Whether you’re new to voiceover, or you’ve been behind the mic for years, you’re always looking to “Get An Edge” for your voiceover business. Now you’ve found one. It’s my pleasure to team up with Edge Studio, to provide you with ‘the edge you need’ to help you become even more successful as a voice talent.
David Goldberg, his staff, and coaches at Edge Studio are industry leaders in recording and coaching voiceover talent. They are well known as the premier studio for voiceover education and community, providing years of knowledge and insight, not to mention ‘tons of free stuff’.
Thanks to the fine folks at Edge Studio, it is my pleasure, starting today, to provide you with a monthly voiceover topic of interest, then supplement that topic with a weekly educational article, written by the staff at Edge Studio. I plan on gaining insight and learning more about each topic right along with you, so I hope you’ll continue to join me.
Please enjoy our first comprehensive article on this month’s topic:
by: Edge Studio Staff
Knowing your limits is one of the most important voice over skills you can possess.
Of course, your professional goal is to land as many jobs as you can do well. But every voice over artist should understand their limitations. Otherwise, you will lose clients in a most embarrassing fashion. When you can’t do the job well, it doesn’t just embarrass you, it also embarrasses everyone involved — the producer, the casting agent, the person who recommended you, the client, everyone.
Having been burned once, casting people will avoid you. And word gets around.
For example: If a client asks for Canadian French and you send an audition in of Parisian French, you might slip though and get passed along by the casting agent (who may or may not catch the difference). Then, when the client catches the error, it will make the casting agent look bad. That casting agent will not use you again. (Worse, sometimes the mismatch won’t be caught until much later in the process, and everybody looks bad!)
Let your golden rule be, “Give clients what they need.” When you audition for something that is not appropriate for you, you are not doing that.
How do you determine if you are appropriate for a job or not? Think about these three things:
1. Your voice
2. Your business
3. Your studio
Do you have the voice the client needs? And just as important, will you have it when they need it? Can you maintain this voice for as long as they need it? For example, if a script involves hours of recording and you don’t have the vocal stamina, you should decline. Or, if they need a deep-voiced golden throat and you sound like that only in the early morning, the job is not for you. Politely turn it down.
Is the requested voice a stretch for you? For example, do they want a young mom, and you sound more like a husky-voiced middle-aged vamp? Or do they want an authentic Russian accent and yours is only passable, or some nebulous, stereotypical, comic Boris or Natasha? There are plenty of native speakers available. If other people can audition or submit demos without stretching, then this is not the right audition for you.
The last thing you want, short of total embarrassment, is for prospective clients to think you’re always trying too hard, or that you’re always chasing after scraps. You do want them to think of you as a consummate professional, always able to perform as promised and maybe even add something extra. Whatever your voice quality, voice-over skills, or personal interests, there are voice over jobs where you can deliver that.
Clients appreciate it when a voice talent is honest with them and tells them when a project is not a good match.
For example, if you have a regular client who uses you to record non-specialized text, but one day needs someone to do a job full of medical jargon, don’t take that assignment if you are not comfortable with medical jargon. You will be tempted, but don’t do it. Your client will respect your professional judgment.
It’s not always an easy call, because the margins aren’t always clear. For example, there are scripts that use words like “aspirin” and “NSAIDs,” and then there are scripts that require you to roll phrases like “Methylprednisolone is a form of prednisone, itself an adrenal corticosteroid, a powerful steroid.” off your tongue repeatedly.
Listen to pros who specialize in that genre and see how you measure up.
If you’re not sure, audition yourself beforehand. Ask the client for a script, and rehearse before submitting an audition. Record yourself reading the script (or a similar script). Listen back to it carefully. And dispassionately.
If time permits, have someone critique your work — try Edge Studio’s Feedback Forum (you get free feedback!), or ask a friend, go to a voiceover social networking group, or ask a qualified coach.
Sometimes a prospective client will have more faith in your marginal ability than you do. (This sometimes happens especially with regular client who knows and likes your stuff.) If so, be flattered, but candid about your reservation, and suggest a Plan B. Say you’ll call some other pros. Then recommend one of those specialists, and ask your client to keep you in mind for other jobs in the future. The client will appreciate your professional judgment, honesty and extra effort.
The extra effort can even bring you a bit of income. When you farm out work to others, you might be able to arrange a finder’s fee from the talent you send the work to. In any case, you will at least have earned goodwill.
But your voice and performance capabilities are not the only factors to consider when deciding if a job is right for you. Your business and technical capabilities are also important.
Is your turnaround time fast enough? If the client has a specific deadline that you cannot accommodate, don’t take that job. Or, be realistic with the client and let them know how long it will take you. Tell them cordially and confidently. If you know you will need additional time, and the job is on the line, you might offer them a discount. For example, a 20% discount if the client shifts their deadline back a day. But, most importantly, don’t leave your client hanging. (As they may have said in the Old West, “hanging is not just an inconvenience.”)
This is very important with prospective clients, but extremely important with an existing client. You have only so many of them.
Scheduling is just one business consideration. Whatever the client’s needs, don’t take the job if you can’t meet them comfortably.
Note the word “comfortably.” It helps if you’re a go-getter, but you’re going to ease up if you don’t enjoy it. And you won’t be in business long if you lose money on every job. So be sure you will be able to do the job efficiently and make money on it.
For example, if a client will pay you $100 per completed hour to narrate an audiobook, but recording that hour takes you 6 hours (prep-time reading the book, mic time, and post production), you are making only $16.66 per hour. Audiobooks are an interesting genre. But, in any genre, be sure you know exactly what it entails, so you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Another example: If a client needs unusual services, such as copywriting or multiple voices, be up-front with the client. Let them know what you can and cannot do well, and tell them you would be happy to find other performers and/or service providers to satisfy fully meet their needs.
On the other hand, if you are able to provide extra services, they can be a rewarding source of extra income.
Accept a job only if you can handle its technical requirements. For example, if it requires precision editing or audio processing that you are not good at, decline. Or hire someone to do what you cannot. Same with music, sound effects, etc.
Don’t accept a job if your studio is not up to par. For example if your studio is not completely soundproof to professional standards, don’t accept the job. If your computer or microphone doesn’t have the required audio quality, don’t accept the job. If the client wants to use phone patch or ISDN and you don’t have it, don’t take the job, unless you tell the client your situation beforehand.
Whenever possible, suggest an alternative — maybe use a professional studio and build it into your rate. Or determine how you can improve your skills and/or facilities, and let your client know when the upgrade is operational.
In short, think in terms of your career, not just your wallet. See things from your client’s perspective, not just yours. And focus on anticipating and satisfying your clients needs. When an assignment will exceed your limits, be honest with your client at the outset, letting them know why you cannot accept job.
Ultimately, more jobs — and more appropriate jobs — will come your way.
So before you audition for a voice over job, audition the job.