How to Hire a Voice Over Artist - Part 2
Video production companies, instructional designers, radio stations and the like are familiar with the process by which a voice artist is engaged, but as more and more companies are producing their own video content, they are also looking for a voice artist to record their script. If you’ve yet to find a voice actor, there are some helpful tips here but in this article, I'll explain how to make the process of working with your voice over actor as smooth as possible, and how to get the best from her.
Photo: Frances Nutt
Ask for an Audition
Any voice artist will read a few sentences of your script in the style you have described such as conversational, inspirational, authoritative. It also helps to know who the audience is and who is the speaker. For example, A commercial might be a Mum talking to other mums, or an explainer video from a company’s expert describing how to operate a machine to other professionals, or it is for an induction programme for new staff. Just describing who will be listening and who will be talking will give your voice artist all the information they need to determine the intention, formality, and pace the script should be read at.
And if you are not 100% sure how you would like the script read, then let the voice artist record a couple of different styles for you. In my experience, the most common request I have when a client asks for a couple of versions is for a more formal or more conversational read for corporate videos. A professional voice over artist can give very nuanced reads on the formality “dial” and it’s something I love doing as it tests our skills! We are highly experienced in judging the type of delivery needed for types of scripts and can always offer a variety of styles which could be appropriate for your script.
What Does it Cost?
Pricing is always a potential minefield and I am occasionally asked why I don’t list my prices on my website as the potential client would be able to see at a glance how much their project will cost. The simple answer is that different types of projects are calculated differently, and all projects are different. And whilst there are industry standard rates these are just a starting point for a vo artist to cost your project. Here are a few factors which will all influence the final cost of your project:
Photo: Steve Buissivine - Pixabay
Rates start at £250 (depending on the type of project) for a professional voice artist which is our BSF or Basic Studio Fee. This the minimum hourly rate and will usually include editing, post-production and studio hire of a voice artist with a home studio. This method of calculating costs is usually applied to corporate voice over narration.
Elearning, however, is typically priced per word and can range from £0.30 per word to £0.65 per word. If you are asking for a 30,000 word course to be voiced, then the price per word may be less than £0.30; if your script is highly technical or medical, the cost will be in the higher bracket as the voice artist will have to spend time researching words and their pronunciation.
Audiobooks are calculated per finished hour of edited book, not recording time, so if your book is 45,000 words, and on average, one reads 9000 words per hour, that’s 5 hours to read the book. A highly experienced audiobook narrator can often take only twice the time to record per hour, and if you take into account that they will have read the book a few times before recording, then will have proofread their recording afterwards and correct any mistakes, it is an absolute bargain.
IVR or telephone voicemail messages are traditionally calculated per prompt although this seems to be moving to the US model of per word or per minute. Prompts cost between £6 - £15 per prompt and voice artists will often have a minimum fee of £100 or £150 regardless of whether you have only three or 10 prompts.
The size of the hiring company can make a difference to the cost. I often ask who the end client is, because if you are a small one-person company or a small charity, I may charge you a lower BSF; I may even record your voice over script for free if it’s a charitable cause I support!
Then there are the projects which require more work than recording and post-production. As when an audiobook narrator reads the book before recording, adding to preparation time, sometimes the client asks you to check the for grammar because English is not their first language, or if a project requires splitting into 100s of files it can add to the time taken considerably.
Similarly, some voice over actors will charge a lower BSF if the client requests a raw file (no compression, EQ and normalisation), saving them time in post-production. Others will charge for studio hire separately as the client is saving money by having the voice artist record in their home studio rather than hiring a recording studio.
And if you require the audio recording to be synced to video this will cost extra as the time it takes for the voice artist can be considerable.
Ask About Revisions
It is always worth asking your voice artist what their policy is on revisions. It has happened to every voice actor, where a client keeps coming back asking for a retake of a sentence where they didn’t feel the delivery was quite correct, or there’s been a change to the script after the voice actor has recorded and delivered it. This can sometimes go on for weeks! That is why a professional voice over actor will have a clear revisions policy so that you, the client, will know what is expected of both parties before the contract is signed. I offer any changes to delivery style free of charge if requested, within 3 days of script delivery, but any changes to the script after the script has been delivered has a cost. However, I may forgo that depending on the situation. As an example, a regular client of mine recently asked for two words to be added to a sentence two months after I had delivered the recording. I reread the whole sentence, but I didn’t charge him for this. I love working with him, I respect him and want our relationship to continue for long time. And I think that’s the key to discussing prices with a voice actor; we want to build a relationship with you and to work with you again, and so will always strive to give you a fair price.
What’s A Usage Licence?
This brings us to the often, thorny question of usage licences. As more and more individuals are making their own videos, explainers, podcasts, and the like, many have no knowledge of what a usage licence is. It will be a surprise to many that a voice over artist, cannot by law in many countries, give the copyright of their voice recording to anyone else. They can assign the right to use their voice, but not a right to own it. That right to use will also be limited in time, such as 1 year or 3 years, or within a geographical area say, the UK or the UK and Europe, or for non-paid internet use such as the company website. If an advert or marketing video is selling a product, they the company will be receiving a financial benefit from that video, and that benefit will be reflected in the cost of the usage licence. Of course, if the project is for internal use only, a usage licence isn’t required.
Photo: Hugo Humberto Plácido da Silva - FreeImages
I am occasionally told when I ask where the finished product will be shown that it’s “not going to be broadcast, it’s just going to be on the internet and social media”. Well, the internet and social media does mean it will be broadcast! However, the usage licence cost per year might be lower if it is just for the company website, and certainly less than if it is to be paid-for promotion on Spotify or Instagram or a YouTube pre-roll.
You may want to licence the voice over recording in-perpetuity as you envisage your project existing forever on the internet, but most videos promoting brands or services for example, usually don’t remain current for more than three years. An in-perpetuity usage licence will always be much more expensive, and you could be paying for something you actually don’t need. And you will possibly find that your chosen voice artist will not agree to such a licence anyway. This is because it is not uncommon that clients will ask a voice artist whether they have ever voiced something similar. If a voice artist is approached to do a commercial for Nissan, say, the hiring company will ask if the artist has voiced anything to do with cars in the last three years as an example. If the voice artist has signed an in-perpetuity licence for an explainer video for We Buy Any Car, she is not going to get the job and will lose out on thousands of pounds of earnings. If you want to find out more about usage licences then Gravy For The Brain’s video on licensing explains all you need to know.
A client’s script is often sent to the voice over talent prior to the contract being signed, usually so she can read a few lines to audition. It’s at this point that the voice artist will often highlight issues with the script or have queries about it. She will certainly have some questions after the contract is signed if the script has dates, or acronyms, bullet points or certain punctuation, as these can all be read in different ways. Is the year 2021, to be read as two thousand and twenty-one or twenty twenty one? Should a phrase with a forward slash such as staff/visitors be read as staff and visitors, staff or visitors, staff and or visitors, or even staff (pause) visitors? The trick is to read your script out aloud and write it as you speak it. For more tips on how to write a script for a voice artist, I have written a blog article - 11 Top Tips for Writing A Script – which will save you a lot of time if you get your script ready for the voice artist in advance of sending it to her.
Photo: Lorenzo Cafaro - Pixabay
And if your script is for eLearning, having it written as it would be said will give you the accurate number of words and therefore cost, which, as discussed earlier, an eLearning script is charged per word.
Many clients require the voice artist to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement before sending their script. This is usual with commercials, films, documentaries and sometimes corporate films or explainer videos. In my experience, however, voice talents do not discuss projects before they are completed usually because we offer a quick turnaround so don’t have time! Regardless, voice artists are happy to sign NDAs.
A voice artist will want the client to sign her contract setting out the terms, such as length in minutes or words, format delivery, the scope of the usage licence and revisions for example. So, it is always helpful to leave plenty of time before deciding you need the project delivered the same day. If it is a sudden project or short turnaround, we will try to accommodate you, but there may be a cost to drop another project so that everything can be agreed, and the work done within the client’s timescale.
So good luck with your search for a voice artist, and if you ever need a warm, neutral, British Female voice get in touch.