Hiring voice talent: I can’t help you if you don’t help me

You’re hungry. It’s almost 1pm, and you realize you haven’t had lunch yet. So you walk into a local sandwich shop where you’ve heard they have great food, and say,

ID-100204903 (sandwich)“I’d like a sandwich on bread.”

The guy at the counter looks at you questioningly and asks, “Umm…what type of sandwich?”

You reply, “Well, I’m not really sure – why don’t you give me a bunch of different ones and I’ll let you know which one I like.”

Preposterous? Ridiculous? Unrealistic? Perhaps…but in the world of voiceovers, this sort of thing happens all the time.

Knowing what you need

I see a lot of auditions every week, and one thing that strikes me is how often the people seeking voice talent do not know what they are looking for. (Or if they do, they keep it a secret) Many times the auditions look something like this:

“Looking for a male voice for corporate narration.”

Is that a young male voice? Middle-aged? Upbeat? Conversational? Urban-cool or mature-professional?

Now, I’m not going to try to audition for something that is not at all suited to my voice or delivery – like pretending I have a growling, textured voice instead of my smooth baritone – but I can provide a number of different style reads, depending on what a potential client prefers. You want serious? Happy? Energetic? I can do that. You want an emphatic whisper or a jovial next-door neighbor? I can do that, too.

I can’t do “husky,” “hip,” “or “urban.” I’m not opposed to those types of deliveries – I simply can’t do them. So knowing what you’re looking for helps me determine if I should audition for you. There’s no sense in me wasting time recording a sample script if I don’t have the voice you want. And there’s no point in wasting your time making you listen to something that isn’t at all what you need.

Speaking of wasting time…

Another common request from voice seekers is to provide several different takes…which is fine, as I normally provide at least 2, sometimes 3 takes of the same script when I audition (depending on how long the script is).

"What if?"But when I see a request to provide multiple takes in different styles because the seeker isn’t quite sure what he or she wants…that indicates to a voice artist that the person they may end up working with is probably going to be very difficult to please.

If you don’t know what you like before you get my audio, how do I know you’re going to like my audio when you get it?

It comes down to having at least a general idea of what you need, and understanding the ramifications and parameters of that need. I once received an audition for a pre-colonial southern American soldier, and the directions stated to include a southern accent, if we could. I didn’t. I read the script with a British accent and explained that our common American accents hadn’t developed at that point in history. Before the Revolutionary War, we were all still British citizens. with the Queen’s English fully intact.

Fortunately, the seeker agreed and I got the part!

Help me to help you

I’m more than happy to provide assistance like that.

I’m more than happy to inform a voice seeker that there is a grammar error or syntax error that should be corrected, if I feel it’s appropriate to do so.

I’ve even partially improvised a few auditions when requested to do so.

However, I skip over auditions that expect me to actually write the script when that’s not part of the project. Seriously – I’ve seen auditions for radio liners, DJ drops, and even games that ask me to make up “funny” lines and be creative with it. Keep in mind, this is for the audition, not the gig itself. I’m sorry, but having to write my own audition script is pure laziness on the part of the voice seeker. I’ve written plenty of scripts in my life and it is one of the services I offer – but I’m not doing it for free.

Ham & cheese or pastrami on rye?

You wouldn’t walk into a deli and ask for some meat on bread. But that’s what you’re doing when you ask for a “male voice” with no other information.

Do you want smoked turkey or oven-roasted? Swiss cheese, American, or cheddar? Whole wheat, white, or sourdough bread? There are as many variations to your sandwich as there are voices. I can provide some of those variations; I can’t provide all of them. Perhaps you’ll like what I do; perhaps you’ll prefer someone else.

Either way, the next time you need a voice, stop and consider what type of voice you think will work best. You’ll save yourself time – and money, too – by narrowing your search.

As for sandwiches…I’d suggest the Reuben.

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4 thoughts on “Hiring voice talent: I can’t help you if you don’t help me

    1. Exactly! And I can appreciate not being sure of which style voice one wants – but knowing whether it’s young or old or energetic or conversational should be a given. Thanks for stopping by, Paul.

      Like

  1. DebbieGrattanVoiceovers

    And I love the email that comes asking for a quote on a project, with no script, no word count, no indication of market or usage.”What do you charge for a narration/ IVR system, :60 spot” (fill in the blank)? So then we have to play 20 questions. Yes, it makes it so much easier when someone actually tells you exactly what they need, and sometimes even what they have budgeted. Great article, Matt.

    Like

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