9+ Tips For Successfully Hiring Professional Voice-overs
1. Use trusted and experienced talent from a reputable company
The voice-over market is highly crowded these days; anybody with a microphone and a voice can enter the arena and publicise themselves on the web as a so-called “professional voice-over”.
As with any easily accessible marketplace, a flood of options is not always great for the end user. Quality, getting a professional recording and the voice-overs ability to deliver on time is far more important than having a million options to explore and consider.
As Google acts as a filter for billions of web pages, using a reputable supplier of trusted and accountable voice-overs is essential for homing in on a talented voice artist capable of delivering your project. A supplier or agent who has multiple voice-overs should be able to offer you a variety of options and their experience of the intricacies of voice hiring means that you have a professional and trusted company to be held accountable should anything turn out different than you expected.
2. Avoid Massive Voice-over Directories
Ok, you may find a talented voice-over for your project, however, being able to automatically post your job to thousands of voice talents in one go is not always the best idea. Many of these large sites have thousands of members because they allow anyone and everyone to join and pitch for jobs. Their business model is to let as many voice-overs as possible pay to join the site. In my experience, voice-overs who are established and credible avoid using these sites due to the overwhelming amount of amateur contenders.
3. Don’t look for a cheaper option!
Fact! If you get a quote for a professional job in this industry, you will not have to go far to get a cheaper quote. As I said earlier, the market place is accessible by anyone with a microphone and a voice. Opt for the cheapest contenders and you may well have to start again with one of the higher priced quotes. I have seen this happen so many times! As with most things, you get what you pay for and it is better to go with a respected company.
4. Treat the demo as the starting point!
So, you have found a voice-over and their demo reel sounds great and well produced. That is all you need to know… right? Wrong! There are numerous studios that will record and produce show reels for budding voice-overs. These can be fabricated to sound like previous jobs. This is not necessarily an issue, however, if you want to hire one of these voice talents you have got to bear in mind that the recording they produce without the assistance of a producer may be significantly lower in production quality than their professional demo / show reel.
The way to get round this is to use a reputable supplier of voice-overs. If you are dealing directly with the voice-over, ask them for an example of a recent job that is similar to yours and was recorded in their own studio. For example, if you are expecting them to record an audio book, ask them for an example of a previous recording. Their professionally produced montage of adverts, corporate narrations and on-hold messages may not necessarily demonstrate their ability to narrate your audio book in their own studio.
5. Be Clear and be fair
When requesting the services of a voice-over make sure that you are clear about your project requirements, your budget and your expectations. A good voice-over company should be able to explore the scope of your project and ask the right questions in order to get an accurate quotation from suitable vocal talents. However, it is your responsibility to give a clear overview of your project and its distribution / exposure. If the scope and involvement of the voice-over increases over the duration of the project, it is only fair that they may have to charge more than initially quoted. Ideally have a script or transcript available for the purpose of the quotation or estimate.
6. Allow a realistic time scale
This sounds obvious, however, it is a very common mistake to underestimate the time it takes to prepare a ‘ready to record script’, to listen to different voice-over demos, to record the first draft and to cover any re-records. For instance, it is no good rushing a finished script through at the last minute, 10 days after it was initially due, and then expecting a result the same day. Doing this right takes a predetermined period of time and requires booking in advance. Any voice-over that is sat there waiting to record your script on a moments notice is obviously not busy. Good voice-overs are always busy and have to manage their recording schedule carefully.
7. Don’t believe the lies…
This is just talking into a microphone, easy money! Not true! A professional voice-over has had years of experience in talking at the right tone, pace and speed. The position of the microphone also has to be given careful consideration to get the tone and professional sound that is required. They make it sound easy, but it isn’t! This is a professional skill that develops over many years, and even the most experienced voice-overs do numerous takes before sending the version(s) they are happy with.
The recording is just part of the process…removing the noticeable breaths, gaps, plosives / pops (caused by b’s & p’s) and saliva noises requires skilled audio editing techniques that require years of practice or can require the skill of an audio engineer. Ten minutes of produced voice-over does not equal ten minutes of talking into a microphone!
Many long running voice-over jobs can be exhausting for the voice-over; this is because most voice-over narrations are done in an unnatural style. For example, you would not naturally talk with a permanent happy tone or a permanent smile on your face. Often, voice-over jobs require this for extended periods of time. If you don’t believe me, try reading this article into a microphone in a voice-over style and then listen back to your efforts.
8. Re-records don’t take 2 minutes!
Re-records can be very time consuming; it is best to avoid them if possible by triple checking your script before recording starts. If you miss as little as one word this can result in a line, sentence or even a paragraph having to be re-recorded. It can be difficult for a voice-over to recreate the moment and get the flow and tone the same as in the original take. It is near impossible to record one word and drop it in. Also, any new audio has to be blended into the original recording, which requires intricate audio editing.
9. Expect a variety of fees
Voice-overs are like actors, the more well known they are, the more they charge. If they have just got the gig to do a long running series of ads on mainstream TV, it is unlikely that they will still be working for small fees. Furthermore, all voice-overs have different career structures and are able to charge whatever suits their industry position and current timetable. For this reason, it is near impossible to get a ballpark figure that applies to all voice-overs; it is nearly always necessary to get a quote per job based on the specific job details. A good provider of voice-overs should be able to efficiently get the job details and match your budget to the most appropriate voice-over(s).
10. Give Feedback…but be nice!
It is common for clients to be very communicative during the quotation and recording / production stage. However, it is not uncommon for the client to go quiet at the end of a project when they have what they need. This is ok, although the client that the voice-over remembers well into the future is the one that takes the time to pass on their appreciation and thanks. A simple thank you over email is nice and takes no time at all. If you let the voice-over know how pleased you are with their work they will be more likely to go the extra mile when you need their help in the future.
If you consider all of the points above, you should be able to manage your or your clients voice-over requirements very successfully and above all, you should enjoy the creative process of choosing and using a professional voice-over.
Lee Pritchard is the founder of Media Music Now, a high quality Royalty Free Music library that offers a variety of music, voice-over and audio editing services to the media industry. Lee also has a keen interest in music licensing and is excited about the future of independent music on the internet.