I thought I would write a brief outline of the process when hiring a voice talent. I get a real mixture of clients, ones who have been hiring voice talent for many years, pre and post internet, for large and small companies and some who have never hired a VO, and are unsure of the process. I will do my best to outline the process as accurately as possible. I should add that I am writing this from my individual perspective and this will not necessarily apply if you hire other voice talent.
So the first hurdle is finding a voice for your project. There are three main options out there for you:
1. Google. Type in “voiceover” and the style/gender/age range and go from there. Most talent these days have an online presence and they take great care to accurately tag their voice. However this is a somewhat hit or miss approach to finding your voice, new talent are entering the business all the time, and have the full range (or not) of experience in business, voicing, and the technical nature of recording and editing. But it's free to give to it a go so why not see what you find!
2. Agencies. If you have a medium to large project you would like voiced you could approach a talent agency with your requirements. It is something of a mystery to me how and why agencies will choose to take on certain new clients, budgets are probably the main criteria. They will not of course spend time contacting talent on their books and then casting for 10% of $100 being paid to the talent. This is a very personalized service, and a time consuming one for a number of people, so really consider if your project is appropriate for a talent agency.
3. Online Marketplaces. This is the most common for small to medium sized projects, and an increasing number of large projects are being cast this way too. Different Marketplaces have different ways of working, but you will often be able to sign up in minutes and submit a casting to their roster of talent. Adding key words will narrow down the submissions, so you will receive appropriate proposals from talent that fit your description. You also have the added benefit of seeing their feedback, and work history. Sites such as Voices.com ,Voice123.com and Bodalgo.com are a good place to start. Of course once you find a talent and develop a working relationship any future projects will not necessarily need to be completed through these marketplaces.
Unless you use a company with a step by step process (such as Voices.com) your next step is to choose the talent appropriate for your project from the submissions (or your own curated list) and then contact them to finalize the terms and conditions.
Below are a series of things to consider when finalizing terms, working with the talent and paying them once you are happy with your files.
1. Timeframe. Establish when you need the final file/s by. Final is the key word here, as the first delivery of your script may need some tweaks here and there, and you may be working with a talent that is in a different timezone, which can sometimes mean a slight delay in response. This process is not an exact science so try to incorporate some wiggle room into the deadline, this way no-one is waiting for the VO further down the pipeline while you iron out the details.
2. Final Cost. Establish with the talent whether the price quoted includes any and/or all edits once the initial script has been delivered. Most reputable talent will include one or two rounds of edits included in the cost. However, all edits are not created equally, if you decide you want to re-write the script once the talent has delivered the original script as desired you may be required to negotiate a slightly higher rate. This is not of course set in stone, a few word changes here and there may not result in the talent having to re-read the entire script again, and they will often be flexible in making changes as part of the initial quote. If however the talent has made a mistake in the reading or pronunciation of the text, or there are technical errors, it is very much the talents responsibility to fix these within the initial quote.
Another thing to consider regarding the cost is the length of term of the voiceover. Some projects will require a recurring payment (such as advertising) on an annual basis. Most projects though are what's called a “full buyout” which means the client can use the recording in whatever capacity, and for as long as they like. It is best to confirm this from the outset.
3. Delivery format. Audio can be delivered in many formats, and audio/video editors may have a preference as to which they prefer. Most would like an uncompressed format like WAV or AIFF, but they may prefer a smaller file size like a high quality MP3. Certain phone systems may require very specific file formats with sample rate and bitrate requirements that are not common. It is best to establish these technical specifications before sending the final script to the talent. This could be written on the script or a separate “Tech Specs” document.
4. Script. The script should of course not contain any glaring mistakes in the wording, and ideally spelling. It is an unwritten rule amongst voice talent that you read what is on the page EXACTLY as written, but when it is obvious that it is a small typo or spelling mistake most talent will make the appropriate changes.
Try and think of your script from the talents perspective. It doesn't have to be written as a stage/movie script, but it should be clearly defined. What does that mean I hear you ask?!?! Well if you imagine the script flowing in sections, define that in the script. Use paragraphs to define the pauses and delineations in the spoken version of the script.
Any direction (“add emphasis” or “say softly” or “light hearted” etc...) should be clearly defined as direction, in bold, underlined, highlighted etc... This can be explained at the top of the script. Make it clear where the direction ends and the script starts and stops!
If you have awkward words try using a phonetic way to describe the pronunciation. For example: “Delineation” could be “Dee-lyn-ee-A-shun”. Define how you would like acronyms pronounced For example “B.I.M” could be pronounced “Bee, Eye, Emm” or “Bim”. Common examples of this are email and website addresses.
5. Examples. A talent will often find examples useful in gauging the feel and tone of a piece. YouTube links, audio files recorded by yourself on your phone, anything that can help explain the tone you are going for will help the talent nail the feel!
6. When is payment due? You should define at what point the talent gets paid. Some talent require payment before sending the high quality, finished file, others require payment within 30 days of the dated invoice, which could have been sent before or after the files were delivered. To avoid confusion or frustration it is best to define this before commencing with the project.
7. The Invoice. If you have information that your billing department require such as project ID, or your business address, make sure the talent is aware of this before they send you the invoice. Also you should be clear what currency you will be working in as this is a global industry, and it is very common to be working across continents! The payment method should be established when negotiating the terms before the recording has taken place. Most talent accept a wide range of payment options.
This may seem like a lot to consider, but is actually straightforward once you get started. As with any business transaction as long as mutual consideration is given, the process will be a rewarding, fun and hopefully lucrative one!
If you have any questions or points you would like to make please leave a comment or send me a message, I would live to know what you think.
Thanks for reading!
British voiceover artist privileged to be working in New York City.