How much is your voice worth?

I am a voice over artist. Well, when I say artist, what I mean is I read your words into a microphone, save it as a sound file and then send it to my client and (hopefully) get paid.

Easy, right? Sure, it is a lot easier than digging a ditch in blistering heat, or torrential rain for that matter!
How easy is my job as a voiceover though? Is my voice any more valuable than Joe or Jane who works at the local store? Well, that depends on your point of view really. Read on and you will see what I mean.

There are websites which allow you to hire a freelancer for what seems to be very cheap indeed. How do people make a living from this? Well, in the case of voiceover there are additional services which are offered by them to enhance what you have already bought. Alternatively, they may have just started out in the business, or perhaps use this marketing method to get further work after this particular gig is finished. After all, who wants to work for seven pounds fifty a day?
Is it worth paying more than seven pounds fifty to get a voiceover for your thirty second radio advert or your elearning project? Let’s see.

1. Let’s start with you
Let me make a prediction in terms of voiceover. Your logo, your colour scheme and the font you use for your signage tells the world who you are and what you do. Shouldn’t you do the same for any communication from your business? Remember a voiceover is just an extension and representation of your brand.

2. Paying for the equipment
I regularly invest in my equipment. Of course that’s my choice, but it means the quality of the sound is superior, the job is finished quicker and my clients are super happy with what they receive. I have to get the money to pay for the equipment somehow, and that is the same as any other business. I did tell you it was a business didn’t I?

3. It’s only reading a few words. How hard can that be?
Similarly to any other job, as a voice over artist you need at least some training to succeed. Not just voice acting training, but sound engineering and business training too. Another cost to the business, and it is ongoing.

4. Audition, audition, audition. Then audition.
So, you want a sample before you commit to hiring a voice over? No problem. Voiceover artists are used to that. However, consider if you do around fifty auditions a day. That is fifty times you have recorded a script for fifty separate people. That is your whole day gone and you have no income to show for it.

5. Quality? Use your smartphone
No really, use your smartphone. After all, nobody really needs a soundproofed and treated room which cost thousands of pounds do they? Just record in the back office. It will sound just fine. Honest.

I am sure I haven’t exhausted this list, but it gives you a slight insight into why it may be worth paying a little extra for the voice you want.

Do you want a British male voice over who is friendly, warm and sincere? Give me a call.

You want a 1200 word, 30 second radio advert recorded to broadcast quality for seven pounds fifty? Ask Neil in accounts. He’s got a nice voice and just bought the latest smartphone with a voice recorder on it. Is he a voice over artist?

David Ayers is a British voiceover artist. 
voice over artists uk

Watch your language

The devil is in the detail

I had an unusual email sent to me from one of those ‘blue chip’ companies. Why do they call them ‘blue chip’ and not ‘red’ or ‘pink’ or ‘yellow’ was beyond me, and why ‘chip’? It all relates to poker so I believe, however I digress from my email. Incidentally, it had nothing to do with being a voice over artist.

The key part of the email read
“We want to give you a pandoras box full of delights”.
Very kind of them I must say.
I know what the marketing department of this company wanted to convey, but what did it really mean?
Pandora’s box? I will let you ‘google’ that one. However let me just say that opening this box is letting all the horrors out into the world (excluding voiceovers of course). Once opened and all the devilish contents have been jettisoned, all that is left at the bottom of the box is hope.

I wrote back thanking them for their kind offer, but I have all the troubles I need at the moment. I mean, what is a voice over artist to do?

Compliments are great. Most of the time.
I read a wonderful testimonial this week.
“Richard delivered a seminal voiceover for me”.
It would have been great if the client had not been married, but well, sometimes the single life is far better.
Seminal actually means delivering semen you see. Perhaps the voiceover was for a cattle breeding programme and Richard was particularly keen to contribute. He must have been a very willing male voice over!

It’s critical. Let’s pull together and give one hundred and ten per cent
How many times have you heard that? If your answer is ‘never’, then either you are about sixteen or you have never worked for anyone before. Or both.
Fortunately I have two small children who always tell the truth. Well, unless it involves missing marshmallows and then suddenly the cat is guilty.
Either way, my two small analysts can see through the lies of ‘one hundred and ten per cent’, ‘it’s critical’ and ‘let’s all pull together’. If children can see it as ridiculous then what does it say for those who take it seriously? If you cannot see this then you are clearly destined for some kind of management role. Congratulations.

David Ayers is a British voiceover artist (who struggles to take life seriously). 

Top 5 recording voice over studio building tips 

Here are five tips about recording spaces, whether that space is a quilt over your head or a mega million pound studio on a tropical island. Although it is aimed at voice over artists, it can be applied anywhere really.

1. Sound isolation
The best way to do this is to have an isolated room within a room.

Sound can be transferred through solids such as screws. So if you screw your inner room to your outer room then sound will go through these screws into your recording space.

There are many different materials you can use to reduce sound transfer, but roughly speaking heavy ‘stuff’ prevents low frequencies. Light ‘stuff’ tends to stop higher frequencies. I am not talking about the voiceover talent, by the way.

2. Sound absorption
This complements sound isolation. Perhaps it would be better to call it sound shaping. Once you have a quiet isolated area, then you can start shaping the sound you want.

Of course it is entirely up to the designer how much sound is reflected (or not) in the isolated area. If you have a look on google at some of the more famous studios, you may see lots of hard wood, so it isn’t always appropriate to make the studio completely ‘dead’ with copious amounts of foam.

To sound shape your area you can use lots of soft furnishings, cushions, quilts or if you want to start spending money you can use purpose made materials such as Rockwell RW3 mineral wool, soundbloc plasterboard and acoustic foam. It makes for a really warm place (and a hot voiceover) in the winter!

3. Holes in the walls
Are you crazy? You have just sealed the voice over studio and now you want to put a hole in the wall? Well yes, kind of.

What about getting cables in and out? If you get yourself two letterboxes (the ones with the black hairs on them) you can create a plenum box. In this kind of installation, it is a large box partly filled with sound insulation. One letterbox is fitted offset at the top and the other is fitted offset at the bottom.

It will get hot, so open the door. Some of you may think about installing an extractor fan. In larger studios that may be a great idea. However, in smaller studios it is probably just as well to just open the door, as not only does this let the heat out, but it enforces you to take a break. Of course I spent ages fitting a fan. Do I use it? Well, sometimes depening upon how many voiceover jobs I have coming in.

What about a window? Sounds vibrate at different frequencies. If you fit a window, make sure it is a double glazed unit with two different thicknesses of glass as they vibrate at different frequencies. A bit like me when I am in full voice over flow really....

4. Portability
One day you may move house. Consider how portable your voiceover recording space is. A friend of mine recently had a builder move in next door to them. Is her recording space quiet enough to record anything now? Well, probably at around two o’clock in the morning. If her studio was portable, then she could move with not too much hassle.

5. Comfort
How much of your day are you going to be in your studio? Try building your vocal recording space so that it is as comfortable sitting down as it is standing up. Also plan where your microphone stand will be and your lighting. You don't want it too hot so use LED lighting if you can.

Does this help you? I hope it does, and even if you already have a recording studio set up, I hope it gives you a few snippets which you find helpful.

David Ayers is a male british voice over 

How to gain trust in your voiceover business

Today I was in a coffee-shop which was part of a large multinational chain. I browsed the menu and ordered a café latte. The guy at the checkout asked for a different price to the one shown.
He could see the confusion on my face.
“Yes, it’s to help our customers who bring their own cups. It’s a service we offer our customers and also to help reduce waste. Cups cost an extra five pence”
What did I think of this coffee chain? Will I go there again? Maybe, if I am desperate. As I was keen to turn a completely peed off situation into something a tad more positive, I tried to apply this to my voiceover business. In fact as a British male voice over who is reserved as we all are, I tried to complain but nothing came out!

Does everyone (or anyone) trust me?
Heavy question. Deep soul searching. Let me explain.
Within voice acting / voiceover there are two aspects to this question.
1. Actors are essentially good liars
Please don’t send me hate mail. I mean they are good at pretending to be someone or something else.

2. Businesses are bad liars.
In other words, businesses should be sincere and tell the truth. Shouldn’t they?

Quite a paradox eh? Well yes.
In this article I am focussing on the business side of things so let me expand on this part.
Should businesses lie?
Well of course many do tell lies, but should they? I don’t mean this as a moral conundrum, but for their business profitability (AKA their bottom line).
As with many things in life, there are many variables: the industry, the market, the culture and so on. However, I am going to focus here on voiceover or voice acting as a business.
From what I have seen and learnt, within the voiceover business everyone seems to know everyone else. So if you’re doing something of interest, then this gets communicated to many, many others and pretty soon everyone. This, of course, includes any current or future clients.
So, does this mean you should do like your mum said and always tell the truth?
Yes. However, also present yourself in the best way possible. Be the best version of you that you can.

Anyone fancy an overpriced coffee? No thanks.

David Ayers
British male voice over 

How to choose an online voiceover agent – tips from the top

A few years ago, I was told by a colleague that anyone who uses the word agent shouldn’t be trusted.
That got me thinking. Estate agent. Press agent. Travel agent. Voiceover agent. James Bond, secret agent. Well, the list goes on and on. It makes my head hurt, so time for tea.

In this article I am focusing on voiceover agents – the online variety that is. Sorry James.
I’ll review a few too. Hopefully I wont be blacklisted by them.

Are they worth the expense? Do you get a return on investment (ROI)? Let’s have a look. Here are a few examples. All are annual fees apart from voicesuk. - $399 - $395 - 55 – 25 – 25 (lifetime fee)

How many jobs do you get from each one – in other words what is the return on investment? I am thinking about both tangible (cash) and intangible (getting your name around). Are they worth the cost?
I tend to look at these agents as a starting point. An online advert to get my name around to show clients I exist. I certainly don’t expect anything from these online agencies. In some cases that is just as well.
Overall I think I have just about covered my costs with these agencies.

Work smart, not hard
What I used to do is audition for absolutely anything. A scattergun approach. Did it work? No. However it did show me that I had to re-think what I was doing.
After a lot of head scratching and numerous cups of tea (I am a British male voice over artist after all), I came to the decision to forget about auditioning all the time and be far more selective.
The general strategy I decided upon was to focus on auditions I was invited to, rather than every one available. At least this meant the client had at least some interest in me.
Secondly I decided that I should only audition for jobs which paid reasonably well, ones I was more suited to and those which had fewer auditionees.
This increases the chance of me getting work as not only am I auditioning for jobs which I have a better chance of getting, but it frees up more time to look at my other promotional efforts, or indeed have yet another cup of tea.

Agent’s revenue
So how do agents get their money? From what I can see there are two main income streams, however if there are any agents reading this then please do let me know if I am wrong.
1. Charging the client
2. Charging the voiceover talent
Rates and payments
Some agents such as the voice realm tell the voiceover how much they will get. With the voice realm it is shown to the voiceover prior to the audition. Other agents tend to leave any pricing structure up to the voiceover talent themselves.
However, most if not all agents keep the funds in an escrow account prior to releasing it to the voiceover after the client has approved the final version.

For each project a client posts there is competition between all the voiceovers as to who will win that particular audition.
From what I have seen this can range from around ten to five hundred voiceovers for one job. I am not into betting, but those odds seem pretty high to me.
Some of these agents claim that they alter the odds. Loading the dice? Well not quite. allegedly have a system where each person’s skills are given points and depending on what the client wants, the voiceover with the most points gets presented before anyone else. However after that, it is all in a first auditioned first presented order.
The voice realm take a different approach in that allegedly they take everyone who auditions and then irrelevant of the order of auditioning they present them to the client in a different order.
Just to make things a little more complex, many of these agents have a system whereby the client can choose one or more voiceovers to audition for them and exclude the general voiceover population.
You are probably noticing a pattern here, and wondering exactly who is holding all the trump cards.
If you were thinking that each online agent's site was a separate market place then you would be right.

So which one do you choose?
This depends on which market you are aiming towards. OK, sure, we live in a very small world where a client from China posts a job on a Canadian site requesting a British voiceover. However there are some sites which specialise such as voicesuk (UK only voices), or ACX who specialise in audiobooks.
As with many things in life, it's all about balance. Know thyself and choose the right fit for you and you alone. Failing that just choose a few and see what happens.
If you are scratching your head and having that cup of tea, make me one too will you? Water first then a splash of milk please. Sugar? No thank you Turkish, I'm sweet enough.

David Ayers is a British voiceover artist 

How to create silent fans

Unfortunately this isn’t the kind of fan that camps outside waiting for a glimpse of you. This is the one that sucks all the stuff out of your studio.
Many manufacturers claim to make silent fans. They are all silent of course when they are off, but even silent fans aren’t silent when they are running. They may be a little quieter than others, but they all make sounds. To quieten your fan (or anything else for that matter) you have to know about how sound works.
So, what is sound?
It’s all about waves or should I say vibrations. Imagine a large truck going past you. In that case you can often feel each vibration or wave of sound. Hopefully you don’t feel them under the truck.
How do you lessen these sound waves? Well, either you stop it at source, put up some kind of wall to stop it getting where it’s not wanted or throw it back. In this article I am going to focus on stopping sound at it’s source.
Stopping sound at source
I am going to use fans as an example here, but you could apply this to anything really. It’s all about isolating the thing making the noise and diminishing the sound waves that it makes. That means taking away the vibrations (sorry beach boys).

Cannabis farms
I would at this point state that I don’t have anything to do with drugs at all, and certainly not cannabis. Just because my waistline has increased dramatically in recent years, it has nothing to do with the recreational use of cannabis.
However, one thing illegal cannabis farms do extremely well is to ventilate their spaces silently because they don’t want to get caught by the police! Necessity really creates superb inventions.

OK, so enough about the theory – how do you do it?
If breasts could talk you wouldn’t hear a word. Consider what the best thing is for supporting breasts with flexibility.
A bra.
This is how many successful cannabis farms silent their fans. Not with real bras, but with the adaptation of the same theory – a giant bra made with giant elastic bra straps.
So now I have planted that in your mind’s eye, let me explain further.
Imagine a fan working. It is a motor which has a plastic part pushing air through a hole. When it does this it creates sound waves due to the vibrations. Lots of them. Now, if you put a giant cloth cup around the fan, attach elastic straps to the cup and then stretch them on to something solid, you then have your giant bra.
Does it quieten that fan? You bet it does.

David Ayers
British voiceover / voice actor / voice talent.