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If The Script Read Is A Shot In The Dark,
Ask Your Client These 10 Questions ...

By Lisa Rice

Voice Actor

If you've ever painted a room, you know that prepping, detail work and clean-up afterward can often take more time than actual painting. Voice over is much the same.

Some project directors prefer to listen in during a recording session. Others like to review the script on the phone.

And still others choose to send copy without any conversation beforehand. While this option takes less time up front, it can also be lacking. It's like a shot in the dark for both parties. 

Asking your client to specify a few things up front when sending the finalized script can save more time in the long run. And as the saying goes, time is money. 

Keep in mind, the following directions can be included in the body of an email or recorded and attached as an mp3. Whatever works best. 


Ask your client to listen to your demos to find a part that best matches what they're looking for. 

They also might know of an online video with a read similar to what they have in mind and can send a link to the video. 


Have them look at their script as a car ride and consider the drive they want viewers/listeners to take.

If their script has a problem and solution, energy might be low at the beginning but higher when introducing the solution. 

Perhaps they want a luxury feel. Then energy should stay even throughout. 

Are they partial to conversational reads? No problem. And, of course, they should always have the option of a "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!" read. 


If they were driving the Autobahn, which phrases or words would be the straightaways and which would be curves? Straightaways should be voiced at a quicker pace. Curves need to be negotiated with a little more care. 

If the voice over is for video, less time might be spent on words since they'll be backed up by visuals - web addresses or telephone numbers, for instance. 

If it's for an audio only, these particulars may need a little more time. Ask them what they consider important. Is the music bed already chosen? Request that they send a snippet or online link. 


The company or product name is typically where emphasis should be placed, but there are other parts of a script that might call for special attention. This might include slogans, catch phrases or a hook line that corresponds with another part of the script. 

They might be found at the beginning and end or sprinkled throughout. See if they know what they want in this area, too. 


Do they want certain words to be voiced on a down note, up note or straight through? 

If they aren't quite sure, offer to voice extra takes so they'll have plenty to work with. 


After reviewing the script, make a note of the following preferences before firing up your mic: 

• Numbers: 1,300 - one thousand three hundred or thirteen hundred? 
• Years: 2013 - two thousand thirteen or twenty thirteen? 
• Acronyms: ASCAP - A-S-C-A-P or AS-CAP? 
Street addresses: 1942 Main Street - one nine four two Main Street or nineteen forty-two Main Street? 
Phone numbers: 1-800-301-1942 - one eight hundred, three zero one, one nine four two or one eight hundred three zero one nineteen forty-two? 
Names: Buena Vista - bwena bista or byoona vista?
• Dollar and cents: $33.16 - thirty-three sixteen or thirty-three dollars and sixteen cents? 
Word preferences: associates - uh-so-she-uhts or uh-so-see-uhts   


In addition to asking whether your customer wants an AIFF, WAV or mp3 with a particular bit depth and sample rate, ask them how they'd like the file to appear. 
  • Do they want the entire session untouched?
  • Only the usable parts saved?
  • All takes on one file or separated? 
One way for shorter scripts to be edited is to voice a complete take followed by three successive ones of each sentence or section. When opening the file, they'll see one long take followed by silence with a series of three short ones. 

And by the way, does the file need to be named in a specific way? You'll need to know how. 


Should breaths be left in, diminished, replaced with room ambiance or silenced?

 Know this ahead of time so nothing is deleted that might need to be used.


What kind of turnaround time is expected? 

Some projects need to be sent back as soon as possible, while others can wait a week. Agreeing to this ahead of time helps ensure customer satisfaction. 


Email communication can be tricky. Meeting an agreed upon deadline is useless if the file isn't received on time or at all. Servers go down. Emails can unfortunately end up in spam folders. Firewalls can be over aggressive. 

Once your customer has received the audio, had a chance to review and approve it and is ready to move forward with the next phase of their project, ask them to take a moment to confirm. 

This is a quick and easy way to signal that the voice over collaboration process is complete - and one that everyone can look back on as a job well done. 
Lisa Rice landed her first voice over job at the age of 18. She's worked as a writer, television and radio producer and on-camera talent. Her one-to-one broadcast interviews have extended from the White House and Capitol Hill to Nashville. She’s voiced commercials, narrations, e-learning projects, promos and telephone prompts for a wide range of customers. Recent projects include GE, AT&T, Walmart, Tempur-Pedic, McGraw Hill and Nationwide Insurance.


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Comments (6)
Shane Watkins
3/13/2015 at 8:47 AM
This should be hung up on every studio wall!
Susan Terra
9/1/2014 at 10:46 AM
Lisa has a way of untangling the client / voice over communication snags to optimize the experience and insure that you deliver the best possible product. This article goes up in my studio as a reminder!
J. Christopher Dunn
3/14/2013 at 7:58 PM
The read through of the "final approved script" reveals a lot. Sometimes it's a complete rewrite, other times it's just a word or sentence change.

This is a great list to walk through with clients. It will give clients an opportunity to think about what they need.

Once, I delivered an eight-minute voiceover for a media presentation that was quickly punted back to me with the request to replace the breaths. I didn't ask the producer if breaths should be removed. Lesson learned.
Marc Scott
3/6/2013 at 12:05 PM
This post should be required reading for anyone seeking to hire a voice actor!
3/4/2013 at 3:50 PM
Wow! What a great checklist of things to clarify! I was especially impressed with the whole "numbers" thing...dollars, cents, hundredths, number-strings, etc. I don't remember EVER asking a client for their preferences in those things; I just do it my way and have never had a problem, but I can see where it would surely save time to clarify it FIRST before recording! And, it would show professionalism!
Thanks for the tips, Lisa!
Jane Ingalls
3/4/2013 at 8:40 AM
Hi Lisa,
I love it when a client sends an online video that captures what they want, and more of my clients are doing this. Maybe we each need our own set of video examples to send to the client!
Thanks for a perfect list,
Jane Ingalls
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