One thing that strikes me, is how often when I tell people what I do for a living “I work as a professional voiceover”, I am faced with a blank stare and an ‘oh right…so what does that actually mean then?’ It strikes me because most people hear the work of voiceover artists nearly every day and yet many don’t realise that voicing for a living is even a thing.
People seem far more able to grasp how a tree surgeon spends his or her day even though most people will never have daily exposure with the work of a tree surgeon.
So I have decided to dedicate this latest blog to de-mystifying just how us voiceovers spend our days and what it is we ACTUALLY do for a living.
voiceover is everywhere!
Think about a typical day. You might switch the radio on first thing to hear the news. If it is a commercial radio station, you will hear adverts. While commuting to work, you will hear automated announcements on your tube, bus or train. If driving, your Satnav may be telling you to ‘make a u-turn’.
Once at work, you take a lift to your floor, while in that lift, you hear a voice telling you which floor you are on. At your desk, you may need to call a supplier on the phone, before you get through to them, you might have to listen and respond to an automated list of options. In the afternoon, your employer asks you to watch a training video about new technologies emerging within your industry. In your break, you get around to watching that short YouTube video about the tracker mortgage you’re interested in. Once home, you stick on a cartoon while you make the kids dinner. The list goes on.
All the above will have been voiced by professional voiceover artists either from their home studio (currently up to 60% of voiceovers are now voiced this way), or from a professional studio they have been sent to either by their agent or by existing clients they have worked hard to build a relationship with, often over many years.
A typical day
On a typical day, I log into my computer somewhere between 7am and 8am usually after sorting the cats and dragging myself out for a short jog. Having international clients means that 9-5 is a bit of an alien concept for me. This is both good and bad. Good in that it makes my working hours pretty flexible, and bad in that it makes my working hours pretty flexible!!!
I have to accept that my emails never stop, because it is always working hours somewhere. I was actually asked on Boxing day if I could voice a message for an answer phone system and deliver within 5 hours. After politely explaining it was Boxing day and that I was away, we agreed I could have it with them a couple of days later.
Anyway, I digress. The first jobs of the day will be answering any enquiries that have come in overnight. Usually requests for quotes. So essentially someone will send me a script or description of a script they need voicing along with a word count and notes on vocal tone / direction. Sometimes I will need to get more info off them; perhaps they’ve left off crucial information I need in order to offer a fair quote, like where my voice will be going or what the word count is, so I will need to email back and ask for clarification.
Warming up and putting my teeth in
After dealing with enquiries, I’ll switch on my mic to get it warmed up. I will warm my voice up too with some vocal exercises. Then I have a look at my first job of the day. I may notice something on a script I’m due to start work on that looks like a mistake, or there may be a word that has multiple possible pronunciations and the client hasn’t left me with relevant instructions so I’ll need to contact them. While waiting for them to get back to me, I may start with another job. It might be a short radio ad, a corporate script for a client perhaps for a medical instructional video explaining to health professionals how to insert a tricky piece of kit into the bladder (oh, the glamour!), or it might be voice for an animated video that will be shown to supermarket employees about how to make customers feel special.
Medical and technical scripts often require a lot of prep time. It is often necessary to research the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word before then practicing it multiple times so that it will roll off my tongue and fit seamlessly into the surrounding dialogue once I am ‘in the booth’. A recent word I was faced with on a medical script was ‘Hexaminolevulinate’. Try saying that without your teeth in!
Instead of self-directing from my own studio, often I will need to go out to a studio usually in Soho London to record a job or I will have a client dial into my studio via Skype for example so that they can live direct me either through the whole session, or until they are happy with how it is going.
In between work, I will work on auditions that my agent or current or new clients have asked for. These nearly always need to be sent in ‘urgently’. The world of voiceover moves very fast.
If you have read an earlier blog on mine ‘five ways to make the most of quiet times’, you will know that quite often I like to pre-prepare meals so that I only need to take half an hour for lunch on busy days. While eating, I might listen to a podcast, glance through another script or watch a You Tube link I have been sent by a client. If I know I won’t be recording immediately after lunch, I’ll reward myself with a strong cup of tea. Dairy generally isn’t good for vocal quality and can plague your recordings with unwanted mouth noise that is tricky and time consuming to remove and so needs to be avoided while recording.
Being self employed means that on the quiet days, I am also spending my time marketing my business, chasing payments from late paying clients, writing up invoices, practicing accents, reaching out to clients so they know I am around, keeping my technical skills up to date (these voiceovers don’t edit themselves!), and pretty much doing all the jobs that need doing when you work as a freelancer.
As you can see, the life of a voiceover is varied. No two days are ever the same, my weekends aren’t my own and I sometimes get woken up by emails at 4am. And OK, although I’ll admit that I do sometimes, just sometimes, wish it wasn’t so 24/7. I think in a strange way, I probably wouldn’t want it any other way!