Free voice over: it's possible, but is it cost-effective?

'Free voice over': one of the most searched keywords related to our trade on Google. And why not? After all, we all love free stuff, right?

The problem is that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Take a look at Google search results for 'free voice over'. You'll find links to sites that offer computer-generated voices free of charge. You'll also find amateurs willing to provide you with a recording for next to nothing. In both cases, the result will be mediocre, but after all, it's free, or almost!

Free voice overRoyalty-free soundtracks are also easy to find, but the resources and time used, and media buying if there is any, are not free. And that's the crux of it..

Because if one element of a film is poor, the whole film is poor, and we're all the same: we associate a brand or a product with its communication. If the communication is bad or cheap, we can't help but believe that the brand or product is too. So it's money down the drain.

It's the difference between expenditure and investment. As I say on my page Voice Over Rates, an investment of 10 that yields 1 is a bad investment; it's an expense. An investment of 100 that yields 10,000 is a good investment.

Artificial intelligence: free voice over at last?

I discuss the thorny subject of AI in my article Voice Over and Artificial Intelligence. AI is free or almost free, and the result is predictable: flat, soulless interpretation that doesn't connect with the audience. But the voice over amateurs who sell their services for next to nothing are no better, if not worse than AI, at 'reading aloud and setting the tone', at mumbling their script like a machine...

We've all heard this kind of 'work'. Have we wanted to know more about the product on offer? Or have we all associated this cheap job with a cheap product? Well, here you go.

One or the other ends up costing a lot of money: when the work delivered does not live up to advertisers' expectations, they often refuse the order. As a result, the commissioning production companies have to recast and pay the right rate to people who know what they're doing. They lose money, and their client, who won't be coming back. Place your bets... No more bets.

Why can't a cheap voiceover be good?

If someone offers a voiceover for free or for a tip, it's simply not their job, in other words it's not what they earn their living from - and for good reason! And the result is invariably mediocre. You know the saying "you pay peanuts, you get monkeys"?

It's obvious that, as in all professions, talented voice-overs don't have to work on the cheap. On the one hand, they offer a professional service and if they work well, they are in demand and therefore don't have to sell themselves on price, since they can sell themselves on talent. I talk about the relationship between rates and professionalism in my article Hands Of The Loot.

slot machines not free

On the other hand, real voice over talent have invested in their craft to nurture their talent and develop their skills. Some have invested heavily in a professional recording studio, with top-of-the-range equipment, and simply can't afford to work for a pittance. Like everyone else, they have a family to feed, rent or a mortgage to pay, and so on and so forth.

Voice over: an essential element to be considered as such

I don't have to tell anyone that voice over is just as important as the film or the soundtrack. When he does his job well, the voice-over actor is a human being who connects with other human beings. It's an investment that can add enormous value to a film, give a brand the image it deserves, make the audience want to connect with the message and find out more about the product... If the advertiser's audience isn't engaged by who's talking to them, they'll tune out, and the investment in the film - and the media buying - will be wasted.

When it comes to narration, too, free voice over (or voice overs at a rate that only an amateur would quote) produce deplorable results. Who hasn't heard an audiobook or documentary narrated in a flat, lifeless way?

So yeah, free voice overs is a nice idea, but in practice it's a bit like playing a slot machine: winning a lot for a little money is an attractive proposition, but it always ends up costing you dear.

I hope this article has inspired you to sell your voice over services at the right rate. If you feel like sharing this article with your colleagues, don't hold back - and don't forget to subscribe to this voice over blog to be notified when I publish new articles. Don't hesitate to comment on this article and if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them!