10 Common Mistakes Voice Actors Make
Recently a veteran voice actor I work with quite a bit asked me if I could compile a list of mistakes that new voice actors make for a project he’s working on. As an agent representing over 700 voice over artists – some experienced and some, not so much…it didn’t take long before I was able to compile a quick list off the top of my head.
If you’re an up-and-coming talent and even if you’re not – I think (and hope) you’ll find at least one or two points here that will help you gain perspective on the kind of professional conduct that may help elevate your career, or at the very least, will provide you with a little insight on my challenges and needs as an agent and that information could prove somewhat useful…
So without further ado, here’s the list:
1. Going over your work
It’s often tough to spend the extra time to go over your work because we often work with very tight deadlines. However that is precisely why going over VO work is so important. In most cases, VO recordings and audio post-production in general happens at the very end of the production workflow. This means that when clients request a VO recording – they are usually out of time and need the audio two days ago. When you don’t check your work for errors, it forces the client to either work with what they have (making them not so very happy), or ask for pickups which just doesn’t reflect well on you nor me.
2. Alt reads
This is more of a recommendation, especially for talents working with the foreign market. There are countless instances where we get copies that are poorly phrased. In some cases there are even typos or basic grammar errors. When the errors are super obvious and just don’t work in a sentence, I would expect you to fix it on the fly when recording. There are cases where the phrasing is just bad, but the client has already signed off on the copy. In these cases, to save the back and forth of asking the client (who may be in a different time zone) – I would usually ask to provide alt reads. When you do this independently it shows initiative and to me it means you care about your work.
3. Changing copy without permission
The flip side of #2 – talents who insist on changing the copy because it “doesn’t sound right to them”. Their alt may be better, but the client has signed off on the text (often with their own client – after several iterations in many cases), so changing the script because you do not like the phrasing will not make a client happy and they will ultimately ask for pickups. Not to mention the risk of altering the content or the message while doing so.
This is related to item 1 and is super important. Voice actors who are available for quick turnaround work are always higher on my list for gigs than those who get back to me several days after I initiate contact. This might sound cold but the industry is such that clients are gained and lost depending on reaction speed, so it’s important to me that talents I work with understand this.
5. Following direction
Most talents do follow direction but many newer talents don’t realize or forget how important the style, pace and tone is to a client. I would recommend talents to ask for references before recording (if I don’t do it for them ahead of time). It could be a part of their own demo that the client liked, or some other reference like a movie character or a certain trailer that the client is trying to emulate.
6. Technical issues
Unless I’m sending auditions to clients (in mp3 format), I typically work with uncompressed audio formats like WAV and AIF. These files tend to be BIG and if there’s one thing I find annoying – it’s getting an emails with 30 MB audio file attachments. Use Wetransfer / Dropbox / Hightail. There are so many services for this kind of thing. Emails are for corresponding and sending small attachments.
7. Technical issues (continued)
In the analog age, recording relatively hot was important because of noise floor issues. Now in the digital age it’s a non-issue and talents can record at a decent level that isn’t close to clipping. Understanding that and a little bit about audio in general is helpful in my view. Gone are the days (almost) when you would go to an external studio and let the engineer worry about these things. Now it’s an integral part of your craft.
8. Staying in touch
Again this is a tip. Not many voice actors go the extra mile and send an email to their clients / agents just to let them know that they are there and ready for work. Perhaps some clients / agents find it annoying. I personally don’t mind it as long as it’s done in good taste. I may not have work for them at that moment, but think it would serve the talent to get in touch once a month / 2 months so that I have them in my head, so to speak.
9. Constantly working and improving your craft
I think highly of even the most accomplished talents who ask for client feedback and finding out if there’s anything they could do to improve. Besides that – going to seminars / conventions or learning from online resources all the time – I feel is important because there’s always room to grow – in every field.
A tip for new voice actors. Pricing is competitive as the industry grows and more voice actors get into the field. I think flexibility in pricing is important TO A DEGREE. I respect everyone’s fee schedule and I believe anyone doing VO work should be compensated accordingly. I will also not ask talents to do work when the fee I’m offered is unreasonable. There’s a fine line and knowing where to draw that line as a new talent is important I think. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing work for any fee (or on the flip side – not being flexible enough to lower your fee at all) so understand your boundaries well.
Did you find this useful? Can you think of any other rookie mistakes that are worth sharing? Please add your comments below.