Voice actor Jason Ripper in action
The difference between mediocre and great voice over talent is like the difference between elevator music and the Coachella Music Festival. If you want your video to perform well, you want the Coachella of voice artists unless you intend to put your audience to sleep.
In today's market, you don't need a seven-figure budget or access to Disney's employee roster to hire top voice over talent. Jun Loayza of Bunny Inc. recommends putting your script in front of as many voice artists as possible, so you can choose from multiple samples and get the project done right. A talent marketplace allows you to accomplish that task.
Beyond numbers, however, you need strategies to find the perfect voice over artist for your videos. Here's a look at some of the primary qualities and considerations you should take into account now that the industry has matured, and the technology is more powerful than ever before.
Create Actor and Viewer Personas
You can't hire great voice over talent unless you understand both your video's message and your audience's personality. Marketing professionals create buyer personas — fictionalized summaries of prospective customers' demographics, desires, needs, and motivations. Video creators can borrow that strategy for choosing voice artists.
Start with an actor persona. What does the voice in your video need to convey? Who or what does the actor represent? How do you want the audience to react to him or her?
Next, create a viewer persona. Who will watch the video? What does he or she hope to glean from it? What matters most to the viewer and how can the voice actor capitalize on that?
The relationship between the viewer and the voice actor can drastically impact the video's performance. For instance, if you profile your actor as a competent, soft-spoken, and thoughtful professional, you don't want to hire a voice actor with a harsh or booming voice. Similarly, if you create a viewer persona that describes a skeptical and discerning consumer, you know you need a voice artist with a confident and reassuring tone.
Define Your Project Budget and Expectations
You probably already know how much you can spend on voice over talent, but your budget needs to align with your expectations. If you're working on a shoestring budget, you might have to make do with a newcomer to the industry or a professional without the best equipment.
If you find that your expectations exceed your bank account's ability to follow through, you might need to raise more funding. Learn the average wages for voice over artists based on your project, however, so you know what actors expect to make in compensation.
Evaluate Audition Recordings for Audio Quality
In today's world, consumers don't have the patience to listen to poor audio quality. Today's adults often tune out uninteresting input after just seven seconds, whether they're listening to a presentation at work or watching a video. You're competing with too many distractions, and if an audition comes across as fuzzy, indistinct, or riddled with background noise, you can assume that your project will encounter those same hiccups.
Alternatively, work with a local artist. Invite him or her to your own studio or to a studio that you rent by the hour. You'll have more options regarding talent, but the audio quality won't suffer. However, keep in mind that a poor audition recording audio might hide other problems with the artist's delivery, tone, and inflection.
Consider Tone and Voice Quality
These two factors sound similar, but they address two very different things.
A voice artist's tone refers to his or her pitch, inflection, range, and clarity. A performer with a rich baritone will not come across the same way as a performer with a thin, reedy voice.
If you need an announcer's voice, you're looking for a voice artist with an expansive tone that communicates excitement and importance. A conversationalist's voice is more low-key and friendly while a confident voice is comforting and authoritative.
Voice quality, on the other hand, deals with issues like breathing, pauses, accents, and voice control. Can the actor hit the emotional notes you need? Is he or she capable of pronouncing technical words clearly?
In addition to voice quality and tone, identify the accent you need your voice actor to portray. You'll also need to decide whether your actor should be native or simply capable of replicating an accent. If you're looking for someone with a British accent, you can either hire a U.K. native or hire a professional who knows how to speak in a British dialect.
Request Custom Auditions
In the old days, voice over actors had to record themselves on tape and mail their auditions to hiring managers. The expense of tapes and postage as well as the time required to ship auditions made this arrangement less than efficient.
In the modern world, however, auditions are recorded, processed, and transmitted digitally. It takes less time and far less money, so don't sell yourself short by failing to request custom auditions.
Let's say, for example, that you're hiring a voice artist for an educational video on personal finance. You get several demo reels to consider, but the recordings feature voice over artists doing cartoon characters and radio promotions. You can tell whether or not you like the actor's voice, but you don't know how he or she will sound for your video.
A custom audition demonstrates tone, voice quality, and other factors, but it also shows how the artist interprets your material. This is powerful data to have when making a talent decision.
Research the Voice Over Artists
Modern technology doesn't just improve audio recordings and grant you access to talent marketplaces. It also allows you to discover critical information about the actors you consider for your video. When you take the time to research freelance talent, you increase the odds that you'll work well together.
For example, you might read the reviews left by previous clients. Those reviews probably comment on the actor's performance, which helps you evaluate the candidate, but it might also include more administrative details.
An artist with a great voice becomes much less attractive if he or she is always late with deliverables or makes unapproved changes to scripts. The more you know about applicants, the more likely you are to find the perfect talent for the job.
Provide a Professional Script
If you want to get the perfect performance out of your voice artist, you need to provide him or her with quality material. Revise and review your script multiple times to ensure it will communicate the message and tone you want.
Provide the voice over artist with notes in the script (such as when to take pauses or when to change his or her volume). You can also spell out phonetic pronunciations of difficult words. Use contractions to make the script flow better and make sure you haven't made any spelling or punctuation mistakes.
You've spent weeks or even months planning and executing your video. Now all you need is the right voice over artist to make it perfect.
This article was co-written by ArticleBunny
About the Author: Grant Lingel is the Content Manager of Bunny Inc., creators of VoiceBunny and ArticleBunny. A perpetual traveler and digital nomad, Grant has visited dozens of countries across five continents on assignment. He has been living in Brazil since 2011 where he owns a small hostel on the island of Vitoria.