How do you find a professional voiceover artist? Where do you look?
On the face of it, this seems like such a straightforward task but I’ve been really surprised by the number of creatives and production companies I’ve chatted to recently who only use one way of finding their voice talent and, the truth is, there are a variety of ways and all of them are slightly different.
So once you know what kind of voice artist you need – where can you find them? Where are the good voiceovers hanging out?
And the answer is – in lots of different places and it really depends on you, your project, how swiftly you need to find your talent, exactly what you need – and your budget.
All the ideas I’m going to cover in this article are open to everyone, whatever the size of your company – even if you’re a solo creative.
But first, I probably need to mention the biggest elephant in the room – Fiverr. Which, funnily enough, I’m not going to recommend. Because, whilst there are some decent voiceover artists on Fiverr, Upwork and similar sites, you have to look very very carefully to find them. And the good voices who are there can be found with much greater ease – and just as cost effectively – through other routes.
The main ways of finding voice talent are:
And word of mouth
So let’s look at those individually.
There are great Voiceover agents everywhere – though they tend to crop up mainly in cities or major towns. And it’s not the case that they only deal with big talent names like Helena Bonham-Carter or Benedict Cumberbatch – some of them do but surprisingly few are THAT specialist.
If you google “voiceover agents” or “voiceover agents Manchester” (or whatever you’re looking for) your search will bring up a long list of possibilities. If that feels overwhelming, just dip into the ones that look interesting and have a rootle around, you’ll soon get the idea.
Some are very boutique and others have a wide range of talent to choose from. Almost all of them have useful, specific, fully-searchable databases on their site – so if you need a 20-something female Welsh speaker, you should be able to get straight to what you need. (Tip: in that instance, finding a voice agent in Wales may give you the best array of talent.)
Voice Agents are specialists in finding talent and the good ones will help you find exactly what you need. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk directly to them. They know their voices and should be able to pull a shortlist together, working to a brief.
They’ve done much of the hard work for you. Their voiceovers are experienced, tried and trusted. Plus they’ll give you a clear idea of budget breakdown and manage the booking process.
You will need a project, a brief, a timeline and an idea of your budget before you approach an agent but you’ll need those things before you start any search. For more information about budgets and costs, do check out this article How Much Does a Professional Voiceover Cost? And there’s nothing to stop you going to a variety of agents with the same brief – though building a relationship with particular companies or agents is an even better idea.
And there are specialist agencies too – ones that just deal with, say, e-learning or telephone messages (usually called IVR Interactive Voice Response) and these are incredibly useful if you need something really specific. There are agencies that specialise in foreign voices, comedy and kids voices too. In fact, I haven’t actually checked but there must be agencies for almost every genre of voice artistry you can think of (if ‘voice artistry’ is even a term).
Ah… the mysteriously named Pay-to-Plays.
A Pay-to-Play is simply a site where voiceovers ‘pay’ a monthly or yearly fee in order to ‘play’ the audition game. The client creates an audition brief – a bit of info about who they’re looking for plus a section of the script – and then uploads this audition opportunity onto the site. Interested voices see it, audition and hey presto: potential voiceover talent in your inbox.
Now I say “hey presto” but there is a major flaw with Pay-to-Plays… very few of these sites vet their voiceovers. The voice artists simply create their profiles, upload their demo reels and start auditioning so it’s a totally open market. As directors and creatives, you will have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.
On the one hand, they seem attractive as you can be open about your budget plus the voices know what they’re auditioning for but you’re unlikely to get a bargain if you post lowball prices. Many of the more experienced, established voiceovers on theses sites set a budget threshold – so your competitively priced (aka cheap) corporate ‘opportunity’ will simply bypass the good guys entirely and go straight to the more inexperienced voices who are still learning their craft. Also, do be aware that many professional voices don’t use the sites at all and some of them have extremely poor reputations within the industry.
Ones that are actively avoided by professional voices include Voices.com and The Voiceover Realm.
But – if you want to give pay-to-plays a try – google is your friend. Pop “Pay to Play Voiceovers UK” or whatever you need in the search bar and away you go.
Another brilliant way of finding the right voice artist is working with a Casting Director – though this is often suited to high end or more complex or specialist projects.
Directors do much of the heavy lifting and they work with you to find exactly what you need. It’s their job to be able to bring you the best talent in the industry and they invariably have incredible contacts.
If you have the capacity – a Casting Director is a great idea. Finding the right one does require a bit of dedication though. It’s worth asking around as well as researching online and on social media. LinkedIn is always a great resource for this kind of approach. And of course, like everything, Casting Directors often specialise in certain genres.
But if this all feels too formal… Agents and Directors and sites you have to join…
Then you can always just search yourself online.
Google and Social Media
As ever – arm yourself with what you’re looking for and that “Devon male voiceover with home studio” could just magically appear. In fact, he does. I’ve tried it. There are a few in fact though I haven’t actually checked them out. But they are out there – with good websites and excellent home studios. You just need to do your homework and if they seem good – drop them a line.
Realistically, a good website with some great demos, a range of testimonials and happy customers is a good starting point. They’re clearly bookable, they often have high-spec home studios, they’ve invested in their businesses and many of them have agents too. A few cross checks on social media (no it’s not really stalking!) and you can make contact via the DMs and take it from there.
Using social media can be really helpful both in finding voice actors in the first place AND cross referencing them. Someone who is active and engaged on Instagram or LinkedIn or Twitter as a working voiceover is out there and talking the talk. They don’t need thousands of followers – they just need to feel authentic and if they have a good presence online, that’s another tick in their favour. Whether they’ve got what YOU need is up to your project.
Using direct messaging and booking through social media profiles needn’t feel awkward – voices are very used to that. That’s why we put our contacts into our bios.
I got a booking out of the blue last week – via my cousin in fact, so not completely cold – but still. Within 24 hours of chatting to me – and in time for the weekend – Steve had his 3 minute, to-picture sound file, voiced, edited, finished and in his inbox. Very neat.
Which is a tale that encompasses google, social media and word of mouth all in one.
Word of Mouth
So finally word of mouth. This is probably the most powerful of all. If you’re looking for a voiceover, chances are you work in the media – or you know someone who does. Ask your colleagues – get those recommendations. They could have the perfect person for you and you know they can deliver.
So there we are – a quick overview of the main ways to find voice talent:
Agents, specialist agencies and casting directors, pay-to-play sites, Google, social media and – of course – asking around.
It isn’t an exhaustive list. For instance, many recording studios have a talent roster of voices to make your life easier – which is yet another route. So hopefully this has given you some new ideas of where to look for voice talent.
And yes – there are lots of voiceover artists but don’t feel overwhelmed. In the end, if you need a voice – be really clear on exactly what kind of voice (because that will make your life much easier), pick the approach that you find the most comfortable and start there.
I’m a full-time UK voiceover artist and director with a broadcast quality studio, based in London. You can listen to my voice demos here.
I’m also the host of Talking Creative – the Art of Voiceover Directing – a podcast for creatives, voice directors and voice artists. This blog post is available as a podcast episode here.
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.