Voice Over Education Blog

May 2018

Does a voice actor need insurance? Yes, and no. And Yes.

You're trained, your voice-over career is off to a great start, and things are going well. There's nobody else quite like you. You've landed a healthy supply of steady voice-over clients, or are clearly starting to. What could possibly go wrong?

Indeed. One never knows about the future. That's why there is insurance. Are you (as they say in the insurance game) hazardously "exposed"? Whether your voice-over business is long-established or just getting started, it is, in fact, a business. And any business worthy of the term "professional" should be protected by appropriate coverage.

But for a freelancer, and voice actors in particular, exactly what does that mean?

PLEASE NOTE: We are not tax or insurance experts. Our intent here is only to raise your awareness. Before making any major decision in these areas, please fully inform yourself or consult a qualified professional.

There are various types of insurance to consider. Some, you might consider a necessity. Others, maybe a luxury. But you should consider them. Because insurance is a luxury only when you will never need it.

Health insurance.

We know what this is. If you get seriously ill, the insurance pays all or part of your healthcare expenses. And, in protection of the insurance company's own interest, they will probably pay for some preventative care and checkups.

Since your business IS you, it's natural to think of health insurance as a necessary business expense. But for you as a solo worker, it's actually a personal deduction, a special one for self-employed people. That affects how you may deduct it, and what other taxes it may or may not affect. For example, the deduction applies to your various income taxes, but not to your self-employment tax. There are also considerations as to how much you may deduct, and what business income it may be deducted from.

For voice-over success, know – and trust – yourself.

The Greeks said, "Know thyself." Sometimes they meant it in a way that we modern folk might not realize – namely, to know your place in the scheme of things. But most people today probably understand the advice in a more positive sense ... to know your own nature and why you act and think as you do. That seems a sensible idea, especially for the actor. In fact, Plato (it says here in our Classics crib sheet) professed that by knowing one's own human nature, a person is better able to know the nature of other humans.

With regard to voice-over, we would add a further angle. At some point, it is also important to "Trust thyself." To illustrate that point, here is a brief fable, ripped from the pages of a personal history:

Once upon a time, a college student got to DJ for a couple hours each week on the campus radio station. Throughout each week, he put a lot of effort into the show, planning jokes and patter, and intros, all kinds of material to cram into that scanty timeslot. He didn't know it at the time, but it was hardly worth so much effort. He had no experience at working a live audience, everything sounded much, much too "rehearsed," and he was like the cocktail party guest who's so full of small talk that you wish he'd pause to let you settle your nerves, let alone get a word in edgewise.

He wasn't even funny. To illustrate, do you know that scene in Good Morning, Vietnam where Robin Williams (as Adrian Cronauer) follows a really straight-laced Armed Forces Radio announcer guy who says stilted things like, "Greetings and felicitations"? Our hero sounded like that announcer guy.

Then, one day, our hero happened to walk into the station to do some record filing or whatever, and the Program Director said, "Our 4 o'clock DJ is sick. You're the only DJ here. You're on the air in 5 minutes."

"But I have nothing prepared," our hero stammered, ready to steadfastly refuse.

What's the right way to deliver a humorous VO line? Part 3 of 3

NOTE: This is the third post in a 3-part article. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

There's a wrong way to tell a joke. But there's often more than one right way. Part of what makes the "right" way work is that it coincides with the character of the person telling it. (Or rather, the persona of the character. And by "joke," we mean any humorous line.) Is the person high-energy, or low-key? Are they cynical, or silly? Are they known to be serious, but with a comic payoff?

Your character affects your listener's expectations, patience, and viewpoint as they listen. It also affects the way you time the joke – and thus the laugh.

As we mused at the end of Part Two, can you learn comedy timing without having entertained friends or coworkers all your life? Yes, maybe you can. But timing is not as simple as some people think. Here are some tips.

(Reminder: The term "comedy timing" doesn't refer to how long it takes to tell a joke. In its simplest sense, it refers to knowing just the right moment to deliver the punch line. In the real world of humorous discourse, it's more complex than that. But it's still not about how long it takes to read the script.)

There are two basic components of delivering a joke: timing and pacing.

Timing. Maybe it should be called comedy pausing.

Timing involves knowing where to pause, how long to pause, and why.

In the context of comedy or dramatic direction, you'll often hear the word, "beat." For example, "Between these two words, wait a beat."

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