As a voice seeker, whether you have a precise vision, general idea, or absolutely no clue about the type of voice you’re seeking for your next project, most voice-over talent searches involve a multi-step, all purpose process. Perhaps you’re new to the game and are not sure what to expect, in which case this guide will fill you in. Or maybe you’ve already been through the selection process before, in which case this guide may contribute some helpful hints.
In either case, the best place to start (of course) is with Step 1.
Step 1: Know the Ground Rules
Before you even begin your search, it’s important to keep a few basic tenants in mind. They’re not really rules per se, but rather useful tidbits of info that can help shape your search for the ideal voice-over talent.
The ideal voice-over talent should be:
- Available when you need them
- Eager and willing to answer your questions
- Geared toward making your job easier
- Out for the same goal you are: a truly brilliant project resulting from an equally brilliant collaboration
The ideal voice-over talent should NOT be:
- Available every other weekend, but only when it rains
- Unresponsive to emails and phone calls
- Disgruntled when you ask for, well, anything
- Out only for making a buck, slapping the job together as quickly as possible, or otherwise “getting it over with” so they can move on to something more fun.
Step 2: Start the Voice-Over Talent Search
When you’re not sure how to start your voice-over talent search, nothing can be more intimidating than a blinking curser on the computer screen that’s just waiting for input. Try inputting stuff like this:
- World Voices Organization (WoVO): The voiceover.biz link on the organization’s site lets you search its database of union and non-union, vetted voice-over professionals ready for action.
- Search terms related to voice-over professionals: Think of the type of voice you want, then enter terms that match. Start with the base terms such as: “Professional voice talent” or “Professional voice-over talent” then add details that match with what you’re looking for. Examples include:
- Gender: male or female – Ex: “female voice over talent”
- Project type: commercials, explainer videos, infomercials, narration, animation – Ex: “female voice-over talent for commercials“
- Industry: health care, automotive, beauty, children’s toys, finance – Ex: “female voice-over talent for automotive commercials”
- Tone/style: sultry, high-energy, sophisticated, authoritative, conversational – Ex: “female voice-over talent high energy”
- Special skills: British accent, characters, American dialects – Ex: “female voice over talent British accent”
You get the idea. Mix and match search terms to your heart’s content until you find a voice (or five) which draws your interest further. Then move on to Step 3.
Step 3: Review the Demos
Since they can be re-recorded and edited to perfection, demos are not the end-all for choosing your ideal voice-over talent. But they can certainly be helpful to get a general idea of what a professional voice over talent sounds like.
Whether you’re reviewing an actor’s portfolio on a site like WoVO or looking at a voice-over pro’s own website, it shouldn’t be hard to find their voice over demos. Demos are typically part of the talent’s portfolio of work, providing a variety of projects, styles and other examples that showcase the best of the best.
Step 4: Request a Custom Voice-Over Audition
Demos can give you a general idea of voice-over talent’s range and capabilities. Sometimes that can be enough to make your final decision. But if you want a more definite idea of how the actor would sound in your specific project, you can request a custom audition.
Most voice-over actors accept or even encourage custom auditions to give you a sample of what they can do for your script. Send the talent a paragraph or so from your script on a separate attached document. Include direction or not, depending on what you’re after. Sometimes not providing direction results in a nice surprise when a seasoned pro provides an alternate take that may not have entered your mind.
Review the auditions you receive, pick your winner, and then move on to the next step.
Step 5: Nail Down Project Details
You may have several questions for your selected voice-over actor before the project can move forward…And the voice over actor is likely to have several for you.
Possible questions from the voice-over talent may include:
- Where and how the recording will be used, i.e. major broadcast with massive audience vs. company YouTube channel with 122 subscribers
- How long the recording will be in action, i.e. one week, one year, forever and ever
- Length of the script, i.e. 30-second radio commercial, two-hour documentary
- Format needed for final recording, i.e. MP3, AIFF, .wav file
- Delivery deadline, i.e. one hour, 24 hours, two days, one week
- Interest in using a phone patch that lets you listen in and contribute to recording session
Each voice-over actor has his or her own rate scale, with multiple factors going into determining pricing. If you’re curious about the rate scale, simply ask. The same holds true for anything else that may be on your mind. Personally, I use a rate scale as a template, but try my best to be flexible within each client’s specific budget.
Remember, a professional voice-over actor wants to make your job easier and engage in fruitful collaboration, while being paid a reasonable and fair fee for their work. Trust should be enjoyed on both ends of the partnership. Find a voice-over actor that fits the bill on all of above while providing a voice that makes your project shine, and you’ve found yourself a keeper.
Keep the person in your contact list for additional voice-over projects down the line, or even to ask then for other voice talent recommendations if you or others in your company need a different sounding or type of voice for upcoming projects. That way you can refrain from ever moving on to Step 6: starting the search process all over again.