Help, Voice Over Needed!

So, a voice over is needed, huh? You’ve heard and read the hype – audio is slowly taking over the world. Advertising, content production, audiobooks, television or radio – you name it, it’s there. Audio has a finger in all the pies and you want in on the action. You’ve developed a concept, written the book, planned the visuals, developed a script. But there’s one key ingredient missing – you’re still needing a voice over!

Do you do it yourself or hire a professional? Do you source voice over talent through an online platform? Or is a ‘bricks and mortar’ set-up the way to go? Whatever your situation, aspirations and constraints, there is likely to be a solution for you.

In the following article, we’ll take a look at what voice overs are and when you might need one. We’ll explore the factors you should consider when searching for a voice over solution. These include cost, creative control, ease of use and turnaround. And finally, we’ll stack a few of the big voice over players against one another to see how they compare.

What are voice overs?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a voice over is “A piece of narration in a movie or broadcast, not accompanied by an image of the speaker.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “on a television programme, film, or advertisement, the spoken words of a person that you cannot see”, while the Merriam-Webster lists voice over as “1a : the voice of an unseen narrator speaking (as in a motion picture or television commercial) b: the voice of a visible character (as in a motion picture) expressing unspoken thoughts 2: a recording of a voice-over”.

In short, a voice over is spoken word when you can’t see the speaker. It may accompany an image, moving or still, such as in television and video clips. It also may be standalone – voice only – such as in radio, podcasts and audiobooks.

Voice overs can often be confused with dubbing. This is when a voice is paired with visual images of somebody speaking (think dubbed films). For more information on dubbing, see this article here. It’s also different to sound effects, which is when sounds are used to complement the visual or audio production. Voice may be used for sound effects, but voice overs are spoken language and sound effects are simply sounds.

So when are voice overs needed?

The most common situations when a voice over might be required are:

  • during television or audio (including radio) advertisement production
  • production of video clips
  • course and workshop content or tutorials
  • audiobook recording
  • video game narration
  • podcast entertainment (think the radio serials of old)

Each of these formats has slightly different requirements. It’s important to keep in mind what you are specifically needing a voice over for when searching for your solution. You can find out more here.

What do I consider when I need a voice over solution?

So, you’ve got a firm idea in your mind what you are needing a voice over for. Now, let’s get stuck into the factors you should consider when sourcing your solution. Listed in no particular order, their level of importance is likely to vary with each person and situation.

Let’s begin.

Voice over needed – Cost

The first horse out of the gate is cost – how much is a voice over going to cost you? Well, how long is a piece of string! Each country has their own professional guidelines for rates. The rate can also vary depending on the type of voice over required. Add to this the growing number of online platforms that offer freelance voice over services, and the price range you’re looking at is extremely broad.

Standardized voice over rates

Most standardized guidelines on rates for voice overs actors suggest a rate based on:

  • the time of recording
  • the calendar broadcasting duration of the recording
  • the platform to be broadcast on
  • the breadth of distribution

For example, a fifteen-second ad that plays for three months on national television might cost around $500-$1500USD. For the same scenario but for radio instead of television, the rate would be lower – around $300-$600USD. And for mobile advertising that has no set broadcasting target, the rate varies again to around $350-$1250USD. You can learn more about standardized rates for Canada, the US & UK, Colombia and Mexico here, and Australia here.

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Online platform and freelance voice over rates

Enter the online platform and freelance world, and the rates you might expect to pay change again. In this sector, rates can be based on a:

  • words per script scenario
  • duration of final recording scenario
  • recording hours scenario
  • flat rate for the project as a whole

For example, at voicebunny.com, prices are based on the word length of the script and the voice actor you end up selecting (the actor can set their own rates). You can pay anywhere in the range of $60-$900 for the recording of a 75-word script. Self-advertising freelancers charge anywhere from $30 – $100 per hour. For more information about the cost of voice over services, see our article here.

DIY rates

You may decide that outsourcing is not the way to go for your voice over needs. These days, it’s easier than ever to set-up your own audio recording system. Our article here outlines the essentials you need to do it yourself. With set-up costs in the $100-$1000 range, this may be an affordable option for you, particularly if you are planning on broadcasting via online systems, or your recording frequency will be high.

Voice over needed – Creative Control

As with cost, the level of creative control you have over your recording can vary significantly. Whether you need a high level of control in your voice over or not, there are options for you.

Some agencies offer the full service – you give them the brief and they develop the script, record the voice over, and take care of distribution. There may be varying degrees of communication between the service provider and yourself, but generally, it’s up to them. This is what you can expect from a traditional “bricks and mortar” type agency. It would best suit you if you’re happy to hand over creative control to advertising and/or voice recording experts. They get on with their business while you get on with yours!

If you’d rather have a bit more of a hands-on approach to your project, working with a freelancer or online platform may be your best bet. Most services allow you to select the parameters you’re after (e.g. male, Australian, under 30 years). You can select a voice talent from the filtered results. You’re more likely to get a say in the final product when working directly with a freelancer rather than through a platform service. If it’s a professional but customized product you’re after, the freelance and platform option might be a good choice.

Obviously, the do-it-yourself voice over scenario affords the greatest level of creative control. You have the final say in all aspects of the project from script development, to voice over recording to distribution. However, it can be a time-consuming process, especially if you’re new to the technology and equipment. And while you may feel your final recording is a high standard, it’s always useful to get a second opinion from a fresh listener.

Voice over needed – Ease-of-Use

Different agencies, platforms, freelancers and even equipment (if you’re considering the do-it-yourself option) will be easier to engage with than others. Again, it depends on what you are needing your voice over for as to which pathway may be most suitable.

Advertising

For advertising voice overs, an advertising agency, distribution network (e.g. radio station) or online platform are likely the most suitable option. After supplying initial information, such as:

  • a brief
  • script (if they’re not developing this)
  • demographic target information
  • guidelines around the theme/feel you are wanting to achieve

you can request and forget until the final product is ready for review. If you are happy to source your own distribution formats, online platforms may be the best choice. If you want this taken care of too, stick with the agencies and networks.

Long-form recordings

If you’re after long-form audio narration, a freelancer who specializes in this type of voice over or an online platform may be the best options to consider. Long-form voice overs are needed when recording audiobooks, presentations and some podcats. Choosing the right freelancer can be a time-consuming process, but you’re likely to get a highly customized final product.

Alternatively, the parameters you can set with online platforms can save on search time.  However, it can be harder to liaise directly with the voice over artist in these instances. If you do want to exercise more creative control, this becomes difficult. DIY recording of your own long-form audio narration is possible too. But consider this a warning – long-form narration is a strenuous and fatiguing exercise so make sure you research best practice tips before you begin.

Short-form recordings

For those who are wanting short-form audio recordings, using a freelancer, online platform or doing it yourself would all be suitable. Short-form recordings include for online tutorials, podcasts, video clips, online advertising and video game audio. The ease of use for freelancers and online platforms would be similar to needing a voice over for long-form as described above. If you are doing it yourself, becoming familiar with the technology and equipment you require is likely to be your biggest hurdle. The pay-off for this is a unique, cost-effective solution that is probably worth it.

Voice over needed – Turnaround

Knowing what kind of timeframe you’ll get your voice over recording in once you get the ball rolling is an important factor to consider. The size of your project will often dictate what the minimum turnaround times will be (e.g. an audiobook recording is likely to have a longer turnaround than a fifteen-second ad with the script already complete). Here are some general rules of thumb anyway.

Agencies & Freelancers

If you hire an advertising agency to take care of all creative processes, you will have to fall in with whatever their current workload is. The turnaround may be as little as one day, or as long as a few weeks to months depending on the size of the project and what you are requiring on top of the voice over alone.

The best way to find out if they could produce your voice over by when it’s needed would be to contact a number of agencies directly. Ask them for their turnaround times for a project of your size, and you can also find out their costing structure at the same time. This goes for accessing a freelancer as well, although many do list this on their websites or ads.

Online Platforms

For online platforms, you are able to select the turnaround time required within the parameters. This can be as little as a few hours to a few weeks. Remember that quick turnaround does not always equate with a quality final product, especially if there is editing, merging of files, etc. to be included.

Do-it-yourself

If considering doing a voice over recording yourself, and you’re not already set-up ready to go, you will likely have a drawn-out turnaround time. You will need to source and set-up what you require before you can start recording.

Once established, the turnaround you bring to your own recording will likely depend on personal factors. These include motivation, need for quality and familiarity with the technology and equipment. If you’re a whizz with the equipment and technology and are able to nail your first recording, your turnaround could be minutes. The turnaround could be much longer if you’re technologically challenged or require multiple recordings and edits to produce a suitable finished product.

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In a Nutshell

So there you have it – a crash course in what a voice over is, when voice overs are needed and things to consider when sourcing your solution. Clear as mud? Let’s recap!

Voice overs are any audio recording of speech in which the speaker is not visible. They can be used for creating television, radio and internet ads, the recording of audiobooks, online tutorials, and video games to name a few. The four ways you can access a voice over recording are through:

  • advertising agencies and distribution networks
  • freelance voice actors
  • online voice over platforms
  • doing it yourself

Agencies & Networks

Advertising agencies and distribution networks will cost somewhere in the range of standard rates for your country. They often include a set broadcasting calendar. They can take care of the creative project from beginning to end but may limit your creative input. Their turnaround is agency and project dependent, and you’ll need to find this out from individual agencies and networks (hey, it’s only a phone call or email!).

Freelancers

Freelance voice over actors will charge whatever they feel is suitable for the service they provide, and this can vary greatly. A higher price doesn’t always mean high quality nor does a lower price mean the final product will be inferior. Stick to your budget and read testimonials, but you’ll generally get a highly customized final product with this option. The turnaround will be specified before any project is agreed to, and could be negotiable for a price.

Online Platforms

Online voice over platforms can also vary greatly in price, so once again, stick to your budget. Most platforms are straightforward and easy to navigate, and you can exercise a higher degree of creative control by being specific with your brief. Using parameters makes finding the right fit a breeze, and turnaround times can be quite fast.

Flying Solo

Recording your own voice over is a great investment if you have a need for frequent voice over recordings in the long term. After the initial outlay for the required equipment and technology, ongoing costs are minimal. There is complete creative control but there may be shortfalls in the professionalism of the final product. This is particularly the case while learning the ropes. You and your script length determine the turnaround – you can decide if that’s a positive or negative factor!

Voice Over Needed: The Solution

There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to needing a voice over. Hopefully, this information has helped you work out which direction to take when sourcing your voice over. You’ll be better able to determine if your solution of choice is the best fit for you as you begin the process. And if it’s not, well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat!

Ten articles before and after

Voice Over Equipment: The Essentials to Start Your Studio

Voice Over Practice – Script Work and More for Choosing the Best Actor

Voice Acting Career – What Does It Really Take?

Who is a Voice Director, and Do You Need One?

How to Learn an Accent…and Sound Authentic

Voice Acting in Video: Tips for How to Succeed in the Industry