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Read Instructions Then Follow Them

Have you ever built Ikea furniture? If you like jigsaw puzzles, then you probably think building Ikea furniture is the greatest thing ever. On the other hand, if you don’t like building jigsaw puzzles, well… you probably wish you knew someone who did. So you could hire them.

The trick to building Ikea furniture is to first read the instructions.

All of them.

All the way through.

From start to finish.

Oh, and then, after you’ve read all the instructions, follow them.

Read Instructions

I’ve done casting for more than a few voice over projects, both via Pay 2 Play and direct email invitations. In each of those experiences there is one thing that never ceases to amaze me… the number of voice over actors who are incapable (apparently) of following very clear, very simple directions.

Yesterday I posted a message on Twitter and Facebook.


Simple enough, right?

Apparently not.

Despite the fact that I provided, what I thought, were very, very clear instructions, what resulted was something entirely different.

Then Follow Them

girl-building-ikea-furnitureLet me begin by saying that 80% of the respondents did follow my simple instructions. A quick note with a link to their demo. Just like I asked.

But then there was the other 20%.

These individuals messaged me with novels. Literally. Novels!

They included a history of their professional voice over careers. They name dropped every major client they’ve ever worked with since birth.

No less than six to eight links to various and assorted demos were included. Some included links to everything BUT their explainer video voice over work… which I originally asked for.

Or Face The Consequences

These individuals completely missed what I was asking for, tried too hard, and as a result… their names were not included in my referral list.

If they can’t follow my simple two sentence instructions, I would never assume they can follow instructions of a client. And I’ll never give my clients names of voice actors who can’t follow simple instructions.

Just like your Ikea furniture, if you want to succeed, if you want to get it right the first time, read the instructions all the way through, and then begin the project.

Otherwise when you’ll finish with disaster.


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Directed vs Directing

I once helped someone renovate a bathroom. While I’ve got some skills in the plumbing department, I know my limits. When it came time to install the shower / tub unit, I was wise enough to reach out to a plumber. When he showed up, I let him take over. I wasn’t going to tell him what to do. I just did whatever he asked. Mostly, “fetch this,” and “fetch that.”

Far be it from me to ever tell a professional how to do his job, regardless of what I may or may not know, or think I may or may not know.

Directed (By The Client)

directing-voice-actorsWhen you’re working with producers and experienced clients, it’s not uncommon for them to provide voice over direction. This could come in any number of ways from simple written instructions in an email right through to fully directed recording sessions.

Working with a client who knows exactly what they want makes our job, as the voice talent, a lot easier.

When a client knows what they want and provide good, clear direction, we can nail the voice over right out of the gate. Life is good!

Directing (Of The Client)

On the flip side, sometimes, as the professional voice actor, it might be up to you to do the directing. Just like my experience with the bathroom reno, I know my limits. I’m not about to tell a plumber how to do his job. He’s the pro! Well, you’re the pro in your field.

I’ve had many experiences with clients who either a) don’t know what they want and are relying on me to help them figure it out or b) think they know what they want, but need to be respectfully guided (or, directed) in a different direction.

Bottom line, sometimes as the professional voice actor, you’re going to have to tell the client what they want. And you need to be comfortable and confident enough in your abilities to do this.

Sometimes as the professional voice actor, you’re going to have to tell the client what they want. Click to Tweet

To be clear, I’m not talking rudely or forcefully. This is not about making your client feel like an idiot. This is about using your skills as a professional to ensure your client gets the absolute best voice over for their project.

How You Do It

directors-chairThere are many different ways to accomplish this…

  1. Record one take their way and one take your way.
  2. Ask specific questions to help guide your client in a clear direction.
  3. Provide them an example of why you think a certain delivery might work for their project.
  4. Explain to them how you interpret their script.
  5. Simply offer to use your expertise to provide a quality recording.

Our end goal as voice actors should always be the same. Satisfied clients. As I always say, happy clients are repeat clients.

Whether they direct you or you direct them, as long as they get the recording the want and need, everybody wins!


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Two Tools For Better Voice Overs

Have you ever received a script from a client, read it over, and honestly thought to yourself that any number of a half dozen reads could potentially work? Maybe you’ve even done a few dry reads for yourself and thought none of them sounded bad!

In a perfect world every script would come with completely clear direction, and every client would know exactly what they wanted. But if you’ve been doing voice over for more than five minutes, you’ve realized that’s just not how it works.

I work with great clients on a near daily basis who have a general idea what they want, but they trust me, as the professional voice talent, to be able to deliver the best read possible for the script and it’s use; be it video, commercial, eLearning, etc.

Two Tools For Better Voice Overs

storyboardWhen you get the feeling that a couple different reads might work, or when the client isn’t a hundred percent clear on the direction they want the voice over to take, there are a couple of tools you might be able to turn to to help you out.

Storyboards: I do a lot of explainer video work. It’s not uncommon for producers and clients to send me visual storyboards for these projects. I work with corporate and eLearning clients that will sometimes send storyboards as well. More often than not, you can really get a feel for the direction of the project, and thereby for the appropriate read, but going over the storyboard.

Music Beds: Even more so than storyboards, I LOVE it when clients send me their chosen music bed. Often, within 10 seconds of listening to the track, I can pretty much know exactly what style of read and what tone of voice I need to use to deliver the perfect voice over.

Two tools for better directed voice overs… storyboards and music beds. Click to Tweet

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

music-headphonesJust this week I was in a conference call with a producer and client discussing a project I was going to be voicing. There was a general idea of the feel they wanted for the voice over, but there wasn’t an absolute consensus. I suggested the client select a music bed they liked and I’d deliver a read based on their choice.

The bed they chose was actually quite different from what I was expecting, and I took the voice over read in a totally different direction. When I delivered the final recording, the client absolutely loved it!

If you’re unsure of the direction, or if the client is unsure, asking for a storyboard and/or a music bed might be just the tool you need to deliver a professional voice over that perfectly meets their need!

FOR COMMENT: What other tools to you use to help deliver the perfect take?