Working in voiceover

,  20 June 2013

Guy Harris is a UK-based voiceover artist who has been a voice for Apple adverts and Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. He shares his insights into the voiceover industry and how to get involved.

"If you want varied experience, you need to approach people yourself." Image: Guy Harris.

Getting into voiceover

Guy Harris grew up watching television shows like ‘Spitting Image’, imitating people and creating character voices, but he never considered a career in voiceover.

“I left school without any qualifications at 16. I had jobs in a skateboard shop, hotel and a bar, before entering radio. I currently have a show at Real Radio Yorkshire. It was from working in radio that I decided that I would explore voiceover.”

“I began to admire British artists, like impressionist Jon Cushaw, actor Brian Blessed, voiceover artist Alan Dedicoat and the American 'movie' voice of the late Don LaFontaine."

With the rise of countries using English as a key speaking language, Guy was able to enter the international voiceover market.

“I’m based in Yorkshire, but your voice – your 'English' voice or other voices – may be required in different countries. Voice is now a global commodity. The world is our marketplace. 

“I could be the voice of an Apple Commercial in Dubai one day, and the next day, I could be one of the voices of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway in the UK.”

Building a career in voiceover

For Guy, a voiceover artist must have a good voice at the very least.

There are two types of voiceover work you can do: pre-recorded or live recorded work.

“For me, a good voice has to be clear or it has to have an unusual characteristic about it.

“There are hundreds of different voice styles and yours has to stand out. Your voice needs to show your conviction, emotion, energy and passion.”

Guy argues that to be successful, you might need more than just a voice – you also need a head for business and marketing.

“With the right attitude and approach it's possible to book over 20 jobs per day. There’s always a need for a voice, so it’s about finding the right clients and building your relationships.

“If they like your work and know you can deliver, they may approach you with more work.

“If you want to work globally, you need to promote yourself online. I’ve built my voiceover portfolio website to let people from other countries see and hear what I can do.

“Explore opportunities in different voiceover sectors, such as:

  • on-hold systems
  • web video voiceover
  • voices for games and apps
  • in-store, TV and radio adverts
  • performing 'Voice of God' (a master of ceremonies at events)
  • radio
  • e-learning software.

“A voiceover agent will represent you if you’re good, but they will already cover certain voiceover sectors. If you want to get started, you need to approach people yourself.”

Getting voiceover recording work

Guy explains that there are two types of voiceover work you can do: pre-recorded or live recorded work.

“With pre-recorded work, I'll be emailed a script by the production team, with a brief and a deadline. Once I've recorded, I'll clean up the file and send it to the client as a .mp3 or .wav file.

“With live recording, a voice artist can be directed live at the studio, or remotely from your home studio whilst the client listens in. This is much better as the client can have it exactly how they want it.

“It can also be daunting if there is more than one client. I've had live sessions and live remote sessions with more than seven or eight people all giving input. So you have to be confident about your voice and performance.

“Also, it's important to realise that you could be working all hours of the day. You may have a client who is working in a different time zone to you.”

Before taking any job, Guy says the best thing to do is be honest about your skill level – “if you can’t deliver exactly what they need, they won’t use you again. So you don't have to say yes to everything”.

Staying competitive as a voiceover artist

Guy advises against voiceover artists dropping their rates in order to get more work.

“If you lower your rates, you’re letting your clients take advantage of you financially, and you’ll find it hard to move up your costs in the future.

Equity have published guidelines to advise you of industry rates for radio commercials. Usefee.org can advise you for television rates.

"Voice is now a global commodity. The world is our market place."

“Know your worth. It changes – with experience, you can increase your worth and select what work you want to do.”

Learning accents can also help broaden the voices you can offer to your clients.

Guy finds that the trend of companies requesting traditional RP voiceover has changed.

“There’s more call for regional and quirky accents. If you're after character work, practising your voices is a must.”

5 tips to get started in voiceover

  1. Use free websites
    SoundCloud and YouTube are free resources that can help you get started. They are useful for showcasing demos and you can direct potential clients to the sites so they can see the range of your work.”
  2. Provide high quality work
    “Anyone can buy a laptop and say 'I’m a Voiceover Artist', but it’s pretty obvious if the voice is performed badly or it sounds substandard due to the conditions it was recorded in.”
  3. Invest in a good working environment
    “You need a quiet area with soundproofing and sound dampening, a quality mic, and a good computer with a good soundcard as the foundation of your working environment.”
  4. Be able to connect remotely
    “If you want to be available for live directed work, you will need to invest in the ISDN line or have a set up that allows a producer to connect with you either by phone or Skype.”
  5. Take care of yourself
    “Drink plenty of water, avoid smoking and avoid people with colds. You can be busy, so catching a cold could affect your finances, as well as your health.”

 

How did you find Guy's advice? What tools do you use for voiceover recordings? 


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