Saturday, June 7, 2008

Voice Talent Advice - Overview for Beginners

Numerous prospective professional voice talent have contacted me asking for advice on how to get into the business. They ask, “What do I need to do?” Wow, talk about your loaded question! And to seriously address it, requires a long winded answer!

I’ve been a working professional voice talent and actress for 25 years. I have taught classes and workshops on becoming a professional voice talent, although my schedule doesn’t often permit it. Since I’m hearing more and more often from aspiring voice over performers, I thought I’d try to cover some basic topics and offer suggestions and hints from my experience. Although voiceover for commercials, on hold messages, and narrations might seem to be an easy to learn process to some, there are many facets involved in actually becoming a working professional voice talent. And, there are continuous changes!

Years ago, a nice well modulated voice was a requirement – not so, today! Listen to TV commercials and radio commercials. Many producers are going for that “quirky”, “different”, or “real person” sound. So, today, I’d say, the more distinctive your voice is maybe the better. I say maybe because if you’ve got a distinctive voice and live in a major market like New York, L.A. or Chicago, you might find enough work for your “quirky” style to make a living. If you’re in a smaller market, there may not be enough call for an unusual sound to keep you going. If you have a pleasing, non-accented sound, you may be more viable for a broader range of productions. The more versatile you are, typically, the more work you will get. But whatever your voice “type”, there are basics that you need know and practice to become a professional voice talent.

Many voice over performers come to freelance work from radio or television programming or news. DJ’s often have a specific style that is required for radio programming. That style can work against them in the commercial or corporate marketplace. They have to work at getting back to a more “normal” way of speaking – a bit more relaxed with more natural inflections and pauses - more “conversational” if you will.

Often, people will want to become a professional voice talent because they have been told they have a nice voice or a good phone voice. That’s all well and good, and in addition to years of acting experience, that’s one of the things that guided me to looking into becoming a professional voice talent. I thought, yeah, that just might be something worth finding out about. Not having been a DJ or in television news, I had not experienced the broadcast arena. Little did I realize at the time, that becoming a professional voice talent would become my bread and butter! But, the most important thing to remember here is, having a nice voice is not all there is to becoming a successful professional voice talent, the number one thing is how you interpret the copy or in other words, your acting ability.

To learn more about becoming a professional voice talent please read my Voice Talent Advice blogs starting from #1.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #8 - Voice Over Rates – What Should You Charge?

I was recently asked what rates a beginner should charge for voice over services. This is a rather difficult question as there are many schools of thought. When working via the internet, you can find rates anywhere from $15 - $500, $1,000 and up. Some feel like it’s worth it to work cheap in order to at least bring something in and for the experience. Others feel like you’re selling yourself short or even that there must be something “wrong” if you don’t charge enough! On a personal note, I once bid what I thought was the going rate for a project inadvertently overlooking the rate the client had posted (sometimes they’re higher than normal rates!). I was contacted by the casting person later saying that although the client liked my audition, he was afraid that something must be wrong for me to bid lower than their posted rate! I must say, that was the first and only time I heard that, and generally, we worry that the jobs go to the lowest bidder. What I learned from that, of course, was to thoroughly read all of the information given about the job with particular attention to the rate posted by the client! Even if it’s higher than what would be the norm, you won’t find me bidding a cent lower!

Some of the mass voice talent websites have come up with rates based on surveys of talent listed on their sites. Other voice talents base their rates on AFTRA and SAG scale – or their minimum wages. And even so, if you are also working as the engineer, it’s difficult to list flat rates for work without knowing the length of the script, how long it will take to record and edit the audio, the area where the commercial will air, how long the spot will air, how many phone prompts there are, if music and/or sound effects will need to be added, etc. Your voice over rates have to encompass all aspects of the job.

I wouldn’t presume to tell a performer what to charge for his or her voice over services. The best I can advise is to study the rate ranges posted for jobs found via internet sites. Decide if those rates are enough to justify giving your time and talents. And always, ask to see the complete script, find out all of the details of usage and what editing is required by you before giving a firm bid. You also need to clarify how any pickups and/or client changes will be handled after your final recording has been delivered.