Doing a Voiceover for a 30 Second or 60 Second Commercial- What’s really involved?

So you must be thinking, “Wow- money for 30 seconds of work, sweet gig.” Well- if only it were that simple. It is a sweet gig because because most of us friendly folks in voiceover would never spend all of our waking hours in a padded foam booth alone if we didn’t LOVE what we do, so in that sense the work is great. And it’s great in another sense- most voiceover talents are happy about every job we book. Whether we are newbies just starting out or well-established professionals, every booking is something we are proud of, so in that sense every 30 second spot is something to celebrate. But does a 30 second commercial- whether for tv, radio, or the web- or a 60 second spot- actually take that long to do? Heavens no!

When a booking comes in, there are specs from our client telling us when they needed it back and what kind of sound they are looking for. We also learn the usage- will there be visuals side by side enhancing the audio or will it just be our voice on the radio? It makes a difference. Whether the client needs it back in 3 hours or in 24 hours, we have to break down the script. We mark it up and begin to digest what it’s really about. A script that comes to me about a cleaning supply item sold at Target is not likely about the detergent, right? It’s more likely about the needs of the young mom or her busy life or the solution that this product will provide. Once we have connected with the copy, there is a business side to our work. Every talent handles this differently. I invoice every job so that means as soon as I submit a finished recording I immediately follow up my email with an invoice. Some talents do it once a week. But we have to keep track of our own billing and accounts receivable and that is a time consuming piece of the puzzle.

Then we move on to the recording. Depending on what kind of production the client wants, you can record on different software. If they do not need music or sound effects added, I keep it simple and prefer to use a program called TwistedWav which was created specifically for voiceover recording on Macs. Typically for a commercial I give my client 3 takes, a version A, B, and C. I try to vary these by tone, pace, and word emphasis. When I am ready to record I set up my named files and am ready to go with my marked script. Depending on how comfortable I am, it can take anywhere from 10-40 minutes to complete this. Some clients then want the recordings sent raw, some want them fully edited, and I am happy to provide both if that is their preference.

There is an exception to this process and that is when clients ask for a guided session. A guided session allows the client to feel as if they are there in the booth with me when in fact I only hear them in my headphones! I can record and the mic will not pickup the client’s voice as they give feedback live and in the moment. While there is a minimum fee for such sessions, the client is guaranteed to have all the takes they need and the guided session is considered final delivery with no revisions or retakes included in the price.

After I record I typically send a follow-up email summary describing the work that I sent them and letting the client know that I am there if they need anything more for the job. I also let them know to look out for the invoice.

That is what the process looks like, even for what is perceived by an outsider to be a “quick” job! There are a lot of little steps that go into giving the client exactly what they need, and I do each one of them with a big smile! I am sure that there are some people in my industry who are faster and some people who are slower, but I always try to do my best, and I have never been able to do my best at anything- my nails, my schoolwork, my laundry, my hair- when I rush. My goal is that every client is a repeat client and so I treat every job as if it is the most important job I have!