Who Do You Think I Am?
Who Do You Think I Am?
Voiceovers aren't stupid.

Voiceovers aren't stupid.

Some people think voiceovers are a bit thick. Here's why they're wrong.

Listen to the podcast episode above, read the companion article below.

When I explain what I do for a living, sometimes people are perplexed. (“What? You talk for a living? Like, seriously?”) I understand why they don’t get it.

When I started acting, I hadn’t realised that being a voiceover was a thing. I certainly didn’t think I could make a career out of it.

I didn’t realise it’s something people do all day in recording studios, booths and cupboards up and down the country.

I mean, it’s an unusual job that probably attracts unusual people. Let’s be honest, you have to be ‘a type’ to handle the double challenge of perpetual solitude and the trial of listening to your own voice all day.

There are many people who think being a voiceover is a fun job with loads of variety. (It is). And there are some people think that being a voiceover means you’re a bit…how can I put it?…lacking in intellectual rigour.

“What? You just sit there reading out loud all day?”


“Well, I could do that. Anybody could do that.” And sometimes people follow up with the classic rejoinder: “It’s money for old rope.”

I’m never sure how to handle this one.

Should I laugh along to save everyone’s embarrassment?

To my shame, I’ve certainly done that.

Should I challenge them and tell them just how much skill is involved in voicing an over-written script and make it fit with a tail-sung jingle within a tenth of a second’s accuracy?

I’ve never dared risk it for fear of sounding like a proper weirdo.


At a party – I went to one once! – an academic bloke said, “and you’re happy being a voiceover, are you?” I said I was. “Is that honestly the best you could do with your life? Your parents must be so proud.” And then he walked off to get some crisps.


I think it’s true that professionals make the stuff they do look easy. It’s why they’re professionals, right?

Watch a guy chuck pizza dough around and it looks like a doddle.

A hairdresser makes cutting a classic bob look simple.

Yo-Yo Ma plays his cello to a packed concert hall and it looks effortless.

Except it’s not.

It takes years of practice and experience to deliver a skill – any skill – to an iterative professional level.

Some people think being a voiceover isn’t a proper job. It’s just something you do ‘on the side.’

After  a recording session an ad agency guy said I could ‘get back to doing the housework.’ As if being a pro voiceover is something a woman might dabble in, while making her husband’s tea, polishing her knick-knacks and doing the laundry, barefoot.

At one radio imaging conference, I understand one producer said, “whatever you do, don’t ask the voiceover’s opinion. The voiceover knows nothing.”

A voiceover colleague recounts that a commercial producer told him that voiceovers “are like puppies and goldfish. You’re all the same,” which is objectively bollocks because I sound nothing like my hairy biker bloke VO pal.

But the suggestion that voiceovers are a homogenous bland blob of mouths is just plain wrong.

Years ago an ad agency creative opened a radio commercial recording session to tell me we were going to read some radio commercials that would also be recorded and did I understand this? I asked him to tell me what we were here to do once more, just to make sure I’d got it into my silly noggin.

I don’t mean to sound snippy but not even Chat GPT knows what voiceovers bring to the table.

I asked: How much money does the voiceover industry contribute to the UK economy?

It replied: I don’t have access to real-time data or specific financial figures beyond my last knowledge update in September 2021. The contribution of the voiceover industry to the UK economy can vary over time, and specific financial data would require up-to-date research or information from authoritative sources such as government reports or industry associations.

To find the most current and accurate information on the economic contribution of the voiceover industry in the UK, you may want to consult reports from the UK government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), trade associations related to the media or entertainment industry, or research publications that focus on the creative sector’s economic impact. These sources can provide detailed statistics and insights on the economic aspects of the voiceover industry in the UK.

A pro voiceover has to develop core skills across their career: vocal versatility, mic technique, audio production, marketing, accounting and admin. That’s several areas of expertise, right there.

To be fair to Chat GPT I asked a follow up question about whether a voiceover had to be intelligent. Here’s the response.

Intelligence is a complex and multifaceted trait that comes in many forms. The intelligence required for a voiceover artist is not necessarily tied to traditional academic intelligence, but rather a combination of skills and attributes that can contribute to success in the field. Some of the key qualities and skills that voiceover artists often possess or develop include:

1. Versatility: Voiceover artists may need to adapt to various roles, styles, and accents. Being able to quickly understand and imitate different voices and speech patterns can be considered a form of intelligence in the context of their work.

2. Emotional Intelligence: Many voiceover roles require conveying different emotions and connecting with the audience on an emotional level. Understanding and expressing these emotions effectively is an important aspect of voice acting.

3. Language and Diction: Strong language skills, including pronunciation, enunciation, and clear diction, are crucial for delivering a script effectively.

4. Interpretation: Voiceover artists need to interpret scripts and bring the intended meaning and character to life. This involves understanding context and subtext.

5. Technical Skills: Working with recording equipment, understanding acoustics, and post-production editing require a certain level of technical proficiency.

6. Creativity: Being able to add a unique and creative flair to their performances can set voiceover artists apart. This creativity can manifest in how they interpret and deliver lines.

7. Market Intelligence: Voiceover artists often need to understand the industry, market trends, and the needs of clients and audiences.

8. Business Acumen: Many voiceover artists are self-employed or freelancers. They need to manage their careers as businesses, which involves marketing, negotiation, and financial acumen.

9. Persistence: The industry can be competitive and challenging. Perseverance and a strong work ethic can be essential for success.

10. Learning and Adaptability: The voiceover industry evolves, and artists may need to continuously learn and adapt to new technologies and trends.

In summary, while voiceover artists may not need traditional academic intelligence, they do require a unique set of skills and attributes that encompass various forms of intelligence, including emotional intelligence, linguistic proficiency, technical know-how, and more. Intelligence, in this context, is about the ability to effectively convey and interpret information and emotions through voice, adapt to different roles and challenges, and thrive in a competitive and ever-changing industry.

I was going to elaborate on all these things but AI stole my thunder.

For me, emotional intelligence is key to being a successful voiceover.

Without it, voiceovers wouldn’t be able to understand empathy, or create authentic emotional reactions in a totally inauthentic setting.

Voice actors have to understand how to present ideas and information on various different media; for instance, narrating for a TV documentary is very different to reading an ad for radio.

Voiceovers need a granular understanding of what a client needs to achieve with their project. Who do they want to speak to? What’s the subtext of the script? What’s their objective? Will the vocal style match the rest of the client’s output?

And to sustain a business in the creative industries when the economy is being buffeted by powerful forces beyond our control takes brains and guts in equal measure.

If a client chooses not to ask for a pro voiceover’s input during a session, they’ve missed an ace opportunity to get insight from someone who’s spent years making audio for all sorts of people, all sorts of products and services, all sorts of media that can be heard in all sorts of places across the world.

And if you’re in the audio business, why wouldn’t you want to listen to a voiceover?

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Who Do You Think I Am?
Who Do You Think I Am?
A behind-the-scenes earful straight from a sound artist's studio to your inbox, designed to inspire curiosity.