You’ve been commissioned to hire a voice actor to record a script for an upcoming work project. You have no idea where to choose a voice actor. How do you choose a voice actor? How much does a voice actor cost? Well, don’t worry, because this article will discuss how to evaluate voice over talent and maintain a good working relationship for many years.
What’s the Project?
The first question to ask yourself when being commissioned to hire a voice actor would be, what is the ask? What project am I working on? Is it a commercial, a corporate narration, an e-Learning project, or maybe an animation? Usually, clients have some idea of the type of voice they want for their project and their target market or audience. Companies have large budgets for professional marketers to help them determine their target market. This data helps identify the type of voice they are looking for to generate sales or assist in compliance.
I have seen copywriters write a script in mind for a particular ethnicity, age, and gender. Doing this makes it easier for the actor to help determine if they think they have a good chance of booking the job. Sometimes the writers will include clues like “voice reference: John Krasinski, Rashida Jones, Morgan Freeman, etc.” This information helps the talent know if they are close to booking the job. There also have been times when I see a generic job posting with minimal description of the ideal candidate. In those cases, every voice actor will still audition and hope they are successful. But it’s beneficial for both parties – the actor and the talent- to know the ideal voice they have in mind.
Voice Over Talent Experience
Experience is one way you can evaluate your voice talent. Is this person a professional voice actor or not? Clients want to trust the talent and see they have the chops to do the job, have a professional-sounding booth, and can deliver the file on time.
At the inception of my career, the fear that someone would discover my lack of experience was crippling. I was brand new and wondered if someone would realize I was not legit. I had to tell myself that although I was new in this field, I deserved to be at the table with other professional actors. I had to realize that although I hadn’t done any voiceover gigs, I had over 15+ years of business experience. I had won drama awards in school and done professional speaking for auditions of over 200+ people for many years.
When looking for talent, feel free to peruse their social media channels, website, Linkedin, and agent websites. Usually, when you review their auditions by email, they will have a professional signature at the bottom, with their website information and social media channels. A quick 5-10 min deep dive will reveal their experience in voice-over. If they did a good job marketing themselves, the information would be easy to find.
Which Skills Does Your Voice Over Talent Need?
Determining a voice talent’s skills will identify the voice talent that’s right for you. There are different ways to classify skills, such as artistic or technical skills. Artistically speaking, Is this voice actor a one-trick pony? Can they only provide one style of voice-over? Maybe that’s ok for the project you are working on, or do you need different character voices and accents? Do you require the actor to voice various genres such as eLearning and animation? Do they take direction well in a live-directed session? Technical skills include the ability to record and edit in a professional setting. Can they add music under the recording? Are they familiar with multiple Digital Audio Workstations?
Do they have the business skills needed to create and send an invoice? Are they set up on PayPal, Wire Transfer, Venmo, etc.? Can they provide you with competitive voice-over rates? Are they aware of industry standards? How are their communication skills? Do they get back to you on time, or are you waiting hours for their emails? Are they crafting communications effectively with correct grammar and punctuation? Are they respectful and professional? What does their social media show about their business and professional and moral standards?
Level of Education
Education is crucial in evaluating voice talent. Does this individual have any voice-over training? Self-taught voice artists can schedule work. When I first started, I got lower-level jobs and pay compared to what I achieved. If I could do it again, I would get the training before auditioning. There are various types of education that a voice talent could have. Perhaps they went to school and were taught various methods of professional acting.
Maybe they worked with a coach in various genres such as Commercial, Narration, Animation, eLearning, and Promo. Voice actors can take improv classes which help make characters quickly and find humour in a script. Many cost-effective online and in-person classes are available today that a voice actor can join, so every candidate should have some on their resume. Perhaps the talent doesn’t have voice-over coaching yet, but what is their business education? Have they taken business classes? This helps narrow the voice-over competition.
Evaluate Voice Over Talent Rates
Rates are a significant way to evaluate voice talent for two reasons. Number one, it determines the amount of experience a voice actor has, and two, it identifies how well they understand voice-over industry standards. The GVAA Rate Guide is the most comprehensive resource in the industry, and it lists the various genres of voice-over broken out by usage category and shows how to quote for voice-over projects. At first, I found this guide slightly confusing, but over the years, it has improved tremendously. Now I use it to provide quotes and educate my clients on the going rates.
The Role of Location
The location used to matter when booking voice talent, and most producers required in-person recording, so they had to find the talent and get them to the desired studio. Now that we live in a digital age, less effort is required, and most voice actors have advanced professional home studios.
I still see auditions that say “MUST BE LOCAL TO LOS ANGELES or NYC,” so there is still a demand for geographically convenient talent. Sometimes a talent with a specific dialect or accent from a particular region is preferred, or the producer wants to use their studio with perfectly tuned recording equipment. It may also be because the director prefers to work with the talent in person. Animation projects often have these requirements because directors want the whole ensemble together so they can feed off each other’s energy.
Consider The Talent’s Studio Resources
The voice talent’s quality of recording space can provide a professional edge when booking talent. Technology can improve the voice and recording space, but it’s easier if the space is designed for voice-over from the beginning. That applies to Voice-over recording spaces. Ultimately, the casting director or video producer is looking for clean audio. They want a clean, crisp, clear sound with no vibrations or echoes. The worst space to record a voice-over would be somewhere like a bathroom. The best space to get started would be somewhere like a small closet with a lot of clothes inside to insulate sound and can limit background noises resulting in clean and clear audio with no echo.
I got my voice over career started by using online casting sites. I quickly put together a voice-over recording space by dumping blankets and pillows into my spare bedroom closet. It was certainly not a masterpiece. It took me months of research to understand the science behind a good recording space. Understanding the science of how sound works is essential, and I am continuously learning more. However, I do trust the professionals and their techniques and advice.
From Stuffed Closet to Custom Sound Booth
A well-treated closet is the most basic of recording spaces, and it can work well. I recorded national television commercials from my closet at the beginning of my career, and no one would have known otherwise. Some of those commercials are still airing on TV today. The next upgrade would be a travel voice over booth made of moving blankets which can also sound entirely professional. Next would be a portable booth such as a Whisper Room or a Studio Bricks. Many industry professionals use these booths and have long sustainable careers using these coveted spaces. The most expensive booth one can have would be a custom voice-over booth. These are tailor-made to the voice actor and can do wonders for the actor and their business. It’s not common for video producers and casting directors to ask what kind of booth the actor uses, but I have seen it repeatedly. Usually, they are more concerned with what the overall recording sounds like.
Asses Vocal Qualities
The voice is a pretty obvious way to evaluate talent but not always the most important. What type of voice does this person have? Are they smooth, raspy, soft, low, high, or squeaky? Do they possess swagger, or are sound perfectly awkward? Do you like their voice, or would the sound of their voice drive you crazy after listening to a long e-learning module? You don’t necessarily have to like their voice, but is it suitable for your project? I see quite a few requests for “interesting or different voices. Many directors understand the need to pick one that stands out. I’ve also seen quite a few auditions for diverse actors with accents.
Evaluate Voice Over Talent and What They Offer
What a voice actor can offer is an x-factor in the industry. It is not required but nice to have. At the most basic, a voice actor will record a project and provide you with the file. But what else can they provide? What is their revision policy? Can they split files? What are their terms? What other bells and whistles can they offer? Could they promote your company on their social media? Can they provide a discount on the next project? These factors can help determine how to choose a voice-over talent.
Reviewing the project, experience, skills, education, rates, location, studio, voice, and each offer can help you weed through the sea of voice actors. Take your time, do your homework, and you’ll find the right voice for your project.