You’ve reached the point in your project where you need to hire a voice actor in order to keep moving forward. If this is your first time doing so, you’re probably feeling both excited and overwhelmed!
If the thought of hiring a voice actor fills you with trepidation, don’t worry. This article is a walkthrough of the whole process, from start to finish, with some considerations you should keep in mind.
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
How to hire a voice actor – the quick version
If you don’t need the details and you’re just looking for the short version of where to begin, here’s the process in a nutshell:
- Make a complete job description of what you will need from your voice actor based on your goals for your project.
- Scout out freelancers or check out a voice acting agency to be connected with a large pool of talent.
- Reach out and make contact, or post your job description and wait to be contacted.
- Accept and review auditions.
- Take the interview to the next step.
- Hire a voice actor.
- Get to work!
Now, let’s break that list down into details.
Step 1: Make a complete job description.
What, specifically, will you need your voice actor to do?
This is important to define clearly, because the right voice actor for the job will vary based on your project requirements. Some actors specialize in fiction narration, some prefer to do character voices, and others have incredible musical talent and can take on projects that might require singing! But, you have to lay those preferences out in your job description in order to attract people who can handle every requirement.
You wouldn’t want to get 75% of the way through recording a project only to remember there is a brief singing part and the voice actor you’ve hired sounds more like nails on a chalkboard than the dulcet crooner you were hoping for. Just because someone has a great speaking voice does not guarantee that their sound will translate well into singing, impressions, accents, or other areas of specialty you may need.
So, rather than making a hire and then having an “Oh, no” moment when you remember that character is supposed to imitate a flawless Russian accent for a line or two in the middle, be thorough when you describe your requirements.
One of the biggest complaints that contract workers have when it comes to their jobs is when a client either can’t explain the project up front or changes the project requirements after work has already begun. If your voice actor doesn’t have a clear idea of what you will need and how long you will need them for, it’s tough to agree to work on a project at all, let alone quote an accurate fee.
Go through your project, line by line if you can, and make a complete list.
You will save yourself (and your voice actor) a whole lot of time and stress down the line if you can clearly and completely outline the project details before you hire anyone.
Include items like:
- The estimated duration of the project
- The length of the script he or she will be recording
- Approximately how many hours per week the voice actor will be expected to work
- The genre under which your project falls
- Whether the voice actor is required to join in with meetings/remote calls as part of the team, and if so, when and how often
- Any specialized talent they must possess to complete the job successfully (accents, singing, or impressions, for example)
- Your proposed payment, either hourly or for the whole project
- Any deadlines your voice actor must meet
- Any more details you can think of to include
Step 2: Decide on a platform to make your hire. Agencies versus solo freelancers?
The platform on which you hire a voice actor can make almost as much difference to your project as the voice actor himself. You will need to weigh the pros and cons to decide which option is right for your needs.
Voice acting agencies
- Pro: Agencies often vet their talent before accepting applicants into the agency, so the pool of candidates will likely be higher quality to begin with. You’ll also have a smaller pool of talent to wade through, which can help you make decisions quickly and keep you from getting overwhelmed with options.
- Pro: Agencies frequently funnel talent directly to you based on your posted project requirements, which means you spend less time searching for candidates who fit your needs.
- Con: Due to the “guarantee” of higher quality, and the fact that agencies may take a cut on top of the voice actor’s fees, you will likely end up paying a higher rate than you would with a solo freelancer.
- Pro: Scoping out new freelancers (as opposed to established, proven talent) can often net you a much smaller price tag than you would find through an agency. Freelancers often take their first couple of projects at a pay cut in order to get a foot in the door. If you find a freelance voice actor who seems amazing but hasn’t yet been discovered, this could be a great deal.
- Pro: Independent freelancers frequently enjoy building lasting relationships with their clients. As opposed to relying on an agency to find them more work, they focus on working hard to keeping long-term clients happy and generating more work through word-of-mouth recommendations.
- Con: As there is no agency regulating who can and cannot apply to your project, you may get inundated with applications from people who don’t even remotely meet your criteria. You might have to sort through a lot of weeds before you find a flower.
Regardless of which option you choose, you will want to do some personal research to find your desired platform. Read about reputable voice acting agencies and platforms that host freelance job ads to save yourself the time of trial and error.
Step 3: Post your ad and make contact with some candidates.
You’ll find this step fairly straightforward now that you’ve done the legwork to decide on your project requirements and an appropriate platform to hire a voice actor.
Simply send in your job ad and wait for applications to roll in, or reach out and send some thoughtful emails to candidates that have potential. This is where crafting a “reverse cover letter” can come in handy. Instead of a regular cover letter explaining why you’d be great for a position, draft a template for a flattering message explaining why you think a particular voice actor would be perfect for your job.
If you hook your top choice right off the bat by reaching out and making personal contact, you’ve saved yourself a ton of time and effort!
Step 4: Accept and review auditions.
Most auditions will come in the form of audio recordings or videos from an applicant. Sometimes, agencies will forward along a candidate’s entire profile with a portfolio of previous work for you to look through.
Depending on how you’ve set up your job ad and whether you have included samples of your content that the voice actor will be recording, expect to get a range of material.
Some may choose to showcase a broad range of their talents by sending a lengthy audition with various voices, themes, accents, or other areas of specialty. Others try to go the extra mile by tailoring their application to your job specifically. This is where offering a sample of your content can be a good move; it allows the voice actor to record that snippet and see how well his or her voice matches your exact project.
Look at more than a candidate’s listed abilities. Close your eyes and listen closely to the voice itself.
- smooth and soothing,
- low and sultry,
- energetic and engaging,
- intelligent and distinguished,
- laid back and relaxed,
- old or young,
- clear or raspy,
- accented or fairly standard for your region?
Just by closing your eyes and listening, you might be surprised which voices you prefer over others. Often, your top choice will not be the voice actor you thought you would prefer at first.
Step 5: Take the interview to the next stage.
You can do this with a series of emails or a video call with your chosen actor or actors.
Open up a friendly dialogue. You not only want to get to know your future voice actor, you want to use this step to hammer out the details of the contract between you.
Also, take this time to address any questions the candidate may have about the specifics of your project. If you’ve never made any hiring decisions before, remember that the interview process is a two-way street. The candidate is feeling out if you are a good fit, just as much as you are with them!
You may have some issues to work out as well if your voice actor lives in a different time zone or a country with a different monetary system. Figure out how you will work around time zone differences, currency conversions, and any other potential pitfall you come across. Ideally, you’ll want to have all of these minor wrinkles smoothed down and in writing before either of you sign the final contract.
Come to a solid agreement that you put into writing.
Arguably the most important part is your agreement on the work that will be delivered, any revisions or re-recordings that may be necessary, and the payment amount and schedule. These are the biggest points of contention between most employees and employers, especially in the arena of contract work.
Once you have the details ironed out, you’re ready to…
Step 6: Hire a voice actor!
Your contract begins when you both sign a copy of your agreed terms. Make sure both of you keep a copy of this contract for your records. That way, if any issues crop up during the course of the project, you will have the original agreement as a reference point for what you’ve both declared as a reasonable exchange of money for services.
Don’t be tempted to hire a voice actor based on a “gentleman’s handshake” or an informal agreement as a method of keeping the relationship light and friendly. These informal situations are the most likely to erupt into chaos if a wrench gets thrown into the mix at some point. Having a solid, firm agreement actually promotes a great working relationship, because it allows both of you to relax and trust in the clear-cut responsibilities you’ve both delineated.
Step 7: Get to work.
Now that you’ve made your first voice actor hire, you’re ready to tackle the project together. How exciting!
Before you dive into the work, take a short moment to congratulate yourself and look forward to the next great step toward getting your finished product into the hands of users who will love it.