So you've got a project. An animated video. Or a corporate explainer. Or a voicemail for your new company. How do you hire a professional voice-over talent to record your script? Can you afford it? Where do you begin? Here are some basic things you need to know to make your project a success, make your voice actor happy, and get it right the first time.
Budget I: How much does voice over cost?
There are voice over actors working on fiverr.com who you can hire for a few bucks. And there are seasoned actors who work exclusively through talent agents, only accept union work, and will cost you the moon. But despite this variance, there is an "average" rate that will apply to most voice over projects. The best place to find current non-union rates is the Global Voice Acting Academy (GVAA) Rate Guide. This fantastic resource has a breakdown of recommended fees per project length and usage, which will give you an idea of where to set your budget. And speaking of project length and usage...
Budget II: How does the voice actor calculate their fee?
Generally speaking, all a voice talent needs in order to provide you with a cost proposal are two pieces of information: project length and usage. Length can be in minutes or in words. For most projects, 135 words of script = about one minute of recorded audio. Usage means where the project will be heard. Online? On TV? On your company's voicemail? With those two nuggets of information, a professional voice talent can quickly send you a quote.
What does the voice actor need in order to record?
Revisions: How many do I get?
Well, that depends on the voice actor. If the recording sounds nothing like what you had in mind, let your actor know, and see what they say. Generally, a professional voice talent will get it "right" the first time. If there are a few lines or words that strike you as not quite right, the actor will probably be happy to send you another version of those sentences, as long as you give good direction (i.e. "I was hoping that the words Marketing Performance could sound more exciting in the final sentence, would you mind giving me an alternative take?"). If you change parts or all of the script after the recording has been performed and delivered, there will be an additional cost for that. Because it is new material.
Go get 'em!
So that's a breakdown of how to hire a voice actor for your project. Good luck!
People often ask me: “How do I get into voice-over?” Voice-over is a competitive field. You can’t assume immediate success because Quinn from accounting once said you have a nice voice. On the other hand, even the most successful voice-over actors had to start somewhere, right? So how do you get started? For what it’s worth, here is my (professional but certainly opinionated) opinion about how to jump-start your own voice-over career:
1. Get some training
You wouldn’t start hacking away at people’s hair without attending cosmetology school (I hope). And you can’t start recording voice-over without training. Even if you are an experienced actor, voice-over is a different kettle of fish altogether. So take some classes! A quick Google search will show you what’s near you, or there are plenty of online classes available from anywhere. Once you have some general voice-over training, take note of what you have a proclivity for and then get some specialized training (Corporate videos or medical copy? Audiobooks or animation? Video games or voicemails? They all require different techniques and it takes a few years to get those in your wheelhouse.) DON'T let anyone convince you to record a demo at this point. You're too new; your demo will be sub-par. Also demos can be very expensive. Wait till you get some experience before making a demo.
2. Purchase some equipment
To continue the “hair” analogy: you wouldn’t cut hair with your kitchen scissors (although that is how I trim my son’s fringe). And you can't record decent voice-overs without purchasing some basic audio equipment. To start, you need some low-cost but not-too-cheap equipment. Get in touch with a place like Sweetwater sound (www.sweetwater.com) and tell them you’re just starting out as a voice-over artist. They should recommend a starter microphone that will run you around $250 (I'd go with a shotgun mic like a RODE NT2 to cut down on ambient noise, but I'm no mic expert). You also need an audio interface which basically gets the mic signal into your computer. And then get some soundproofing, like a low-cost free-standing booth. You can't record without it - your room will echo and the sound will be crappy. And finally, buy or download some audio editing software so that you can edit your recordings. The industry gold standard is Pro Tools, and sometimes Reaper for audiobooks, but I've always used (and love) Sony Vegas Pro, and it's fine when you're just beginning to start out with something free or low cost like Audacity.
3. Audition, audition, audition
New hairdressers (I am definitely pushing this analogy too far but I’m sticking with it on principle) practice their technique on volunteers and low-cost jobs before they start working full-time in a fancy salon. And you need to get some practice before auditioning for bigger and better roles. To do this, join one or two of the mega-sites for voice-overs and start auditioning. Voices.com, voice123.com, VoiceBunny.com, etcetera. Use your new equipment to record some basic demos. Be honest in your profile. Say you're new, say you're training, say you're looking to acquire experience, and audition for pro-bono and low-budget jobs. The goal here is to get your toe in the water, not to get a Toyota commercial.
4. Rinse & Repeat
Repeat 1, 2, and 3 at more and more advanced levels ad nauseam. Seriously. I just upgraded my studio equipment this year. I hire voice-over coaches as-needed to brush up on my skills (animation and commercial are what I’m working on this month). And I audition for zillions of jobs a month. Zillions! As a voice-over professional, that's actually where a lot of your time goes.
If you think you’ve got what it takes, you should give it a try. And these pointers are just my honest opinion on how to begin. I hope it’s helpful. Now go get ‘em!