There are many ways to hire a professional voice actor online and the way YOU choose will depend on the specific needs of your own project.
Whatever your project’s budget for the voice-over, it’s important to hire the best you can afford. The wrong voice, no matter how well written the script is, will immediately turn off an audience. Casting the right voice actor will make the character or message memorable and level-up the audience engagement.
Whether you are hiring a versatile voice actor for an entertainment project, like an audiobook or video game, or need an eloquent voice for a business explainer or IVR telephone messages, there are generally 4 different types of voice-over website to choose from. Each offers a different method of finding and hiring a voice actor and managing the production:
- General freelance marketplaces
- Dedicated voice-over marketplaces
- Voice-over agencies/Casting agencies/Production companies
- Exclusive Agents
This guide is intended to help you to narrow down which option is best for your project based on your requirements and restrictions.
The triple constraints of a project
Managing the process of hiring a voice actor is much the same as managing any other creative project. There are three constraints – aka the triple constraints or golden triangle – of Quality, Time and Cost that all have a direct impact on your approach.
There’s a lot already written about the relationship between the project scope (what you need to produce) and the triple constraints, so we won’t go into that here. However, it is worth bearing in mind the four what’s of your project:
What is the voice-over for?
What level of quality does it need to be?
What time-frame do you have to deliver?
What cost constraints do you have?
Of course, it’s only natural to want everything cheap, fast and of high quality!
So take the golden triangle with a pinch of salt. Its primary use is to demonstrate that increasing the importance of any one of these constraints will have a knock-on effect on the others.
First, let’s consider what we mean by ‘Cheap’, ‘Fast’ and ‘High Quality’ in relation to voice-over work, because these terms are very subjective.
How cheap are we talking?
‘Cheap’ means different things to different people. A freelance animator already working with a low budget will think of a much lower figure than a marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company.
Our rates guide is a good reference for the average rates for different types of voice-over projects. Rates can vary (a lot) depending on: the individual voice talent selected; where they are located; and what the recording is for.
Take into account where your budget sits in the rates spectrum and label it as below or above the average rate.
The fastest voice-over services link you directly to voice actors with professional home recording studios. If you want it all produced in less than 24-48 hours, it is best to choose a service which offers voices with their own studio.
However, you should always allow 1-day minimum for casting & scheduling. Whether you are using an agency or a marketplace, it will take time to check availabilities, agree on payment terms and review samples or auditions.
And if you want to record on location, so you can attend a specific studio in person, or because the actor has no home studio, this is going to need even more lead time to book.
A high-quality voice-over is not only recorded in an acoustically treated environment, using professional studio equipment, it is also one that uses an experienced voice talent, engineer and director.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need an external studio, engineer or director to achieve high-quality results, but it will be a lot easier to get there if you do!
Many amateur voices will use low-quality studio gear and not treat their room environment correctly. This leads to poor quality, reverberant recordings that they will try to fix by over-processing the audio, making it sound unnatural. This is the main problem with finding voices in a marketplace site. Voice-over is just one of many services being offered and the marketplace doesn’t vet or approve the studio equipment being used. This is something we are changing here at Voquent.
Now you have an idea of what we mean by ‘Cheap’, ‘Fast’ and ‘High-Quality’. Deciding which two constraints are most important to your project will help to narrow down the type of service you require.
- a) Cheap & Fast
- b) High Quality & Fast
- c) Cheap & High Quality
a) Priorities: Cheap & Fast
You have a below-average budget and you need the audio quickly (in under 48 hours).
First, always remember, there is potentially a hidden cost to getting a cheap voice over. But if you’re honestly not bothered about that and just want the cheapest price possible, one of the many general freelance marketplace sites will allow you to make an account and buy a pre-defined voice-over gig online. Some also allow you to post a project and invite freelance voice actors to make a proposal. You are likely to get a lot of proposals and will need to set aside some time to review and respond to them.
Always read what is included in the price: turnaround time, the number of revisions, number of words or minutes etc. What may look cheap initially, could, in fact, be a lot more expensive if you need it faster than the standard turnaround time offered, or if you don’t factor in how long your script is.
Many beginner voice actors will use general freelancer sites to gain experience and will often not have professional-grade equipment. If you’re not fussy about the quality or performance, this method can quickly get you a cheap voice-over. And even a cheap human voice-over will always be better than using a synthetic voice.
However, if you have any specific needs in terms of the performance or the language, it’s not going to be easy to find what you want on these freelancer sites, mainly because voice actors are just one of many types of jobs being posted.
b) Priorities: High Quality & Fast
You need a high-quality voice-over quickly (in under 48 hours).
If your budget is above average or higher, then your options for hiring a voice actor online are plentiful! The decision about which site(s) to use for casting will come down to how much of your own time you want to invest and what skills you have on your team.
A voice-over agency or production company like Voquent will do a lot of the legwork for you. Tell them what you need and they will present you with available options. They can also co-ordinate other services like translation or audio mixing.
However, if you want more direct control of the process and have the time to communicate with the voices directly, posting a project on a dedicated voice-over marketplace may suit you better. A dedicated voice-over marketplace works much the same way as a freelancer marketplace. You create an account and then post a project. You can invite voices to audition for the project and then review the responses. Always check individual reviews before hiring, because any issues could take days to sort out with the platform. Some professional voice actors are not so great at engineering – just like how engineers aren’t often great voice actors too! Therefore, if you don’t have a sound engineer on your team, hiring the voice actor via an agency or a production company may be the best bet. It won’t necessarily cost more overall.
If you have a very high budget for a commercial or video game character, for example, any voice-over agency will be able to offer you more experienced talent. It is also worth considering exclusive talent agents. Exclusive agents represent known performers and ‘celebrities’. They may need more lead time to book because the talent is in high demand. They also won’t always get involved in the production of the audio, so you may need to book studios yourself.
c) Priorities: Cheap & High Quality
You need a cheap voice-over recorded at a high-quality.
Long-form content such as audiobooks or eLearning tends to be on the lower end of the rates spectrum, but high-quality audio is still required. Many voice-over agencies already cater for these types of projects and will know which voice actors are happy to do this work.
Alternatively, you can post the job on a voice-over marketplace and form a relationship directly with the voice actor. Many voice actors specialise in audiobooks or eLearning, which is important if they are also expected to do the editing to match specific technical standards (such as ACX for the Audible app). At Voquent, if it’s a legitimate project which requires no involvement from us, such as an Audiobook, we’ll put you in touch with the voice directly.
For other kinds of projects, a voice actor may still consider doing the project for a lower fee than normal if there is something else in it for them. This ‘something’ could be: being featured in a blog article with a backlink to their website; being tagged on a big social campaign; or being able to use the content in their own marketing.
Be warned though – many experienced voices are approached on a daily basis by enthusiastic content creators, touting why their project is worth doing for a paltry fee. Many will try to guilt-trip voice actors into doing the work, suggesting that they should feel ‘honoured’ to be selected to voice a video game character free of charge. Really.
Voice talent are professionals and need to earn a living. Their work adds a measurable amount value to any project. Never expect anyone to work for free or on the promise of something more. It’s a bad look and big brands have been burned by using this tactic in the past.
At a minimum, always offer a fee representative of the time and value the voice will add to the project.
Check our rates guide and determine whether your project is above or below the average budget. Then decide how much involvement you want to have in the project.
Answering these questions will help you decide which type of service to use:
Need a specific accent or dialect?
YES: Go to a dedicated agency.
Need more than one language?
YES: Go to a dedicated agency.
Need auditions of your script fast?
YES: Post the project on a voice-over marketplace or go to an agency.
Need a voice-over service in a specific location?
YES: Contact a voice-over service provider in the region – either a production company or exclusive agent.
Need other services, such as translations, audio editing or music mixing?
YES: Contact a voice-over agency or production company which offers these services in addition to voice-over.
Need it cheap as possible?
YES: Go to a general marketplace site but prepare to compromise on quality.
Want it produced quickly with an average > high budget?
YES: Contact a voice-over agency or post the project on a voice-over marketplace site.
Want high calibre, experienced talent or celebrities?
YES: Contact a voice-over agency or exclusive agent. You won’t find this talent easily on marketplace sites.
- Buy-Outs and Usage Fees for Voice Over Explained
- 3 Steps To Promote Your Business Better With Voice-Over
- 13 Unbelievably Effective Ways to Use Voice Over to Grow Your Business
- The Script or the Voice – What Matters Most?
Writer: Al Black (Co-Founder)
Edited: Alex Harris-MacDuff (Producer)