This will not be easy.

I’m sure it sounds like I’m trying to put you off. In a way, I am. Voiceover is a very crowded marketplace – becoming more so – and those who want to do it on the side with little investment for a few extra pounds income will probably fail.

However. There’s room for everyone and it is possible to make it a career and a full-time job. It took me 2-3 years from the point I focussed on VO as a business full-time to make a living from it and I had been acquiring and honing the skills that would allow me to do so for more than ten years.

Being a working VO with a home studio is not a job you can do if you’re starting from scratch and have no other source of income. I promise you, unless you’re very, VERY lucky, in the first year you will not make back the money you had to invest just to get started. It’s both a business and a skill and it only becomes easy once you’ve invested the time, effort and finances to make it that way.

So, caveats over. Still want to do this? Okay then…

DEMO REELS

You’re going nowhere without one of these. This part is a bit chicken and egg. You need a voice reel, but you have nowhere to record. So you could skip the demo and set up your home studio, then you can start recording to your heart’s content. But if you’re a complete newbie to the technical side, then your first recordings are unlikely to be anywhere near the standard of a pro recording. So, take EVERY opportunity to record something, anything, in as professional an environment as possible. Try hospital radio stations, or other local studios. Record in as many places as possible to get different sounds.

 There is nothing worse than a demo recorded entirely in a pro studio using the same scripts, the same music, the same microphone on the same day. Despite your best efforts, the whole reel will sound exactly that – “samey”! However, mixed with other recordings on different days and in different places it demonstrates the variety of recordings you have. I’ve heard good things about The Showreel They also do workshops.

If some of your recordings are not as good quality as you’d like but the read/performance is good (it’s a fine line, be careful!) then it may also be worth including. Duration: Short. Seriously. 60-75 seconds is perfect. You may eventually need different, even shorter demos for different styles, but to start with, use a mixture of your best stuff.

In Part 4, it’s get scary. You’re going to need to get techie.

Why you should do voiceovers…

For the same reason anyone else wants to be self-employed and be their own boss. Because you love it, want to be good at it and think you can be good at it. Are you willing to invest time, effort and money into making it a viable business?

…And why you shouldn’t

“Everyone can talk right? It’s easy money….”

Well yes. Once you know what you’re doing, it is – just like any job. However actually standing in front of the mic and speaking is probably only about 10% of what the job involves.

Here are some of the things you’ll need to ask yourself and answer before you can be a VO working from your own PROFESSIONAL home studio. And a lot of them also apply even if you’re a session VO at a client’s studio.

How’s your sight reading? Stumbles, mispronunciations, going too fast or too slow mean retakes and wasted time.

  • Can you “talk to time”?
  • How are you at taking rejection? Direction? Criticism?
  • What’s the difference between a Condenser and a Dynamic microphone?
  • In your recording space, have you considered your room acoustics? Soundproofing? And do you know the difference between the two?
  • Do you have audio editing skills?
  • What’s the difference between wav and mp3?
  • Do you know about adding EQ? Compression? Normalising? Setting levels?
  • Do you know the best sample rates and bit depths for what you’re recording – and what the client wants? How about u-law formats?
  • Are you familiar with session rates? Rates for the different types of jobs? Usage? Do you know how to find out? How are your negotiating skills?
  • Do you know what ISDN is and how it’s used in the audio industry? What about other technologies for audio delivery, like Source Connect, phone patch and ipDTL?
  • Do you know how to create and track invoices? Can you manage yourself as a business?
  • Are sufficiently disciplined to be able to work on your own? How’s your time management?
  • Can you build and maintain a website?
  • How are you at social media?
  • Can you communicate effectively with your clients?
  • Marketing? How do you want to brand yourself?

These are just some of the things you need to know (and there’s lots more!) if you want to stand any chance of making any money from talking. It is all information you can learn, but it’s important to recognise that you are not a professional full-time voice if your long term plan is to plug a USB mic into a laptop, record in a quiet room and hope for the best.  That said, new voices have to start somewhere and I’ll come to that… in Part 3.

The HQvoice guide to being paid to talk.

Based entirely on my own experience, your experience may vary, rates may go down as well as up, yourhomeisatriskifyoudonotkeepuprepaymentsorotherloansecuredonit.

“People say I’ve got a nice voice and I should do voiceovers.”

Well yes. You probably do. You probably should. But there’s so much more to it than having a nice voice. Being able to wire a plug doesn’t mean you’re an Electrician. Being able to talk doesn’t mean you’re a Voiceover.

There’s a good chance that if you got chatting to a professional voice artist in a pub you wouldn’t think there’s anything particularly special about their voice. That’s generally because it’s not how their voice sounds, it’s how they use it and all of the associated skills that go with it.

Types of Voiceover Artist

If you’re an actor, it’s likely that you’ve dabbled in voiceovers as part of your training or experience and if you’re represented then you can become very much a “show and go” voiceover. Your agent calls, you turn up at your session, read the script and disappear into the night and some time later you get paid and the commercial, promo, documentary etc is aired. This is the traditional voiceover’s life and is generally the most lucrative as large agencies and production companies will source their VO’s via an agent.

But not exclusively.

There are a lot of full-time Voiceovers and Producers who work from their own studios either at home or elsewhere and will voice anything from a voicemail message for a few pounds to national TV commercials for thousands.  These are the people (like me) who started in radio or TV production, maybe did some presenting, audio or music production –  But they’ve mostly learned on the job. They manage their own websites, work out their own rates, pitch for jobs, cut their own demos (or other people’s), work daily on selling themselves via social networks and online directories. They may have agents; they may not. They will often do other related audio work from their home studios as well as renting their own spaces out. It’s this type of setup that I’ll guide you through in part 2….

I love driving with Sean.

He’s not always with me when I’m the car, but when he is, he’s (mostly) reliable, never loses his temper, and never demands to stop for a wee or a KFC.

Sean is the voice I chose for my TomTom SatNav.

There have been a number of articles about research into voices and how people respond to them. Female voices are pleasant and caring but subservient. Male voices are commanding and authoritative. The Guardian gets itself in a tizzy in this article.

Of the many voices TomTom offer as your in car guide, I chose Sean. He’s not particularly authoritative. He’s friendly, relaxed… and Irish. I don’t know who he REALLY is. It’s possible I know the voice actor, or know of him – the voiceover world isn’t as big as some might think.

Sean doesn’t seem that bothered if I miss a turn. In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if after missing a number of turns, he announced that rather than “turn around where possible” he might say, “Ah never mind. There’s a pub just down here on the right. Let’s pull in, call it a day and have a pint.” Just like a real, live mate might. As long as they pay for the taxi.

I have recorded prompts for SatNav devices and I’d love to be able to emulate Sean’s laid-back approach to giving directions, but my voice is more cool, sophisticated AI than chilled bloke. Maybe I need to work on that. Not the bloke part. But I’ll have a pint, please.