5 things that Voice-over is NOT about

1. Your voice.

The biggest misconception people have about voice over is that it’s about your voice. It isn’t. It’s about your ability to use the voice you have to convey the emotion and message that your clients want. Ex-radio people, listen up. Take off your headphones! Seriously. If you have a home studio, you don’t need the cans! Can’t you hear your own voice when you talk? Do you wear headphones out on the town when you talk to people?  And if you wear them when recording, then you’re concentrating on the sound of your voice too much and not the message you’re delivering.

2. The Script

This one will be met with confusion. Isn’t the script what you’re being paid to read? Yes, but while the client is paying you to read the words, they hired you to deliver the message. Focus on the message of the script and and deliver that. If you simply deliver the script, the message will be lost and you will not have done your job. 

3. The Money

But I have bills to pay! Not while you’re in the booth. Worry about the accounting later. Your job as a voice talent is to deliver the message. Deal with the finances later.

4. Your equipment

I always get amused by people who proudly list their studio and equipment front and center on their website. It really doesn’t matter if you use a TLM103 or a Neumann XYZ followed by a Digidesign whatever running Pro Tools 8. Your equipment is simply a means to get your voice in. Obviously you want pro level equipment and if something makes your voice sound how you want it, then by all means use it. but I don’t think any clients care about what kind of equipment you have. They care about the end result and your ability to deliver their message. If you give Itzhak Perlman a $200 violin, I guarantee you, he’ll make it sound like a Stradivarius.

5. You

I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you are a tool. You are a means to an end. The client has hired you to deliver a message. The client is paying you so the client and their message are what’s important. The client doesn’t care that you’re ill or hungover. The client doesn’t care why you can’t meet their deadline. So when you’re dealing with clients you need to make sure that you are speaking in their interests. There’s nothing wrong with getting what you need, but to quote one of Dale Carnegie’s golden rules, “Always speak in terms of the other person’s interests.” Voice over is about them, not you. At least it is if you want them to return.

So those are 5 things that voice over is not. Agree or disagree? Comment! Want to add to the list? Comment!


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 http://audiobook-voice-over.com View all posts by Jeffrey Kafer

5 responses to “5 things that Voice-over is NOT about

  • stugray

    Jeffrey –

    This is an awesome Post! A great read and so true!

    I AM a tool!


  • Trish Basanyi

    As always, Jeff, great post!

    I WILL say though….that I always thought the same of #4 (Equipment) until several months back. I had my mic (around a $450 one) listed on my website. Client wanted me for a job but wasn’t pleased enough with it, so they rented me studio time in NYC and I recorded there. They more than covered the inconvenience cost which was nice.

    So I would say MOST clients don’t care as long as your equipment is broadcast-quality, however there are certainly a few picky audio people out there that do. 10 years in the biz and it’s only happened once, but it DOES happen. Anyway, my $.02.

    Oh, and the next time i go to a networking event, I’m going to fill in my name sticker to just say “Trish, the Tool”. Let’s see what happens! hehe

    Keep ’em coming Jeff! –Trish

  • Jeffrey Kafer

    Stu – We’re all tools. Just some of us more toolish than others.

    Trish – I agree with you, and probably should have worded it differently. Certainly an established pro will get better use out of pro equipment.

    But my intention was to dissuade people from getting equipment they didn’t need, thinking that alone would make them a better voice talent.

    Going back to the Itzhak Perlman analogy. While he may able to make a cheap violin sing, someone who doesn’t have the skills to play the violin won’t be able to do jack with a Stradivarius.

  • Mike Cooper

    Hi Jeffrey,

    Thanks for the post – there’s some useful food for thought in there. You already beat me to it with one point: better equipment does indeed have the potential to sound noticeably better, but only in the hands of those who know how to get the best out of it. I can certainly hear the difference since I upgraded my mic, for example, and two sound engineers I work with have also commented.

    One thing I personally disagree with is the thought that “If you have a home studio, you don’t need the cans!”

    Whilst I appreciate this is designed to try and stop the radio guys from being in love with the sound of their own voices, I personally couldn’t work without headphones. There are two points here:

    Firstly, sure, I know what my own voice sounds like to me, but we each hear our own voices as much through the conduction of sound in bone in our heads as we do through our ears. Microphones don’t hear us that way. That’s why most people, when they hear their voice recorded for the first time, are baffled and ask “Do I really sound like that?”

    If I’ve got a slight cold, I’m much more likely to hear that through my headphones than listening to myself in my head, where I’ll compensate for it.

    Secondly, I want to be able to hear any blemishes on the recording as I go along. Did I pop when I got excited? It doesn’t happen to me that often, but I’d sure rather know while I’m recording than have to go back and edit later. I’m also unlikely to pick up any stray mouth noises or my clothes rustling (that taffeta ballgown is a nightmare in the booth…) unless I’m wearing my cans.

    Nonetheless, thanks for posting!


  • Jeffrey Kafer

    Thanks for commenting, Mike. Conversations are much more interesting when not everyone is in agreement.

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