Is your voice suitable for voice-over work? In this podcast I discuss why the sound of your voice is less important than you might think.
The podcast lasts just over 10 minutes, but if you haven't got the time to listen, please take a look at the transcript below.
Hello, welcome along. My name is Gary Terzza. I'm a British voiceover coach. I hope you're in fine voice. This is a podcast that really is a sort of informal chat, really, just about aspects of voiceovers, and particularly in this case, suitability. It's the one question I'm asked over and over again. If the phone's going to ring, it's going to be someone saying, "Is my voice suitable for voiceovers?"
It's one of those questions that comes up so often. I always know the answer, of course. I'm not showing off when I say that. It's just my experience. But people expect me to be able to just say to them, just by listening to their voices, they expect me to be able to say to them, "Oh, yes, your voice is perfect for voiceovers. Oh, I can certainly tell. You know, you sound like Morgan Freeman, Madame, you'll be ideal."
But of course it's not that simplistic. It can't be that simplistic. Otherwise everybody would be doing voiceovers, or everyone would be able to just phone up a voiceover agency and just go, "Hello, can you tell me if my voice is suitable for voiceovers?" And they'd go, "Yeah, of course, you sound great, wonderful. You start on Monday. 70,000 a year." But of course that would be a ridiculous thing. That's not how it works. Your voice, intriguingly, your voice is only part of the story. Really, all your voice does, is it gives you a position in the marketplace.
So if you've got, for example, a regional accent, if you're from Manchester or Birmingham, or you're from Liverpool or the north east, obviously you have a certain position in the marketplace, and people who are looking for a regional accent would go for someone like you. Likewise, if you're a middle-aged female British voice, fairly neutral, what we call RP, which is received pronunciation. When you hear the term RP, it's really about a standard old-fashioned BBC English. I don't mean snooty particularly, but fairly neutral.
You've got rounded vowels, so unlike me, where I'd say, bath, and laugh, and staff, and graph, you'd say, bath, and laugh, and staff, and graph. So it's a more kind of traditional, if you like, traditional British accent. If you are this British middle-aged female voice, who talks like that, then you will be appealing to people, to clients, potential clients, who are looking for a voice like that. So we all fall into these demographic silos, if you like, and that's how we get found, because people are putting in keywords, like I'm looking, in my case, looking for a British male voice, slight Nottingham accent, whatever they put in, fairly conversational. That's kind of how we get found through the marketplace.
But how do you know your voice is suitable? It's the big question, isn't it? How do you know? Can you know? The answer is, no, you can't really. You certainly can't just from your ordinary conversational voice. Even if someone has said to you, "Oh, you sound great, mate." Someone in the pub, or a friend, or a family member. If they've said that to you, it's very tempting to think, "Oh, I can do it, because my friends like my voice." But of course, they're not paying you. They're not your clients. They don't work in commercials or for an ad agency. I assume they haven't written a book and they want an audiobook version or anything like that. They're simply your friends or your family members.
So really, it's about getting someone objective to listen to your voice. But it's not just about the sound of your voice. The more relevant question is asking of you have the potential for voiceovers. Now, always bear in mind that voiceovers are subjective, you're chosen or you're not because someone thinks your voice is appropriate for a particular project. You'll be right for some things, but not right for others. You might be right for a children's audiobook, but not right for a hard sell commercial, for example, just to give a sort of simplistic example.
It's a learnt skill. The sound of your voice is only part of the equation. The more important aspect is what you do with it, and crucially, how you read the words on the page, what we call the scripts, how you bring those lines to life. Remember, you are using somebody else's words, not your words, you're using somebody else's. That's when it gets difficult. It's all right just you doing off the top of your head. It's very different when you have a set of words on the page and you have to read them, read them as you and as if they are your own words, and yet, they may have been written in a style that is not like you at all, but you have to make it sound like you. That is the trick. That is the craft, if you like, the art of being a voiceover artist.
Now, in my experience, the real question is, am I a suitable person to do voiceovers? So before you take the next step, before you even consider taking some training or just setting up on your own, whatever you're going to do, I recommend asking yourself some questions. If I was starting out, the first question I'd ask myself is, "Am I willing to invest in learning and home recording? Could I do that? Could I learn my trade either from a book, from a coach, or from looking at YouTube videos, and so on?" Bags and bags of videos, people like Bill DeWees, and so on, who've got hundreds of these things out there. You could pretty much learn the whole thing just from them, without hiring a coach. But are you willing to invest in the time, really, more than the money, invest the time into doing that?
And are you willing to set up recording from home? That's an important thing. I think that is part of your suitability. Also, could you run a small business basically selling your voiceover services? We're all self-employed in voiceovers. We're sole traders, or some people are limited companies. I'm not, I'm just a sole trader. But some people set up little companies. Basically, you are selling your services. You're not looking for work when you're out there as a voiceover artist. You are selling. You are selling your services. Part of your suitability is your ability to market yourself.
And we've got lots of helpful things we can use, particularly the voiceover marketplaces, like the pay to play sites, sites such as Voices.com, Voice123, Mandy.com, which used to be VoicesPro. So we've got those platforms, we've also got the freelancer platforms like PeoplePerHour, Fiverr.com, we've got Upwork.com, and we've got ACX for audiobook work. So there are loads and loads of platforms out there. Some you pay for, some you don't. Some will take a commission, some won't. But learning how to use them is an essential part, and being able to use them makes you more suitable to do voiceovers.
Another thing to think about is, do you take rejection personally? I've had lots of students come to me and say, "Oh, I've done 25 auditions and I've only got one job." They're complaining, and I'm saying, "That's fantastic, that's really good going. Well done. You've never done it before. You did 25 auditions and you got a gig." You know. Lots of us would be very, very pleased with that kind of thing. So bear in mind that you need a bit of a thick skin in voiceovers. It's nothing personal. It feels like it's personal, but it's not.
It's a bit like going in and buying a pair of shoes from a shoe shop. When you buy that pair of shoes, you probably think, "Well, why did I buy those?" If you look at it rationally, there's kind of often no rationality behind it. You may have bought them because the colour's nice or it's a comfortable fit, of course. More often than not we get rejected for voiceover jobs simply because the client doesn't think that it's a good fit. They might love your voice, but they just don't think it's a good fit for that particular job. But that also works the other way, that you may be a good fit for the next job. So the main thing is to bear that in mind. You're not going to get every single job. If you're getting one out of 10, you're doing incredibly well. That's one out of 10 auditions, you're doing well.
So when it comes to suitability, it's much, much more than just the sound of your voice. It's all of those things added together. But crucially, the core is the performance, being able to deliver the lines, read the script, and being able to say the words as if you're talking to one person and not sound like you're reading it, that's absolutely crucial. Don't read the script, but talk to your listener. That again, is part of the learning process in voiceovers. What you do as a voiceover artist is own those words and bring them to life.
So I hope I've put suitability in some sort of perspective for you. It's not a simplistic, have I got the right voice or the wrong voice for voiceovers? It's not black and white like that. It's, have I got the potential to be a voiceover artist with the voice that I have? You could argue, every voice is suitable: young, middle-aged, old, male, female, accent, no accent. Potentially, all voices have got a job waiting for them to work with. But that's no good. It's no good having a good voice, whatever that is, if you can't use it, if you can't deliver the lines, if you can't own somebody else's words. If you can't bring words to life, you can't be a voiceover artist, no matter how much your friends like the sound of you.
So I hope that sort of adds a little bit more to the suitability question. I hope it allows you to think, well, yes, potentially your voice is suitable, but are you suitable as a person to be able to do it? Have you got the time and the effort? Will you invest in your voice and in your performance? That is the crucial key to getting voiceover work. Really, you can make your voice suitable.
Okay, thanks very much for listening today. I really appreciate you taking time to listen to the podcast. I hope to do another one very shortly. Please don't forget to look after your voice, and I'll see you next time.