How to hire a voiceover

Hiring a voice artist is tricky.  Yesterday, you were an ordinary project manager whose biggest challenge was getting the C++ programmer to show up for work before 2pm.  

Today you are thrust into the role of casting director.  And unless you’re working for a company that can afford to hire movie stars to promote its products, you are casting with an entirely unknown set of variables.

First of all, think outside the box.  A man voicing a diaper commercial is fresh and fun; a woman voicing a construction safety video is more likely to be listened to than the usual male authority figure.  But assuming you’ve decided what type of person you’re looking for – male/female, young/old, trendy/corporate, sexy/serious– here are my tips on how to proceed.

Decide if you want to work through an agency

Voiceover agencies offer variety that I as an independent voice artist simply can’t match.  

Want a Pashtun speaker, an 8-year-old Swedish boy, a grandmother with a lisp? An agency is your go-to partner.  (Although they are not above a bit of trickery – a local agency recently asked me, a 30ish American, if I could imitate an Asian woman in her 50s for a job.  I gave it a go, with unimpressive results, I must admit).

The drawback: if you book through an agency, your relationship is with the agency, not the talent.  

That means if you have an ongoing project or campaign, you will need to go through the agency every time you want to work with the talent – and cross your fingers that the business relationship between those two parties is healthy.  

Think about how your project will develop

This can become crucial if you have a project that needs additions or updates 6 or 12 or 18 months after it is finished.  If the agency is no longer working with the voice talent, you will need to do the vocal track all over again, with all the production expenses that entails. 

When you have a personal relationship with the voiceover, you never pay an agency commission – which means lower costs all the way down the line – and you can usually get updates without a fuss. 

I have one longtime client with its own studio in downtown Copenhagen, and I generally do minor updates for them for free.  I stop by the studio, spend half an hour laying laying down some quick tracks, and then check out the sales at Magasin.   They’re very happy and I really don’t mind – it’s all part of our ongoing business relationship. 

And no, you cannot use an voice agency as a dating agency, finding your perfect long-term voice talent and then dealing directly with that person going forward.  There are contracts to prevent this kind of thing.  If you fall in love with a voice you get through an agency, you will be paying commissions for a very, very long time. 

Finding an independent voiceover

How you you find an independent voiceover in your city?  It can be intimidating to deal with an individual instead of a company, so try LinkedIn.  Do a search for voiceovers in your area, and you can be sure that someone in your network is linked to him or her, and can testify to their reliability.  

Most professional voiceovers have their own website with voice samples.  And if the local voiceover you can find doesn’t fit the gender or accent you are looking for, ask him for if he knows someone who does. In Copenhagen, all the voiceovers know each other, and I happily refer clients who are looking for a British accent or a Canadian man to one of them. 

One last comment on agencies:  they usually promote a few selected voices who have signed exclusive or beneficial contracts with the agency.  That means that they may not always send you the person who is best for you, but the person who is best for them. 

 

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