You’re sitting there watching TV or YouTube when an ad begins to torture you… the ones that you can’t skip after 5 seconds. You hear the voice talking… and you wonder…
‘Who does that stuff? Wait… someone gets paid to do that… that sounds like fun. I think I read in an article that said they make tons of money. I’ve gotta get into that. People are always telling me I have a nice voice. That I should work in radio. You should hear my Scottish accent. My Homer Simpson voice kills at parties. I could totally do this. That guy that does Homer is worth 60 million bucks. I’m not greedy… a couple mill should cover me.’
Hold your horses buddy. If it was that easy, everyone’d be doin it. And if everyone could do it they wouldn’t pay all that money.
Voiceovers require very specific skills. Ones that take years to refine. I’ve been doing them for decades and I’m still trying to get it right… and I do them every day.
This is what a regular voiceover booking looks like…As I walk into a sound booth I’m handed a script that is poorly written and devoid of grammar. I struggle to make sense of it. Three people start giving me their point of view on what’s required and they obviously haven’t checked in with each other because the three statements appear completely contradictory. I now need to choose the right style of read (there are dozens by the way with endless versions and degrees of each). My voice then needs to change to match the demographic characteristics of a voice of authority for that particular target group. Oh did I mention I have to work out what that is? Then I choose levels of enthusiasm, emotional intention and above all make sure the audience gets the exact message and commits to the action. Oh and then… I gotta do it in exactly 30 seconds. The thing is there are far too many words to fit in the allotted time frame. A relaxed 30 second read is about 80 words. I’m sometimes handed 110. All the while the client is asking me to sound more relaxed and laid back. They may do a little rewrite on the spot and take a few words out. The first read is a second and a half too long or too short but the next one has to land exactly right.
Those guys you hear on the radio or tv… They do make good money. But there’s a reason. You gotta have some serious game to do this gig.
The good news is that these skills are all learnable with a little application. The other good news is that there are people in the game that aren’t that skilled meaning it wouldn’t take too much to become competitive. So where do you start?
Start paying attention to the different voices you hear throughout the day and where you hear them. Everything from radio to messages-on-hold to talking bus stop signs. How do they differ? Who are they talking to? Is the voice engaging? Does it make you want to pay attention and commit to the action?
Start reading articles out loud. Practice site reading by continually looking at the word two or three words ahead of what you are saying. This creates more flow. Write the words from an ad on TV, practice reading it out aloud. Time yourself. Now practice doing it 2 seconds faster, then another two seconds. Then two seconds slower. See if you can work out what you are doing to make that happen.
There’s a free video series that can help get you started if you’re interested. It’s at FreeVoiceoverCourse.com
Yes this is a real job. It’s fun and exciting and pays very well. But you gotta have skills to play. Go out there and get them.