This new edition of the Equity Guide to Audio Work has been compiled by members of the Audio Committee and written by experienced and dedicated audio artists.
It has been created to offer insight and basic advice on what to expect from audio work. Everyone’s experience is different and obviously this is not a definitive guide, but it brings a lot of experience and research and may well help you decide whether or not audio work is for you.
Expand the headings below for more information on specific aspects of audio work:
Audio artists are generally self-employed so are free to negotiate their own rates. What fee they charge will depend on a range of factors; who the client is, where it will be broadcast, whether by session fee or word count, how much experience you have in this field, whether the work is booked through an agent, whether you are using a home studio, whether the work will include a podcast etc. In some specific areas Equity has been able to negotiate agreed minimum rates. These are listed on our audio rates guidance as well as on the Rates and Agreements page (log-in required).
Where there are no Equity agreements in place, we have attempted in this guide to offer an idea of the scale of rates that are common in the industry – but know your worth and don’t undersell yourself. There are many employers who massively underpay and accepting these jobs undervalues the industry and brings all rates of pay down. Voiceover work is a skill that requires proper remuneration.
It is advisable to find a dedicated agent for voice representation because some areas are more accessible this way. Good voice agents have legal and financial skills. If you have any specific queries or concerns about your voice agent, please contact Equity’s Agents and Professional Services Officer, Martin Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s very important to have a short voice reel that shows what type of voice you have and what you can do. One reel is not enough if you wish to demonstrate the full range of your skills. You should have a separate reel for commercial, animation, narration, gaming, drama, audiobook and eLearning.
Each reel should comprise 2 or 3 clips. It’s also useful to put together a short montage showreel to show your diversity. It’s important that these are short and small enough to send easily in MP3 format. There are many studios who can help you create a great showreel, but you can also put this together yourself if you have your own recording facilities and the necessary software.
It’s not necessary to have a home studio, but there is increasingly more work for those that do. Please see the home studio section under 'Types of audio work' below.
Usage is an extra payment for use outside the basic contract and is for a fixed period, after which you would be entitled to negotiate further payment for additional usage. A buyout is a type of agreement or contract where the party commissioning the work pays a single fee for the exploitation of the creative work. Read our audio contracts guidance (log-in required) for more information.
NDA stands for non-disclosure agreement. You may be asked to sign an NDA before you are allowed to see a script or work on a production, as data privacy is an important issue in this industry. NDAs are particularly common in video games, ADR and some corporate work. It is a legal document, the terms of which must be adhered to. Often before auditioning you could be asked to sign an NDA.
For more information go to Equity's Information on Non-Disclosure Agreements page.
As the trade union for audio artists, Equity represents its members working across a range of disciplines including voiceover, audiobooks, radio commercials, video games, virtual reality and digital cloning. We organise the workforce to secure better terms and conditions, improve wages, and create a better work life balance. Crucially, we seek to ensure that audio artists are treated as professionals with dignity and respect.
We do this by negotiating fees with producers and engagers, including the BBC, UK radio groups, and publishers working in English language teaching. We offer crucial services to members, such as insurance, tax and legal advice, sorting out grievances, chasing late payments as well discounted products. The union also provides bespoke advice for audio artists, such as our template contracts for voiceover work and digital voice cloning. Join the union today!
Types of audio work
Expand the headings below for more information and advice on specific areas of audio work:
There are two main types of ADR. If you find yourself appearing in a film or a TV drama, it’s likely that you will be asked to re-record some of your own dialogue in the ADR studio. This is often for technical reasons, e.g., a plane flying over during the best take, or to add rewrites to your performance. This is often done by lip sync (synchronisation), which is a particular skill. You must recreate your performance, often some months after the shoot, usually with the director present but not always, at the correct level and with the requisite emotion. This is sometimes included in your contract for the job which means that there is no extra payment. However, a lot of agents are wise to this and include it in the contract that you must be paid for recording your personal ADR. You can make or ruin your performance at this stage of Post-production.
Group ADR is when a group of actors are brought in to record all the necessary ADR during post production. An ADR group can range from two to 15 actors or more, but this isn’t so common.
During a group ADR session, you are required to record all the atmospheres in a production as well as the individual ADR for some of the smaller characters. These could be a pub or restaurant scene, somebody talking on a mobile phone, police call signals as radio transmission (RT), train or coach announcements, hospital background chatter and announcements, sports commentaries and very often battles including charges and all types of fights and deaths. Very often you will be required to lip read the background artists and decide what they are saying and then record it.
Sometimes a whole performance of a character is re-voiced by an ADR actor. In this case you would be booked into the studio for a solo session often with the director. Only actors with sufficient ADR experience would be asked to do this.
All these things and more are recorded in the ADR studio so that the sound editor can mix in the ADR along with the music and the sound effects to make a final soundtrack. They need to have everything recorded cleanly and separately in the ADR studio to be able to mix it in at the level that they require.
On an ADR session, it is very important to be able to improvise. Often you will need to improvise while watching the scene and only speak when the character you are voicing is speaking.
When a good knowledge of a particular subject is required, you will usually be asked if you have the requisite knowledge before you are booked. If you are asked if you have good knowledge about any specific subject don’t say you have if you haven’t! Many a keen actor has been caught out trying to improvise on a subject that they know little about, only to be embarrassed in front of everybody in the studio. The ADR casting companies must be able to trust your word.
Equally, these days a dialogue editor (director of the session) will often ask for a genuine accent. If that’s what they ask for then that’s what they want. Don’t lie your way into the studio; you may never be asked back. If you’re from Lancashire and you can do a good Yorkshire accent then tell them that, or that you’re from Yorkshire. They will decide if they want to employ you or not. Similarly, if you are asked if you are an experienced ADR actor and you’re not, tell the truth. If you get yourself in the studio and you are with a group of experienced actors, you will be caught out. Sometimes experience is necessary but sometimes they’ll be looking for new voices as well.
This is what everyone wants to know and there is no easy answer. If you become known for being a good ADR actor, you will be hired again and again. The difficulty is getting the first job and being good enough
to be asked back. Productions are always looking for new, young voices but there are so many excellent experienced older voices who are well established that it can be difficult to get an opportunity.
You are most likely to be given an opportunity if your agent suggests you, although many voice agents can’t be bothered with ADR. A few voice agents really work at it and if they suggest a new voice then the Casting Director will often take their recommendation. Alternatively, if an experienced ADR actor recommends you for a job and is willing to vouch for you, then that can lead to an opportunity.
There are workshops in ADR available which can really help you learn the techniques required and give you the opportunity to practice and gain confidence. These are run by ADR casting companies so they will see your potential during the workshop, and this has led to many new actors being employed in ADR. However, these workshops should be seen as an educational opportunity and not an audition.
There are several Equity agreements in place for ADR recording. These cover cinema and television through the Pact/Cinema agreement and the Pact/ITV and BBC agreements. Check the Equity website for the most up-to-date rates.
Use of artificial voiceovers are increasing across a diverse set of applications including virtual assistants in smart speakers, IVR systems, navigation systems, apps, smartphone operating systems, computer games and automated checkouts. The latest iterations of synthetic speech have emotion built into them and are becoming increasingly convincing. The developers of these systems are now targeting all of the sectors in which a voice artist might work - including audiobooks, explainer videos, games, e-learning and commercials - with the exception perhaps of audio drama.
AI voices are created from human voices. They are not artificial from the outset so there are opportunities for voice artists in this sector and also pitfalls.
In AI sessions, a voice artist will record multiple sessions for a developer, either in a home or a commercial studio. The recorded text might be long passages from books, or of specially written sentences. The artist will repeat the sentences with different textures (happy, sad, angry, friendly, dismissive etc.) to build up a voice “imprint” which will then be broken down into phonemes and reassembled as new sentences, as required by the technology. The general consensus is that the greater the skill of the voice artist in the initial recordings, the better the quality of the AI voice that is produced.
There is often a great deal of secrecy around the recording of AI voice sessions and artists will invariably be asked to sign an NDA with a contract. The contracts can be punitive, so it is really important that you use Equity’s template contract for performance cloning should you decide to engage with this kind of work. Once your voice has been imprinted you could be hearing it for many years to come on a variety of platforms for which you might not be paid, and in places that you hadn’t expected. Some developers pay an upfront fee and royalties, some pay an upfront fee and keep you on a retainer for additional work, and some will offer you a lump sum and ask for an ‘in perpetuity’ buyout. Most will want exclusivity and will require that you do not work in the AI sector for a rival company. A good AI contract will earn you passive income. A bad one won’t.
Whatever you do in this sector, don’t feel pressured into signing a contract straight away. We have seen examples lately of artists being coerced in to granting synthesisation rights to engagers in the course of their normal recording work. Whenever you encounter synthesisation clauses in a voice recording contract, or when you are uncertain about what rights you are granting, you should seek advice from Equity or from a lawyer - even if the contract forbids you from doing that. Under UK law, no contract can prevent you from seeking professional advice at the negotiating stage. For more advice and guidance, please visit Equity’s AI Toolkit.
Animation is one of the classic areas in which voice artists work and has been around for nearly a century. Whether it’s a series or a one-off feature film, animation requires voice artists to flex their skills with characters, accents, and different types of voices. The key skill with animation is versatility. Although you will often be hired for one main voice, you are almost always asked to provide several others, so it’s important to have a consistent range of accents and character voices that you can call on. Sometimes they will ask you to come up with suggestions yourself, so be ready to think on your feet. Improvisation is another great skill to have, as well as good timing.
Scripts can usually be obtained in advance, especially if you have particular needs, such as dyslexia, but sight reading remains important. Ways of working differ from studio to studio and project to project. Sometimes you will be in a single studio with the entire cast and record together; other times each voice will be recorded in separate sessions. You might be fed previously recorded cue lines, but this does not always happen, so you have to be prepared to react to imaginary conversations. You will also often be asked to provide a ‘library’ of sounds for each character – laughing, crying, reaction noises etc. – that can be used at different moments in the project.
Other important skills for animation are lip synching and voicing to picture. Sometimes a project is recorded wild (i.e., not to picture) but at other times, if the animation is available, you may be required to voice to picture. This is often the case when providing a different language or accent for a project that has already been recorded for another country. Lip synching isn’t always easy, as you have to speak exactly when the character’s mouth is moving, and not when it isn’t. This can be made even more difficult if you are hearing the original language in your headphones, so don’t be afraid to ask for it to be removed.
A good animation showreel should be short but show a contrasting range of accents and voices. Often with animation, a more heightened and exaggerated performance is required. However, make sure only to include the voices and accents you are best at and confident in; better to have just a few strong accents, than a muddle of mediocre ones or ones you can only sustain for a sentence. Remember that you don’t have to include full scenes on your reel; a line or two spoken in the voice or accent is usually sufficient.
A final note pertaining to money. Often when working on a cartoon series, you will be recording more than one episode in a single session. While this is common practice, do make sure you know before going in whether you are being paid per episode, per hour or per 4-hour session. It’s essential to have that kind of detail sorted out in advance. Also, for any type of animation project, there may be “extras” you are asked to do alongside it – adverts, voices for toys, promotions, etc. Be sure that any extra payments that you are entitled to are clear in advance and get in touch with the organiser for audio artists at Equity if you have any questions or concerns.
Breaking into the market
Most publishing companies – audio or print – are prepared to listen to voice reels and sometimes will audition new readers. The reel should consist solely of short extracts demonstrating your skill as a narrator and your versatility with character depiction. Note that material used for other voice work reels would not be suitable.
The equivalent of radio drama and multi-voiced audiobooks for download is also being done by Audible, Unique, Ukemi and various other companies.
Preparation of an Audiobook
It is essential to prepare in advance of the studio session, because there is no rehearsal period. You will be booked for the number of days the company believe you will be needed for that particular book and you will probably be expected to record between 100 and 150 pages a day. Fluency is essential if the job is to be done in the allotted time.
The time you spend on preparation is up to you – you are paid only for the finished recorded hour and that payment will, in most cases, be a buyout. Some companies require you to return to do pick-ups. If this is so, try and establish beforehand when this will be and whether this time is included in your final fee. The time needed for preparation will vary from book to book. More technical books will invariably need more preparation and it is worth asking for an extra fee for this.
The more prepared you are, the easier the recording sessions will be. It’s fair to say that a whole day spent recording is exhausting. There will be breaks, some short and some longer. Depending on the company you are working for, these breaks can be at predetermined times or left to you and your producer to decide. If you need a break you should take one.
Establish a good rapport with your producer, if you have one – that way the atmosphere is more relaxed. In many cases, there will be only the engineer, and, in that event, you should not expect artistic, or specialist help with the text.
Some Tips for Preparation
More often than not the book will be sent to you digitally and you will be expected to read from your own iPad. There are some great apps that allow you to annotate, highlight and add notes.
The number of times a book should be read before going into the studio is up to you and is often determined by how long there is between receiving the script and the date of the recording. Hopefully, there will be a minimum of a fortnight (but can often be shorter). Twice is probably essential and three is ideal.
Read No 1. A first read without making notes gives you a feel of the style and the author’s intention.
Read No 2. The second read will be more technical. Make notes on the characters, the type of person they are and the voice that you consider appropriate. Keep those notes with you, because you will not always remember, especially if a character appears early on and not again for a hundred pages. Make sure you have read to the end of the book before deciding on the voice because authors can, say, omit to tell you until you are some way into the story that although the character is Welsh, and speaks with a lisp, they have a Northern accent! During Read 2, make a note of any word you do not know or cannot pronounce. Annotate your paper script or iPad and make sure you have checked on these before reaching the studio.
There are helpful websites for pronunciations: Forvo, IDEA (International Dialects of English Archive) and howjsay.com. The Cambridge dictionary for standard English and Merriam Wester for standard American give useful spoken pronunciations. If a book contains complicated foreign speech or technological expertise, consult the producer, if you have been given a contact number, or the employing company. You may be able to ask for extra payment for more technical reads that require additional preparation or research. Keep all your notes in case you are asked to record a sequel to the original book.
When using a paper script and a sentence is split between pages, transfer from the bottom of one page to the top of the other, or vice versa, to ensure a smooth read.
Read No 3. A third read is a luxury as the turnover of audiobooks is often very quick. In an ideal world, reading the book aloud helps to highlight things like convoluted sentences, where a passage may require attention to breathing. It identifies difficulties in switching from narration to dialogue or interchanges between characters who are speaking a foreign language or a dialect. It also enables you to sort out how you will pace the reading, ensuring that you will keep the listener's attention. However, reading a few difficult passages or certain character voices aloud is useful preparation. In addition to keeping notes on characters, many actors record some of their character voices on their phones, so as to have the voice to hand if there is a sequel.
PLR (Public Lending Rights)
Readers should be sure to register each title that they record. This refers specifically to physical copies lent by libraries, who so far, do not offer downloadable versions. For more on this go to www.bl.uk/plr. While Equity does not have a collective agreement for audiobooks, there are some agreed minimum rates with some publishers. For more information, contact the audio organiser.
Audio description (AD) provides an additional commentary for blind and partially sighted people, informing them of the visual elements in a screen, stage, exhibition or live event.
Live Theatre AD
Theatre description began as a volunteer activity in the UK, unlike captioning and screen description which have always been paid employment. Today’s theatre describers are a mixed population of freelance professional describers, local volunteers, and venue staff who have been formally trained as describers.
In July 2011, Equity recognised audio describers as creative practitioners, enabling paid describers to join in their own right, under audio. Previously the describers who joined, joined as actors or other professionals with audio description as one of their ancillary roles, as still happens.
Live AD requires a great deal of preparation. Audio describers do not improvise their description on the night. They are provided with a recording of the show by the production company and also go to see several performances to take notes. They prepare an introduction which describes the sets, costumes, physical characteristics of the performers, conventions and styles as well as credits and information as to the length of the show and the number of intervals before the show begins.
The introduction is delivered live and is increasingly recorded and sent out in advance. The describers also prepare an audio description script which they will deliver in gaps in the dialogue. They must avoid talking over the dialogue, so skill is involved both in terms of the concise language required and, in the timing, and delivery.
For some theatre companies the description script is recorded and cued and played at all performances, although for most theatres the description is delivered live by the describer at certain performances. This allows for any alterations in timing, or improvisation to cover unexpected changes.
Traditionally AD in theatre is transmitted through headphones /earpieces using an intra-red or radio system, but increasingly theatres are using the Sennheiser MobileConnect system which uses the patron’s own mobile phone through the venue’s Wifi. The describer may often be asked to lead a touch tour, with the participation of the stage management team, where blind and partially sighted audience members are guided around the set and shown props and costumes. Ideally the describer should be trained in the needs of blind and partially sighted people, as they will meet with them at touch tours and performances.
The Audio Description Association is a registered charity that promotes and supports audio description. Although some members are volunteers, several are Equity members and union membership is encouraged. The ADA expects venues to pay describers and to use only trained describers. Training is available through the ADA and also VocalEyes and Mind’s Eye. The qualification - the Certificate in Audio Description Skills - is available through the ADA. The long preparation time can be up to 40 hours per show and fees range from around £250 to over £1000 per performance. Often two describers will work together on a show.
Finding work as a theatre describer is not easy. Theatres generally have a describer, a team of describers or describer companies who work regularly for them. Usually, the booking is made directly between the describer and the venue. If a touring production is involved, then the touring company will be asked by the venue to contribute towards access costs. The ADA has a directory of describers which clients can search, and some describers have their own websites to promote their services.
An audio describer should have a clear and pleasant speaking voice, a good command of language and the ability to summarise information accurately and objectively. An artist voicing audio description should use a non-intrusive narrative voice that keeps to the general tone of the show but in no way shows emotion or conveys any criticism of the action. The dialogue is paramount. The voice artist merely describes the background action that might be missed by a visually impaired person.
Recorded screen AD
Audio description is increasingly used by film and TV companies as an aid for visually impaired people. It is supplied to the main programme via a secondary audio track. A recording artist will be employed by an audio-visual company to record the audio description track from a written text that follows a strict time code so as not to overlap the dialogue.
If you are asked to write your own audio description you will be provided with the film plus the time code and the dialogue script.
You must write the AD text to fit the gaps in the dialogue, which is not always easy. At times you will have to miss describing an action because the dialogue is too dense. You must provide time codes for the beginning and the end of each section of description. Applications such as Aegisub or VoiceQ Writer can be useful for accuracy or you can use Excel, so long as you add the time codes. Use the present tense and write in complete sentences wherever possible.
An audio describer for film or TV is a professional voice artist who is usually paid per minute of the original programme, with an increase in the fee if you write the material as well as record it. The fee will also be increased if you record the material in your home studio. There are no set fees but guidelines can be supplied by Equity or your voice agent.
For more information visit the Audio Description website
Radio commercials are sometimes produced in-house by radio stations, but often by independent production companies. Some prefer to direct and record VOs using remote recording methods, like ISDN, Source Connect, CleanFeed, ipDTL or other online software solutions. Others will email a script for a VO to record, edit and return as a WAV file or MP3 file.
Strict timing is essential, as commercial breaks are scheduled uniformly and the airtime sold accordingly. More often than not, an ad will be 30 seconds in length, or another multiple of 10. Voices are expected to read a script to time, which can often mean adjusting the pace of the read during a session to shave/stretch the duration by one or two seconds.
As a voice artist, you need to be available. Given the number of ads being produced on a daily basis for the hundreds of commercial and community stations broadcasting across the UK, turnaround tends to be fast. Expect to be asked if you can record in an hour’s time. For this reason, flexibility and access to a studio (your own home studio or another close by) are a great advantage in general, but a necessity for those wishing to grow their commercial radio client base - and of increasing importance as more people need to work from home.
In-store radio commercials
Commercials for in-store radio stations are charged based on the number of stores in which the ad will be played, with the modest basic fee applying for up to 149 stores, increasing for 150-299 stores and again for 300+ stores.
Rates of pay
Rates of pay for ads on commercial radio stations are currently calculated based on the number of listeners, with fees grouped into different Bands. These vary from the lowest rates for community or small local stations, to three figures for a national radio station.
Additional fees may apply if a station is also on DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting). Digital ads and content are also increasingly costed and sold based on impressions - more of which, below.
The fee is per voice, per script, per station, not per session.
If an agent, client, marketing agency rep or other third party participates in a session, additional fees apply, as detailed on the rate card.
If an ad is to be transmitted on more than one station, the fee is multiplied accordingly. Sometimes this will mean a straightforward doubling or tripling of the basic fee, sometimes a second or third station will be charged at a percentage of the basic fee.
With broadcast now being common on more than one media platform - for example, on DAB and the Internet, as well as FM - the way VOs charge for commercials is changing, too. In addition, there is a growing use of app pre-rolls. A pre-roll is an ad that plays when you
download or click on an app, before you get to the content you actually want.
Impressions are a measure of the number of times an ad, or other digital content, is consumed. An impression is made each time an item is heard, (or seen/read, depending on the type of content). So, it can indicate how many times an ad has been played on a device, although it cannot on its own indicate how many people have heard it.
As radio stations and groups grow their digital content, Impressions are becoming an important measure. Therefore, rates for ads on services like Spotify, DAX or Instream are based on impressions. This is usually an agreed fee per 300,000 impressions and appears on the Radio Rate Cards. So, when negotiating or checking that you are being paid the correct amount, it is important to ask for the number of impressions.
If you think all of the above information on Radio Ads and Rates sounds complicated, you’re not alone!
As an individual artist, you are free to negotiate your own rates with clients. As a union, Equity cannot unilaterally set rates, but it can work with employers and with agencies to agree recommended minimum
At the time of writing, Equity is continuing to explore new ways to approach this sector. In the meantime, it has negotiated with several of the largest commercial radio groups in the UK and there is an agreed rate card for these available on the website under Rates & Agreements. Or you can email the radio commercials organiser for a copy.
When using the rate card, make sure you read the “small print” of general conditions that apply to all commercial radio adverts. It includes details like additional charges for tags (usually a single line of
additional information that can run on more than one ad), remakes, and duration of usage (usually one year, after which time an ad should be relicensed and an additional fee paid, if it is to continue to air).
It should be noted that the Equity Independent Radio Commercial Rate Card rates are only for use when working directly with the radio groups with whom Equity have negotiated, and their appointed subcontractors. The rates quoted are minimum rates, but in reality, these are the rates at which voice artists will be expected to work when being contracted directly by those groups. When working on radio commercials via your agent, or directly with an advertising or marketing agency, differing (higher) rates may be applied. While there are currently no negotiated “advertising agency” rates for radio commercials there are, broadly, industry norms of which your agent can advise you.
Factors that can increase fees when working with advertising agencies include celebrity and specialist vocal skills (accents, impressions, etc) or contract exclusivity, where voicing an ad for one product or brand might exclude you working with any other competitors or similar brands or products.
A list of commercial and community radio stations and contact details can be found on the OFCOM website.
Radio listening is monitored and measured by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research). For more information visit the RAJAR website.
Radio stations, both commercial and public (BBC), pay an annual fee to subscribe to Rajar. For commercial stations, being able to demonstrate strong listening figures is one of the key ways to attract the advertising revenue on which they depend.
However, not all stations are to be found on Rajar, as not all stations subscribe.
It’s also worth noting that radio stations may have several ways of reaching their audiences during any Live broadcast. A station may, for example, have their traditional FM frequency, but also one or more DAB channels, an online steam via their own website and another live stream via a third party app.
When Rajar compiles its figures, all methods of Live broadcast are taken into account. Consequently, the Equity Independent Radio Rate Card also reflects that.
Voiceovers for TV commercials may be recorded using home studios, with producers - and often the commercial client - directing via ISDN, Source Connect, phone patch, Skype, etc., or in professional recording studios, usually with clients in attendance.
As with radio, TV ads will be tightly timed. Scripts often need to be delivered to match visuals precisely.
You can download the Equity Guide to TV Commercials from the Member Resources section of the Website.
Fees are calculated based on TVRs (Television Viewer Ratings). Airtime is sold based on TVRs, so a client who engages you to record for a TV commercial should know the TVRs. There is an online calculator at usefee.tv into which you can enter your BSF (Basic Studio/Session Fee) and the TVRs to arrive at an appropriate fee. This is useful whether you are being asked to quote for a job or want to ensure the fee you have been offered is fair.
Internet TV commercials
Advertisers buy TV airtime for a limited period, whereas a commercial posted on a website could, in theory, stay there forever. If a TV commercial will also be used online, then this should be clear in any discussion about usage and/or buyout, so you can consider what additional charge may apply.
Some ads are made specifically for Internet-only use. For these, artists should ask where and how they will be used. A pre-roll ad for a YouTube channel or a programme that regularly enjoys millions of views will attract a higher fee than a low-budget ad on a niche channel or site with much lower virtual footfall. It can be helpful to start with your BSF and negotiate accordingly.
As with radio ads, impressions are becoming more important as a measure.
The principal role of a continuity announcer is to act as a navigational guide. Announcers write and read multiple scripts, with the aim of enticing the viewer to continue watching the channel. They also introduce off-air support messages, commercial messages and legally required on-air content warnings, as well as promoting content across other channels and platforms. All of this is done with a tone and delivery appropriate to the channel, often live and normally within the space of fifteen seconds.
If broadcasting live, an announcer may have to react to breaking news or technical difficulties. They need to be able to produce a script to time, accommodate last-minute scheduling changes and keep unsociable hours. Nothing says “live broadcasting” more than finding yourself in the studio at quarter to midnight on Christmas Day.
It is worth considering that continuity is a specialist field that utilises a very different skillset from most other types of voice work, including the need for good editorial judgement and the ability to write punchy scripts to strict deadlines. Continuity announcers tend to be employed directly by the broadcaster or the associated transmission company tendered to provide transmission services.
Some broadcasters deal with the broadcast technology union BECTU, while others recognise no union at all. There is currently no established relationship between these employers and Equity and no rates agreement in place.
Corporate work covers a host of different types of jobs. It might be providing the voiceover for a video that a company will use on the Internet, or perhaps only on their own internal Intranet. It might be e-learning for employees (see e-learning section), narrating a business-to-business presentation or being the ‘Voice of God’ for a company awards ceremony. Explainer videos - short web videos that explain products, services or ideas - are also booming and many require voiceovers.
The variables for corporates are similarly broad: you may be asked for straightforward RP delivery or for several accents and voices for situational role play; you may be expected to record at a studio or to record and edit the audio yourself and return as one or multiple files. You might be asked to record to picture - that is, time your read
to a video that has already been produced, matching the words to the visuals. Some clients, particularly once you have worked with them, are happy to send scripts for you to record and return. Others will want to listen in and direct the session, or to attend in person.
Before quoting for a corporate - as with any job - it is important to know where and how the audio will be used, as well as how long the script will be, whether you will be expected to edit it and whether or not a client wants to direct, in which case many VOs will charge an additional fee.
Most voice artists have a BSF (Basic Session Fee), that’s likely to be somewhere between £175 - £350. It’s common to use that as an hourly rate and charge depending on how long it is likely to take you to record - or to record and edit, if editing is required. There may also be an additional charge for usage, depending on the size and nature of the company, as well as what its ultimate use will be.
For example, a small local business might want a script of 250 words recorded for a video that will only play on a loop inside their shop. In which case, a VO might choose to charge their BSF as an hourly rate, or perhaps charge for half an hour. If the same script were to be used online and in shops around the country for a large, well-known company, potentially reaching millions of customers, then the artist might wish to charge their BSF, plus usage. Particularly if the client wishes to use the content as part of paid-for advertising (a YouTube pre-roll, for example), usage might be 100%-400% BSF, with an agreed licensing period of three, six or 12 months.
Actors are often required to record documentary narration. More often than not producers are looking for a well-known or familiar voice, however this depends on the budget. Generally, it’s a certain quality in the voice that a producer will look for, e.g., warm, friendly and down to earth or educated, confident RP. Usually, this work comes through voice agents or theatrical agents who are approached by the production company with the description of the kind of voice they require. If they want a particularly well-known actor and don’t have the budget, they will often use the well-known actor as a reference and cast somebody with a similar sounding voice.
When recording a narration, you will work to a screen with the script. The timings have usually been worked out so there will be visual cues on the screen for when to begin and sometimes when to finish. Your delivery will depend on the subject matter and the style of the documentary. Most documentaries require a fairly straight, low key read, as the main priority of a narrator is to enable the viewer to listen to the words, although at times a more dramatic or high energy delivery is required. The best way to research documentary narration is to watch a lot of documentaries.
You will often see documentaries with people speaking in a foreign language with their voices replaced by actors’ voices in English. This is a slightly different technique as you may be required to replicate the original delivery. You will hear the original voice and be asked to work strictly to time. Once again, a cue system is used.
The payment for narration depends on many factors. If you are a well-known face or voice, the payment would be higher. It is generally negotiable depending on your experience, but a lot depends on the usage. A basic studio fee (BSF) for a voice artist to record a narration would generally be around £300 an hour. On top of the BSF, any added buyout would depend entirely on the usage. A UK or US wide buyout would be much bigger than a regional or internet only showing.
There are many publishing companies that use drama as a way of teaching English. There are courses specifically designed for countries all over the world where there is a hunger for the English Language. These can be classroom materials, recordings for CD or downloadable files. Actors are required to present and perform these courses.
The main technique required is the ability to speak slower than normal but sound as natural as possible particularly for the drama sections. Clarity is also of paramount importance along with versatility. Often on an ELT session you can be required to use various accents. These can be British accents or international accents. The more genuine accents you can deliver, the more opportunities for work will come along.
For beginners’ courses an actor is required to speak extremely slowly while injecting energy and sounding as natural as possible. As the level of the courses improve then the speed of delivery increases. On an advanced course you will be asked to work at natural speed and sometimes improvisation is used for the really advanced courses.
Always remember that the whole point of the recording is for the listener to learn the language so never let your characterisation get in the way of the clarity of your delivery.
There are a number of publishers and producers that specialise in ELT recordings and the best way to get that first job is through recommendation either through your agent or an experienced ELT actor. Sending reels and emails directly to the producers is less likely to work unless you have a reel or some previous ELT work or a recording in an ELT style.
There is a recommended Equity rate for ELT work which has been agreed between the publisher and Equity that can be found on the Equity website. Actors offered work in ELT should work at these rates and never below as it would undermine the Equity agreed rates.
E-learning (electronic learning) is another area of growth for voices. The term describes courses that are delivered online, either in part or in their entirety.
E-learning is used by schools and other educational institutions, by businesses, public organisations – anywhere that has a need for teaching and training. It might be accessible on the internet, or it might be confined to a company’s own intranet, or even just a few workstations.
The form that e-learning takes will vary. A voiceover might be required to narrate a slide presentation covering detailed lesson information, or to narrate a video depicting a typical workplace scenario, then voice questions (often multiple choice) which users will answer using their keyboard or touchscreen. Often, it will be a straightforward read, but some courses require different voices, accents or acting skills. You are just as likely to find yourself as the voice of a red squirrel discussing health and safety information as you are to be an authoritative narrator of the history of nuclear power generation.
The e-learning sector is huge and there is no single way to charge for this kind of work. There is no Equity negotiated minimum rate or indeed, one industry body with which negotiations could be conducted. Fees will depend on the size of the job, the word count, whether or not the VO is expected to edit as well as record and what is the final destination of the recording. A voice might then choose to charge an hourly rate, or might – particularly with larger jobs – quote per word.
As an example, an intranet-only library induction for students at a local college might be charged as a simple BSF. Some large companies will require one voice for a series of e-learning programmes. In this case, an artist might quote 15p-30p per word which goes up to 1,000 words, with a sliding scale, which gradually reduces as the word count rises. Some jobs can run to hundreds of thousands of words. If you are expected to edit as individual files, you should be able to negotiate a separate fee for this, depending on the number of files requested.
As with any quote it is wise to ensure that all parties are clear in advance about what is expected in terms of delivery, editing, deadline, script revisions and pickups.
There has recently been an upsurge in foreign language dubbing in the UK due to Netflix making the (very wise) decision to dub European languages into British English rather than US English. It is a technique that is different to any other and requires good actors who are able to
work quickly in the studio. The job of a dubbing actor is to honour the performance of the original actor and replicate it in English while delivering as near to perfect lip-sync as possible. When a dubbing actor enters the studio, they will be shown the original performance in the source language to ascertain the tone and delivery style of the original actor. They must always remember that the job is to get as close as possible to this original performance and not to change it. The performance has been created and it’s not the dubbing actors’ job to change it apart from the language.
You will then be shown your English dialogue, which moves across the bottom of the screen as the scene plays out. There is a static cue, and the words move from right to left until they pass the cue. They also change colour as they hit the cue. A lot of work has already gone into
the translation and the adaptation into English, as well as to fit the lip-sync, so in theory the script should fit the lips of the character you are voicing. If it doesn’t quite work or can be improved, the actor and director can work together to amend the script whilst bearing in mind the lip-sync.
After reading through the script along with the picture, and becoming familiar with the scene, the actor can then record their first take. This is played back in order for them to listen and adjust anything that doesn’t quite work. Depending on when the actor is booked to come in, there will be varying degrees of recorded English available to work with. The first actor booked into the studio on a project will have no recorded English to work with, just the original source language and
performances. The English adaptation is available for the other characters in the scene that you’re working on so that the full English conversation can be understood.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a vocal performance for a radio play, audiobook or voiceover. The audience isn’t just listening to your voice. The visual performance of the original actor is there, so facial expressions etc. must be taken into account. You can very often afford to be subtle vocally always remembering to bear in mind the original delivery. In many ways it’s more similar to ADR. Traditionally we don’t watch a lot of dubbed material in this country as we generally prefer to watch the original performances with subtitles, although this is slowly changing. With the advent of people watching TV and film on their mobile phones or tablets it’s not so easy to read subtitles on
such small screens. The preference is to listen through headphones. Dubbed material is much more popular in the US and Canada.
The games industry is a global success story and one which is a growing source of work for actors. From first person shooters to cinematic fantasy worlds, there is an astonishing variety of games requiring all types of voices, whether as characters or commentators.
As with other voiceover disciplines, the first time you see the script will often be in the studio when you are recording and will most often be on a monitor, so keeping your sight-reading skills at their best is
important. It’s always worth asking for some script beforehand if you are dyslexic or require some other accommodation, as producers are generally understanding; however, keep in mind that, due to the sheer size of game scripts and the fact that they are often protected by NDAs (nondisclosure agreements), you will rarely be given access to the entire thing. Nonetheless, before accepting a role, it is always
worth asking beforehand whether there is any profanity or offensive language to be aware of or anything that the role(s) or storyline may require which might make you uncomfortable, such as content of a sexual, violent, religious or racially or gender sensitive nature.
The nature of video games means that you can frequently find yourself playing a character in very bizarre, non-naturalistic circumstances, with the use of fictional language and character names fairly common. When scanning through the script before starting, look out for any words or terminology which you are not familiar with; if in doubt, always ask the director for the correct pronunciation. The same goes for any plot point, motivation or line that you don’t quite understand. Due to their nonlinear storylines, games are often recorded out of context and sequence. It can sometimes be confusing as you rapidly skip from one scene to another or record multiple responses to cover different choices in the game play, so don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.
Games often have numerous characters, so in addition to the main role you are cast in, you may be asked to voice other, more minor characters, requiring different vocal qualities or accents. This is where versatility is highly valued, so keep your range of voices and accents well-honed. You should always be told in advance of the session if your main roles require a particular accent or type of voice, but decisions on the more minor characters may often be made in session.
You may be asked to record “soundscapes” to fill in the background or atmosphere of a scene, which sometimes include battle sounds (punches/fighting/being hit/dying) or other vocal exertions (sobbing/
wailing/screaming) that may lead to what is known as “vocal stress.” It is important that the employer alerts you beforehand if your session will involve any form of vocal stress, and that you do no more than two hours of this a day, preferably at the end of a session, to reduce the risk of damage to your voice.
Several of the main producers of games audio in the UK have London recording studios; there are also a number of other producers outside of London, while some games companies will record all their audio in-house. Many of the bigger audio studios will cast through agents, though some actors are able to approach smaller game developers directly and establish a working relationship that way; it varies from company to company on how they source their voices so it’s best to do some research. For casting purposes, it is not necessary to have a special “video games” reel to demonstrate what you can do. Rather, a short track that shows a good variety of your strongest characters and accents will suffice; better to have fewer but stronger examples, than dozens that are not 100%. If a caster likes what they hear, they will then have you audition, which is when you will have a further opportunity to show what you can do.
Equity have recently signed an agreement with a major games studio setting out pay and terms and conditions. For more information on this and on games in general please contact LBudd@equity.org.uk.
Home recording is a valued and viable option for voice actors, provided they are prepared to invest in a good recording space and to equip it with professional gear. A good home studio is a big investment, but the cost should be covered eventually through the work you get.
Studios range from an alcove built into the corner of a room (a cellar is ideal) and lined with acoustic foam, to a fully professional vocal booth, installed in a room or an outbuilding in the garden. For a minimum of noise, you will need a computer operating your software outside your booth and a monitor with a computer keyboard and/or mouse inside the booth. Soundproofing is essential.
It is always advisable to add on an additional fee for using your own home studio, to offset the cost to yourself of providing the studio and also the saving made to the employer who has not had to pay additionally to hire a professional studio.
For more detailed guidance on home studio working, please read our home studio information sheet produced by Equity member Helen Lloyd. If you have any further questions, you can contact Helen via email@example.com
We are asked to do one of three things when working on an audio guide:
1. To narrate it – i.e., be the main ‘presenting’ voice or host telling the visitor to the museum, stately home, etc., how to use the guide, find their way about, and often talking about the pieces, artworks, etc., in a conversational, friendly, enthusiastic and informative
manner as if very familiar with what you describe (even though it’s extremely unlikely you’ll have seen a picture of anything you’re talking about, let alone the real thing). Some guides will share this job between two voices, usually one male and one female.
2. To be an expert, or at least pretend to be. Often audio guides will be an English version of a native language guide, for example in a museum in Italy. The original recording may feature a local expert (perhaps the museum/exhibition curator) talking about what the visitor is looking at. Our job here is to re-voice them (not that you get to hear them), a bit like when an actor/voiceover speaks over someone speaking in another language on the radio/TV news. There may be more than one expert although it’s unlikely they would use the same voice for more than one.
3. To play a character – more common on ‘family’ or kids guides, one gets to be the voice of perhaps a statue, person in a painting, servant who worked in the home, etc. This is an acting job and it’s common to have to play a number of different characters, so versatility is a boon. Some guides will have a character narrating. Generally audio guides are quite ‘close to the wire’, you don’t get the script very far in advance, the night before is common, and sometimes one is sight reading. Fortunately, there is a producer to help with difficult pronunciations (which are common). Not for the faint-hearted, recordings can be quite intensive, especially if working against the clock. The fee is normally an hourly rate not below £230.
What is Pay to Play (P2P)?
Various online companies cast voice work for which you can audition. Some charge you a yearly fee to be on their site. Some operate as an online directory, charging an annual subscription for a limited number of voices, who are vetted and approved before appearing on site. The last few years have seen a proliferation in the number of ‘Pay to Play’ (P2P) sites.
Companies wishing to hire a voice artist can enter descriptions of the type of voice they would like, (age range, gender, vocal style, etc). Artists pay to have their details and demos displayed on the website. These sites are not agents and how they operate varies, but most take a commission on any jobs booked; some will negotiate rates with clients, others will leave voices to negotiate for themselves. It’s worth noting that many of these P2P sites will accept anyone prepared to pay a subscription. They can vary greatly in terms of cost and what they offer, so make sure you research the company before signing up and definitely before paying any fees.
What’s wrong with P2P?
In principle, nothing. They offer a service which connects clients with voices and that can be to everyone’s benefit, if operated ethically and transparently. The devil is in the detail of whether the ethos is about facilitating clients and professional voices to find each other, or whether their business model is based on the false promise that anyone, anywhere can earn thousands of pounds in their pyjamas, simply by paying them a subscription fee. Be mindful that there could be no vetting of voices, no vetting of clients and no active interest taken to ensure that users are being paid an appropriate fee or being contracted under suitable legal terms.
Always read the small print. Check how they treat usage - you may find you’re agreeing to any and all usage “in perpetuity”. Treat with caution any site that encourages bargain basement rates or advertises “cheap” voices. And most of all, be aware of any site or contract that seeks to transfer the rights to your recordings away from you. This is not acceptable, or indeed, even legal in some circumstances.
How else can I get work if I don’t use P2P sites, especially if I’m new to voiceover? Isn’t P2P the way the whole industry is going?
There are many ways to find work, of which P2P is only one: agents and agencies, direct marketing, investing in a website and SEO, networking in person and online, blogging, using social media like LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to reach potential employers and build a professional profile, to name but a few. Being new doesn’t mean having to accept low rates and poor terms & conditions. Allowing yourself to be exploited ensures that the P2P sites that offer low rates and poor terms can continue to do so with an endless churn of “newbies”. It’s a risky model on which to base the future of any industry.
What questions should I ask before signing up?
How many voices are already on the site? The more voices that are on there, the greater the competition for every job.
How much time are you spending auditioning? Value your time as well as your skills. Might the time you’re spending uploading auditions alongside hundreds or even thousands of others be better invested directly in your own business – marketing, building or honing your own website, creating and updating your showreels, etc?
Who are the company? Is there a named person or people with whom you can communicate if you have any questions or problems? Where are they based? What legal jurisdiction are they in? What kinds of jobs are listed on the site? Is this a site where potential clients are clearly there to find the cheapest services available? If so, what message does this send about you and your business?
What kinds of fees are offered? How long will it take you to earn back your subscription and then move into profit? Fees and job descriptions and terms are often hidden behind a paywall, but if they’re not – or if you’ve already joined a P2P – take a look at those. Your membership of a P2P will either pay for itself or not. It’s also about value, as well as cost. If you’ve paid £100 to join and you soon land a job that pays you £150, then that sounds like it’s been worth it. However, if you’ve been paid £150 for a job that should have paid you £1000, you’ve been robbed and the industry has been damaged.
Does the P2P take a commission on each job you book through them? If so, how much? If you’re already paying a monthly or annual subscription, you are effectively paying them twice. Bear in mind, an agent will often take between 15%-25%. For that, they will work directly on your behalf, contacting prospective employers, fielding calls, negotiating rates and contracts for you, as well as, in many cases, featuring you on their website.
What is the P2P doing on behalf of its voices? Agents will also have working relationships with clients and are consequently more likely to be able to spot and deal with issues like skimming.
What is skimming?
Skimming is where an intermediary takes more than their fair share of a fee. For example, a production company might be hired by a marketing agency that has, in turn, been engaged by a business to make their new commercial. The business has a budget that includes £1,000 for the voiceover. The marketing agency tells the production company that there is £500 for the VO and quietly pockets the other £500 themselves. The production company tells the VO that there is a fixed fee of £200 for them and they keep £300.
P2Ps may (or may not) have Terms and Conditions to which companies who use them should adhere. But even if they have such terms, who is monitoring them? For the unscrupulous, this model offers an extra layer of obscurity. And if you have evidence of fee skimming, tell Equity!
P2Ps and AI
Publicly available video and audio material is already being accessed online to train increasingly convincing AI voices. That means that your showreels could be contributing – without your knowledge or consent – to building the models that will take the jobs for which our human voices have hitherto been employed.
What, if any, protection does the P2P site you are considering have in place to protect the thousands of voice demos it showcases? More than that, does the P2P itself have a clause in its terms that allows it to sell on or clone your voice?
If you’re already signed up and you receive “audition” requests that require you to read long sections of scripts, it’s entirely possible that the person or company posting the job is looking for audio to harvest. Does the P2P have a process which would allow you to flag this, and if so, a procedure to investigate and respond?
Terms and conditions
Here are a few examples of real-world Terms of Service, published publicly on different P2P sites. Poor terms can strip away any rights you have to your own voice and grant them not only to the P2P, but to any other party to whom they choose to transfer them, including selling them on.
Poor examples of Ts & Cs:
- Each User grants to XXXX (and any third party authorized by XXXX) an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, unrestricted, fully paid up, royalty free, non-exclusive right and license to reproduce, copy, publish, perform in public, communicate to the public by telecommunication, disseminate, optimize (including search engine optimization), synchronize with other content and materials, edit, translate, transcribe, close caption and otherwise store, use and process all User Generated Content (in whole or in part, as is or as may be edited) and any materials based upon or derived therefrom for the purpose of providing the Services, promoting XXXX, its services and the Site. User hereby waives all moral rights (and all other rights of a like or similar nature) that User may have in the User Generated Content in favour of XXXX (and any third party authorized by XXXX to use such User Generated Content).
- By providing any content to this Website as an approved Talent: (a) you agree to grant XXXX a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, exclusive right and license (including any moral rights or other necessary rights) to use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, distribute, sub-license, perform, promote, archive, translate, and to create derivative works and compilations, in whole or in part to attract new clients to the Website and any other websites that XXXX owns or operates. Such license will apply with respect to any form, media, technology already known at the time of provision or developed subsequently; (b) you warrant and represent that you have all legal, moral, and other rights necessary to grant XXXX the license stated above; (c) you acknowledge and agree that XXXX will have the right (but not obligation), at XXXX 's entire discretion, to refuse to publish, or to remove, or to block access to any content you provide, at any time and for any reason, with or without notice.
- In some instances, Clients may commission voice talent work for use in perpetuity (“Perpetuity Job”). You agree to grant XXXX the authority to sell your content on your behalf as a work-for-hire and assign all rights and interest to the copyrights related to the voiceover work of a Perpetuity Job, free of all licenses, mortgages, charges, or other encumbrances, to the respective Client.
Good example of Ts & Cs:
- We undertake that we shall not use any content of your User Portfolio or any Recording other than for the purposes of providing the Services or as agreed with the Actor as appropriate and in particular shall not make or permit any use of an Actor’s voice-over recordings in connection with the formation of any synthetic voice (aka AI voice, Text-To-Speech voice) production unless expressly agreed with the Actor in writing and recorded specifically for that purpose.
What are some of the red flags I should look out for when reviewing castings on P2Ps?
There are various phrases, such as “in perpetuity”, “across all media”, “moral rights waiver”, that you should watch out for when reviewing castings for audio work. For more detailed guidance, please see our FAQs found on the contracts page of the Audio Info Hub. We also encourage you to use our voiceover contract template, which will give you an idea of what a good contract looks like in the context of P2Ps.
The podcast sector is growing steadily in the UK, having originated in the US. It is a booming market with an increasing proportion of the UK population listening to podcasts. Many podcast makers start off on a freelance basis, but producers have started to set up podcast-only production companies.
Casting for BBC radio drama is in the gift of the directors (producers as they are called in radio) for each play. These will either be made in-house or through independent companies. Audio UK (previously known as RIG – Radio Independents Group) is the trade association for professional audio production companies and creative businesses around the UK.
Students at drama school should be aware that awards are made each year for places on the Radio Drama Company (Carleton Hobbs and Norman Beaton). If you are lucky enough to achieve one of these, it is
a good way to break into radio, because you will become a member of the company for a few months.
Advice from a seasoned radio actor
Always read the script thoroughly before the first read-through, bearing in mind that rehearsal time is limited and that you may have to change some of your ideas to fit in with how the other actors play their parts. During rehearsal, mark the script carefully, so that you
know exactly where you should be in relation to the mic. The writer’s stage directions, though not always helpful, often give important clues about the character. Make particular note of places where you speak at
the top of a page which will necessitate a smart turn over. It sometimes helps to write the beginning of your speech at the bottom of the preceding page.
Always face the microphone unless specifically directed to do otherwise to achieve a particular effect for distance etc. Make sure you can see the cue light clearly and pick it up promptly if it is for you. A prompt pick-up on verbal cues is essential … Which doesn’t mean that you should never pause. Writers often put “beat” between speeches, indicating that they think there should be a momentary pause in the flow of the dialogue. But, as in the theatre, don’t overdo them so that the audience (and the rest of the cast) think you have died or lost
Avoid the temptation to deliver your lines to the actor beside you, or even behind you. It is vital when using a script that there is no noise when you turn the page. Nothing is more annoying than having to re-record an otherwise perfect scene because of script rustle. Everyone discovers for themselves how best to use a script to avoid making noise.
Don’t hold the script in such a way that it gets between you and the mic or, indeed, between other actors and the mic.
The old axiom that you are speaking to an audience of one is good advice, but don’t let this make your performance so internal that your fellow actors have difficulty in hearing their cues. The same goes for the read-through. Everyone needs to hear you.
When an ‘approach’ to or ‘retreat’ from the mic is indicated, remember it only works if you move forwards or backwards while speaking.
There is no hard and fast rule for the distance one should stand from the mic. It will vary according to the mood of the piece and the way the recording engineer chooses to balance the microphone. He or she will tell you where to stand and from where to start any approach. You can rely on the expertise of the technician.
Sound effects. These will be indicated by the FX in your script. They may be pre-recorded background played in behind the dialogue which you may hear played back into the studio or which you may have to imagine and pitch your voice accordingly. If you have to react precisely to such an effect, make sure that you can hear it. If not, ask to be given a green light cue. Spot effects such as pouring a cup of tea or using a knife and fork will be done for you by a technician standing beside you – but you will be expected to provide the sound of drinking the tea or chewing the bacon! You will be provided with something to drink or chew but some actors prefer to make the necessary vocal sounds without actually eating or drinking. You would also be expected to provide the sound of action or reaction while, for example, the spot technician provides the sound of chopping wood or punching.
Telephone on Hold & IVR
On hold messages range from a single, simple answerphone greeting to more complex IVR (interactive voice response) which is the system that enables callers to respond using their voice or telephone keypad and so be ushered through to the desired information or call centre.
The individual messages of information paragraphs are generally called “prompts”. Simple prompts are different from longer, more complicated IVR menus that require a caller to go through a sequence of responses. These conventionally attract different pricing structures.
You may be approached directly by the company who wishes to use your voice for their system, or it may be through a production company that specialises in making prompts. The rates for the latter are likely to be lower, with the end client paying the On Hold company significantly more for the final product. Most voice artists will have a ‘per prompt’ rate, with a minimum fee and, perhaps, a sliding scale for bulk recordings. So, for example you might quote £5-£10 per prompt for a minimum of 10 or 20 prompts, with a lower per prompt rate for 50+ messages, or perhaps an hourly rate above 40 prompts. It can also be helpful to be clear from the start with clients about word count, too, to ensure individual prompts don’t become too lengthy.
For the IVR menus, it’s particularly important to understand a little more about the client. As with other types of corporate work, what rate voices charge may depend on the size of the company, as well as the scale of the work. So, for a simple menu for a smaller company, it may be appropriate to charge a BSF or a percentage of your BSF. For a bigger company, who may have thousands of callers in one or more countries, you might consider charger BSF plus usage.