What is a voice over artist?
A voice over artist (also known as a voice artist, voice talent, or voice actor) is basically someone who voices a script. This could be a script for a radio or television commercial, an audio-book, a promotional video or a telephone on hold message.
Many working voices have a background in radio, as this is an industry where the voice is crucially important, as it is the only medium you have to get your message across.
For example, quite a few or the pros that I work with regularly came from just such a background and here’s what they had to say about how they got into voice work.
“I worked in regional and metropolitan radio for 18 years as a copywriter. In any radio station, EVERYONE is potential talent (particularly in regional radio, where the talent pool is a lot smaller and not everyone has the budget to hire professional voices). I started voicing commercials because we ALL had to and also because I knew exactly how I wanted my scripts to sound.” (Ruth)
“I worked in commercial radio for about 4 years, after which I received a job as a creative writer for radio. When you are writing ads, you constantly read them aloud and time them. This really helped me develop and hone my skills and revisit the work I had done studying voice at uni. I sort of fell into it. Stuffing around with my boss and doing silly voices meant I was given more and more internal scripts to voice and I slowly became known as the guy who can voice anything, which meant that my boss gave me more and more crazy characters to bring to life, which I didn’t complain about.” (Garth)
Not everyone begins in radio. Some come from television, some have acting backgrounds and some have no affiliations with the media or arts at all, but have gravitated to voice over work because they find they are good at it and the independence of freelance work suits their lifestyle.
And coming from radio does not necessarily guarantee a great voice anyway; sometimes quite the opposite. Many on-air announcers do voice over work on the side to earn extra money and some make the mistake of bringing their ‘big radio voice’ with them to the microphone. This is the kind of cringe-worthy, hand over the ear, delivery that you expect to hear on a Top 40 Countdown show, but which has no place in real voice over work. Some journalists too tend to have a very well entrenched read style and find it hard to be more “natural” in reads. It’s doable – but hard to lose that journalistic lilt.
So, if that’s the kind of voice overs you envisage yourself doing, you should probably reconsider whether “commercial” voice work is really for you, because you’ll need to leave your ‘big radio voice’ at the door if you’re to have any hope of succeeding in this industry.
A voice style is just one of the many facets taken into consideration and having a “good voice” is only one of the qualities you’ll need to succeed and not the main one by any means. We will address some more valuable traits in another article soon.