Mastering Home-Based Voice Over: Lesson 2

The Commerce Of Voice Over

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Leave a comment or question you have below the video thumbnails.


Complete list of lessons in the course

Copyright ยฉ2021 VOHeroes and VO2GoGo, Inc. All rights reserved.

If you’ve got any VO questions, ask them below, and David will answer them after the next lesson:

Responses

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  1. After youโ€™ve watched the video, please ask questions!

    How does it make you feel to “toot your own horn?” Are you able to network in real life? Any questions about invoicing or billing?

    How have you tackled lowering your noise floor? Where in your home do you record?

    What else makes you really frustrated when it comes to being a VO talent?

    Iโ€™ll read them all, and respond to as many as I can.

  2. 1. “Gimme a little ‘Hollywood’ on that product” – will you please explain that, in case we’re EVER back in a situation of receiving this kind of direction, David?
    2. Podcasting – I have a nonunion friend who has an idea for a podcast, where she’d be the “expert” and I would be the layman, asking the explanation questions. Our “problem” with getting this off the ground is my union status. They want her to complete a signatory for the production, which isn’t a big deal, but for the wc insurance. How do we get around that, especially if she’s recording in her home, and I’m in mine, connected via sourceConnect (or some other means)?
    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Emelle, “Gimme a little Hollywood” on the product means, that you voice the product name in a way that makes it pop out from the rest of the copy. Techniques to do this are little VO tricks you learn along the way. A few examples are, a slight pause before or after the brand name, leaning into the mic a little to make the brand name a bit more intimate, actually smiling as you say the brand name to change your tone. One might also change pitch a little, slow down a little, add a bit of excitement to how those words are spoken, all so the brand is the thing that the listener remembers.

    1. Examples are:
      Always follow the casting director’s exactly, when the are given, such as:
      1. how many takes to include
      2. whether to slate or not
      3. deadline for submission
      4. very important and too often missed: label the mp3 file you submit, exactly, precisely as instructed. e.g. M_Braccia_Abrams_Mom.mp3 or Mom MarlonBraccia.mp3

  3. For the various demos, where do you find source material? How long should each one be? How many different clips within each demo? I am a complete newb to VO and am hoping to get started on the right foot. Thanks!

    1. each demo will be very specific to the genre of VO… so for audiobooks, you’d record a sample of a specific genre of audiobook (3rd person rom-com; 1st person nonfiction self-help; 1st person memoir; 3rd person historical drama {etc.})… for a commercial demo, you’ll have SHORT clips of ads (which you can create your own copy from print ads) pieced together… for animation, you’ll transcribe a few characters from shows you love. Basically, when you’re ready to build demos, you’ve figured out who your audience is for those demos and then research what the industry standards are at that time (I’ve seen audiobook demos as long as 6 minutes! but I think the current norm is still under 1 minute per book)…

      So to make my answer less daunting, I’ll refer back to your statement that you’re a “complete newb to VO”… which means you’re nowhere near ready to record demos, so you needn’t concern yourself. Creating a demo is NOT the right foot, if you don’t have experience or practice with at-home recording/editing/submitting in any particular genre. David listed a dozen or so “fruit” in the VO world, and where that fruit “hangs” on the VO tree (first lesson). If you decide on which fruit you’ll aim to pick, and then work in that world exclusively until you’re ready for another branch, your demos will be part of that “picking of the fruit” process. Don’t worry! You’re right where you need to be! ๐Ÿ˜€

    2. The industry standard for commercial, animation, game, promo, ADR and IVR demos is 60 -90 seconds. Yup. It’s that short and agent’s simply won’t listen to more or consider you a pro, if you submit a 5 min demo. For audiobooks you might be able to get away with a bit longer TRT (total running time), but not much more.
      How many clips you can fit into that, depends on the read. If it’s a slow sensual read, the clip would be longer. If it’s just a line or even just word plucked out of a commerical, that can work, too. The transitions being interesting is more important than how many clips you cram into each demo.
      Remember to put your best work first, so they keep listening.
      There are lots of sources of content: auditions you’ve already done, web search for commercial scripts or if you are like me, you just write some that will show off the way you want to present your brand.

    3. Emelle and Marlon, I want to thank you for jumping in on these questions (they are both VOHeroes Pros and know of what they speak!) -it’s becoming a little overwhelming as I didn’t expect this level of interest!!!! I’m glad you’re here!

  4. I did an ACX audiobook (and it’s re-release after the author got published) as a royalty share both times and haven’t gotten any money as there are less than 10 downloads each. Should I have gone with a per finished hour deal? Can you explain how to determine which option is best per project? Also, isn’t a publisher’s job to push for sales and get the book out there better? Thanks for your time!

    1. You don’t get to choose what the project type is, but you can certainly negotiate with the Rights Holder if you think you’d want to change it. It’s their choice. Publishers’ roles are changing, and with independent authors, there is no publisher involved. The whole world of book authoring has changed in many ways!

  5. Hi David, I am SO excited and grateful for this class!!! I am an actor and writer. In my first year and a half of VO work, I booked a Nickelodeon commercial, a Rockstar video game (even got to do mocap!), and a toy commercial campaign. A year later, after moving from NYC to LA (keeping my NY agents) I haven’t been getting many auditions and haven’t booked anything. Are VO agents currently seeking any talent? I’m wondering if I should look for other agents. Also, I would love to record demos for audiobook submissions. Do you have suggestions for length of samples or any other tips on getting started in audiobooks? I love the suggestion to record original work and can’t wait to do more of this! Thank you so much!

    1. The issue is, and always has been, one of supply and demand – there are more actors that need representation than agents who have room for actors on their rosters – but that doesn’t mean a great talent won’t be attractive to an agent! As far as audiobooks are concerned, we teach people to audition for what they want, and then keep the best ones to use as demos. Easy peasy! We also show you advanced strategies in the VOHeroes Pro curriculum.

  6. How do you come up with original content when you’re just starting out, and you need to build your portfolio from scratch. What kind of small projects can you do from a blank slate? I’m not someone who knows what to do with a blank slate, and I would love some suggestions.

    1. I think you might be talking about making your own demos, and there you might be making the assumption that you should write your own copy for those demos, or create some sort of sample original content. I would rethink that, and we will discuss this more in a future lesson. Great question!

  7. David, these are great. You are so generous. I’m already a union member from my on-camera work. In terms of my fees, isn’t that already set by the union? I also heard that you can take a non-union job and make it a union job by going through a paymaster. Can you speak to that? I’ve only had a few VO auditions so far, haven’t booked anything, no agent. No surprise there are way more non-union jobs out there than union.

    1. You are absolutely correct that you can take much of the work that would be nonunion (if it has a budget that would cover union minimums) and run it through a paymaster who can convert this to union work the benefits your health and pension. Also, remember that union rates are a floor, not a ceiling, so you can set whatever rates you want as long as they are at or above union minimums. And union rates are not always as inexpensive as nonunion rates. Strange, huh!

  8. Another great class, David — thank you! My question is: once you feel that you’re ready to contact publishers, what’s the best way to send them your demo? An mp3 attached in an email (if the file size is not too large)? Google Drive? DropBox? A link to your website, your ACX / Findaway profile, what?

    Best,
    Greg

    1. Each agent has a preference, it seems. Some don’t want large attachments in their inbox. Some actually prefer they are emailed. As you first mode of contact, ask in what way they prefer to accept demos.
      If you have a website, put your demos there and email a link
      If you do not have a website yet, post them on SoundCloud.com for free and send that link.
      Did you know you can also post audio on YouTube. Yup! Add as a visual placeholder your headshot, a graphic or perhaps a slide show.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this fantastic content! I heard about your course through Michael Kostroff, and I’m learning a lot. I’m very much a novice in this field. Did a couple of audiobooks years ago, and most recently voiced a character in a new narrative video game that was released recently. That job was done in-studio, and I do not have a recording set-up at home. I know you will be getting to the Science of Voice Over in the next two lessons, so I would love it if you could address setting up a small “studio” with very limited space. I don’t have a walk-in closet or an office space, and have seen some collapsable/portable booths online. Would love to hear your suggestions on this. Thanks again!

    1. That’s exactly what we’re going to do in both of the lessons on the science of voice over. Finding the right place within your space is not as hard as it might look initially, but you have to be smart about it. We will discuss it!

  10. Umm…did you say if you join your pro program, you PROVIDE equipment? Like a mic and headphones? Please say more! Also, I was sent here by Michael Kostrov ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Hello David, Quick question about starting your own podcast. After a podcast is produced what vehicle (s) do you use to get it out there? Thanks

    1. Ohโ€ฆ This is gonna be a great question to answer on one of the future lessons, and I will: podcasting is one of my favorite categories as I’ve been doing it as a podcaster since before it was called podcasting. Can’t wait to share with you!

  12. David, you are a REAL hero for helping so many in this way. Your insight is invaluable and you are a very effective and memorable teacher! Thank you for the gift of these videos!! I am a musical theatre performer just starting my VO journey and am devouring your insights. I’ve got my equipment, downloaded Audacity, and am plunging into ACX profile-making. VERY excited but finding a hard time selecting a focus… work on samples to upload? Start a podcast? Make mock commercials?

    1. None of these things are mutually exclusive, so can I be really selfish in my answer and say “all of these?” There’s no particular order to doing these, but I would be careful about “mock commercials.” I’d use real copy from real commercials, and the commercial demo is something you should have a great producer help you with. The ACX stuff? Do it however you like. Your profile won’t be seen until you upload your first demo.

  13. I love to speak and can explain myself clearly especially in subjects that I am quite versed in. I know that when I am recording stories or speeches I hear myself weaving in and out of clear enunciation. I also notice that there is the smacking of my lips while recording. Suggestions?

    1. All that is great, Wayne – and you need to make a concerted effort not to smack your lips (if indeed that’s what it is – not to be confused with other types of mouth noise), as it’s a behavior that is a very specific habit. We do it to make a mental note of our success in getting a sentence out and moving on to the next. Other types of mouth noise are involuntary for the most part, but lip smacks are not.

  14. Wow! Thank you! I have been doing voice over for over 5 years now and I did not know about ACX. Also very much liked the idea about giving yourself voice over jobs and the podcast. I recently started a podcast with a few other people and I didn’t consider how that can boost my voice over chops and create value. I also appreciated your thoughts about the last question. I know how hard it is not to get caught up in questioning my work. I think your suggestions on auditioning would be a great support to what I already have going.

    1. I’m so glad that when I have to share is landing for you. So often, we judge ourselves so harshly in questioning our work that it can hold us back from success. Hope you enjoy the rest of the lessons!

  15. Hi David!
    It’s been several years since I first met you at a casting workshop. (I still have the notes!) I am happy that my career coach Jodie referred me to your 5-part free training about Mastering Voice Over at Home in this senior season of my career. My background includes radio talk show and news commentary, local market commercial voice overs, TV station IDs and PSAs, training manual narration.Your presentation feels like I have never been taught any of this before…in a casual, personable, engaging way that makes the info stick! Thank you for being our flashlight on the
    road ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Wonderful presentation!! It’s just like Listening to a friend who has a vast World of information to share with me. Your confidence and ease of speaking makes learning so much easier. Thank you so much. I look forward to listening to the rest of the lessons and hopefully in future, taking your course.๐Ÿ’œ

  17. Thanks so much for the opportunity! This class is an answer to prayer! What is the best way to get started when they ask for a reel, but you dont have any content yet? Can you use old commercials or should you write your own?

    1. As I’ve mentioned in other answers here, I don’t recommend writing your own copy for any of your demos, especially since existing world-class professional public copy is available, and fits well within the notion of fair use. This is exactly what the framers of the copyright act had in mind when they created the notion of using copyrighted material to demonstrate your abilities as an actor. Unless you’re a world-class copywriter, I would not write my own copy. Make sense?

  18. Hey David I just wanted to say I really didn’t expect it would b you giving lessons I just wanted you to know I’m a huge fan of heroes an the puppeteer…. And I’m very excited to be receiving lessons from you thanks

  19. David, this is incredible information. Although I’ve been a full-time voice actor since 2005, it helps to listen to it again. Especially when there is such passion, intention and generosity behind the words. Thank you, and let’s stay connected.

    1. Elizabeth, thank you for the kind words. I’m happy to stay in contactโ€ฆ When this class is all over, please look for the podcast episodes here on the site to keep up with the latest that I’m sharing.

  20. Hi David:
    I just finished watching Lesson 2 and I had to write to you to thank you for sharing these videos! They outline a process, which is so important. They are excellent! Well organized and thought out, the quality of the video and audio is wonderful and the content is very detailed. Thank you so much!

    I’m an American actress, voice actor, singer, presenter and English Dialect Coach. I’m from PA, lived in NYC and have been in Germany for almost 32 years. When you outlined the “harder to reach fruit” list, I felt good after reading it, because I’ve done a lot of that work here in Germany and I’m the e-learning queen for very technical markets! I’m in the process right now of figuring out how to tweak my demo clips so that they are more appropriate for the US market. I have voice agents here in Germany, and working on getting into a few in the UK and would love to reach out to the US. I don’t record at home. I have a studio in Koeln that I work with regularly. I concentrate on my speaking work and they do the technical things. That works best for me. It’s strange, but I seldom have to audition for work. Recently I offered to a new client to do a recording of some of their text, and they were so thrilled, I got the job.

    I’m looking forward to working through all six videos, and then taking a look at your other courses. By the way, I love your voice too. It’s really great to listen to and is very warm, friendly, and supportive.

  21. Hi David, thanks for all your wonderful advice. I mainly complete audiobook narration (fiction and non-fiction) projects and would love to hear your thoughts about audio mastering. I tend to outsource this aspect. When time permits I have tried to understand the steps to mastering audio, but there is an astounding amount of conflicting information on how to do this e.g.- one website may show 6 mandatory mastering concepts, and then another website might also insist on 6 mandatory mastering concepts, where there is only a match for say 3 or 4 of those steps. Finding the right training for this, as you have alluded to, seems fraught with many sharks out there. I use Audacity and know how to apply the mastering concepts (plugins & chains, etc), and probably understand 80% of why I might apply a specific plugin. I fear the 20% I don’t understand will be detrimental to mastering my own work. Sorry for the long question, but I’m betting you understand the question. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much. Regards, David

    1. I only use Audacity for recording and editing audiobook content, not mastering it. I created a piece of software that does the mastering for me – it’s called AudioCupcake, and my Pro member students get the Premium version for free. You just drop your raw WAV file onto AudioCupcake, and it automatically creates a 192k mono MP3 file that meets the tech standard set by ACX/Audible. Not a big deal to worry about once you know the “secret”. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. How long are these sessions (free) available? Am working Polling Station
    Need to finish later this week

  23. I feel very lucky to have had your class link sent to me. I have been told what a unique voice I have and wondered how to get Voice Over actress started. Fantastic collection of information. So helpful. Thank you so much. I’m a standup comedian and thought there might be a great market for my voice and timing.

    1. I love it when standups get into VO – it allows them to take advantage of the timing they’ve practiced and refined on stage. There’s no audience to work with, but you already know how to let things land, a skill that’s hard for some non-performers to learn. Awesome!!

  24. This is a little off topic, but I purchased a mic sock from you and the video on how to install it appears to be broken/wonโ€™t play. Could you please take a look?

  25. I am interested in doing e-Learning, narration and explainer work. What is the best process for getting work in the e-Learning, narration and explainer video. Does email marketing, LinkedIn provide a good path to get this type of work.

    1. Once you have a base of clients, email marketing becomes more effective (you need someone to email, and cold emails are actually spam) – LinkedIn, maybe. I’d be looking at casting sites like Voice123, Bodalgo and Voquent.

  26. Thank you David, grateful beyond words!!! For your expertise and heart felt, passionate knowledge of this artistry. I’m learning everything, I’ve had questions about-for some time.

  27. THANK YOU for these tutorials! ๐Ÿ˜ I’ve been told I have a great voice for VO. I’ve been an actor since the mid 80’s so have some experience. I’m getting to the age where the “less seasoned” actors are in demand. I’m wanting to get into VO more to extend my acting years & paychecks.
    All I’m learning from you will be a great new creativity & monitary stream. Again, thank you ๐Ÿ˜Š

  28. I’ve worked professionally in VO for the last four years and feel like I’m creatively hitting a wall. I’ve gotten close to some really big campaigns, but feedback from one CD said that the client was concerned if I have enough range. I’ve also noticed that lately, I feel stuck when auditions ask for multiple takes. Any suggestions to get out of the rut? Loving this course, and thank you so much for sharing all the wisdom, David!

    1. Hey Simone, I find I go back to acting basics and character work when I get stuck on doing multiple takes. I look for different motivations and objectives and tactics and this helps open up my mind to the possibilities. I love VO cause no one can see the weird faces I make when I’m doing the various takes! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  29. Hey there, thanks for sharing your knowledge. What are the main VO casting sites, besides ACX?

    1. There are sites like Voice123, Bodalgo, and Voquent, but they all are constantly being joined by new sites, some good and very active oriented, and some not so good and very much producer oriented. It’s one of those courses that I constantly have to keep updated in the real heroes pro curriculum because the information is constantly changing. But those three are a good start.

  30. Self-worth, YES!!
    In response to your question: What else makes you really frustrated when it comes to being a VO talent?… For me it’s the editing/sound engineering/mastering, etc. I’m learning how to use Audacity but plugins and filters and similar stuff really gets me stuck.
    Also, you mentioned previously that we don’t need to do anything about breath sounds – makes sense for some fiction work but too much sounds odd particularly in non-fiction VO. Do you have any examples of breath sounds filters before/after? or any examples of how much breath sound is generally acceptable so I have a general comparison? I’m sure there’s something on YouTube but that’s a black hole and I’d love some direction or a place to start. Thanks!

    1. Would it surprise you to know that I use absolutely no filters or plug-ins to alter the sound of my voice? And it’s not because I am a longtime professional, it’s because I believe that vocal colorization using those plug-ins is something that people do because they don’t have the faith in their own basic voice that they need to succeed. One of the things that I love about teaching my curriculum is giving people the power to have confidence in their voice, raw and unadulterated. I do hope I get to work with you on this.

  31. Hey David;
    where can we see your vid tutorial about making the podcast you’ve mentioned on your 2nd vid?
    Thanks a lot, David!

    1. Those tutorials are part of the two podcasting courses that are included in the VOHeroes Pro curriculum. I’m not sure if I’m addressing your question properly, but I think that’s what you’re talking about.

    2. Oh, waitโ€ฆ If you go back into the article archive here on the site, there are episodes of my podcast from 2019 that show the progression of how my look and feel has changed when I’m doing my podcast episodes. I don’t have the exact links, but they’re in there.

  32. Hi, I’ve seen lessons 1 & 2 so far. Both were excellent and very informative..and encouraging. Thank you so much!

  33. Really enjoying watching and listening to you. Love your voice!!
    I’m an English actress and in the 80s,90s and 2000s I worked in vo, audio books, radio commercials , documentary vo’s, tape recorded tours and lip synching. BUT!! always in a studio…I am so pathetically untechy that I have abandoned vo work as I’m terrified of the home recording/editing I’d have to do. I really need to develop another income stream and whilst my voice would appear to be an asset, I think now that vocal quality is perhaps only 5% of the game! What do you think?!
    Emma

    1. The technical side of things is actually nothing to be afraid of. If you can do wordprocessing, or create and send an email, that’s a lot harder than recording audio, especially for what we do as voice talent: mono dry voice tracks. So don’t worry about it.

    1. I am so glad that you are inspired! Sometimes when I’m sharing this information, I have no idea whether it’s landing for people or not, and it’s always great to hear from those for whom it’s working.

  34. Just listened to Lesson 2..this isn’t live, so don’t know if you’ll read this, but thanks for all the great info! Lots to chew on…I already have a presence on Facebook and (a little) on Instagram. I feel I need to work on this more. Should I have a separate online page/presence for VO business only, separate from personal Facebook, etc? I’m thinking building a website is necessary, when I have some demo tapes to share, which my VO teacher in class is promising to help with in her next set of classes. Thanks again for creating such good classes and being so readily available to us!!

  35. Hi, David my name is Aixa im sorry for trying to connect with you so late but I’ve been extremely busy and sick as well. I’m interesting in voice over for animation and commercial. And I already bought part of the equipment like a microphone but is doesn’t work when I connected to my my laptop. I cannot heard nothing But do I need another equipment to make it work. I have an audio technical microphone.