“i really want to be a voiceover, can you help me?”
I get hundreds and hundreds – count ‘em! – of emails from wannabe voiceovers who contact me for advice. While I’m flattered that anybody thinks that what I have to say about the business is interesting and even worth listening to, it does rankle when people want to bleed me dry of info and contacts. Sometimes it’s radio presenters wanting to lisp their way out of swing-jocking…sometimes it’s drama students who want to swap Shakespeare for Shake ‘n’ Vac…sometimes (more often than not if I’m honest) it’s people who’ve been told ‘by everyone they know’ that they have ‘a lovely voice…’
Sometimes people shamelessly ask me to give them my customer list. I can just imagine it! “Yeah, no problem, I’ll give you everything you need to set up in competition against me! Do you fancy having one of my kidneys while you’re at it??”
If you’re serious about being a voiceover, first of all ask yourself if you can hack it. It’s a lonely world, working from home, seeing barely anyone, only having faceless customers to chat to, shouting out credit examples till you’re blue in the face…maybe I’m over-egging it but you can see where I’m coming from. It can be pretty gruelling when you’ve got back-to-back sessions booked every fifteen minutes, there are umpteen scripts to record in each session, the fax machine’s on the blink, the ISDN line sounds fuzzy and next door’s doing some deafening DIY…and the producer doesn’t know how to pronounce the Welsh place name in the script and the copywriter’s made a mistake because the phone number changes twice in the same ad…and on and on and on…
The only way to be a voiceover is to start off by listening. Listen to commercials, learn how they’re voiced, what inflections the voiceover has used and why. Understand the advertising sub-text of a commercial. Get a sense of your own voice, its limitations (I can’t say ‘swimming pool’ at speed…) and how you can improve it. Learn how to breathe. Learn how to take direction, no matter how patronised and humiliated you might feel. And if you haven’t got one, grow a sense of humour. You don’t get anywhere in this business by taking it too seriously.
And please, don’t send me an email that contains the words: “can you tell me how to make lots of money being a voiceover?”