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As someone who needs a voice over talent or voice actor for the first time for a project, or who hires regularly, finding the right voice over talent for your project can be a daunting task. For first-timers, this can be especially challenging as like anything you’ve never done before, you lack the experience to know what to look for. If you’re a seasoned pro, hopefully, you’ll take away some nuggets you never thought about before.

Let’s take a look at the process.

First – Understand Who You’re Looking For

This first step will save you a lot of time and potential aggravation (not that you need any more at this point in your project). You need someone who will make your life easier, not harder; this is where a professional voice over talent will be your best bet. But how can you tell if they are actually a “professional” and not someone with a USB microphone recording in their bedroom?

Key indicators your voice talent is a professional:

  • Records in a sound treated booth
  • Has a professional mindset with a customer service focus
  • Focussed on making your life easier
  • Can record whenever it is most necessary for you
  • Believes in collaboration

Key indicators your voice talent is an amateur:

  • Doesn’t have the proper equipment, training, or recording space
  • Thinks of you as only a “paycheck” and not as a partner
  • Limited business experience
  • Unwilling or unable to be responsive and helpful for your needs

It also helps to have as much information nailed down as to the specs of the project you are working on including all the “w’s” so it will be easier for the voice talent to provide an accurate quote.

Second: Time to Start Searching for Your Voice Actor

The absolute worst thing you can do is to type in “voice over” into Google if you want to search for a voice over talent. You’ll get all kinds of wasted results – including anything and everything to do with VOIP (voice over internet protocol)! Ughhhhh!

If you are comfortable searching directly, trying terms like “male voice over talent,” “male voiceover,” “male voice talent,” “professional male voice over,” “professional male voice over talent” (or the female/gender varieties) may be a good place to start. You’re more likely to find search results showing websites of voice over talent than other unrelated search results. Other qualifiers you may wish to add to your search query are:

  • The genre: ie commercials (TV, Radio, Web), explainer/whiteboard videos, eLearning video narration, corporate narration, animation, telephony – eg. “male voice over talent for eLearning”
  • A specific industry: ie retail, banking/finance, automotive, learning & development, etc. – eg. “male voice over talent for retail commercials”
  • A specific style/tone: ie authoritative, conversational, friendly, baritone, resonant, warm, sincere, energetic, etc. – eg. “male voice over talent conversational commercial”
  • Or any other specific terms relevant to your needs, like a language, accent, dialect, etc. – eg. “male voice over German accent”

There’s really an unlimited number of search options but at the end of the day, you’ll only need to focus on those that matter most to your project. The more you can narrow down your search, the better!

One place to start for quality talent is World Voices Organization (WoVO). WoVO is the only member-driven organization for voice over professionals BY voice over professionals. You can search their member directory of vetted professionals at https://www.voiceover.biz/.

Third: It’s Demo Time!

Now that you’ve found a voice over talent or voice actor, how do you know they’re the right fit for your project? One of the first steps is to listen to their demo(s). Typically, a well-thought-out voice over talent’s website will have their demos easily found and playable on the front page of their website. If it’s not, run!

Having said this, these can be glitzy, well-produced demonstrations of the actor’s abilities and it may sometimes be a challenge to gage their fit for your project based on the demo alone.

One way to get around this is to request a custom audition where the professional voice over talent will submit a sample read (up to a minute) of your script.

This helps in two big ways:

  • It lets you gage more accurately if their vocal qualities are a fit for your project, and
  • Let’s you hear the quality of the audio they can produce. If there are any distracting sounds, clicks, hiss or anything else, that’s a signal to look elsewhere.

When sending in a request to a talent for a custom audition, it’s always best to include as much information on the project as possible (as it would also be needed for any quotation – the next step). At the custom audition request, information such as tone/style of read is what you’re after – but this can be tweaked prior to moving into production.

Fourth: How much will all of this cost?

To answer that question – among many others – it’s important to nail down all the other details that will come into play. Questions you may have for the voice over talent and questions they will have for you.

Some, but not all, of the areas that would need to be clarified include:

  • The nature of the script/project
    • is it a one-off video or a series of videos?
    • one commercial or part of a campaign
    • how long is the script/video/training program?
  • where and how will it be used
    • internal company broadcast
    • global campaign or just in your small-town radio station
    • company social media pages with limited followers
  • how long will the project be used, eg one week, 3-month campaign, 1 year, or buyout (which means forever and a day)
  • what is your budget – this is key for the voice over talent to know as most credible talent will do everything they can to work within your budget
  • will you want to or need to either listen in or fully direct with the talent during the recording session (and if so, by which means – phone patch, Source Connect, Skype, etc.)
  • delivery deadline – this is key to have upfront so both parties are on the same page – is the audio file due the same day, up to 24-hours, 48-hours, 1 week, etc.
  • and file specs required (ie mp3, AIFF, wav) – though only relevant once the project is agreed upon

As we are all independent contractors, every voice actor will have their own internal rate card with their own factors in determining their final price per project. As you can see, there are quite a number of factors that can influence the price you pay, but like most things in life, you get what you pay for. There are a couple of industry accepted rate guides out there that are a good starting point for rates (including the GVAA Rate Guide and the Gravy for The Brain Voiceover Rate Guide are the most respected non-union rate guides). But these are just starting points.

And ultimately, the final rate becomes a negotiation between you and the voice actor. I know for myself, my whole philosophy is wrapped up around building long-term relationships so it doesn’t make any sense to lowball a quote just to come back later and raise prices or ask for an above-market rate simply because I want to make more money.

Collaboration is the goal. When you and your professional voice actor are on the same page, working well together, at a price that is agreeable to all, it should be a smooth and stress-free relationship. Because the last thing you want to do is to keep going through this process every time you need a voice for your projects.

And it’s not just the “voice” you need, but a solid partnership. Someone who will actually go beyond what is asked. Providing constructive feedback on script revisions if needed. Voluntarily offering to make referrals to other professional voice actors if there is a need for a different sound, gender, language, accent, etc. and making the referrals if necessary.

So finding the right talent for you, your project, your brand, and your company is paramount to your success.

Please contact me anytime if there is any project you are working on where you need a voice – the right voice over talent – and we’ll talk!