What happened when I tried hiring a voiceover online

Ordering a voiceover online Knowing your competition is important in any business. As an in-studio voiceover, online voiceovers are my main competition.  (There are, of course, other English voiceovers in Copenhagen, but we’re a relatively small group, and most of the others have British accents.)  But it’s no secret that it’s quick and easy to hire a voiceover online.

And it can be inexpensive.  I’ve seen online voiceovers on sale for $5, or DK30.  At that price, anyone can afford them – even me.  I thought it would be interesting to experience what it was like to order an online voiceover, and that maybe it would give me some insight as to how I could provide higher-quality service to my in-studio, in-person customers.

Burtman

Burtman

My first hire was Burtman, a friendly-looking guy who spoke English with an Afro-Carribbean accent. In his online profile, he said he had worked as a news reporter, photographer, TV presenter, radio news presenter/anchor, programme director, news editor, a magazine editor and in advertising and public relations.  I wrote a brief script for Burtman advertising my own business, as my own clients hire me to do.

This was the script:

Hello. I’m a voiceover Kay booked on the Internet. Booking voices online can be inexpensive, but you don’t get the face-to-face sparring partner that can come to your studio in Copenhagen. Kay will work with you to improve your English text and get the tone and pace that you want. Og Kay taler flydende dansk. Book Kay at 26 83 64 88, or at k-a-y-x at americanvoice-dot-dee-koh .

Burtman sent back a voiceover in about three days.  It had a kind of buzzing sound in the background that made me suspect he’d recorded it on an iPhone. He did have a very nice voice.  He didn’t read my script at the pace I would have chosen, or emphasize what I would have emphasized, but I couldn’t argue that he hadn’t read the script I had given him.

It was kind of like putting a coin into a vending machine: there was no interaction, no feedback, until the finished product was dispensed. I certainly got what I had paid for, but it was slightly dry and tasteless.

I thought it might be more fair for me to experience hiring another American female voiceover similar to myself. There were plenty available online, and I scrolled through their profiles.  One had purple hair.  Another promised “near-perfect, non-dialectical pronunciation”.  I wondered if she could pronounce “non-dialectical.”

I took some time to listen to a variety of my online competitors’ sound samples.  A few were very nice, if a little unpracticed.  One lady was audibly drunk.  One spoke in a squeaky tone that could scrape the paint off of metal, making her choice of a voiceover career questionable.

Anyway, It ended up taking me the better part of an hour, another downside to online voiceovers: amid the many serious professionals lie plenty of amateurs, so a fair amount of sorting is required, a bit like a garage sale.

I was tiring of my project, so I did what male casting agents have done for decades: I just chose the prettiest girl.  That was Jennifer.

Monique

Jennifer

Jennifer read my ad in a crisp, clear voice, with a pleasant Southern accent. With one difference: Southern U.S. accents are usually slow, relaxed and lilting, but Jennifer spoke at an incredibly quick pace, as if she were rushing to get a bus. Or, given the amount I was paying her, perhaps she was just rushing to get to the next voiceover so she could make a decent living.

At any rate, the voiceover was not useable, and Jennifer did not really seem like a pro.  For my final choice, I went with a voiceover who could at least offer a professional education in performance: Jeremy has a Master in Fine Arts in musical theater, making it clear he knew how to stand on a stage and belt out lines in “Phantom of the Opera” or “Grease” or other great classics. I figured I could count on him to read my script with a lot of enthusiasm.

Jeremy

Jeremy advertised himself as having an “energetic, confident radio voice” and he was very flexible as to content. “I am happy to provide a 60 second recorded voiceover of whatever you would like me to say,” he said in his profile, “the only exception being that I will not speak any curse words or take God’s name in vain.”

Jeremy was indeed a pro: he delivered 6 takes of my little ad. I had slipped a small amount of Danish into my script to show potential Copenhagen voiceover customers that I could chat in the local lingo while external providers could not.  But Jeremy went the extra step and found an online pronunciation service to guide him, and although he seems to have confused Danish with Swedish, I was impressed by his initiative.  Jeremy is a top-of-the-line online voiceover, and it only took me 2 or 3 hours and a couple of missteps to find him.

And yet…there was not a lot of feeling to Jeremy’s reading of my text.  He hadn’t met me, he knew nothing about my product, and even though he was putting his all into his performance, there wasn’t much depth to it.  I suppose that if your product or project is not particularly special, a good inexpensive online voiceover like Jeremy is good enough.  But if you’ve put a lot of passion into your project and want the voiceover for it to be the best it can be, let me help you. Jeremy will tell you how to contact me, or you can just do it directly, at http://www.americanvoice.dk.

Hvad der skete, da jeg hyrede en voiceover online

Ordering a voiceover online

At kende dine konkurrenter er vigtigt for enhver virksomhed. Som en in-studio voiceover, er online voiceovers min største konkurrence. (Der er selvfølgelig andre engelske voiceovers i København, men vi er en relativ lille gruppe, og de fleste af dem har en britisk accent.) Men det er ingen hemmelighed, at man hurtigt og let kan hyre en voiceover over nettet.

Og det kan være billigt. Jeg har set online voiceovers til salg for $5 eller DKK 30. Alle har råd til denne pris – selv mig. Jeg tænkte, at det ville være interessant at opleve, hvordan det var at bestille en online voiceover, og at det måske ville give mig indsigt i, hvordan jeg kan tilbyde en højere kvalitet og service til mine fysiske kunder.

Burtman

Burtman

Min første online voiceover var Burtman, en fin fyr som talte engelsk med en Afro-Caribien accent. I sin online profile skrev han, at han havde arbejdet som en journalist, fotograf, tv- og radio-nyhedsvært, programdirektør, nyhedsredaktør, magasinredaktør, og havde arbejdet med reklamer og public relations. Jeg skrev et kort manuskript til Burtman, som bestod af en reklame for min egen virksomhed, ligesom mine egne klienter hyrer mig til.

Her er manuskriptet:  Hello. I’m a voiceover Kay booked on the Internet. Booking voices online can be inexpensive, but you don’t get the face-to-face sparring partner that can come to your studio in Copenhagen. Kay will work with you to improve your English text and get the tone and pace that you want. Og Kay taler flydende dansk. Book Kay at 26 83 64 88, or at k-a-y-x at americanvoice-dot-dee-koh .

Burtman sendte en voiceover tilbage efter ca. tre dage. Der var en form for summende lyd i baggrunden, hvilket fik mig til at mistænke ham for at have optaget det på en iPhone. Han havde dog en god stemme. Han læste ikke mit manuskript i det tempo, som jeg havde valgt, eller fremhævede det, som jeg havde understreget, men han havde i hvert fald læst det manuskript, som jeg havde givet ham.

Det var lidt ligesom at proppe en mønt i en automat: Der var ingen interaktion, ingen feedback før det færdige produkt var dispenseret. Jeg fik så sandelig hvad jeg havde betalt for, men det var et lidt tørt og usmageligt produkt.

Jeg tænkte, at det nok ville være mere fair for mig at hyre en anden amerikansk kvindelig voiceover, ligesom mig selv. Der var masser af dem på nettet, og jeg bladrede gennem deres profiler. En have lilla hår. En anden lovede “næsten perfekt, ikke-dialektisk udtalelse”. jeg spekulerede på, om hun overhovedet kunne udtale “ikke-dialektisk.”

Jeg brugte noget tid til at lytte til en række af mine online konkurrenters lydprøver. Nogle få var meget gode, måske lidt uerfaren. En dame lød meget beruset i sin udtalelse. En anden talte med en knirkende tone, der kunne skrabe malingen ud af metal, hvilket gjorde hendes valg af karriere som voiceover meget tvivlsom.

Men det endte med at tage mig mere end en time, endnu en ulempe ved online voiceovers: Mellem mange seriøse professionelle er der masser af amatører, så man skal bruge en del tid på at sortere fra, lidt ligesom et garagesalg.

Jeg var træt af mit projekt, så jeg gjorde hvad mandlige casting agenter har gjort i årtier. Jeg valgte den kønneste pige. Hvilket var Jennifer.

Jennifer

Jennifer

Jennifer læste min annonce med en sprød, klar stemme, og med en behagelig sydlandsk accent. Men med én forskel: Sydlandske amerikanske accenter er normalt langsomme, afslappet og syngende, men Jennifer talte i et utroligt hurtigt tempo, som om hun skulle nå bussen. Eller måske på grund af det beløb, som jeg betalte hende, ønskede hun bare at skynde sig, så hun kunne komme i gang med den næste voiceover, så hun kunne betale til huslejen.

I hvert fald var voiceoveren ikke brugbar, og Jennifer virkede ikke rigtig som en professionel. For mit sidste valg, besluttede jeg mig for at bruge en voiceover, som i det mindste kunne tilbyde en professionel uddannelse i performance: Jeremy har en Master i Fine Arts i musikalsk teater, hvilket gjorde det klart, at han vidste hvordan det var, at stå på en scene og skråle fraser fra “Phantom of the Opera”, “Grease” eller andre store klassikere. Jeg regnede med, at han var til at stole på, og at han ville læse mit manuskript med masser af entusiasme.

Jeremy

Jeremy annoncerede sig selv som havende en “energisk, selvsikker radiostemme”, og at han var meget fleksibel med hensyn til indhold. “Jeg kan med glæde tilbyde a 60 sekunders optaget voiceover af hvad som helst du vil have mig til at sige,” stod der i hans profil, “den eneste undtagelse er, at jeg ikke vil sige nogen bandeord, eller tale dårligt om gud.”

Jeremy var helt klart en professionel: han leverede 6 eksemplarer af min annonce. Jeg havde lagt en lille del af dansk ind i mit manuskript for at vise potentielle københavnske voiceover kunder, at jeg kunne chatte i det lokale lingo, mens eksterne leverandører ikke kunne. Men Jeremy gik det ekstra skridt og fandt en online udtalelses-service som vejledning, og selvom at det så ud som om, at han havde forvekslet dansk med svensk, var jeg imponeret over hans initiativ. Jeremy var en super god online voiceover, og det tog mig kun 2 eller 3 timer, og et par fejltrin, at finde ham.

Og dog… der var ikke meget følelse i Jeremys oplæsning af min tekst. Han havde ikke mødt mig, han vidste intet om mit produkt, og selvom han lagde en masse arbejde i arbejdet, så var der ikke meget dybde i det. Jeg går ud fra, at hvis dit produkt eller projekt ikke er noget særligt, så er en god og billig online voiceover som Jeremy god nok. Men hvis du har lagt masser af passion i dit projekt, og ønsker du, at din voiceover er den bedste, man kan få, så kan jeg hjælpe dig. Jeremy kan fortælle dig, hvordan man kommer i kontakt med mig, eller du kan bare gøre det direkte på http://www.americanvoice.dk.

How to save money on a voiceover (And why a green apple can save you DK200)

Saving moneyThe cheapest possible voiceover is, of course, yourself. You can easily use the recording applications on almost any laptop to create a voiceover.

You’d think this option would be used mostly for films of family reunions and childrens’ birthday parties, but I’ve actually seen digital agencies working for some of Denmark’s top companies use themselves or ”that guy around the office” to voice expensive videos.

I recently watched a visually excellent video for a multi-million kroner, multi-year project – voiced by an English speaker who sounded like a Valium addict reading a phone book. It ruined the effect.

A better route is to get a good local voiceover and get the most value out of his or her services. As an English voice actor in Denmark, here are my tips:

  • Send me the final script. Like most professional voiceovers, I mark up my script before I get to the studio, checking for tricky pronunciations, and putting in emphasis points and pauses. I do this all on my own time, since I want to make I’m sure ready to go as soon as I arrive. But if you greet me at the door with an entirely new script, we’ll have to start that process all over again, as the studio time clock runs. It doesn’t have to be long before – even an hour before the assignment is fine, since I can mark it in the bus or taxi on the way there.
  • Use the time you’ve paid for. Since I bill by the hour, feel free to use the whole hour. I will honestly not be offended if you ask me to “try it one more time,” because you’d like to try a different effect, even if we’re already on the 6th or 16th take. I recently did a voiceover for a beverage product directed at women, and we tried the voiceover as several different women – the sensual lady, the high-earning professional, the best friend. The client was able to pick and choose between them once she’d returned to her team.
  • Let me recommend a studio. It’s important that I have eye contact with you, the customer: I recently had an awful experience in a place where the recording took place in a windowless box was down the hall from the engineer. I had no eye contact with the client, which means I’d read all the way to the end of the script before she could tell me I had mispronounced a medical term in the first line. I know most of the studios in town, so I can easily suggest one that will work for both of us.
  • Think about the voiceover character in advance. If you know who your audience is and what you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll be better able to communicate it to me. And if I know what kind of effect you want to achieve, I can make sure to give you what you want.
  • Have refreshments for your voiceover. Water and tea are good for someone who will be doing a lot of talking. Soda and junk food can create unattractive ”pops” in the voice track. (If your voiceover is eating potato chips before a job, you do not have a professional voiceover.) An apple contains pectin, which helps smooth the voice and remove vocal ”clicks” so a sound engineer doesn’t have to remove them later.  This can easily save you 15 minutes of studio time, worth a minimum of DK200.
  • Pay me. Although there are a lot of starving voice artists out there, I’m not one of them. One week about a month ago I did four different voice jobs – I know that, because today I’m going to have to call up 3 of the companies and “remind” them their bill is due. The next time there is a rush job – and almost all voiceovers seem to be rush jobs – who will I take first? I love doing voiceover work, but it is a job, not a hobby. I’ll invoice you as soon as you let me know you’re happy with my work, and 30-day payment terms are fair for both of us.