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Saturday, June 24, 2017

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, 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?

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