When I first started getting serious about voiceover, I had no idea where I would fit in. I come from a sportscasting background so I figured, at the very least, I'd snatch up those gigs in the voiceover realm.
I rarely crack the code for what those clients are looking for, which is how I first realized I don't get to pick my niche.
The market, or the client, picks it for me.
So here are my top 4 niches in voiceover.
1. Medical Narration
This is a big one for me. Why? Because I sound incredibly intelligent, of course! Really, more than anything, I think it boils down to my upbringing and what I set out to be when my adult life began.
I grew up with a periodontist for a father and my mother ran the business. Medical jargon filled the air in our house. I started out on the pre-med track in college but with 60 hours a week being spent at the student TV and radio stations, the Organic Chemistry book eventually went bye bye.
Years later, my comfort level in pronouncing phrases like sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, has allowed me to scratch that latent medical itch on a frequent basis.
2. TV/Radio Commercials
I do a solid amount of TV and Radio commercials. A lot of it ends up falling back into the realm of hospitals and clinics as well as education and higher learning.
3. Corporate Narration
Whether it's on-boarding for businesses or internal presentations, a combination of a conversational yet authoritative style is required for most of these projects.
4. IVR, Telephony, On-Hold
This genre has about a thousand names and sub-names but, basically, if you don't hear a live person when you call a business, hopefully you hear me.
Remember, I didn't pick this niche, it picked me! But I couldn't be happier with the outcome so far.
Oh, and sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is the technical term for "ice cream headache."
I don't get them anymore.
Something to discuss in another entry, or maybe with my doctor.
There are few things more annoying than recording what you think was a great track of audio, only to realize that it is littered with snaps, crackles, and pops all over the wave file.
What do you do?
Well here are some preventative measures along with a few remedies after the fact that should get you the final product you thought you had to begin with.
1. Drink lots of water!
Hydration is key in voiceover. Room temperature is best to bring about the least disruption to your vocal chords. I always have a bottle of water near the booth.
2. Warm Up Before You Work
Most activities need a warm up of some kind, this includes using your voice, especially for professional purposes. I often hearken back to my old "Junior Theater" days for some easy vocal warmups.
Over-enunciate phrases like, "Just which witch went where" and "Mary had a little lamb," dropping your jaw down as far as it will go for each word.
Tongue twisters like, "Three gray geese in the green grass grazing. Gray were the geese and green was the grazing."
And, of course, the lip trill.
3. Wear good headphones and catch yourself in the act!
If my preemptive strikes don't work, then usually I can catch myself in the act in real-time and correct on the fly using one of the techniques above.
My headphones: the Sennheiser HD 599 SE Around Ear Open Back Headphone work like a charm in keeping me honest.
Or sometimes, I just slap myself in the face. Yes, literally I do this. And it seems to work! Individual results may vary. I do not advocate violence toward oneself on this website.
4. When All Else Fails: Post-Production to the Rescue
This software has been a massive timesaver when you're just not having the greatest day, or even when you are.
The mouth de-click plugin within this software wipes away many of those pesky mouth clicks like they never happened. It's magic!
You can also go in manually to your wave to do some surgery but that takes a lot of practice to do effectively and is probably it's own topic for another time.
Finding the right voice for voiceover is an ongoing process. It varies with project type and client sensibility.
A read that sounds "real and nuanced" to one ear can come across as "flat" to another.
A read that sounds "dynamic" to some, can be "announcer-y" and "contrived" to someone else.
The best way to bridge the gap between the description of the voice a client seeks and the reality of the sound they're looking for is to always ask for a sample clip.
The client can almost always come up with an advertisement they like from YouTube that can serve as an invaluable guide to giving them exactly what they desire.
This becomes more difficult to accomplish during the auditioning process when a sample isn't always offered and direct interaction with the potential client may not be possible. In those cases, you have to lean on your instincts, keep auditioning, and hope that some form of feedback along the way can lead you down the road toward landing more of those jobs.
Parenting was hard before everything changed in the middle of March. Now, my wife and I are trying to teach a 4 year old at home while balancing three full time jobs. She is able to work from home full-time and I do radio in the morning and voiceover through the rest of the day and night.
Along the way we ping-pong our son between us, usually in 3 hour stretches, in the hopes of keeping his mind from turning to iPad-induced mush. Don’t get me wrong, we’re incredibly lucky to be able to survive economically the way we have been through these unpredictable months, but the situation still wears on us.
One of the most rewarding personal moments is when we make academic progress with our son. I’ve been using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. To incentivize him, my wife created a chart. With each successful lesson he gets a sticker. After every ten lessons, he gets a special prize. The first one was a simple Batman toy that he cherishes because he “earned” it. I put “earned” in quotations because that’s what he says every time he talks about it. It’s a great point of pride.
I wonder about the socialization he’s missing out on though and the family gatherings we’ll never get back. My mind then gets snapped back to a state of gratitude, that most of our extended family has been healthy through it all.
From strictly a voice acting perspective, there are the auditions you see fall by the wayside because you’re playing hide and seek with a would-be preschooler, but most clients understand the balancing act because they’re going through some version of it themselves.
I was going to end this entry with a quote from Charles Darwin but apparently he never said,
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
It was, of course, Leon Megginson? It took you to the last paragraph, but you finally learned something new.
Note: If you purchase a product using an affiliate link, I may receive a tiny portion of the sale. I am NOT a paid advertiser and would not promote its use if I weren’t a happy customer myself.
This week, I'm reminded of one of the most critical elements of voice acting: Time.
I have to manage my time carefully. I could spend all day auditioning and lose ground in my marketing and client management goals.
That's one aspect of time in this business. The other is more specific to the job itself. Always making sure I know how much time I have to squeeze my voice into the message being asked of me.
It's nailed me twice this week on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
The first one was a passing reference from a client that they'd like to keep the voiceover under two minutes. I took that as gospel and, lo and behold, a revision was asked of me a couple days later because it sounded rushed, without enough intonation and storytelling.
On the other end of the spectrum this week, I had a narration that came in at 2 minutes and 20 seconds. The client came back and said they needed it capped at two minutes. Neither he nor I had talked about those expectations ahead of time.
Which means everyone ends up wasting it (time) and money in the end.
It was a healthy reminder to always go into a project with certainty over the duration. In the first case, had I asked how important the two minute expectation was, I could have given the performance a greater chance to breathe.
In the second case, I should have brought it up to begin with, even if the client had not.
Of course, if I know I'm voicing a commercial for broadcast, time is discussed explicitly and you know you have a hard 5, 10, 15, 30, or 60 seconds to get the job done.
Every other medium brings with it greater flexibility, but that's still no excuse. I must always remember to factor in the time.
I think I'm guilty of listening to voiceover start-up gurus a few too many years into my career.
Yes, the most important part of your sound is your space. Get yourself going in the right direction with that first.
But I think I held off on my purchase of the Sennheiser MKH-416 Short Shotgun Microphone a little too long, listening to the drumbeat of the "mic doesn't matter so much."
Hey, I've been using a really trusty CAD E100S for a number of years now, but now that I've upgraded to the MKH 416 along with my somewhat recent purchase of an Audient iD22 Audio Interface, I realize there IS a difference. Especially as someone with a deeper voice.
Don't get me wrong, in a vacuum, my old gear works GREAT for 99% of the jobs out there BUT when you're competing in open auditions against some of the best voice talents out there, the high-priced clients with the trained ears will hear the difference!
At least I do. Maybe I'm trying to convince myself of this as I assess the potential difference in auditions won over the coming weeks and months. Fingers crossed.
Again, the CAD is an awesome microphone at a more attainable price-point for many, including me at the time of purchase. It has paid for itself a million times over! (Ok, not a million times, but it has been significant.)
But, just to my ear, the MKH 416 is worth every penny and I will declare it as the best voiceover microphone of 2020... and 2019, and 2018 and... you get the picture.
Note: If you purchase a product using my affiliate link, I receive a tiny portion of the sale. I am NOT a paid advertiser and would not promote its use if I weren't a happy customer myself.
As we reach the six month mark of this semi-isolated world of ours, this project reminds me of the need to adapt in any environment or situation. I wondered at the onset if all the work would dry up or what I could do to grow the business.
I leaned into finding the right tone for the moment and it resonated with enough clients for me to be able to keep pushing my career in the right trajectory.
What works today, of course, might not be what the market is seeking tomorrow. As I expand on this blog, I'll talk more about the (daily) transition from doing what works in broadcasting to the very different world of voiceover.
Has anyone gotten into voiceover and not wanted to be the person you hear at every airport and inside every airplane?
I'm not there quite yet, but someone thought my voice would be perfect for a parody of an airline instructional video for new pilots. That'll do for now. Great work by the motion graphic artist!
Yeah, that headline could be better but every time I finish a videogame related project, I walk away with the same feeling. This project was a quick tag for a trailer produced by a gaming team based out of Australia.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this profession is learning about people and projects that would simply never end up on my radar otherwise.