Sometimes you realize from the start of a project that you need to hire a professional voiceover  actor. But other times, the voiceover is an after thought and much of the budget for a project is almost gone. Then the production team realizes that they need a voiceover talent. They scramble to find someone who is willing to work within their meager budget. They may have very advanced technology, spent a ton on instructional design or graphics, but now this very essential element is overlooked! Let me flesh out why it is better to go back to your client and re-budget for voiceover than to look for a cheap voiceover actor. You will never be happy if you hire a low budget talent!

1.You want pristine audio quality and a cheap voiceover talent will not deliver that.

Why? Anyone who has invested thousands of dollars in their studio is someone who cares about quality. They understand that the quality of their equipment impacts the quality of the finished audio they produce and consequently would never settle for sub-standard rates. When I decided to work in voiceover full time, I had a custom studio built. I paid my contractor to coordinate with not one but with two audio engineers: George Whittam and Roy Yokelson. This way, the sound in my booth was designed from the start to be outstanding.

Over the years that I have been in business, I have made countless equipment upgrades. I now use a Neumann TLM 103 and an Avalon M5. I am confident that the combination of this microphone and this preamp give my clients pristine audio on every single job that I record. As some of my radio clients like the audio sent RAW, my sound quality is outstanding with these devices. Having made this investment in my business, I would never lower my standards by working with folks who under pay. I am so proud of the audio that I deliver, and as they are receiving audio completed in a broadcast-ready studio, the rates I charge reflect that.

2. You want a well-trained professional voiceover actor, and a well-trained talent will never accept cheap of low rates.

I always wonder if our clients think about this, but it takes a lot of training to go into voiceover successfully and most of us continue training and ongoing professional development. Top coaches start at $150 per hour and charge upwards from there. Imagine that for each demo we likely had upwards of 20 hours of coaching, and think about how many demos we all have on our websites! Those conversational, authentic, relatable reads that sound so natural? Well, believe it or not, we did not just wake up knowing how to do that!  And just like our equipment, after investing so much in coaching, our voiceover rates reflect the level of training we have had.

3.  You hire talents based on excellent demos, so why would someone spend thousands on their demo and then settle for cheap rates?

Our demos are our calling cards. There are trends in demos to be sure. For example, right now our first spot is supposed to be short. We are trying to show a change in emotion. Regardless of genre, the demos show case a variety of reads. This is true across the board. In voiceover, different demo producers are sought after depending on the genre. They typically charge well over $1800 per demo. Again, in order to thrive in voiceover, we all have multiple demos. So, if we are willing to invest that much money in ourselves, we need to book jobs that will enable us to build a sustainable income. We are not looking for a race to the bottom.

4. You want to work with a team player who maintains industry standards, and a cheap voiceover actor undermines the entire system.

Voiceover actors typically work alone, all day, in padded foam booths at home. Most of us are super friendly folks who are eager to be a part of your team! We are looking to build long term relationships and work with you over and over again:) But guess what, we are also part of another team: the voiceover community! And the voiceover world is pretty close knit and supportive! We are in constant contact through social media and we talk about rates all the time. We help each other sort out tricky situations and we share rate guides. Just as you want to hire team players in your office, you want someone with that mentality as your voiceover talent too! You would never want to work with someone who is willing to throw their industry friends under the bus for a quick $50, right? Wouldn’t that make you suspicious? Instead you want the talent who shares the professional rate guide and explains what their standard rates are based on.

Best of luck to you in your voiceover endeavors!

You get an audition and you think wow, I would be perfect, just perfect for this project! You spend time analyzing the role and marking up the script. You record your best take and edit it beautifully. Then you send it off, hoping that the voiceover gods shine down on you and today is your day, your turn to announce the booking. Unfortunately, no matter how much time you spend on putting your best self out there, very little time will likely be spent listening to your voiceover submission. Whether it’s a commercial, a narration, or a video game audition, when a casting agent or a video production team is listening to your read, you only have a few seconds- sometimes three and sometimes 8 to catch their attention. If they like what they hear they keep listening, and if they don’t it’s on to the next one in the pile. As a professional voiceover actor, it is so important to use the audition to catch their attention at the beginning of the read.

The Professional Demo

I often get complimented on my demos, and people say things like, “Wow, did you put that together yourself?” I try not to gasp in horror before I respond that no, my professional commercial demo is my calling card and a professional voiceover actor should NEVER produce their own demo. As we only have precious seconds to seal the deal, we need to make that initial investment so that our best work is heard. Now, when the time comes, we need to be able to perform just as we did on every single demo or we will crash and burn very quickly, but that demo should represent where our ability is at the moment we submit. So if that is what a casting agent or production team has to go by, then they should be confident in their choice based on our demo.

Making the Audition Stand Out

Even though I have talent agents all over the country, the majority of my daily auditions come from pay to play sites. While  try to submit in the first 10 or so auditions and have a very solid booking ration, sometimes upwards of 70 people submit for the same job. So, how do you make your read standout? How do you get on the short list and even get noticed? Self direction is really important. When I analyze a script I have to make a choice about the character I am playing, and whether it is a voiceover for a phone message or an eLearning module, I am someone and the person choosing the talent better identify with that character right away.

I think understanding music and notes also helps a bit. Sometimes I listen back and I hear that I started too high or too low. I can hear when the pace needs to be varied and when it is just right. I think the ability to self-access is extremely important in this scenario.

Make Them Want to Keep Listening

If you had to listen to the same script read 80 times, how would you feel? Give them something juicy, interesting, different, enjoyable. Something that makes them stop and say wow, this is awesome. I have friends who are such successful voiceover talents that they have crossed over into casting. They have shared that while they thought the would always listen all the way through, they confess that if the first 5 seconds are bad they are on to the next read. So that’s it, that’s really what you get.

And it Always Comes Back To The Booth…

In the end, you are only as good as you sounds. As most of our jobs are recorded from home, having pristine audio quality is paramount and if you deliver a brilliant read and your studio is clearly not broadcast ready then you will go nowhere. Imagine. these people are not just listening to your audition for your booking. They are looking for voiceovers all day long every day. They know the difference. You need good equipment. A USB mic will never sound like a Neumann TLM 103. It just won’t.

We ALL Keep Training

When our careers hang on split second decisions, this is why ongoing professional development and coaching is so crucial. The best in the business, folks making multiple 6 figures, continue going to conferences and having private coaches for a reason. We need to stand out. Our auditions are the job. They are everything. And if we cannot hear honest assessments of their strengths and weaknesses and then work on improving them, then we have no where to go and become stagnant. The hope for voiceover talent lies in the potential for development. We are never finished and are always evolving and that is why even in 5 seconds we can shine!

Where it all Started

It seems like just yesterday I was in the front seat of my mom’s horrible brown station wagon belting it out to Gloria. I loved music and I grew up in the days when little kids could sit in the front seat which made it all the more convenient to change the radio station.  Long before the days of creating playlists, and even before the days of mix tapes, I got to play DJ in the car and boy did I love it. When I was in nursery school I sent my mom to by my first record, My Sharona. She couldn’t actually understand what I was saying and the guy at the record store was able to figure it out. I think that is how my road to radio imaging began, with a love of radio and music that is true and pure. Now, I do radio imaging work as a full time professional voiceover actor because I can bring all of my passion and enthusiasm to each read for the stations that I work with!

The Draw of Imaging

When I first started in voiceover, I began booking a lot of commercial work. I had a lot of passion and I had to learn how to harness the passion. I was brainstorming about my voiceover business and wanted to think about what else was under the commercial umbrella, and that is how I learned about Radio Imaging in the first place, as it is not really a term that non-industry folks even understand. When I discovered the world of radio imaging, it was as if all the stars had aligned, because I found the right format to channel all of my energy! When I started doing reads for top 40 stations, I felt at home. I don’t know how else to explain it. Perhaps it’s because I loved the music, so being able to talk about it in liners and station promos was really exciting. Learning the lingo, from CHR to Classic Hits took a while, but I figured that out as I was doing sweepers for stations all over, from Little Rock to Osh Kosh.

The Allure of the Formats

When I was little my dad used to joke that he married my mom for her record collection. My parents both grew up in the city in Philadelphia. They came from hard-working families and they did not have a lot of material possessions, and what they had did not come easily. My mom talked a lot about how she would use a portion of her babysitting money to save for record albums. Growing up we always played music and danced a lot at home. Even when things were tight we had a stereo and there was always something good on. I remember on the weekends when we would clean the house my dad always played different records, from Broadway shows to Michael Jackson to Abba, so growing up like that, how could I not love music? Motown, all Motown, was played often in the Levin household. The music just becomes a part of who you are when you hear it all the time. I think that is why I am open to working on so many different formats in imaging today, because my parents exposed us with such enthusiasm to so much when we were young.

When I first started booking in imaging, I fell into the typical CHR part girl read. My voice is warm and fun and I love sounding upbeat and happy, that’s who I am innately so it’s easy to bring the thunder and make the liners jump off the page. I also discovered Christian CHR, and working with religious stations brings another element of joy to my work. Their messages are always happy and filled with excitement. I believe the world needs more positivity and optimism, so I get a lot out of the sweepers and promos that I do for the Christian stations I work with. I have done faith based projects in other realms in voiceover, and I find all of these projects to be inherently upbeat and that is really good for me.

I love, love, love doing Classic Hits! Since I grew up listening to 80s music, it really resonates with me! I also love having fun with the sarcasm and humor of the Adults Hits channels. In my family my husband is the one with the dry, whitty humor, but on air I can assume that role and it is fun for me to engage with the scripts and move away from the rah rah party girl.  Just this week I also got to do a set of liners for an Oldies station for the first time! Since that is the music my folks always played growing up, it was not just happy work, but particularly meaningful to me too.

Feeling at Home

I think that life is short and you have to do what you love. I have always loved music, and I have a true passion for voiceover. Working in Radio Imaging feels so natural because so much of who I am inside can just flow when I am in front of the mic. I am so thankful for each and every station that I work with!