Updated: May 31
What To Look For When You Hire A Voice Over Talent
No two voice over projects are ever the same. There are very significant differences between corporate narrations (like explainer videos and company training guides), versus commercials, documentaries and character voices. But the common thread through all these and other types of professional voice over jobs, is that you as a client looking for a voice need someone with clear communication skills, a knack for creative interpretation of scripts and someone who will remain professional throughout your collaboration, treating your brand and project with the respect they deserve to make sure you both enjoy a pleasant partnership that could well turn into repeat work.
Voice over is usually the last link in the product chain after an arduous process of script writing and storyboarding, shooting footage, layering effects, editing and sequencing, and so on. But voice over still needs to be given its time to shine because the voice you choose could well become the voice of your brand. The right voice will build a real and memorable connection between your brand and your target audience. But on the flip side, the wrong voice can create a bad first impression with your listeners, leaving a very negative impression on your product or brand. So ultimately, if you choose your voice over artist wisely, he or she can make your production truly come alive, or die a quick, painful death.
This article is written for clients looking to hire a professional voice over artist for their next project, but who are unsure of what to look for to separate the hobbyists from the serious pros. So I’ve broken down this 10-pointer topic into 2 core sections - my top 5 tips on the TECHNICAL skills, and my top 5 tips on the BUSINESS skills to look for in your next potential voice over candidate.
First up, my top 5 TECHNICAL performance skills to look for in any pro voice over artist.
1. Your Branding Brief
Before you go off Googling “professional voice over talents”, take some time to carefully consider your project brief and what exact nuances you need this voice over talent to demonstrate. What are the exact emotions that best describe your brand’s personality and the message you’re creating? Getting clear on this first, will determine the tone, delivery style accent and even the gender of voice you finally select.
For example, a spot for an insurance company will require a more confident, authoritative delivery to establish trust between your company and the client. Whereas a holiday tour video would call for a more conversational, friendly and inviting delivery to sell the viewer on the spectacle of visiting that destination. Know what you want, to get what you want.
2. Versatility & Flexibility
As a client, you want someone who can communicate different voice personalities to suit a range of future project needs - from smooth and intimate, to bright and bubbly or even dark and brooding. This allows you to not only get what you want out of the talent, but it means you can trust them to be flexible and accommodating of any impromptu directional changes in the session, where they can also be comfortable making suggestions and guiding the creative process.
3. Proper Enunciation
Professional voice over artists are typically well trained and comfortable behind the mic, allowing them to be clearer in their speech than your everyday Joe. Enunciation is the clarity with which the words we speak are heard. It’s what prevents us from going to a restaurant and getting “toast with jam” when we really ordered “roasted lamb”.
A professional voice over artist should be able to pronounce all the words in a script correctly, in a clear and confident manner. I personally have been cast for a big corporate gig purely because the client got peeved with the previous voice artist who couldn’t correctly enunciate the word “environment”. He definitely did not get the “go green” in that case.
4. Voice Acting vs. Reading
It’s called voice ACTING for a reason. What separates the professional speaker from the professional voice artist is their level of acting skill. You don’t just want someone that can speak into a mic and read the copy word-perfect. You’re performing storytelling here, and that means you need someone who can act out the script so that it’s brought to life and that the message connects emotionally with the audience in order to command their attention.
Of course, this does depend on the TYPE of project you’re casting for. Whereas some explainer videos may require a typical presenter style, a narrative script may need a more expressive voice to create intrigue in the character.
Choose authentic voice actors if you’re looking for someone that can provide the subtle nuances that you need with little or no direction.
Timing … is … everything. Pacing is the ability to regulate the speed of your speech. This is critical to ANY vocal delivery because it determines how the audience perceives the intent, meaning and credibility of the message being spoken.
A voice over artist with perfect versatility, enunciation and acting skills will still fail at a performance without proper pacing. By casting someone with superior breath control, well placed pauses for emphasis, rhythm and tempo, you’ll guarantee that the artist will be able to convincingly portray the personality you’ve scripted into your message. So listen to whether the artist knows how to modulate their voice for these subtle nuances.
Next up, my top 5 tips on the BUSINESS skills a potential voice artist should possess to be seriously considered for a gig.
They say it’s not what you know, but WHO you know. That’s why recommendations can be powerful tools to gauge the level of professionalism and quality product a voice over artist can offer you. If searching for voice talent via agencies, they’d readily have a roster of A-list talent that they recommend to clients. However, if you’re surfing the net on your lonesome, then it’s worth noting whether they have any testimonials on their website or LinkedIn profile which could lend credibility to their service offering.
Checking out their client list is also a good benchmark to gauge experience. Finding out that a voice over artist has worked with a few big brand names, speaks volumes of not just their tenacity, but also that their work is of a superior standard for it to be trusted by these companies. But if they have ONLY smaller neighbourhood businesses listed as clients, that’s a red flag that screams “this person has little experience as a professional voice over artist”.
7. Portfolio of Previous Work
Seasoned pros will easily provide you with samples of their previous work which should cover a RANGE of examples. Assess whether their skills and previous gigs match with the brief you have in mind for your project to gauge their level of fit. An artist with a strong body of work is a clear indication of a serious, working professional and someone you can trust will value your time and project accordingly.
8. Professionalism & Trust (Long Term Partnerships)
We like to do business with people we like, so if you find a versatile talent upfront who delivers to the tee, work at maintaining that relationship to remove the hack of having to rehire down the line. Equally, this goes the other way as well. Hire voice talent based on their personality and business acumen so you know you're getting a professional who also appreciates the value of long term relationship building.
9. Custom Voice Over Demos
A voice artist’s demos may give you a great indication of the vocal range and exact sound the artist can play to, and sometimes you could book them right off of that demo.
But to know they can adapt properly to your specific project, will give you a whole new level of confidence which is why savvy clients will request a custom recorded demo from the artist before confirming any paperwork.
Send the artist a snippet of your script on a fresh document for them to act out for you.
You can choose to include direction or not. Sometimes I enjoy NOT getting direction as that lets me explore my OWN creative interpretations for the client and impress them with not just the standard read, but also an alternate take that may not have occurred to them, but which they now love. Always under promise and over deliver.
10. Voice Over Rates and Negotiation
Visit resources like the Global Voice Acting Academy Rate Guide or the latest PMA Commercial Voice Over Rates to get a pre-assessment on the market related costs out there so you’re informed when receiving quotes from voice actors.
But there is more that goes into pricing a service than just copying the market rate, as each actor has multiple factors influencing the type of service and thus rate offered (eg: different experience levels for instance). This means that pricing scales may well vary, so always ask a voice talent for their own rate card and initial costing for your specific project scope, rather than declaring your budget upfront. If you do, some novice talents will take you for a ride and request the entire budget. But the seasoned pros like Voice Artist Kav have more integrity than that and will offer a set, competitive rate which holds fast even when the budget is revealed.
Noticing if the talent changes their rate at this point is a great little tactic to gauge the type of professional you’re working with and not just whether you’ll hire them for this job, but if you’ll even want to refer them to your own colleagues.
There are many factors that determine a successful voice hire, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but rather a primer on the key areas to note. Overall though, a TRUE voice over professional is a sucker for good customer service, so they really want to make the process as smooth and pleasurable for you as possible. Look for a willing collaborator who deals in good faith and offers reasonable rates that are justified by his or her experience. If the voice actor you select hits all the above points, then you’ve found yourself a keeper and long term partner.
Add this voice actor into your CRM system future voice over gigs, referrals or even to ask him or her for other voice talent recommendations if your team needs a different sound for other projects. This will help you avoid the whole exploratory process again, by rather going on the word of someone you trust. Because in business as in love, if you have trust, you have everything.
Please contact me if you think I can be of service to you
in finding just the right voice-over talent for your next project!