Why a good voiceover and other speech recordings are expensive

Why does it cost several hundred dollars just to get some words to sound?

Well, it doesn’t have to. You can find a lot of extremely cheap voices and almost as many semi professional voice talents on the Internet. And of course the top professionals.

So how do you choose? It depends on what the voice is for. And you have to decide what level of quality you need when it comes to service, script interpretation, read, recording, sound processing, delivery reliability, accessibility, trade security etc.

It comes down to how you want your brand to be perceived by people listening.

So here is a description of what the amateurs, semi-professionals and professionals can be expected to deliver. The text is of course a gross generalization and is not intended to offend anyone.

Amateur

Maybe a full time working man or woman moonlighting as a VO for fun – not really needing the money. He or she will probably be recording with a portable microphone when and where possible – in the cleaning closet at work, in a car where traffic is sparse or at home under a bed quilt when the fridge, pipes, neighbors and surroundings are quiet enough.

The amateur is great for fast delivery of super short reads usable in for example radio commercials where disturbing sounds, strange acoustics and poor sound quality might be masked with screaming music and exploding sound effects.

The sound will not be ear friendly in clean reads longer than 10-20 seconds. Can damage a brand. Retakes possible only if you are lucky and he/she is can get away from work, school and noisy environments again. A new recording that is supposed to complement an earlier recording and therefore have to sound the same will be very hard to produce since it is almost impossible to replicate the exact surrounding sounds, acoustic conditions and mic position used in the first recording.

Remember that amateurs can be extremely experienced and talented because they can get a lot of on the job training due to their super low rates.

Semi professional

Often a coming pro voice talent still on a part time job. He or she has invested in good sound equipment and is gradually upgrading the different parts of the signal chain to pro level – from mic and preamp to computer and audio software. They have a dedicated recording space with some acoustic treatment but very little insulation against surrounding disturbances, probably in a corner of a bedroom or a part of a walk in closet.

They will usually be able to record when not at work and when the surroundings are quiet enough. Great recording results will be produced when conditions are good enough. But they can have a hard time to deliver the same day, at least not promise to do so.

The conditions for complementing earlier recordings are good, but are limited since it can be hard to maintain a constant recording environment and mic placement in an ordinary room or closet. Sound engineering skills may vary. It comes down to both knowledge and experience.

Professional

A true voice talent with verified references who is

  • experienced
  • working full time in the business
  • available regular office hours (at the least).

He or she is recording in a

  • 100 % controlled
  • well insulated and
  • acoustically perfect recording environment with
  • professional software, equipment and various solutions for the client to direct and immediately review the recordings in full sound quality live online.

The full time professional voice talent will not have reached that position without great knowledge of

  • script interpretation,
  • how to work a microphone,
  • audio editing,
  • audio processing and
  • service.