How to Hire the Right Voice Talent
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I’m Neil Holmes from Voice Creative, welcome to How to hire the right voice talent, or voice actor, or announcer, or narrator, or someone to read your script, commercial, announcement – on and on. Obviously, this video is gonna take a few minutes, so we’ve placed times below so you can skip to the parts you need. Also, if you’d rather read this, or print it out, a link for that is below, too.
Of course you realize getting the right voice is important, or you wouldn’t be here. The right voice, as an announcer, a narrator, a company spokesperson, a video game character, a teacher, a ‘real person’, a testimonial, for radio and TV commercials, for commercials that come from the gas pump, and tons more; the voice you choose will represent you, your company, your image. Finding the right voice doesn’t have to be difficult. So let’s get started.
(TIME POINT :56 – Product/Service) The first thing you need to know – is everything you can about your product or service. Are you hiring a Voice to educate, entertain, to sell? Who is your audience – Where do they live? What kinds of jobs do they have? How much do they make? What are their dreams? What do they do for fun? Do they have kids? Pets? Do they have their own car or use a bus, subway, taxi? The narrower you define your target audience, the quicker and simpler it will be to find the right voice. Plus, share this information during auditions and casting, and that will help the voice talent tailor their reads. You’ll get better results. Ultimately, if you can, develop a frameable picture or drawing of your target person.
You will also need to know your budget, the script length, the places your audio will be used (like TV, radio, internet, audiobook, corporate narration, animation, on-hold/IVR, etc.), and the duration of time you’ll want to use the recordings.
When you’ve outlined all of this, the rest of the process is simple. With your target image from above, you already have the answers, so now, when you hear the right voice, you’ll know it.
(TIME POINT 2:18 – Budget) The rest of the work on How to Hire the Right Voice Talent is all interwoven, so we’ll start with budget.
How much will you invest to hire the voice talent? As you are considering what to offer, here are some of the things your voice talent will need to know
- How long will you use the reads? Is it for a 13-week radio schedule? An in-perpetuity web video? A corporate awards ceremony? A movie trailer?
- Where will the audio will be used? This is usually broken into Broadcast or Non-broadcast. In general, broadcast is pushing the audio on people, through radio, TV, even through an Internet ad or explainer video. Non-broadcast is pulling people to hear it, as in a private corporate event or ceremony, telephone on-hold messaging, video games, voice assistant, animation, audiobooks, etc.
- How long is the script, and desired number of reads? Script length can vary, but the more time required to record the audio, the higher the rate. For broadcast length pieces and IVR, I always advise my clients to get a minimum of two reads. This is for a couple of reasons, a technical glitch in delivery, and for a change in interpretation. Most voice talent set their rates knowing they’ll be asked to do two reads for shorter copy, but when negotiating the rate, always double-check the number of reads to be delivered.
- Is translation needed? Please never rely on an online computer-generated translation, always go with a native speaker of that language. You don’t want “Meals on Wheels” to be translated to “Food on Tires” (true story).
- Where will the project be recorded? We’ll get into sound quality and plosives and more in a moment, but most home studios today are capable of high quality recording. So if a home studio is an option, great. If not, let them know where the recording will take place.
- Will this be a directed recording? Or, in short, will someone be listening online, on the phone, in person, as the voice actor records, telling the voice talent how they’d like it read? That is usually not a problem, but it is a cost consideration.
- Re-Recordings. The industry standard on re-recordings is that if the copy changes and you need something re-voiced to fit in, there will be a charge. If the voice talent mispronounced a word or had the wrong inflection, there is no re-recording charge.
(TIME POINT 5:02 – Audio Quality) Next, the details of what you want to listen for in a demo read. Of course, you want a professional read, otherwise, you could have asked someone in IT. You want to find…
- A pure, quiet room
- A voice with the proper diction to reach the target audience. This will vary by product or service.
- A voice without lip-smacking, loud breathing, or excessive plosives: Lip-smacking noises have a place, but not usually in auditions. Same with a sudden intake of breath between words, or a push of air that makes a deep pop sound. (sfx: pop) These can be costly to edit out, so its cheaper to not have that sound recorded in the first place.
- Is the delivery natural, or does it sound like the voice talent is reading?
- Can you trust the voice talent to fulfill the technical requirements and meet your deadline?
(TIME POINT 6:00 – Read Quality) So much for the technical aspects of How to Hire the Right Voice Talent, how about the actual voice? From your research into your product or service, you should have a decent conception of what voice and delivery you’d like. See the link below for a list of words that can help you articulate the read you want from the voice actor. Words like friendly, demonic, pushy, sports bar, in love, energetic; there are tons more. You may also wish to consider:
- Language. Are they a native speaker with the correct…
- Accent/dialect/ethnicity. Maybe you’d prefer an Indian, a German, or Liver Pool accent for a commercial in Chicago or anywhere the audio might be used.
- How are the voice talent’s interpretation skills and pacing? Do they ‘get” the concept, or will they need coaching to get pacing and interpretation right?
- Do you need multiple characters from the same voice? If so, will this voice talent have the vocal range to help each character sound distinct?
- What experience do they have? Usually, the more experienced, the greater the cost. But the more experience (prima donna voice actors aside), the less time it takes to get the right sound.
- What type of read are you looking for? An announcer, a narrator, a spokesperson, a video game character, etc. This is usually informed by the copy – unless there is no copy. In this case, the voice talent may be asked to perform as an MC, or Voice of God (as their voice booms live from speakers around the venue).
(TIME POINT 7:49 – Where to find voices) Now, armed with all that information, you need to actually get some auditions in the door. Warning, for your sanity’s sake, the ideal number of auditions is five to 15. After that, monotony may set in, hearing the same words over and over from different voices. Most voice talent will audition for free, it’s their personalized vocal resume reading part of your copy. Also, rates will vary by voice talent, though most strive to work within your budget. In each option below, supply the copy, your brief on who you’re trying to reach, and let them record a demo for you. Your options are:
- Voice Casting sites and
- Freelancing sites. They abound on the internet, and thousands of voices have joined each, often more than one. That means when you post your audition request, you could be overwhelmed with responses and underwhelmed at the quality of the auditions. But if you do go this route, listen to all the responses, you may find a diamond.
- Do an Internet search of individual voice talent websites. This is a time-consuming option, as you should go a few pages into the search results. But it does allow you to pre-screen via their online demo reels, and therefore control the number of responses by only asking for an audition from a voice talent you already like.
- Finally, Voice Brokers and agents. Voice brokers know the talent pool that best fits your brief, and will pre-screen responses so you only select from 5 or ten. Like the other options, casting and auditions are usually free to clients.
For a list of some sites, we’ve added a link below.
(TIME POINT 9:42 – Cost Considerations) Please offer a fee commensurate with the time and value the professional voice talent will bring to your project. The right voice actor is worth whatever they ask for in compensation because they are going to be a joy to work with, quick, and deliver an amazing result. Just a few minutes ago I talked about where to find the right voices, let’s look at those again:
- Voice Casting sites and
Freelancing sites offer talent of all ranges and abilities, so the results will cover all ranges and abilities. In many cases, both the person requesting the audition and the voice actor will pay a small amount to use that site.
- Individual Talent via Internet search. Here the Voice Talent set their own rates, but again, most will try to work within your fair and reasonable budget. What’s fair and reasonable for voice projects? There are a few sites that offer general non-union rates, see the link below. For union rates, see SagAfrta.org.
Voice Broker/Agent: Again, these folks know the talent pool, can arrange all the auditions you like, and deliver the best few to you for your evaluation. Voice Brokers and Agents get paid by booking jobs for their voice talent, so the rate may be a bit higher than other sources, but the screening and frustrations are a lot less.
Please keep in mind when you’re hiring voice talent you’re not just compensating them for reading your script, but also the time they’ve dedicated to honing their craft and the equipment required to get a quiet room. If you’d like an actual idea of talent costs, see the link below to some sites that may help. Please offer a fee commensurate with the time and value the professional voice talent will bring to your project.
(TIME POINT 11:37 – Contract) Finally, the choice is made, the offer agreed. Put it in a quick summary email, contract, etc. Spell out specifically what you will do, and what you expect of the voice talent. Is it voice only? How many reads? Does the voice talent need to edit? Do you want them to add a music track? More than one? Are you expecting sound effects? Are you requiring they produce/engineer a final mix? Do you need an NDA? An escrow account? It’s best to spell it all out so there are no surprises. And that includes making the voice talent aware of your payment terms – on receipt, 30 days, 60 days?
(TIME POINT 12:19 – Conclusion)
A brief note on equipment. The microphone, processor, workstation, and other gear each voice talent uses to capture their voice couldn’t matter less. What matters is their sound. When you get down to How to Hire the Right Voice Talent, it’s the sound that matters.
So now you are ready to gather auditions, evaluate, and have fun.
I’m Neil Holmes from Voice Creative dot com, the Internet’s first virtual commercial Audio Production service, with copywriting, voice talent, and mastering since 1996. Remember the links below, and Thank You for your time.
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Some Links. Tons more are online. (These are not clickable links. Copy and paste the text into your browser.)
Voice Casting Sites:
Voiceover Rate Guides: