How to Work With A Child Voice-Over
One of the great things about having my own professional studio is being able to involve my daughter in my voice-over work. She’s been working now for about 4 years, and, quite frankly, it works out better than sending her down the pit.
Joking aside, her being able to work instils a pretty good work-ethic. She knows that if she’s committed to a job, that it needs to be completed. She keeps her own spread-sheet of her earnings and tracks them against what she is saving towards.
For some clients, an adult voice mimicking a child is sufficient for their needs. They know they can call upon this voice to do pick-ups at any time, and can expect a quick turn-around. If the voice is required in a particular studio, it’s fast and quick to organize.
However, other clients realise that an actual kid’s voice will convey more readily that sense of child-like enthusiasm, emotion and excitement than an adult voice cannot.
There are a few things to keep in mind:
- Above all, it should be fun for the child. I’ve always made sure that I discussed the length of the project with her in detail before we committed, and, even then, I had to make sure that the client understood themselves that they were working with a child. For very tiny kids, saying something like “I need you to sit on the Throne of Awesome and be silly into this microphone for about as long as you can sing Baa-Baa Black Sheep” allows them to get a good idea about how long they need to squirm for. For an older child, just be honest – “It’s going to take about 5 minutes, and you might need to say the same line a few times”.
- Have lots of breaks and keep sessions short (even to just a few minutes), and make sure they haven’t hoed into the mini-yoghurts before-hand.
- Children are snotty. If you’ve committed to a job one day, the next day they might have come down with a lurgy which can’t be disguised with any dose of Calpol. So don’t be tempted. Again, keep it professional with the client and just let them know that you need a few extra days.
- Don’t bribe too much….it does end up setting a precedent. The days you really need to bribe lots, are probably the days your kid just doesn’t feel like it. And who can blame them? Just leave it and come back to it later on, or the next day.
- It is perfectly reasonable to explain that the money they are earning is theirs. Set up a bank account, take them to the bank and get the cashier to explain all about money hiding in the back-room. This gives a bit more context to the idea of having money they can’t see. In our case, we’ve decide that a certain percentage payment straight away is a great way to keep interest going. It’s their money after all.
- Only commit to short jobs. Under 12s really can’t cope with more than 5 minutes – especially if over a couple of days they might need to do a pick-up, or a re-read.
- Being a professional voice-over myself helps a lot with giving direction. With little kids, you need to be able to read the line out and get the child to parrot it back. This can sometimes have the effect of sounding a bit disjointed. But as they get better at reading, and getting more confident in front of the mic, this becomes less of an issue.
- Sometimes a director will like to sit in via ISDN or Skype – investing in several pair of headphones and a splitter can be useful here.
- Clients must realise the limitations of working with a child, and these should be made clear in your terms and conditions. There should be no penalty if the child cannot do the work, and turn-round times need to be fitted around school-hours and being a kid.
- If you want to work with children under the age of 18, other than your own, in your studio, you would need to be DBS Checked.
- If you need to take your child out of school for auditions or work at other studios, then you need to apply for a license from your local government.
Note that Scotland, Ireland and different counties may all have differing requirements and forms to complete.
Have A Listen!
Have a listen to Lilly, and see how a bright and happy a child’s voice can be!