what happened when i tried hiring a voiceover online
Knowing your competition is important in any business. As an in-studio voiceover, online voiceovers are my main competition. (There are, of course, other English voiceovers in Copenhagen, but we’re a relatively small group, and most of the others have British accents.) But it’s no secret that it’s quick and easy to hire a voiceover online.
And it can be inexpensive. I’ve seen online voiceovers on sale for $5, or DK30. At that price, anyone can afford them – even me. I thought it would be interesting to experience what it was like to order an online voiceover, and that maybe it would give me some insight as to how I could provide higher-quality service to my in-studio, in-person customers.
My first hire was Burtman, a friendly-looking guy who spoke English with an Afro-Carribbean accent. In his online profile, he said he had worked as a news reporter, photographer, TV presenter, radio news presenter/anchor, programme director, news editor, a magazine editor and in advertising and public relations. I wrote a brief script for Burtman advertising my own business, as my own clients hire me to do.
This was the script:
Hello. I’m a voiceover Kay booked on the Internet. Booking voices online can be inexpensive, but you don’t get the face-to-face sparring partner that can come to your studio in Copenhagen. Kay will work with you to improve your English text and get the tone and pace that you want. Og Kay taler flydende dansk. Book Kay at 26 83 64 88, or at k-a-y-x at americanvoice-dot-dee-koh .
Burman sent back a voiceover in about three days. It had a kind of buzzing sound in the background that made me suspect he’d recorded it on an iPhone. He did have a very nice voice. He didn’t read my script at the pace I would have chosen, or emphasize what I would have emphasized, but I couldn’t argue that he hadn’t read the script I had given him.
It was kind of like putting a coin into a vending machine: there was no interaction, no feedback, until the finished product was dispensed. I certainly got what I had paid for, but it was slightly dry and tasteless.
I thought it might be more fair for me to experience hiring another American female voiceover similar to myself. There were plenty available online, and I scrolled through their profiles. One had purple hair. Another promised “near-perfect, non-dialectical pronunciation”. I wondered if she could pronounce “non-dialectical.”
I took some time to listen to a variety of my online competitors’ sound samples. A few were very nice, if a little unpracticed. One lady was audibly drunk. One spoke in a squeaky tone that could scrape the paint off of metal, making her choice of a voiceover career questionable.
Anyway, It ended up taking me the better part of an hour, another downside to online voiceovers: amid the many serious professionals lie plenty of amateurs, so a fair amount of sorting is required, a bit like a garage sale.
I was tiring of my project, so I did what male casting agents have done for decades: I just chose the prettiest girl. That was Jennifer.
Jennifer read my ad in a crisp, cool voice with a pleasant Southern accent. With one difference: Southern U.S. accents are usually slow, relaxed and lilting, but Jennifer spoke at an incredibly quick pace, as if she were rushing to get a bus. Or, given the amount I was paying her, perhaps she was just rushing to get to the next voiceover so she could make a decent living.
At any rate, the voiceover was not usable, and Jennifer did not really seem like a pro. For my final choice, I went with a voiceover who could at least offer a professional education in performance: Jeremy has a Master in Fine Arts in musical theater, making it clear he knew how to stand on a stage and belt out lines in “Phantom of the Opera” or “Grease” or other great classics. I figured I could count on him to read my script with a lot of enthusiasm.
Then there was Jeremy. Jeremy advertised himself as having an “energetic, confident radio voice” and he was very flexible as to content. “I am happy to provide a 60 second recorded voiceover of whatever you would like me to say,” he said in his profile, “the only exception being that I will not speak any curse words or take God’s name in vain.”
Jeremy was indeed a pro: he delivered 6 takes of my little ad. I had slipped a small amount of Danish into my script to show potential Copenhagen voiceover customers that I could chat in the local lingo while external providers could not. But Jeremy went the extra step and found an online pronunciation service to guide him, and although he seems to have confused Danish with Swedish, I was impressed by his initiative. Jeremy is a top-of-the-line online voiceover, and it only took me 2 or 3 hours and a couple of missteps to find him.
And yet…there was not a lot of feeling to Jeremy's reading of my text. He hadn’t met me, he knew nothing about my product, and even though he was putting his all into his performance, there wasn’t much depth to it. I suppose that if your product or project is not particularly special, a good inexpensive online voiceover like Jeremy is good enough. But if you’ve put a lot of passion into your project and want the voiceover for it to be the best it can be, let me help you.
Click here to return to the Voiceover Blog.