Helping the Client Know What They Want

One of the hardest jobs of any business person is helping the customer figure out what they want. This can be particularly difficult in the Voice-over business because often the clients will have a mental image of a sound and not be able to express it in such a way that the talent can deliver. Or worse, oftentimes the client has no idea at all what they want which makes the talent look bad when they deliver subpar results. Here’s an example of a recent job that illustrates this:

A gentleman in Florida owns a successful business and his previous ads have been him talking to the audience as if he’s being interviewed. Apparently this man does not or cannot do his own ads anymore so he wanted a voice-over artist to “sound just like him only better”. That description alone should be a red flag.

But the problem is that the gentleman has a very thick New York accent, bad timing, drops the ends of his words and rushes his lines. In short, he’s not a VO guy, he’s a businessman. How is a voice-over artist supposed to sound just like him? Essentially he’s asking the actor to give what amounts to a terrible performance. As well, if the actor truly makes it “better” then no listener will believe it is actually the businessman because part of what makes his voice recognizable is his delivery. Rock and a hard place for the actor.

I first saw this gig floating around I wasn’t right for the job so I dismissed it and moved on. A few weeks later, I see the man has gone through other channels like Voice-over message boards to try to hire someone to impersonate him. It usually doesn’t take weeks to fill a VO gig so there’s obviously a disconnect between what this man wants and what the actors feel they should be delivering. But either no one has told him that or he’s ignoring it and pursuing his own course of action.

My intent with this post is not to make fun of him or call him out as dumb, but to show that we as voice talents can really benefit our customers by working with them to help them figure out what they truly want and need as opposed to just blindly reading the copy shoved in our faces.

How do I solve this man’s problem and get him the ad he truly wants but doesn’t know he wants? I honestly have no idea. I don’t have the experience to figure out it out for him. But it’s a skill I’ll certainly consider fostering.


About Jeffrey Kafer

I am a Seattle-based voice over artist specializing in audiobooks, but also working in corporate narration and commercials. You can find me at View all posts by Jeffrey Kafer

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