This article is written for anyone who might hire voice-over talent, but especially for those who may have never hired voice talent in the past, or who have done so only a few times.
In today’s competitive and diverse market, a little guidance can be helpful in finding the best voice-over talent for your current project, and ongoing voice-over needs. These 10 factors can save you a lot of time and trouble, by steering you away from voice-over talent who may not be the best fit for your needs.
Please be sure to read the first five factors in Part 1 of this article!
6. Custom Audition
Another keen way to gauge a person’s vocal range and versatility is to ask for a custom voice-over audition. Ask your prospective VO actor if they wouldn’t mind recording a few sentences of the project in their home studio, and sending over – kind of like a test drive.
Professional voice-over talents will typically offer a custom voice-over audition for you to present to your client for approval beforehand. This way, you and your client get a taste of what the final product will sound like, and can offer any feedback prior to assignment of the final script.
Don’t expect them to record the whole script for you, however. Just a portion of it should be enough to get a feel for how they will sound on the final product.
The question to ask: “Can I get a complimentary custom voice-over audition?”
The next best thing after real experience is extensive voice-over acting training from a reputable teacher. The voice-over services industry is packed with loads of fine workshops, and your voice-over actor of choice should have credits listed on their bio or voice-over resume showcasing where or with whom they studied. Voice-over coaching has become more widespread in recent years, providing another avenue for learning.
If you don’t see educational or training credits, ask about them. If your chosen talent doesn’t have a good answer, it may be a good time to move on.
Look for the most reputable names of teachers and coaches which include: Kalmenson & Kalmenson, Marc Cashman, Marice Tobias, Nancy Wolfson, Pat Fraley to name a few. You can also do a quick bit of homework on whomever the prospective voice-over talent has studied with. You should be able to find their teacher or coach online as well, so you can check them out and get an idea of whether they have legit training or not.
While more and more VO coaches and voice-over workshops are popping up, many of them are not instructed by veteran voice-over actors who really know the ropes. Just because a voice-over talent has studied with SOMEONE does not mean they actually received the level of training that you would expect them to have as a professional voice-over talent.
The question to ask: “Is this voice talent well-trained by reputable voice-over teachers or coaches?”
8. Client List
Voice talent that has been working for several years will have a lineup of quality voice-over clients. As an example, I took a head count over a two-year period and found I had more than 500 unique clients, many of which keep coming back. Ask about their current clients. Where can you hear their VO work on radio or TV? Do they have any movie, TV show, audiobook, commercials or other credits? Do they have links to websites where their voice-over work is featured in conjunction with a corporate client? What are some of their recent projects?
Quality is just as important as quantity when it comes to clients. Most voice-over pros have a mix of nationally recognized names and smaller, local businesses. If you only see local mom and pop shops, that might be a clue that the person has minimal experience as a working professional voice-over actor.
The question to ask: “Is there a client list available and does it indicate this talent has worked with many reputable clients?”
9. Recording Studio Specs
Key elements in a high-end recording studio include a high-quality microphone, pristine sound-proofed recording environment, professional-grade software and current technology computer setup. The latter should include quality soundcard, phone patch capability, ISDN (or SourceConnect, ipDTL) – the works.
If you start asking specifics about studio specs, and the person has no clue what you’re talking about, you may want to think twice before taking them on.
Serious voice-over actors often post their home recording studio equipment and specs on their website, so definitely look for it. But a room full of fancy, expensive equipment doesn’t guarantee a good recording. Everything must be set up properly and fine-tuned.
If you have any doubt about the caliber of the recording studio, ask for a sample recording done in their home studio so you can get an accurate idea of the level of quality you’re dealing with.
One listen (just like one picture) can be worth a thousand words. And keep in mind that even with the best of equipment, if that vocal talent isn’t up to snuff, then it’s another reason to move on.
The question to ask: “Does this voice talent have a good quality recording studio and can they deliver high quality audio files?”
10. Acting Ability
Voice actors and voice-over talents can sometimes be a slightly different breed. While both may sound OK on a mic when given specific directions, authentic voice actors have the ability to give you the nuance you need – often with little or no direction required.
Top-notch voice actors come armed with the training, experience and skills required to portray a character, in any given situation or relationship, not just provide so-called “lip service.” This kind of expertise is what will lift the words off the page and take your project from something bland to something engaging.
The question to ask: “Does this voice-over talent have any acting training and ability, just in case that is needed for my project?”
While these 10 questions give you a strong foundation for choosing voice-over talent, they are certainly not the end-all. You can ask about a person’s level of professionalism and confidence, however, their true levels of both will be apparent through your interactions.
You’ll want to choose someone who not only says they’re the best, but can prove it with prompt replies, strategic input, a professional manner and a great vocal performance. The full package is something that only comes from an authentic pro.