Voice Over Education Blog

June 2014

Industrial and Corporate Videos - Part One: How to make yourself more valuable.

NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click for Part Two

When you tell someone what you do -- that is, once they understand what “voice over” means -- does it go something like this?

“So, was that you in the _______ commercial?”

“No, that was Benjamin Bratt. Anyway, I don’t do commercials. That’s only 5% of the voice over market. I’m a narrator.”

“I see. Like last week on Nature?”

“No, that was F. Murray Abraham.”

“Then what do you narrate?”

“Maybe you caught my video on the importance of choosing the correct plastic beads for an industrial extrusion process?”

“Was that the one with John Cleese?”

“No, although he does do corporate training videos.”

Sigh. Industrial and Corporate Videos are one (or two) of the biggest, most active genres.

Consider: worldwide, people view 1.12 billion hours of live (and recorded live) business online video content yearly, a number that’s expected to double by 2016. Most or all of that is probably “unproduced” video (like filming a stage play, not like producing a movie), so it has little to do with voice over. But the number gives you the sense of scale. Produced video is expanding, too, and as companies become more experienced in video use, their practices get more sophisticated.

Industrial and Corporate are also among the most interesting genres -- you’re almost always learning something. But they are relatively unsung, and your friends are unlikely to hear your work.

How do you read for Commercials? (Part Two)

NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. To read Part One, click here.

In Part One, I observed that there is no one way to read a commercial, because there is no one type of commercial. And if there were a “standard way,” that would make commercials pretty boring, wouldn’t it?

But there are some standards that talent in this genre should understand, and generally adhere to. Among them is the recognition that a commercial’s ultimate goal is to sell something. Add to that the probability that the listener doesn’t want to be sold; in fact, the listener probably doesn’t even want to hear the commercial and may be listening with half an ear at best.

As we continue our list from last week, that’s where your special skills come in.

Clients know what they want. And they don’t. When casting a commercial, there will usually have been some discussion of what sort of voice to use. Male, female, younger, older, gruff, sweet, resemblance to a celebrity, English accent, whatever. Despite the now long established trend to casting “real person” voices, sometimes the client will expect a goldenthroat. Everybody involved in the casting decision will have an sound in their head. Thing is, they haven’t yet heard you. Often the talent who gets the job is the one who shows them a quality they hadn’t anticipated, one that will enhance the message, flatter the product, and help make the commercial stand out. Good producers and successful talent recognize this fact.

How Do You Read Commercials? (Part 1)

NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click for Part Two!

Once upon a time when I was finishing a day of freelance copywriting at a major ad agency, one of the Creative Directors popped into my office and asked, “How do you write for radio?”

Bear in mind that this was a head honcho, so you’d think he’d know. But his bailiwick was mainly print advertising. He was right to ask, because commercials are different. And as I told him, there is no one way to write for them.

There’s no one right way to read them, either. There are all sorts of commercials, all sorts of objectives, and all sorts of clients. The only common denominator is this: the client’s objective is to always to sell something. It might be a product, or a service, or an idea. It might be simply to make the listener feel good about the brand, or it might be to generate a phone order as you speak. But ultimately, as one venerable ad agency has put it, “It’s not creative unless it sells.”

This can make the Commercials genre experience quite different from many other genres. For example, in Narration, you can reasonably assume that the listener/viewer wants to learn about the love life of wildebeest. In Audiobooks, the customer may even have paid to hear what you have to say. In Telephony, you’re rendering a service to the caller (and if it’s an on-hold message, at that moment your message doesn’t have so much competition for the listener’s attention). And so on.

Whereas in Commercials, as we all know, the listener has no built-in incentive to pay attention, has lots of other options, and usually doesn’t care a whit about the product you’re selling.

What’s in Your VO Business Plan? (Part 2)

NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. To read part one, click here!

Last week, we discussed the need for you, as a voice over artist, to behave as a business. Every business needs a Business Plan. Unless your plan is intended to be read by potential investors or partners, yours doesn’t have to be super-formal. But it should address all aspects of your voice over business, be written down, and be well thought-out.

Much of that thought is simply a matter of Common Sense, so don’t let this task intimidate you. The key thing is that you don’t overlook something that will be important down the road, and that you be realistic in your projections and expectations.

So as you apply your common sense, don’t guess at the answers. Take your numbers and guidance from current, reliable sources.

Here’s a guide as to what to include:

Market potential

What niche (or few niches) will you pursue? Consider both your capabilities and your interests. What will you most enjoy doing, and is there a demand for it? Will you work full-time or part-time? Should you focus on one genre, or will you be able (or need to) serve more than one market? Has the VO market you’re considering changed since you first looked at it? Is it growing? What other VO markets involve similar capabilities that you have? Who (or what) will be your competition, and what do they offer? If the market is so large and saturated that you’ll just be a drop in the bucket, what sub-genres within it have sharper demand?

Product development

What’s in Your VO Business Plan?

NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click for Part Two.

There’s a saying: “Nobody will treat you like a business unless you treat yourself like a business.” That’s oh, so true, regarding everything from pricing and getting paid on time, to finding clients and having your professional capabilities respected.

Maybe you’ve heard this other one: “90% of new businesses soon fail.”

That’s not necessarily true. The number is probably apocryphal. In fact, last time we checked, even the U.S. Small Business
Administration didn’t have exact data on the number of new businesses that don’t succeed within their first few years.

But versions of the latter saying still get passed around, because it rings true. It’s as plausible as the first, because many new businesses don’t have a comprehensive business plan.

A business plan addresses both these issues. Whether you’re a budding voice over artist or an established pro, you should have one, and keep it current. It will help focus your efforts for greater productivity and profit, and help you adapt to the continually evolving needs of clients and the many voice over markets.

However, there are many kinds of business plans. Some run dozens of pages, covering the entire range of business considerations, with an Executive Summary and carefully researched market data and financial
projections. A plan aimed at obtaining venture capital differs in content from one aiming to secure a bank loan. (The former stresses investment opportunity, the latter assures lower risk and includes examples of collateral.) Other potential prospects require other emphases, and some plans can be much simpler.

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