If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
– Red Adair
This week I happened on a website for eLearning producers where a new member was seeking advice on hiring voice over talent. Responses were all over the lot, but some of the more cringe-worthy recommendations went something like this:
“We just go to the local station and hire a radio guy. They’re cheaper than voice actors.”
“I bought a bargain microphone and just voice my own eLearning. I thing I’m just as good as the pros and I’m saving a ton of money.”
My personal favorite: “We hire from Fivver. Some of those guys will work for $20 bucks and they sound fine.”
Farther down, there was a post wherein the writer stated that she had wasted significant time and money hiring cheap. Turned out, the whole project had to be re-recorded. “The second time we hired a professional voice actor,” she stated. “It made all the difference in the world.”
You know that old saw – you get what you pay for. It boggles the mind that a company selling a product that happens to be all about learning by listening, would want to cut corners on the voice part of the equation. In eLearning, it is rather vital that the voice professional engage then hold the listener’s attention – usually for long stretches of time.
You see the same thing with audio books; the Author who is completely convinced that he or she can narrate his or her own book just as well – or even better – than a professional narrator.
Then you listen, and it is just a total failure as an audio book. With audio books, it is rather vital that … yeah, engage then hold the listener’s attention – usually for long stretches of time.
There are exceptions, of course. Some writers also happen to be actors, or naturally gifted readers. Michelle Obama garners raves reviews and an Audie Earphones Award for the narration of her book, Becoming. Great pacing, rich vocal timbre, etc. She is clearly one of those rare exceptions. Honestly, though, would we really want to hear anyone except Michelle narrate her book? https://www.booksontape.com/michelle-obama-audiobook-becoming
I know my limitations. There are things I cannot do, such as build shelves in my garage, or hang a screen door. I hire pros because I want the job done right. I also don’t want to lose any fingers using power tools. I hired a painter for my “Haint” blue bead board porch ceiling. I’m a very good painter, but in this case I didn’t want the sore neck, paint all over myself, etc. that would have come with the job. More importantly, it would have taken me three times as long as the pro I paid; which makes it a pricey endeavor since it would be taking me away from my money making work.
A professional is a professional for a reason. Voice actors train to acquire the skills necessary to perform their craft. Many hold university degrees in theater, literature, and communications. Voice actors are learn complex recording software and digital audio editing programs to create phenomenal listening experiences.
Voice actors practice silly tongue twisters to limber up their tongues. Voice actors maintain certain diets and drink exotic teas for optimal vocal output while recording. Voice actors take classes and spend money traveling to seminars and conventions. Voice actors stay disciplined by acting in plays, reading to the blind, and at nursing homes. Physically, Voice actors train much as an athlete does. We try to pursue daily exercises to build and maintain strong throats and diaphragms for maximal breath control.
We do all of this so that we can stand for long hours in cramped spaces talking into a microphone and make it interesting. Voice actors have the tools it takes to get the job done.
I performed recently in a live radio drama. As I drove the twenty minutes to the studio, I practiced vocal warm ups despite the weird looks from other drivers. Over the course of the two hours before the gig, I consumed roughly a gallon of water, eschewing food to prevent random belly noise.
I walked into the studio prepared with prepped script, pencil, and lip balm. I gave my director two accent options for my character. I was thrilled to find that my co-actor was also an experienced voice actor. Together we were able to rehearse creatively, mining the play for the highs and lows – those vital interactions and moments we needed to create a compelling listening experience.
At 9:00 pm, we went on the air. It was pure exhilaration. Twenty minutes. Live. No mistakes. We’re professional Voice Actors. It’s what we do.
I’m resilient, and I’m professional.
– Julie Andrews
Find out what a Professional Voice Actor can bring to your project!