Five tips for crowdsourcing professional voice overs

Working with professional voice over talent online allows you to find the perfect voice for your project, no matter where in the world they live. The ease, price, and speed of getting a voice online can make it much more convenient than casting and recording offline, but you do have to effectively communicate your expectations upfront or you’re gonna have a bad time.

Five tips to providing great direction to voice over talent online:

Professional voice over talent records voice for Star Wars droids

1) Inspire the crowd.

I’ve seen several VoiceBunny projects that state something like, “Please read in a casual voice, not like an announcer.” This is very open to interpretation as “casual” means something different to everyone. Remember when your teacher would say “Show, don’t tell!” when you were learning to write? In this case, audio is worth a thousand words. Provide a link to a YouTube video or another voiceover that you feel demonstrates the style of read you want. Most importantly, explain to the talent WHY you like that voice. Is it the perky, bubbly attitude or the laid-back sense of confidence? Try to pinpoint what makes that voiceover resonate with you.

2) Don’t leave your voice artist in the dark.

Just what are you doing with this anyway? You speak very differently in a crowded room than you do a library. Talents need to know who they are speaking to and how that audience will be listening. Instructions could be, “This is for e-learning software aimed at children age 4 to 6.” or “This is for a PA announcement at a trade show.”

3) Get your voice talent in the mood.

Voice talents don’t just read stuff for money with their amazingly sexy voices, they are actors! Set the scene, give them a little something to work with. For example, the line is “Where is the car?”. An example of instructions could be, “You just walked out of a store with your wife and realize your car is missing. The parking lot is empty. You are not angry, just puzzled.” Or “You are asking a 3 year old child to point to the picture of a car.” Same line, two very different ways of saying it!

This was the read I got when I provided no instruction:

and here is the read received when I provided these instructions, “You come out of the store and the parking lot is empty. Someone must have stolen your car! You begin to panic and you are confused.”:


4) Provide pronunciation of tricky words and names.

Does everyone pronounce your last name wrong? Chances are the voiceover talent recording your phone greeting will too. Please, provide some good pronunciation help. For example, “Cape Girardeau is pronounced “Cape Juh-RAW-dough” (yeah, I know I’m butchering the French language but I’m from Southeast Missouri, and, darn it, that’s how we say it!) . Or better yet, record yourself saying it and provide a link to the audio!

This is the read with no instructions provided:

The read received when I provided the pronunciation of Girardeau as “juh-RAW-dough”:


5) Listen objectively and trust the crowd.

Yes, you hear it a certain way in your head. Maybe you didn’t think about pausing in that part of the script or emphasizing that word, but listen to it again. Let that little voice in your head take a coffee break and just listen with an open mind…uh, ear. VoiceBunny talents are professionals. They have voiced hundreds, perhaps thousands of scripts. They have worked with coaches, directors, taken countless classes, they have studied the art of voiceover and made it a career. The voiceover may not be exactly what you heard in your head, it may be way better.

For fun, I asked the talent to read this line in a “normal tone”. This can be interpreted a million different ways. The read is still good:

But then, I asked that same talent to read it like famous radio DJ, Wolfman Jack, and provided a YouTube link so the talent could hear what I meant. Now this is more like it!

I used both the brackets within the script box and special instructions in the “remarks” box to be very descriptive as to what I wanted. I was very happy with the result! See the actual project here.

It’s easy to request revisions to your reads because we know it’s necessary sometimes, but revisions cost time and money. Providing great directions will help you get the perfect read right away! Any tips and tricks you’d like to share?

Photo Credit: Andrea Schwalm

    To quote The Joker: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

    The online crowd-sourcing “auditioning” process does just that; allows advertising agencies and producers to get a thousand hungry voice-talent guys to give them test-market “demos” of what their projects might sound like — for *FREE!* (That used to be called: “Development” — and was *paid* for. Handsomely.)

    This has also put thousands of *professional* voice-actors out of business by lowering standards to the level of what any tom-dick-or-sally with a laptop and a condenser mic will *gladly* do for five bucks… or even for free, ’cause it might lead to future “paid” work. (Oh, please. Enjoy your sitting-by-the-phone.)

    It’s also is why local/regional radio and TV ads (the few that remain) all sound pretty much the same, and amateurish. And why advertisers (the smart ones) are going elsewhere to spread their message. Because few advertising agencies are willing to spend the bucks on what has proven to work in radio and TV — great writing (also being crowd-sourced for free, by the way) and great voicing.

    The Joker was right: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”


    It lowers your perceived value in the marketplace. It lowers your worth.

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