For the last five months I’ve been working as Line Producer for an epic ten hour docudrama for Audible called The Space Race released yesterday in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landings on 20th July. My contribution is minuscule compared to the hours the rest of the team have put into this, but it’s been a major group effort.

We made trips to the US and Russia for interviews, spent long days in the studio recording drama sequences and I spent nearly nine hours in Charleston, USA a few weeks ago directing Star Trek Voyager’s Captain Janeway, Kate Mulgrew, through our narration scripts, where her combination of wry humour and gravitas proved to be a perfect fit for the story.

There have been many headaches (literally and figuratively), very late nights, very long hours and terrifying deadlines.

I’m hugely proud of what we’ve produced and my involvement in it – I’ve never spent a day directing one voiceover artist before, not least one as experienced as Kate and it was both challenging and fun. I also managed the agreements for nearly forty actors during our days recording the drama sequences. Oh, the paperwork. Help.

The Space Race is available on Audible now as an Audible Original, produced by B7 Media and Space Boffins, (who also do a really cool space podcast) so if you want to hear a definitive history of how humans made it to the Moon (and yes we bloody did  – having learned what I have making this, faked it my arse) then this epic story is for you.

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….