Part one – Starting Out
“Anyone can be a voice-over artist right?”
The number of times we’ve all heard this must be staggering, and it comes from the misunderstanding that voice-over is something anyone can easily pick up. Although the barriers to entry are not that high, the truth is somewhat different from this.
Voiceover, like any other job, is exactly that, a real-world, real-life job, and it starts by understanding what the industry is actually all about.
There are a few important things to understand when starting out, they include the voice types, knowing where your voice is best suited, understanding what the purpose of different voice scripts are trying to do, and knowing what your personal goal is within the industry.
The Voice Industry
What voice artists are doing in a nutshell, is putting an idea forward with their voice. Whether that be something someone needs to buy, listen to, learn, or just enjoy. Voice-over work spans so many topics and industries that there’s almost nothing that you won’t find online or hear on TV and radio that doesn’t have some form of voice-over.
So what is the voice industry actually composed of? That’s pretty simple, the voice industry is divided into artist, engineer (or sound recordist), the client and the intended listener. Each has their own roles to play. Here’s a basic breakdown of each
Voice artists – These are the people doing the acting, the voice you hear telling you what you need to know. Each artist has a specific skill set like character acting or accent work, and will often specialise in one field that their voice is best suited to, like corporate voice overs or hard sell radio ads.
Engineers – These guys are the people who record what’s happening behind the mic. Knowing how sound works as an engineer is also useful as an artist, as it can help you find range and frequencies in your voice that you can play with or change.
The client – changes from job to job. It could be a major film company, or a small business, either way, this is quite obviously where the jobs come from.
The listener – Every company you work with will have an audience they are trying to reach, and with every voiceover you do, you will find that this changes. Small businesses might want you to do a short 30-second radio ad in order to attract people who they’d like to make aware of their products or services. Larger corporations can easily use an artist for the same reason, but often also use voiceover for in-house training modules or corporate information. A large company that does films, games or TV could use a voice artist for a documentary or as a character in an animated show. The list is endless.
Basically, the entire point of the voice industry is to make sure that anyone out in the world can easily receive a message, in whatever format that needs to be.
Next, we take a look at some voice over types.
Voice Types – What They are, and Why they’re Essential.
Soft sell, hard sell, conversational, if you’ve been in the booth before or ever looked up what voice-over is all about, you will have heard these terms. Each voice type is in a way, a type of marketing, and also involves a bit of psychology too.
Let’s look at the common ones we listed above (although please be aware, these aren’t the only ones by any means, just 3 very common ones), hard sell, soft sell and conversational.
In the beginning, hard sell was the way to go, it sounded direct and pointed, think of those old-school 90’s car sales ads or ads for kitchen products from well-known shopping stores like Wal-Mart or Game. The ads were in your face, loud, energetic and often quite irritating when we look back at them. This was marketing directly to everyone, and for a while, it held strong.
In the early 2000s however, we started to see a shift. People began to see themselves being marketed to, and the awareness that ads were trying to push someone to buy something started to create a feeling of resentment towards these types of ads.
Enter the soft sell, which is exactly what you’d expect it to be. Here we had ads which were much more personal. It also enabled companies to speak about things which were longer term, like finances and medical services. The psychology was simple – if we deliver something soft and completely different to the hard sell, it will create the opposite reaction! This is pretty much exactly what happened.
But in time, even these became somewhat watered down, and right now, they are almost exclusively used for longer or more emotionally charged ads, although they are still used.
Somewhere in the middle, people wanted to be spoken to like, well, people. And so the idea of the conversational ad came about. What it is even today, is the ad type that makes it feel like an audience hearing the message is listening to a friend or family member. It’s a relatable voice type that anyone can get behind because it’s not something that sounds like it’s advertising anything to you.
Okay, so why the history lesson? Well, in order to understand what to do behind the microphone it’s often helpful to understand what voice types actually DO and what they’re FOR.
When we say voice type we’re talking about how the voice actually sounds. Remember how I spoke about hard sell being loud and energetic?
As a voice artist starting out, you need to watch ads, listen to the radio, and research voice types so that you can understand what they are and how they work. Every voice type sells something different, even if what you’re selling is an idea or a narrative (like a kid’s story), you have to get the listener to buy into what you’re saying.
So Where do I Start?
The first question to answer is, what do you want to do with voice-over? If you’re looking for a sideline gig to make some money, then you can easily learn the basics online and simply teach yourself.
There are hundreds of channels and hours of tips and tricks that you can follow to get up to speed with the ins and outs of the basics. You will need rehearsal tools as well, and having a phone to work with at the very least in order to record yourself and listen back to practice, is really important.
If you’re looking to take voice acting seriously as a full time career, then you will need to up your game. Finding a voice coach or taking classes for voice acting will be your first port of call. This is because you need to know where your voice is best suited, and which direction would make the most sense for you to follow first in terms of your voice acting career (eg: should you go for corporate or character acting gigs?).
Coaches are also capable of assisting you in learning accents, such as British Standard (or RP) and American standard.
Once you have these under your belt, there are 2 things you need to look at. Firstly, where to find your clients and also, how to record your voice.
Finding Clients and Recording Spaces
Clients can be searched for in one of 2 ways. Firstly, you could get an agent who specialises in voice actors. These people already have clients on their books that are looking for voices and might just be looking for a voice just like yours. Just be aware that agencies also carry agency fees for each job you do, as well as taxes depending on your country or state.
Secondly, you could try reaching clients directly via email and phone. With this approach you could bypass agency fees but it’s a much harder and more challenging, time consuming process.
Finding a place to record could also mean one of 2 routes to take. Either finding a reputable recording studio or building and using your own home studio set-up.
Both options have positives and negatives, so you have to take a moment to consider them before choosing an option.
Let’s first take a look at some factors surrounding the home studio setup.
Home studios are rent-free spaces you can use any time you’re available
Although you might save money by not recording at a studio, the setup cost and maintenance cost of a home studio can be very steep
Home studio setups require you to also have an understanding of basic sound engineering for voice over in order to record yourself.
There is a higher chance of inconsistent quality recordings
And what about professional recording studios?
Professional studios have all the equipment setup and ready to run
Pro studios also have soundproofing and treatment which provides better quality.
Engineers who work at the studio already have the knowledge of how to record the voice for you, they are the professionals for a reason.
The cost per hour can vary from reasonable to very expensive depending on where you record
You will physically need to go to the studio which might affect your travel costs
This is what one has to consider, for the quality of a professionally recorded voiceover, is the per-hour cost of a studio hire going to make it worth your time? And for most cases, the answer is yes. We all want to do everything ourselves and save costs, but it’s highly unlikely you will be a professional voice artist and a professional engineer. Rather focus on one and let the professional engineer do the rest.
Whether you have hours behind the microphone or you’re just starting out, it’s important to get the basics right, or sometimes come back to basics just to refresh things. Come and record a demo at Cosher Studios, and find out how you can be added to our growing database of voice talent.