a generation x man sitting with his feet on a desk in an office with headphones on, listening to voice actor audition demos.

Looking for Animation Voice Over Jobs? Learn What Clients Want

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As an entrepreneur (like all voice actors are!) it’s just good business to explore what clients want.

So, to help answer the age old question of “what do clients look for in a voice actor?” it’s best to go right to the source: to the clients of course!

Over the years, Voices.com has participated in or hosted several events aimed at helping voice actors to improve their business, and their craft. One of the event series that Voices.com held in various cities throughout the US was called LevelUp. At this event, clients, coaches and voice actors came together to learn from one another and to network. During a panel session, three experienced clients – Jim Kennelly, Owner of Lotas Productions, Charlie Marks, Post-Producer at Mustache Agency, and Megan Anttila, Executive Producer at Casual Films – brought the audience on a deep dive concerning production and their expectations of voice actors who earn their business.

The Most Important Characteristic that Clients Look for in a Voice Actor

In this video, the panelists describe the single most important characteristic they look for in a voice actor.

Enthusiasm, owning the content, and being a reliable production partner were the main points the panelists drove home. Interestingly, all of their points really tied together, and even though performance is known to be very important, none of their points had to do with the actual ‘read.’ According to our guests, it’s all about the working relationship and how a voice actor approaches that particular relationship.

Being enthusiastic in your approach to the opportunity (not just reading enthusiastically), preparing yourself to feel confident as the subject matter expert, and conducting yourself professionally, both inside and outside of a directed session, are all major indicators of a voice actor who earns repeat business!

What’s The Worst Thing a Voice Actor Can Do?

Next, panelists discussed their opinions on the worst thing a voice actor can do, which would put their working relationship in jeopardy.

This clip drives home a resounding opinion that voice actors who don’t ‘take direction well’ stand to lose business. However, it’s worthwhile to mention that voice actors who miss the mark aren’t necessarily doing so on purpose. Many voice actors may feel they’re taking direction in stride, but still fall into this stumbling block. This suggests that it comes down to how a voice actor may be perceived by clients. So as a solution, let’s explore how we can help ourselves be perceived more positively when responding to direction.

Much like a voice actor does while recording, paying attention to your tone, pitch, rate of speech, and use of grammar and language are all ways to control how a client will perceive your response to their artistic direction.

We’re all human, so the urge to let out a huff when you’re frustrated or flustered is natural. However, even something as little as that is enough to skew how the client sees artistic direction being received.

‘Taking direction well’ can also mean being more open to creative interpretation of the direction being given. There are two things at play there: active listening, and a fearlessness to try things differently, all the time. How far a voice actor is willing to push their own boundaries to try and execute the read, is a good indicator of someone who wins repeat business.

Active listening doesn’t just help you to be perceived more positively by clients. The science behind it says that active listening helps us to better digest information as well. In the case of voice actors, that helps to produce a more accurate output of the artistic direction clients give.

Restating is one of the most commonly recommended, but underutilized active listening strategies. Restating is when you repeat what’s been said to you by paraphrasing in your own words. This helps to steer clear of accidentally assuming you understood what the client has asked of you. Sometimes clients are unintentionally unclear. So by restating what they’ve asked for, you could help them clarify and provide better direction before you head down the wrong artistic path.

Reflection is another active listening strategy. Reflect on what’s been said by pulling out the points that seemed most important to the client, and confirm that you’re putting the importance on the exact thing that they’ve specified. This differs from “restating” because it puts emphasis on areas of the conversation that seemed to be stressed as highly important, and not just the whole conversation in general.

How Can Voice Actors be Effective Partners with Producers?

It’s becoming more and more evident that voice actors who are looking to build up their profile of repeat business are expected to go beyond providing their voice. Specifically, putting more attention onto how they manage their relationship with clients, as mentioned above in the first video.

Watch the video below to see what the panelists had to say about the importance of voice actors doubling as production partners.

Jim makes an incredibly strong point when he says, “Patience leads to trust, and trust leads to speed.” Speed was mentioned as a central requirement by the panelists all throughout the discussion. In this video, Jim’s emphasis on speed is based around building trust by providing consistent performances. Yes, speed means quick communications and 24-hour turnaround times, but for Jim and producers like him, speed also means entrusting a brand voice to a voice actor who is able to quickly take direction and nail the read, “no fuss, no muss.” This suggests that clients are more inclined to build relationships with voice actors they trust and then give those actors all of the voice over projects they have.

Also, here again, the panelists touch on coaching and receiving direction. This time, they help paint a clearer image of how to “receive direction well” when they say voice actors need to display patience with producers who are providing some coaching.  

How do Mistakes Made by Voice Actors Impact Producers?

Mistakes like mis-labelling files or mispronouncing industry vocabulary don’t just impact the voice actor. They impact the producer as well. In this video, the client panelists explain how those small oversights can lead to greater issues.  

The producer, if unable to catch the mistake before getting to the end client, is now the “fall guy.” The end client will attribute the mistake to their performance and that can lead to a strain of relationship for the producer and end client, jeopardizing the voice over work as well. Charlie uses the phrase “floodgates of failure” to describe how the smallest of errors can snowball into clients questioning to continue their business with the production house, and in turn, the voice actor sourced by the production house.

If these types of details – like pronunciation, or file naming conventions – aren’t provided, get ahead of it by asking for those types of things at the beginning of the project’s coordination.

What Makes a Voice Actor a Star

A tough question to answer, that’s for sure. Charlie was able to offer up his insight on this. His ideas of a stand-out voice actor is someone who’s able to bring something special with them everything. single. time.

To Charlie, the nuances and varying emphasis’ that a voice actor can put into a read are what make them stand out. But that’s easier said than done! How does one learn which words to emphasize, and exactly how that emphasis should be handled?

One way to practice emphasis and identifying what sounds good – and different – is to read a sentence of the script repeatedly for as many words as are in the script, and emphasize each word individually per read.

For example, our script line is “I told you that I would bring the dip.”

For the exercise, you could read it 9 times because there are 9 words in the sentence. And you could read them like this:

I told you that I would bring the dip

I told you that I would bring the dip

I told you that I would bring the dip

I told you that I would bring the dip

I told you that I would bring the dip

I told you that I would bring the dip

And so on…

Using this technique while recording your audition is a great way to stumble upon the read that will set you apart from other voice actors auditioning for the same job. It also has its benefits when used in preparation for a live-directed session with the producer and end client. It really opens up the possibilities of the script, and impresses the producer and client with how many different interpretations there are when they begin providing artistic direction.

To Recap: What Voice Actors Can Do to Win Repeat Business

From the five featured videos, we learned that clients expect some pretty specific characteristics in a voice actor who would win their repeat business. The main characteristics being:

Working on those 3 qualities can be the jump start a voice actor needs to start winning repeat business!

Ready to connect with producers like our panelists? Sign up for your Voices.com profile today.

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