How to choose a voice over service provider

voice over servicesThere are so many voice over studios, voice over service providers and vendors in the Internet. How can you limit your search to the well established companies that are suitable for your voice over project?

This article is not about how to choose voice over talents. This article is about how to choose long term voice over vendors for large, complexed and/or multilungual voice over projects, that take significant human, technical and management resources for a quality project delivery within strict deadlines for highly demanding customers.

Here’s a list of 15 rules to keep while choosing a voice over service provider:

1. The target language rule
Always look for providers based where your target language is. If you need a voice over service provider for multiple European language localization, look for European voice over service providers. If you look to localize a foreign language in American English for the US/Canada market, look for voice over service providers in US or Canada. Of course, if you get a better deal from another vendor in another localion, that always counts but you should always first try looking for providers where your target languages are.

2. Review their website
The vendor’s website makes the first impression on the company. If the website is cheap, with poor or almost no content, that indicates that this company might not have sufficient resources for demanding jobs. Take a look at their list of customers’ page. No such page? Or if there is, what kind of companies are their customers? Are they the same business level as your project is? Do they have experience in the same voice over field as your project is? If yes, ask for a proof.

3. Verify the company and the business address
Do not approach companies that have only online submission forms for quote requests and don’t state their company name, address and office phone number. There are tools like Wayback Machine where you can check how long this domain has been live; there are also governmental and local business associations where you can ask for information on that company. You can also check the position of their websites in Google on targeted keywords like “voice over studio”, “voice over services”, “voice over vendor” or other, depending on the vendor profile you need.

If this company is nowhere to be found in Google search results, that means the company is probably small and with a lack of human resources to market their own services. Could they handle your project?

4. Check Google for a feedback on their services
Google indexes forums and if you search the name of the company, just take a look at the search results and see what other people’s experience with that company is or what other websites are saying about this company. Generally, if there is a negative feedback or you can’t find anything, try looking for another vendor.

5. Answering the quote request
How fast do they answer your quote request? If it takes 3-4 days to get a vague reply at an early project stage, how long would take them to complete the project?

6. Look at the details:
The company blanks they use, signatures, business language- details can tell you a lot about the company, their business level and how they have organized the process, their resources and experience.

7. Quality communication
If nobody is picking up the phone at their office and you cannot get in touch whenever you need, that means this company is either too small to handle a quality customer communication or doesn’t treat their customers with the proper respect. Either way, you should turn to another provider. Serious companies have a dedicated project manager assigned who is 24/7 available to the Customer both by e-mail and phone.

8. Similar experience
Ask for a proof of similar experience to your voice over project. Voice over field is a very broad area- commercial voice overs, TV content dubbing, e-learning…these areas are so different not only from voice talent and performance aspect. The process for each of these types of voice over projects has different goals, structure, organization, management and execution.

9. Quality audio and talent performance
Review their audio equipment-both hardware and software. Are their studios acoustically treated? Request and listen to their audio samples, evaluate the voices and talent performance. Refer the samples to your customer for approval. Are you satisfied with the quality? Is your customer satisfied with the quality?

10. Partnership understanding
Serious vendors have a partnership understanding and tolerance towards their customers. They are aware that they need to support their customers in order things to workout for everyone. If you don’t feel this vendor as a partner in this project, if they only want to make money out of you and don’t really care for the final outcome of your project, these are not the people you can go on a long way with. Complete the project and move on with another vendor. Companies with serious business attitude provide solutions rather than selling services.

11. Project process
It’s pretty often that no matter how much you try to clear the project up before start, many new things appear on the run. A good vendor should stay in constant communication with the Customer and when a problem appears, they should address it immediately. You shouldn’t judge the vendor by the problems that come on the way, they always do, but on how fast they address them, their ability to solve them on the run and pull the project off within the deadline.

A good voice over service provider should keep track on the specifications for the project from beginning to the end and most important to be able to keep track on the changes that appear on the run.

Ultimately, you will judge the vendor by their ability to complete the project with the provided and updated specifications within the negotiated project deadline.

12. Project delivery
Project finalization and delivery is the most important stage of a voice over localization project. It’s often underestimated but the real pros know that the more they get close to delivering the project, the more they should stay focused and double check everything. Serious voice over companies have a quality control set up on each stage but having a quality control level at least before delivery is crucial. If the final project you receive is far away from what you requested and needed, that means this vendor doesn’t have a good project management and sufficient human resources to track specifications and deliver the project in the requested manner.

13. Exit strategies
If you are a language localization manager, the risk of assigning a task to the wrong voice over vendor is constant. In order to protect your Customer and your project, you should always have a back up plan:

- Negotiate with at least 2 vendors at the same time
- Always keep a second vendor on hold till the project is complete
- Protect your project with your contract- describe in details what you are paying for and what happens in the different possible scenarios that the project might fall in.
- Request your customer’s approval every time you can before you move on.

14. Payment methods
Payment methods like Western Union or Money gram are not serious for business payments.
These are great companies to send money fast to your family and relatives but not for business. They are not accepted as official payment methods from tax authorities and if the vendor requests such payment options, you should ask yourself if this company is legitimate, if the invoice they send you is legitimate and how would they declare these incomes anyways.

15. Invoicing
Company billing is a company within the company itself. Finance requests a competent, separate department or at least an employee to handle all financial needs of both customer and vendor. If they have problems meeting your invoice requirements, you should evaluate how this affects your company’s image for the tax authorities.

This entry was posted in ADR voice overs, Animation voice overs, Audio book voice overs, CONTENT LOCALIZATION, E-learning voice overs, Film content localization, Film voice overs, Foreign language voiceovers, IVR on hold voice overs, Radio commercial voice overs, TV commercial voice overs, TV content localization, TV program voice overs, Video content localization, Video game voice overs, VOICE OVER AND DUBBING, Voice over FAQ and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How to choose a voice over service provider

  1. Mike Harrison says:

    May I respectfully offer a couple of opposing facts that should be considered?

    I am an individual who has been providing voice-over/narration services for 30 years. While I have a company name, it is I – and I alone – who provides the service. But because technology and the internet has made ours a global neighborhood, where people can conduct business around the world just as easily as around the corner, not all of your suggestions can be taken as rule of thumb across the board.

    First, with regard to your point #2 (Review their website), I can say from first-hand experience this is NOT always the case. While a good-looking website might instill some degree of confidence, it cannot and should not necessarily be a major factor in deciding the entity’s experience and capabilities.

    My example is having been solicited for a quote last year by a production company in a country other than my own. I went directly to their website, which featured only a single (home) page with a video compilation of some of their work. Not narrated – so it went completely unexplained – it was merely several minutes of deliriously up-tempo music against which video snippets of their work was edited; something an adolescent can accomplish with easily available software. Below the video window was the company’s postal address and the instruction to “get in touch,” if more information was required, by clicking the email link.

    Deciding against emailing them to determine if they were a legitimate company, I Googled the company name, hoping to find web pages other than their own that mentioned them. There was not a single one to be found.

    So, yes, I was concerned about the lack of information about this company. Maybe even reluctant to take on a project with them. But it turns out they happen to be one of the top creative production houses in their country.

    Several age-old adages come to mind: “Looks can be deceiving,” “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and “Beauty is only skin deep.” We now live in an aesthetically-driven world. Hollywood sets look great on-camera, but are nothing more than wonderfully decorated facades. With the exception of those I know personally, many local TV news anchors are hired primarily for their looks, with their actual journalistic experience being secondary (and there’s proof of that every evening… at 11.) At least here, in America, what we see these days is quite often NOT what we actually get.

    Respectful exception must also be taken to point #3 (the company’s address). Like so many other highly experienced and talented voice-over artists – and indeed those in many other occupations – who provide their services from their home studios today, we don’t have clients visiting us. There is no reason to publicly post our home address, and there is no reason in the world to think any less of an individual professional service provider who declines to. If I haven’t engaged in a business relationship with someone who needs to mail a check or other hard documentation, my mailing address is irrelevant. I’m sure the United States Federal Trade Commission has countless records of businesses who at one point had a physical mailing address and then skipped out by the light of the moon one night after some less than scrupulous transactions. Maybe some of the lending institutions whose customers have since lost their homes due to (ahem) things that shouldn’t have happened.

    As someone who has the talent and experience to be doing what I do for 30+ years, my background, the samples of my work, the clients and the testimonials of some of them, plus the means to contact me – all on my website – should be enough for anyone seeking a voice-over services provider to at least consider me as a serious contender. Similarly true for probably most of my voice-over brethren. That major production house I mentioned earlier seems to agree.

    Yes, for a larger company that must provide not only the voice track and perhaps a produced audio track, as well as translation, copywriting, and more specialized services simultaneously for multiple clients with large-volume jobs, perhaps a published company address might be helpful.

    Your other points are valid and well-taken. No one is more professional and diligent in not only handling but anticipating the needs of clients than I. The highest attention to detail, the highest quality audio – acoustically and technically, a track record of untarnished service for some of the biggest corporate names on the planet. And I’m as nice a guy as anyone would want as a neighbor.

    But please: to suggest that (individual) service providers who choose not to publish their personal mailing address, or who might not necessarily have a high-traffic or even glamorous-looking website are any less professional is drawing a completely unfair conclusion and it does them an injustice.

    Thank you.

    • admin says:

      Hi Mike,

      First of all, thank you for the great and very informative comment.

      The focus of my article is a little bit different or at least that was what I meant to express. Let me give you an example:

      Recently, we had a project where we had to localize 400 hours of TV content within 30 days for a large International TV network. The total number of people involved in this project was 120. The talent and translators castings, the process planning, process tracking, process managing, addressing and solving issues, hourly meetings of different working groups on this project were amazing. We have a custom built shared Project Management environment that enables multiple people logging in to different areas and working simultaneously on the different aspects of the project and this all goes with daily volume delivery plan, project time tracking, statistics and a constant push for speeding up.
      Keeping the “human factor” under control was also a great challenge.

      This article is about the management aspect and the resources a service provider must posses to pull off such projects and if you are the manager from the customer’s side, how can you possibly judge and evaluate the ability of the vendors that you approach to handle the project and not fail you. You can easily evaluate a single home based voice talent by the demo, experience and references and you don’t need anything else but when it comes to evaluating management resources of a company, unless you have worked together before, it’s pretty much shooting in the dark.

      Of course, there aren’t any guarantees for anything. Still risks can be reduced by evaluating multiple factors at the same time.

      I agree with everything you say. Each of these points taken separately (website, address, Google presence) don’t mean anything.

      At the same time, you cannot assign a project for 1M to a company that has no public address. As a manager’s decision, to my opinion, that would be a bad and a risky judgement.

      And in this article I am not addressing the qualities of individual professionals like you and many others that I know, respect and work with.

      With best regards, Nick

  2. Lou Rabkin says:

    Thank you, I have recently been searching for information about voice over service providers and yours is the best I have discovered so far!

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