TO BE… OR NOT TO BE… “Too Good” at Voiceovers

Unknown-3I was up for a really cool television spot this week… which I didn’t book. After being “in the business” for a long…long time…I know that’s par for the course. It sometimes happens that I’m down to the wire on a TV or radio spot, along with a few female voiceover artists, who are presented to the client, and I’m put on “avail” (which is the same as on hold) and then…”released”(which is the term used for “They went with one of the others) Such a nice let down, isn’t it? Actually, I think that would be a kinder way to break up with someone. “I’m not breaking up with you…I’m releasing you.” But I digress.

Even though it’s disappointing, I always appreciate getting some feedback on why I didn’t get the gig,(which doesn’t happen often)but since I was supposed to be the “favorite” my agent was able to get the inside scoop on why I was “released.” The reason: “You’re too good” …Come again…Even though they really loved you, they wanted it more raw, more “Man on the street real.” So,who got it? The assistant to the copy writer, who did the scratch track..who doesn’t do voiceover. Well they got their “Man on the street” or at the very least their “Woman at the office.”
Being “Too Good”… Perhaps it’s the equivalent of “Being over qualified” which seems like a compliment, except that it usually goes with “You didn’t get the job.”

So begins the conundrum;how to be a professional voiceover artist, and walk the line of being “Just good enough.”

There’s been a trend in Voiceovers for the last several years to make the “Reads” be very real, and it doesn’t seem it’s going away very soon. Audiences are more sophisticated, and they don’t want to be “sold” or talked down to. I like to call it the “Non Announcery announce.” Being an actress in addition to being a voiceover artist has been very helpful to tap into that feeling of really being able to “act the scene” as opposed to just reading the copy. But with trend continuing to go more “real,” I’ve made it a point over the years to study with some wonderful private coaches to stay current, and unlearn some of the pitfalls of being a professional female voiceover artist, which is to sound too polished or too slick.

Other steps I’ve taken are:

  • I’ve stopped wearing headphones so I’m not listening to myself which has helped me to say the words and not listen to how “melodious” I sound.
  • I’ve made it a habit to do a “Lead-in” which is a phrase that helps me get into scene, before I even read the actual copy” Such as “I’m a huge fan of” … before “Introducing ACME product”
  • I will paraphrase the copy to make it more “mine,” before I read the written words, so it feels more personalized.
  • I also listen and watch current TV and Radio commercials over and over again… to hear what the trends are…much to my husband’s chagrin.

These techniques have helped me keep my read more authentic and less “pretty”, and it’s helped me stay competitive.

I know that voiceover styles will continue to evolve, and it’s my responsibility to keep honing my craft, and not “rest on my laurels”.

Ironically, I can’t compete with someone whose not in the business, or brand new, in trying to sound “man on the street” or “raw”and honestly, that’s okay. My motto is “I love what I do, and I do what I love”, and part of that comes with the confidence of knowing that I’m really good at “what I do”.

I’d Love to know if you’ve had similar challenges of being “over qualified” in your work, and if you have any tips to share that have helped you!

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