Where can I find the best voiceover artists?
Your guide to a more efficient, informed search for voice talent
Ah, if only you could find the best voiceover artists all hanging out in the same place. Instead, if you’re looking for voice actors, you’ve got a pretty daunting search ahead of you.
Wheat, chaff, needle, haystack, meat, bones.
Choose your idiom.
How to find the best voiceover artists
Fact is, you’re spoilt for choice when you go looking for voice actors online. Or maybe it’s that the experience is spoiled because of the sheer amount of choice.
Let’s put ‘best voiceover artists’ aside, then, because that’s a pretty subjective term. Instead, let’s assume you’d be happy to find good voiceover artists.
The ones that can sight-read a script and give you a bunch of off-the-cuff reads in several styles. Any of which are good enough to slot straight in.
The ones that take direction well, that instinctively know how to slow a read by 1.5 seconds.
The ones that’ll be on hand in two weeks’ time, and still doing the job in two years’ time, if you need to replicate that vocal experience for another project.
The professionals. Minus the Ford Capri, dodgy haircuts and – you hope – dodgy acting.
Looking for voice actors online
Because online is the obvious place to start, right? Big old place, though, the internet.
Let’s split your seriously massive haystack into broad categories. Bales, if you will. Balls if you won’t.
- Straight-up Googling / Binging / Yahooing /Ecosia-ing (eco-conscious searching online)
- Online voiceover marketplaces/online casting sites
- General freelancer marketplaces
- Voiceover agencies
- Post-production houses
- Social media platforms
And see how many chaffing needles are in each.
1. Straight-up Google search for voiceovers
Same way you’d kick off numbers 2-5, you open your favourite search engine. But, what to search for?
I recommend getting precise – IF you’ve got a good idea of what vocal characteristics you’re looking for. Use the quotation marks to narrow your search results.
Eg “Female French voiceover” and “husky”. Or “Male voice actor”, “Lancashire” and “conversational”.
Even with very specific search terms, you’re going to see results from categories 2, 3 and 4 in that first couple of pages. Sidestep them for the moment. Search engine optimisation bods would have us believe that if a page doesn’t rank on the first or second page of Google, most searchers won’t have the patience to get to them.
How depressing. You’ve missed out on finding potentially the best voiceover artists in the world just because you couldn’t be bothered to do some more clicking or scrolling.
And yet if you try hay bales (wish I’d never started this ropy analogy) 2, 3, 5 and 6, you’re also in for a world of ‘more’.
So, keep opening those new tabs.
- No fees beyond the cost of voiceover itself
- Because the voice artist is getting the full fee, it may even work out more cost-effective
- You know you’re not unwittingly overpaying a faceless provider, who’s short-changing the talent (more on that later)
- You always get to deal directly with the individual. Which makes for much simpler, faster, clearer communication.
- You’ve opened so many tabs your screen has frozen
- You might miss out on great voice actors whose websites just don’t rank well
- You don’t have the (sometimes misplaced) confidence that these voice artists are somehow ‘approved’.
2. Online voiceover marketplaces/online casting sites
As I mentioned above, these voiceover marketplaces are going to dominate the first couple of pages of search results when you go looking for voice actors. No matter what keyword combination you’ve typed in.
Which is why they continue to dominate results. Domination begets domination. Their size is their strength.
It’s also, as I’ll explain, your greatest risk.
Plenty of companies think that the best way to find voiceover talent is through one of these sites. In a single place, you can search by a bunch of different and very specific criteria. (For instance, you might want to look for a conversational British male voiceover aged 40, or listen to samples of the Yorkshire accent with the playing age of 50-70. These sorts of specific searches are usually possible).
And to differing extents, these voiceover marketplaces are good for this. They’ve got masses of voice artists signed up. One notorious (and I use that word advisedly) site claims to have 2 million voices on its roster.
TWO MILLION?! It should be blindingly obvious that there are going to be a very significant number of hobbyists as well as professional voice artists. And for other reasons, that particular site was recently described in a VO podcast as ‘problematic in many, many ways.’
- You’ll find voiceover artists aplenty
- To varying degrees, the sites allow you to define your search by a good range of skills, vocal tones, ages, etc
- Because casting sites are where lots of beginner voice artists practise on the job, you might get cheaper voiceovers as they haven’t researched how much a professional voiceover costs
- Some online voiceover marketplaces handle all billing and fees, making it simple to pay for multiple voiceover projects.
- Not all voiceover casting sites screen for quality. Quality of audio or talent or professionalism
- Volume of available voices doesn’t necessarily equate to an efficient voice search or the best results
- The pandemic in particular led to a surge of people trapped at home who decided to ‘try out’ voiceover. There is no bullet-proof way to distinguish (without listening) between a novice and a pro, or a part-timer vs a full-time voice artist you can build long-term collaborations with
- If you put up an audition, you may receive hundreds of (not necessarily appropriate) auditions; if you limit the number of auditions you want to receive, you’ll only get auditions from applicants who happen to be available shortly after you post the audition
- Lots of professional voice actors are very selective about which voiceover marketplaces they join or don’t use casting sites at all
- Fewer professional voice actors now respond to most open auditions because the sheer volume of applicants means a lot of auditions don’t even get listened to
- If you find a great voiceover artist on a casting platform, but they later leave the platform or downgrade their membership, you may never find them again – costing you brand consistency
- Not all online voiceover casting platforms enjoy a positive reputation, you’ll find if you speak with enough voice artists. Some of the sites appearing on the first couple of pages of search are known in the voiceover community for questionable practices and ethics, including:
- opaque payment practices to withhold more of your voiceover budget for themselves
- inconsistency in audio quality screening
- inviting auditions from voice actors of the wrong gender or ethnicity or age or vocal qualities
- showing certain auditions only to artists paying at a higher tier for the privilege
- from one site in particular, occasional online abuse of former subscribers.
N.B. You’ll find voiceover artists on two sorts of online marketplace.
- What’s known in the industry as P2P (pay-to-play), where the talent pays some form of subscription (Note, some P2Ps get three slices of the pie, charging talent to be listed, taking commission from the talent’s fee, AND charging you, the client). Some pre-qualify voice actors, others don’t… And some have higher standards than others…
- Online voiceover rosters and casting sites that always pre-qualify their voice talent, and operate on a commission-only basis.
It can sometimes take some digging to work out which is which…
3. General freelancer marketplaces
Searching for a voice actor on a general freelancing website used to be easy, if only because there weren’t many on there. Cheaper equipment, a huge influx of beginner voiceovers and, yes, the SEO strengths of big companies, changed that.
Some of the same issues apply as for the pay-to-play voiceover sites, though. A great many voice actors won’t touch the likes of Fiverr, Upwork, People Per Hour.
These sites built their popularity on the idea you could get something done really cheap and fast, because less experienced freelancers were desperate enough to lowball each other in order to get a job.
Why do you think Fiver has never rebranded? Because with that simple name it sells itself to end clients on the basis that cheap and fast is best, and it sells itself to freelancers as a place where they can effortlessly and quickly get some income, no matter how good they are.
None of which is to say you can’t find good voiceover talent on these sites. You can, among a majority of amateurs. But can you trust those star ratings?
Sure, some have come from serious commercial companies. But how many of those clients heading there were mainly looking for quick and cheap? How many of those jobs were for a tenner to get a ‘happy birthday’ message or a voice for their college presentation that’s a little bit nicer than their own?
4. Voiceover agencies
In the UK, there aren’t that many voiceover agents. Their importance has waned thanks to online casting sites.
Which is a real shame. Because their unique selling points are pretty much unmatched by any other voice talent search:
- They tend to represent only those they judge the best, with experience, training and flair. It’s not easy to get a UK voice agent, and most professional voice actors don’t have one, because voiceover agencies are extremely selective
- They try to get to know their actors pretty well on a personal and professional basis, so they can vouch for both the quality of the work, and they way we approach our work
- They understand the markets you work in, the latest trends in voiceover, what works and what doesn’t
- They pre-screen for you. You won’t be wading through hundreds of auditions – unless you want to.
And the disadvantages?
- Voiceover agents tend to be exclusive. A voiceover artist can usually only be represented by a single UK voice agent. So, no one voice agency has access to all the best voice talent. You might task more than one agent with a casting to find your ideal voiceover artist
- You won’t get away with paying a cheap rate. Voiceover agents understand all VO genres and how much a voiceover costs when it’s calculated fairly. So, not more expensive – just fair.
5. Post-production houses
Some audio post-production houses provide the full sound service. Not just offering a professional recording studio and enormously skilled audio and video engineers, but their very own roster of voice talent.
As with voiceover agents, they’ve got a reputation to protect. So, they’ll only offer you voice artists they think can deliver the goods.
And they don’t just specialise in top-tier documentaries, film, TV and commercial productions; if you need expert input into large-scale corporate projects, you’re guaranteed first-class vision and sound. Including from the voiceover.
6. Social media platforms
Social media search is a bit less precise than a standard search engine. But at least most social channels now allow for keyword search instead of the hit and miss hashtag search.
Plus, when you’re looking for voice talent on social media, you do get rapid insights into personality as well as experience and skill set. You see more of the real person, rather than the polished, produced voiceover results.
And if you see any dodgy views being expressed, well, at least you’ve identified a wrong’un!
Finding voice talent in the real world
These shifty, won’t-shut-up oddballs spend most of their time at home in their studios, so it’s rare that you’d bump into one on the street. Unless you gatecrash a voiceover convention like One Voice or VOX in the UK, or VO Atlanta in the US. Or camp out on the steps of post-production recording studios.
Sometimes they venture to local networking groups. You know the ones. But unless you also want your eardrums cleaned out by an eager carpet salesman, don’t bank on this method.
Real recommendations are what you want. Talking to people you know in your industry or related creative services. Which you could just do by email, but you’ll get way more interesting and insightful stories about their voice over talent search if you meet up in person.
They’ll recommend the best voiceover artists they’ve actually worked with. It’s not just a star-rating on a screen from people you know nothing about.
And as you work with more and more professional voice artists, they in turn will recommend others in their network. You won’t be so much looking for talented voice actors as tripping over them.
What’s the strategic approach to searching for voice actors?
If you’ll need access to reliable, professional voice artists on a regular basis, I recommend you build your own voiceover roster. So that when you find a good voice over artist, you can easily store their details.
Obviously, this is trickier when you use an online casting platform and put out an audition to all and sundry.
But otherwise, chances are you’re already using some form of productivity or project management tool in your company. Something like Trello, or Monday, or Asana, or ClickUp. With their tagging/labelling functionality, they can usually be adapted to create a searchable database of voice talent. At a push, your usual CRM will do the job, although you won’t find it as flexible or as easy to search accurately.
After testing various providers, I found Notion*, the productivity app, to be the best solution for this purpose.
My free voice roster template is an easy way to get started. I’ve prepopulated it with a small but diverse selection of UK voiceover artists. You can search and filter by all sorts of criteria.
And it’s now available to install to your Notion workspace. Once installed, you’ll be able to add to it, adapt and change to suit your exact needs.
If you DON’T use Notion, you can still view the template (and each voice actor’s details, genres, skill sets etc) on any web browser. Which means you could just use its principles to devise your own voiceover database in your preferred software.
All the information on the benefits of an in-house voiceover database and how to get your own voice talent roster is right here.
Happy searching, everyone. Be discerning. It’s not just any voice you’re looking for. But the best you can find.
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* This is a referral link to Notion. If you take out a paid plan, rather than the free version, I may earn commission. Two things to note: you can use the template (and do even more) with just the free version and a single user licence; and I only looked into the affiliate scheme after building the voice artist roster template, as a bonus.