When I started to write this post, it was going to be about how to find a voice artist. Where to look, who to contact, what the options are. And I will get that written – but not today.
You see, I realised that I was starting too far into the story. Because, before you start to search for a voice actor, there are some important things to consider, including:
This is something you need to decide from the start.
Who will your voice be speaking to? You’re creating a piece of audio – a telephone message, an audiobook, a film or an e-learning video – in the hope that someone will listen and connect with it. It’s why you’re looking for a voiceover actor in the first place.
When I worked in the promo department at the BBC, we were regularly given Marketing briefs that specified “audience – all adults” or “all adults 35+”. That’s a staggeringly wide brief – and too far-reaching to have much impact. So we would look beyond it and imagine who the core audience was for that particular drama or documentary or comedy series. Who were we really talking to? We’d often make alternative versions within the same campaign. Versions that would appeal to several different audiences. Sometimes it was as simple as a change of music or voice or even a tweak of a script.
Deciding who you are talking to is important whether you’re offering a service, a product or an idea. And having a narrower focus doesn’t mean other people won’t connect with your campaign or product – but it can make your offer more compelling.
And once you’ve nailed your audience, you’re one step closer to imagining what kind of voice will connect with them.
But of course, that’s only the start.
So now you know who you’re hoping to reach. Great. You just need to find an idea or an approach – and write your script. (Feel free to skip this section if you have an audiobook!)
Once you have a script written, it becomes easier to imagine who you’ll need to say the words – or sing the jingle. How to write the perfect script for a Voiceover is a whole other post – or indeed posts – but there are some basic elements to consider:
For instance, is your script formal or informal? Straight or comedic? Short and direct with a call to action or longer and full of information? What age group are you targeting, is it more female or male focussed or is that irrelevant? Is this an in-house corporate video or a customer-friendly spot? Are the audience knowledgable or novices? What are your brand values?
Knowing the answers to questions like these will make a difference to the language and words you use – and play an important part in your choice of voice.
Tone is straightforward to understand when considering genres like audiobooks, animation, and gaming. Casting the right actor to embody a character – or characters – is a clear creative process. There might be something very specific to bear in mind: a particular talent or versatility.
But businesses and brands also need their own distinctive character – often described as a tone of voice.
When companies consider their tone of voice, it’s sometimes confined to the visuals of a brand, the written content or social media posts.
But it’s about everything you say in your business. Your website, your branding, and every part of your content – including videos, commercials and telephone greetings.
Tone of voice is all about using language that gives your brand its own distinct and recognisable voice. Because the way you say things, rather than what you actually say, is what makes your business unique.
You don’t write a script or hire a voice for nothing more than kicks and giggles. There’s always a reason.
For instance, the right voice can help you connect with the right people. You want your tone to be memorable and authentic – so that you attract your tribe and don’t sound the same as everyone else.
How you want your listener to feel when they hear your video campaign, phone message or audiobook doesn’t have to be complicated or woo. It can be as simple as wanting them to feel inspired, happy or motivated. Alternatively, you might want to build a more intense emotional response.
Whatever feeling you want to create, you’ll need a particular kind of Voice.
You’ll also want your audience to do something. Learn a new skill or take a stance on a cause. Visit your gym or buy your luxury handbag… or listen to your story right to the end, buy your next book and leave a 5-star review.
To deliver that message, your Voice will need to be compelling and authentic.
If you can pull all these considerations into a clear, simple brief – you’ll be in a brilliant place to start looking for the right voice for your project:
Being able to define basic vocal characteristics like age, sex and accent is an excellent starting point. Being clear on the voice type you need – such as versatile, warm, trustworthy, confident, authoritative, edgy or cheeky – will make your brief more meaningful and clear-cut. Saving you time and money.
I frequently see briefs that specify vague information like:
male or female | UK, US or Canadian | young, middle-aged, senior
Coupled with a scant brief that includes little information about tone or style :
e-learning module | educational | serious | duration TBC
There is a wealth of Voice Talent out there – and the more generic you are, the less chance you’ll have of finding the Voice you really need.
Make your life easy. Take time out and think carefully about what kind of Voice you need before you start looking for a Voiceover Artist.
If you’re dealing with an Agent or Studio, they’ll be able to find the right fit with much greater ease. And if you’re briefing a casting site and finding Voices yourself, it should narrow your search down dramatically.
Whatever route you’re taking, if you follow these 5 simple steps,you’ll have a greater chance of finding the right voice. And you’ll get far more bang for your voiceover bucks.
I’m a full-time UK voiceover artist and director with a broadcast quality studio, based in London. If you’re looking for a professional voice artist, you can listen to my voice demos here.
Do get in touch if you’d like to work with me on any of your projects.
I’m also the host of Talking Creative – the Art of Voiceover Directing – a podcast for creatives, voice directors and voice artists.
And if you love to chat about voiceovers, directing and all kinds of creative stuff, please do connect or follow me on LinkedIn here. I’d love to link up.