7 things you only know if you’re a professional voiceover
1. You don’t leave the house for days on end.
I work from my home studio (a converted lavatory – don’t worry, other lavatories are available) so spend a lot of time stuck inside my house. It’s a bit like being under house arrest. When you do go out, you strike up intense conversations with checkout girls and postmen. Even joggers. You’re starved of human contact and forget how to interpret facial expression. But don’t worry – for a pro voiceover, this is perfectly normal.
2. You learn all sorts of things about random subjects you didn’t even know existed.
Yesterday I voiced pages and pages of stuff about fire extinguishers (foam AND powder). The other day I recorded a script about the science behind embalming fluids. Today it’s ‘the wonderful world of the otter.’ I’ve absorbed all sorts of old bollocks, soaking it up like a massive talking sponge. Ask me about how tampons work. The manufacture of soffitts and facias. Body bags. Go on. You know you want to.
3. You have to talk to yourself, sometimes for hours on end.
Lots of sessions are self-recorded, which means you do them on your own, shut in a small room talking to yourself for a high proportion of your waking life. Also, if you do lots of telephone work you’ll inevitably end up hearing yourself down a phone line telling yourself your call is being recorded for training and monitoring purposes, which, I promise you, is a hideous experience.
4. People will tell you speaking out loud for money is easy.
When you’re a professional voiceover, people tell you that what you do is ‘money for old rope’ and that any mug can do it. They tell you it’s not hard work. They tell you you’re not down a pit all day. Sometimes they even laugh at you, openly. Have you ever tried reading a medical script about leaky breast implants that’s been translated from the original Danish by somebody who has only a tenuous grasp of English for several hours at a time. No? Well, f*ck off.
5. You have to encapsulate the inner essence of all sorts of crazy shit.
Whether it’s a talking toothbrush, a sad banana, a rusty car or a pulsing cyst, you have to create a voice to suit every project. This afternoon I’ve got to be a sofa. From the East Midlands.
6. People will tell you how to do your job because everybody knows how to speak, right?
WRONG. Some people don’t know how to speak. Just listen to any radio phone-in and you’ll see what I mean. Speaking to broadcast quality, within at least one tenth of a second accuracy is VERY, VERY HARD WORK.
7. When you get a cold, you are no use to anyone whatsoever.
Nobody wants a voiceover that sounds like a swamp creature on their commercial, app, game or how-to video. When a pro voiceover gets a cold, they’re absolutely f*cking useless. You can’t do your job with a snotty nose or a broken throat. Mucus is our enemy. Although one solution is to wear a Michael Jackson style face mask whenever I go out and mingle with the general population – and believe me, I’ve been tempted – this wouldn’t help me bond with the neighbours.