You know enough that you want to hire a professional voice actor for your project, but how should you go about it?
Define the Job
The most important thing is to define a few things about your project. Voice acting rates are based mostly on script length, script type (e.g., medical or commercial), and – very importantly – usage (including duration of usage). For instance, a job could be a 30-second commercial script for radio that will be played nationally for 3 months. Another job could be a 2,000-word narration for an eLearning video that will be used in-house only (within the company by the company employees). Another job might be a fiction audiobook that is 80,000 words.
If usage changes (such as, if you want to run your commercial for another 3 months), you will need to contact the voice actor and renegotiate.
Be clear about when you need the files and in what format, and be clear about when pickups (corrections or changes) will be needed.
Be aware that it is customary for voice actors to show finished jobs on their own websites. If for some reason this is not acceptable to you or timing is important, be clear before they accept the job. For instance, you probably don’t want a TV commercial to be on the voice actor’s website until after it has started running on TV.
To get a general idea of how much a job may cost (once you’ve defined the job by script length, type, and usage), you could look at rate guides such as the Global Voice Acting Academy (GVAA) Rate Guide or at SAG-AFTRA or other source, but keep in mind that they are just guides and are usually considered the “floor” of what a job should cost. Voice actors each set their own rates.
Some extra charges could include editing, splitting files, having a directed session, or doing extra pickups, so it is important to decide on this in advance.
Voice actors should be paid when their files are ready for delivery to you, although some voice actors will allow as much as 30 days for payments. Some voice actors, however, will not even deliver files to you without upfront payment, since they’ve been burned by shady customers in the past. Paying late can cause voice actors to not work with you again and can destroy your reputation – word spreads.
Some customers try to save money by low-balling the price of voice actors, but most good voice actors will not haggle – their rates are their rates, based upon a great deal of knowledge and experience. They know what it costs to run their voiceover business and what they’re worth, and they know that customers who low ball (or expect the first job at a discount for a promise of more work later) are a waste of time for all involved. It’s a business. Remember that hiring a cheap voice actor may cost you much more in the long run, especially if you have to start the whole process over.
Once you have defined your job and you have a realistic budget, you’re ready to hire the voice actor.
Choosing & Actually Hiring the Voice Actor
There are several methods for choosing and hiring a voice actor. Below are some of the most common. In each case, be sure to state everything about the job to get an accurate quote, and be sure to have your agreement in writing before the voice actor starts work.
Contacting the voice actor directly (or their agent if the agent is listed on their website). This is often the quickest and least expensive method, especially if you know which voice actor you want.
Choosing a voice actor from a recognized high-quality roster of voice actor professionals. For instance, the World-Voices Organization (WoVO) has the voiceover.biz site. Voice One has their talent database at voiceone.com/talent. There are many others, but not all are prescreened.
Using a casting director, either directly or through a creative agency, production house, or other group. A casting director can receive auditions from many voice actors and agencies and then eliminate the auditions that have poor audio quality or who didn’t hit the mark in some other way. Then, the casting director can provide you with a clean short list of good voice actor auditions for you to choose from. Casting directors cost more than some methods, but their skills can really be of value in selecting the right voice actor for the job.
Using an agency that represents voice actors.
Using a pay-to-play sites for voice actors. Although there are many good professionals on these sites, there are also many untrained people. Some voice actors will not use these sites at all, especially since some people try to hire voice actors at low, unsustainable rates using this method. The ratings often do not represent the skills of the voice actors, unfortunately. (For instance, if audition emails are sent to the voice actor at 2:30 in the morning and the voice actor doesn’t respond until 7:30, the algorithm apparently drops them to lower ratings because of slow response time. However, during the day, the voice actor may actually be responding in less than an hour.) Usually you pay the site, which then pays the voice actor.
You Can Do It
I hope this has made it easier for you to understand how to have a good experience hiring a voice actor. Best wishes on your project!