getting any voice over work, because I don't sound distinctive enough. What can I do to stand out in a crowded market?

Really? I assume you perceive your voice to be exactly the same as every other British middle aged man do you? Well try this experiment: phone a friend, partner or family member from a different number and just say, in your natural speaking voice, "can you guess who this is?" 

Will they think you could be one of thousands of other guys, or will they know it's you from the sound of your voice?

Of course they will recognise it is you straight away. 

Whilst our voices can be grouped into demographic categories such as age, ethnicity, class and so on, we all have a unique sound. That's why voice recognition software is valued by security experts.

Your voice is as singular as your face. Learn to appreciate its defining qualities and carve out a niche for yourself in the voice over industry. 

In sales, for every 10 qualified prospects one should get 3 interviews leading to 1 sale. I have done 16 auditions leading to 0 paid jobs. What are the average statistics in the voice over industry so I can at least have a realistic plan for work? Or what am I doing wrong or what can I do better?

I'm not sure you can be so empirical with voice acting stats, after all it's a performance art. American voice coach Bill DeWees reckons you should be aiming for a 1 in 10 success rate (which would match your quoted sales target) but I would counter that this is too optimistic and not always achievable.

Instead I prefer Brian Cranston's take, which is to refocus your objectives; your aim is not to 'get a job', but provide a compelling audition that serves the text. After that, it's out of your hands.

Which marketplaces are you doing auditions for? You should be on the major freelancer sites as well as at least one pay to play site and of course ACX for audiobook opportunities.

A company I have just completed a voice over project for wants me to sign a release form. The problem is it was advertised as: 'Training, business presentations, sales, and web sites'. However the release form seems to state that it is for broadcasting and they are pushing me to sign it today. What would you suggest I do?

Are you sure it's for TV and not non-broadcast platforms such as website and/or YouTube? If it is for a TV commercial (and before you sign) you need to find out whether it is national, regional or local. 

You should also determine the length of time they wish to use it for. A television ad would typically have two elements: a basic session fee (BSF) and usage fee. 

The longer they want to run the commercial and the more eyeballs that will view it, then the more they will have to pay you.

I'm always a bit concerned whether a far-flung client will use one of my auditions without paying. I know that a 'watermark' can be inserted such as a copy change or telephone number alteration etc. However, some clients may be offended by this action. What do you recommend I do to protect my work?

There are various opinions on this and my feeling is that if the client seems legit (ok website, physical address etc) then leave out any watermark. However if you get a gut reaction that this is a dodgy client, then by all means add one. Of course you could argue that if the client is coming across as untrustworthy then why would you bother auditioning for them in the first place?

If you want to know how to add a protective spoiler to your recordings 
using Audacity software then see my instructional video.

Can you help with this verbiage: what does the client mean by 'punch rates'?

'Punch' refers to retakes and pickups. In simple terms these are lines of script or words inserted (ie 'punched') into the main body of your existing recording, sometimes called 'punch and roll'. Basically the client does not want a nasty shock with the price and is asking you for clarification on what these extra reads would cost.

It is always difficult to estimate accurately, since you do not know in advance how many revisions they will need. My rule of thumb is that if you are being paid handsomely then offer these without charge. Alternatively you may wish to provide a couple of pick-ups for free, but any more above that threshold would mean you bill the client for an additional 25% of the quoted fee.

I wondered if you knew of an American dialect coach in Newcastle or the north east?

I can't say I do. 

Your first port of call is Google, but I'm wondering what you need a US accent for anyway? In voice overs different dialects may be useful for some audiobooks, animation, video games and perhaps the occasional local radio ad. 

But remember, the vast majority of voice over jobs require you to use your own voice. If a client wants an American accent, they will source the genuine article.

Likewise if a producer requires a real life Geordie they can come to someone like you. Stick to what you know and what you do best.

I recorded an audition yesterday and I intend to follow up in the next few days with a request for feedback - and if so is there a polite form words used as an industry guideline to avoid seeming pushy or offensive?

I would not recommend asking a potential client to critique your audition. That is like asking them to be an unpaid coach.

Clients often use agencies and online marketplaces so they don't have to respond directly to talents. Do your audition and leave it at that.

If they like you enough, you will soon know - you'll get hired. 


Gary Terzza is a British voice over coach. 
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